Branding and Marketing Archives

November 11, 2003

*ollywood Confidential

For under $2,000 -- for a digital video camera, a copy of Final Cut Express, and a low-end Mac -- anyone can make movies. This has been true (with appropriate substitutions of software and hardware configuration) for several years now, and many people have wondered what it would mean to Hollywood to have thousands of talented young punks making movies.

But if the advent of cheap, powerful hardware and software for filmmaking has, in the US, led to the explosion of "fan films," it has the potential to be far more revolutionary elsewhere.

In Nigeria, according to the Washington Post, a home-grown movie industry has sprung up, with large expat audiences consuming the resulting DVDs and VCDs (Video CDs, a cheaper-to-make medium common outside of the US). Referred to as "Nollywood" -- a nod to both India's Bollywood and the original Hollywood -- this new genre of Nigerian films has become increasingly popular among the growing African emigré population in the US and Europe.

The stories are, for now, fairly straightforward, intended primarily to remind viewers of their homeland.

"They remind you of everyday life back home," Ziebono Nagabe, 26, originally of Ivory Coast, said recently as he browsed Simba's collection of movies. In the Nigerian movies, the Maryland resident observed, "there's always hope for good-hearted people. They're going to win over the wicked."
--Washington Post

This revolution has been a bit slower to happen in India, where Bollywood producers see themselves as the wavefront of a transformation of the global entertainment industry. India has been somewhat unfriendly to up-and-coming filmmakers relying on cheap digital hardware. Issues of commercial pressure against digital distributors, censorship (usually aimed at topics not found in mainstream Bollywood movies, such as homosexuality), and rivalries between independent filmmakers have strangled the digital video revolution.

Ironically, just as Bollywood considers itself poised to take over dominance of global movie culture from the United States, its own successors, armed with digital cameras and cheap distribution, may soon be breathing down its neck.

December 15, 2003

DNA Play for Kids

Okay, I want this.

The Discovery Channel Store is now carrying the "Discovery DNA Explorer Kit," a mini-lab with everything needed for you (or your budding jr. biotechnologist) to sequence DNA:


  • Centrifuge
  • Magnetic mixer
  • Electrophoresis chamber
  • Test vials
  • Ink samples
  • DNA stain (fabricated to mimic real DNA)
  • Mail order card for first two experiments
  • And lots more
  • Wired has a nice write-up of how the system works.

    When I was a kid, Radio Shack made little home electronics explorer kits intended to get young people (young boys, of course, it being the mid-70s) excited about electronics; many of my friends who became computer hardware and software developers headed on their chosen paths because of those toys. This DNA sequencer for kids has the potential to push the current generation of kids onto the road of bioengineer. And maybe get a few no-longer-kids to consider changing careers...

    Make Your Own Nanotools

    After posting the story about the Discovery Channel's DNA lab for kids, I found a couple of links which strongly suggest what the next phase will be.

    Scanning Tunneling Microscopes -- STMs -- are the workhorse devices of exploring the world of the very, very, very small. Using a tiny, sharp, electrically-conductive tip moved over a sample at a very, very, very small distance, STMs can survey the shape and structure of molecules, and be used to produce a map of the sample. Under certain conditions, STMs can even be used to shove molecules and atoms around. Some of the earliest experiments in nano-assembly were carried out with Scanning Tunneling Microscopes. Best of all, they can operate under "normal" conditions -- in the air at room temperature.

    So how does one get ahold of such a device? If you have the cash -- $8,000 and up (way up) -- you can just buy one. But what if you want to make one yourself? Well, two different sites will help you do just that.

    First up is "Getting Started on Home Brewing an STM" by James Logajan. The essay, from 2002, details just what components you'll need, and where to get them. The description is fairly detailed, and the listing of sources for components should be useful; unfortunately, it doesn't look like Mr. Logajan has actually built one.

    Of potentially greater use is the "SXM Project" at the University of Muenster. The Interface Physics Group has actually built one (and is currently working on an Atomic Force Microscope, an even more sophisticated and powerful tool) and provides detailed instructions -- including technical diagrams and CAD files -- to anyone interested in duplicating its efforts.

    Both are a bit beyond most people's skills as hardware hackers, and still probably out of the price range for casual enthusiasts. Nonetheless, similar thoughts would have been true about tools for sequencing DNA not too many years ago. I wouldn't be shocked to see the Discovery Channel's toy lineup including a $100 STM for kids sometime around 2009... (via Nanobot)

    February 14, 2004

    Rich Gold

    When Rich Gold died last year, the world lost a brilliant mind. I had the pleasure of meeting him in 2000; he possessed the remarkable ability to come up with ideas which were simultaneously meaningful and memorable. He gave great talks, often accompanied by hand-drawn presentations. Andrew Zolli at Z+Blog notes that Rich's wide-ranging set of talks, slideshows, and essays, which had dropped off the web shortly after his passing, is now back up at

    I highly encourage you to spend an afternoon going through the site. Some of what Rich had to say was funny, much of it insightful, and all of it worth reading. I'd suggest, in particular, Rich's presentation "How Smart Does Your Bed Have To Be, Before You're Afraid To Go To Sleep At Night?". This talk is entirely composed of questions -- about design, about technology, and about how we interact with the world around us. It is required reading for anyone thinking about the relationship between technology and society.

    Go read it.

    February 20, 2004

    OhMyNews -- in English

    Awhile back, Alex linked to OhMyNews, a South Korean online newspaper mixing reports by professional journalists with material from volunteer "citizen reporters." Quite possibly the most influential news source in South Korea, it was innovative, insightful... and only available in Korean. Fortunately for those of us who are Korean-deficient, OhMyNews has just started a "beta test" of OhMyNews International, in English.

    The site includes an article entitled "The Revolt of 727 News Guerillas" which trumpets the history and goals of OhMyNews in an energetic (and inspiring) way:

    Every citizen's a reporter. Journalists aren't some exotic species, they're everyone who seeks to take new developments, put them into writing, and share them with others.

    This common truth has been trampled on in a culture where being a reporter is seen as something of a privilege to be enjoyed. Privileged reporters come together to form massive news media wielded power over the whole process of news production, distribution, and consumption.


    We therefore stand up to them raising high the flag of guerrilla warfare. Our weapon is the proposition that "every citizen is a reporter." We intend to achieve a "news alliance of news guerillas." We will be unfolding a second NGO (news guerilla organization) movement.

    We have three main tactics.

    -Abolish the threshold to being a reporter.
    -Break down the set formula for news articles.
    -Demolish all walls that separate media.


    Dearest readers, and dearest news guerillas! We are not just reforming the culture of the Korean media, we are drawing a new line in the history of the world press. We're changing the world press’ basic understanding of how the news is done.

