June 2003 Archives

World history map

Kevin Kelly posts about a great looking map of 5,000 years of world history on his excellent Recommendo weblog. I'd love to see a bigger image of the map but I can't see one on the linked to site. These kinds of things are great for getting some real perspective.

User innovation networks

Clay Shirky* links to an interesting paper by Eric von Hippel from last year describing a model for diffusion of innovations that doesn't rely on businesses. The open source software movement is his primary example of an arena in which innovations are developed, ideas are shared, and products are freely distributed, all at the user level. I then came across MIT's User Innovation website which links to a whole pile of fascinating-looking papers on all this Lead User kind of stuff.

Rem Koolhaas' future

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I finally got round to reading the June issue of Wired, a large chunk of which is edited by architect Rem Koolhaas. There are some interesting, but extremely short, articles about global trends, all shoehorned into the vague theme of "space."

Sim Mafia and other gaming news


This Mercury News article describes a mafia-like organisation emerging in one of the The Sims Online cities. Apparently, an attempt to create some order in the shape of a shadow government got out of hand and resulted in a rather less benevolent "family." I tried to find out more about this, but after a lot of digging I only turned up the website of Mia Wallace, the city's most popular character -- and capo di tutti capi -- referred to in the article. The only other online references to the affair appear to be dozens of weblogs linking to the Mercury News article.

Oliver Morton reviews Our Final Century: Will the Human Race Survive the Twenty-First Century? (Amazon UK) by Martin Rees who gives humanity only a 50/50 chance of surviving the next 97 years. Morton, though, while accepting many may die, is more optimistic of our chances as a race. While Rees sees catastrophic dangers from future terrorism, Morton sets the possible deaths against the relentless toll of the 20th century's wars: "In some situations, such as the war in Congo, it is possible to kill a million people without most of civilisation -- the urge for inverted commas here is strong -- even noticing, let alone ending." He also thinks humanity's ability to counter new threats will continue and save us or, at least, most of us.

Pixar's offices

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I'm interested in ways companies organise themselves and their environments to encourage innovation, and this recent Salt Lake Tribune article describes the offices of Pixar, the company responsible for Toy Story. One interesting decision is to have a central location for communal resources such as toilets:

Clay Shirky's latest essay contains an interesting "what-if" following the USA FCC's decision to raise ownership limitations on TV networks. TV and radio broadcasting is regulated, has limited outlets and high barriers to entry... how else could they work?

An interesting paper about how Chinese DJs, musicians and music-lovers are using the internet to get hold of the latest music from around the world. Obviously, music-sharing is relatively old-hat to us but it's more interesting in the context of the Chinese authorities' attempts to control the population's access to foreign culture.

Erik Benson is thinking about a way to store ideas generated during brainstorming and how to allow people to rate them according to various criteria (how "cool" it is, how much money it could make, how much time it would take, etc.). He goes on to show some screenshots of the idea database prototype he's working on and briefly discuss what it takes to get something to prototype stage after brainstorming. (Benson's weblog found via Interconnected.)