Symphony in Acid

Wildcard · Permalink · Edit

https://symphonyinacid.net/:

This is an interactive website promoting a track Symphony in Acid from the album Unspoken Words by Max Cooper. Animation and code done by Ksawery Komputery.

This is some of the most hard hitting new-media art I’ve felt in a long time.

Connection to the Sublime

Wildcard · Permalink · Edit

Venkatesh Rao at Ribbonfarm:

On the other hand, if you’re an older adult in a place that was peaceful through much of your life, but is unraveling into a generalized crisis in your old age, you face a different problem — though your crisis bandwidth has expanded with age, it is not up to the challenge the times are throwing at you in your old age. You will be overwhelmed.

We seem to be entering a historical period where crisis circumstances are more common than normalcy. This means crisis mindsets will increasingly be the default, not flourishing mindsets.

Cultivating better crisis mindsets means building up all the unsubtle practical capabilities and resources of course, and perhaps, to a degree, even seeking out small crises to prepare you for bigger ones. Taleb is right about that. Antifragility is key. But it is not enough.

It strikes me that the most important aspect of cultivating a crisis mindset is the subtlest one — the ability to retain a strong connection to the sublime, to life beyond mere survival and claustrophobic intersubjectivity, in whatever stolen moments you can find against the general backdrop of never-ending crisis.

Transapocalyptic Now

Collapse · Permalink · Edit

Alex Steffen, writing for The Snap Forward:

Of all the fairy tales that have blinded us to the realities of this new era, this is the most seductive — that the future ahead of us offers a simple, stark moral choice with a simple, stark outcome: we will rise to triumph and all will be well, or we will fall. Victory, or death!

In this just-so story, we get to cast ourselves as the heroes. Those of us fighting for climate action and ecological sanity are — against steep odds — the ones rescuing humanity (and all other living creatures). Our opponents are evil. The end of the story can only be our success, because for us to fail means the end of everything. (Man, there is no drug like self-righteousness.)

Central to the struggle, of course, is belief in continuity. That which was — or at least an idealized version of it, optimized perhaps to avoid some of history’s ubiquitous injustices — must be the future, as well. At the end of the fight, we come around, like T. S. Eliot, to “arrive where we started / and know the place for the first time.” After the struggle is won, there will be a homecoming.

But this is not a fairy tale. This is the world, and the world is not simple. The fight cannot be won and yet all is not lost. We are heroic only to the extent we mold ourselves into people who can succeed with purpose on a planet in permanent crisis. We live in discontinuity. We will live in discontinuity for the rest of our lives. It is our home now.

That discontinuity piece linked above is titled “We’re not yet ready for what’s already happened” and I couldn’t agree more:

The planetary crisis is a crisis because it has unleashed discontinuity throughout human systems, and because only a few of us can see it yet.

Site Refresh Design Principals

Wildcard · Permalink · Edit

The Northern Information site refresh project was originally in a directory called nobullshit. Some things I’ve changed to meet the challenge:

  1. Return to brand roots.
    1. Idiosyncratic yet stock.
    2. Anachronistic yet futuristic.
    3. Looks like ten years ago but could only have been created now.
  2. Offer “inarguable” solutions to design problems with regards to content/data footprint growth.
    1. Less grid sub-systems.
    2. Less templates.
    3. Leverage organic text flow.
    4. All type units are in rem.
  3. Semantic & accessible:
    1. tabindexes and :focus states.
    2. Algorithmically approved contrast for legibility.
    3. Mobile first.
  4. Expose metadata when possible.
    1. Introduced “Edit” hyperlinks to GitHub files where practical.
    2. Introduced “Jekyll site.time run:” timestamps on all pages.
  5. Another scalpel to the information architecture.
    1. Improved menu hierarchy.
    2. Nuanced typographic styles.
    3. The brighter the type, the more important or interactive.
    4. Remove duplicate filenames in different directories. (i.e. _pages/software.html and _includes/software.html became _pages/software.html and _includes/article-software.html)
    5. Remove legacy redirects that where probably only used by me.
    6. Reintroduced the Discography page.
  6. Remove all content delivery network dependencies.
    1. No more jQuery.
    2. No more Font Awesome.
    3. Bootstrap (CSS only) is now self-hosted.
  7. To balance out all this rationality I had to add the Philosophy page.