    February 24, 2004


    Describing itself as the "Iron Chef" of film making, Cinemasports explores how different filmmakers can combine the same ingredients for their own short (4 minute) movies. Oh, and the movies need to be shot -- and edited -- in a single day. Less, actually; the next Cinemasports event (in San Francisco) on Saturday April 3 starts at 9:30 am (when the ingredients for the movie are revealed), with a 7pm showing of the movies. Still confused? This trailer for the January event (.MOV, 5MB) might help. Or this one, from last September (.MOV, 10MB).

    If you end up making a movie for the competition, let us know -- we'll link to it.

    (Thanks, CTP at RecursiveIrony.)

    March 16, 2004

    Bruce Sterling's Rant-a-Thon, 2004 Edition

    Bruce Sterling -- WorldChanging Ally #1, Viridian Pope-Emperor, and Host of the Most Kick-Ass Party in Austin -- gave one of his patented rants at this year's South-by-SouthWest. The official text of the presentation isn't yet available on the web, but the ubiquitous and talented Cory Doctorow wrote an "impressionistic transcription." Having seen Bruce deliver a number of previous talks, I think that Cory definitely caught the spirit of the moment; we'll worry about the precise wording of the rant later.

    Go. Read it. Now!

    Coming up: Martin Rees, a UK scientist thinks that the chances of our civilization surviving the 21st century are 50-50. I've met him, he's got his facts straight.

    I'm cheered up by that! 50-50! Those are great damned odds. This
    year was the 50th anniversary of the Bikini Atoll test, since the
    crust-busting bomb was invented, and we haven't blown ourselves
    up. We're up to 50-50! And my personal chances of making it to
    2100 are 99.995 against. I'll spend the rest of my life watching
    people work on this thing and die without knowing if they pull it
    off. It's exciting, a fantastic spectacle. If it were guaranteed,
    life would be just a little dull.

    We've got the power to save ourselves or screw ourselves up.

    March 30, 2004


    If you're an info-junkie like me, one of the top bookmarks on your browser is Google News. Collecting and collating stories from newssites around the world, Google News is a useful way of keeping one's finger on the pulse of what's going on in the world. Structurally, though, it's a set of headlines broken up into a handful of broad categories, hardly an example of good information design.

    Fortunately, now there's newsmap.

    Newsmap is an application that visually reflects the constantly changing landscape of the Google News news aggregator. A treemap visualization algorithm helps display the enormous amount of information gathered by the aggregator. Treemaps are traditionally space-constrained visualizations of information. Newsmap's objective takes that goal a step further and provides a tool to divide information into quickly recognizable bands which, when presented together, reveal underlying patterns in news reporting across cultures and within news segments in constant change around the globe.

    The size of news elements reflects how many different sources are reporting on the subject; the color indicates category; the shade indicates how recently the story's been updated. Unlike the regular Google News page, you can shut off feeds from categories in which you have little interest (so long, sports & entertainment news!). You can also pull in feeds from the Google News versions from Australia, Canada, France, Germany, India, Italy, New Zealand, Spain, and the UK, although the more you add, the harder it becomes to read.

    Newsmap isn't perfect. The algorithms it uses to decide how to break up words in headlines and whether to use vertical or horizontal text are crude, at best. Unlike regular Google News, it doesn't seem to auto-refresh, so it loses some value as a digital early warning system. Still, newsmap now sits in my bookmark bar right next to Google News, and I can readily imagine it becoming my first choice for keeping track of the day's events.

    April 19, 2004

    Goldman Prize Winners

    The 2004 Goldman Environmental Prize recipients have been announced, and the international collection of winners serve as stirring reminders of the power of individual activism. The Goldman Prize was started 15 years ago as a way of honoring those who have made extraordinary efforts to fight the degradation of the global environment. Winners are chosen each year from six continental regions: Africa, Asia, Europe, Island Nations, North America and South/Central America. Winners receive an award of $125,000.

    From the Goldman Prize site:

    The Goldman Environmental Prize is the world's largest prize program honoring grassroots environmentalists.

    Founded in 1990, the Goldman Environmental Prize awards $750,000 annually to environmental heroes from six continental regions. Nominated confidentially by a network of renowned environmental organizations and environmental experts, recipients are chosen for their sustained and important environmental achievements. The Prize offers these environmental heroes the recognition, visibility, and credibility their efforts deserve.

    This year's winners are:

  • Margie Eugene-Richard, who fought against Shell Chemical for its pollution and chemical waste spills in Norco, Louisiana, securing one of the biggest environmental justice victories yet.
  • Rashida Bee & Champa Devi Shukla, who are waging an ongoing fight against Dow Chemical, owners of Union Carbide, responsible for the tragedy at Bhopal, India.
  • Demetrio do Amaral de Carvalho, one of the founding leaders of East Timor, and the head of the first (and only) environmental NGO in that nation.
  • Manana Kochladze, founder of Green Alternative, an environmental and political activist group in the Republic of Georgia, now fighting against the BP-Unocal pipeline being built there.
  • Rudolf Amenga-Etego, founder of the National Coalition Against the Privatization of Water in Ghana, helping to rebuild Ghanaian civil society after years of military rule.
  • Libia Grueso, who led a campaign to secure more than 5.9 million acres in territorial rights for Colombia’s black rural communities, and is now focused on protecting Colombia’s Pacific rainforest.

    (Via MetaFilter)

  • June 15, 2004

    National Academy of Sciences Museum and Global Warming

    Frequently, when we post articles and essays about climate change, we get comments expressing some doubts about the reality of global warming. While some would refuse to accept any evidence offered, many of these commenters seem honest in their protestations that they haven't seen the evidence all put together in a way that makes sense. I haven't had a good pointer for them -- combining serious science, mainstream sources, and compelling presentation -- until now.

    The Marain Koshland Science Museum of the National Academy of Sciences is a new Washington DC landmark, having just opened in April. Its focus is on the science underpinning current public policy debates, and its exhibits will remain on display for two years before touring around the country. (If you're unfamiliar with the National Academy of Sciences, it is a non-profit organization given a mandate by Congress in 1863 to provide high-quality, non-partisan advice to the federal government. Yes, 1863.)

    One of the three exhibits at the KSM is "Global Warming Facts and Our Future," and the online version is one of the best presentations of the science surrounding global warming-induced climate change I've ever seen. The online exhibit -- a mix of HTML and Flash -- lays out the argument for global warming in a straightforward but compelling way. Each phase is well-illustrated and detailed:

  • The Greenhouse Effect
  • Carbon Cycle
  • Causes of Change
  • Past Change
  • Predicted Change
  • Impacts of Change
  • Responses to Chage

    Note in particular the page discussing human activities as the major cause of global warming. The presentation includes exercises where visitors can make policy choices, and see the balancing required between economic and environmental concerns. One of the best aspects of the presentation is that it doesn't try to brush points of scientific dispute under the rug; it details how major models disagree on certain points, and what that means.

