“When it started almost 15 years ago, [Google Books] … seemed impossibly ambitious,” writes Scott Rosenberg. “An upstart tech company that had just tamed and organized the vast informational jungle of the web would now extend the reach of its search box into the offline world.” But these days, Google’s moonshot has turned into a “mundane reality.” How?
First Poor Yorick Entertainment emerged as a “visual exploration of the filmography of James O. Incandenza and the world of David Foster Wallace‘s Infinite Jest.” Then, as The New York Times reports, “Parks and Recreation” co-creator Michael Schur paired up with The Decembrists to direct a music video inspired by the book. (You can watch the video on YouTube.) Now, thanks to this Radiolab podcast (and an alley-oop from @nateharris), another one of the novel’s scenes is brought to life.
On the New Yorker’s Elements blog, our own Mark O’Connell writes about Cloak, a new app which lets you avoid people you don’t want to bump into by accident. Despite the fact that Mark can see himself using the app, he finds it “ultimately troubling,” in large part because it strikes him as “such a lonely thing to have achieved through technological control of our social environments.” (Speaking of apps, have you read Mark’s epic e-book?)
Sam Jordison asks us how Heller’s Catch-22 became a bestseller. “Yossarian’s kept a lasting grip on our collective psyche; he’s the ultimate moral rebel. To object to him would be to put yourself on the side of stuffed shirts, those who kill for profit and in the name of absurd patriotism.”
Writing in the London Review of Books (Reg. Req.), Evgeny Morozov clued me onto how “scientists at UCLA – with funding from the Chinese government – have built an ‘image to text’ system that automatically produces text summaries of what is taking place in captured video.” A similar technology was also developed by NYU student Matt Richardson, whose “descriptive camera” can “automatically describe the scene in a camera’s viewfinder, which, when the image was uploaded, would make it easier to find.” Meanwhile one Twitter is describing typical Instagram shots in 140 characters or fewer.