"steven johnson"

Video games good for the brain?

Scientific American surveys new research on whether playing videogames might be good for our brains. For example, one recent study by University of Rochester cognitive scientist Daphne Bavelier that I've blogged about previously suggests that games can exercise and enhance certain core vision functions. From SciAm:

It is appealing to envision video games being utilized in the rehabilitation of patients and the prevention of cognitive decline, promotion of brain fitness, and development of fundamental skills. However, more careful studies like those of Bavelier and colleagues are needed to realize such a goal. To date, much of the claims around this rapidly growing area of technology-supported medical interventions are insufficiently supported by scientific data.

In this context, a major advantage of video games is the fact that they can be made entertaining and engaging. Motivation is a powerful driver of brain plasticity. The highly realistic and engaging nature of these games allows the gamer to immerse themselves and “feel” like the simulation is really real (e.g. the intensity of combat). Such realistic engagement and the resulting enjoyment promotes brain changes.

Of course, a video game is not the same as the real thing. The motor plan to throw a football accurately (e.g. grip strength, depth perception, tracking the running receiver) versus the right sequences of touches on a game console are two different things. The development of systems that more realistically simulate motor actions and responses will probably be important.

It is likely that the functional impact of the brain plasticity induced by greater technology dependence will be different for different behaviors.

Read the rest

Shepard Fairey Counterfiles in Associated Press Obama Poster Conflict

Attorneys for the recently-legally-beleaguered artist Shepard Fairey have filed a countersuit against the Associated Press over claims Fairey violated intellectual property rights in creating the iconic Obama poster. Fairey and his supporters argue that his work falls squarely within the boundaries of transformation and fair use. PDFs of the counterclaim documents below, at the bottom of this blog post.

The source close to Fairey's legal affairs who passed these directs our attention to a section which, in their words, "illustrates the hypocrisy of the AP." This section documents a number of instances in which Shepard's defense argues the AP has published -- and profited from -- Fairey's work, and that of other artists, without obtaining a license.

# On January 7, 2009 The AP distributed a story entitled "Iconic Obama portrait headed to Smithsonian museum" by Brett Zongker. The AP's article included a photograph attributed to The AP, which depicted Fairey's Obama Hope Stencil Collage that now hangs in the National Portrait Gallery of the Smithsonian Institution. (A copy of the full article is attached as Exhibit A.) The AP did not obtain a license to use Fairey's work in this photograph. As shown below, the photograph attributed to The AP consists of nothing more than a literal reproduction of Fairey's work.

# The AP's image database contains the following photograph of Jeff Koons' sculpture entitled Ushering In Banality. On information and belief, The AP did not obtain a license to use Koons' work in this photograph.

# The AP's image database contains the following photograph of George Segal's The Diner.

Read the rest

Associated Press threatens AP affiliate over YouTube channel

The Associated Press, in its zeal to keep the news a secret, has begun to send legal threats to itself. WTNQ-FM, an AP affiliate in Tennessee, received the legal threat over its YouTube channel, through which it makes its/AP's material available to its listeners. When WTNQ-FM's Frank Strovel called up the AP exec in charge of the anti-YouTube campaign to discuss this, he discovered that "nobody told the A.P. executive that the august news organization even has a YouTube channel which the A.P. itself controls, and that someone at the A.P. decided that it is probably a good idea to turn on the video embedding function on so that its videos can spread virally across the Web, along with the ads in the videos."

Strovel: And we're an A.P. affiliate for crying out loud! I stumped him on that one. . . . What is really shocking is that they were shocked that they've got a YouTube channel that people are embedding on their Websites. He seemed shocked by that. 'Oh, I am going to have to look into that" is what he told me.

Grantham: What an idiot!

Strovel: I know, I know.

A.P. Exec Doesn't Know It Has A YouTube Channel: Threatens Affiliate For Embedding Videos

(via Memex 1.1)

Previously: To do in NYC: Shepard Fairey + Lawrence Lessig + Steven Johnson on ... Media Bloggers Association -- who they are (and they aren't ... The Associated Press is threatening - Boing Boing Newspapers are dumb to blame Google for their problems - Boing Boing The Newspaper Industry and the Arrival of the Glaciers - Boing Boing Read the rest

Steven Johnson on Colbert

BB pal Steven "Invention of Air" Johnson sez, "thought you might want to link to the pretty funny interview I did on Colbert last night, including an excellent little exchange about an imaginary Founder Father named Robert Cornhole who should really have a Wikipedia page."