This Civilization is Already Dead

Collapse · Permalink · Edit

Devine Lu Linvega:

Collapse won’t be addressed by buying a Prius, signing a treaty, or turning off the air-conditioning. The biggest problem we face is a philosophical one: understanding that this civilization is already dead. The sooner we confront this problem, and the sooner we realize there’s nothing we can do to save ourselves, the sooner we can get down to the hard work of adapting, with mortal humility, to our new reality.

Wiio's laws

Wildcard · Permalink · Edit

Professor Osmo Antero Wiio in 1978:

  1. Communication usually fails, except by accident.
    1. If communication can fail, it will.
    2. If communication cannot fail, it still most usually fails.
    3. If communication seems to succeed in the intended way, there’s a misunderstanding.
    4. If you are content with your message, communication certainly fails.
  2. If a message can be interpreted in several ways, it will be interpreted in a manner that maximizes the damage.
  3. There is always someone who knows better than you what you meant with your message.
  4. The more we communicate, the worse communication succeeds.
    1. The more we communicate, the faster misunderstandings propagate.
  5. In mass communication, the important thing is not how things are but how they seem to be.
  6. The importance of a news item is inversely proportional to the square of the distance.
  7. The more important the situation is, the more probable you had forgotten an essential thing that you remembered a moment ago.

Social Fast / OPSEC / Loose Lips Sink Ships

Wildcard · Permalink · Edit

I’m traveling soon. Why not pair with a social fast? Then it hit me: everyone should social fast while traveling. I owe a huge thanks to artist and friend Gage Lindsten for reminding me social network fasts are a thing. Three reasons why you should social fast while traveling:

  1. We’re at war.
  2. Nothing is good enough.
  3. It is going to get more interesting before it gets less interesting.

Pop quiz! Are You In WWIII?

Loose Lips Might Sink Ships

For almost a decade, I have considered myself an active participant in WWIII. In the last ten years:

  • How many data breaches compromised your private and medical data?
  • How many times was your data sold without your knowledge?
  • How many tomes of EULA, T&C, Privacy Policy, and waivers have you scrawled your lo-res initials on?
  • How many times was your information surgically targeted by bad actors?
  • How many frauds were committed with some or all of your data?
  • How many of your exasperated, “Oh, aren’t computers just frustrating sometimes?” moments were actually something more sinister?

The answer to all these questions - for everyone who has ever used a computer! - is the same: it is impossible to know.

And that is exactly my point. Because we are all active participants WWIII, some people just don’t realize it yet. And no degree of caution is good enough.

Nothing is Good Enough

Department of Defense Architecture Framework

This wild infographic is allegedly owes provenance to the Department of Defense Architecture Framework.

I think of myself as a careful and technical fellow. I lean chaotic-good with most matters. But… a glimpse into my data-life:

  • I use DuckDuckGo instead of Google.
  • I use Brave instead of Safari.
  • I use a password manager in all situations.
  • I reserve the right to not use a password manager in certain situations.
  • I don’t re-use passwords.
  • I regularly cycle passwords.
  • I use 2FA.
  • I use biometrics.
  • I use virtual private networks.
  • I use pi-holes.
  • I keep my applications patched and updated.
  • I use encryption.
  • I write software that uses encryption.
  • I use backup codes.
  • I have hardcopies of backup codes in firesafes at geographically separate locations.

All these measures are not good enough. My answer to, “Pop Quiz! Are You in WWIII?” is the same as yours. (All our answers are the same, remember.)

Why Social Fast While Traveling?

Depth

Imagine…

Day one of your vacation was full of adventures. You’re in the warm amber light dinner and friends. You excuse yourself. Your phone won’t unlock. Now it is resetting. Someone has engaged the remote wipe protocol.

“They’d need my watch to do that.”

You realize your smart-watch is missing; undoubtedly lost on that hike…

Imagine…

Instagramming a concert in a new city. You get a call from your landlord in the morning that your rental unit was broken into and all your belongings stolen. Later, you learn of a zero-day exploit in a popular IoT device.

