Vectors’ “Difference” issue launched

Announcements, Digital Humanities

I’m very happy to announce that “Difference,” the latest issue of Vectors: Journal of Culture and Technology in a Dynamic Vernacular, is now live. Featuring seven new multimedia projects created in collaboration with a wide array of cutting-edge scholars, it’s a wonderfully diverse collection of works covering topics ranging from the war in Iraq to WiFi networks to Persian carpets. I contributed to two of the projects, “Blue Velvet” and “Nation on the Move,” as designer and programmer—deepest thanks to David Theo Goldberg and Minoo Moallem, respectively, for the opportunity to collaborate in such exciting ways.

I’ve excerpted each project’s peer response below to provide a quick overview of the issue’s contents—take a deep breath, and dig in!

A screenshot from 'Blue Velvet'

“‘Blue Velvet: Re-Dressing New Orleans in Katrina’s Wake’ is a provocative engagement, in all senses of this term, with the ways that neo-liberal policies and the politics and economics of race and class, historical and contemporary, are literally remapping the meaning of the city. A project that is as much aural as visual, ‘Blue Velvet’ defies linearity of time and of narrative while it simultaneously immerses the site’s users in a topsy-turvy environment.”

A screenshot from 'Deliberative Democracy and Difference'

“The ‘Deliberative Democracy and Difference’ project illustrates a devastating tension between the normative dreams of deliberative democrats and the nitty-gritty realities of actual political discussion. Deliberative democrats’ aim of using procedural rules to ensure a discursive environment of fairness, equality and civility is compelling as an ideal arrangement for ensuring democratic governance. In practice, however, it runs up against the problems of who participates in discussion, and how that participation takes place.”

A screenshot from 'Killer Entertainments'

“A project like ‘Killer Entertainments,’ by Jenny Terry and Raegan Kelly, is necessary in a time of war. This project recalls the response of many reporters, teachers and activists to the Vietnam War. That historical antecedent is crucial because we are addressing many of the same issues as forty years ago with our current military involvement in Iraq. ‘Killer Entertainments’ builds upon the Vietnam War’s legacy of gonzo journalism and teach-ins while using new approaches to scholarship and technologies.”

A screenshot from 'Nation on the Move'

“This is a fascinating interactive essay that richly benefits from the interactive form. It is dense, deeply interconnected, and provocative. The interface ... questions the need for a basic unchanging knowledge matrix, and in this liberty it is able to spin new connections. ‘Nation on the Move’ is about carpets, but it is structured more like a spider web or a crazy quilt. This is wonderfully shown in the Index, where specific concepts like ‘the body’ show their shifting relation to contents and themes in a dynamic web-like interface.”

A screenshot from 'Programmed Visions'

“‘Programmed Visions’ presents a tension between the indexical, that which is purely information, and an aesthetics of information. As mediation, it creates a sense of vertigo and a chase. If I touch or move can I still grasp this archive? Can I get it all? How is it held? The slippery motion is indicative of Chun’s point about the semiotics and ideology of race.”

A screenshot from 'Rendering Electromagnetic Distribution'

“Hence the idea for ‘Rendering Electromagnetic Distribution’ (RED): it turned out that the detailed demographics of these neighborhoods ‘a weighted combination of race, age, income, education and density’ explained much of the variation in Wi-Fi activity. So the RED team designed an interactive map generator that uses demographic information to predict how much Wi-Fi use should be expected in a given place. RED depicts Wi-Fi as a scarlet haze floating over the city, denser where use is greater.”

A screenshot from 'ThoughtMesh

“...‘ThoughtMesh,’ a dynamic and compelling mode of structuring and interlinking scholarly texts via shared tags. The combination of a simple user interface with a system of both automatically and manually generated tags that serve as links across all of the texts in the “mesh” results here in a compelling means of reorganizing scholarly publishing as a community-based, rather than individual, activity, one that recognizes the foundations of such publishing in open, mobile discourse.”


Flex for visual prototyping

Digital Humanities, Experiments, Flash, Flex, Interactive Design

This is one reason why I’m really digging Flex right now. I’m in the design phase with Sharon Daniel on a follow-up project to Public Secrets and we’re talking about dynamically generating a large number of curved forms as part of the design. All well and good, but how do I mock up the curves without drawing a million squiggly lines by hand? Easy—build a little Flex app that lets me set the parameters of the curve and generate as many as I want, then take screenshots and bring them into Photoshop. This is my first app using this many controls, and it only took a couple hours to put together. There’s a lot of ways in which Flex makes building this kind of thing feel as easy as it really should.

The curve is drawn using a cardinal spline algorithm (Update: c-spline source code) I first ported to Lingo back when I was working on Chroma, and then to ActionScript a couple years ago for Mobile Figures. I like it because it’ll run a smooth curve through any number of values without you needing to specify separate control points.

Check out the app: Curve Designer

Curve Designer application


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