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march 2002

sampling new cultural context

friday :: march 22, 2002
icann is at a crossroads
:: new roadmap proposal

At the ICANN Board of Directors, President Stuart Lynn proposed a sweeping series of structural reforms for ICANN. The process of relocating functions from the US Government to ICANN is stalled. "The current structure of ICANN was widely recognized as an experiment when created three years ago," noted Board Chairman Vint Cerf. "The rapid expansion of and increasing global dependence on the Internet have made it clear that a new structure is essential if ICANN is to fulfill its mission."

ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) was formed three years ago as an entirely private global organization designed to assume responsibility for the DNS root from the United States government and to coordinate technical policy for the Internet's naming and address allocation systems. Nothing like this had ever been done before. ICANN is a bold experiment in the management of a unique global resource. ICANN was to serve as an alternative to the traditional, pre-Internet model of a multinational governmental treaty organization. ICANN have some real accomplishments: the introduction of a competitive registrar market, the Uniform Dispute Resolution Policy, the creation of seven new global Top Level Domains. But ICANN is still not fully organized, and it is certainly not yet capable of shouldering the entire responsibility of global DNS management and coordination.

It is essential to state unambiguously what falls outside of ICANN's scope. The core ICANN mission includes no mandate to innovate new institutions of global democracy, nor to achieve mathematically equal representation of all affected individuals and organizations, nor to regulated content, nor to solve the problems of the digital divide, nor to embody some idealized (and never-before-realized) model of process or procedure. However important those ideals may be, they are for other, better-suited organizations to address. Unfortunately, we have allowed the advocates for these and other non-core objectives to divert ICANN from what must be its tight focus on its core mission. These diversions have been and will continue to be a significant impediment to accomplishing ICANN's core mission, unless we undertake a powerful reform of ICANN's structure and operations, and a committed refocus on its limited but important mission.

In the new proposals, the basic mission remains intact. What changes is the means of achieving that mission. Reform must replace ICANN's unstable institutional foundations with an effective public-private partnership, rooted in the private sector but with the active backing and participation of national governments. "What has become clear to me and others is that a purely private organization will not work," said Lynn. "The Internet has become too important to national economic and social progress. Governments, as the representatives of their populations, must participate more directly in ICANN's debates and policymaking functions. We must find the right form of global public-private partnership - one that combines the agility and strength of a private organization with the authority of governments to represent the public interest."

"It is simply unrealistic to expect ICANN ­ thinly-staffed, underfunded, technically-oriented ICANN ­ to be able to achieve what no other global institution has: a global electorate expressing its will through stable representative institutions... Although governments vary around the world, for better or worse they are the most evolved and best legitimated representatives of their populations ­ that is, of the public interest... the concept of At Large membership elections from a self-selected pool of unknown voters is not just flawed, but fatally flawed." Currently, five of the 19 board members are elected by the general Internet community. Under the new plan, the board would consist of 15 members: one third nominated by governments, one-third through a committee process and the rest consisting of ICANN's president and appointments by four policy and technical groups.

An ineffective ICANN virtually invites the fragmentation of the Internet by those with parochial commercial, cultural, or political interests into zones that cannot reliably communicate with each other ­ an outcome that would be profoundly negative for the Internet and would seriously retard its continued growth as a global medium to support critical commercial and social goals, and a medium for communication and expression. >from *ICANN President Recommends a Roadmap for Reform*, and *related paper written by Stuart Lynn*, february 24, 2002

related context
tilting at icann. march 19,2002
> should geeks, or governments, run the net? march 14, 2002
> preliminary report icann meeting in accra. march 14, 2002
> new top level domains. november 16, 2000

> icann crossroad signal
thursday :: march 21, 2002
> brain activity
emotion and cognitive skills
:: how emotion influence brain performance

"To have the best mental performance and the most efficient pattern of brain activity, you need a match between the type of mood you are in and the type of task you are doing," said Jeremy Gray, lead author of a study of how human emotional states influence higher mental abilities at Washington University. "This is one of the first studies to really show that performance and brain activity are a product of an equal partnership or marriage between our emotional states and higher cognition."

