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friday :: january 28, 2005
plan: pervasive and locative arts network

Wireless and locative technologies are enabling people to break away from traditional computer interfaces. Mobile devices are mediating new kinds of social interaction and responding to physical location and context.

What kinds of creative, social, economic and political expression become possible when every device we carry, the fabric of the urban environment and even the contours of the Earth become a digital canvas?

The event launches a new international network (PLAN), bringing together artists, activists, hardware hackers, bloggers, game programmers, free network builders, semantic web philosophers, cartographers, economists, architects, and university and industry researchers.

A new generation of pervasive technologies is enabling people to break away from traditional desktop PCs and games consoles and experience interactive media that are directly embedded into the world around them. And locative media, the combination of mobile devices with locative technologies, supports experiences and social interaction that respond to a participantís physical location and context. Together these convergent fields raise possibilities for new cultural experiences in areas as diverse as performance, installations, games, tourism, heritage, marketing and education.

A community of researchers working in pervasive media, also known as ubiquitous computing, are exploring location awareness as a requirement for the delivery of accurate contextual information. Another community, primarily consisting of informal networks of technical innovators and cultural producers, which identifies its field as Locative Media, is exploring developments in and applications of locative technologies within social and creative contexts. One of the aims of this network is to bring these two communities together, linking academic research initiatives and agendas to key figures and ground breaking developments that are currently taking place outside mainstream academia.

The creative industries are also beginning to take up these opportunities, led by artists who are actively charting out the potentials and boundaries of the new pervasive and locative media. Other cultural sectors have also been exploring the potential of pervasive and locative media including the games industry through commercial examples of locative games played on mobile phones. Researchers have also demonstrated applications in heritage and tourism, for example personal tourist guides and outdoors augmented reality displays and as well as in mobile learning experiences and participatory local history mapping projects.

A key characteristic of this research is its interdisciplinary nature, with many of these projects combining practicing artists, technology developers and also ethnographers, whose studies of early experiences that are actually delivered as public artworks have yielded new insights into the ways in which participants experience pervasive media, and, conversely, new metaphors for engaging in locative media.

However, realising the full potential of pervasive and locative media requires several further developments. >from *First Workshop of the Pervasive and Locative Arts Network (PLAN)*. Conference & workshop at the I.C.A. (The Institute of Contemporary Arts, London, UK). February 1-2, 2005.

related context
spacenamespace. about annotating space with metadata; about building semantic models of places; about exchanging geospatial data in rdf.
> buddyspace. an open-source cross-platform instant messaging and geo-location tool. the semantics of presence.
> neighbornodes: wireless extensible neighborhood network. an online and augmented real-world social space. november 12, 2004
> urballon: an urban media space. a parallel experience between urban and information spaces. october 8, 2004
> parccentralpark. an emerging urban kitchen. may - september 2004
> first international moblogging conference. theory and experience of mobile web publishing. june 30, 2003
> psy-geo-conflux: the meaning of living in a city. current artistic and social investigations in psychogeography. may 14, 2003
> smart mobs: new uses of mobile media. the combination of mobile communication and the internet. october 3, 2002

richer text reading
with hyperpopup engine from Liquid Information

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layers and layers of plans generating networks

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friday :: january 21, 2005
structure of an international emergency alert system

The earthquake near Sumatra and subsequent tsunami throughout the Indian Ocean on 26 December 2004 resulted in a large number of deaths; early estimates suggest six digit figures, with the hardest hit being remote regions of Sumatra. In the aftermath of this event, many countries have sent aid of various kinds, and the Internet community has asked itself whether the Internet might have been used to help.

This note proposes a system that could be used to quickly warn people in an identified geographic region of an impending event, such as a tsunami, hurricane or typhoon, or attack. It builds on existing technologies that are presently used for other purposes: given a alert from an appropriate Warning Center, the Internet (using, for example, Internet Mail and S/MIME) could be used to deliver an authenticated message to a set of mobile telephone operators, who in turn could send an SMS broadcast to mobile telephones in affected regions, alert of the event. The same email could trigger public and private organizations to initiate necessary support services such as evacuation orders or provision of shelter and emergency medical response. Such an approach would, of course, not warn everyone - everyone does not carry a mobile telephone, and everyone who does would not necessarily read it. But it would warn a large percentage, which might help...

Delivery of such a message via the Internet can be accomplished in a number of ways: mail, instant messaging, or other approaches. For the present purpose, the simplest approach would seem to be the use of the Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP). It requires, in essence, the creation of appropriate mailing lists, perhaps managed by the early Warning Centers themselves, of appropriate contacts in government and service providers. Operationally, if the operators prefer, another service could be used.

The great danger in such is that miscreants might send messages that appear similar to the same targets, spoofing the source. Such an event would severely damage the credibility and therefore the utility of such a system. As such, it is critical that an authenticated electronic mail message be used. Proof of authenticity might be provided using facilities such as S/MIME or PGP.

WWW (http or https) may also be used on a polled basis to deliver alerts. Such a system avoids many of the security issues mentioned regarding electronic mail, but has two unfortunate properties: polling must be sufficiently frequent to ensure timeliness of the delivery of the alert, and the frequency presents a scaling issue.

