Peter Fargas
Independent Research & Prototypisation
https://informatik-handwerk.de
Leipzig, Germany
Release date: August 2011
Last update:
Link to authoritative version

Preliminary on Digital Media

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Description

Taken into account the power and universality of an office computer, which are globally at our disposal, it is surprising how simplistic our digital media is. Due to the broadness of topics, this will only be a brief introduction. Although leisure will be mentioned a few times for explanatory purposes, the main weight is on media usable in the research and education.

Introduction

The emergent capability of passing knowledge from one human to another is one of the virtues which has brought us to where we are. One of the basic properties of information seems to be an ever-present encapsulation in some medium through which it is being transmitted - bending below the intrinsic limits of storing, retrieval and deterioration due to factors like time spent in the medium and the transfer itself. The deterioration seems media specific, however, the type as well as the details and encoding of the information might render it robust, fragile, plastic, etc. Talking for example, is limited by the talker's selection of words (and gestures, etc.), trying to evoke the wished information in the listener. The, at times devastatingly dramatic, differences in language(thought) apparatuses or the noise level of the environment, can be seen as the deterioration due to transfer. Proper abstraction is needed, every media is composite - here in the example, starting at neurological information retrieval and re-coding, work of the mouthpiece, sonic travel through air, and so on.

Problems originating from design

There are several areas which require careful consideration when designing any information exchange. Very roughly divided - the information source and destination, the nature of the carrier, the inner structuring of carrier, encoding of the information as well as interfaces between those elements - have certain properties which may not be ignored in the design. A very rough'n'dirty split, rather explanatory example:

  • The design of the information source and of information destination cannot be neglected. Here, a network of one on one humans is considered. In cinema, the destination would be the audience. In scientific research, communication with animals could be an example.
  • Transcoding of the information, from the "native" carrier to a transportable representation. This itself consists of multiple parts. Some technology or process which destils "reality" into information stream. Another one, with it's own resolution and distortions, which creates representation allowing manipulation - among other, notice the access/changes to temporality of the stream.
  • Source's and destination's interfaces to the manipulable media - in the case of using digital media, those could be the keyboard and monitor interfaces, (software) capabilities.
  • The medium that caries the media (itself carrying information). Continuing in the example, this carrier would be hardware and logic through which the medium is implemented.

One of main challenges in sharing information is selecting a proper level of detail, appropriate formulation and structure. Those decisions are based on the estimations of the target group either preselected or determined by a swing-wise adjustment of content and re-estimation of audience. In case of mass-media where volume is the metrics, decisions can be skipped by following rather stable(e.g. social) guidelines, known media specific techniques and including (to be) trending features. Here, I'm concentrating on the 'preselected target group' variant, R&D workers, where the following problems arise:

  • In co-designing or research, the problem of exposing full detail, here explained on the example of information in textual form, traps the reader in the conceptual framework of the writer, thus overshadowing (and often blocking completely) own creative thought processes. At times, and as a popular meme goes - the title says it all, and I believe that such groups should exchange ideas only after their research reached a certain depth and maturity. Only then the further combination leads to new fruitfulness and deeper proceedings in a stepwise fashion into the area. Synchronization of such processes should get simplified.
  • For engineering purposes, all details should be eventually passed on and the information should be structured in a way which mimics the gradual process of implementation. Returning to the 'eventually' - often, the view of the forest gets blocked by all the trees and this discourages the usage while there may as well exist more effective ways of solving the problems of the domain - an inventive implementer might not even spot them.

Modern media, like the internet, have a very dynamic feel, introduced by the incoming information amounts 'scrooling out' historical ones and by the rapid interlinking. Another type of dynamics, is introduced by elements like menus, residing in the presentation layer. Below the surface is often a layer collecting media (usage) statistics and, sometimes per-user, behavior analysis is already in use. The extracted knowledge is used to make the media dynamic on yet an another level, personalized elements are displayed based on user's input or collected profile - simple examples are search engines and advertisement. Yet the pieces of stored knowledge are statical in nature.

Samples of media based on the mentioned observations

The following, domain-specific media tackle the contents of the previous paragraph.

Spoken language guidelines for co-creators and researchers

As a simple solving of the mentioned problem of research/co-design, as soon as you come to a point where you start having fresh ideas, stop the talker and skip to next areas. In some following session, you can present your evolved ideas and thus seamlessly return, compare and proceed.

I recommend a similar way of behavior when reading books. Using one's own head is the best one can do.

Real-time augmentation media for digital audial(temporal) space

Interesting type of media for storing thoughts is audio, for the reasons of allowing simultaneously multiple participants. Used together with a keyboard, one could on-the-fly mark switches in talker, questions-explanations-returning to topics, hypothesis-argue-solving, (high-)relevance, and so on. As well, quick tagging and so connecting various parts of the talk should be possible to a certain extent. The core here is introducing a minimalistic concept, an ability to cope with the real-time nature of input. During replay, one has then the possibility to skip some parts (e.g. argue), listen only to the high relevance parts or follow lines of interest through the tag network.

Dynamical knowledge through automating recherche

One of the peculiarities of stored knowledge is that it does not further evolve. This paragraph should be interesting especially for groups like researchers and students. Traditionally, there is a talk about degrading of the media with time, but it only points out to the fact that the information changes. Our approaches will probably differ (and that's a good thing I think!), so I'm leaving the content of this paragraph as a homework- except for one sentence: "I'd like to stress that this all already takes place naturally in the process, so only the medium is the novelty." (The fact is I'm too lazy now, check future versions of this document)

Leisure: colour soother

In this simple design of mine, I envisioned a media which would allow the user to explore the colour spectrum and it's dynamics for purposes of relaxation and enjoyment. I included here only examples of the great variety which this media could attain. The implementers can select a variation to their liking, the best would be a plug-in system allowing broadening of the variety.

There are various types of colour spectrum representations - each has got it's specialties and the interested reader can look it up the simpler ones in e.g. Wikipedia. By navigating through the colour spaces they define, they produce cross-fading effects from one colour to another. The spectrum, the dynamics and other properties of this cross-fading can be defined and fill the entire screen.

To bring structure onto the screen, methods used in e.g. music visualizations, fractal generators or artificial intelligence could be used. The colours could fluctuate, or not. Artistic effects with hard borders between colours or any other filter could be used. On the less abstract side, bringing in more symbolical structure, methods for generating towns, plants, mountains, swarms, liquid-like and so on are available. I'll call this further on world-type.

The form of the environment through which user could navigate are as well various (may not make sense for all world-types) - from the more usual side, a 3d sphere to fly inside or above, moving through tunnels, simple or parallax scrolling.

The user could navigate through the environment using keyboard, mouse or the still rather exotic web-cam eye movement analysis.

By keeping some colours, forms or movements special, the user could move through those portals into a brand new environment, properties of which would be defined by user's behavior in previous environments. The way how the user moved could define the new dynamics of colours, e.g. the movement to/away from certain areas could define the colour spectrum. As well, worlds which 'looks' would get defined on the fly are possible.

Through export, the users could share the most fascinating worlds they've experienced. I see no problems in embedding this media in larger contexts, like a multi-user network. Extending the concept of portals, one could fly into new world through an avatar. By finding proper transformations between topologies, all avatars could share 'the same' space. Deterministic methods for generation of large structures and 'personal settings' for smaller ones could encourage the users to exchange their 'worldviews'. Through implementing simple privacy settings, automatic cross-fading as users with matching settings get nearer could be a fascinating world for leisure time. Graphical subsystem doesn't have to be complex to produce mesmer and variety.