Underestimating Dean

In a way, I’m glad that the mainstream media and the R’s are underestimating Howard Dean, making jokes about “the scream”, hordes of latte-swilling leftists with bad hair, and wacky radical ideas.
Meanwhile, Dean’s platform calls for rebuilding the party from the ground up, supporting candidates in local elections, building a message bottom up.

Gilberto Gil online

Thanks to this webjay roots playlist from Prentiss, and this inspirational Lessig article about free culture and live music extravaganza with the popstar turned minister, I’ve been having much fun rummaging through Gil’s 5-decade online mp3 discography.
Looks like it will take Portuguese to get beyond thumbnail reviews and hagiography.
Addition: Gil speaks about digital freedom at NYU before his Creative Commons conference:

I think that the most important political battle that is being fought today in the technological, economic, social and cultural fields has to do with free software and with the method digital freedom has put in place for the production of shared knowledge.

Texas tries to ban public wireless

An omnibus telecom bill in Texas is seeking, among other things, to ban municipalities from offering wireless services. Currently, Austin has a project to provide wireless in public places.
The attempt to forbid cities and towns from offering wireless services is seriously misguided.
Public wireless is like roads and street lights. Like roads, public wireless access enables economic development. When a road is paved, houses and businesses spring up around it. When an urban area has street lighting, business and civic life continues into the night.
Most streets aren’t toll roads, and street lights don’t have a fee per block. These services are generally accepted to provide public benefit above and beyond the revenue they would bring if they relied on fee-for-service funding.
Networking is in an early stage, like street lights were a long time ago. Cities and towns ought to be able to make their own decisions about what will bring economic development to their area. Each municipality makes its own decisions about roads and public transportation. Similarly, the decision about whether and how to provide wireless services should be a local decision. We don’t want to *prevent* cities and towns from choosing to provide wireless as a service that will incent additional economic activity. We don’t want to mandate one model, for the whole state, in an early stage of development.

Celebrating Celebration

Witold Rybcynski, the writer and scholar of architecture, really likes Celebration, the Disney-built planned town in Florida that raked in controversy for its venture into privatized civic life.
Rybcynski visit and admires the comforting, human-scale houses, streets and sidewalks…

and the thoughtfully laid out parks

and considers it the honest heir to classic garden suburb development in the early 1900s.
The worry about Disney’s Celebration wasn’t about the buildings and streets (which seem genuinely humane), but about the civic structure — Disney’s attempt to build resort-level quality control over the road, school, and social hall fabric of life.
My question about Celebration, a decade later, is how and whether it is evolving from a housing development into a town.

Links are more telling than words

A paper by UT professor Miles Efron shows that links do a better job at differentiating between left and right wing blogs than words do.
US left and right wing blogs might both mention “social security” or “iraq” but they would express different opinions. But those blogs would be likely to cite different sources.
This has interesting implications for persuasion. Lakoff would argue that to persuade a conservative of a more traditionally liberal position, one would appeal to that conservative’s nurturant side.
Efron’s results suggest that it’s not enough to invoke compassion — it might help more to cite the Heritage Foundation.
Thanks Prentiss.

What’s on the playlist?

Inspired by Nashville and the influences of Nancy Griffith, I’m listening to Loretta Lynn, new and old.
Apparently Nashville’s fragile country diva was modeled after Lynn. The Nashville soundtrack itself is mostly mediocre 70s folk-cheese, except for cameo appearances of Vassar Clements, next up on the playlist, and a few other, lesser known real live bluegrass bands doing background music.
Skimmed another dating service form that asks for favorite romantic music, and what objects are found in one’s bedroom. It is infinitely more fun to surf the music of one’s cultural influences and one’s friends than to script a romantic encounter with an unknown stranger, complete with music, lighting, and stage props. Finding common ground and discovering new ground is joyful; describing a stage set for an anonymous other is chilling.
Years ago, I learned the art of the job interview; how one is supposed to answer when the question is “tell me about yourself”, or “tell my why you left your last job”. The interviewer is looking to find relevant qualities and skills for the job at and, and figure out, in a few unrepresentative minutes, how you’d be to work with.
I’m sure there’s a corresponding art to the dating service profile. I’d be a lot better off if I conceded to the process of marketing, packaging, and product positioning. I really hate turning a process of joyful discovery into a short-answer quiz where there are right and wrong answers.
Vassar Clements Living With the Blues now on, just fabulous.