"Our results suggest that emotion is not a second-class citizen in the world of the brain," Gray said. "The findings surprise people. Mild anxiety actually improved performance on some kinds of difficult tasks, but hurt performance on others. Being in a pleasant mood boosted some kinds of performance but impaired other kinds. To understand how a particular emotion or mood will influence performance, you have to take into account the type of task. Our results show that the brain takes it into account."

Participants in the study had more activity in the prefrontal cortex when doing either a word-based task in an anxious mood, or when doing a face-based task in a pleasant mood. In these conditions, which the participants found more difficult, the two brain areas located just under the temples and slightly higher, near the corner of the forehead, appeared to be working harder, as shown by greater activity. The same regions were less active ‹ and possibly more efficient ‹ during either the word task in a pleasant mood or the face task in an anxious mood. The current work suggests that the region may actually be critical for integrating cognitive tasks together with emotional signals. >from *Study ties mental abilities to interaction of emotion and cognitive skills*, march 18, 2002.

related context
rejection reduces iq. march 15, 2002
> research on emotion. april 24, 2001

wednesday :: march 20, 2002
norouz mobarak
:: iranian new year 1381

Spring equinox was observed as the beginning of a new year in ancient China, England, Persia, Egypt, North and South America, and today is marked as the Earth Day, the Nature's Day all over the world. At the moment of Vernal Equinox the Sun is setting at the South Pole and rising at the North Pole. On the equator at noon you will cast no shadow. In the day of the equinox sunlight and darkness are of almost equal length -- equinox means 'equal night' --.

Norouz (New Day) continues to be the first day of calendar year in Iran, Afghanistan, Central Asia, Azerbaijan, parts of Pakistan and India and among the Kurds. The word itself literally means 'new day' in Persian, and the festival marks the beginning of the solar year and new year on the Iranian calendar, as well as among several other nationalities. Celebrates the awakening of nature. New Year Celebrations begin at the exact moment of vernal equinox and last for 13 days, culminating with Seezdehbedar (Nature Day) on the 13th day of the year. The New Year starting March 20, 2002 at 22:46:00 in Iran will be year 1381.

"Today, Norouz is celebrated as splendidly as ever. Setting the Haftsin (Norouz table) and sitting around it at the turn of the year, wearing new garments, presenting Eidi (gifts of crisp paper money) to children, sprinkling rose-water, eating sweets and celebrating sizdeh-be-dar (13th Farvardin or 2nd April) are practiced by Iranians, even those living abroad." >from *Norouz in the Course of History*

related context
guo nian. chinese new year 4700. february 12, 2002
> rosh hashanah. jewish new year 5762. september 18, 2001
> enkutatash. ethiopian new year 1994. september 11, 2001

> equinox at salk institute + norouz
tuesday :: march 19, 2002
> paradoxical techno-effects
social informatics
:: technophobes may be right after all

The prevailing view that the more technology we have, the better off we are, just isn't borne out by the evidence. Furthermore, the notion much favored by managers that information science and technology is going to change your job for the better ­ so you should get with the program ­ that idea doesn't stand up to scrutiny either.

Steven Sawyer and Kristin Eschenfelder conducted a review of the literature on the relationships between information and communications technologies and the larger social context in which these new technologies exist. Their results were published this month in a chapter, "Social Informatics: Perspectives, Examples, and Trends, in the Annual Review of Information Science and Technology." The review is a publication of the American Society for Information Sciences and Technology.

In their chapter, the researchers list three common findings among the studies they reviewed: 1) information and communication technology (ICT) uses lead to multiple and sometimes paradoxical effects; 2) ICT uses shape thought and action in ways that benefit some groups more than others and these differential effects often have moral and ethical consequences (information and communication technologies are often used to reinforce, not reduce, existing differences in social status, power and structure); and 3) a reciprocal relationship exists between ICT design, implementation, use and the context in which they occur.

The studies come from a new field of research called 'social informatics' or the body of research and study that examines the social aspects of computerization. >from *Technophobes may be right after all*, march 14, 2002.

related context
social informatics definitions

monday :: march 18, 2002
mirroring evil
:: nazi imagery/recent art

From March 17 through June 30, 2002, The Jewish Museum, New York, present this exhibition accompanied by extensive education programs, forums for discussion, and a major publication. At the core of this initiative is a selection of recent works by internationally recognized artists, all of whom make new and daring use of imagery taken from the Nazi era. Obsessed with a history that they seem impelled to overcome, these artists ask us to examine what these images of Nazism might mean in our lives today. These artworks draw us into the past, leading us to question how we understand the appalling forces that produced the Holocaust (Shoah). These works also keep us alert to the present, with its techniques of persuasion that are so easily taken for granted, its symbols of oppression that are too readily ignored.

