The future is fast approaching

Caught up in an information culture.


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Weekend Longform Video: Media for Thinking the Unthinkable

Bret Victor creates a camera path from a dataset.

Bret Victor creates a camera path from a dataset.

It’s time for the weekend longform video, something that’s a bit too lengthy or too chewy for a weekday, and really needs a cup of coffee and time to sit down with it over a couple of days.

This week’s is a talk Bret Victor gave in April at the MIT Media Lab on the design of graphical forms of scientific ideas.  It covers a lot of ground, from the mental need for mathematical notation, to the invention of infographics, to improvising physical models of your data, to new interactive graphical communication in scientific papers.  There’s some rich stuff in here for thinking about communicating understanding and intuition, particularly for interface designers, educators, coders, and researchers.

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According to BBC Future, energy use in developed countries is 200-600% higher than the global average, and with several large developing nations and a rising global urban population, tomorrow’s cities will likely need to switch to green energy or face shortages.  Just as well, then, that green energy prices are dropping, bringing them in line with fossil fuel costs.  Thank you, Swanson’s Law – which predicts still further drops as research improvements move into factory production.


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Lauren Wissot’s Five Tips for Doc Filmmakers

Full Frame Documentary Fest photo

Photo by Caroline Culler, Creative Commons BY-SA license

Critic Lauren Wissot’s tips for doc-makers – the full discussion is over at Filmmaker Magazine’s article, I’ll just give the quick run-down and a couple of interesting points she made.

It’s an interesting list, but I’m far more taken with the observation that Danish film schools don’t differentiate between teaching documentary and narrative filmmaking; the same technique is taught for both genres.  That’s probably an embedded assumption throughout much of the European film community, when you consider filmmakers like Wim Wenders, Agnes Varda, and Werner Herzog who go both ways, as it were, and the narrative filmmakers like Bresson and Resnais who started out making documentary.  “Make everything the way you make anything” fascinates me as an approach to film.

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Interviewer: Sometimes what doesn’t work in terms of the translation from script to screen is exactly what you were talking about – an actor’s physiology itself can alter what a film is about.

Murch: Yes, that’s a good point… [in Apocalypse Now] the character of Willard is a re-actor. He doesn’t do anything in the film as written. He is the observer, and you watch the film through his eyes and sensibility. And it was clear to Francis after a month of shooting that [Harvey Keitel] was just not the right chemistry for that role. Marty Sheen has very big eyes, and Harvey Keitel has thin eyes, and so it’s easier its easier to use Marty’s face as the lens through which you see this war than Harvey’s… There’s a lovely aphorism by Bresson which says, “The little gleam of light caught in the actor’s eye gives meaning to his whole character.” [A] little chance spark of light in an actor’s eye tells you what the character is thinking, or makes you think you know what he’s thinking. And the chances are with an actor who has big eyes that you’ll get more of those reflections rather than somebody whose eyes are in deep shadow or whose eyes are thin. It’s a very true observation, but its one that is completely uncommented on.

via Walter Murch on Editing and His Translations of Curzio Malaparte | Filmmaker Magazine. (Emphasis mine.)