Sunday, May 31, 2009

Are you with me doctor Woohoo?

I spent the last couple of days with Dr. Woohoo, aka Drew Trujillo, an artist/coder who lives in Albuquerque and is mixing it up at the Santa Fe Complex.  He was in Boston to speak at the Flash on Tap conference at the "other" castle...
He is a fantastic individual with a keen aesthetic sense and a practical sensibility about "connecting the dots" that I find deeply engaging and intuitively promising.  It is hard to articulate the specifics of why Drew's work can be important to City Knowledge, but it feels that way for sure.  Friday, we met at the Media Lab, right where the Center for Bits and Atoms and the the Smart Cities group are located.  Coincidence maybe?  Synchroni-city? We had a creative and inspiring lunch at Kendall square with Ralph Hauwert, his Danish girlfriend Maria (sp?), and Dan Paluska, whom I am sure will be mentioned at greater length in some future blog entries.  No doubt.  Ralph is a 3-D genius whose talents could be really useful to our first-person, game-like simtable applications, and Dan is an installation artist who seems interested in becoming part of  our Postmodern Postmortem team, especially for the taste and touch installations.
Just like Steve Guerin, dr. Woohoo has had multiple academic appointments at MIT over the years.  After lunch, we had a cappuccino-time appoitnment with Joe Ferreira and four PhD students from my former department.  We looked at the online web GIS system that displays the results of the final group project connected with this year's 11.521 course.  
I really got present to how fed up I am with the old school thematic maps on mapserver.  So 1.0! Boooooooooring....  Time to move on!  
We discussed ways to represent 2nd order phenomena like flows and fluxes using fiilaments and pipes, so that images can shuttle from WMS to photoshop and back through openframeworks and maya to produce the 10Xbetter visualizations of urban dynamics that we all are striving for. This is a main battleground for our future efforts, which will need to include all other senses as well, starting with sonification with Marty and Fred and moving to touch, smell and taste in that order, with a sixth sense hovering around the entire milieu.  
There is going to be much more coming your way on these themes....


Thursday, May 28, 2009

Bravo Lance!

Yesterday, I received the following query from Lance Schachterle, a colleague and mentor, who happens to also be the Associate Provost at WPI:
Subject: Question about Cooper's BRAVO

Fabio—here’s the first line of the novel:
"The sun had disappeared behind the summits of the Tyrolean Alps, and the moon was already risen above the low barrier of the Lido.”
My question is—could one see the Tyrolean Alps from Venice?
The question comes up because at the time Cooper wrote the novel, 1831, Venice was controlled by the Austrians across the Alps. So this Alps reference may be political in nature.
Whether one can or cannot see the Alps from Venice, the political note is there. But I’d like to know—can one actually see the Alps from Venice?
The answer is...  YES, of course.  And to prove it, all one has to do is go to heywhatsthat and get the actual view from Venice.  It's a clever mashup, almost but not entirely quite unlike the type of thing we're trying to organize in Venice this fall.
Lance deserves a BRAVO! for having been the official authorizer of the inception of the Venice Project Center back in 1988.  I was a crazy 27 year old and he was more crazy than me for letting me carry out this experiment.  To his credit, he did make me produce a detailed plan for the center, which led me to propose a "bootstrap project", i.e. a project to determine the feasibility of the center, like we just did in Santa Fe.  That was the original bootstrap and it set the trend for every subsequent new project center that WPI started in the world from then on.  I recently obtained a carefully preserved copy of my original proposal from my other friend and mentor of the first hour, Count Marcello.  
Lance was the biggest and most important Friend of the VPC.  Without his courage and foresight, none of this anniversary would have ever happened.  Hundreds of students beside me owe him a huge debt of gratitude.  Indeed, he even allowed me to experiment with a project center in Innichen (or San Candido), on the Italian side of the Tyrolean alps.  How coincidental!
Thanks Lance.  Viele Danke. 
Bravo indeed!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Memorable Promotion Party

Today, on the day after Memorial day, my friend and boss Rick Vaz and Chrys Demetry hosted a party at their home for the promotion to Associate Professors of three of WPI's Interdisciplinary and Global Studies Division (IGSD) adjunct faculty members...  
Creighton Peet, Dominic Golding and I were celebrated by our friends and colleagues.  It was a lot of fun.  
We should do it more often! 
(Know what I mean? nudge-nudge-wink-wink )...

