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What is Next Nature?

With our attempts to cultivate nature, humankind causes the rising of a next nature, which is wild and unpredictable as ever. Wild systems, genetic surprises, autonomous machinery and splendidly beautiful black flowers. Nature changes along with us.


Boomeranged Metaphors

sim city nighttime Image: Wallpaper-S
Transferring meaning from virtual reality into physical reality.

We use metaphors to introduce unfamiliar technologies: the horseless carriage, the electric candle.  Analogies place novel developments within existing structures of meanings and relationships.

For digital natives, the online realms may become more familiar than aspects of the ‘real’ world. Warfare is like a first-person shooter, New York is one of many Sim Cities, and peer groups are best understood in terms of how they relate on Facebook. When analogies are transferred from the virtual to the physical world, the traditional flow of meaning is reversed.  The metaphor has boomeranged.

First Person Shooter Disease

First Person Shooter Disease

Duke Nukem's disease is a scary one. Gene brings you the story of the life of a First Person Shooter..

Boomeranged Metaphors

At the start of the digital era, metaphors from everyday life were used – in what was then the new computer environment – in order to make otherwise incomprehensible technology acceptable. Terms such as the digital highway and the desktop metaphor with its windows, folders, buttons and trashcans made the computer world accessible to almost everyone.

By now, of course, the digital environment is accepted almost everywhere and we see how proven concepts from the digital realm are gradually seeping into our physical environment. We call this phenomenon a ‘boomeranged metaphor’.

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Are the advanced ranking systems found in Internet forums perhaps also applicable to the democratic voting process? Can I select a new avatar for myself at the plastic surgeon’s office?


Koert van Mensvoort, Boomeranged Metaphors

Playing Dreams

Playing Dreams

Jayne Gackenbach, a professor of psychology and sociology at Grant MacEwan College, Canada has completed research which claims that video games alter the way the brain works. Gackenbach has been researching dreams for almost 30 years, and in 1997 she polled a group of her students on the effects gaming had on their dreams, with inconclusive results.

In 2004 she repeated the poll and found that frequent video game players have more “lucid dreams” (in which the dreamer is aware that they are dreaming) than non-gamers. Often, the dreamer can even manipulate the action or observe it in third-person, much like a video game.

Avatarian Graveyard

Avatarian Graveyard supplies a service for virtual addicts – people who excessively or compulsively spend time in virtual environments – to help them reintegrate into everyday society.

Avatars, digital identities, alter egos and other digital shadows of their psyche can be uploaded to the Avatarian Graveyard. Once this upload is completed a compound within ignites, causing an internal burnout of the compound material and thus also destroying the circuits that hold the virtual identities. All is lost and to provide a way of coming to terms with this loss and thus helping the grieving process it is possible to scatter the ashes and use the Avatarian Graveyard as urn to place somewhere meaningful as a reminder of ones past or as the coffin shape suggests, one can also burry the object.

The service, proposed by designer Ivo de Boer, should help them to come to turns with their addiction and confronts hem at the same time with their past.


Avatarian Graveyard
In a boomeranged world, side-scrolling is more logical than three dimensions. In a boomeranged world, side-scrolling is more logical than three dimensions.

The World is not a Desktop

Mark Weiser (originally written for ACM Interactions).

What is the metaphor for the computer of the future? The intelligent agent? The television (multimedia)? The 3-D graphics world (virtual reality)? The StarTrek ubiquitous voice computer? The GUI desktop, honed and refined? The machine that magically grants our wishes? I think the right answer is “none of the above”, because I think all of these concepts share a basic flaw: they make the computer visible.

A good tool is an invisible tool. By invisible, I mean that the tool does not intrude on your consciousness; you focus on the task, not the tool. Eyeglasses are a good tool – you look at the world, not the eyeglasses. The blind man tapping the cane feels the street, not the cane. Of course, tools are not invisible in themselves, but as part of a context of use. With enough practice we can make many apparently difficult things disappear: my fingers know vi editing commands that my conscious mind has long forgotten. But good tools enhance invisibility.

I think the value of invisibility is generally understood. Unfortunately, our common metaphors for computer interaction lead us away from the invisible tool, and towards making the tool the center of attention.

Take multimedia. The idea, as near as I can tell, is that people already spend hours a week at home watching television, so clearly television is attractive, and we want our computer interfaces to be attractive, so let’s put TV into them. To mention a few things that may be …

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Games become jobs: Gold farming in China

Chinese workers slaying monsters to earn gold for western consumers. It sounds surreal, but it is a far from virtual reality for the so-called ‘gold farmers’, who are working in 10-hour shifts to help players gain levels, and wealth, in online roleplaying games like World of Warcraft.

For thousands of Chinese workers, gold farming is a way of life. Workers earn between €85-€130 a month which, given the long hours and night shifts, can amount to as little as 30 cent an hour. After completing a shift, they are given a basic meal of rice, meat and vegetables and falls into a bunk bed in a room that eight other gold farmers share. Wages may be low, but food and accommodation are included. You can hire your own gold farming slave …

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Digital Trashcan in a Physical Office

The Swedish design group Front brings the principle of the digital computerdesktop trashcan back to the physical world. When your trashcan basket is full it bulges outward. When half-full, it is in permanent motion. The internal basket pushes downward while the external slats try to maintain an upright position.

This product is an illustrative example of a so–called ‘boomeranged metaphor‘. At the beginning of the computer era, objects and experiences from everyday life were recreated in the digital domain, so that …

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