Category Archives: Technology

New ways of Being with Technology: Beggar Robots

Increasingly, the marginalized and materially deprived are not allowed to ask for money in public spaces, and the well-off are remiss to give money to the homeless. However, what if the beggar is a robot?

The Beggar Robot project designed by Pavle & Sašo Sedlacek tests the hypothesis that the “haves” of society will show more sympathy to the “have-nots” if they communicate from a safe distance via a technological interface. Socially excluded people can rent the Beggar Robot for a day and exploit the possibilities of technology to beg for $$$ in the name of the poor.

The Beggar Robot 1.0 was first tested in 2006 in the biggest shopping center in Ljubljana, Slovenia (where they do not allow humans to beg, but excitedly and curiously welcomed the Beggar Robot). Beggar Robot 2.0 is now bringing robotic charity to public spaces in other countries, adapting to the local context and language using open source software. Built using scrap parts recycled from junkyards and second hand stores, the Beggar Robot bears a consciousness for a world dominated by the ideology of endless development. Will we start to see Beggar Robots of the Next Generation on every street corner in the future? What happens when the novelty wears off?

Ingredients for “Žicar/Beggar”
2 – 4 old computer boxes
Accumulator or Computer power supply (both can be included)
1 or 2 CD-rom units for hands
Small TV
Sensor of motion
DVD or WHS player
1.5 A voltage regulator 12/5 V=
Inverter 12V=/220V Hz 100W
Relay 220V Hz
Pulser 0-20 sec. and Relay 12V=
Amplifier for speakers (optional)

More info:

Your Digital Age

If you want to know how old you REALLY are, then consider the media you use instead of the generation you were born into! This idea is from Penelope Trunk (Brazen Careerist) & Margaret Weigel (who has done research on digital media engagement at Harvard & MIT): “”We should not judge people rigidly by the years they were born… if we want to define people by categories, it should be by behaviors because this is something each of us chooses.” 

Add up your points to figure out what generation you’re really a part of:

Do you have your own web page? (1 point)

Have you made a web page for someone else? (2 points)

Do you IM your friends? (1 point)

Do you text your friends? (2 points)

Do you watch videos on YouTube? (1 point)

Do you remix video files from the Internet? (2 points)

Have you paid for and downloaded music from the Internet? (1 point)

Do you know where to download free (illegal) music from the Internet? (2 points)

Do you blog for professional reasons? (1 point)

Do you blog as a way to keep an online diary? (2 points)

Have you visited MySpace at least five times? (1 point)

Do you communicate with friends on Facebook? (2 points)

Do you use email to communicate with your parents? (1 point)

Did you text to communicate with your parents? (2 points)

Do you take photos with your phone? (1 point)

Do you share your photos from your phone with your friends? (2 points)

0-1 point – Baby Boomer

2-6 points – Generation Jones

6- 12 points – Generation X

12 or over – Generation Y

While Penelope & Margaret created this test June 25, 2007, it is already dated. Further, what about Generation Z (otherwise classified as iGen, Gen @ and Generation Now)?

$6500 in 1909, 2009

My car was getting difficult to drive, more specifically it was taking Herculean effort to turn the wheel. Thinking that the power steering fluid might be low, I drive to visit the trusty Mini-Mechanics (Mini is particular about its fluids, you can’t just use the Canadian Tire brand). Six hours and a **whopping** $6500 later…. and my wee car is whistling like new again. Power steering failure was diagnosed by the Mini-doctors, who only operate using brand new parts to repair the offending malfunction, refusing to patch the problem. Both the power steering rack and the power steering motor-pump are just shy of $2000 EACH and there were other apparently rusty parts that needed to be replaced in order to put my car back together. Hip hip hoooooooooray for warranty!! 

A bit of internet research finds that 100 years ago I could have bought 5.5 cars for $6500 or 1000 quarts of milk or 1000+ loaves of bread. However, at an average income of $637 per year (or $53 per month), I would most likely be walking.

