by phil on Tuesday Jan 13, 2004 5:24 PM
blog as self

I was told that if I abandon my site for a few days, it will get hungry and I'll have to feed it.

I once committed the Freudian slip by referring to "my site" as "myself"

I want to understand the question, "what does it mean to be alive." Then I want to see to what extent my site is "alive." And finally, I want to figure out how to add more life to it.

So, scientifically, the general definition for a living object is that which reproduces and responds to its environment.

My site reproduces in some regards by duplicating itself into your caches, and also it responds to its environment to some degree. If events occur, they well be reacted to in my entries. But my blog doesn't really have an environment except for your browser window, your mouse cursor, and the bucket of hard drive space I leave for it.

But the scientific definition is not exactly interesting... our cavemen ancestors weren't scientists, so how did they get the sensation that a rock was different than a copperhead snake?

What is implied by the verb, "live" ? Does it mean to merely exist? Rocks exist. What about to move? The sun moves. And impression wise, the sun is more alive than a rock. And cavemen even thought the sun was a living god. So in a sense, something that is animated has life.

Animation? My site has animation in the sense that a tree has animation. Upon repeated viewings you notice change. Change over time, dynamism, animation.

Back to our friend the sun. Unfortunately, the sun's movements are too cyclical and patterned for its animation to have a sense of self-drive.

So in addition to animation, there has to be rich information in its animation. Like a mixture of chaos and patterns. So we're at the level of a sea anemone or a jellyfish. These are animated, and usually they are as boring as the sun, only pulsating through the sea, but they will switch directions every now and then and wiggle. Wiggling's important.

My site too, is animated in a non-patterned way. And in many ways, is like a sea anemone.

So you see where this is going.

There are other things that mark a sense of life-force. Growth, communication, interference with environment, relevance, moldability. It's not often you see reproduction in nature, but if an object were to spit out a new object that had life features itself, then the parent would have a greater vividness. So, while my site does duplicate itself into your caches and I can make copies of it, it doesn't make copies that are dynamic. And the cache thing doesn't quite work well. That's equivalent to saying that memories are copies of an object, and therefore all objects reproduce. (well, some would consider the world all aglow with life)

so... ah-hah, LIFE-like should be a big aesthetic category. To what extent do our new media art forms exhibit life?

The lifeness of something seems to be important in this exhibit of a.i. flowers.

How can I make my site more life-like? Some obvious ways are to put in animation or interactivity. But if I could have it animate in an unpatterned way, or react more fluidly to the environment that YOU place on it, the more life like it could seem. Plus, there is a difference between a game and a life. You can build a contraption that reacts to your touchs, but if its deterministic and doesn't seem to have its own will, then it's dead as sand.

Another thing I could do is have it give the appearance of infecting servers with copies of itself. Also, I could allow users to modify my site in meaningful ways. Wiki's are great living examples of this.

Another idea is multimedia blogging. Some people have blogs that are distinct from text. Some people have audioblogs, or imageblogs. But has anybody heard of a code blog. A code blog would be a setup wherein the author uses programming language to express himself. This could allow for dynamic behavior. You would need a porous surface for your code, but I think its possible... something I may experiment with in the future.

It'd be interesting for a site designer to create a convincing illusion of life.

So in summary... some things are more alive than others based on their appearances. That guy drooling next to you who wears the same thing every day and doesn't respond to anything but beer is, by aesthetic definitons, dead. So grim, I know.

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