Over the past half-dozen years we have seen a shared iconography emerge among certain artists who are one or two generations removed from the Nazi era. Departing from earlier art relating to the Holocaust, which has tended to focus on the victims, these artists confront us with the Nazis' faces, their apparatus of power, their notoriously effective propaganda. In deploying this highly charged imagery, the artists use the cerebral language of conceptual art. They bring the images out of the past and into the present, so that our own identities and beliefs come into play as we engage the artwork.

Mirroring Evil: Nazi Imagery/Recent Art is the most recent of many art exhibitions at The Jewish Museum that have addressed the period of the Holocaust. These exhibitions have notably included a 1985 retrospective of the work of Felix Nussbaum, a young Jewish artist who perished in the Holocaust; The Art of Memory, a groundbreaking 1994 exhibition that examined how and why public memory of the Holocaust is shaped by museums and monuments; and an exhibition in 2000 of the Holocaust-era paintings and drawings of Charlotte Salomon, titled Charlotte Salomon: Life? Or Theatre? The Jewish Museum also collects artworks and artifacts related to the Holocaust. >from *The Jewish Museum to present Mirroring Evil: Nazi Imagery/Recent Art*

related context
Curating Evil. Norman Kleeblatt, the man behind the controversial Jewish Museum 'Nazi art' show by Daniel Belasco. The Jewish Week, january 25, 2002.
> Demystifying Nazism, or Trivializing Its Victims? A Debate. How Pseudo-Artists Desecrate the Holocaust by Menachem Z. Rosensaft. Forward, january 18, 2002

> nazimagery
friday :: march 15, 2002
> knowledge street
context series 2002 [march issue]

science commons

:: building a free flow of knowledge

*context weblog publish third issue of context series. The subject is "Science Commons" that refers to some significant developments related with the free flow of knowledge in the shared on-line environment.

"Today, whilst unprecedented advances in the sciences are foreseen, there is need for a vigorous and informed democratic debate on the production and use of scientific knowledge... The information and communication revolution offers new and more effective means of exchanging scientific knowledge and advancing education and research... The use of information and communication technology, particularly through networking, is to be expanded as a means to promote the free flow of knowledge," explains the Declaration on science and the use of scientific knowledge, adopted in the World Conference on Science, jointly organized by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco) and the International Council for Science (ICSU). >from *Science for the Twenty-first Century: a New Commitment*, july 1, 1999.

>>> more on *context series press release

wednesday :: march 13, 2002
bubble fusion
:: sound-induced nuclear fusion

A team of researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute has reported the observation of phenomena that could point to the possibility of nuclear fusion using a novel technique for plasma confinement.

Attempts to confirm these results by looking for the telltale neutron signature of the deuterium fusion reaction have yielded mixed results. Additional experiments are needed to verify neutron emission.

The research team reported that ultrasonic waves were used to implode small cavitation bubbles of deuterated-acetone vapor. The team further reported that, during bubble implosion, evidence pointing to nuclear emissions and sonoluminescence light flashes was observed, as well as evidence of tritium which could suggest the fusion of deuterium atoms in the highly compressed bubbles. >from *Possible Sound-Induced Nuclear Fusion Posited. Additional Experiments Are Needed*, march 5, 2002

related context
fusion basics
> sonoluminescence
> eon project. material poetry by shawn brixey. january 2, 2002
> sound in three dimensions. spatially realistic sound reproduction. december 19, 2001
> sonic flashlight make human body translucent. december 11, 2001
> structural radar to monitor vehicles toward condition-based maintenance. november 21, 2001
> acoustic device avoid surgery to find and stop internal bleeding. november 20, 2001
> vibration therapy kept the bones healthy. november 15, 2001
> phonons measurement reveals internal structure of objects. november 14, 2001

> bubble traces ?
tuesday :: march 12, 2002
> ant swarm trapped in amber
swarm paintings
:: artificial art, next aesthetical rupture?

