Week 6

The Brain:

Winston mentions Vannevar Bush’s idea for a machine that allows search in an associative manner – the ‘memex’ – which would allow selection by association rather than by indexing. I worked with software in my last job called The Brain which utilizes this very idea. With this software, I was able to take what would on the surface seem to be random bits of information about a project but tie them together with the Brain. I have always thought of the hierarchical file systems in machines to be cumbersome  – not intuitive in anyway. Foraging through endless mountains of files or emails to find that one specific to my purpose was pure drudgery. However, with the Brain, the interface allows for completely new ways to not only find information but also to discover relationships between information that may not always be obvious at first blush. As a matter-of-fact, the Brain brings about a whole new way to interact with the machine. I can setup the Brain in a manner that makes sense to me. My data, my way.  It can be as (dys)functional or as intuitive as I can imagine. Read more about it at: http://www.thebrain.com.

Communities in Cyberspace

I am an avid music fan. Most of the music I really enjoy doesn’t have the backing of a major record company. As a result, getting information about a specific musician used to be a somewhat laborious (yet fun to me) task. The advent of the Internet has changed that for me. Most of my favorite musicians maintain a presence on the web and disseminate information about themselves via email, blogs, or just right from their web site. A number of them have sign-in books that you can sign and leave your impressions of the site, information, or any number of things. Some even have their own chat rooms where you can meet up with other fans. What I have enjoyed most is the real-time experience that can be shared with people from all over the world right in one place. I think that as broadband has increased so has the ability to share a common experience. One of my favorite musicians hails from Britain. I’ve always regretted the distance I had from the local scene when she released a work. But now as a member of an online community that shares the same passion for her music, it offers a dimension unavailable to me that helps to personalize the experience and brings it “home” so to speak. Her first single was played live over a British radio station and since that station broadcasts over the ‘net we were all listening and sharing our thoughts to the song at the same time. There are rules for posting to the community and the site is monitored for inappropriate content. Members that violate posting rules may be asked to leave. I feel that in an online community, people tend to be a bit more open about how they really feel about things vs. an offline community. I’m sure that part of that stems from the anonymity that being online offers.


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