“I didn’t even use that thing.”

Doesn’t matter if it’s connected to your wi-fi. They were just waiting for you to be gone for a few days.

Imagine…

You arrive at LAX after a domestic flight. You are detained. There was another outbreak. But you were not in that city, you protest. The official reveals a photo of you tagged in the vicinity.

“But I was on the highway, 70mph.”

You contract the new virus from other detainees.

I could write these little nightmares all day. I don’t believe these things are likely to happen to me. But I have the imagination to see how they could.

Things are not going to stop happening. Sharing what you’re doing while traveling in 2022 comes with a higher risk profile than I am willing to allow.

What About Security Through Obscurity?

“Security through obscurity,” is the philosophical notion that you are safest if you reveal as little information as possible. Secrecy is your primary armor. While appealing on the surface, this has been rejected by military and security professionals for decades. Many of them ascribe to the NIST recommendation:

“System security should not depend on the secrecy of the implementation or its components.”

Meaning it shouldn’t matter if you know I use a strong password and 2FA to access a particular website. The strong password and 2FA should be resilient enough on their own. (Tangent: this is one of the reasons why we get to worry about so called “quantum supremacy,” a situation in which a world power gains the capability to crack all existent security protocols with a new type of quantum computer.)

Musky Twitter

And this in a really round about way brings us to the current Musk / Twitter controversy. (For those of you reading in the far future, it looks like Musk is going to acquire Twitter for $44 billion.)

There is a future where Musk, personally, will be able to read your DMs. He’ll have jolly green terminal screen to clickity-clack your name into and pull up ever Twitter handle you’ve ever had. And read every message you ever sent. Every message his exes ever sent…

Free speech is pretty asymmetrical when you take unfathomable into the equation, eh?

In a world where your data can be sold to the highest bidder, the chain of custody is terminally compromised.

“But I Don’t Have Anything to Hide.”

Until precisely the instant something changes and we do.

Don’t let your travels be a leaky ship.

Go forth and adventure. Be present.

Share it when you get back.

CCI Update

Coral Carrier Incarnadine · Permalink · Edit

Welcome to a leviathan Coral Carrier Incarnadine update!

CCI is an open source game for the monome norns sound computer in which players lead the CC Incarnadine and her crew of climate-punks, nautical drones, and GMO algae on a mission to heal the desiccated coral reefs.

We open the update with a canonical short story written by Coral Carrier Incarnadine contributor, @pleco. Afterwards, I’ll share what I’ve been up to for the last several months.

Obibe’s Descent

The Pacific

This story is sung between the whales, it is one of their oldest songs.

When the number of whales in the sea had grown so few, and the Great Patch had grown to its terrible size beyond comprehension, Obibe, the Lung Mother, led the last pod on what she feared would be its final migration. Together they dove under the Patch, hoping against all odds to find waters far from its reach where the sea was clean, the air was pure, and the krill were not mutated and distorted by the poisons that leached from the refuse. The journey went on and on, at times the struggle of finding some tiny gap in the garbage to breathe led to such exhaustion that many in the pod nearly drowned daily.

On the twenty fifth day of their journey, the Patch became so thick with waste that none in the pod could find a suitable place to reach the air. Obibe watched as one by one the members of her pod writhed and wretched, fighting back the need for breath. When the eldest of their pod suddenly ceased her struggle and became still, Obibe let out a mourning bellow, opened her mouth as wide as the Third Moon’s tail across the still ocean and swallowed up mountain after mountain of waste, creating a space for the pod to surface. The pod went gasping to the open air, aiding each other up, and rejoiced when the elder sputtered back into consciousness. Amidst their cries of joy, Obibe let out a piercing tone of pain and sorrow. The waste had poisoned her every part, and the weight of it drew her down into the depths of the ocean. Obibe’s four daughters chased after her, singing, and the pod, exhausted and weakened, could only listen to their chorus until it went silent three days later.

Obibe’s whale fall has never been found, and the daughters were never seen again. There has been hearsay among the travelers of the Garbage Patch that some gaps in the patch will appear perfectly circular, and in the waters within them a distant, four voice drone can be heard in all directions. The whales themselves tell differing interpretations of hearing the daughters song, both of it being a guide to safe waters, or it being an omen of impending loss or sacrifice.

