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friday :: december 19, 2003
exploring dystopia: dystopian fiction

Where Utopia is the land of dreams, Dystopia is the land of nightmares. Today, most sci-fi tales are depictions of chilling, dehumanised societies. Star Trek seems to be the only remaining defender of Utopia.

One explanation might be the forbidden charm of Dystopia, especially in cyberpunk litterature and cinema... Another explanation might be the world is turning faster. The acceleration of technology and globalisation removes all boundaries and makes it difficult to predict the future. Maybe we have reached an important turning point where our dreams as well as our nightmares may come true... Let's all pray those dark visions of the future are fantasies and not prophecies. Nevertheless, they might be warnings and perhaps we should listen to them. It is a bitter truth: It takes forever to realise a dream, but a nightmare can come true really fast. We better be vigilant and keep an eye on those in charge. Remember, Big Brother might be watching you this very moment.

The raison d'être of Exploring Dystopia is simply to promote dystopian fiction, thus stimulating people to think for themselves.

Dystopian fiction is quality science fiction: innovative and imaginative, political and critical, realistic and alarming. As such, it engenders intellectual growth, vivid imagination, political awareness and basic solidarity. It may tell us something both about our own time and days to come. In a nutshell, dystopian fiction may be a means to expand as a human being.

I also want this site to be, however pretentious it may sound, a battle cry for democracy and humanism. I believe we take these things for granted today and tend to forget what the alternative is." >from *Exploring Dystopia Manifesto by Niclas Hermansson*.

related context
dystopia. from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
> glocal heterotopies: art, activism and technology. november 28, 2003

warning! biohazard zone

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wednesday :: december 17, 2003
hippocampal neurogenesis: cell death promotes learning growth

The hippocampal formation has long been associated with the execution of higher-order cognitive functions, and impairment of this structure following severe stress and aging has been linked to cognitive disturbances. In order to understand the involvement of the hippocampal formation in the mediation of normal and pathological behaviors, much attention has recently been devoted to hippocampal neurogenesis. The dentate gyrus of the hippocampal formation has the ability to generate new neurons on a daily basis throughout life. Surviving de novo produced cells develop into granule neurons and integrate into the functional circuitry. Neurogenesis has been proposed to play a role in hippocampal-mediated learning and has been implicated in the appearance of behavioral pathologies associated with the hippocampal formation.

Although evidence suggest that neurogenesis play a role in spatial learning, the effect of learning on cell proliferation remains unclear. The authors demonstrated that the late phase of learning has a multifaceted effect on neurogenesis depending on the birth date of new neurons. The number of newly born cells increased contingently with the late phase and a large proportion of these cells survived for at least 4 weeks and differentiated into neurons. In contrast, the late phase learning decreased the number of newly born cells produced during the early phase. This learning-induced decrease in the number of newly generated cells results most probably from the death of the cells. Strikingly, cell death and not proliferation was positively correlated with performance. Thus, rats with the lowest cell death were less able to acquire and use spatial information than those with the highest cell death.

The results reveal a complex modulation of learning on brain plasticity, which induces death and proliferation of different populations of cells. Most importantly, they introduce the notion that removing neurons from the adult brain can be an important process in learning and memory and a novel mechanism through which neurogenesis may influence normal and pathological behaviors. >from *Cell death promotes learning growth*. November 26, 2003

related context
> differential effects of learning on neurogenesis. Molecular Psychiatry (2003) 8, 974-982. doi:10.1038/sj.mp.4001419
> autumn triggers chickadee's brain expansion. october 3, 2003
> synapses: plasticity and stability. february 19, 2003
> synaptic plasticity: how experiences rewire the brain. january 23, 2003
> neurogenesis observed in human adult brain. march 6, 2002

dentate gyrus asymptotic fictional circuitry

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friday :: december 12, 2003
open-source practices in software engineering

Walt Scacchi and his colleagues are conducting formal studies of the informal world of open-source software development, in which a distributed community of developers produces software source code that is freely available to share, study, modify and redistribute.

"Free and open-source software development is faster, better and cheaper in building a community and at reinforcing and institutionalizing a culture for how to develop software," said Scacchi, a senior research scientist who has taught software engineering for two decades. "We're not ready to assert that open-source development is the be-all end-all for software engineering practice, but there's something going on in open-source development that is different from what we see in the textbooks."

Not all open-source projects are alike, however. A small number of open-source projects have become well known, but the vast majority never get off the ground. Scacchi and his colleagues are trying to understand how successful projects, such as the Linux Kernel, grow from a few individuals to a community of a thousand developers.

To explore the breadth of open-source activity, they are looking at more than a hundred projects in several categories: network games, Internet and Web infrastructure, academic and scientific software and industry-sponsored activities.

