Tuesday, April 13, 2004

Just a little bit geek

When I think of the Gopher protocol I smile fondly. In that time "before the clutter and commercialization of the Web" it was the first way I accessed the Net. And, apparently, it isn't dead.

In Gopher: Underground Technology, John Goerzen explains that "Put most simply, gopher is fun. Any programmer with experience with network programming can write a pretty much full-featured gopher server or client in a couple of hours." He also sees gopher as a solid alternative for mobile devices, and is interested in "using gopher as a protocol for dynamic information exchange in a way similar to XML-RPC and SOAP." Hmm.

On the topic of text-only web pages, I also love, and still regularly use, Lynx. (Ever wonder how your site renders?)

Completely unrelated, but damn fascinating, is the Museum of Unworkable Devices. I've always been taken by things like luminiferous aether and alchemy, and if you've ever had an interest in perpetual motion and free energy machines, you'll like this too. (via)

The Gallery of Ingenious, but Impractical Devices includes some lovely things like the Water Kiss Fountain, where you can drink from the lips of a beautiful woman carved of stone. But I got stuck on the static/dynamic trap - where people "draw, and analyze, a static picture of an unmoving wheel, and use the results to draw inferences about a rotating wheel. [Or] sometimes they do it the other way around."

I understand maps (or any sort of representative account) as static portrayals of things in motion. The problem of correspondence (of truth-making) is most interesting to me here. But when I read about correspondence in mathematics and economics, I don't understand. Are maps seen to have predictive capacities? Are they understood as facts in-and-of themselves? How are social network maps mapped onto software? What are the static/dynamic tensions at play?

In a paper on playful mobilities I wrote a few months ago, I was thinking about playful ways of mapping technologies and I looked to Alexander Calder's sculptures for inspiration:

What if we were to imagine socio-technological assemblages as mobiles? What kind of mobility might that be? What if we instead imagine them as stabiles, as assemblages that suggest or represent mobiles at particular points in space and time? And what if we imagine these assemblages as standing mobiles, where the fixed elements are autonomous forms and not just support for the mobile elements?

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