On hearing yourself fly – mac audio and SecondLife

Posted by jerry on August 24th, 2007 — Posted in Journal, New media, Technology

Have you been having problems getting SecondLife sound into your mac? It may be your audio settings in the sound preferences.
The solution has been posted by Barry on the Global Media Initiative blog

– Open the program Audio MIDI Setup [it’s in the Utilities folder in Applications].
– Change the audio output from 96000 to 44100.
– Restart Second Life

And Voila! you can hear yourself fly (and talk and listen to the birds and waterfalls..)


Revisiting Wittgenstein

Posted by jerry on August 19th, 2007 — Posted in Journal, New media, Theory

I think it’s timely to revisit Wittgenstein – the early and the late – it terms of how do his views stand up in respect of new media and new media literacies.

“The world is all that is the case – the world is the totality of facts not of things”

“The limits of my language mean the limits of my world”

Here in the Tractatus, Wittgenstein is setting out an extension of the phenomenological understanding of the world – ie as it presents itself to us – as a function of concepts, perhaps not independent of ‘world stuff’, but constrained by our understanding of that which presents itself to our senses.

In the later Philosophical Investigations (16 years after the Tractatus) Wittgenstein extends his views to speak of language in context and of non-linguistic thought and raises the question of the possibility of a private language, or a pre-linguistic one. “If I draw a person what do I mean by it?” At what point is meaning present? and is ‘meaning’ the same as ‘thought’?”

At this point, Wittgenstein acknowledges that one can mean without verbal language – that even an air-drawing may signify a person, and so he continues to problematise aspects of language as only one of many signifying systems. Moreover he speaks of the problem of perception and that what may be intended may not be what is conveyed – for example by the ambiguous drawing of a duck-rabbit – sometimes seen as one or the other – often depending on context – ie if pictured with a field of rabbits we see a rabbit, but if in a pond of ducks we see the duck. So he is identifying the limits of language – notably that each person’s experience causes them to comprehend something a little different from the same utterance as that of another.

In this sense, Wittgenstein is also acknowledging Saussure’s view that the assignation of meaning to signs in language is arbitrary.

Perhaps this underlines the importance of even the limited gestures available in SecondLife and other virtual worlds.

Technology – shaping the body

Posted by jerry on August 12th, 2007 — Posted in Journal, Technology

Years of playing the violin have shaped the ends of the fingers on my left hand. My beard grows slightly thinner where the chin-rest has interfaced with my head and there is a fairly permanent red mark where the shoulder-rest meets the front of my shoulder. And I have retained a high degree of upper-body flexibility as a result. The finger-memory – the body trained over years to land each finger precisely within a tenth of a millimetre enables sounds to be reproduced at the right pitch, and the wrist ensures that at whatever speed, the bow tracks (mostly) straight across the strings. So my body has adapted to the technology.

I still trim my fingernails to interface with technology – both hands to avoid the nail tapping on the keyboard of the computer, the thumb nails just slightly longer to facilitate texting on my phone.

Finger-memory again on the keyboard enables me to type faster than I write (by just a fraction), and perhaps others train their thumb positions for texting.

We wear our clothes in more ways than one – our feet being shaped to the shoes while in turn shaping our shoes.

How much do we shape our body to the technology, rather than the technology to the body?

SL meets Home and Garden

Posted by jerry on August 10th, 2007 — Posted in Journal, New media, Technology

The New York Times Home and Garden Section has an article on SecondLife homes and gardens, profiling several ‘builders’ and ‘gardeners’ – this is a good change in the media from sensationalist pieces about sex, griefers and terrorists and is starting to bring the old media discussion back to where the majority are in SecondLife.

New York Times

That is, using SL to build the house of their dreams and playing out harmless fantasies that are not too dissimilar from real life – but without the cold wind or the wet holidays.

So bouquets to the New York Times for bringing the discussion back to the reality of virtuality.


Steam vehicle model

Posted by jerry on August 6th, 2007 — Posted in Journal, Steam, Technology

Gakken steam vehicle

A while ago I was intrigued with a short vid on YouTube showing a strange steam car model and an obscure reference to the maker – Gakken in Japan. I searched and eventually found a Japanese hobby store that noted this one as no longer in stock (produced in 2005). I wrote to them and asked to be put on the waiting list for the next one – it appeared to be a discontinued model. I got an email back telling me to order it and if they couldn’t source it in 3 months they would consider it cancelled.

I fully expected that to be the last I would hear from them. Until this morning. A package arrived from Japan 🙂

Gakken steam vehicle

And inside was what was described as a magazine, but it incorporated a box with a beautifully packaged model in its component parts. The accompanying magazine/catalogue had instructions – in Japanese – but clearly illustrated, so it was no problem to follow the directions just from the diagrams. The Japanese do graphic drawings well – although there was a certain Manga style to it, making me wonder if the vehicle belonged to the “Steam Boy” manga series.

Gakken steam vehicle

And within about half an hour I had a tiny steam vehicle. The only thing missing was the wick, but looking at the instructions it was clear that all you needed was a small square of cotton fabric – like from old jeans and then it was just a matter of ensuring the engine ran freely by blowing through a tube, and then filling the tiny boiler with the (supplied) dropper and then fill the burner with meths from the (supplied) smaller dropper, light the wick and in a few seconds it was ready to run.

The engine ran slowly and then picked up speed, but I found a small steam leak from the boiler where I had neglected to tighten one of the screws. And then success 🙂

This is a toy that should be in every science shop – it’s safe, low pressure and clean enough to run indoors on your kitchen table and could be used very effectively to show the principles of steam power. And it was only the price of about one-and-a-half newsagent magazines – about AUS$27.