enter the triangle below canal

last year, i had a splendid time attending an all-day event hosted by tribeca interactive, but sadly had to miss due to its simultaneity with #ttw2016. so i did the next best thing and stopped by for the virtual arcade, a selection of 13 innovative vr experiences.

one enters the arcade, a long room filled to the brim with unearthly purple light. ultraviolet and magenta tones to play chords on the retinal cones. all around are lines for the more immersive experiences (the crystal reef, dragonflight). arranged in the middle of the hall are futuristic-yet-inviting swivel chairs in which one might sample the delights of full headset + headphone virtual reality.

my time was limited so i only was able to submerge myself in a few pieces. the two that stood out were:

the misdemeanor

the modern murder mystery, told through the eyes of the four involved: two young black men and two police officers. the short film brings the viewer directly into the issue of police brutality. this film from specular theory uses the point-of-view perspective as a storytelling device. in turns, the viewer is obligated to see each side of the story. the technique is quite effective, as it becomes difficult to squarely assign blame when the issue is presented in totality. this approach also highlights the systemic issues at work. punishing an individual does nothing to solve the overall problem of excessive force, gross miscommunication, and threat escalation endemic to so many urban social interactions. misdemeanor disturbs, but also provokes questions and holistic thinking.


a tragic love story, also a bit of a mystery. this short vr film from jessica kantor and vrideo tells the classic story of love and tragedy through dance, in 360 virtual reality. this film innovates on the medium with a single timeline play out in three parts, simultaneously. the narrative is divided, with a scene to the left, center, and right showing different segments of a linear narrative. at once, one can watch the grace of two lovers dancing together, a horrific discovery, and its aftermath. the use of simultaneity lends the subject matter a feeling of predestination. while in reality, the story arc is no less inevitable than any other screen-based narrative and yet it is rare that the audience sees the threads of fate so directly.

i’m sure that i missed many amazing projects, and look forward to the offerings at next year’s festival.

#TtW2016 #K1 Chill Theory

the utopia has become overgrown

welcome to theorizing the web, in which rooms full of people with beautifully diverse and interdisciplinary backgrounds have the pleasure of taking a weekend to converse with each other about the internet.

what brought me to this conference? as a non-academic, i had no research to present, nor was i in the right place for professional networking.

i came to communicate, to hear the thoughts of people who take the internet seriously (as i do) - and not due to marketing conversion rates or bottom lines. online interactions mediate so much of our lives, it seems only fitting to give them the same thoughtfulness as the rest of sociality. i came for inspiration and grounding for my own professional and artistic practices and i found plenty of both.

legitimization via authenticity

online, as in the rest of life, certain elements become mainstream, or brought into canon - a term most used in the fan fiction world but with broad reaching cultural implications. the development of taste reflects contemporary values of what is considered pleasing, enjoyable, and (more recently) authentic. it is a zero-sum game, with the latest trends inevitably being judged by their predecessors. each new generation of social media platform re-invents the bounds of taste and authenticity. the new is more authentic, the mainstream is most tasteful.

how’s our performance?

#ttw2016 calls no one to action. as the scientific method begins with observation, it follows that theories must develop before we discover the best ways forward. the subtext: what kind of web do we wish to inhabit?

after the conference, i am left to examine my own performances. what pop culture am i canonizing through social media shares? what social privileges do my own selfies (or lack thereof) evoke?

and then…there were bots

the most intriguing thought that i encountered at #ttw2016 originated during the ‘automated personality’ keynote panel, while judith donath spoke of artificial intelligence and biological signaling.

she noted that the turing test marks the turning point beyond which we can no longer reliably judge ai, as at that point they have become like monarch and viceroy butterflies mimicking the warning signals against predation.

i wondered, will the processes of natural selection work on these entities as well? how will their accelerated selective pressures optimize them? and will we ever be able to comprehend?

i, developer

we craft the web, whether it’s eating itself, or eating whoppers. it is impossible to do so without bias. #ttw2016 sheds light on how these biases manifest, through focusing on vernacular use of web platforms.

the biggest take away from an industry perspective is that people will find ways to use the web and play out the drama of sociality in ways that designers and developers don’t always anticipate. ‘the user is not you’ becomes a poignant directive; we must build systems with enough flexibility for end-user innovations. modularity, openness, and remixability are the social currency in culture online.

if you’re interested in watching the archives from #ttw2016 panels, you can find them on the official livestream.

“what time is it?”

an innocuous question, but for the peculiarities of the date. tonight is our designated windfall.

“it feels later than 1:30!”

i comment to a fellow party-goer upon checking the time on my phone.

while we were chatting, dancing, drinking, and celebrating, our devices auto-updated. our attention was elsewhere and at the government-appointed moment, a fundamental measure of our lives was altered.

precise time-keeping is a relatively recent phenomenon, too recent to be affected by any but the mildest selective cultural pressures. and yet our lives are ruled by it. we hoard time and spend it wisely. we waste time on pleasurable and frivolous pursuits and judge selfworth in busy-ness. we are what we make time for.

back in the club, my friend notices my wrist watch. i am a cyborg but not uncynical about my technological agency. is anyone qa testing the human api for physical dimension?

“we can fact check this!”

indeed the second opinion reveals that our timelines have diverged with our selves of half-hour passed.

day light savings strikes again.