    I doubt this exhibit will change the minds of those who are in denial, but if you -- or someone you know -- has questions about global warming, how it works, how we know what we know, and what we can do about it, this is a good place to start.

  • July 2, 2004

    Day After Tomorrow: The Aftermath

    No, not a sequel, but a debrief. WorldChanging was one of the myriad enviro-activist sites trying to use this summer's big disaster movie The Day After Tomorrow as a soapbox to talk about the dangers of climate change. Don't remember that? See here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, oh, and here, among others. Ahem.

    Marty Kearns at Network-Centric Advocacy, another of the "Passion the DAT" leaders, wants a "movie campaign debrief," exploring questions such as:

    Given what we now know.. what should we have funded, what were dumb ideas that would not have worked (i started some of them) if we funded them and what should we think about for the next movie that can help us move an agenda [...] were blogs important in the dicussion of climate change related to the movie? Would that have been a good investment?

    We're up for it here, Marty; how should it be organized?

    August 21, 2004

    Angry Red Planet

    It appears that NASA recently underwrote the production of a computer game about exploring and eventually colonizing Mars. This would not be a shooter (unlike the original Doom, which was set on Mars) or a wargame -- the #1 rule for producers was that there be no explosions or injuries to explorers. NASA paid a group of students at the University of Montana to design, write, code and record media for a game called "Mars: The Journey Begins." Unfortunately, the game remains locked away, with NASA uncertain how, or even whether, to release it.

    This is not the first time a virtual Mars colonization simulation has been made and then not released. In 1999, Maxis -- creator of SimCity, the Sims, and other Sim-related games, was telling everyone about its soon-to-be-released SimMars, a NASA-assisted simulation of Mars exploration, colonization, and eventual terraforming. Although Maxis suggested that the simulation would be released in late 1999, it never came out, and the website for the project was quietly shut down a couple of years ago (although it can still be seen via the Internet Archive's "Wayback Machine").

    If NASA continues to sit on the University of Montana effort, the next potential hope for simulation game enthusiasts to get a chance to imagine building a colony on Mars (without having to fight extradimensional demons or "enemy" colonists) is the independently-developed "SimMars" mod pack for SimCity 4. This will give new textures, buildings, transportation systems and (presumably) infrastructure to the popular city sim game, although it won't be a full-scale simulation of building in the Mars environment. Currently in development, the target release date is March of next year. You'll note that, with 7 months left to go, the project's News page is filled with links to Design Team News, Graphics Team News, etc., which result in "page not found."

    Mars seems as deadly a challenge for software developers as it often is for robotic explorers.

    October 13, 2004

    What If..?

    Are you a UK resident between the ages of 14 and 26? Do you know someone who is? You may then want to know about the What If..? film competition.

    With a deadline of December 1st, 2004, What If..? is looking for science fiction films no more than five minutes in length. It can be any style -- live action, claymation, all digital -- but has to stay within the five minute limit. The FAQ indicates that "the competition is open to all secondary schools, further education colleges, universities, film schools and recognised youth groups in the UK," so you can't just make a movie in your spare time and enter the competition. Judging takes place in January 2005, and the winners will be shown at the Sci-Fi London Film Festival.

    Being neither a UK resident nor between 14 and 26, I won't be taking part, but we'd love to link to any online copies of submissions made by WorldChanging readers!

    (Via SciScoop.)

    October 16, 2004

    World on Fire

    What does $150,000 buy?

    If you're a professional musician, it can buy a music video -- the staff, the union workers, the catering, the make-up and lights and travel.

    It can also buy clinics and medicine in Afghanistan, classrooms and books in Africa, shelter and movies for refugee camps, ambulances and irrigation and scholarships. And more, much more.

    Musician Sarah McLachlan chose to spend the $150,000 allocated for the video for her song "World on Fire" on services for the world's needy. The full list of what the money bought is here. And she went ahead and made a video, for $15, showing what was done with the rest of the money, putting faces on the faceless.

    It's kind of staggering what such a small amount of money can buy to make the world a bit more humane.

    October 29, 2004

    MSNBC Wants You

    The perennial third place in the cable news market, MSNBC has decided to try something a little different with its election coverage: citizen journalists. Joe Trippi, who ran the Dean campaign, is spearheading the idea. MSNBC is looking for coverage of the ballots and voting process, as well as the "flavor" of individual polling places.

    What are you seeing?  What happened when you went to vote?  What’s turnout like where you are?  If you went out door to door to get-out-the-vote for a candidate or party, how did it go? What response did you get?  Why did you decide to do it? 

    Anyone can write a partisan screed on this election— to be honest those won’t make it on the air, or even on the blog.  But a truthful report, filed by someone who takes the spirit and responsibility of citizen journalism seriously, can make this experiment in democratized journalism work better than most would expect.

    Reports must be filed on the website, but photos can be emailed in -- an ideal use of email-enabled camera phones if there ever was one. Citizen reports will show up on the MSNBC election blog, and the most interesting ones will be read on the air.

    This is an appealing idea, and while MSNBC may not carry it off well, it is a signpost of the changing nature of our relationship to news and information. It may not be OhMyNews, but it will certainly be worth checking out.

    November 10, 2004

    Win a Prius

    I received word today that the environmental group Center for a New American Dream is running an interesting contest: come up with the best slogan directed at car manufacturers to encourage them to build more fuel-efficient cars, especially hybrids, and win a 2005 Prius. Seriously.

    The slogan will be used as part of a massive advertising and PR campaign to get the word to automakers that Americans want more hybrid cars, and want them now. As Green Car Congress' Mike Millikin noted in his Sunday wrap-up article on WorldChanging, at the current rate of introduction, hybrids will make up only 4-7% of the auto market (and 2-4% of the "light truck" market) by 2008, improving "fleet efficiency" by a whopping 2%. Hybrids are great, but they're just not being rolled out fast enough.

    The contest rules are straightforward: the contest is open to adult residents of the 48 continental US states (sorry, Alaska and Hawaii); the slogan must be limited to 10 words or fewer; one entry per email address, so if you're just bubbling with ideas, go buy a domain; and the slogan must be posted to the website by 11:59 pm EST on January 24, 2005.

    Ah, yes, the website. As of the time of this posting, the New American Dream site is slow to the point of seeming broken. With patience and a fast connect, though, you can still get some useful info. Presumably they'll be fixing this problem as quickly as possible, so it may be working fine by the time you read this.

