3 things

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1. "Imagine, if you can, a small room, hexagonal in shape, like the cell of a bee. It is lighted neither by window nor by lamp, yet it is filled with a soft radiance. There are no apertures for ventilation, yet the air is fresh. There are no musical instruments, and yet, at the moment that my meditation opens, this room is throbbing with melodious sounds. An armchair is in the centre, by its side a reading-desk - that is all the furniture. And in the armchair there sits a swaddled lump of flesh - a woman, about five feet high, with a face as white as a fungus. It is to her that the little room belongs."


" The machine stops " is a only science / speculative fiction wrote by E.M. Forster in 1909. Interestingly, this is his only production in that can be associated with this genre; as he's mainly known for his novels about social class differences or sexuality.

The story occurs in a world in which humans have retreated under the earth and evolve in a society where communication and information are at the centre of their lives. We get an insight into this hypothetic world through the lives of Kuno, who has a critical view on the society, and Vashti, his mother, who's a lecturer and an adorer of the machine. There's also an obsession amongst the people for " having ideas " and anything that doesn't bring any is considered as a lack of time. People live in some sort of bee cells, and so barely have any face to face contact. Into these cells there's a profusion of buttons that can provide humans with anything they need and enable them to communicate through a video conferencing system. At the beginning of the story, Kuno attempts to convince his mother to come to see him ( he lives on the opposite side of the world ). It is hard work as she doesn't show much enthusiam about the idea, as the direct experience of traveling raises some anxiety. Because of his reluctance to communicate through the speaking apparatus, she eventually ends up coming up. He informs her then that he went to visit the surface of earth without permission. The machine captured him again and threatened him with « homelessness ». He also talks about the way this experience has enabled him to reconsider his physicality. Vashti thinks Kuno has gone mad and she leaves him slightly irritated. Life inside the machine follows its course with two main evolvements : the « respirator », necessary to visit the surface of earth, is abolished and a sort of Machine worship religion is established. This evolving to the chaotic point where the machine on which this world depends does collapse. (sorry about that spoiler but keep in mind that my sum up isn't as good as the novel itself)

In order to enlighten the relevance of the speculations made by Forster in 1909, I will just conclude this text listing a few events which have shaped our daily relationship to media : 

Telstar ( 1st active direct relay communications satellite ) : 1962
First man on the moon : 1969
Minitel : 1978
Commercialization of the Motorola DynaTAC 8000X ( first cellular phone certified by the FCC ) : 1983
World Wide Web : 1991
Siri : 2011

2. img1_miniat.jpg

Piero Manzoni was an italian artist associated to the Arte povera and conceptual art. His works revolves a lot round the nature of the art object. There is also a reflexion on the medium. "Le Socle du monde", or base of the world is a sculpture from Piero Manzoni from 1961. It consists in an upside down iron plinth of 100x100x82cm, figuring the inscription "Socle du monde. Socle magique n°3 de Piero Manzoni. 1961. Hommage à Galilée". The work was put in a park surrounding Herning in Denmark.

3. Bliss.png

This image is the work of a National Geographic photographer named Charles O'Rear. The picture was taken in 1996 in Sonoma County, California. It was taken using a medium format camera and a Velvia Fujifilm film, known for saturating colours. The hill was covered in grass instead of the vineyards usually covering the land at that particular place. The photographer was particularly happy with the landscape's colors on that day. He then made the picture available as a photo stock, through Corbis, owned by Bill Gates who co founded it. Microsoft then made the acquisition of the image around 2000. This image was renamed Bliss after it became the default computer wallpaper of the Windows XP operating system. The image was meant to convey positive values such as freedom and calmness, referring to how the user experience should be. There is a common assumption that the picture was digitally transformed. O'Rear states it has never been but it is possible that Microsoft accentuated the contrast (they also cropped it a little bit).

Through my research about this image I encountered an interview of Charles O'Rear on napavalleyregister.com. He evokes how amazing it was to him to see the photograph in very different locations such as a village in Thailand, the background of an interview if the president of Venezuela or during an interview at the white house. “I’m sure in the Kremlin the computers have this photo,” he joked, “They use Microsoft programs. I think every corner of the globe, every culture, every country, has been exposed to it.”

If we were actually to talk about numbers here are a few ones : Microsoft has sold over 1 billion licenses of this very famous operating system between 2001 and 2014 and according to Net Market Share, about 30% of the world's 1.5 billion PCs connected to the Internet were still running Windows XP by March 2014 (Mac OS X 10.9 being at slightly under 4%). Acknowledging that some people didn't pay for the licenses the spread has been quite enormous. Therefore, all the humans who have ever faced those machines have faced "Bliss", at least before they changed it to a picture which was more of their taste. But it has to be taken into account that some people have eventually seen this Operating System's graphic interface through some collateral effect (like the ones who have seen the interview of the president of Venezuela for instance). So this image can be considered to have been very highly diffused.

Now considering the function of the image, Bliss is the background of a graphic user interface. This background image feature wasn't too old. If it was possible to change the desktop background's color since the early nineties, the feature wasn't enabling much freedom yet in terms of customization. Windows XP appears to be the first operating systems to have come up with a photograph for this function. This is the first time users were provided with a landscape behind the tasks they were operating on their computer instead of a plane color.

Antman Feedback:

  1. http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/337109.Paris_in_the_Twentieth_Century <- Your description of 'The Machine Stops' reminds me of how Jules Vernes' described "Paris in the 19th century", as a dystopian mechanistic meritocracy with a love for structure and machines.

manetta feedback & references:

  • is it about our daily relationship with media? or with communication technologies (to make it more specific)
  • the perception from a very humanistic point of view—how the architecture created by technology has effect on our daily lives— reminds me to the project 'No Stop City' by Archizoom, an (quite experimental) architecture studio from the '60s. They proposed very generic patterns in the city, see: this overview that i just found, there might be a better one , another one (although it's a pinterest link, it gives an overview of the aesthetics they use in their presentations)
  • This human effects of technology 'theme' reminds me to the position that you put yourself in with your prototpye browser-extention, where people get access to a tool (a technology piece) to get access to their own data

media object:

  • Charles Peirce maked a distinction between three types of signs: index, icon, symbols. The windows-background shifted from being a index (depicting a certain real location) into an icon (the image have a conventional link to the OS of Windows) link