AL Rebecca Grabman

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Rebecca Grabman
Sawtell 16
e-mail me


Things That Are Vaguely Related To Information Systems, Etc: Rules of the Game Neuromancer Tattoo

Library Thoughts...

Post Prototype

Some thoughts about our user testing experiances:

I was really impressed by the fact that Randy really picked up on a lot of the things we had talked about. I think I had expected more people to "get" certain things about what was happening, but they didn't. Part of that probably had to do with the speed in which changes happened: the cause-and-effect wasn't easy to see. Because we only had two different bookmarks also made them think that there was something more important about that information.

I was intrigued by some of the conversation about the bookmark itself -- I still firmly believe that the tangible object is an important part of the process. The discovery and handling of it makes it richer and more immediate than just the digital, and is also likely to draw the attention of less tech-savvy patrons. But I hadn't even contemplated what to do with it after. I wouldn't be suprised to see a lot of them left in docks. What happens if you come over with a mark and there is already one there? You switch them out, but then what if they start piling up -- two, three, four bookmarks at the station? Library workers and fans of the system will obviously do their part to get them circulating again, but this also makes me think that there will be a lot of people looking at messages and few people leaving them (the few who take it upon themselves to re-assign the bookmarks).

I think there was very positive feedback for the "bookshelf" idea that we had created before, and I would really love to start implimenting and testing things in that direction. The more ways the information can be sorted, the richer the experiance (as long as it doesn't get too complex).

Generally speaking, I was pleased with the results, but I think we need to clear up the confusion about what the bookmarks are (on-screen). Robert's suggestion of just labeling (Book:, Author:, Bookmark:, etc) will fix that. The learning curve of what the bookmark does should be pretty high, when everything works at speed.

From ... A While Ago

I think the first three questions on our little handout really go hand in hand, when answered in the broad sense that we're currently forced to think in. The answer to all of them is that we want library patrons to have an interaction outside of what they "normally" experience in the library that will help highlight the existing structures, social, architectural, informational and otherwise.

Values That I Feel Should Be Preserved In Some Manner: The ability to be alone, the ability to have a quiet study place, the ability to find all sorts of media, the ability to not feel pressured about the enviroment that you're in. A sense of welcoming, of knowledge, of comfort, of space, of ease and helpfulness.

Values That Should Be Fostered In Some Manner: Sharing of information outside of the printed matter and databases, interaction between patrons, a sense that the building is more than just a warehouse for books, a sense that the library is a space that is richly layers with all kinds of cues and information.

Some Ideas, Crazy And Otherwise:

1. Light levels on the outside indicate how much mental activity is occurring on the inside, based on the number of people coming in and out of the library, the frequency with which the catalog is searched, the number of books checked out and the ambient noise level.

2. An interactive board – I’m thinking Penn Station style here; maybe echoed with one in commons? – displays a random selection of books that have been returned the library in the past last week. Patrons can e-mail or text message the board and add short comments, memorable quotes or similar reading suggestions. The display will be sorted by call number and popularity. Patrons can choose to create a library profile (if Apple invents a paper-based digital book, it could be called the iBrary!!) to store their information / allow others to access it / allow others to recommend books specifically for you.

3. In a section of the library (entrance way?) create a floor that is made up of display screens. They’re activated by footfalls of people entering. As a patron enters, the floor begins to scroll information (titles, call numbers, quotations, authors, movies, data searches), giving the appearance of walking on/climbing words/knowledge.

4. Touch screens in a casual, open place (table-mounted?). It would include some sort of lovely, well-designed barcode scanner. The interface would be set up in a browse-able way OR by carrying a book over to the table and setting it down / passing it under the scanner / whatever, the user would be able to quick-jump to that book, author or genre and add comments, voice notes, thoughts, doodles related to the book, etc. There would be a random option if you were interested in what other people had recently added to this system. Another option would be a display web of books that users felt were connected in some way – patrons could follow the “threads” connecting them to find cool stuff. Hopefully this would encourage people to interact with each other in real time – start conversations at the table – as well as with people who had been there before (passing along knowledge).

5. Every book barcode is assigned a colour and sound profile based on an algorithm interpreting the Dewey decimal number. The library generates and displays the colour symphony of recently returned / checked out books, and patrons can create their own, based on their history or books they find interesting. This may encourage patrons to seek out sections they usually don't use, to find what colours and tones result. The more varied their tastes / experiences in the library, the more vibrant and rich their output will be.