March 5, 2009: Steven Johnson

Previously: Steven Johnson's "The Invention of Air" -- how an eclectic ... To do in NYC: Shepard Fairey + Lawrence Lessig + Steven Johnson on ... Read the rest

Shepard, Lessig, Steven Johnson in NYC Feb 26 - Remix: Making Art and Commerce Thrive in the Hybrid Economy

A reminder of an event I mentioned here on the blog last week -- LIVE from the NYPL and WIRED Magazine are hosting a roundtable discussion with Lessig, Shepard Fairey, and Steven Berlin Johnson this Thursday Feb. 26 in NYC. The event is titled "Remix: Making Art and Commerce Thrive in the Hybrid Economy" which is also the title of Lessig's book. I'm told the discussion will be about the big picture ideas and issues in Lessig's book, and was actually organized long before the AP/Obama poster/who-took-that-photo "shitstorm" -- so they won't be covering Shepard's legal issues, per se, but rather the meta cloud from which that conflict, and related conflicts and opportunities, have emerged. Tickets here, $25 general admission and $15 library donors/seniors/students. Completely inappropriate side-note: all the fellas in the promo image above add up to an awfully handsome lot, no? (thanks, Brad Grossman and Melanie Cornwell)

Related: Boing Boing Video -- Our 4-part Glen E. Friedman/Shepard Fairey miniseries

Update: Glen E. Friedman, who appeared in the aforementioned Boing Boing Video miniseries we shot with Shepard Fairey, points us to an interview the embattled remix artist did today on CBS News. Glen says, "Once again proves he's got it together more than most." Agreed. Completely inappropriate side-note: Dude with the bowtie crackin' me up.

Read the rest

To do in NYC: Shepard Fairey + Lawrence Lessig + Steven Johnson on copyright, fair use, and AP shitstorm around Obama poster

On February 26 at the New York Public Library, there will be a group discussion with Lawrence Lessig, Shepard Fairey and former Boing Boing guest blogger Steven Johnson. The event is said to be Lessig's final planned public discussion of remix, copyright issues, and so on, before he departs Harvard this fall to head up the Safra Center for Ethics. There, he'll be directing interdisciplinary research on institutional corruption (medical, political, big picture things). Snip from the event description:

What is the future for art and ideas in an age when practically anything can be copied, pasted, downloaded, sampled, and re-imagined?

LIVE from the NYPL and WIRED Magazine kick off the Spring 2009 season with a spirited discussion of the emerging remix culture. Our guides through this new world–who will take us from Jefferson's Bible to André the Giant to Wikipedia–will be Lawrence Lessig, author of Remix, founder of Creative Commons, and one of the leading legal scholars on intellectual property issues in the Internet age; acclaimed street artist Shepard Fairey, whose iconic Obama "HOPE" poster was recently acquired by the National Portrait Gallery; and cultural historian Steven Johnson, whose new book, The Invention of Air, argues that remix culture has deep roots in the Enlightenment and among the American founding fathers.

Tickets are on sale here, $25 general/$15 students or seniors. (Thanks, Melanie Cornwell!)

Above, a previous Boing Boing Video episode with Shepard Fairey, about how that Obama poster came to be.

Previously: BB Video: Shepard Fairey and the Obama Poster, on Inauguration Day ... Read the rest

Au revoir, mes amis de boingboing

Ed Note: one of Boingboing's three current guest bloggers, Steven Johnson is the author of six books, most recently The Invention Of Air: A Story of Science, Faith, Revolution and the Birth Of America. (You can see a video interview introducing the book here.) He's also the co-founder of the hyperlocal community site outside.in.