Monday, May 25, 2009

Cell Post

1st blog post from sms. Painful. Might as well tweet!
(also no title... - I added title and this note after the fact)

Sunday, May 24, 2009

posting from email

This is my first test of a post using email.
Let’s see what it looks like.
Fabio Carrera, Ph.D.
WWW | Blog | Wiki | Fb | Tw | Wh?
Cell: (508) 615-5333 | Skype: carrerawpi
[ in Massachusetts until June 17, then back in Santa Fe ... then Where? ...  and When? ]
>>>             V e n i c e   A n n i v e r s a r y   W e b   S i t e             <<<

Friday, May 22, 2009

MDOver and out

The group of Computer Science students who were in Venice this past fall have (mostly) graduated after completing their Major Qualifying Project (MQP) by submitting the final report entitled: "Venice Framework: A Municipal Data Object Framework".

As explained in a prior blog entry, the students demonstrated the potential for this framework by constructing two web applications on top of it, one textual and one graphical, both related to our public art catalog.
The first is a text-based application that allows one to query our public art database on the Venice server and look at each object's metadata. Type a number (1-2000) in the blank box below then click SUBMIT. After a thumbnail picture shows up, click and drag your mouse to highlight the entire section and see the text results (sorry about this inconvenience!).

The graphical application is shown below. Change the search radius with the rightmost slider then click on any icon within the circle. Be ready to click Next when the icon is multi-quadrant.

The next step is to translate all this into a full-fledged platform made up of autonomous urban agents who can take care of their own existential encumbrances and behave accordingly.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Where 2.0: World Heritage Mashup in Venice!

As previously anticipated, we plan to hold a mashup fest to celebrate the coming of age of the Venice Project Center when it turns 21 next fall.
This blog entry is aimed at the participants of the Where 2.0 conference currently under way in San Jose. We are looking for comments and reactions to these ideas from the conference participants.
As part of our celebration we are planning to release and remix all of the data that we have accumulated in our databases from 1988 until today such as: traffic counts, tides and bathymetry measurements; catalogs of public art, bridges, and docks; recordings of endangered Venetian sounds including over 100 bells and much much more. We are working with Kaliya Hamlin the founding facilitator of Mashup Camp. She has designed and facilitated over 75 unconferences for professional technical communities - one of her communities is innovating the identity layer of the web.

To attain our goal, we are therefore planning a series of highly interactive, collaborative events to bring together people from diverse disciplines: geospatial data visualization professionals, academics, historians, art historians, artists, anthropologists, archeologists, environmentalists, urbanists, social scientists and citizens from all walks of life. We are planning to work with the UNESCO World Heritage program to upload all the geo-data sets to make them accessible online with the goal of inviting all of the geo-hacker community to engage with the data - and Mash it up!
Our first event would be this fall (November 2009), bringing to together a selected core group from the Where 2.0 universe to fully exercise the datasets and thus demonstrate the potential that lies therein both for Venice as well as for other UNESCO World Heritage sites where these techniques could be exported. These pioneers would seed the community and define the mashup challenges. About 6 months later (June 2010) a larger group will gather in Venice to celebrate the best mashups and crown the winners of the challenges. Here is the idea in a nutshell:
  • Leverage the 20 years of research conducted by WPI students at the Venice Project Center together with
  • other publicly available data and
  • make the data and maps available (via open APIs) to the conference participants who will then
  • mash-up, manipulate and interconnect these datasets with other web-accessible information to create web applications that one can
  • visualize on web browsers and on interactive multi-touch tables that will allow participants to
  • simulate a variety of scenarios of future socio-economic development and/or natural or human-caused emergencies in a way that will
  • assist local authorities in managing and preserving the urban infrastructure, heritage and overall quality of life in the city using techniques that
  • can be exported to other UNESCO World Heritage Sites around the globe
We foresee two conferences in Venice and a follow-up in Santa Fe:
  1. a preliminary gathering in November 2009 to bring together a select group of the topmost geohacking, urban planning and heritage preservation experts with the goal of determining the technical and logistical direction of the idea on a global scale and to demonstrate its potential with “real” applications of immediate practical use for the City and for UNESCO;
  2. a larger conference in June 2010, open to the public to test the concept with a wider audience and to become the model of future UNESCO heritage information management conferences around the world, possibly using the world cafè model;
  3. a follow-up conference in Santa Fe in May 2011 to begin the worldwide dissemination of the idea.
Where 2 next? Whither Venice?