New Paradigms

Santa Muerta

When I started this project in January of 2022, I dove directly into execution mode. This was more or less how my other norns scripts emerged. Something was different this time, though. I kept stalling out. I’d write a few lines of code and have no clue how to progress. Slowly, it dawned on me.

I didn’t know what the hell I was building.

In order to write code you need “business logic” — an industry term for the arbitrary policy or legal rules needed in a feature. “Send invoices on the last day of the month,” is a wonderfully dry example of business logic. If it were up to a developer to determine the day, she might decide the 1st or the 15th so that every month could be exactly the same. But, because the company chose the last day, now she needs to write code that has some notion of “last day” and the complexity multiplies…

Seaspray

Me? I was writing code before I even knew if there were invoices.

I stopped programming immediately.

I didn’t even know what the rules of the game were! How do you win? How do you lose? What are the mechanics? I knew CCI was a narrative, roleplaying, abstract-strategy game… but that’s about all I knew. There wasn’t enough of a game-world developed to start distilling concepts into business logic into features into UI into, ultimately, fun. This is a game afterall!

My thinking evolved into several concurrent streams.

Inspiration

Manuals

CCI contains gene sequences from all the games I’ve ever played. What are the touchstones the game is anchored in? Who’s made similar games? Who’s told similar stories? What can I learn from them?

Growing up, Magic: The Gathering, Battlefleet: Gothic, and Warhammer 40,000 were some of my favorite tabletop games. Metal Gear Solid, Starcraft, Doom, Diablo 2, Resident Evil, Armored Core, Abe’s Odyssey, Another World, Flashback, Humans, Kings Quest IV, and MechWarrior were some of my favorite video games. I got a GameBoy Color and Pokemon: Blue right when they came out came out and was hooked for years…

Battlefleet Gothic

Battlefleet Gothic, Inside

Pokemon

Skaven Under Empire

Starcraft

And any of my Instagram followers know I’m way into Kentucky Route Zero, Elden Ring, and Bloodborne.

Bloodborne

It has been an absolute joy to return to my old strategy guides and rulebooks with “developer tools enabled.” All these games look so different through this lens. (Did you know Magic is Turing complete?)

Prince of Persia

Community

Creating space for folks like @pleco and you to contribute and carving out small chunks of actionable creativity and keeping everyone connected has been a top priority since day one.

Species

World-building

Who and what lives in the world of CCI? What are their names? What are their motives? This all takes place in the far future of our own timeline, so what is this world’s future history? What recognizable fragments and plastic garbage survived all the eons?

Story

Presently, around 90% of my CCI energy is spent on world-building. This, too, has been riddled with challenge.

Say you are tasked with writing a small, interactive scene to establish the player and another character. They’re out celebrating at a bar. Excellent! This scene will offer plenty of opportunities for characterization, world-building, and serving up a little slice-of-life for people living in the hive-city of Mannheim. You get an idea for a dialog choice. The player will be asked if they want another drink! In a flash, you see three options:

  1. A conservative, “No, tomorrow we sail and I need my wits about me.”
  2. An impartial, “I don’t know…”
  3. A rowdy, “Eh, you sure you want to keep going after the trouble we got into last time?”

The wheels are turning with allusions and references to a shared history… but suddenly you realize: what are they drinking? Beer? Wine? Rum? If it is wine, where do the grapes come from? Are there cellars out on the nearby region known as Chembayou? Can grapes even grow in a bayou…? Or maybe they aren’t drinking alcohol? Maybe folks drink stimulants to relax? Or even narcotics or psychedelics? Or maybe there are “food printers” that can 3D print consumable items?

What people eat and drink are fundamental building blocks of culture. Each decision is an invitation to establish canon and build a cohesive, living world.

The question becomes one of resolution - how deep do you need to go with the details? Some details write themselves. Others, like this one, spur entire new sub-quests of research.

One of CCI’s fundamental concepts - like arcologies, and many of my other pieces - is emergence. Small, seemingly simple decisions that yield massive ramifications later.

