Category: Theory

The Original Hacker and Why His Work, 300 Years Ago, Matters Today

Alan Turing is often given the unofficial title of being the original hacker.  He’s a worthy choice.  His 1950 essay, Computing Machinery and Intelligence, is still consulted today by those contemplating the gap between software and human brains.


But Turing was able to use machines that were built on the work of others as decades of hardware progression continued to push toward the semiconductor age.  And what of the theory behind the hardware?  Some form of it had to come first, of course.  George Boole, for one, conceived of devices—Boolean operators—that still dot programming today.  Their roots trace to Boole’s 1854 paper, An Investigation of the Laws of Thought, on Which Are Founded the Mathematical Theories of Logic and Probabilities.

Before Boole there were others: Euclid, Euler, Newton and the Bernoullis. They all contributed. Naming one of them the original hacker requires a dash of subjective judgment.  A case could be made for a dozen people.  But none of them, in this writer’s opinion, quite so fill the role as does Gottfried Leibniz, a German who preceded iOS by 360 years.

Leibniz, like Newton, his contemporary, was a polymath. His knowledge and curiosity spanned the European continent and most of its interesting subjects. On philosophy, Leibniz said, there are two simple absolutes: God and nothingness. From these two, all other things come. How fitting, then, that Leibniz conceived of a calculating language defined by two and only two figures: 0 and 1.

Read the complete article at Forbes.

Between the NFL and Data Packets: Usain Bolt Is the Potential of Being Modular

Image source: Daily Mail

By Eduardo Navas

Note: This text was previously released on the Huffington Post on August 31, 2012.  A week before the NFl began their official season.


The NFL prepares for its upcoming season, and during exhibition games on television, as wide receivers go deep for spectacular catches, I cannot help but be reminded of exciting moments from the London Olympic Games, particularly in track & field — when Usain Bolt ran to take three gold medals in the the 100 m, 200 m and 4×100 m relay.

Coincidentally, there has been speculation that Bolt may transition to professional sports such as football in the NFL, although he may prefer soccer. The main reason behind his potential future in either sport is not because he is a good ball handler, in fact, the ball is hardly mentioned. What matters is that Bolt is fast.

Continue reading »

Not a Remix–Nor a Sampling: Why Fareed Zakaria’s Plagiarism is Unacceptable

Image: Huffpost

By Eduardo Navas

Note: This entry was updated on August 19, 2012 with an extra commentary at the end of the main text.

As an educator in higher education and researcher specializing in remix culture and authorship, when I first learned about Zakaria’s admission to plagiarism, I was very disappointed in him, and thought that there was no way around it, that his admission of plagiarizing parts of Jill Lepore‘s work on gun control written for the New Yorker puts into question his intellectual integrity.

I thought that his apology was quick and to the point, but that somehow it was not enough. I thought that it was necessary for Zakaria to come forward and explain in as much detail as possible the reasoning for his behavior. And I thought that I wasn’t alone in hoping for this to happen–that if an actual explanation was delivered, it would all serve the constructive purpose of discussing the seriousness of plagiarism with students while providing a concrete example of a public intellectual who committed such an unacceptable act.

Continue reading »

Watching The Olympics on TV Is Still About Collective Participation

Image source: Washington Post

By Eduardo Navas

Note: This text appeared previously on Huffington post.  Since its original publication on August 8, 2012, NBC decided to at least make available live streaming of the closing ceremonies. Other than this, much of what is observed in the following commentary remains relevant.

Viewers well versed in media expect delivery-on-demand for major events. This has created a peculiar tension when viewing prime-time Olympic coverage consisting of competitions that previously took place throughout the day, but which were not broadcasted live on TV. After the first week of events, it appears that audiences are tuning-in to NBC’s evening broadcast in larger numbers than previous Olympics, and this has become the network’s main justification for holding out on selected events until prime-time.

Continue reading »

Book Sprint on The New Aesthetic

Post by Eduardo Navas

Note: Previously this entry read “book print.”  This was a mistake on my part. It should be “book sprint.”

