Both of these videos are technically and artistically amazing.

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Einstein’s Camera 

Download 'My Neighbour Totoro VR – Bus Stop Scene' Oculus Rift (video)

A friend linked me to this video of a Oculus Rift scene modeled on a scene from My Neighbor Totoro, with a comment that this might be of interest to me (i’ve got a rather large Totoro decal adhered to my notebook).

I suspect my immediate dread surprised him. There are general problems with attempting to recreate 2d experiences into 3d experiences, and ones which i had encountered before in realMyst, a recreation of the origial Myst using the Quake engine.

Even for stories like Myst which are told in the 2nd person with an explicit audience member, there are so many editorial choices that are made in setting a scene, choosing camera angles, the animations between scenes, and in Myst’s case, the desolate and static sense of abandoned worlds that simply being able to wander freely around totally negates.

I feel even more strongly about retelling parts of Totoro in VR. Even if one copies all of the visible details from the film into three dimensions, the source material is sparse enough that the modelers will have to impose their own editorial judgement in how the scene is modeled.

Moreover, the story of Totoro is about the relationships of two young girls and the rest of the world, which happens to include this gigantic mystical being who has no problem interacting with little girls. Replacing those little girls with an anonymous and formless user radically changes the emotional context and content of the scene.

In the end it just ends up mainly being sad to see. Attempting to things that were never designed to be translated into 3d into a VR experience tears at the wonder/magic, and demonstrates pretty succinctly how technical details can be preserved without preserving the relationships that are necessary to communicate what something feels like.

The image that stuck in my head this week. (via Segregation Now: The Resegregation of America’s Schools - ProPublica)

The image that stuck in my head this week. (via Segregation Now: The Resegregation of America’s Schools - ProPublica)

Snowflakes and snow crystals, a set by ChaoticMind75 on Flickr.An impressive range of shapes and symmetries.
Ornate patternDon Komarechka. Sky Crystals: Unraveling the Mysteries of Snowflakes (book cover)Hex appealRelief

Snowflakes and snow crystals, a set by ChaoticMind75 on Flickr.

An impressive range of shapes and symmetries.
The fashion of cynicism in Journalism

NYU journalism professor and Pandodaily editor Adam Penenberg has written a piece crowing over the demise of Patch and hyperlocal news as an emblem of faddism in journalism, which he belabors all the way to decrying data journalism which to his mind is a meme like any other, on par with other irrelevancies which must be “co-opted into something that looks a lot like traditional journalism”.

The piece is ironically headed with a photograph of Edward R. Murrow, famed television journalist, who was in his time, pioneering new tools in a new medium. “Ahah!” my straw-man of Penenberg cries, “but he was simply translating the ethics and skills of journalism into this new medium!”

Well, yes that’s exactly the point. Your tools, your ethics, and your philosophy are all separate parts of how and why you do your job.

Likewise, if you are considering what is and isn’t a fad, you should probably do it by reference to your tools, your ethics, and your philosophy. It’s easy and convenient to claim that the ethics and philosophy of journalism are eternal, therefore perfect, and unneeding of change. But to claim that the tools of journalism have remained constant through history is lie on par with the bankrupt mantra that housing prices will always rise, forever.

As much as journalism professors would like to continue to claim that what they teach is as relevant today as it ever was, that’s only partially true. The ethics, the philosophy, many of the human skills, all remain the same, but the world and the trade that journalists operate in have changed.

Businesses, governments, academics, all now justify themselves in the language of data. Whether it’s Enron lying about their earnings, the NSA talking about how many hops in a network they’ve decided they’re allowed to traverse, Rogoff & Reinhart’s damning excel error which lead them to claim Debt to GDP ratios would tank economies, or how CPI and chained CPI differ and why that matters, the rest of the world talks with, in and about data, and they use computers to do it.

And if you can’t do that too, well, good luck to you.

Work hard & call out bullshit