I share this scenario because it reminds me of my favorite bug of all time. It is from Dwarf Fortress. Players were reporting cats getting drunk. No one could figure out why. Then, one of the creators cracked the case:

Now, the cats would walk into the taverns, right, and because of the old blood footprint code from, like, eight years ago or something, they would get alcohol on their feet. It was originally so people could pad blood around, but now any liquid, right, so they get alcohol on their feet. And then I wanted to add cleaning stuff so when people were bathing, or I even made eyelids work for no reason, because I do random things sometimes. So cats will lick and clean themselves, and on a lark, when I made them clean themselves I’m like, “Well, it’s a cat. When you do lick cleaning, you actually ingest the thing that you’re cleaning off, right? They make hairballs, so they must swallow something, right?” And so the cats, when they cleaned the alcohol off their feet, they all got drunk. Because they were drinking.

I aspire to write bugs like this.

Narrative

What kind of story is this?

Player vs player, player vs computer, me vs god, me vs me, or me vs nature? (hint: “yes”)

Who is the story about?

What are the conflicts? Is there only one ending? Or multiple?

Twenty Year Storm

Game Design

Which aspects of the world show up in the game? What are the mechanics? How can I minimize the impact of un-fun random number generators?

Sepulchre Punk

I am just now getting into designing how the main “game loop” works. A game loop can be thought of as a “turn cycle” or a sequence of events that repeats. If we’re talking in musical terms it could be compared to a measure or bar. The game loop of Chess is: white, black. In basketball: pass, dribble, shoot. In Magic: untap, upkeep, draw, main, combat, main, end.

CCI has several game loops that interconnect and operate on different timescales. Roughly, they are:

The Mitigation Loop

Locate reef, heal reef, get tangible rewards. Imagine toxic sludge clogging the vessel’s engines. Timescale is in days.

The Resource Loop

Acquire items, use items, run out of items. Imagine running out of fuel or healing items. Timescale is in weeks.

The Exploration Loop

Chart, depart, passage, arrive. Think about storms and hostile waters. And just because this is a “non-violent, anti-colonial” game doesn’t mean there aren’t any violent colonists sailing around! Timescale is in months.

UI/UX Design

How do are the game mechanics communicated to the player? How do they interact with the world?

Shield

Programming & Architecture

How is the software organized? How is data persisted? How do save files work? If they’re stored as plain-text, will people save-scum and hack them? Am I OK with that?

Syntax, logic, booleans, and version control.

I’ve shared many sketches and designs. I’m thinking about this project as something of my thesis in user interface and user experience design. With only 8,192 pixels to work with on a given screen this has proven to be an especially brutal challenge!

Build

@ngwese’s latest screen.display_image_region() feature arrived just in time for this and has enabled me to design with sprites in mind. (With arcologies and yggdrasil, I programed each glyph pixel-by-pixel.)

Only a few concepts have made it all the way to programming spikes. A “spike” is a small piece of (typically) disposable code used to prove an idea. One spike turned into the (now mythical) unreleased roguelike ASCII game called HIVERUNNER. Other spikes made their way into utility scripts like u/KEY, u/DCE, & u/REF.

Quality Assurance

Once a feature is complete… Does it work? Is it fun?

Signed

The Fragmentum

For the moon never beams, without bringing me dreams
    Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And the stars never rise, but I feel the bright eyes
    Of the beautiful Annabel Lee: —
And so, all the night-tide, I lie down by the side
Of my darling — my darling — my life and my bride,
   In her sepulchre there by the sea —
   In her tomb by the sounding sea.

Though this is a sci-fi tale, it takes place in our own timeline. Fragments of our culture have survived and manifested in surprising ways.