Jared Diamond’s history

Guns, Germs and Steel makes a primary argument that Eurasian societies were able to dominate American and southern societies because of advantages in geography and climate — not because of genetic superiority.
What I liked best about the book, though, wasn’t this thesis. It was the amassing of a broad, integrated picture of the development of human culture, using evidence about food, language, migration, and disease, from a range of historical disciplines including archaeology, genetics, historical linguistics, and synthesis of historical sources. It was breathtaking to see a single animated picture across the 10,000 years of the spread of human culture since the emergence of agriculture, like a time series animation of an lunar eclipse or the flowering of a rose.

Attention managent for the highly connected

Come to think of it, I think there are two main functions needed for managing large numbers of online connections.
The first is the butler, for managing incoming requests.
The second is the reminder service for monitoring the news and recurring events for online acquaintances, and providing reminders for occasional events like birthdays, job changes, and more frequent events like blog posts and wiki updates.
The interface for this would be a more subtle version of an aggregator notification service. This upgraded notifier would provide visibly stronger notification for dramatic events and for those closer in the circle, and weaker signals for ordinary events and those further away.
The notifier would aggregate signals from multiple sources, enabling one to monitor more people and more sources in a shorter amount of time.

The 21st century butler

One tactic that comes to mind for managing online connections is the automated equivalent of an 18th/19th century butler, who mediated social interaction for the wealthy at a time when the intrusive, in-person visit was a primary method for making social contact.
The butler has broad and nuanced knowledged of the circumstances in which the Lady is to be acknowledged to be IN.
Today’s online presence indicators are flat; they tell everyone the same message; that one is working, or eating ice cream in front of the television, or AWAY.
A butler would understand whether one is working or not, and would put through different connections at different hours.
A butler would understand the understand the nuances of one’s social circle, and admit some people automatically, allowing others to wait, and requiring still others to leave a message.
We also need the 18th/19th century interface to the Butler, the calling card, which conveys by its printed message and accompanying whether the caller is a longlost relative whom the butler may not remember; a recommendation from a reputable source; a specific message about the urgency of the visit.
Along with butlers and calling cards would come social norms for interpreting the signals — when a calling card is a polite formality; when to interpret the declining of a visit as a crippling snub and when as scheduling circumstance. Even with a butler, there will be mistimings and misunderstandings, yielding to new materials for comedy and drama.

I was an extra in a car ad

Went with David Nunez to a travelling exhibition of “urban art”; paintings on 3′ x 8′ panels that draw on genres of subway car graffiti, comic books and 70s album covers, with a live painter and dj. The art was mostly from LA and New York, with smatterings of Chicago and San Francisco. Interesting, the LA art was more pop:

The New York art drew more on classic graffiti style:

The show was a third art, a third party, and a third reality tv commercial. The travelling show is put together by “The Rebel Organization, Inc… an ‘off-line’ viral marketing and promotion company that specializes in connecting brands to the progressive youth culture. ”
There were several people in black clothing with fancy-looking cameras and sound gear, presumably making the video. Austin’s clusters of designers, art school kids, theater marketing folk, and art party scenesters did their best to provide authentic artsy-looking ad footage.
You can’t complain too loudly about corporate sponsorship. Michelangelo had some really good gigs advertising the Catholic Church. Subcultures are all part-community, part scene. On the other hand, it’s kind of odd being a prop to advertise a car that’s being sold to wannabe hipsters.