Project was born around the concept of morphogenesis with the scientist in the area of the artificial life, Vitorino Ramos. The idea being to create an organism capable to generate forms without any representational pre-commitment and with a minimum of esthetical intervention from our part. We want to remove, as much as possible, the human factor. Particularly in what concerns aesthetic or ethical subjectivity, taste or style, leaving to the 'artificial artist' the task to define its own 'art'. For that proposal we are working with 'artificial ant systems' or 'swarm systems'. Actually in this first stage all the works from the artificial swarm are human assisted. But soon they will cease to be. Works emerge from artificial ants, through a process of deposition/evaporation of pheromone. Some draw trails (where more pheromone, means more paint), others define clusters or build 3d objects. We see in fact the plastic expression of an (artificial) life form. This 'art' cannot be attributed to any human being, even not to the author of the algorithm. That is, the programmer creates the 'DNA' of the 'artist', but not the work of art. That is why we prefer to be ourselves called life and art architects, instead of artists. >from *Swarm Paintings. Non-human art by Leonel Moura*, february, 2002

related context
On the Implicit and on the Artificial. Morphogenesis and Emergent Aesthetics in Autonomous Collective Systems by Vitorino Ramos
> swarm intelligence resources
> ants 2002

monday :: march 11, 2002
discovery of new taste receptor
:: fifth taste responds to amino acids

Humans can recognize five tastes: bitter, salty, sour, sweet and umami. Umami is the most difficult to describe ‹ it's the flavor associated with monosodium glutamate. Now, researchers led by Charles S. Zuker and Nicholas J. P. Ryba have identified a taste receptor that responds to amino acids, including umami. Given that many amino acids are essential components of our diet, this work may also aid understanding of how animals, including humans, regulate nutritional intake to achieve a balanced diet.

Zuker's and Ryba's groups previously collaborated in discovering sweet and bitter taste receptors.

According to Zuker, discovery of the amino acid taste receptor will have important implications for understanding the machinery of taste. "When Nick Ryba and I began this collaboration a bit over four years ago, our ultimate goal was to understand how the brain knows what you just tasted," he said. "We wanted to discover how taste receptor cells are activated and how their signals travel to the brain to produce specific taste perceptions.

"To do that, we first needed to define the different taste modalities at a cellular level, so that we could then follow their connectivity maps to the brain. The "Holy Grail" in this field has been the receptors, and now that we know the receptors underlying three modalities - sweet, bitter and amino acid - we can begin to work on our original goal, to map this system to understand how taste is encoded," Zuker said. >from *Homing In On a Receptor for the Fifth Taste*, february 25, 2002

related context
insects' sense of smell: key step uncovered. january 10, 2002
> deaf people brains. december 5, 2001
> eye's photoreceptor control biological clock. august 15, 2001

> umami taste receptor
friday :: march 8, 2002
> ishango bone
ishango, the bone that began the space odyssey
:: were african women our first mathematicians?

In 1950, the Belgian Prof. J. de Heinzelin discovered a bone at Ishango, a village at the sources of the Nile, on the border of Congo and Uganda. The 20000 years old artifact has patterned notches, making it the first tool showing logic reasoning. Furthermore, the Ishango bone [ now at the Musee d'Histoire Naturelle in Brussels ] is still a research object, because other dating methods are applied on it and because new interpretations are proposed for it. The fact that the dawn of mathematics originated in Africa is not always well known. The authors aim to make it better known, through an extraordinary link between Africa and the space adventure. Indeed, a scene from the movie '2001: A Space Odyssey' offers a very strong image that facilitates the communication with the largest audience. It is about a human ancestor who throws a bone in the air that turns into a space ship. The sequence can be considered as a metaphor to illustrate the progress of mankind, from apparently very simple discoveries up to the technology of the space age. >from paper 'Research and Promotion: about the first mathematical artifact: The Ishango bone' by Dirk Huylebrouck (Belgium) and Vladimir Pletser (European Space Agency), cited in the report on 'Fifth Pan-African Congress of Mathematicians' by Gloria Emeagwali, january, 2000