  • The “Floating Casino” serves as the central hub for the first act of the game. It is ensconced in protective breakwaters called “The Palisades.” Why would a casino be so central?
  • Earth, and the rest of the solar system, look quite different in this distant future. What’s this talk of a third moon?
  • Necrosis and bleaching are arguably the primary antagonists. How have reefs adapted over time? What is the ultimate fate of the the Great Pacific Garbage?
  • Lunar clocks are the the only time system?
  • Main “characters” are actually vessels. And what are vessels but “coral reefs” of people? Here’s a list of the main cast:
    • Coral Carrier Incarnadine (CCI)
    • Surf Surveyor Phthalo (SSP)
    • Island Interceptor Lazuli (IIL)
    • Reef Remembrancer Aureolin (RRA)
    • Tidal Tug Calamine (TTC)
    • Bay Beacon Amaranth (BBA)
    • Dive Dreadnought Alabaster (DDA)
  • There is a new demographic of human that identifies as coraline. Their births are somehow related to coral reefs.

Call of the Ocean

And now, I must return to my bathysphere.

The Lung Mother and her pod call.

And time is short,

Tyler

I Don't Understand Anything Anymore

Wildcard · Permalink · Edit

KC Cole, writing for Wired:

One thing I love about science is that much of what’s true, what’s interesting, makes no sense (to us) at all. All of life encoded in some silly spiral ladder of molecules that spells out how to grow, when to stop, whether to flower or swim or study the universe? Give me a break. Curved spacetime doesn’t make sense; time dilation doesn’t make sense; quantum mechanics isn’t even supposed to make sense.

So what? They work. Just like evolution. Maybe understanding is knowing what works and what doesn’t—including what works to tame pandemics, put a lid on global warming, better manage war. It is clear that what we are doing isn’t working.

Open Source & Privacy Policy

Wildcard · Permalink · Edit

This website is now open source. I had it set to “private” for the longest time because I used to keep a _drafts directory with lunatic scrawlings and half-baked thoughts. I’m happy to report these have since been published or expunged.

A privacy policy now lives in the footer. Today, it reads:

Northern Information, LLC respects your digital sovereignty. I never track you and I never post paid content. Everything here is open source and freely given with a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Operation March

Wildcard · Permalink · Edit

Operation March is over. 30 posts in 31 days. (I finished an EP somewhere in there which explains the missing post.) What did I learn? What was the experiment? The hypothesis?

I knew I could share something each day. Putting words to bytes has never been a blocker. I was curious if I could share something meaningful or interesting each day?

If it was a normal month, I probably would have only published The Surveillance Transcendentalism of Spy Movies and the usual handful of event or release announcements. But, because I needed to write something each day, I naturally ended up digging a bit deeper and found pieces like Light Blue Collar Worker and Apocalypse Mudra.

In this regard, the experiment was a success.

I also learned I was hesitant to link out to other media and artists. The “digital sovereignty” reminder I added to each post helped me get over this block. I think it is important readers of Northern Information know I don’t track or monitor you. Everything I do here is rooted in passion and curiosity, not finance or clicks. So, I’ll be adding a short privacy policy page along with a reminder on each post.

This is another success.

April will be quieter. I’ve been in a strange place (even for me!) for all of 2022. I made a massive career shift in Q4/Q1 and all my emotions and thoughts have been refracting in novel patterns. The two year anniversary of the pandemic sucker-punched me outta nowhere which also triggered many reveries… So next up is a time of depth. I’m presently working on longer tail projects like Coral Carrier Incarnadine and Continuum Hack. I am consciously entering a season of silence, a shadow zone.

Thank you for reading,

Tyler

HIVERUNNER

Art · Permalink · Edit

Illustration was one of my first mediums. I made this the other night. It was my first “capital D” Drawing in many moons. The color was done with a red marker and LED light. Photoshop was only for levels and contrast.

HIVERUNNER

Flash Crash

Events · Permalink · Edit

This Saturday is another installment of FLASH CRASH. I founded this show last year and we’ve been putting them on every few weeks. Check out the archives of past performances. I love making fliers like these:

FLASH CRASH

FLASH CRASH Times

Studio Improvisation Series

Events · Permalink · Edit

Max Alper, aka La Meme Young, is doing a new lecture series this April which may be of interest to Northern Information, LLC enjoyers. Fliers by me. Yes, that is a potato on FM duty.