The two most common--and frustrating--complaints I hear about the web and the blogosphere are 1) that they're filled with mean-spirited snark; and 2) that they've been divided up into predictable, Daily Me filters where you're only told stuff you already know. I've been hearing this for years, and every time I hear it I respond by pointing people to the success of boingboing, which I think most of us would agree is as true to the core values of the web as anything out here. First, our hosts are so generous and open--and largely snark-free--in just about everything they post. The default tone is here is always: "Hey, check out this amazing thing I found." And those things are far more eclectic and diverse than anything you would have encountered in the heyday of big media. Only at boingboing could a guy post about Candy Land, aviation safety, Lost, and the Obama IT plan in one week and feel like he's the boring, predictable one. If this turns out to be what the DailyMe looks like, I think we're all going to be just fine.

So it was an honor and a complete blast to hang out here for the past two weeks. Read the rest

New tools for the street: outside.in Radar for the iPhone

Ed Note: one of Boingboing's three current guest bloggers, Steven Johnson is the author of six books, most recently The Invention Of Air: A Story of Science, Faith, Revolution and the Birth Of America. (You can see a video interview introducing the book here.) He's also the co-founder of the hyperlocal community site outside.in.

I've been so busy posting about Lost and Candy Land, that I haven't had a chance to say anything about what we're working on at outside.in, which in many ways has been the most exciting project of all for me over the past few years.

When John Geraci and I first started tossing around ideas for the site, our common passion and interest had been this notion that geographic space--and particularly urban space--had an invisible layer of data flowing through it that was tantalizingly close to you as you explored a neighborhood, but that was generally inaccessible other than through the chains of face-to-face, word-of-mouth conversation. Not only were there a million stories in the big city, there were a million in every neighborhood, and a thousand on every block: the overpriced condo that sold last week; the new bar that just got denied a liquor license; the mugging that took place a few months ago; the school principal that everyone's thrilled with. (This is what Dan Hill wonderfully describes in The Street As Platform.) All this data was out there in people's heads -- and increasingly in local placeblogger sites -- but there was no easy way to discover it geographically. Read the rest

DIY: How to write a book

Ed Note: one of Boingboing's three current guest bloggers, Steven Johnson is the author of six books, most recently The Invention Of Air: A Story of Science, Faith, Revolution and the Birth Of America. (You can see a video interview introducing the book here.) He's also the co-founder of the hyperlocal community site outside.in.

In part because my books have had a habit of weaving multiple disciplines together, and in part because I've written quite a bit about technology, I'm often asked about the tools I use to research and write my books. Given that Boingboing has its own wonderful multi-disciplinary sensibility, and of course a major obsession with DIY movements, I thought it might be fun to say a few words about the writing system I've developed over the past few books.

My word processors have varied over the years: I swore off MS Word after Mind Wide Open, and used Nisus Writer for Everything Bad and Ghost Map; had a quick dalliance with Pages, and then actually returned to the latest version of Word for Invention. But the one constant for the past four books has been an ingenious piece of software called Devonthink, which is basically a free-form database that accepts many different document types (PDFs, text snippets, web pages, images, etc). It has a very elegant semantic algorithm that can detect relationships between short excerpts of text, so you can use the software as a kind of connection machine, a supplement to your own memory. Read the rest

Guest bloggers: Gareth Branwyn and Charles Platt!

Our current guest blogger, Steven Johnson, is going to stick around for the next couple of days because he got a late start (and because we love his entries so much). In the meantime, we've got a special treat in store -- Gareth Branwyn and Charles Platt are both going to guest blog for the next two weeks.

They'll be posting their own bios shortly, but here's a brief introduction:

Gareth is one of my oldest friends. He's a wonderfully creative designer, maker (budding amateur roboticists should seek out his highly praised book, Absolute Beginner's Guide to Building Robots), and brilliant writer and editor. We got to know each other in the late 1980s when we saw each other's zines (mine was bOING bOING, his was Going Gaga) listed in Factsheet Five and we swapped subscriptions. We've been friends ever since, and have collaborated on a bunch of projects together.

Charles Platt and I have known each other professionally for many years (he wrote some of my favorite articles for Wired when I was an editor there, later, when I was an editor at Wired Books, I republished his novel, The Silicon Man). Charles is also an amazing maker of things -- designing and building everything from board games that are 100% skill and 0% chance (other than who gets to go first) to medical equipment that can save people's lives. Over the years, we've become good friends.

