Monthly Archives: May 2007

Persistent History: I Post Therefore I Am

“An increasing amount of our social interaction with other people (and people-like agents) will be occurring online. Visualizations of these interactions can have a huge impact on how legible these social environments are, what behaviors they encourage, and how appealing they are.�

Judith Donath, a professor of media arts and sciences at MIT, makes this observation in a visually rich tome entitled Elsewhere Mapping.
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She goes on to suggest “A Conversation Mapping can construct a rendering of each participant from the history of that person’s interactions in the environment. Such a depiction is meaningful: it can help make each person stand out as an individual. Persistent history is the information world’s version of a body.�

I love this last statement! It offers a very interesting explanation for the popularity of a wide range of online behavior. If virtual existence is important to me, and I’m convinced that my continued online existence is contingent upon the creation of a persistent and significant online presence, I will do everything I can to make that happen. Continue reading Persistent History: I Post Therefore I Am

Wal-Mart and the Vlasic Pickles

What is intriguing about this story is the way that Wal-mart, the largest company in the history of the world, according to Charles Fishman in his recent book The Wal-Mart Effect, is fundamentally changing the topology of the marketplace. The story of the gallon jar of Vlasic pickles is a case in point.
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As Fishman relates the story, the Wal-mart pickle buyer wanted to make a ‘statement’ with pickles. Vlasic agreed to sell Wal-Mart a one gallon jar of pickles that they could sell at $2.97. Accustomed to buying considerably smaller jars of similarly priced specialty pickles at the supermarket, Wal-Mart shoppers began buying the gallon jars at a rate of 200,000 per week. Continue reading Wal-Mart and the Vlasic Pickles

Flex-Time for Cows

    Lest you think this has turned into an agriculture site, this isn’t really about the cows. It isn’t really about enlightened farming practices either although the sight of proactive cows in charge of their own milking schedules was really cool.
  • Scene One: Bucolic Farm Scene
  • Child with freckles and dungaree coveralls sits in the barn in the early morning. He/She is humming to him/herself while sitting on a small wooden stool and milking a contented cow; squirting milk into a metal bucket.

  • Scene Two: Industrial Blight
  • Smoke belches in the dark gray sky that could be any time of day. Cows are penned in cages, standing miserably in their own excrement and unable to move. They are fed hormone laden slop and hooked up to machines that suck all the milk out of them.

  • Scene Three: Age of Convergence
  • Cows line up lazily outside the milking area when they feel like being milked. One at a time they walk into the milking area and the Lely automatic milking machine opens its gate. The cow lopes in where it can feed on alfalfa rich food and have its udders cleaned before the automatic computer guidance system connects the milking cups.
    The results: less mastitis, more milk, happier cows and an interesting reflection of our changing views on work, society, and self-determination.
    Continue reading Flex-Time for Cows