Studio Improvisation Front.jpg

Studio Improvisation Back

Sousveillance Capitalism

Wildcard · Permalink · Edit

Katherine Cross, writing for Wired:

“SOUSVEILLANCE” was an idea coined by Canadian engineering professor Steve Mann to describe a kind of “surveillance from below,” where a camera might be in the hands of an informal actor or private citizen, rather than perched high up on a pole keeping a watchful eye for the state. It was liberating and even utopian in its ideal, promising a sort of inverse surveillance where the masses might watch the powerful. The advent of smartphones seemed to be the great technological leap that would make it all possible—and, indeed, the way smartphone footage has been used to shame the powerful, including police, soldiers, government officials, and abusive authority figures, vindicates the potential for sousveillance. But the fact remained that the camera could be pointed anywhere. And more often than not, it’s aimed horizontally, rather than up at those in power.

The singularity of the traditional service economy and the digital one collapsed into sousveillance capitalism recently with the advent of a viral TikTok trend: users leaving notes for Amazon delivery drivers asking them to dance for Ring cameras, then posting the results as Toks.

Think of this as a subset of Shoshana Zuboff’s “surveillance capitalism,” which emphasizes the role of information-as-resource—monitoring, analysis, marketing, data aggregation—in our current phase of capitalism. To speak of “sousveillance capitalism” is to place the emphasis on the method of extraction, rather like thinking about the difference between mining and factory production. They’re both part of the same system, but they require somewhat distinct analytical tools.

Ute Prayer

Wildcard · Permalink · Edit

Earth teach me stillness
as the grasses are stilled with light.

Earth teach me suffering
as old stones suffer with memory.

Earth teach me humility
as blossoms are humble with beginning.

Earth teach me caring
as the mother who secures her young.

Earth teach me courage
as the tree which stands all alone.

Earth teach me limitation
as the ant which crawls on the ground.

Earth teach me freedom
as the eagle which soars in the sky.

Earth teach me resignation
as the leaves which die in the fall.

Earth teach me regeneration
as the seed which rises in the spring.

Earth teach me to forget myself
as melted snow forgets its life.

Earth teach me to remember kindness
as dry fields weep with rain.

Coral Carrier Incarnadine

Coral Carrier Incarnadine · Permalink · Edit

Coral Carrier Incarnadine

A small team and I have been working on a game for several months. It is called Coral Carrier Incarnadine. You can follow development here: https://cci.dev

Lead the CC Incarnadine and her crew of climate-punks, nautical drones, and GMO algae on a mission to heal the desiccated coral reefs.

I expect development to take several years.

Perhaps decades.

In fact, by the time development of this game is complete, most of earth’s coral reefs could be dead.

UI / UX Analysis of Elden Ring

Wildcard · Permalink · Edit

Tonight, on CRYPTOPYRE, we talked about the user interface and user experience of FromSoftware’s latest game, Elden Ring.

The Surveillance Transcendentalism of Spy Movies

Thinkpieces · Permalink · Edit

The Bourne Legacy

The pandemic has forced me to evolve new methods of escapism. As any of my Instagram followers know, I am a glutton for action and thriller movies. And the “spy action-thriller” is one of my favorite sub-genres because they get to play with a very specific and unique set of rules. Last night, THE BOURNE LEGACY (2012) was on the docket. Spoilers for the decade-old blockbuster ahead…

It is hard to remember, but 2012 was pre-Snowden, post-crash, pre-Trump, post-Deepwater Horizon, pre-Benghazi. What’s interesting about this is, even in 2012 (before the Snowden revelations), spy movies were offering a new type of narrative to meet the libidinal desires spurred on by the ultimate post-9/11 antagonist: surveillance.

Goldeneye

In popular media, British spies fulfill the repressed desires of global dominion while American spies fulfill the repressed desires of transcending “the system.” It is, “the sun never sets on the British Empire,” versus, “We’re trapped in the belly of this horrible machine, and the machine is bleeding to death.”

While probably objectively worse than THE BOURNE IDENTITY (2002), THE BOURNE LEGACY is still a serviceable romp. The film is cleanly divided into three acts (I could physically feel each act starting) but suffers from the burden of its own canon. The introduction of Louis Ozawa Changchien’s super-solider antagonist in act three was, frankly, lazy. Until then, our protagonist, played by Jeremy Renner, never faces any adversary more challenging than a security guard or generic federal agent… Yes, taking out a drone in act one with a rifle was impressive but did we ever doubt him in the first 30 minutes?