"The software-intensive systems in today's world have become so complex that we need every available design tool at our disposal," said Suzanne Iacono, National Science Foundation (NSF) program director. "Open-source development has achieved some remarkable successes, and we need to learn from these successes as our systems become increasingly distributed, complex and heterogeneous. Traditional software engineering methods were originally developed for single-system design and development." >from *Faster, Better, Cheaper: Open-Source Practices May Help Improve Software Engineering*. December 3, 2003

related context
free software and open source. from wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
> major databases of open source software: SourceForge, Freshmeat, and FSF/UNESCO Free Software Directory.
> open source communities. april 21, 2003
> commons-based peer production. december 19, 2002

fast load changing directions

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wednesday :: december 10, 2003
metacognition: some animals know their cognitive limits

Humans are able to feel uncertainty. They know when they know something and when they don't. This capacity for 'metacognition' (thinking about thinking), or cognitive self-awareness, is thought to be one of humans' most sophisticated cognitive capacities and to be linked to our reflective consciousness. One of the important questions in the field of animal and human psychology is whether this metacognitive capacity is uniquely human, or whether nonverbal, nonhuman animal species have a level of metacognition that approaches that of humans.

The research, "The Comparative Psychology of Uncertainty Monitoring and Metacognition," made by a team led by John David Smith, have shown that the monkeys and the dolphin used the 'uncertain' response in a pattern that is essentially identical to the pattern with which uncertain humans use it. Indeed, Smith says, "the patterns of results produced by humans and animals provide some of the closest human-animal similarities in performance ever reported in the comparative literature."

Moreover, it is clear that a higher-level cognitive interpretation of the results is warranted -- low-level behavioral explanations cannot explain the phenomena. In short, Smith says, "the results suggest that some animals have functional features of, or parallels to, human conscious metacognition." They apparently know when they know and when they don't know, he adds.

Smith and his co-researchers (Wendy E. Shields and David A. Washburn) point out that by using the same metacognitive paradigms broadly across species, scientists may be able to draw the map showing which species have evolved cognitive self-awareness. This could reveal when in evolution reflective cognition emerged and how widespread this capacity is among animals. >from *New Research Finds Some Animals Know Their Cognitive Limits. Studies of animals' confidence and uncertainty inaugurate a new research area*. December 1, 2003

related context
orangutan culture, push back the origins of culture. january 21, 2003
> first chimpanzee archaeological dig: reinterpreting early human sites. may 28, 2002
> abstract thought on non-human animals: scientific and ethical implications. october 16, 2001

the un-certain promise

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monday :: december 8, 2003
HighNoon: wsis? we seize!

An open platform for interventions in, outside of, counter to and as an alternative to the agendas and organization of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), which takes place from December 10th to 12th in Geneva, Switzerland.

In recent years media activism has evolved globally from local pirate radios, video activist groups and paper zines into complex networks of alliances that use ICT to bridge the physical gap in txt, visual and sonic media, as well as those of distance and feasibility. Some of these networks (like Indymedia) have showed the way for others how to structure the information agregation and desemination process.

Recently a diverse group of media activists, artists and programers initiated project HighNoon which is set out to develop a new model that would suite better for moving image. Agregation of video has already been experimentaly established in recent months by v2v project, using free software, open formats and standards to encode, store and syndicate production quality video in sustainable and managable way.

Further along this road we wanna develop methods and models to fill these archives with quality content and make it available for others to engage within this social, media and technical development. By using free technologies, working on models of inclusion and adressing social issues within so called "information society" we are initiating HighNoon platform for delivery of this media through networks to all connected.

High Noon is an audiovisual protest that gathers objections against the WSIS in Geneva in order to assert our claims to the so called "information society". >from *WSIS? We Seize! site*.

related context
world summit on the information society. december 10-12, 2003
> world forum on communication rights. 11 de diciembre, 2003. coalition of international NGOs
> developing the potential of the internet through coordination, not governance. december 9, 2003. the internet society at wsis.
> reporters without borders challenges 14 major internet and computer firms about their activity in china. december 3, 2003
> reporters without borders' response to its exclusion from the
world summit on the information society
. december 2, 2003
> about the wsis? we seize! project .

HighNoon stares wsis from a genève wall graph

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friday :: december 5, 2003
[grid::brand]: instead of mass media, think cluster media!

Grid blogging aims to investigate the potentials of a distributed media production model spread across blogosphere nodes. It seeks to ignite attention on specific topics at set times through variegated voices. A kind of decentralised flash mobbing for the mind, if you like.

