Subtle Technologies Conference
Speaking of Canada, there's an annual conference in Toronto, coming up this June 1-4, entitled Subtle Technologies. The conference attempts to blur the boundaries between art and science, with a focus this year on responsive environments, especially in terms of sound. It sounds like a great conference, it will be interesting to see who the presenters will be.
Canadian Design Research Network
Why don't we have one of these? The Canadians just started a national consirtium that will do all kinds of interesting research in urban design, visualization, software and lots more. The point being to connect academics with industry and invigorate the Canadian design economy. If they actually do even a portion of what they're setting out to do, I might have to move north.
Calculate Your Purchases in Barrels of Oil
Michael Mandiberg, an net artist, has created Oil Standard, a plugin for Mozilla Firefox that converts any price on any web page you're viewing into barrels of oil. This is the first time I've noticed (maybe you have another example) this type of artistic use of what is normally a very pragmatically used scripting tool (Greasemonkey). You'll need three things to have this petroleum-based fun:
Google Buys SketchUp
Big news in the 3D software arena: Google has purchased @Last Software, makers of the incredibly popular 3D design software SkethUp. @Last says that the acquisition won't affect how the company produces its software or deals with its customers, but that the deal will be a huge help in expanding the market for SketchUp.
Think about it this way: we haven't traded in the Honda for a Porsche; we've strapped a rocket to the Honda. SketchUp is still SketchUp, but now it will go places it couldn't possibly have gone before.
from SketchUpdate 03.14.06
@Last has answers to many questions about the sale on their website.
Visualizing Flight Patterns
In the processing exhibition currently is a piece by Aaron Koblin called Flight Patterns. Koblin took FAA flight data and mapped it in several different ways to create some really amazing visuals. Be sure to check out the videos.
Info-elevators by Ben Rubin
We Make Money Not Art, a great blog reporting on the world of media arts, has a post about the elevators in the new Caesar Pelli designed Minneapolis Public Library. Designed by Ben Rubin, in collaboration with David Small, the elevators (two of them) will be fitted with LED screens that display the titles of items recently checked out.
WMMNA Post (Be sure to check out the link to the animation.)
For more library info-art, check out George Legrady's Making the Invisible Visible, a series of LCD screens for the Seattle Public Library that display analysis of the data stream from the library's circulation servers.
It's of course a big perk to have fancy graphics in a fancy new building, but there's something at least a little deeper going on in projects like this. Info displays like Rubin's and Legrady's add another layer to the architecture of these libraries by exposing the otherwise hidden structure and flow of data that represents the library's role in a more immediate and intimate way. These installations tell the story of the exchange of information between public and public institution far more easily and directly than the physical structure of the library building could express. The glass and steel and brick still needs to be there to offer (increasingly rare) public space and keep those books dry, but revealing the previously obscured sub-structure of circulation data lets people in on the real workings and purpose of their library. Maybe by doing that libraries can convince us that they are a still necessary and vital part of our culture and environment.