There is no denying the technological craft behind the work in Decode. However, unlike physical craft of the kind that fills the rest of the V&A, you cannot actually see the skill behind digital art. You cannot see the intricate computer codes and algorithms. … All you can judge it on is the “object” itself. And that, while undeniably pretty, is too often underwhelming.
Maybe that’s true for Tom Dyckhoff, but for me, it’s easier for me to conceive how to make something like Chris O’Shea’s Audience (part of Decode, but outside the paywall, to repurpose an internet term) than it is to understand the process behind, say, sculpture or ironwork. Obviously I’m a bit of an outlier, but I wouldn’t be surprised if, in a decade or three, the idea that “analogue” art is understandable and “digital” isn’t falls by the wayside.
Oh, and the exhibition? It’s not the best in the world but if you’re at all interested in digital art or interactivity, it’s worth the £5 to see it. You’ve got until April 2010.
It’s been a couple of weeks since Mashable’s comparative review of Tumblr and Posterous was published, and since then I’ve noticed a few of my friends trying out the latter service. I thought it was time I explained some of the reasons I’ve found Tumblr to be such a good fit for me, and why I think the review was a little unfair.
Posterous’ knockout posting punch is email — the technology that most of us take for granted on a daily basis.
Other people might still be email-centric, but I’ve long since moved to the browser rather than the email client for everything. (Surely the popularity of Gmail proves I’m not alone?) Tumblr’s excellent (and recently upgraded) bookmarklet is fantastic for easily posting images found online. Meanwhile, the composing pages on the web are wonderful: lightweight in just the way MT, Wordpress and Vox aren’t. OK, it’s not quite as simple as Twitter, but then, I couldn’t put this in 140 characters. Relatively friction-free posting makes me write far more (just compare the frequency of posts here to that over on my grown-up blog).
Tumblr’s also got something else that, sadly, nobody else has quite nailed - community. Since I gave up RSS in 2004 or so (I’ve since relented, a little) I’ve used the network/friends/contacts pages on the sites I use most to follow what’s up. Twitter, Flickr and delicious all do this really well, and so does Tumblr, with the Dashboard. Once you’re logged in it’s easy to follow another Tumblr user, and keep up with what they’re doing. (If you’re that sort of person, you can even drag in your Twitter friends updates. I don’t.)
Beyond that, though, there’s reblogging. Unlike the folk practice of retweeting, which is broken in more ways than I can be bothered to list, Tumblr’s feature is right on the money. Attribution and feedback are nicely handled within the dashboard. It even makes the decision of the site’s founders not to have comments a minor drawback rather than a killer - you can always add something to a post and end up with a real conversation, which is actually readable in future. Compared with Twitter or any other blogging platform, that’s a real achievement.
Suffice it to say, Posterous has nothing like either feature. If I run across your blog and want to follow it, I have to use feeds. (Obviously, Tumblr does offer RSS, if you want it.) You might not see this as a drawback, but nowadays, I think I would.
[Edit] I had another look, and it turns out Posterous does offer subscriptions. That’s still not as impressive as reblogging, but I thought I should mention it.
What else? I really like Tumblr’s per-month archive pages (Posterous only has per-tag). Tumblr has a good customisation engine, which I’ve used to make this site look like my main one (whereas Posterous locks you into a pleasant, but anodyne, theme). I’ve used a custom domain; although you can do that on Posterous too, Tumblr’s implementation is quite good. The “popular” pages gives a window into the community (even if it’s occasionally a bit scary). On top of all that, Tumblr has a straightforward API for import and export (which also makes me feel like I own my data; like edd, I find this pretty important).
Is Tumblr perfect? Of course not. The theme engine isn’t infinitely flexible, and getting an export isn’t one-click easy, when it could be. There are niggling missing pieces (I’d like per-tag RSS, for example), but all in all, it’s a pretty flexible, easy, and pleasant platform. I can see myself staying here for quite some while.
Yesterday evening, thanks to tips from Michael (who posted photos from Thursday promptly) and Anna (who mentioned it on Twitter), I trundled across to the east of the city for two very different performances as part of the Greenwich + Docklands International Festival.