Decentralisation is key here. Unlike single collaborative blogging structures that unite discussions under the same URL, Grid blogging is about synchronized guerrilla publishing attacks carried out across a series of online locations. It respects and heightens the individual voice within a media-wise choir. It allows for idea-jamming and mosaics of diverse perspectives to emerge unfettered. >from *the initial invitation to Grid Blog project by Ashley Benigno*. november 7, 2003

Temporary in nature, the first grid blog happened on December 1. The topic was the 'brand' (intangible attributes artificially assigned to an object or concept ). An example of posts, "Cost of year long anti-retroviral treatment when supplied by western pharmaceutical companies: $15,000. Cost of year-long anti-retroviral treatment when supplied by generic, patent-free manufacturers: $150 (San Francisco Chronicle, 20 Nov 2003). Jack, that says something about branding in and of itself..."

related context
channel 'grid_brand'.
> link and think. the personal publishing communities respond on world AIDS day
> flash mob. a large group of people who gather in a usually predetermined location, perform some brief action, and then quickly disperse
> smart mobs: new uses of mobile media. october 3, 2002
> weblog: a new flow of information. may 15, 2002

power the radiating variegated voices

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wednesday :: december 3, 2003
banksy: graffiti art

The Banksy manifesto is talking about how the application of paint can make a difference. He use an extract from the diary of one of the first british soldiers to liberate of nazi death camp Bergen-Belsen in 1945.

"I can give no adequate description of the Horror Camp in wich my men and myself were to spend the next month of our lives. It was just a barren wilderness, as bare as a chicken run. Corpses lay everywhere, some in huge piles, sometimes the lay singly or in pairs where they had fallen... A very large quantity of lipstick arrived. This was not at all what we men wanted, we were screaming for hundrerds and thousands of other things and I don't know who asked for lipstick. I wish so much that I could discover who did it, it was the action of genious, sheer unadulterated brilliance. I believe nothing did more for those internees than the lipstick. Women lay in bed with no sheets and no nightie but with scarlet red lips, you saw them wandering about with nothing but a blanket over their shoulders, but with scarlet red lips. I saw a woman dead on the post mortem table and clutched in her hand was a piece of lipstick. At least someone had done something to make them individuals again, they were someone, no longer merely the number tatooed on the arm. At last they could take an interest in their appearance. That lipstick started to give them back their humanity." >from *from banksy manifesto*.

related context
> banksy hits new york's most famous museums. march 23, 2005
something to spray. interview with banksy. the guardian, july 17, 2003
> RDFWeb: foaf banksy.
> banksy graffiti , south bank london. "Painting a picture in a public space to make people think or smile is criminal damage. Flogging your product via TV, radio, billboards, spam email, adverts in urinals, 'free' gifts for kids, peer pressure et all is known as marketing. Banksy understands this."
> art crimes. the writing on the wall. "In many places, painting graffiti is illegal. We do not advocate breaking the law, but we think art belongs in public spaces and that more legal walls should be made available for this fascinating art form. Because it is so hard to get books published and to keep photos and blackbooks from being seized and destroyed, the Internet may be the best way to publish and preserve this information."
> wooster collective : a celebration of street art.

cut it out and spray

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monday :: december 1, 2003
racism can make you stupid

A Dartmouth College study reveals that interracial contact has a profound impact on a person's attention and performance. The researchers found new evidence using brain imaging that white individuals attempt to control racial bias when exposed to black individuals, and that this act of suppressing bias exhausts mental resources.

The study combines the use of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), which measures brain activity, with other behavioral tests common to research in social and cognitive psychology to determine how white individuals respond to black individuals.

"We were surprised to find that brain activity in response to faces of black individuals predicted how research participants performed on cognitive tasks after actual interracial interactions," says Jennifer Richeson, the lead author on the paper. "To my knowledge, this is the first study to use brain imaging data in tandem with more standard behavioral data to test a social psychological theory. We found that white people with higher scores on the racial bias measure experienced greater neural activity in response to the photographs of black males," says Richeson. "This heightened activity was in the right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, an area in the front of the brain that has been linked to the control of thoughts and behaviors. Plus, these same individuals performed worse on the cognitive test after an actual interaction with a black male, suggesting that they may have been depleted of the necessary resources to complete the task."

This new study by Richeson provides striking evidence that supports the idea that interracial contact temporarily impairs cognitive task performance. These results suggest, according to the researchers, that harboring racial bias in an increasingly diverse society may be bad for one's cognitive performance." >from *Interracial Interactions are Cognitively Demanding*. november 17, 2003

related context
The County of Los Angeles has requested that equipment vendors avoid using the industry term "Master/Slave" in product descriptions and labelling. november 26, 2003
> rejection affects human brain in same way as physical pain. november 10, 2003
> xenophobia may slow scientific progress. june 6, 2003
> the hacktivismo declaration: assertions of liberty in support of an uncensored internet. july 18, 2002
> shaping the network society: patterns for participation, action and change. may 13, 2002

racister barometer

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