Tags: information

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The Bit Player

Ooh! A documentary on Claude Shannon—exciting!

I just finished reading A Mind At Play, the (very good) biography of Claude Shannon, so this film feels very timely.

Mixing contemporary interviews, archival film, animation and dialogue drawn from interviews conducted with Shannon himself, The Bit Player tells the story of an overlooked genius who revolutionized the world, but never lost his childlike curiosity.

Norbert Wiener’s Human Use of Human Beings is more relevant than ever.

What would Wiener think of the current human use of human beings? He would be amazed by the power of computers and the internet. He would be happy that the early neural nets in which he played a role have spawned powerful deep-learning systems that exhibit the perceptual ability he demanded of them—although he might not be impressed that one of the most prominent examples of such computerized Gestalt is the ability to recognize photos of kittens on the World Wide Web.

Gutenberg and the Internet

Steven Pemberton’s presentation on the printing press, the internet, Moore’s Law, and exponential growth.

Great Leap Years - Official site of Stephen Fry

I just binge-listened to the six episodes of the first season of this podcast from Stephen Fry—it’s excellent!

It covers the history of communication from the emergence of language to the modern day. At first I was worried that it was going to rehash some of the more questionable ideas in the risible Sapiens, but it turned out to be far more like James Gleick’s The Information or Tom Standage’s The Victorian Internet (two of my favourite books on the history of technology).

There’s no annoying sponsorship interruptions and the whole series feels more like an audiobook than a podcast—an audiobook researched, written and read by Stephen Fry!

Why the Future of Data Storage is (Still) Magnetic Tape - IEEE Spectrum

It turns out that a whole lot of The So-Called Cloud is relying on magnetic tape for its backups.

Figures in the Stars

A lovely bit of data visualisation from Nadieh showing the differences and commonalities in constellations across cultures. As always, she’s written up the process too.

The crooked timber of humanity | 1843

Tom Standage—author of the brilliant book The Victorian Internet—relates a tale of how the Chappe optical telegraph was hacked in 19th century France, thereby making it one of the earliest recorded instances of a cyber attack.

New Dark Age: Technology, Knowledge and the End of the Future by James Bridle

James is writing a book. It sounds like a barrel of laughs.

In his brilliant new work, leading artist and writer James Bridle offers us a warning against the future in which the contemporary promise of a new technologically assisted Enlightenment may just deliver its opposite: an age of complex uncertainty, predictive algorithms, surveillance, and the hollowing out of empathy.

Cognitive Overload - daverupert.com

From Scott McCloud to responsive design, Dave is pondering our assumptions about screen real estate:

As the amount of information increases, removing details reduces information density and thereby increasing comprehension.

It reminds me of Edward Tufte’s data-ink ratio.

A Man in a Hurry: Claude Shannon’s New York Years - IEEE Spectrum

Of course, information existed before Shannon, just as objects had inertia before Newton. But before Shannon, there was precious little sense of information as an idea, a measurable quantity, an object fitted out for hard science. Before Shannon, information was a telegram, a photograph, a paragraph, a song. After Shannon, information was entirely abstracted into bits. The sender no longer mattered, the intent no longer mattered, the medium no longer mattered, not even the meaning mattered: A phone conversation, a snatch of Morse telegraphy, a page from a detective novel were all brought under a common code. Just as geometers subjected a circle in the sand and the disk of the sun to the same laws, and as physicists subjected the sway of a pendulum and the orbits of the planets to the same laws, Claude Shannon made our world possible by getting at the essence of information.

Progressively Worse Apps

This article makes a good point about client-rendered pages:

Asynchronously loaded page elements shift click targets, resulting in a usability nightmare.

…but this has nothing, absolutely nothing to do with progressive web apps.

More fuel for the fire of evidence that far too many people think that progressive web apps and single page apps are one and the same.

The Secret History of Hypertext - The Atlantic

The latest excellent missive from The History Of The Web—A Brief History of Hypertext—leads back to this great article by Alex Wright on Paul Otlet’s Mundaneum.

The Computational Foundation of Life | Quanta Magazine

Philip Ball certainly has a way with words.

Front-End Developers Are Information Architects Too ◆ 24 ways

Some great thoughts here from Francis on how crafting solid HTML is information architecture.

The world-wide web (PDF) by T.J. Berners-Lee, R. Cailliau and J.-F. Groff

Well, look at these fresh-faced lads presenting their little hypertext system in 1992. A fascinating time capsule.

29 Bullets

Russell wrote an article for Wired magazine all about PowerPoint, but this extended director’s cut on his own site is the real deal.

Who knew that the creator of PowerPoint was such an enthusiast for the concertina?

Is DNA the Future of Data Storage? - WSJ

It’s still many years away from being a viable storage option, but here’s the latest on using DNA to back up our collective data.

Magnetic tape may survive a few decades, and DVDs even longer, but they are by no means immortal. Data stored in DNA, provided it’s kept cold and dry, could last for thousands of years.

Can These Pornographers End ‘MILFs,’ ‘Teens,’ and ‘Thugs’? | The Nation

A fascinating look at an attempt to redefine the taxonomy of online porn.

Porn is part of the ecosystem that tells us what sex and sexuality are. Porn terms are, to use Foucault’s language, part of a network of technologies creating truths about our sexuality.

Reminds of the heady days of 2005, when it was all about tagging and folksonomies.

The project, at its most ambitious, seeks to create a new feedback loop of porn watched and made, unmoored from the vagaries of old, bad, lazy categories.

How to Make Sense of Any Mess

Did you know that Abby Covert’s book is available online in its gloriously hyperlinked entirety?

Claude Shannon, the Father of the Information Age, Turns 1100100 - The New Yorker

A lovely profile of Claude Shannon (concluding with an unexpected Brighton connection).