Some Additional Thoughts:

Maybe I'm a little stuck on the barcode thing because of how fantastic Mike Rugnetta's barcode music project was a few years back, but I feel like that is a very easy and obvious way to access a level of information that already exists and is taken for granted. I also feel that as long as we're trying to present interactions in a new light, if you will, that we should make it cross-discipline: words become images become sound become ... ?? Not only would this be a beautiful way to reimagine the things we already see and feel and smell (?) in our books, but I can see it becoming a gateway for other student projects - using the system we create to continue creating and building onto the knowledge base we've begun.

Seattle Library Interviews

I talked to several people who have had first-hand experience with the Seattle library.

Casual Interviews

Cold, uninviting, too modern.

Brings the outdoors in, but it's Seattle, so it's rainy and gray inside, too.

The materials of the building do not feel "like a library": "A library should feel cozy. That place just feels scary."

The children's section is very welcoming, much friendlier and more "library like".

The flooring is already wearing away - "it's weird".

Katie felt that browsing was difficult because of the endlessness of the stacks. On the other side, she felt the spiral stacks / the escalator set-up made it equally difficult to find a specific section or book in a timely manner.

"There are scary homeless people who hide in the stacks."

The reading room is often occupied by sleeping homeless folk.

Entering the library Katie felt small and overwhelmed. She felt that a library was supposed to foster safety and comfort, which the Seattle library did not (for her).

The brightly coloured areas were not particuarly memorable, until I asked specifically about them.

The book reserve system was a big plus. Given the choice, most people I asked would prefer to reserve a book and have it sent to a smaller, local branch - which are more "library like" than the main one. Katie was more aware of family-oriented programming occurring at the branch libraries, but assumed there was some at the main one as well. She felt this made the branches more welcoming.

Readings for 10 October 07

Right now I'm exhausted so I will only say: AMAZING readings this week. Hilarious.

Tracking Everything Everwhere

The logical leaps and fantastic propaganda language made this absolutely worth the read. I'd actually like to see what else they came up with, and what scare tactics they choose to use throughout the rest of the book.

I'll respond to some of my favorite lines:

"One day these devices could tell management whom you're chatting with at the water cooler and how long you've spent in the restroom - even whether or not you've washed your hands."

I guess they could tracks your movements in the bathroom and compare to the faucet's actions, but, honestly, who the hell is going to care? Unless you work at a food establishment, in which case, yes, you SHOULD be washing your hands, and if you're not, then they have grounds to take action, because you are breaking health code and endangering the business and potentially lives. They COULD do all of these things that this book discusses (okay, most of them), but the real question is why. There WILL be some people who want to know, sure, but just because they have the capability does NOT mean that they are going to take the time, energy, money and manpower to analyze every single thing you do. It's wise to acknowledge the possibility, but absolutely foolish to expect it in an everyday sort of scenario.

"There will be no more secret love letters in the RFID world, either - not if the U.S. Postal Service had its way."

This is such a logical fallacy. Even if they embed chips (sorry, spychips) it does not mean that they will know the content of what it is you're sending. If they have a reason to monitor your behavior, they probably already are. If you're on an FBI watch list or whatever they do, they already know who you're writing to, and they're likely opening that mail, too. Sometimes the only way to prove how paranoid something is, is to point out how paranoid it isn't.

"Doors can remain bolted to kepp you from wandering, toilets can monitor your bowel habits and transmit data to distant physcicians, and databases can sense your state of mind."

We went over this in Everyware. No, no it can not.

"...with plenty of stops along the way at the dirty little secrets they don't want you to know."

This, along with the continues use of the beautifully coined appeal to fear word "spychip", renders the entire article a word of panic-driven drivel, despite the fact that they may be making some valid arguments.

"So instead of recongizing from the musical cues that something evil or otherworldly was afoot, they did what tragic figures in thrillers often do: They unwittingly welcomed the enemy into their midst."

Hilarious! This is such a beautiful example of taking something that it now common knowledge and projecting our current societal standing on the past. We used that music for those movies because it sounded creepy - it sounded creepy before we associated it with aliens and horror flicks. But that doens't make it any less amazing, astounding, inventive and exciting.

Due to the style in which this reading was presented, I had a hard time trying to appreciate their point of view. The use of heightened propaganda language throughout the piece immediately turned me against their arguments - which is the opposite of the intended effect. The word usage is chosen to appeal to those who are not as savvy about such manipulation of language: often the less-highly-educated or less-worldly, which is the perfect target audience for such Luddite fears.

Section 02: Hertzian Space

It's really lovely to see a writing that is a little tounge-in-cheek, friendly and filled with bizzare line drawings. It makes the concepts discussed very light and easy-going - on direct opposition to the other reading.

This reading appealed to me most in the technologies it highlighted, and the potential uses for EMFs. The use of a cellular network to detect large objects moving through the grid is a fantastic idea (I'm quite in the love with the potential for organisms to act as cells in something larger than themselves). I'm having vague flashes to The Diamond Age by Stephenson.

