Personal atemporal feedback loop

Paul Raven @ 21-02-2011

More fun and games with atemporal media: TwitShift offers a novel service, wherein they hoover up the last year’s worth of output from your Twitter account and repost every tweet on exactly the same day and time as they were posted originally… exactly one year later. [This link via LifeHacker, who aren’t getting their proper attribution links until they provide URLs that are guaranteed to deliver the viewer to the page I actually wanted them to see.]

Atemporal reportage is no new phenomenon, of course; for example, George Orwell has been (re)covering the fall of Europe to the Nazis for some time now, exactly seventy years since it actually happened. But the personal angle of TwitShift is curious, because it highlights a fascination with our own very recent pasts, a growing trend wherein – as the distance we can see into the future with any feeling of confidence decreases – we’re obsessed with building a narrative about how we got to where we are.

There are good and bad sides to this, I think; aphorisms about understanding history and the repetition of mistakes are plentiful, but the problem with looking back over one’s shoulder is that it increases the likelihood of one walking into a lamppost. Given the way my own life was unexpectedly upended by circumstance a year ago, I’m really feeling that tension: it would be interesting to revisit my own experiences with the benefit of hindsight, but I’m not sure how much genuine value I’d get from doing so.

I wonder how much further you could take this idea, though? Multiple atemporal feedback loops at different distances: last week, last month, last year, last decade? Become the sole academic of your own history! Be your own psychological panopticon! The doors of The Hall Of Mirrors are also mirrored! When the road ahead is foggy and strewn with rubble, what better recourse than to remind oneself of earlier successful swerves?

Streetview, art and atemporality

Paul Raven @ 10-11-2010

I’m having a great morning for internet serendipity*, and I thought this particular synchronicitous pairing might float well here at Futurismic. First of all, Joanne “Tomorrow Museum” McNeil has an essay connected to the New Museum “Free” show that riffs on Google Streetview, daguerreotypes and atemporality:

Someday we will press a button to rewind and fast-forward through the history of Google Street View images. We will watch entire neighborhoods created, remade, destroyed, or left unchanged except in the subtlest ways. And in the course of it, we will find flashes of human experiences like the man standing with the shoeshiner in the Boulevard du Temple daguerreotype.


The future was once represented in fantastically romantic ways: white spacesuits, buildings infinite in height, interplanetary travel, alien interactions, an abundance of wealth, and robot servitude. Now the future is represented as something more compressed and accessible. The future is on the Internet, in those screens we glance at intermittently at all waking hours of the day. Our expectation is the “IRL” world will look not much unlike what we see today. It is a future of gradual changes, incorporating familiar aspects with new but not too crazy updated technology. What is in abundance is not wealth but information.

The idea of the future is now a distorted mirror. It is the future of screens. Like the daguerreotype, screens contain memory and reflection, as well as an unknown difference only discerning eyes can see. We are overfutured. We’ve reached the point where the past, present, and future look no different from one another.

The Eternal Electronically-Mediated Now; space and time mashed up into one seamless manipulable digital dimension.

And now see here [via BoingBoing]: Streetview-fed-through-Mapcrunch also helps corrode established visual stereotypes about what different countries look like. A sly rejoinder to those who claim that the web necessarily reinforces clichés: not so! It merely feeds them to those who wish to be fed. Novelty, difference, contrast… it’s all there for the finding for them as wants to look. Don’t like the time or place where you find yourself? Just Google yourself up a new reality; it’s all just raw data until we story it.

[ * A few days a friend on Twitter lamented having to choose between her love of beards and her love of cupcakes; and lo, the internet provideth. Does its pointlessness make it any less beautiful to the right person at the right moment? ]

Time is running out

Paul Raven @ 30-09-2010

There’s never enough time in the day, is there? Well, turns out that there may be a finite limit on the number of days, too… though not a limit so hard that it’s going to impact our expected personal life-spans very much.

The prevalent theory among cosmologists and physics heads is that the universe can and should expand indefinitely, meaning that time is essentially infinite and unending, but an apostate little gang of researchers are now suggesting that there’s a 50% chance that the universe – and hence time – will run out in around 3.7 billion years. Given that our own Sun is supposed to last another 5 billion years, that’s something of a curtailment of scope…

Their argument against an infinite universe is simple. In an infinite universe, anything can happen and will happen, no matter how unlikely it is. When there’s an infinite amount of every possible observation occurring, then it becomes impossible to determine probabilities of events, making the laws of physics similarly impossible to determine.

Of course, this makes an important philosophical assumption. Do we need to be able to understand the laws of physics, rather than just observing that they work? If so, then the Universe has to have an end.

I love a bit of epic-scale philosophical wrangling (if only as a layman watching from the sidelines), but it’s a little early in the day for it. My head hurts; I think I’ll go and have a little lay down. If Greg Egan calls, please take a message and tell him I’ll get back to him as soon as I’m able.

The Butterfly Effect

Sarah Ennals @ 29-11-2009

The Butterfly Effect - Does Not Equal

Does Not Equal is a webcomic by Sarah Ennalscheck out the pre-Futurismic archives, and the strips that have been published here previously.

[ Be sure to check out the Does Not Equal Cafepress store for webcomic merchandise featuring Canadians with geometrically-shaped heads! ]

Time, part 3: The Trolls of Time

Sarah Ennals @ 09-08-2009

The Trolls of Time - Does Not Equal

Does Not Equal is a webcomic by Sarah Ennalscheck out the pre-Futurismic archives, and the strips that have been published here previously.

[ Be sure to check out the Does Not Equal Cafepress store for webcomic merchandise featuring Canadians with geometrically-shaped heads! ]

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