    I must admit that I hadn't been aware of the Center for a New American Dream before, but they look like a good group: the staff have solid backgrounds and the advisory board includes WorldChanger Alan AtKisson as well as WorldChanging favorites Lester Brown, Paul Hawken, Hunter Lovins, Bill McKibben, along with many more.

    Here's your chance to do some memetic engineering, change the US for the better, and get a swoopy new hybrid -- all in ten words or fewer.

    February 5, 2005

    DIY Interactive Maps

    indymap.jpgSocial Design Notes has written up a Flash-based interactive map of global indymedia sites. This is interesting in and of itself -- it never hurts to have direct links to outside-the-mainstream media sources around the world. The map is easy to use and relatively self-explanatory -- drag a box to select a region, click a country to zoom in, click to dot to jump to the indymedia page. Useful, to be sure... but that's not the really cool part.

    SDN is also making the application, with maps, available for download as datafiles, for others to use as they see fit. They ask for $10 if you'll be using it as part of a for-profit enterprise, otherwise the material is free (but not Free, as the source Flash code does not appear to be included). US and UK/Ireland maps are available as well, along with alternative examples of map/data combinations. Best of all, there are detailed instructions as to how to use all of this to make your own interactive maps to put up on your website.

    I'm eager to poke around through the datafiles -- I wonder how easy it would be to create a WorldChanging Map, with map-based links to stories set in particular regions...

    February 12, 2005

    Pax Warrior

    paxwarrior.jpgScenarios don't have to be about the future. We can learn from the examination of past experiences, exploring how alternative options may have played out. These are often referred to as "counter-factual" exercises, as they are intended to play out in ways contrary to historical fact, giving participants insights into both how decisions are made and the complexity of events. Pax Warrior, a computer simulation-documentary on the 1994 Rwandan genocide, is designed to be just this sort of counter-factual exercise. In Pax Warrior, the player is given the role of a UN Peacekeeping commander in Rwanda, and is asked to make a series of increasingly-difficult decisions about how to respond to evidence that something awful is taking place.

    There isn't an obvious "right answer" in the simulation; seemingly-correct choices can have unforeseen (yet utterly plausible) results, as the text in the image here shows. The goal isn't necessarily to stop the genocide (although that would obviously be an ideal outcome), it's to educate players about the complexity of managing humanitarian situations. A Canadian team began working on the project in 2002 in coordination with academic and activist specialists on human rights and genocide, and a beta version of the software is now available.

    Continue reading "Pax Warrior" »

    February 17, 2005

    Images of a Changing World

    Pasterze1875Web.jpgOregon photographer Gary Braasch is documenting in images the changes to the environment increasingly resulting from climate disruption. His site, World View of Global Warming, contains dozens of photographs of changing conditions, from accelerated glacial thawing to images of flooding and drought to the rise and decline of plant and animal species. While many of the pictures are striking, it's the images of retreating glaciers that are to me the most dramatic. The Pasterze Glacier in Austria, shown at right, is now simply gone, as this Braasch photo attests. Although glaciers have been gradually pulling back for thousands of years, the thaws over the past century have generally been notably faster than past patterns.

    What sets the Braasch site apart are the abundant references. While footnoting does not necessarily indicate accuracy, the references (most of which are from primary scientific sources) do underscore the point that Braasch is making. And while it should be noted that even the most ardent global warming-focused climatologists will hesitate to assign blame for specific events (whether hurricanes, glacial melts, or droughts), the very breadth of the images tells its own story.

    The BBC has a selection of Braasch's images, set up as pairs from different years.

    February 23, 2005

    Around the World and Into Tomorrow

    (From the project's home page: Everything that is impossible remains to be accomplished -- Jules Verne)

    The last time Bertrand Piccard flew around the world in one go, it was in a balloon. He was one of the three self-described "adventurers" who flew the “Breitling Orbiter 3" non-stop around the planet in 1999, a 19th century way of finishing out the 20th. The next time he does so, it will be in an aircraft completely powered by solar energy -- this time, Piccard is looking forward, not back, for his inspiration.

    Solar Impulse is his project to construct an entirely solar-powered aircraft and fly it around the world non-stop. To say this goal is ambitious is an understatement; success will require breakthroughs in pv efficiency and materials engineering, not to mention a pilot willing to live for days on minimal amounts of food and water. But for Piccard, Solar Impulse is a way to inspire a new focus on sustainability by accomplishing something on the edge of the impossible:

    Continue reading "Around the World and Into Tomorrow" »

    March 15, 2005

    Under Mars

    undermars.jpgWe may not yet appreciate the degree to which the advent of the digital camera has reinvented the recording of history. In the past, if we wanted to gain access to individual stories of critical events, we had to rely on scattered diaries, occasional photos and faltering oral histories, and hope that the perspective they offered bore some connection to how things actually transpired. Today, digital cameras are carried everywhere, giving witnesses and participants an easy way to record events from their own perspective and put them online. The power of this new form of historical documentation becomes most visible when it is used by soldiers.

    Under Mars is an incredible, disturbing, provocative and fascinating website containing digital images from soldiers fighting in the war in Iraq. The operators of Under Mars put up the images as they are received, including the captions provided by the soldiers; subjects of the images range from pictures of buddies to shots of Iraqi buildings and people to stark photos of the dead and wounded. Make no mistake: some of the pictures in Under Mars are extremely graphic in their depiction of the horrors of war. Such images are not numerous, but they are scattered throughout the nearly 1500 pictures currently on the site. I'm not kidding -- there are some pictures that are just shocking.

    Continue reading "Under Mars" »

    April 6, 2005

    The Creative Lure

    spore.jpgSometime later this year, or early next, I will disappear for days, possibly weeks. When that happens, you'll know that Spore has arrived.

    Spore is the new title announced at the 2005 Game Developer's Conference by Wil Wright, the genius behind Sim City, the Sims and a variety of lesser-known computer toys (he hates to call them games). Spore is nothing less than the ultimate world-building simulation. Start with single-cell goo, then evolve through multicellular life forms, move onto land, develop social creatures, start cities, and eventually start colonizing more planets. And none of it is pre-programmed -- everything, from the creature movement to social interaction -- is emergent, based on simple rules and the results of player creative decisions.

    Wright popped back into the editor to show us all just how flexible it could be. His goal was to make the editor a toy, something gamers would love to spend time with. "Lure the players into being creative," as he explained it. Sure enough, just about anything was possible with the editor: Wright demonstrated an upright dog whose front legs were twice as long as his back legs, a creature with an enormous floppy eggplant-shaped head that had no less than a dozen hungry beaks, a six-legged critter with two snapping heads that skittered along very fast, and finally a fully-functional Care Bear. (!)

