AlgoMantra, b. 2005

1/f)))$VediCrystalpunk | CryptoTantrika > ./Swaha!!
Recent Posts

Design : The Nimble Nimbus

Powered by Blogger Free Guestmap from

Commercial Break
Sunday, November 02, 2008
The Dreaming Sea - Part III: "The Cellaphopod & the Mobtar"
The Hindu idea of avatar is connected with collective action, and has become emblematic of the way people are cooperating across borders. An avatar is perhaps not a single person, but a configuration of people, a mob acting together in unison, perhaps towards a common goal. Lets call it a Mob-tar.

At this moment millions of people are hooked onto the Internet, gazing into their liquid crystal displays; people at bus stops, in the trains, peering into their fluid mobile phone gooey (GUI) menus. The global telecommunication system is not a sea, but it feels like one because of this - the digital screen is a porthole; beyond the porthole we can see liquid, and some kind of lucid dream unfolding. It's a sea that is almost like a cephalopod with millions of pods (iPods are Steve Jobs' tentacles, people). It's a cell-a-phopod out there!

Cephalopods communicate with their environment in a very different manner than human beings. They have the ability to morph into various shapes and colours, they have the ability to physically simulate something else - like a rock or entirely different creature. There's a brilliant column by Jaron Lanier called "What cephalopods can teach us about language", in which he describes something called 'postsymbolic communication':
Suppose we had the ability to morph at will: What sort of language might that make possible? Would it be the same old conversation, or would we be able to "say" new things to one another?For instance, instead of saying, "I'm hungry; let's go crab hunting," you might simulate your own transparency so your friends could see your empty stomach, or you might turn into a video game about crab hunting so you and your compatriots could get in a little practice before the actual hunt. I call this postsymbolic communication. Some people think that the ability to morph would just give you a new dictionary mapping to the same old set of ideas, with avatars in place of words, while others, including me, think there would be fundamental differences.

While Lanier is a visionary in his own right, this gem of an idea above would be better explored outside the context of 'virtual reality' and avatars in arenas like Second Life. Instead, lets us imagine the descent of mob-tars in the context of locative media and satellite imagery.

The fact that now we can see human configurations on such a large scale from a bird's viewpoint, or from the Moon even, begins to convert the Earth itself into a cephalopod, watching itself via digital media. It's a feedback loop that allows us to re-configure ourselves as a mobtar. The new linguistic context here is collective expression, millions of people arranging themselves as human pixels arranged on a screen. If executed as it was in the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games opening ceremony, it appears as an expression of totalistic governance, and perfect order. But when it is the people themselves who self-organize this shared meaning, it becomes an example of emergence, an example of mobtaric behaviour.

The cellphone is the new astrolabe, but instead of telling a single user where he is, it can be used to tell all users (the mobtar) where everybody is located. The mobtar can see how it's doing by watching it's own satellite imagery on the cellphone screens. The mobtar can morph! This heralds the arrival of a new language of mobtars, as language zooms out from the scale of your desk, to that of the entire planet.

Of course, the question is not whatthe mobtar is going to say, but what the mobtar is going to do to be able to say it.


0 Comments: Post a Comment