I recently read the “book print” New Aesthetic, New Anxieties by a group of media researchers, theorists and curators, who got together for three and a half days from June 17–21, 2012,  at V2, in Rotterdam, The Netherlands.

The concept of coming together for just a few days to brainstorm a book is certainly something worth considering as an act of creative critical practice.  The book from this standpoint functions surprisingly well, especially because its premise is delivered to match the speed of change that its subject (The New Aesthetic) experiences in the daily flow of information throughout the global network. I personally find amazing that a book of this sort can be put together with some cohesion.

Continue reading »

Remix Culture Comes To Physical Objects With The Remix Project

The Thonet Bentwood chair, a Panton plastic chair, and an Eames RAR Rocking Chair.

Remix culture is everywhere. If you’re a digital native, it’s in your cultural DNA, and as Kirby Ferguson has noted, to create is essentially to remix. Sure, the old guard might be against it, but no matter how much hate they direct towards it, it’s here to stay. And it’s going to evolve.

As the line between the virtual and physical blurs, and as 3D printing and scanning technologies become more ubiquitous and accessible, this mashup mindset will emigrate from the digital realm of music files and online videos into the land of physical objects. You’ll no longer just remix a song or supercut a funny movie cliche. You’ll also merge a designer chair with another one. Or a cup with an ornamental dancing gremlin. Or whatever you want! We’ll all be like Doctor Moreau, except without the bloody vivisection and mutilation of animals. Instead, we’ll mutilate objects’ files before printing them into existence.

This remixing and mashing of physical objects has already begun. Using scanned files of the Met museum’s classical sculptures found on Thingiverse, hackers remixed the classics. Coinciding with that project is another one from a freshly minted RCA London grad, Ben Alun-Jones, who has been working on a similar idea that remixes physical objects called Remix.

Read the complete article at The Creators Project.

Into the Matrix: the future of augmented reality (and you)

The growth of augmented reality (AR) will almost certainly change the way we visually experience the everyday world. And, as discussed previously on The Conversation, it’s likely to be Google’s Project Glass leading the way on this new frontier.

But other technologies on the horizon will profoundly alter our interactions with computational technologies. More important than the eye-candy value of AR will be the applications for those who are physically or economically disadvantaged.

Read the complete commentary at The Conversation

The InVitro Meat Debate

Why doesn’t everyone get excited about transhumanism? Why aren’t all people fascinated by augmented and virtual reality, radical life-extension, brain-uploading, and The Singularity? This essay is the first in a series of articles, entitled “The Casual Transhuman” – it will examine h+ topics from the layman’s perspective and give suggestions on how transhumanists can spread their ideas without looking like crackpots to the world-at-large.

Read the complete commentary at Institute of Ethics and Emerging Technologies

Everything is a Remix [video]

Book Review: Programmed Visions: Software and Memory

After “getting fit” and whatever else people typically declare to be their new year’s resolutions, this year’s most popular goal is surprisingly nerdy: learning to code. Within the first week of 2012, over 250,000 people, including New York’s mayor Michael Bloomberg, had signed up for weekly interactive programming lessons on a site called Code Year. The website promises to put its users “on the path to building great websites, games, and apps.” But as New Yorker web editor Blake Eskin writes, “The Code Year campaign also taps into deeper feelings of inadequacy… If you can code, the implicit promise is that you will not be wiped out by the enormous waves of digital change sweeping through our economy and society.”

If the entrepreneurs behind Code Year (and the masses of users they’ve signed up for lessons) are all hoping to ride the wave of digital change, Wendy Hui Kyong Chun, a professor of Modern Culture and Media at Brown University, is the academic trying to pause for a moment to take stock of the present situation and see where software is actually headed. All the frenzy about apps and “the cloud,” Chun argues, is just another turn in the “cycles of obsolescence and renewal” that define new media. The real change, which Chun lays out in her book Programmed Visions: Software and Memory, is that “programmability,” the logic of computers, has come to reach beyond screens into both the systems of government and economics and the metaphors we use to make sense of the world.

Read the complete article at We Make Money Not Art.