At one end of the Ishango Bone is a piece of quartz for writing, and the bone has a series of notches carved in groups. It was first thought these notches were some kind of tally marks as found to record counts all over the world. However, the Ishango bone appears to be much more than a simple tally [ interpretations of their mathematical properties= notches are evidence of early interest in number (primes, x2, base 10, base 12) and sequential notation ]. Recent studies with microscopes illustrate more markings and it is now understood the bone is also a lunar phase counter. Who but a woman keeping track of her cycles would need a lunar calendar? Were women our first mathematicians? >from *An old mathematical object* by Scott W. Williams in the site Mathematicians of the african diaspora.

related context
Ishango Bone Exhibition

thursday :: march 7, 2002
trance passages
:: explores science of altered states of consciousness

Researcher Anne Harrington has surveyed the findings of disparate disciplines (from anthropology to brain science, psychiatry to religious studies) and brought them together in an online interactive, multimedia, learning environment call Trance Passages. Harrington is co-director of the Harvard Mind Brain Behavior Initiative, and a member of the MacArthur Foundation Network on Mind-Body Interactions.

In the 60s, Erica Bourguignon reviewing the literature for 488 different cultures, conclude that "the capacity to experience altered states of consciousness is a psychobiological capacity of the species, and thus universal," even though "its utility, institutionalization and patterning are, indeed, features of culture, and thus variable." Formerly the purview of psychiatrists who identified the term trance with a therapeutic practice they called hypnosis, or of anthropologists covering exotica like possession and shamanism, an entity called trance now seemed poised to go mainstream.

Trance Passages is a structured hypermedia, multidisciplinary database on the human phenomenon of trance (including hypnosis and meditation). Organized loosely around a "journey" metaphor, Trance Passages is set up to guide both scholars and the general public through a process of "on-line discovery" of the various relationships that exist among the different research perspectives that study trance --from anthropology to brain science, psychiatry to religious studies. Hyperlinks to the "sights and sounds" of trance --still images, video clips, audio excerpts-- provide further opportunities for thinking about relationships between understandings that come from the "lab" versus those that come from the "field," between academic work and direct experience.

In all these ways, Trance Passages aims to be both an educational vehicle, and a tool to assist scholars and researchers in their goal of more creative and synthetic ways of thinking. A visual journey through the 5 Phases of Trance guides users through a process of online discovery of the state of trance research and its development. >from *Trance Passages site*

> trance database
wednesday :: march 6, 2002
> brain cells diagram of ramon y cajal
:: observed in human adult brain

Salk Institute scientists have observed for the first time that new cells in the adult brain grow and mature over time, functioning just like any of their neighboring neurons. The study offers proof that newly born cells integrate into existing neuronal circuitry, providing the brain with a continual reservoir of youthful active cells. Such cells might then replace older neurons or possibly be used to reshape the brain so it may learn and adapt to new experiences.

"This is the first demonstration that new cells that are born in the adult brain are functional," said Fred Gage. It was Gage who, in November 1998, discovered that adult humans, even among the elderly, can generate new brain cells throughout life in a process called neurogenesis. This landmark study upset long-held dogma that stated we are born with a full supply of brain cells that steadily diminish throughout our lives. Subsequent studies by Gage and his colleagues revealed that the number of new brain cells could be influenced by activity and other environmental stimuli. Despite such work, scientists still did not know if these new cells actually worked like any other neuron, or even if they grew and matured like other brain cells. The current study, which required the development of a new technique to measure electrical activity in living brain cells, should put those doubts to rest. In their next studies, the Gage team hopes to determine what these new neurons actually do. >from *Salk Scientists Demonstrate For The First TimeThat Newly Born Brain Cells Are Functional In The Adult Brain*, february 27, 2002

related context
> social interaction and neurogenesis. february 20, 2002
> brain potential to heal itself. february 18, 2002
> neurogenesis discovered in monkeys. october 14, 1999

tuesday :: march 5, 2002
:: cyber-age nightmare

A groundbreaking investigation by an international coalition of environmental organizations reveals that huge quantities of hazardous electronic wastes (E-wastes) are being exported to China, Pakistan and India where they are processed in operations that are extremely harmful to human health and the environment. The organizations have released a full report on the investigation entitled: Exporting Harm: The High-Tech Trashing of Asia.