The dialog is… awful. Edward Norton manages to deliver his exposition with stately gravitas and nuance, but the rest of the cast falls flat. And as much as I love stories where the action unfolds both in the field as well as in stuffy government buildings with suits yelling at each other, there is a terminal disconnect as to what is actually at stake here. The events of original trilogy have compromised various government programs and lots of important looking people are clearly upset about this but why should we, the audience, care? Norton plays it like we should be rooting for him, but he’s just another G-Man. Then again, maybe that is exactly the point.

Rachel Weisz conveys a measure of grace and authenticity while Oscarr Isaac is erudite as ever. (Isaac should’ve come back in act three as the antagonist.)

The Bourne Legacy

Nevertheless, THE BOURNE LEGACY offers plenty of kicks from an intoxicating doctor/patient romance to rugged survivalist milieu in an arctic wilderness. And I will never ever get sick of successfully picking up the cache of cash, weapons, and papers in from a car in the long-term parking garage at the airport! Evergreen!

(NB: has anyone ever written about the appearance of snowy worlds in sequels? Empire Strikes Back, Die Hard 2, Batman Returns, Dark Souls 2, Red Alert: Counterstrike… Maybe it is apophenia on my part but I feel like frozen worlds always appear in the second installment. So, if you’re writing a sequel, just add snow! (Yes, this is technically BOURNE #4 but ostensibly was the start of a second trilogy. Leave me alone, this is my blog.))

Unlike BOURNE, entries in the BOND (1962 - 2021) franchise have only the thinnest layer of canonical persistence. This quality has allowed each entry to begin with a perfectly neutral status-quo, thereby liberating writers and producers to do whatever strikes their fancy. MISSION IMPOSSIBLE enjoys a similar framing, with events from preceding installments only loosely impacting today’s crisis.

So, what themes and tropes make these spy movies tick?

Mission Impossible

First and foremost, spy movies offer us the power-fantasy of operating above, beyond, or outside any laws or jurisdiction. You can go anywhere and kill anyone. Assume a new identity at will. Lie to whomever. It is all permissible. Even killing your boss is on the table in spy movies. (“He was a double-agent! I had to!”) The paranoia of wondering who you can trust is the funnest part of the genre. Anyone could be kompromat. TINKER TAILOR SOLIDER SPY (2011) is perhaps my favorite for this very reason.

Second, spy movies have a unique ability to collapse space. Characters jet-set across the globe following the trail of whatever MacGuffin is driving the plot. MISSION IMPOSSIBLE (1996 - 2024) gleefully uses this move, rapidly advancing storylines forward while simultaneously satisfying the audience’s desire for the exotic. In LEGACY, Norton nonchalantly informs Renner he’s off to Yemen next. To have a job that can spirit you away to any city at any time for any reason! Oh, the adventure!

Third, and this is the thing that interests me the most, is the spies that get out transcend beyond the geofences of the surveillance industrial complex. In THE BOURNE IDENTITY, our protagonists successfully evade all government agencies and exist in an idyllic coastal town under assumed aliases. In LEGACY, our heroes literally sail into the sunset while enjoying the same liberation. Not only have they transcended the facial-recognition software and call-loggers and field agents and assassins, but they are absolutely free to live whatever lives they want. Their designer backpacks lined with government cash and a dozen different passports.

No other genre offers this vicarious experience. These stories communicate, “the way out is through.” In other words, only spies, secret agents, and super-soldiers have the skills and perspective to escape surveillance industrial capitalism. It is a subtle opiate. Don’t even try. You are not trained. You cannot do it.

And why should you? Do you have something to hide? I certainly don’t. Folks frequently comment on the vulnerability and earnestness of my writings and videos. I understand why it may be jarring. While so many are posturing and performing success, I’m honest about being crushed by student debt and the psychological toll 21st century existence has on empathic and aware humans. Transcending surveillance isn’t at the top of my todo list, though I did just install a “pi-hole” last week. I won’t give up, though. That is the mission of artists: to not give up.

To not give up and to help others not give up.