I find it interesting that whereas the other reading highlighted the ways in which ubiquitous radio frequency devices could be harmful to our social structures and comfort, this points out how secrecy and privatization can be similarly damaging. The National Radio Quiet Zone immediately calls into question the activity that mandates such a preserve, and selling parts of the electromagnetic spectrum have huge financial and business-based implications.

In between these two perspectives is the meld of "public", "private" and "for consumption", as pointed out in the case of the Guildford cathedral. This seems to be a very gray area where it's hard to take sides: who is winning? Who is losing? Is anybody actually doing either?

Reading about the VLF hunters gave me this romantic impression of a rouge band of dreamers searching for something bigger than themselves. It should be a weird art-house film. Maybe I'll write it. Also, it reminded me of Jeff Feddersen's beautiful project, EarthSpeaker.

Last note: I love LessEMF! They made the Reactive Fashion project possible last term! Ironic how a product born out of a fear (or a market of fear) of EMFs is used to propagate such things.

Readings for 12 September 07

Maping Site: Robert Smithson

Some thoughts while reading:

Site & contents separate but intimately connected

"a suspension of boundries"

"Tony's Smith's celebrated 1966 account of his drive across the partly constructed New Jersey Turnpike, where 'road and much of the landscape was artificial, and yet it couldn't be called a work of art'" -> reminded me of Flight Paths (is that right?) - art and artifice, the embracing of the false as a means of expression and as an embracing of the impositions of society.

Art of mapping changes the area to be mapped.

"the artist who is physically engulfed tries to give evidence of this experience though limited (mapped) revision of the original unbounded state"

The representation of a thing can not be that thing itself, but rather an interpretation of it. Every person in a place experience only their own interpretation of it, and thus the place can be, in itself, a non-site. The non-site sets limits in which the Site is being perceived, which imposes limits on the site itself. [Buildings which purposefully disorient defeat this by pushing it past the acceptable threshold of understanding, making orientation far too difficult to allow for the recognition of the ever-changing maps]

The relation of Non-Site to site is 'like that of language to the world: it is a signifier and the Site is that which is signified'"; many parallels between space and language. Design, typography: visual arrangement of non-visual elements relate to architecture as mapping of experience. Also the word vs. object - the thing and the perception of the thing.

The site ... is not available as an 'object', for it is not static: the site is mobile, always in a process of appearance or disappearance.

No absence without presence.

Re: Duchamp - Indifference becomes distinction. Art = intentional implications and arrangement?

Ever changing perceptions = unmappable space. Representation precludes understanding, replaces knowability. Space is perceived as relative to the work.

[Mirrored building] Perception of place. Establishes surrounding but not integration. Converse: argument for blending in, inclusion of place into the sub-places and sites that surround it. Also: place as experienced differently - the blind?

[Spiral Jetty] Sameness of place, in a place set apart by its differentness. the real work and its real site evade the specific, mapped co-ordinated it presents

Borges' The Library of Babel

The object & the interaction set apart the two states of being. Mimicry of the existing can not create duplication: man's hand evident in that which might be added.

Availability of all, incomprehensibility of most. Does not exclude as useless, just as something which has yet to be deciphered.

All of the same elements, arranged in infinite ways.

The impious maintain that nonsense is normal in the Library and that the reasonable (and even humble and pure coherence) is an almost miraculous exception.

Readings for 26 September 07

Everyware Thesis 09 - Thesis 23

I obviously forgot to put up my reactions before the deadline Joe set, but I'll be good this week and do it regardless!

First off, I really enjoy the way this book is written. It's very accessible and clear, which makes the ideas much more palatable. He brings up the negatives just as clearly, but his calm and joking manner is reassuring.

One of the big issues I saw brought up in these readings is the idea of the human variable (the "inadvertent, unknowing and unwilling" but he neglects to mention in that list the "unusual"). I don't think there will ever be a perfect way to interpret intention. Patterns can be recognized, but there will always be situations where something is different.

For an "art project" sort of application of the sort that we will probably be producing for this class, we can take these variables and work them to our advantage: the participation or non-participation of individuals will effect the output/outcome, but with those potentials taken into account, we can make them create a richer, more interesting output [eg, let's say people were given RFID tags. We could use other sensors near the RFID reader to map how many non-participants are coming to the library, and use that data to enrich some sort of visual display. The non-participants would be participating, but we would not be collecting individual-specific information to store in a database]. For a true "everyware" system, however, the whole purpose of the system is that it is used and interfaced, and if something subverts that, it does not achieve it's potential goals.