The investigation uncovered an entire area known as Guiyu in Guangdong Province, surrounding the Lianjiang River where about 100,000 poor migrant workers are employed breaking apart and processing obsolete computers imported primarily from North America. The workers were found to be using 19th century technologies to clean up the wastes from the 21st century.

"We found a cyber-age nightmare," said Jim Puckett, coordinator of BAN. "They call this recycling, but it¹s really dumping by another name. Yet to our horror, we further discovered that rather than banning it, the United States government is actually encouraging this ugly trade in order to avoid finding real solutions to the massive tide of obsolete computer waste generated in the US daily."

"Consumers in the U.S. have been the principal beneficiaries of the high-tech revolution and we simply can't allow the resulting high environmental price to be pushed off onto others" said Ted Smith, Executive Director of SVTC. "Rather than sweeping our E-waste crisis out the backdoor by exporting it to the poor of the world, we have got to address it square in the face and solve it at home, in this country, at its manufacturing source."

The environmental organizations are calling on the USA to follow Europe's example and immediately implement the global ban on the export of hazardous wastes from the US to developing countries and likewise to solve the E-waste problem "upstream" by mandating that the electronics industry institute "take-back" recycling programs, toxic input phase-outs and green design for long-life, upgradeability and ease of recycling. >from *High-tech toxic trash from USA found to be flooding Asia*, Press Release of Basel Action Network and Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition, february 25, 2002

related context
2001 Computer Report Card and the Computer TakeBack Campaign. november 2001
> War on high-tech waste. october 2001.
> Lowtech Manifesto. trash technology art. july 1999.

> cataluña electrónicos
monday :: march 4, 2002
> reyner banham enviromental bubbles in a cloud
blur building
:: inhabitable cloud

Is it a cloud? Is it a building? Extraordinary Blur Building for Swiss Expo is both ­ a building which generates its own blanket of fog, seeming to hover mysteriously over its lakeside setting. Intended as an antidote to a visually-obsessed culture that demands high definition and measures satisfaction in pixels per inch, Blur emerses the visitor in a unique sensory environment like 'ether'. Just as Blur is visually indistinct, so its soundtrack consists of white noise and indistinct babble - visitors leave their own 'acoustic traces' which then become part of the background buzz. The Angel Bar at the top of the building similarly comments on the meaningless proliferation of choice so typical of our culture by serving dozens of different types of water ­ and nothing else. An inhabitable cloud whirling above a lake is the media pavilion for Swiss Expo 2002 designed by architects Ricardo Scofidio and Elizabeth Diller. >from *Doors of Perception*

The pavilion is made of filtered lake water shot as a fine mist through 13,000 fog nozzles creating an artificial cloud that measures 300 feet wide by 200 feet deep by 65 feet high, around a form based on the work of Buckminster Fuller. A built-in weather station controls fog output in response to shifting climatic conditions. Prior to entering the cloud, each visitor responds to a questionnaire/character profile and receives a "braincoat" (smart raincoat). The coat is used as protection from the wet environment and storage of the personality data for communication with the cloud's computer network. Using tracking and location technologies, each visitor's position can be identified and their character profiles compared to any other visitor. As visitors pass one another, their coats will compare profiles and change color indicating the degree of attraction or repulsion, much like an involuntary blush - red for affinity, green for antipathy. >from *Arcspace*

Visitors will enter through ramps to this café and multimedia space. There will be a partially submerged sushi restaurant. Inside this radial cloudy structure the will be a cylindrical panorama of 12 video projections that will take place in the middle of the building. On the highest level of the building an opened observation deck will let the visitors have a view of the lake without being obstructed by the steam of the cloud.

Diller+Scofidio, founded in 1979, is a collaborative interdisciplinary design team who incorporate architecture and cultural theory with design, performance and electronic media. Their innovative work explores how space functions in our culture and how architecture affects social behavior as much as it defines physical space. Design for the Brasserie Restaurant in New York, offers contemporary variations of van der Rohe¹s design ethic: transparency, void space and refined architectural expression, in addition to introducing Diller+Scofidio's trademark integration of media and architecture. Projected for 2004, they design landmark museum for art of 21th century, Institute of Contemporary art in Boston. >from *ICA Boston*

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