whatknows :: do you?

November 19, 2008

Typeface and the Subway

Filed under: Personal,Technology — Jed @ 9:14 pm

NYC Subway SignOkay, I’ll admit it. I’m a freak about typography. I love well used type. Okay, I’ll admit it. I am also a transportation freak. I love a beautifully designed transit system. While I’m confessing, I’ll admit it: I almost changed my undergraduate major to graphic design and urban planning. Maybe if they had had a joint program…

Well, today I got the closest thing: Paul Shaw’s AIGA article on the history of typography and the NYC subway system. Entitled The (Mostly) True Story of Helvetica and the New York City Subway, Shaw blends a beautiful history of fonts, signs, and the complicated birth of the modern NYC subway system.

There is a commonly held belief that Helvetica is the signage typeface of the New York City subway system, a belief reinforced by Helvetica, Gary Hustwit’s popular 2007 documentary about the typeface. But it is not true—or rather, it is only somewhat true. Helvetica is the official typeface of the MTA today, but it was not the typeface specified by Unimark International when it created a new signage system at the end of the 1960s. Why was Helvetica not chosen originally? What was chosen in its place? Why is Helvetica used now, and when did the changeover occur? To answer those questions this essay explores several important histories: of the New York City subway system, transportation signage in the 1960s, Unimark International and, of course, Helvetica.

It’s been a long day – you enjoy a treat. Read it here.

November 18, 2008

Death of a User: The Overlooked Use-Case

Filed under: Academic,Technology — Jed @ 5:51 pm

What will happen to your Facebook account when you die? What about when you try to kill it? gnovis is running a post of mine on the topic of “user death”. This article considers the implications of death in online environments, and emerged out of conversations at CSCW, and the insightful work of several of my (now) peers.

Here is a taste to wet the pallet:

When online, what counts as a “body” or “identity” emerges out of the coconstruction, negotiation, and even contestation of users and technologies. While users may prove their existence with each Cartesian account (i.e., “I login, therefor I am”), the terms of their existence is often preregulated by the technology. Moreover, these jealous applications may go to extremes to prevent you from leaving. Technology does a great job of enabling our own sense of immortality.

Read more here >>
gnovis Journal – Death of a User: The Overlooked Use-Case

November 8, 2008

CSCW 2008 Begins!

Filed under: Academic,Technology — Jed @ 9:42 pm

I just got to San Diego for CSCW 2008, and am totally stoked. Not only is there conference (stay tuned!), but a number of professors and students from prospective PhD programs are here, so I am excited to see what their work is like in person. The best part? Well, Morgan Ames, my good friend from high school, is here as well! We were such strange, troubled kids back then (who wasn’t, really), and it has been a delight to reconnect with her recently (thank you Facebook), only to realize how much our academic lives overlap.

I suppose that might be one reason why staying at the Hilton on Mission Bay is trippy. The last time I was here was during high school during an obligatory Concert Choir tour to Southern California. To this day, I can’t figure out what the purpose of taking the school choir on tour was, aside from a random vacation for students, and major headaches for teachers. This, however, is totally off topic.

Some might be wondering what “CSCW” stands for. I have told coworkers and academic colleagues that it stands for “Computer Supported Cooperative Work”, which, of course, does not good, as this is equally confusing. From Wikipedia: “CSCW focuses on the study of tools and techniques of groupware as well as their psychological, social, and organizational effects.”

For now, I am off to go have some fun!

November 3, 2008

Anonymous and Angry

Filed under: Academic,Technology — Jed @ 3:02 pm

#@*!!! Anonymous anger rampant on Internet

The internet allows billions of people to communicate anonymously each day, “and boy, are they pissed off!”

CNN ran an article today entitled #@*!!! Anonymous anger rampant on Internet, considering everything from cyber bullying to flaming, and all of those less then polite and less than identified treasures around the net.

“In the [pre-Internet era], you had to take ownership [of your remarks]. Now there’s a perception of anonymity,” said Lesley Withers, a professor of communication at Central Michigan University. “People think what they say won’t have repercussions, and they don’t think they have to soften their comments.”

The basic theory is that computers obscure cues that can be used to identify an individual and their behavior. But does that turn us into different people?

Markman is quick to observe that he doesn’t believe there’s more anger out there. But, he said, “there are more ways of expressing it on the Internet.”

“We’ve all had interactions with unpleasant people, but we don’t confront them. We take it out elsewhere,” he said. “What the Internet has created is groups of people where there are no repercussions with being too aggressive.”

I, however, remain skeptical. Interpersonal communication shapes our understandings of ourselves. Narrative psychologists Pasupathi and McAdams have shown this over and over again. The structures (aka “technology”; see Yates and Orlikowski’s Adaptive Structuration Theory) in which those interactions occur, then, must play a role in the types of conversations that occur, and they types of people we become. Now, I am far from a doom sayer when it comes to the internet (quite the opposite, actually), and it may be that these anonymity/anger effects are contextually bound to communication on blogs and chat rooms. Either way, it is interesting to consider how anonymity is used as a tool, regardless of the objective. In the words of laywer-brother when I asked my family why they thought people go to chatrooms, “[there are] limited repercussions for participatory benefits.” Makes you wonder what makes one a “participant.”

CNN’s article is worth a readYou can find it here: #@*!!! Anonymous anger rampant on Internet