There was also a good deal of talk about the "everywhere" part of everyware, and the change in the interactions we would have with the interface - it's a totally different set of exchanges, a much more generalized set. In order to obtain information that you actually want, there still needs to be a direct, obvious, intuitive physical interface.

The Questions from Thesis 9

  • How does the system know I'm adressing it?
  • How do I know it's attending to me?
  • How does the system know it's the one that's supposed to respond?
  • How do I know it's executing the correct responses?
  • How do I recover from mistakes?

I was fascinated by the statement "personal computing is something that we've historically conceived of as being largely independent of context". Much of the interface we have with PCs evolved arbitrarily, not ergonomically or physiologically or etc.

Ruby from 3 Oct 07

<source lang="ruby"> print "I'm thinking of a number from 1 to 100. \n" compnumber = rand(100) +1 print "Okay, what do you think it is? \n" loop do guessnumber = gets.to_i if compnumber == guessnumber print "YOU WIN!" elsif compnumber > guessnumber print "Go higher \n" else print "Too high! \n" end end </source>

Ruby Snippits from Assignment Trials

So, I am awesome (or, I feel awesome, at least) and I got it to find a random page and put it into a string. It prints "okay" and then prints THE ENTIRE HTML doc.

Try as I might I can't figure the next steps out. My thoughts are that I need to use a "regular expression" to find the first paragraph tag and find out where in the string it is. Then, using the same regular expression, search AFTER that number for the location of the first period. THEN, using the slice method, cut out everything that is NOT between those two numbers. Seems easy enough, but I can't get it to locate the "paragraph" tag. Oh, and after that, run the thing from the book to get rid of any HTML hanging around.

<source lang="ruby"> require 'open-uri' wiki = open('').read print "okay \n" wiki </source>

Straight from the book: converting HTML into text <3 jess

<source lang="ruby"> require 'open-uri'

example = open('')

  1. => #<StringIO:0xb7bb601c>

html = plain_text = html.sub(%r{<body.*?>(.*?)</body>}mi, '\1').gsub(/<.*?>/m, ' ').gsub(%r{(\n\s*){2}}, "\n\n")

require 'cgi' plain_text = CGI.unescapeHTML(plain_text) </source>

Although my algorithm theory would work if I knew just how to impliment it, I DID get Ruby to return the entire page sans the HTML. I FEEL LIKE GOD.

<source lang="ruby"> require 'open-uri' wiki = open('').read print "okay \n" wiki

plain_text = wiki.sub(%r{<body.*?>(.*?)</body>}mi, '\1').gsub(/<.*?>/m, ' ').gsub(%r{(\n\s*){2}}, "\n\n")

require 'cgi' plain_text = CGI.unescapeHTML(plain_text) print plain_text </source>

Reading Response for Eyes of the Vulgar

This has been a hard week for me, so I'm late with the response. Sorry!

I read this piece before for another class, but this time it really made me think about what it meant to the library (rather like what David wrote). I suppose I agree with his assessment that "art should challenge or disrupt the viewer's expectations about a given image, object or system of meaning and that the viewer, in turn, rewires this disruption to overcome his or her reliance on habitual forms of perception." At least, it should in this project.

A lot of what we've been discussing for our group project ideas is to re-imagine the space and "make visible the invisible", to change how people view what they already use in the library.

Although I think the House piece is incredibly interesting, I find it distressing that she did not work with the community at large to develop it. That in itself does create an interesting dialog and context, but I don't think that it's one that we want. I was, however, intrigued by the quotation from Lingwood: "it did not seek to predetermine the ways in which people could respond to it". This feels like an important avenue in the context of Bennington where the population and sentiment of the school is in rapid, constant flux.

Their artistic idenity is based in part on their capacity to listen, openly and actively, and to organize scenarios that maximize the collective creative potential of a given constituency or site; How do we understand the aesthetic significance of the collaborative process itself

^^ Key things to think about with an entire class working on this project.... Very, very key to how I believe we should be approaching / are approaching this.

I went to the gallery talk this afternoon for the Wildwood Press show in Usdan, and the Master Printer / Publisher who spoke discussed her role and the shop's role in making art. She basically said that they are printers, and the artists are the artists and the printer does not make collaborative decisions with the artist because the artist has the ideas and they have the skills. Yet, they use their skills in different and interesting ways which change the work and the way the artist decides to view and present and alter the work, and the act of printing is collaborative. This seemed like a strange denial of the facts: they are working together to create something that is bigger than either of their talents allows them to engage in separately. And to deny that seems to devalue the process and the product.

Whatever we do, we need to realize that not only are we doing it together, but the patrons are also a part of the process, changing not only the way we think and design our project, but changing the project itself as they use (or don't use) it and the library space it's housed in.