Posts tagged “brazil”

Lowrider: Take a little trip and see

cholo
Image from documentary film South American Cholo

The New York Times, in Lowrider Culture Spreads to Brazil and Beyond, offers up yet another astounding example of globalization meets enthusiast-culture.

The spread of this seemingly distant subculture, with Brazilian followers calling themselves “cholos” and cruising around in their low-and-slow automobiles, is raising eyebrows here in South America’s largest city. Some who cannot afford to buy vintage cars and customize them into lowriders simply roam S?£o Paulo’s labyrinthine streets at the helm of bicycles accessorized with high-rise handlebars and banana seats.

Even when they just strut around in oversize khaki shorts and white muscle shirts, they speak to something larger: the global fluidity of conceptions of ethnicity, identity and style, propelling a street culture once so closely tied to the borderlands of the United States and Mexico well beyond its birthplace.

Omni Quickies

Cockroaches equipped as wireless networks [SF Chron] – While this is not “the” technology that Minority Report made famous (that would be the gestural interface), this reminds me strongly of those scurrying mechanical spiders that made their way through the building to chase down Tom Cruise.

On its belly, each roach carries a dime-size circuit board along with a radio, a microphone and a battery. The gear, which adds up to 2 grams, about half the weight of a roach, is still in the prototype phase. As the bugs crawl into crevices and disperse, their microphones pick up sounds, while the radios transmit data via a local-area wireless technology called ZigBee. In the future, the bugs might carry sensors to detect radioactivity or chemicals. Epstein and his team are working to make the electronic circuitry even tinier, so it can be carried by smaller insects such as crickets and water bugs. They’re also testing a metal composite that flexes like a muscle when electricity is applied. Placing the material on a cricket would alter the flutter of its wings and distort the pitch of its chirp. It’s a way to relay information as aural zeroes and ones, like the bits in a computer, which could be decoded by software. Epstein came up with the idea of using insects to form wireless networks while listening to swarms of cicadas in Shanghai, where his wife is from. Submitting a funding proposal “was like writing a science fiction novel,” Epstein said, but resulted in $850,000 from the U.S. Army.

“Thought Experiments” by Roger Ebert [Asimov’s] – Ebert posits an interesting, if recursive, framework – that the science-fiction enthusiasts who networked maniacally using dead-tree technology were precusors (so to speak) of the type of online behaviors that would show up later. Science-fiction consumption helped pave the way for the science-fiction-like use of technology that we are so familiar with today.

For that matter, we were online before there was online. It is perfectly obvious to me that fanzines were web pages before there was a web, and locs were message threads and bulletin boards before there was cyberspace. Someday an academic will write a study proving that the style, tone, and much of the language of the online world developed in a direct linear fashion from science fiction fandom-not to mention the unorthodox incorporation of ersatz letters and numbers in spelling, later to influence the naming of computer companies and programs. Fanzines acted uncannily like mimeographed versions of Usenet groups, forums, message boards, and web pages-even to such universal design strategies as IYGTFUI (If You’ve Got the Font, Use It). Some of the same people segued directly from fandom to online, especially to places like the Well-not surprisingly, since many computer pioneers were also SF fans. Today, fandom survives on the web, where it is no doubt World Wide, and some very slick fanzines have segued into prozines. Are there still analog (paper) publications called fanzines? I haven’t heard that there are. That world has moved on. Today a twelve-year-old kid in Urbana has other ways to connect with alternative ideas, other worlds to explore. No doubt they are as exciting as fandom was for me. God knows what we would have given in 1958 for the web. To look through these old pages of Xero even today, and find Harlan Ellison right about “Psycho” when the world was wrong, and Blish taking on Amis, is to realize that in the mimeographed pages of a fanzine created in the Lupoff living room there existed a rare and wonderful discourse, and it was a privilege to be part of it.

Inmates at Brazil prison pedal for electricity – and their freedom [TODAY] – While this story frames it as a positive, it’s easily reframed as the tip of a dystopian scenario where the world is so destroyed that inmates are enslaved to produce the most basic of necessities. Black Mirror played out a dark version of this, in its second episode.