Up by the new planetarium at the Royal Observatory, there was Sputnik, a short, intimate, somewhat charming solo dance/performance piece, with Claire Cunningham as a slightly steampunk character exploring a strange machine. As I’ve said, it wasn’t a long performance (maybe 20 minutes long), and it was on a very human scale; the entire machine was only a few metres across. Definitely well worth the climb up the hill, even without the glorious view of sunset behind the City I was able to catch afterwards.
Following that, I headed back under the Thames to Millwall Dock for Fous de Bassin, one of those spectaculars that French theatre companies seem so good at. This was on a much different scale to Sputnik; it lasted for 45 minutes and had a (visible) cast of about a dozen, including heaven knows how many technicians. Staged on water, with a variety of boats and, well, vehicles, lit with electricity, fire, and finally fireworks, this really was a massive event, yet I didn’t enjoy it as much.
Some of that is niggles due to the scale; there were a thousand people squeezed in to the dock to watch, mainly from concrete-hard lawns, and I was initially distracted by people describing what they were seeing to their friends. It was also hard to see what was going on.
Yet there’s also a structural problem; it felt like there was an attempt at narrative, or perhaps, more problematically, three or four narratives. What did the chap getting out of the car have to do with the woman up the tree? What did the jousting signify? Was there meant to be something joining these threads, or were we just meant to be gawping? Well, probably just being dazzled, yet it still left me feeling as if I’d missed the point somehow.
Compared to that, Sputnik managed (because, perhaps, of its smallness of scale) to effectively convey a (small) narrative very nicely indeed, with none of the bombast. Still, since both performances were free, and I got something out of both, I really shouldn’t complain too much. Unfortunately, I can’t recommend either, not because I don’t want to, but because both concluded yesterday. However, Handel’s Water Music is being performed for a final time tonight at the National Maritime Museum, and there are a series of small dance and performance events in the are throughout today and tomorrow. In fact, I need to pack up and head off for some now.
When I arrived in work this morning, Adrian told me there was a new version of Flight Control out. I’d already seen that there were new maps coming, but the game tightens the experience for veteran players nicely.
(If you’re not an iPhone owner, or just haven’t played it, Flight Control (iTunes Store link) is a game requiring you to draw flight paths for a series of incoming aircraft to their correct landing area - two runways, one each for red and yellow aircraft, and helipads for helicopters. It makes very good use of the touch-screen, and is deservedly popular.)
The complaint I’d heard most about the game was that it took a while to get going; there was the same somewhat predictable sequence for the first 15 or so planes, until it started getting challenging at around 30-40 (for me, anyway; I gather some people are far better at it than I am). When you finally made a fatal error, the just-one-more-go factor was reduced by the knowledge of the somewhat boring slog you’d have to go through before it got interesting again.
The (free) revision fixes this in two ways. Firstly, there’s a fast-forward button to go with the pause button. This speeds up the pace of the game, which is good when you have straightforward patterns and want to skip to the hard stuff. Tapping it again returns to normal speed.
The second change is that the two new airfields, Beach and Aircraft Carrier, have somewhat recalibrated difficulty. I think Beach is a bit easier than the original field - it has two helipads, for example - but the carrier is definitely harder, because it pretty much starts with multiple types of aircraft and forces you to avoid crossing paths, which the other maps introduce later on.
In other words, if you want to be thrown in with a challenge, it’s perfect. The screenshot shows the end of my first go with the carrier airfield, and it’s tough. I did get a more respectable 52.
That’s not to say Flight Control is perfect. I’d still like the option of sound effects overlaid on already-playing music, but that’s not an option while FC has a theme tune. Adrian also suggested that swapping airfields by swiping would be a nice touch, and I agree.
Still, for a game that many people bought at its initial $1 price, Flight Control’s new maps and nicely-handled fast-forward features are very nice to have. If you’re an iPhone or iPod touch owner and you haven’t yet bought this, you really should. If you have, make sure you update to 1.2; it’s well worth it.