Posts Tagged 'DIY'

Grinding

grinding definition

Posted over at IO9, we’ve got a brief case-study on a DIY cyborg named  Lepht Anonym. Through somewhat scary homebrew self-surgery, Anonym has implanted herself with a number of super-sensual devices – including magnets that let her sense electromagnetic fields (!) and RFID chips that allow a new field of personal computer interaction. Besides working slowly and ambitiously towards the actualization of Post-Human fiction, this story is noteworthy for applying the term “grinding” to this unique brand of self-improvement. As seen above, the word has a vague and widely spread definition ( intransitive verb form courtesy of Merriam Webster ) but it presence in reference to Ms. Anonym piques my interest because of the use of “grinding” in Warren Ellis’ 2007 graphic novel Doktor Sleepless. There, the word also refers to superhuman-improvement through technology and a then-fictional website inspired by the also fictional imminent.sea (hosted on Sealand). Grinding.be is of course now a real website that operates with similar goals to this one except on a greater scale and with more of a pop-media slant.

Anyhow, the Doktor Sleepless website offers the following further definition of  “grinding” as:

people who practice extreme body modification – the term comes from computer gaming, where it refers to unlocking features (or, more commonly, improving one’s character) through repetitive gameplay…

Grinders in Heavenside are seen as a lower tier of society and ignored…

…in New York [and] pretty much everywhere else… the Grinders are viewed as Doktor Sleepless’ private army… Sleepless doesn’t really give them instructions: he merely provides them with tools and broadcasts his cryptic radio shows–stepping back from actual leadership and simply allowing the Grinders to do what they think he might want.

Food for thought, I suppose. Here is Wikipedia on “grinding” in video games – in short: doing mindless repetitive tasks to level-up. The actual grinding.be shares the following (with more at this link) video of Ms. Anonym’s talk at the 27th Chaos Communication Congress (27C3), about which, what?

The CCC or C3 as it is also apparently understood is “die größte europäische Hackervereinigung” (largest european hacking group) and has apparently been having these conference for 27 years. Other events listed on their  schedule include “Tor is Peace, Software Freedom is Slavery, Wikipedia is TruthThe political philosophy of the Internet” and “‘The Concert’ a disconcerting moment for free culture”.

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Umbrella Luminosity

blade runner umbrellas

Old news, really, but something that struck me as worth sharing here. The above image is, of course, from Blade Runnner (1982) and something that has been replicated in the real world fairly successfully – likely because it’s pretty easy to build compared to the film’s flying cars. You can pick one up over at Thinkgeek for a reasonable $25 plus shipping (also available are samurai and broadsword umbrellas if you prefer fantasy to your Sci Fi).  Practical value would be, I suppose, illuminating your way through a gloomy rainstorm, but we all know it’s just cool because it’s like that one movie, right man? Novelty or familiarity?

think geek futuristic umbrellaHere’s a cool homebrew one from Plecter Labs with some nice videos of things lighting up.

Automated Homes

Boing boing iPad home automation

Inspired by the above post on Boing Boing, I decided to take a look at home automation and how today’s tech is measuring up to its fictional predecessors. Author/blogger Alan Graham described in the post, how he is using an iPad as a interface for his home-brewed automation system. Using the Pad’s touch screen, he can adjust his home’s lights, temperature, coffee grinder, entertainment system, and apparently a chicken coop.

Boing Boing iPad auto home display

Now Graham’s ingenuity and customization of his home should be commended in the same way that one does a custom-mod Xbox, but the phenomenon of automating your home is itself fascinating; and from the point of view of this blog, it’s worth looking at its origin in Science Fiction. The use of technology to ease the pains and chores of everyday life has long been a staple of industrialization, and later commodity culture.

you'll live better electrically

This idea of selling a better lifestyle was integral to early advertising, as it was to early SF. The obvious example that comes to mind is the 1960’s The Jetsons, whose near-utopian homes were rigged with everything from moving sidewalks to humanoid cleaning bots. For our purposes, just watch the first 90 seconds or so , and try not to be too creeped out by the dog – have they ever heard a real one?

So this got me thinking – to quote the ever precient Doktor Sleepless:

“Where’s my jetpack? Where’s my flying car?”

Well, Where’s my automated home?

Surely by 2010, we should have some pretty banging automated houses set up around the globe… Some quick searching turned up several companies working in the same vein as the previously mentioned Alan Graham. My favorite is called (no, really)… HAL.

HAL home automation... not going to kill you, really.

I can understand wanting to materialize the blissful technology of Utopian SF, but the homicidal AI from 2001? Really? In control of your home? Maybe the folks at Home Automated Living  never saw 1977’s wonderfully ludicrous Demon Seed, whose trailer follows:

The film details a programmer-cum-philosopher whose utilitarian home automation system is taken over by a recently created super AI.

Here’s another video of a setup be E-Home in Dubai. Our tour guide has the unfortunate habit of referring to “Valerie” as a person, and says in a particularly creppy bit around 2:25: “she knows what I like…” But hey, automated curtains!

If  – like in the above video – you’re using a gaming controller to accomplish mundane actions around your house, aren’t you threatening the already narrow gap between real life and its simulacra? Which brings us to the big question of whether or not we should protect that distinction. The pleasure taken in narrative fiction and the ever-illusive goal of depicting precise reality in film and software are signs that (at some level or another) we want to escape reality into something that is exactly like it – but better. Temporary escapism is reasonable, but replacement is not. After all, turning your home into a futuristic techno-palace isn’t actually improving real conditions so much as it is further escaping into conditions already portrayed in mass media. Plus it’s definitely worth questioning the nirvana-like goal of controlling your total environment from a comfortable sofa.


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