By pedaling the prison’s stationary bikes, the inmates charge a battery that’s used to power 10 street lamps along the town’s riverside promenade. For every three eight-hour days they spend on the bikes, Silva and the voluntary program’s other participants get one day shaved off their sentences. The municipal police contributed bicycles that had long been lingering in the lost and found, and neighborhood engineers helped transform them into stationary bikes and hooked them up to car batteries, donated by local businesses. Area entrepreneurs also pitched in the converter used to transform the battery’s charge into the 110 volts needed to power 10 of the cast iron street lamps that dot the riverside promenade. Every night just before sunset, a guard drives the charged battery from the prison, on the outskirts of town, to the downtown promenade. He hooks it up to the converter and a few minutes later the 10 street lamps begin to glow a soft white, like full moons suspended over the rushing waters of the river. Another guard comes in the morning to pick up the battery and ferry it back to the prison.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • How commercial software products are developed (or "get some empathy for clients, right here") – I worked on the "Windows Mobile PC User Experience" team. This team was part of Longhorn from a feature standpoint but was organizationally part of the Tablet PC group. To find a common manager to other people I needed to work with required walking 6 or 7 steps up the org chart from me. My team's raison d'etre was: improve the experience for users on laptops, notebooks and ultra-mobile PCs. Noble enough. Of course the Windows Shell team, whose code I needed to muck about in to accomplish my tiny piece of this, had a charter of their own which may or may not have intersected ours.

    My team had a very talented UI designer and my particular feature had a good, headstrong program manager with strong ideas about user experience. We had a Mac [owned personally by a team member] that we looked to as a paragon of clean UI. Of course the Shell team also had some great UI designers and numerous good, headstrong PMs who valued (I can only assume) simplicity and so on.

  • Not quite-credible story about Best Buy differentiating on making technology usable/understandable – Mr. Dunn said he wanted to create an atmosphere where consumers were attracted not just to products but also to services that help them master fast-changing technology and configure and connect devices.

    One of Best Buy’s main competitive strategies has been services, something it has done better in the past than any national electronics retailer. That translates into selling product warranties, or help with installing a home theater or configuring a computer.
    Mr. Dunn said a chief example of the kind of thing Best Buy wants to be known for is a service it calls Walk Out Working that it began introducing in May 2007. The service, which is free, helps consumers configure new mobile phones so that when they leave the store they are able to use features like music playback and Web surfing.

    …He argues that [other retailers] cannot compete with Best Buy when it comes to offering individual service, explaining technology to customers and charging to help them adapt to it.

  • Jobless Benefits Web Site Adds Insult to Injury – Jobless people seeking information about their benefits on the Brazilian Labor Ministry's Web were forced to type in passwords such as "bum" and "shameless." A private company that created the site's security system is blamed; its contract with the ministry wasn't being renewed, which may have prompted the pranks.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • The Ruins of Fordlândia – Henry Ford's miniature America in the jungle attracted a slew of workers. Local laborers were offered a wage of thirty-seven cents a day to work on the fields of Fordlândia, which was about double the normal rate for that line of work. But Ford's effort to transplant America– what he called "the healthy lifestyle"– was not limited to American buildings, but also included mandatory "American" lifestyle and values. The plantation's cafeterias were self-serve, which was not the local custom, and they provided only American fare such as hamburgers. Workers had to live in American-style houses, and they were each assigned a number which they had to wear on a badge– the cost of which was deducted from their first paycheck. Brazilian laborers were also required to attend squeaky-clean American festivities on weekends, such as poetry readings, square-dancing, and English-language sing-alongs.
  • Fordlandia: The Failure Of Ford's Jungle Utopia – Henry Ford tries to build a Midwestern American company town in Amazonian Brazil – for the rubber, even though you can't grow plantation rubber in the Amazon. Absolute epic failure results: they were unprepared both industrially and culturally. "But the more it failed, the more Ford justified the project in idealistic terms. "It increasingly was justified as a work of civilization, or as a sociological experiment," Grandin says. One newspaper article even reported that Ford's intent wasn't just to cultivate rubber, but to cultivate workers and human beings."
  • Report Non-Humans – Marketing for upcoming sci-fi flick District 9. See my interactions column "Interacting with Advertising" for more discussion on the "tricks" of hiding advertising in the aesthetics of real informational signage. Is it okay here because we're in on the joke?

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