    Regardless of what you could dream up, the game would find a way to make it work. Top-heavy characters would bobble along awkwardly, creatures with branching networks of a dozen legs would learn to walk, and animations for fighting and eating would be generated on the fly.

    Spore includes city creation, with player-created architectural designs. It includes economic, social and military interplay between different societies on the world players make. It includes tools for terraforming other planets, when players get to that point. And the vast majority of it is based on emergent properties of simple rules, not pre-scripted events and behaviors. Players will have the ability to shape all aspects of the worlds they make. Players will be creators, not just manipulators. And if desired, players can download creatures, societies and designs made by other Spore players.

    Gamers are all abuzz about Spore, in part because, despite its evident complexity, the game as demonstrated at GDC appeared extremely accessible and easy to learn. (My favorite gamer comment about Spore? A tossup between "I want to have Wil Wright's baby" and "I, for one, welcome the return of Wil Wright overlord.") The real question, from a worldchanging perspective, is whether Spore will be another Sims -- an interesting time-sink -- or another SimCity -- a learning tool. I know which one I'm hoping for; I'll let you know when it comes out. Or, more likely, a few weeks after it comes out; I'll be busy building a world.

    April 28, 2005

    WEEE Man

    weeeman.jpgSustainability Sundays readers will recognize WEEE -- the EU's Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment directive, mandating that manufacturers of electric and electronic devices accept and properly recycle "end of life" equipment. WEEE will become law across the EU this summer, and the directive will go into effect as of January 2006. The goal of WEEE is to reduce the amount of electronic gear going into the waste stream; a corresponding directive, Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS), limits and prohibits a variety of toxic substances in printed circuit boards.

    In order to publicize the onset of WEEE in the UK, the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures & Commerce (otherwise known as the RSA) has crafted the WEEE Man, a 7 meter sculpture made up of discarded electric and electronic appliances. The WEEE Man represents all the device waste a single UK citizen will discard in a typical lifetime: 3,300 kilograms, or over 7,200 pounds. The WEEE Man sculpture is now on display on London's South Bank, near Tower Bridge (very close to the location from where I took the photo shown here earlier this year).

    The WEEE Man has a "Visible Man meets the Terminator via Best Buy" look to it, and is (in my opinion) remarkable both as a piece of public art and as a piece of public education. (Photos of the sculpture, including a much larger version of the press image used above, can be found here.) The WEEE Man website is also quite interesting, with abundant information about product manufacturing life cycles (including references to Cradle to Cradle and Natural Capitalism), details on the WEEE Directive, even a quick calculator of the estimated footprint of the various mobile phones and PCs in one's life (this last is based on information for EU countries only, so your footprint mileage may vary).

    The WEEE Man site also includes a section giving information on what individuals and organizations can do to reduce their device waste footprints. Some of the suggestions are just common sense -- more responsibility in purchases, more recycling and repair of existing gear, that sort of thing -- and some are more technical, particularly the information for businesses needing to comply with WEEE/RoHS.

    The RSA developed the WEEE Man project as part of a larger endeavor, an agenda they call Moving Towards a Zero Waste Society. Such a society would require full design for disassembly, cradle-to-cradle production processes, and an aggressive effort to eliminate toxins. It's an ambitious goal -- but ambitious goals are the ones worth pursuing.

    June 12, 2005

    Metaphor On Your Desk

    eco-spheres.jpgIt's often said -- occasionally even by us -- that we currently know of but a single ecosystem, our own, with no other data points for reference. That's not precisely true. Although we know of no other naturally-occuring ecosystem (yet), it is possible to construct self-contained ecologies, receiving no input other than sunlight -- just like the Earth. The "Biosphere II" project, despite its many failings, stands as one of the biggest experiments in such construction. But it turns out that you don't have to buy up land in the Arizona desert to give the biosphere experiment a try. You can do it on your desk.

    "EcoSpheres" are sealed globes containing filtered water, a variety of microorganisms and shrimp, able to live and reproduce for years, even a decade or more, with only sunlight as input. They come in a variety of sizes; the larger ones tend to last longer. They require no maintenance other than keeping them at a comfortable temperature.

    I don't have one of these, and the various typos and clumsy constructions on the website give me some caution. The UK website is much better, however, and there are equivalent sites for a handful of other countries. Nonetheless, I'd have just checked the site and gone about my business had I not seen an essay by one EcoSphere owner -- Carl Sagan.

    Continue reading "Metaphor On Your Desk" »

    June 20, 2005

    The Art of Science

    plasmatable.jpgThis Spring, the Princeton University community was asked to submit images for an art exhibition. The only rule was that the images must either have been produced in the course of research or using tools and concepts from science. The organizers of the first annual Art of Science Competition received over 200 works in 15 days. 55 were selected to appear in the exhibit, which is now online.

    The images represent a staggering range of scales, and a diverse array of fields and approaches. A dust particle a few micrometers across rests on a silicon wafer; two galaxies collide, some 30 million light years from Earth; individual ants are given discrete paint patterns for behavioral studies; the design of a cantilever beam "evolves" in simulation; a model of freight transportation maps the flow of goods; discarded circuit boards are assembled into a work which provokes contemplation of sustainability.

    The first prize image is Plasma Table, shown here, by Elle Starkman and Andrew Post-Zwicker. In it, a cloud of silicon microspheres are illuminated by laser as they float in a plasma suspension above an electrode.

    (Via Howard Lovy's NanoBot.)

    June 29, 2005

    Today's Front Pages

    newseum.jpgGet ready to spend the next couple of hours clicking in fascination.

    Newseum, a site billing itself as "the interactive museum of news" has created "Today's Front Pages," a Flash-based interface to let users see the front page of over 425 newspapers across 45 countries. While many are in the United States or Europe, there are numerous papers from the rest of the world, too. Brazil, in particular, has an abundance of news outlets available online.

    Pointing at a dot will show the current front page for the linked paper; clicking will give you a close-up of the front page in a new window. The close-up page will also allow you to head over to the newspaper's site.

    For me, a service like the Today's Front Pages site is a useful tool for getting a quick glance at the global zeitgeist. What are people in Hong Kong concerned about today (bird flu)? Or India (student fees)? Or Chile (flooding)? Or Canada (the legalization of gay marriage)?

    The least-represented continent is, unsurprisingly, Africa. A single Tunisian newspaper is available; clearly, either the Newseum needs better African links or the African newspapers need to start putting up images of their front pages...

    July 10, 2005

    Mapping Politics

    iraqfatalitymap.jpgMaps are not neutral -- or, rather, the creation of maps is not a neutral process. The choice of what the map covers, and what details to include or exclude, is an inherently subjective process. We saw an example of that recently in the Chicago Crime Map, in which all offenses looked the same, and the data only covered arrests, not convictions (i.e., whether a crime has actually been committed remains legally in doubt). (Update: the very first comment below is from Chicago Crime Map, telling us that they added a color difference between different crime types shortly after I first took a look at them. Thanks!) Another example comes to us from Future Feeder, one that is extremely well-presented yet invites bigger questions about objectivity and information.