Interesting statistics from one century ago: 

  • Total vehicle production in the U.S. is 4,192
  • Top speed for new cars is 8 mph. Gasoline fuel efficiency is 35 mpg
  • Total vehicle registration is 8,000. There are 10 miles of paved roads
  • In 1900, 115 auto deaths – 96 lynchings
  • Theft is a problem, even in the early days, so the Leach Motor Carriage has a removable steering lever – an early anti-theft device
  • Avg. Income (US)………………………………………… $637/year
  • New Home (Median Price)…………………………….. $2,225
  • New Car (Avg. Cost)……………………………………. $1,168
  • Milk (Qt)…………………………………………………… $0.07
  • Bread (Loaf)………………………………………………. $0.04

I don’t have a pic of my Cooper, which is most certainly NOT red (that would clash with my hair 😉 so here is a more interesting Mini XXL Luxury Limo for you to gaze upon, complete with a pool in the rear.



Virtually McLuhan: Theorizing Code and Digital Life

Problematizing interpretation was the lesson I learned last week while listening to Suzanne de Castell’s provocative talk, One Code To Rule Them All:

“When all that has been solid melts into code, how do we rethink and re-make scholarly praxis – theory, research and pedagogy – built from and for a literate universe? Quality becomes quantity, arts and sciences are re-fused, media fluidly converge, and even the ontology of the body, this ‘too solid flesh’ of Hamlet’s distracted imaginings, becomes molten, as virtuality.”

Suzanne is a lively and engaging speaker, calling out to resuscitate the pedagogy of play, and ensorcelling my thoughts with terms like ludic epistemology, digital hermeneutics, design-driven theorizing and the navigation of UNCERTAINTY.

The uncertainty principle abouds...  Suzanne clearly shows how evidence-based research can be disabling, poking big holes in the elaborate fiction of the one truth from one rigid perspective, raising questions like: How does language prevent us from understanding? What does it mean to encode knowledge as a game? How does research serve to keep knowledge at bay? Foucault troubles our desire for certainty, calling this a rancorous will to knowledge that reveals no universal certainties except that all knowledge rests upon injustice as there is no right to truth, not even in the act of knowing. Foucault furthers argues that: “the instinct for knowledge is malicious (something murderous, opposed to the happiness of mankind),” as we are progressively and dangerously enslaved to the violence of reason and the quest for certainty: “knowledge now calls for experimentation on ourselves, calls us to the sacrifice of the subject of knowledge.”  Adding the words of Nietzsche, in The Dawn, “Knowledge has in us been transformed into a passion which shrinks at no sacrifice and at bottom fears nothing but its own extinction.”  Whoa!!!!  It’s time to slow down, to be still and to listen.

A recent conversation with Franc Feng about David Jardine’s Reflections on education, hermeneutics and ambiguity brings forth a research path that lies beyond the neutered quest for certainty, where ambiguity is not a mistake to be corrected or solved through exhaustive methodological effort, rather this path enlivens the possibility of generative inquiry that embraces the original difficulties of life with respectful attentiveness and a radical openness that does not foreclose. For we must preserve our space for listening to and dwelling in the rich interplay of textured human lifeworlds and inconsistent truths: knowlege becomes degenerative when we are so narrowly focussed on uncovering functional certainties. This desperate longing for foreclosure, this deep longing to mine data for fixed polished meanings, this longing for the last word where nothing else needs to be said, for things to be final once and for all… is ultimately (according to Jardine) a longing for unthinking, unknowing and unfulfillment: it is not a longing for life, it is a longing for death.


Education & The Future of Technology

A Must See Presentation: SHIFT HAPPENS!!

    There are 31 billion searches on Google every month. In 2006, this number was 2.7 billion. To whom were these questions addressed B.G. (Before Google)?
    It is estimated that 4 exabytes (4.0 x 10^19) of unique information will be generated this year. This is more than the previous 5000 years.
    The number of text messages sent and received every day exceeds the total population of the planet.
    There are over 200 million registered users on MySpace. If MySpace were a country, it would be the 5th largest in the world.
    It is estimated that a week’s worth of the New York Times contains more information than a person was likely to come across in a lifetime in the 18th century.
    By 2013, a supercomputer will be built that exceeds the computational capabilities of the human brain. Predictions are that by 2049, a $1000 computer will exceed the computational capabilities of the entire human species.