Both Gareth and Charles are editors at MAKE, and their contributions delight me and MAKE's readers. Read the rest

The case against Candy Land

Ed Note: Boingboing's current guest blogger Steven Johnson is the author of six books, most recently The Invention Of Air: A Story of Science, Faith, Revolution and the Birth Of America, for which he is currently on book tour. He's also the co-founder of the hyperlocal community site outside.in.

Anyone with children over a certain age will tell you that one of the best things about being a parent is how much time you get to spend playing games with your kids. In my case--I have three boys, aged 2 to 7--the experience has always had a split-screen quality to it: half belonging to the 21st century, the other belonging to my childhood in the mid-seventies. We spend a ton of time together playing Little Big Planet on the PS3--or more accurately, we spend a ton of time with me marveling at their skills at Little Big Planet and woefully attempting to keep up with them. But there’s also the parallel track, where I get to revisit the games that I played as a child. Just last week it was Battleship. Before that it was Sorry, Bingo, Go Fish, Candy Land, and so on.

There’s a consistent theme to all these old-school game introductions: almost without exception, I have been mortified by the pathetic game that I’ve excitedly brought to the kids. Not because they’re made out of cardboard and plastic, instead of 1080p HDMI graphics. (My boys still spend just as many happy hours with Lego as they do the PS3.) Read the rest

Best Blog Posts of 2008?

Ed Note: Boingboing's current guest blogger Steven Johnson is the author of six books, most recently The Invention Of Air: A Story of Science, Faith, Revolution and the Birth Of America, for which he is currently on book tour. He's also the co-founder of the hyperlocal community site outside.in.

I have the distinct honor of editing this year's edition of Best Of Technology Writing, which has in past years featured many BoingBoing regulars. We're putting together the final submissions, and while we have a great supply of magazine writing to choose from, the blogosphere pile seems a little thin to me. So I thought it might be a nice end-of-year exercise for all of us to think back on the blog posts from 2008 that most intrigued and inspired us. Slightly longer posts will be more likely to make it into the collection, but who knows -- perhaps there's a particularly momentous tweet that deserves a place in the 2009 book. Obviously, posts that originated here at BoingBoing will have a special place in my heart. So feel free to share amongst yourselves in the threads below: what was the most memorable blog post you read last year? Surely, some of you remember last year...? Read the rest

How Lost bends the rules

Ed Note: Boingboing's current guest blogger Steven Johnson is the author of six books, most recently The Invention Of Air: A Story of Science, Faith, Revolution and the Birth Of America, for which he is currently on book tour. He's also the co-founder of the hyperlocal community site outside.in.

A show as complicated as "Lost" deserves an equally complicated spoiler alert: if you have never seen an episode of "Lost" past, say, Season Two, and plan on immersing yourself in the show sometime soon, you might want to bookmark this post and revisit sometime in the future, once you've gotten up to speed. Otherwise I will keep this relatively vague, so that hardcore fans (for whom there will be no surprises) and Lost-dabblers can both read with no worries.

I posted yesterday about the often insurmountable complexity of seasons 1-4 of "Lost," but the first episode of season five held out the distinct possibility that that complexity might well be conquered by the end of the series. Not just because all the questions would be dutifully answered in some kind of contrived, ad-hoc fashion, but because the events in last night's episode suggest--in a way that earlier episodes have only delicately hinted-- that all the madness of the last four years, all the implausible speeches, connections, surprises, and attacks, have at their root one small change in the core bylaws of Reality As We Know It.

This is a formal innovation worth noting, though of course it's unclear from just a single episode whether the innovation has long-term significance or whether it turns out to be just another distraction. Read the rest

Keeping up with Lost

Ed Note: Boingboing's current guest blogger Steven Johnson is the author of six books, most recently The Invention Of Air: A Story of Science, Faith, Revolution and the Birth Of America, for which he is currently on book tour. He's also the co-founder of the hyperlocal community site outside.in.