    The Iraq War Fatalities map is a Flash-based display of Coalition deaths over the course of the conflict, up to June 27, 2005. The fatalities are shown as small dots on the map reflecting their location, and are listed day-by-day; sound and color are used to represent how many died on a given day (I highly recommend running the map with sound on). It's a simple display, but quite powerful.

    Continue reading "Mapping Politics" »

    July 15, 2005

    Watching America

    WatchingAmericaWebLogov6.gifIf the United States is the world's sole "hyperpower," does it really need to care much about how the people of other countries think about it? How you answer that question will go a long way towards predicting your response to Watching America.

    Watching America is a website which offers, without commentary, news stories about the United States from the world's press. The list of sources it uses is impressive, and covers a significant portion of the world's nations. The non-English articles are translated by software, then cleaned up by native speakers and a former editor of the International Herald-Tribune. The Christian Science Monitor gives some details:

    While the Internet has made access to foreign media only a click away, what makes especially powerful is its translations of foreign-language news into English. [...]

    The distinction may seem subtle. But news organizations such as Al Jazeera put out different material for an English-speaking audience than for an Arabic-speaking audience. With this website, "you're getting to see what, in some cases, your enemies are saying to each other in their own languages about you," [site founder Robin] Koerner says. "That gives you insights which you cannot get from what they offer in English."

    Few of the stories are particularly flattering to the US. Many are highly critical, mostly of foreign policies but sometimes of American domestic events. Policies towards the Middle East come in for the greatest amount of criticism, but there are pieces about issues of which few Americans are likely even aware.

    Although the site doesn't comment on the articles explicitly, a question remains about how it chooses the articles -- and source newspapers -- for translation. An initial examination shows a decent selection of journals across a mainstream spectrum (e.g., in the UK, they pull from both the Guardian and the Economist), but few recognizably non-mainstream sources. Still, this looks to be an extremely valuable site for getting a picture of how American actions are viewed abroad. Happily, they provide an RSS feed of their content!

    (Via Sciencegate)

    July 21, 2005

    Beautiful City Billboard Fee

    delete_vienna.jpgHow much of the world around us is covered in advertising? It's nearly impossible to escape brand logos (I see about 10 in front of me at my desk, without turning my head). Is there some way to use advertising space for a civic purpose?

    The Canadian art group thinks so. They've proposed the "Beautiful City Billboard Fee" for the city of Toronto, requiring that all billboard advertisements pay a special tax, based on the size of the sign. Funds derived from this tax would be disbursed to artists for the creation of public art.

    This is clever on a few levels. The proposed fee is small enough that it won't cut significantly into advertising (that is, it won't put anyone out of business), but with the number of billboards in the city, will still generate six million dollars each year. At the same time, with the fees going directly to public art instead of to the city's general coffers, there will be limited incentive on the part of the city to allow for a greater number of billboards. The proposal has broad community support (over two-thirds of Toronto residents polled are in favor), and is in line with a number of other proposals and initiatives Toronto is considering.

    Writer David Bollier (from whom I heard about this project) links the BCBA to a piece of public art in Vienna called "Delete!"

    For a period of two weeks in June, Viennese shopkeepers agreed to let Christoph Steinbrener & Rainer Dempf put monochrome yellow fluorescent foil on all advertising signs, slogans, pictograms, company names and logos on Neubaugasse, a popular street for shopping. (Only signs needed for public safety were uncovered.)

    The result (reproduced above; a larger image is at the artists' site) is a clever-yet-sobering demonstration of just how much of our public space is taken up by commercial messages. Some reactions from Viennese (including graffiti saying "I need consumer information! Argh!") can be found at Moblogging Vienna.

    July 23, 2005

    Drop Until You Shop

    shopdropping.jpgAmong the best pranks ever performed were the efforts of the Barbie Liberation Organization, which was supported by the organization ®™ark. In 1989, the BLO purchased hundreds of Teen Talk Barbie dolls (of "Math is hard!" and "I love shopping!" infamy) and Talking Duke G.I. Joe dolls (prone to shouting "Vengeance is mine!"), swapped their voice electronics, replaced them carefully in their boxes, and returned them to store shelves. As a result, Barbie demanded to hear the lamentations of her enemies, and G.I. Joe sought assistance for planning weddings. As the subsequent BLO statement put it, "The storekeepers make money twice, we stimulate the economy - the consumer gets a better product - and our message gets heard."

    Not quite as clever -- but in a similar vein -- is Shopdropping, defining itself as (among other things) the opposite of shoplifting. But it's more than that:

    Continue reading "Drop Until You Shop" »

    July 27, 2005

    Mapping Space, Politics and Possibility

    poverty.jpgOne of the fundamental problems with writing for a website like this is that it's far, far too easy to get caught up in a particularly interesting site, realizing hours later that the day's almost over and the corresponding article still needs to be written. (I'll leave as an exercise for the reader a determination as to which days have that particular structure.) Some types of sites are more gravitational in this way than others; among the most seductive are sites about maps. We have a particular affection for mapping both as a practice and as a concept here; this is not surprising, as maps have a real utility for teasing out otherwise invisible connections as well as facility for making masses of information comprehensible at a glance.

    A piece on Future Feeder pointed me to the Places & Spaces exhibit now touring around the world (physical showings are happening right now in both Stockholm, Sweden and San Diego, California, and will be part of next year's Meshforum). Places & Spaces is an attempt to compare and contrast geographical and conceptual maps, both as a way to examine human behavior over the centuries and to understand recurring ideas in science. The online version of Places & Spaces has copies of most of the exhibit's maps; some are more compelling than others, but most trigger reconsideration of how concepts are communicated. Probably the most immediately relevant to WorldChanging's interests is the map, reproduced above, entitled "You are not here," a cartogram of the 2004 world poverty report.

    Continue reading "Mapping Space, Politics and Possibility" »

    August 8, 2005

    Banksy on the Bank

    balloon.jpgSome of us here have a particular affection for the British street artist Banksy. While his medium is, technically speaking, graffiti, his art has a level of subversive brilliance that it's hard to think of him as just another tagger. Cameron did a short piece on Banksy a year ago, and Wired magazine's August 2005 issue has a longer article about him. But Banksy's latest move ratchets up both the subversiveness and the brilliance of his work.

    Banksy has hit the West Bank.

