MonthJuly 2003

Sensing Beds


The Sensing Beds domesticate communications devices by placing them in the intimate space of the bedroom. As an experiment in telepresence, they bridge the physical distance between two people who would normally share a bed, but find themselves sleeping apart. Sensors located in one mattress pad track the position of its occupant and transmit that data to the other bed where the position data is used to activate heating pads at the same coordinates. Each sleeper thus feels the ghostly warmth of the absent partner?s body in the other bed …

The Sensing Beds are deliberately limited in the data they sample. They do not recognize who is in the bed, or whether the bed’s owner is in the room. Their heat may be a comforting reminder of a lover’s presence ? or perhaps create insecurity. Predictable data is comforting, while differences (Why is the entire bed warm? Why has the bed been cool all night?) in routine can bring distrust. Sometimes ambiguous data is more disturbing than no knowledge at all. Knowing more about your partner may not always make you happy.

Sensing Beds

(via Purse Lip Square Jaw).

Shooting Joan Burroughs

Did William S. Burroughs shoot Joan on purpose? From an article by George Laughead Jr.:

“Shoot the bitch and write a book. That’s what I did.” That still echoes. Later, Grauerholz denied even hearing the statement, not that I ever gave a damn whether it was murder or not.

George Laughead: Shooting Joan Burroughs

(via Rotten)

Disabled bloggers: Making Accessible Minds

From the blog of disability policy attorney Mark Siegel:

Here’s why I think blogging can be great tool for PWD. Having a disability can be a truly isolating experience. When you consider that around 70% of PWD in the U.S. are unemployed and a significant portion are living at or below the poverty line, it’s easy to see why we still dwell at the margins of society. Blogging can be a way for a person to shout out their existence to the world; to give people other views on disability that have nothing to do with a telethon or a human interest story on the local news. Blogging can be as real and as honest as the author wants it to be. Blogging can be a way to fight the loneliness that plagues every human being, not just those with disabilities. So as big companies like AOL start to deliver blogging to the masses, I hope they remember to make those tools accessible to everyone. And I hope broadband becomes more affordable for everyone. And I hope people with disabilities are encouraged to share their stories.

The 19th Floor: Making Accessible Minds

(via Boing Boing)

Commodore 64 is coming back

PC World reports:

Tulip Computers, which owns the Commodore brand name, plans to relaunch the brand to take advantage in an upsurge of interest in the obsolete Commodore 64 (C64) computer and its 1980s-era games, the company said in a statement Friday.

Full Story: PC World: Commodore 64 Makes a Comeback

(via Discordian Research Technology News)

The digital divide, organized labor, and smart mobs

The “digital divide” is being discussed on Margin Walker right now.

Josh says:

a) Is the digital divide problem worth becoming involved in?
b) If so, is it something we can actually help with?
c) If so, what do we do?”

My response:

The digital divide, in non-post-industrial Western capitalist societies, is being bridged as we speak, through programs like GeekCorp (just one of many similar projects), the spread of cell phones, and other mobile computing devices.

The results, as mentioned earlier, will probably include even more outsourcing of our current jobs. But other results will include new information driven businesses, more productivity in agricultural industries, and people organizing on a global level in new ways.

I expect to see a new global organized labor movement. As Abe said on his site, “Organized labor still has the potential to be a vital force in the world. They can present a strong counteracting force to maneuvers of corporations, governments, and other mass groups.”

American companies started outsourcing their manufacturing work because it was cheaper to pay people in third world nations than to pay union workers. Workers in these countries were generally happy to have steady work, even if the pay and conditions were appalling by our standards. And they were afraid to organize because these companies could move to another impoverished nation. But as tech becomes cheaper, it will become possible for people from around the world to organize and create large, global unions.

Is there something we can do? I dunno. Volunteer with organizations to be build the infrastructure, teach some literacy. It won’t take a whole lot, private industry is building the cell phone infrastructure, and kids don’t need a lot of tutoring to learn the basics of computing. The revolution will have to come from the people in these countries, and not from us. It won’t be American consumer activists that get Starbucks to serve only fair traded coffee, it will be coffee pickers who finally say “enough is enough” and get together and quit picking coffee until they get paid more.

In America, we’re adapting to the loss of a lot of manufacturing, call center, and programming jobs. Many of these people displaced by outsourcing are moving into the service industry. Rob Walker says: “…you could argue that no-benefits line cooks, bike messengers and temps add up to new blue-collar equivalents.” We’ll probably see more service industry unions. These are more prevalent in other countries than in America right now, but I’m sure we’ll be seeing them grow more powerful in America.

What can we do here? I guess keep on doing the stuff that we (the sort of people who read Margin Walker) do. Make art. Make social software. Come up with stuff to do with social software. Keep trying to get this stuff into people’s hands.

Beyond that, I don’t know. Next time we go to Starbucks we can suggest to the kid who makes our latte that she start a union.

Edward Gorey

I first heard of Gorey when Nine Inch Nails’s “The Perfect Drug” video came out. I didn’t really hear much of him again until yesterday when I came across the link below on Reverse Cowgirl. I mentioned the site to a friend last night, and he told me that Gorey was neither English, nor dead. Which surprised me.

It turns out he is indeed dead, but wasn’t English. He was born in Chicago in 1925, and died in 2000.


Article in Salon:

As he grew to adulthood and his works rose to their odd and just prominence, Gorey’s own life was often the focus of persistent myths. Two such myths: that he was A) British and B) dead were put to rest with Stephen Schiff’s 1992 profile of Gorey in the New Yorker. Still, it’s not hard to see why it took more than a copyright date to dispel this particular lore, since his work so frequently evokes other lands in other times. In truth he has traveled abroad only once, to the outer Scottish Isles, whose Gorey-like names — the Orkneys, the Shetlands and the Outer Hebrides — must have provided some enticement.

The Neurotransmitter Collection

Gallery of neurotransmitter visualizations.

The Neurotransmitter Collection

(via Schism Matrix).

Sexy retro sci-fi comic

Draw says:

“Varla Dayne” is a web comic with a retro 40’s pulp sci-fi aesthetic to it, featuring art that is spot on for the golden age of comics. The plot and the dialogue are played innocent, but the characters are dressed as if they were from a John Willie comic. It comes off as perverse and innocent at the same time. Great stuff.

Varla Dayne

(via Reverse Cowgirl)

Hypertag: corporate virtual graffiti

Hypertag is a system for linking web pages directly from physical objects, such as movie posters or billboards. Just point your phone at a movie poster, and it will take you to the movie’s site.

Smart Mobs: Hypertags: Clicking On The Physical World

New batch of interesting wearable tech

A list of interesting projects:


Recoil was inspired by dense urban environments and the micro-spaces people occupy during daily travel. Small, powerful magnets are embedded into everyday clothing, causing unexpected and sometimes uncomfortable physical connections between people and objects.


A “Strap-on” Mobile Phone. One that combines the illicit pleasure of auto- erotic stimulation with persistent fears of the harmful long-term effects of mobile devices. The finished M-STRAP will be integrated into regular garments, the first being a pair of unisex pants.

Full List: Purse Lips Square Jaw: Pretty Wearable

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