TED Talk: Taryn Simon

My favorite quote from Taryn is, “Photography threatens fantasy.” Disney uses intricate interior design, photography, and video to construct fantasy. Advertisements, magazines, weddings, and portraits are about showing others the ideal instead of the reality. Have you seen the Dove Evolution video? (This one has music and singing by a Baha’i musician Devon Gundry.) What about the Ralph Lauren photo?

Reality bites. Hard.

(See Taryn Simon photographs secret sites on the TED site)

TED About this talk: Taryn Simon exhibits her startling take on photography — to reveal worlds and people we would never see otherwise. She shares two projects: one documents otherworldly locations typically kept secret from the public, the other involves haunting portraits of men convicted for crimes they did not commit.

Also: Taryn on Charlie Rose, Discomfort Zone (Telegraph)

Facebook Usernames

If you cannot find me, then you are not looking. If you search on Facebook for Ezra Freelove, then I am the only result at the moment. Maybe all you knew was Ezra and the city where I lived? Facebook search is not so great you could find me through my first name plus something else you knew about me (other than email or city). Probably this is for the best. We don’t want to make it too easy to stalk people, right?

Allowing users to make a username is a promotion. The blogosphere making a fuss over all this is a Chicken Littleesque. Sure Myspace, Twitter, and a number of other sites have addresses with usernames in them. No one is forcing people opposed to having one to make one. Only in the past month could one choose a username for one’s Google profile. Prior to that it was a hefty large number of numbers.

I think the reason some people prefer usernames comes down to elaborative encoding. To retain something in memory, we associate that something with existing items in memory. Short-term memory has only about 7 slots and digits are each a single item. Assuming a single incrementation per account created and over 200 million users, using a numbers means there ought to be 9 digits worth of numbers to memorize. Words occupy a single slot in short term memory, by far simplifying remembering. Which would you rather try to remember 46202460 or ezrasf?

An argument against usernames comes down to using the memory of the Facebook database or other computer memory. Computer memory is better than human memory for stuff like this.

All of these work and go to the same place:

  1. http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=46202460
  2. http://www.facebook.com/ezrasf
  3. http://www.ezrasf.com/fb

Pick your poison. Enjoy.

Information Should Be Free

Mark Guzdial makes the point teachers add value to the learning process. Normally, I would agree. However, I got hung up on a misquote from a Walter Isaacson article How to Save Your Newspaper in TIME offering micropayments as the solution to newspapers finding a working model to survive since advertisements are not the right one.

Mark said it was “information must be free.” TIME said, “[T]he Web got caught up in the ethos that information wants to be free.” Mark correctly attributed it to Steven Levy who said, “All information should be free,” but in the context of: “Access to computers — and anything which might
teach you something about the way the world works — should be
unlimited and total.” 

Higher education provides such access. However, we hide the access behind beaucracy and tuition. Is it worth it?

Another thought on all this came from a Dorothy E. Denning quoting Richard Stallman:

I believe that all generally useful information should be free. By ‘free’ I am not referring to price, but rather to the freedom to copy the information and to adapt it to one’s own uses. … When information is generally useful, redistributing it makes humanity wealthier no matter who is distributing and no matter who is receiving.

This reminds me of the concept of Creative Commons and open source. Restrictions to information like copyright ensure the creator makes money. At the same time copyright provides some opportunities for reusing it. (CC and open source just do it better than the Copyright Office.

Nature Photography Day

June 15th is Nature Photography Day (and Father’s Day).

  • Purple ConeflowerTake your kids and grandkids on a nature trek and give them a single-use camera to use. Then print some of their photos and present them, in a mat or frame, to those young photographers.
  • Pick something in nature that you’ve never photographed before, and then make plans to photograph that subject on June 15.
  • Select a subject in nature that is small or common and thus easily overlooked. Then photograph it in a way to make the ordinary seem extraordinary.
  • Look for and photograph something that detracts from the beauty in nature – images that show how human beings sometimes adversely affect our environment.

Too bad June 14th is Free Day in the Parks for Georgia State Parks.

My photos will be tagged “Nature Photography Day” on Flickr.

(Photo is my Purple Coneflower picture hosted on Flickr.)

Trust and Transparency

One of the books I am reading, Gut Feelings, made a statement:

Transparency and trust are two sides of the same coin.

without much elaboration.

To place the statement in context, Gerd Gigerenzer was writing about moral systems. Specifically, how the Ten Commandments was so effective because it they are so simple. The American tax code is less obeyed precisely because even experts cannot possibly understand every detail.

People cannot trust or obey what they do not understand. Simply stated rules are more easily understood and thus obeyed. Contrast: “You must file your income taxes by a certain date” against the whole tax code. Compare the certainty of compliance when the taxes are filed versus the certainty all the forms are completed correctly.

Maybe I need to go back and read Easier Than You Think? The beauty of the book is stating everything in a single sentence and then a short explanation for why.

Tricky Quotes

Archilochus (Greek lyric poet and soldier, 675-635bc)

The fox has many tricks, and the hedgehog only one, but that is the best of all.

Ingrid Bergman

A kiss is a lovely trick designed by nature to stop speech when words become superfluous.

Ray Bradbury

We are cups, constantly and quietly being filled. The trick is, knowing how to tip ourselves over and let the beautiful stuff out.

Leonardo da Vinci

Life is pretty simple: You do some stuff. Most fails. Some works. You do more of what works. If it works big, others quickly copy it. Then you do something else. The trick is the doing something else.

Seymoure Cray

The trouble with programmers is that you can never tell what a programmer is doing until it’s too late.

The Golden Compass

I didn’t have any interest in this book (or the His Dark Materials trilogy books of which TGC is the first book) or the movie. Then I heard about Vatican objection to the movie despite the references to the Church being removed. This kind of objection made me curious.

Does being an atheist make Phillip Pullman a bad person? I’d think the weight of our actions should be the measure by which we are all judged. Certainly, those who read the book will be influenced by a tiny degree. I haven’t seen anything in the first 218 page to make me think Catholics are evil. I understand the bad guys are the Magisterium who are linked to the Vatican. Certainly, I can understand why they would object to being portrayed as evil. However, its clear from the writing that events take place in another world similar to ours but not ours…. Unless we have given up air planes for zeppelins, have our own personal daemons, and have conversations with polar bears.

Its fantasy… aka not real. Which similarly means… the evil Vatican is not real. (I hope this is not a case of the truth striking too close to home.)

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