All the hullabaloo about the news from Washington yesterday has been a distraction from the real event of the week: the fact that S05E01 of "Lost" is airing tonight, which means we are all about to be treated to another few months of utterly baffling prime time television. Though I've been known to argue in public for the growing complexity of today's popular culture, I've long since given up on trying to figure out what is actually happening on "Lost," and prefer to just sit back and let the byzantine plot twists and spatial-temporal jumps wash over me. But like many fans of the show, I suspect, I've always been fascinated by the question of exactly how much of "Lost"'s web the producers and writers of the show have planned out, and how much they're making up as they go along.

So it was delightful to read in the Times this weekend this profile of "Lost"'s script co-ordinator, Gregg Nations, who has apparently been maintaining a master document of all the various events and connections over the show's four year run. This line caught my eye:

Had he a background in computer science, Mr. Nations now says, he might have approached the “Lost” project differently.

Read the rest

The case for PowerPoint in the White House

Ed Note: Boingboing's current guest blogger Steven Johnson is the author of six books, most recently The Invention Of Air: A Story of Science, Faith, Revolution and the Birth Of America, for which he is currently on book tour. He's also the co-founder of the hyperlocal community site outside.in.

There's been a great deal of chatter about the technological sophistication of the Obama campaign and the transition efforts: the YouTube video addresses, the Citizen's Briefing Book that I posted about last week, even Obama's own Blackberry addiction. But as exciting as it is to see these new tools adopted by our President-elect, I'm actually rooting for Obama to integrate a twenty-year-old software application into his communication efforts.

I think Obama needs to use PowerPoint.

Okay, okay, hold your fire for just one second, please. I hate conventional PowerPoint just as much as the next guy. I might even hate it as much as Edward Tufte. I do not want to see Obama's soaring rhetoric tomorrow undermined by "next slide please" requests and stale bullet point sentence fragments. There's already a hilarious parody of what the "Yes we can" speech would have looked like as a PowerPoint deck:

Barack Obama, "Yes We Can", The Power Point Deck View SlideShare presentation or Upload your own. (tags: shmula.com can)

And of course there's the timeless rendition of the Gettysburg Address, including the sublime slide 4:

Review of Key Objectives and Critical Success Factors

• What makes nation unique - Conceived in Liberty - Men are equal

• Shared vision - New birth of freedom - Gov't of/for/by the people

No one wants to see that happen. Read the rest

The connected book (and how to make soda water)

Ed Note: Boingboing's current guest blogger Steven Johnson is the author of six books, most recently The Invention Of Air: A Story of Science, Faith, Revolution and the Birth Of America, for which he is currently on book tour. He's also the co-founder of the hyperlocal community site outside.in.

One of the major themes of The Invention of Air, and one that will have special appeal to BoingBoing readers, is how committed Joseph Priestley and the American Founders (particularly Franklin and Jefferson) were to the open flow of ideas. Priestley used every available information network of the day to share his discoveries and insights: he published nearly five hundred books and pamphlets over the course of his life, and wrote endless correspondence to his colleagues, documenting in exhaustive detail the techniques behind his experiments.

When you read through those original documents and letters, there's a distinctly open source vibe to the approach that they all took. Franklin argued for sharing his scientific discoveries--sometimes before he was even convinced of their accuracy--because releasing early and often would "attract the attentions of the ingenious" who would then go on to improve his original discoveries. Priestley famously invented soda water during experiments at a neighboring brewery, and then happily gave away his formula to anyone who would listen. (Anticipating Cory's wonderful OpenCola project by a couple of centuries.)

I've been talking about this quite a bit on the various stops on the book tour, and it's naturally caused some people to ask about my own research method. Read the rest

About US Airways Flight 1549

Ed Note: Boingboing's current guest blogger Steven Johnson is the author of six books, most recently The Invention Of Air: A Story of Science, Faith, Revolution and the Birth Of America, for which he is currently on book tour. He's also the co-founder of the hyperlocal community site outside.in.

Just for the record, yesterday's post will be the last thing I say in public about aviation safety. Thankfully, early reports on the crash of US Airways Flight 1549 this afternoon into the Hudson River suggest that -- amazingly -- no fatalities occurred, thanks to what sound like a set of truly extraordinary snap decisions by the pilots, and a perfect water landing. But clearly I am done tempting fate on this issue. Read the rest

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