    More specifically, Banksy has taken his art to the Palestinian side of the wall Israel is building separating the two peoples. He created nine works on the wall, ranging from an image of a hole in the wall looking onto a beach setting to a silhouette of a girl flying through the air holding balloons. The UK Guardian has images of most of the pieces; Protein° Feed has a few more. Although the work is getting quite a bit of global media attention, Banksy's website portrays interactions with both Israelis and Palestinians discomfited by the project.

    Old man: You paint the wall, you make it look beautiful.

    Me: Thanks

    Old man: We don't want it to be beautiful, we hate this wall, go home.


    Soldier: What the fuck are you doing?

    Me: You'll have to wait til it's finished

    Soldier (to colleagues): Safety's off.

    Soldiers fired rounds in the air over his head, but Banksy wasn't arrested or otherwise detained.

    Banksy describes the wall as "the ultimate activity holiday destination for graffiti writers."

    August 15, 2005

    Vanishing Point

    vanishing_point.jpgIf your primary view of the world is through the major press outlets, how much of the world do you really see? That's the question underlying the Vanishing Point project, put together by Mauricio Arango, supported by the Low Fi net art group. Vanishing Point takes the last 50 days of stories from the top newspapers of the G7 countries, parses them for references to countries around the world, then displays how "visible" each country is on a map. Vanishing Point requires Flash 7 to view.

    It's not unexpected that the G7 countries end up highly visible -- although it's interesting (and a bit telling) that Canada is much less visible than the rest. China, Iraq and Israel/Palestine are also very visible, with India, Iran, Russia and Egypt next in line. From this, it appears that economic weight and civil conflict are the two most reliable ways to get the world's attention. This is hardly surprising, of course, but Vanishing Point drives the point home in a visually arresting way. More surprising is just how little coverage there is of so much of the world. And it's not just developing nations that seem to drop below the radar -- European nations such as Portugal, Switzerland and the Scandinavian countries are just as "invisible" as Guatemala, Kazakhstan and nearly all of Central Africa.

    Continue reading "Vanishing Point" »

    September 14, 2005

    Generation Fabrication

    youhavethepower.jpgTools for the design and creation of usable, compelling objects and works of art continue to get less expensive and easier to use. "DIY" -- "do it yourself" -- used to refer to people who had spent thousands of dollars assembling the right set of tools and equipment to be able to make things that were a cut above the run-of-the-mill garage hobbyist. Now a proliferation of digital technologies make it possible for anyone with even a modicum of interest and a bit of talent to produce works that, in some cases, can rival the output of major companies and stars.

    The decline in cost and rise in capability of the DIY tools mean that limited resources is less of a barrier for people with big ideas and limited resources. This doesn't just apply to Japan, Europe and the US -- the same technologies that let people record DVDs of their child's first steps, for example, have enabled filmmakers around the world to produce commercial movies. Hollywood at Home, meet Nollywood Global.

    We've covered quite a few of these tools for personal creation here, from fabrication-by-email to music production, and the mainstream media is picking up on the idea, too. It should come as little surprise, then, that specialists in branding and marketing have caught wind of this development. Futurewire points us to a company called Trendwatching, which has, over the past year, been charting the growth of the home creativity movement, or what they term "Generation C." It's a good piece of research -- but what they miss has the potential to be even bigger than what they catch.

    Continue reading "Generation Fabrication" »

    October 7, 2005

    Participate.Net is a new community social action website, developed in part by our own Micki Krimmel. is now up and running, and it's well-worth checking out. A project of Participant Productions, the social-action film company, showcases activist projects directly related to current Participant releases, including the new George Clooney-directed Good Night, and Good Luck. Beyond its specific projects, brings together an active community to address major social issues.

    The Participate community includes actors, filmmakers, issue experts, moviegoers, and activists from all over the world. They write blogs, share ideas, sign petitions, recruit new members, organize discussion groups, and take direct action. They are Participants in improving their lives, homes, schools, communities, and the world.

    Good Night, and Good Luck, which is getting terrific reviews, dramatizes the story of journalist Edward R. Murrow's on-running confrontation with Senator Joe McCarthy. The tie-in with the film is the Report It Now project, a citizen-journalism effort. Unlike most other citizen journalism projects (like OhMyNews), Report It Now focuses on video and audio stories, and the highest-rated stories may be rebroadcast on PBS or XMRadio.

    Another effort, Stand Up, ties in with the upcoming Charlize Theron movie, "North Country," and is aimed to putting a stop to sexual harassment and domestic violence.

    When Micki has a chance to catch her breath, we'll have her give an inside perspective on getting going -- and just how you can get involved.

    November 4, 2005

    Salon on Global Warming, well-established as a progressive political outlet, is increasingly finding its voice in the world of environmental politics, as well. They regularly publish articles by Grist's Amanda Griscom Little, and today their lead story focuses on the people leading global efforts to fight against the effects of global warming -- along with a short essay by Al Gore demonstrating what an environmental "call to arms" looks like. As with all Salon pieces, access to the full articles requires either a paid subscription or viewing of a brief advertisement.

    The names and faces populating the "Climate Warriors and Heroes" article cut across disciplines and positions. Readers won't agree with all of their choices -- I certainly don't -- but the spectrum of roles and actions the list encompasses is broader than many might expect. Established names like Gore and Amory Lovins rub shoulders with global figures like director of the China Automotive and Technology Research Center Zhao Hang, University of Iceland hydrogen specialist Dr. Bragi Árnason, and chair of the Inuit Circumpolar Conference Sheila Watt-Cloutier. The list leans a bit too heavily for my tastes on mainstream politicians (such as John McCain, Tony Blair and Arnold Schwarzenegger), but succeeds in demonstrating that concern about and action against global warming is not isolated to scientists and activists.

    Gore's essay also strikes a mainstream chord, repeatedly linking back to Winston Churchill's statements in the era leading up to World War II. The piece is clearly not meant to lay out any new initiatives or draw any new conclusions about the climate; instead, it's meant to rally those who know enough to be concerned about the environment, but don't quite grasp the seriousness of the situation:

    Continue reading "Salon on Global Warming" »

    December 1, 2005

    Synthetic Biology: The Comic

    synthbiodude.jpgHow's this for surreal: the century-old, highly-respected science journal Nature has now published its first comic book. The subject is "Adventures in Synthetic Biology" (Flash req.), and it covers the adventures of an (apparently eyeless) adult scientist named Sally and her young companion known only as "The Dude" (any references to The Big Lebowski appear entirely coincidental). Sally teaches The Dude how to make things out of DNA modules, explaining as she goes just how this synthetic biology thing works.

