W.J.T. Mitchell: What do Pictures Want?

W.J.T. Mitchell was invited speaker at the Warburg Conference in London. Until the webcast  becomes available, you (and I) can watch other videos_


Methodology: Pictured as sites of theoretical discourse – When pictures reflect on the nature of pictures. Haus der Kunst Symposium 2012

  • From Dolly to 9/11. From cloning DNA to the multiplied digital images of the terror attack on the World Trade Center in New York City
  • image and counter-image
  • image vs. picture
  • iconic images – lying with images


Anne Helmreich interviews W.J.T. Mitchell exploring the logic that connects cloning and terrorism as the twin phobias of our historical epoch.


“What do Pictures Want?” – lecture by William J. Thomas Mitchell

cf. “Crazy Talk: What is Mental Illness?” by Gabriel Mitchell, W.J.T. Mitchell’s son, referenced at  Minute 6.


W.J.T Mitchell on Christo’s Gates in NY Central Park /2011

  • …visualizing the ghosts of Central Park

copy – transform – combine

Everything is a Remix Remastered (2015 HD) from Kirby Ferguson /recommended by Sven Klomp

…which reminds me on Ted Nelson’s quote “Everything is deeply intertwingled” – and Lawrence Lessig’s keynote address: The Internet’s Coming Silent Spring at USENIX 2002 [45min podcast] – “The Mouse is not allowed”, at 8’53”.

Update: Lawrence Lessig is about to speak in Hamburg on 24-Aug-2016: ‘How democracy gets defeated’ – 18 photos

Ivan Sutherland on Research and Fun

The Computer History Museum had invited Ivan Sutherland to talk about Research and Fun for an evening in 2005. I was electrified to listen to his words when the recording was first published on research.sun.com – you know, we both worked at Sun those days. I even did a partial transcript of a key section where he offers the essence of what it takes being a good researcher, excerpt of the excerpt:

…if you would be a researcher it seams to me that you’d best search your soul first to find out what it is you like to do. … what ever it is make sure that you pick something to work on that you like, that you think is fun. Because if it isn’t fun you aren’t going to be very good at it. [more]

When Sun went down – this video went away. How odd that a museum depends on the fortune of a single company to preserve its assets. Hence this video was off-line for a couple of years until I offered to upload my backup version earlier this year. The Computer History Museum rejected my idea, but assured me to upload the video to the official CHM channel on YouTube. So thanks a lot to Sara Lott for republishing the talk!

Odysseys in Technology: Research and Fun, lecture by Ivan Sutherland on YouTube

Have fun! (And drop me a line when YouTube is switched off)

Easter Island Rock’n’Roll

Storytelling is quite en vogue. In fact telling stories is part of the human nature. Things get weird if the story is more convincing than the truth. Word of mouth spreads like wild fire to turn into facts? Is it called urban legends? Viral marketing?
For instance, do you know what happened on Easter Island? Do you know why all the trees are chopped, almost all insular are dead, and many of the famous moai statures are overthrown? These are the ingredients to make up a convincing story of a collapsing culture. Furthermore, it is warning for human kind to be careful with the limited resources on our planet.

For every complex problem, there is a solution that is simple, neat, and wrong. – Henry Louis Mencken

Science can help to discover the truth once conducted with an honest and open minded attitude. Therefore I was impressed by listening to a talk by Terry Hunt and Carl Lipo at the LongNow Seminars. There exists an alternative explanation for toppled statures. And most impressive and surprising, Hunt and Lipo offer a solution how to move a moai with a weight of several tons across the island. Let’s rock’n’roll!
A shorter version of the talk has been recorded by the National Geographic – check minute 16 to see a moai dancing:

Is there another lesson in this story than potential collapse of civilizations? For me it’s this: Stay alert. Look for the facts. And keep history separated from its interpretation.
Enjoy Easter!

// top photo cc by Olivier iko

à propos

Window Cooling at Xerox Star

// reblogged via interaction-design.org on fb So this morning I was curious about the origin of what is often referred to as the hamburger icon. Spent a few minutes digging around and found this video from the Xerox Star. Turns out that Norm Cox is who designed the interface for this system. I emailed Norm and asked who designed the hamburger icon? Here’s his response:

You’ve done your homework and found the right guy. I designed that symbol many years ago as a "container" for contextual menu choices. It would be somewhat equivalent to the context menu we use today when clicking over objects with the right mouse button. Its graphic design was meant to be very "road sign" simple, functionally memorable, and mimic the look of the resulting displayed menu list. With so few pixels to work with, it had to be very distinct, yet simple. I think we only had 16×16 pixels to render the image. (or possibly 13×13… can’t remember exactly). Interesting inside joke… we used to tell potential users that the image was an "air vent" to keep the window cool. It usually got a chuckle, and made the mark much more memorable. It’s been nice to see that so many of our designs from those early pioneering years have stood the test of time and become ubiquitous symbols in our UI’s. Feel free to share the short story. I have many more design related stories from my days at Xerox PARC during the birth of graphical UI’s, and subsequent 30+ years consulting. I think it’s important to share the past with designers today to help them understand the philosophies, constraints, considerations and inspirations that got us to where we are today. I only ask for proper attribution when you post something from me. (I like people to know that they can get in touch with me for more design tales!) Kind regards Norm

all-the-widgets from Brad Myers on Vimeo.