Decentralization

“A man who is suspended looks the same as one who is standing, but the interplay of forces within him is nevertheless quite different, so that he can act quite differently than can a standing man.” – Wittgenstein

I first saw this many years ago as a young philosophy student and I have meditated on it ever since.  It is that while the outward appearance of things maybe the same, the motivating principle of a thing may cause it to have different powers.

Today I was walking down the street and thought of this in terms of decentralization, in particular, the company and protocol blockstack.  What is really the difference of using a centralized word processor, (google docs), vs a decentralized one, Graphite.  The way you use it is the same. But they are quite different.  The forces within are quite different.

How can the decentralized text editor act differently from the centralized text editor? Well no one can remove your documents. That is the easiest thing, but what else? What do you get from decentralization that gives you special powers beyond tail risk?  Maybe that is what the man of faith gets as well, protection of tail risk from burning in hell.

However, I think there is something more there, I just cannot put my finger on what that is.

Flowers and Music (or just flowers)

My new years resolution was to have more flowers in the house.  I felt that this would be a small thing that would make me happy and bring nature into my life, and make my apartment smell good.  Because I have no free time I decided to try the subscription service at bouqs. Bouqs sucks, They never delivered my flowers or they delivered them and they were stolen and now I need to report their fraud on my credit card ARG!

But how thrilled was I when walking down 5th and 21st I spotted a flower truck – Uprooted. First of all what a brilliant idea – a flower truck – you just drive around the city selling flowers. I was chatting with them, because I thought this was an absolutely brilliant idea. They generally park on the upper west side of manhattan because it is so residential. But now they are doing every thursday in the flatiron to get corporate customers.

This was so great. I even bought some flowers for my mother – who lives near the flatiron. Flowers are the best.

Copying and Pedagogy

There is a long history of artist and artisans training which entails copying, even tracing. This  is probably somewhat related to the use of rote exercises and memorization in education as well. This all fell out of favor in the last 50 or so years, but I do think there are benefits.

Lets focus on copying in craftsmanship, rather than say doing a ton of boring long division problems. If I have to copy a bust of my teacher, then by copying I learn a bunch of skills related to making a bust.  These are technical, such as pouring a mold, or chisling fine features, I also learn about a particular style, how it feels to create something in a particular way.

Many years ago I wrote a program that was a text editing program that created time lapse snapshots of the state of a work as a user copied it.  If I copy out large swathes of Hawthorn, will I learn something, is there something in the muscle memory of writing that maybe I can capture in recording the act of writing?  If not, how can I capture this.

I am thinking a lot about the work of Peli Grietzer (dissertion here) and the idea that the act of an autoencoder learning is somewhat related to the pedagogical technique of copying, or memesis in general.  Here the autoencoder is engaged the act of memesis in learning. But what are the skilled that the autoencoder actually learns when the autoencoder creates a facsimile.   You can say a human has a number of sub skills that are acquired in learning on large skill, but this is not the case with the autoencoder, or maybe it is – we do not know since this is unintelligible to us.

Meditation on Anni Albers’ Notebooks

I was hanging out at the McNally Jackson bookstore in NoLiTa NYC, when I started leafing through a reproduction of Anni Albers’ Notebooks.  I had seen some Anni Albers at Mast Books on Avenue A, so I was ready to appreciate it.

First off, Anni Albers was a textile artist, bauhaus student, black mountain college teacher, and wife of artist and educator Josef Albers. You can check out her wikipedia page and some great pinterest boards. What interests in these notebooks are the way she is constructing the patterns off a grid. There is something very mathematical and repetitive. But even still, there are slight changes and differences. In this piece even though everything is of a piece, there does not seem to be a repetitive unit except for the diagonal or rhombus.

I am very drawn to them, it is like doing excel art or something, or fractals or emergent designs from simple rules – generate art.  The textile is unlike painting is discrete. You essential have a bunch of small knots or loops, you can count the number of times this happens. You can count the warp and weft threads.  Paint is continuous. It washes over the surface. You do not count the paint strokes or paint molecules.

By now it is common knowledge that the Jaquard loom was the first computer. But, looking at these studies for fabric, I think we can say the first generative art was also a textile, probably because unique among the arts it is a discrete art.

Musical Interfaces

There are a few interactive music design exhibitions at the Museum of Art and Design in NY.   I thought it was very well curated and the pieces were thoughtful rather than gimmicky.  My personal favorite were the musical instrument/jewelry pieces, probably because I am obsessed with ceramics.  Why do I like it? It was well constructed, that may be a bourgeoisie value, but there it is. The inputs and outputs did not seem random, but were the exploration of a single concept or gesture.

For me it is ok if a mapping is not necessary –  I dont think mappings can be necessary or imperatives – but if they reveal something about the concept they are exploring then I am satisfied.  And in this case, I believe the artists succeed.  Plus, its fun for the kids!