    Given the context of a comic book, one might imagine that issues of scientific responsibility would go unmentioned. As it turns out, they are mentioned, in the very first section: the scientist gives a warning ("Hmm... are you sure you understand enough about what you want to do? You don't want to make things worse."), which is promptly dismissed by The Dude ("We'll only find out by trying!"). The Dude's first experiment is a spectacular failure -- the chapter is even called "Icarus" in the non-Flash text version -- and the follow-up is the Dude's realization that he needs to learn more before doing anything else. The issue is dropped at that point, and the rest of the comic reads more like a how-to than an adventure.

    It's notable that the comic brings up issues of responsibility, however obliquely; I just wish it kept the idea as a theme throughout. If there's a lesson that's good to impart from early on, it's that our ever-more-powerful technologies need to be matched with ever-more-diligent responsibility. Fortunately, the accompanying (pay-only) commentary on synthetic biology asserts that "Synthetic biology... will require community discipline and openness if it is to flourish safely."

    Let's hope that's a lesson the Dude takes to heart.

    (Via BoingBoing)

    December 5, 2005

    Learning Ethics from Science Fiction

    Creation 2.0, by Jamais CascioThe more powerful our technologies become, the more critical it is that technology developers approach their tasks in an ethical way. Not just the professional ethics of avoiding fraud and so forth, but socially ethical -- recognizing the implications of their research on fellow citizens and the planet. Teaching the philosophy of ethics to students more comfortable with quantifiable data and experimentation can be challenging, however. Recognizing this, Rosalyn Berne at the University of Virginia and Joachim Schummer at the University of South Carolina offer a different approach in a new paper in the Bulletin of Science, Technology and Society: use science fiction.

    Berne and Schummer aren't looking at the broad scope of scientific research, however -- they're particularly interested in the emering field of nanotechnology. They're both well-versed in the field, and are well-regarded by nanotech analysts. In "Teaching Societal and Ethical Implications of Nanotechnology to Engineering Students through Science Fiction," (pre-print version available here - PDF) Berne and Schummer explain why the study of ethics is particularly important to the engineers and researchers making the nanotech breakthroughs:

    [Nanotechnology's] unknown and potentially substantial harms and benefits, the risks and opportunities it represents to social, cultural, and material life warrants immediate and careful ethical reflection. The effort to engage and develop an ethics for nanotechnology complements other efforts to explore the moral dimensions of the scientific and technological transformations of society...

    Continue reading "Learning Ethics from Science Fiction" »

    December 24, 2005

    50 Books for Thinking About the Future

    rand_logo.gifThe RAND Corporation is, in many ways, the height of official futurism. Founded by the Department of Defense in the 1950s, RAND has since spun off as its own organization, providing policy analysis for government and business across a spectrum of issues. It has a relatively well-regarded graduate school, the Pardee RAND school, and also runs the Pardee Center for Long Range Global Policy and the Future Human Condition. So when the Pardee Center released a list of what it considered the 50 most important books for understanding the future, I fully expected it to be full of very traditional perspectives on both the world and its changes. Although this was true for the most part, the list had its own pleasant surprises.

    The intent of the list is twofold. The first intent is to act as a reading list for someone who wants to understand at a more-than-passing level the factors that we can say seem to be most pertinent today in thinking about the longer-range human condition. I would hope that anyone who had read all 50 of these books would have a good feel for history, for how to think about the future, for the kinds of trends that are likely to have a serious impact on the future, and for the kind of surprises that might befall us as we move into that future.

    Continue reading "50 Books for Thinking About the Future" »

    March 9, 2006

    A Force More Powerful: Now Available

    afmp.jpgWe've been talking about the video game A Force More Powerful for quite a while. Originally scheduled for release in Fall of 2005, it suffered the fate that befalls many games: nagging delays. But the long wait is over; A Force More Powerful is now available.

    But what is A Force More Powerful?

    A Force More Powerful is the only PC game about nonviolent struggle available today. AFMP puts the player directly into the role of planner for a nonviolent movement seeking social change-a role that is challenging, demanding, and sometimes even dangerous. [...]
    Game play is governed by detailed interactive models-of strategic and political factors, ethnicity, religion, literacy, material well-being, media and communications, resource availability, economic factors, the role of external assistance, and many other variables. Tactics include such basics as training, fund-raising and organizing, as well as leafletting, protests, strikes, mass action, civil disobedience and noncooperation. Many game-play decisions involve selecting which characters and groups should take part in the strategy, and weighing the benefits of such actions relative to their costs.

    Continue reading "A Force More Powerful: Now Available" »

    March 13, 2006

    Recovery Happens

    zoriah_thailand.jpgIn the immediate aftermath of the December 26, 2004, tsunami, we pointed to satellite photos showing the before-and-after of coastal regions of Thailand, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, India and other affected locations. These images were among the most powerful representations of the disaster, as viewers could easily trace the path of destruction. New before-and-after images are now available, but these tell a very different story.

    Photojournalist Zoriah covered both Sri Lanka and Thailand in the days following the tsunami; earlier this year, Zoriah returned to Thailand, and took pictures at the exact same sets of locations., a web portal for photojournalists covering conflict and disaster, posted the resulting side-by-side comparison this weekend. Some of the changes are subtle, but it's clear that much of Thailand is well on the road to recovery.

    John Stanmeyer also posted before-and-after shots, this time of Banda Aceh, Indonesia. Aceh still has much further to go than Thailand, but these images stand as record that human beings can, and will, choose to survive and flourish even in the wake of unthinkable disaster. (Warning: the first image of Stanmeyer's collection includes a fully-visible corpse; the subsequent images aren't nearly as disturbing.)

    March 15, 2006

    How Much Is That In Oil?

    iPod_to_oil.jpgThis is brilliant.

    Oil Standard is a Greasemonkey plug-in for Firefox that translates prices from dollars to barrels of oil equivalent, based on current spot prices; this means that the oil equivalent price fluctuates daily. "Networked Performance" art website Turbulence created the script, which works exactly as promised. Hit any web page that shows prices in dollars --, the New York Times stock pages, even your bank account info -- and Oil Standard will show you how many barrels of oil it would take to match that amount of money.

    Why did they do it?

    Seeing the cost in oil of a new iPod on, or the balance in your bank account is startling. More than just a play on the concept of the 'Gold Standard,' or the old 'Standard Oil' company, this is a glimpse into the moment when oil will replace (or already replaced) gold as the standard by which we trade all other goods and currencies.

    To be clear, this isn't telling you how much oil goes into the production of a given item, although that would be pretty cool. Its goal is something quite different: as a reminder of just how important oil is to our economy. I have just one request, though: I want an option to see the prices in kilowatt-hours of wind power instead.

    (Via Information Aesthetics)

    About Branding and Marketing

    This page contains an archive of all entries posted to WC Archive in the Branding and Marketing category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

    Biodiversity and Ecosystems is the previous category.

    Bright Green Economy is the next category.

    Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

    Powered by
    Movable Type 3.34