An approach to this might be built using Really Simple Syndication (RSS). This is a lightweight XML format designed for sharing headlines and other Web content. Alert centers might use such a system as a way to publish their alerts permitting receivers to trigger automated actions when they occur. >from *Structure of an International Emergency Alert System*. Internet-Draft submitted to the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) by F. Baker and B. Carpenter. January 10, 2005

related context
the south-east asia earthquake and tsunami blog.
> sahana disaster management system
> arc (alert retrieval cache).
> emergency disasters data base.
> recent world earthquake activity. u.s. geological survey earthquakes: rss feed information
> feedbeep. sms alerts to your phone or pager about any rss feed.
> smartmobbing disaster relief by howard rheingold . january 20, 2005
> world conference on disaster reduction. kobe, japan, january 18-22, 2005
> how the earthquake affected earth. january 10, 2005
> video blogs break out with tsunami scenes. january 3, 2005
> expert: I tried to warn of tsunami. january 3, 2005
> lack of phone numbers stymied tsunami alert. december 31, 2004

tsunami: the message public notice alert

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friday :: january 14, 2005
state of the world 2005

The global war on terror is diverting the world's attention from the central causes of instability, reports the Worldwatch Institute in its annual State of the World 2005. Acts of terror and the dangerous reactions they provoke are symptomatic of underlying sources of global insecurity, including the perilous interplay among poverty, infectious disease, environmental degradation, and rising competition over oil and other resources.

Compounded by the spread of deadly armaments, these "problems without passports" create the conditions in which political instability, warfare, and extremism thrive. They could lead the world into a dangerous downward spiral in which the basic fabric of nations is called into question, political fault lines deepen, and radicalization grows. Tackling these challenges demands a strategy that emphasizes prevention-focused programs rather than military might, the report concludes.

"Poverty, disease, and environmental decline are the true axis of evil," says Worldwatch President Christopher Flavin. "Unless these threats are recognized and responded to, the world runs the risk of being blindsided by the new forces of instability, just as the United States was surprised by the terrorist attacks of September 11."

Among the many destabilizing pressures examined, State of the World 2005 highlights the following as particularly critical for efforts to build a more peaceful world:

OIL: Continued heavy dependence on oil carries with it enormous costs and risks. It fuels geopolitical rivalries, civil wars, and human rights violations. The economic security of supplier and buyer nations is compromised by severe swings in price and supply. And oil's role in undermining climatic stability poses grave threats to human safety.

WATER: Water agreements have made cooperation rather than conflict the norm among neighboring states. But within countries, water shortages are fueling violent conflict. Worldwide, 434 million people currently face water scarcity. Insufficient access to water is a major cause of lost rural livelihoods, compelling farmers to abandon their fields and fueling conflicts.

FOOD: Worldwide, nearly two billion people suffer from hunger and chronic nutrient deficiencies. Food security is often undermined by factors such as water availability, land distribution, poverty, and environmental degradation. Among the major food security threats on the horizon are climate change, the loss of diversity of plant and animal species, the rise of foodborne illnesses, and food bioterror.

INFECTIOUS DISEASE: Several known diseases have reemerged or spread geographically and many new ones have been identified over the last three decades. HIV/AIDS has become a major killer, and an estimated 34 to 46 million people are infected with the virus. The world's economically least-developed countries are the most affected by the pandemic. In sub-Saharan Africa, the disease is devastating education, weakening militaries, and undermining political stability.

YOUTH UNEMPLOYMENT: More than 100 developing countries worldwide are currently experiencing a "youth bulge" (a situation where people aged 15 to 29 account for more than 40 percent of all adults). Economic opportunities are particularly scarce in the Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa, where 21-26 percent of young people are unemployed. Worldwide, the more than 200 million young people worldwide who are either jobless or do not earn enough to support a family—especially young men—can be a destabilizing force if their discontent pushes them into crime or into joining insurgencies or extremist groups.

To confront these challenges to global security, State of the World 2005 calls for a strengthening of the civilian institutions and systems that are best equipped to address them. A range of strategic investments in sustainable energy, public health, protection of ecological systems, education, jobs, and poverty alleviation will assist in this transition, write the report's authors. >from *POVERTY, DISEASE, ENVIRONMENTAL DECLINE ARE TRUE 'AXIS OF EVIL' State of the World 2005 calls for new approach to global security*. January 12, 2005

related context
climate change: message from the artic indigenous peoples. december 21, 2004
> oil peak: the most pivotal challenge facing modern civilization. june 23, 2004
> AIDS epidemic should be treated as a disaster. november 12, 2003. [more]
> earth 'will expire by 2050': living planet report. july 12, 2002
> worldwide hunger more a political problem, study finds. january 30, 2002

uproot the new forces of instability

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friday :: january 7, 2005
brain plasticity: process sound in alternate way

Brain can be trained to process sound in alternate way, study shows. Scientists have found that the brains of rats can be trained to learn an alternate way of processing changes in the loudness of sound. The discovery, they say, has potential for the treatment of hearing loss, autism, and other sensory disabilities in humans. It also gives clues, they say, about the process of learning and the way we perceive the world.

