Memex & Facebook: Similar tools. Similar goals. Divergent paths.

I recently quit Facebook. It simply became something I don’t need anymore. It was taking up my time and attention and not providing much value in return. I flipped the switch just after midnight on 1/1/11, but I considered the move for a long time.

One catalyst, however, was the reading and analysis we’ve been doing for our seminar class at DMI. Last semester our focus was on the history of dynamic media–reading mostly philosophers, scientists, and technologists who wrote during the 1950′s, 60′s, and 70′s. They had no idea what was about to happen to the world, but some of them had rather vivid predictions.

One such vision was the Memex, a system of documentation, tracking, and sharing that would enable scientists (having just come out of WWII) to better collaborate on findings. The idea, according to its inventor, Vannevar Bush, was to better mankind by spurring innovation through this improved collaboration. Bush’s Memex (as described in this Atlantic Monthly piece from 1945) was never seen through to mass production (or even much serious prototyping), but the concept that sharing information would better society has stayed consistent. It was what Ted Turner believed in when he started CNN, and it’s what Mark Zuckerberg believes.

But something happened along the way. Bush wrote that

“there will always be plenty of things to compute in the detailed affairs of millions of people doing complicated things.”

But what he was describing was a process of introspection. By the time this charge landed in the laps of guys like Zuckerberg, the process has turned into over-sharing. So where do the two systems (Memex & Facebook) converge? How do they differ?

I wrote a paper for the DMI last October that touches on those questions. It was featured on the DMI website as an abstract. If you’d like to read the whole thing, you can do so here (pdf).

Tory Row 5K

The really awesome and really talented gents over at Second World Design designed this beautiful site for a 5K, sponsored by local favorites Tory Row and Cambridge 1. I was fortunate enough to work on the development which is driven primarily by CSS and jQuery.

Great client, talented designers, simplicity, and running for beer. That’s a dream project right there.


Recently launched a quick WordPress based site for my sister, The Brilliant Writer. She wanted an easy way to post her work as it is published, recognized, etc. The project included some WP template dev with some custom meta fields and such. Simple design and simple execution, combined with an easy to work with client made this a great little project.

She’s way smart and way talented. I may be biased though. So check it out for yourself.

Processing.js Fractals

Been playing with the latest from the processing.js project. I don’t spend that much time in Processing, so I don’t have much to try to port for the JS implementation, but I decided to give a simple fractals script a try. Here’s the result (not going to work in IE…best results in Chrome or Safari)


MITX What’s Next

Representing what’s next in the Massachusetts tech landscape, MITX wanted a way to wish its members a happy new year, while giving them the chance to vote on “What’s Next” for 2011. Theorem Creative designed and built this immersive Flash based application that let users rank predicted significance of a number of industry trends. (more…)

The Perfect Human as Interactive Narrative

We’ve been working in class with the challenge of telling a story via dynamic media. Specifically, we’ve taken on re-framing Jørgen Leth’s 1967 film “The Perfect Human,” infusing it with interactive narrative. (more…)

Mapping Your Political Shape

We had mid-semester reviews this week at MassArt DMI so I figured I’d finally share what I’ve been working on here. The assignment was to map the experience of “You Are Here.” Extremely vague, as usual (though that can be a good thing). My mind has been focused on politics a lot lately (what with the mid-terms and such) and it’s an area I’m considering exploring for my MFA thesis. So I jumped at this first major assignment with that in mind. (more…)

A Heat Wave, an Archeological Ruin, and a Foundation for Marriage

I’ve written a couple posts for The Good Men Project, the latest of which was just posted today. You can find it here.

Reflections On A Site Build, Part 1: Goals

A quick peek at the Wayback Machine will provide some insight into my every-changing goals when it comes to this website. From the time my father presented me with the domain as a gift in 1999, into the Schaffzinino’s Multimedia Kitchen phase, through the years, until now, I’ve always thought of this space as an important indication of where my head is from a career standpoint. So when it came time to reevaluate my goals in terms of what I do on a daily basis, naturally I had to look to my website for a corresponding change. (more…)

For The Win: Social And “The Decade of Gaming”

I never had a Nintendo. Don’t get me wrong – I always wanted one, my parents would never buy one for me (don’t worry, I still love them). I was forced to enjoy a good game of cards, or Monopoly, or Scrabble, or even Clue. But growing up in the late 80′s and early 90′s, all I wanted was to be able to play Mario Brothers 3 without having to visit my friend down the street. I’m not necessarily a gamer, but I’m certainly as competitive as the next guy: just check out my article at The Good Men Project, where I ask what it means to “win” at life. (more…)