Please comment below to give us feedback on this initiative.
We appreciate your input and hope to see you in Venice!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

@fabiocarrera tweets @ #wpicommencement

Yes, I admit I tweeted all the way through commencement and I enjoyed it.  It made me focus on some of the key passages and forced me to distill my feelings about the event.  As it turned out, I was not the only one, since WPI had set up a hashtag for it, which I wasn't aware of until after the fact (#wpicommencement).  
In a nutshell, the Father Guido Sarducci's 5-minute university version of the ceremony is as follows:
  1. Success = derivative of life = rise/run (but see what happens if the lifeline bifurcates)...
  2. Never do a job a robot can do (until your roomba breaks, like mine did)
  3. Embrace change (it's paradoxically and stereotypically constant)
  4. Have fun (duh!)
  5. Be authentic (true to your nature)
  6. Leave the earth better than you found it (as we do in Venice)
  7. Cherish relationships (it's the arcs not the nodes! as they teach at SFI)
  8. Stay naive! By the sixth degree you will connect us to all of humanity
  9. Be impeccable with your word, don't make assumptions, don't take things personally
  10. Be well, do good work and keep in touch!
Maxims 1-7 are straight from my tweets which in turn are paraphrased from the keynotes, #8 is my own incantation (very Santa Fe).  I also added the last two entries, whereby three of Don Miguel's four agreements are listed at #9  since the fourth ("always do your best") is sort of already embedded inside Garrison Keillor's canonical exhortation, which I squeezed into number 10.  The grand total is something of the order of 14 aphorisms, which proves that you can make just about anything fit into a list from 1 to 10.  

Maybe that's all our students really need to learn to commence on their path through "real life"?
Master the 10 commandments above, plus a card trick or two and you get a free halo and a guarantee that Italians will forever take a day off every year to commemorate your martyrdom...  Sounds a lot better than getting a diploma as a "token" of your degree, no?
May Monsignor Sarducci bestow his blessings upon the class of 2009.  
Bless them good -- real good.  Amen!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Baccalà laureato

Perhaps some of the readers of this blog are aware of the story about the Venetian ships that were stranded in the Lofoten islands in Norway for a winter and thus discovered the dry cod, also known as stockfish (stoccafisso in Italian) which was imported into Venetian cuisine to become known as baccalà. Many Venice alumni will certainly recall the fabulous bacalà mantecato that Ciana produces at Pampo's when we have our icticultural meals there.
In 1431, in early summer, the Venetian merchant captain, Pietro Querini, set sail from Iraklion (Crete) to Bruges (Flanders) with 3 loaded ships and 68 crewmembers. The fleet sailed into a terrible storm off France and was blown northwest of Ireland and Scotland. Many men had succumbed to starvation and fatigue when, just after the new year, in January 1432, the survivors stranded on an island near Røst, in Lofoten. They were found by local fishermen, after nearly a month, and eventually spent more than three months together with the Røst inhabitants in culo mundi as Querini aptly put it. In the "ass of the world"...
Venetian is such a colorful language. Explicit at times. Obscure too, when needed. Paradoxical and contradictory, yet profound.

Today we congregated for the the "baccalaureate", a celebration that is completely designed, staged and performed by graduating seniors and frankly my favorite part of the graduation exercises every May. I love the pageantry of the caps and gowns and I really enjoy wearing my MIT colors. They are cool looking and fun! And this soiree is short and sweet and entertaining: a lot less pompous than the actual graduation the next day. I love it. So much that I am prompted to issue a Venetian exhortation to all graduating students of this class of 2009:

"Cori camina! Bacalà!"

Which is essentially untranslatable and oxymoronic, and vaguely related to Aldus Manutius' famous motto "festina lente", as well as eponymously onomatopoeic vis à vis the celebration. Bacalà is often interjected as a jovial monicker when referring to a friend. As such, it is used in a manner similar to calling someone "silly" or "fool", or "dummy" in a friendly, non-confrontational, jocking kind of way.
I think I will leave it at that, except to say that if you think I am making this up, you should ask a Venetian to tell you what it means...

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Auto da fe

It seems like only yesterday that Obi, Andrew, Dan, Dave, Chris and Sam arrived in Santa Fe for the first -- soon to be legendary -- WPI Interactive Qualifying Project in the land of enchantment. Yet today, a mere two months later, the last of the pioneering students left to return to Massachusetts where the project report will be wrapped up and delivered to the Dean of Interdisciplinary and Global Studies and then to the Provost for final approval of the proposed WPI Santa Fe Project Center. Good job guys!  You were great ambassadors for WPI.  See you in 20 years for the 20th anniversary!  

I can't even fathom what the technology will allow us then...  Who could have imagined, in 1988 when I started the Venice Project Center, that we would have this rich online presence through the magic of the world wide web, which has made possible this blog, with its tweets and dopplr, plus dspace and venipedia, the online fab merchandise, our picture gallery and our alumning social network and everything else that can be reached from our anniversary website? Creating the Venice center 20 years ago was truly an act of faith...  and here we go again 20 years later, putting our faith in our actions in the "villa real de la Santa Fè".  How appropriate!

Friday, May 1, 2009

May Day! May Day! May Day!

No day off for us poor laborers in this definitely-not-communist America.  God forbid!  
We have a week left to finish the boostrap project in Santa Fe and panic hasn't set in yet, which is ironically itself cause for panic.  Time to send out the distress call?