Over the centuries, philosophers and scientists have put together a picture of how our brains model the world through the mechanism of our senses. Physical stimuli such as light, sound, and touch are converted by our sensory organs -- eyes, ears, and skin -- into electrical signals, which are processed by neurons in different areas of the brain. As those neurons fire, we see, hear, and feel. When the light or sound changes in intensity, our neurons fire faster or slower in direct ratio to the change. That ratio varies depending on the sense involved, but is constant for each sense: the louder a sound, the faster the neurons in the auditory cortex fire.

But now that picture has changed. Polley trained two groups of rats to become " experts" at discriminating between very small differences in loudness -- an ability that untrained rats do not have. He then looked at how the expert rats processed changes in loudness compared to two groups of untrained rats, and found that the auditory cortex in the expert rats contained groups of neurons that had become selective for specific volume levels -- they fired only at those levels and were quiet otherwise. This physiological change in the brain, called "plasticity," has been widely observed in humans and animals who have learned new skills.

Then came the breakthrough discovery: the expert rats were processing volume changes in a new and different way. In the brains of the untrained rats, the overall neural response rate increased as the sound got louder and louder, as the classical model would predict. In the expert rats, however, the overall response rate of the selective neurons increased until the sound reached a loudness threshold of 40 decibels -- and then leveled off while the loudness increased 100-fold, from 40 to 80 decibels. "At first glance, this was not good," observes Polley: If their neurons were not increasing their firing rate, how were the expert rats registering the increase in volume? David T. Blake, PhD, UCSF assistant research physiologist and a co-author of the study, cracked the puzzle. Instead of looking for a simple increase in firing rate, Blake measured the rate at which the firing changed, either up or down. This rate turned out to be in exact proportion to the increase in volume -- and at the same ratio as the firing rate increase. Tests confirmed that the untrained rats' brains were not registering volume increases in this new way; it had been learned by the expert rats as they became better at discriminating changes in volume.

Polley concludes, "There is still proportionality between response strength in the brain and the stimulus. But now neurons are much more selective, and can represent sound intensity with decreasing firing rates as well as increasing firing rates." This system is "optimal" for representing subtle changes in loudness, reasons Polley, because "it gives you two directions to change through," making it many times more responsive than a simple firing rate increase. "And it becomes optimized through learning."

From a psychological viewpoint, the study says something about how we acquire and refine new skills. When we speak of training a musician's ear or a painter' s eye, speculates Polley, we may be referring to the alternate sensory processing system employed by the expert rats. "This is implicit learning," he says. "How do we learn the skills that distinguish one tradesman from another tradesman? These processes are undoubtedly operating in these types of learning behaviors, and they most likely are responsible for expertise. We are looking at the neural substrate for these lifelong learning processes." >from *Brain Can Be Trained to Process Sound in Alternate Way*. December 14, 2004

related context
brainport. a platform technology, by paul bach-y-rita and kurt kaczmarek, that enables the transfer of information from machines to humans via the tongue. proven applications include normal balance control for disabled vestibular patients, vision for the blind, and a whole new dimension in video games.
> neuroplasticity: the neuronal substrates of learning and transformation. 'neuroplasticity: transforming the mind by changing the brain. neuroplasticity refers to structural and functional changes in the brain that are brought about by training and experience. the brain is the organ that is designed to change in response to experience. neuroscience and psychological research over the past decade on this topic has burgeoned and is leading to new insights.' october, 2004
> hippocampal neurogenesis: cell death promotes learning growth. 'the results reveal a complex modulation of learning on brain plasticity, which induces death and proliferation of different populations of cells... 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.' december 17, 2003
> synapses: plasticity and stability. 'synapses are completely turning over all of their constituents multiple times a day ≠ a stunning finding. neuroscientists have long been intrigued in how the brain changes with learning and experience, a phenomenon called plasticity. perhaps we need to think more closely about how connections in the brain remain stable in the face of such incredible ongoing turnover.' february 19, 2003
> synaptic plasticity: how experiences rewire the brain. 'rewiring of the brain involves the formation and elimination of synapses, the connections between neurons. the traditional view of neural development has been that when animals mature, the formation of synapses ceases.' january 23, 2003
> first look at the world: making sense of the unknown. 'babies use relationships between objects to build an understanding of the world.' december 3, 2002
> neurogenesis observed in human adult brain. 'the first demonstration that new cells that are born in the adult brain are functional. fred gage discovered that adult humans 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 revealed that the number of new brain cells could be influenced by activity and other environmental stimuli.' march 6, 2002
> deaf people brains: rewired to 'hear' music. 'deaf people sense vibration in the part of the brain that other people use for hearing... it's the nature of the information, not the modality of the information, that seems to be important. our genes do not directly dictate the wiring of our brains, they provide a developmental strategy.' december 5, 2001

neurons fire: open valve

sonic flow
brain training [stream]
brain training [download]

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