Weather Forecasts

Synoptic Weather ChartIs there any greater emblem of the limits of technology than the weather forecast? Despite an astronomical increase in available resources – both theoretical and computational – the forecast is still frequently mistaken about what is about to happen. Indeed, internet weather allows you to see how swiftly predictions are supplanted by new attempts in the endless and thankless task of meteorological prognostication.

But when it comes to the cybervirtue of weather forecasts, the question isn't whether predictions are right or wrong, but whether our technological methods for anticipating rain and storm encourage any good qualities in us. I suppose it might be claimed that the daily forecast encourages prudence; we check to see if our plans might be scuppered by inclement weather, for instance – I am caught out by cold snaps far less often now that it is my daily ritual to load the Met Office app before getting dressed. I certainly feel that as a weather forecast cyborg I am better prepared.

There is a flipside to this, though: the eroding of our skills in reading the weather. When you do not have the cyberforecast to rely on, you develop powers of observation and intuition based upon what you see in the sky and feel on the wind. Although I know no rigorous research into this, anecdotal evidence abounds of people who developed uncanny skill at reading the skies and the seasons, particularly in contexts where the idea of checking a forecast is entirely alien.

Even if this were to prove illusory, there is another sense in which our weather skills are being weakened. In the 1970s and 1980s when I was growing up, newspapers and TV news shows presented forecasts in a code of symbols that allowed you to understand what was happening with the intersecting warm and cold fronts. It required more skill to read these synoptic forecasts than the icons and numbers we encounter now – but that greater proficiency also meant a deeper understanding of the weather patterns. You could tell, for instance, that it was a question of when and not if it would rain when the conditions were such. In this regard, I can level an accusation not at the meteorologists, who have continued to refine their craft, but the remorseless tendency to dumb down our cultural communications such that no-one need ever think again.

The moment technology giants realised that greater reach came hand in hand with less challenging information, we turned a corner in how we shared our knowledge of the world. Shared practices, skills of understanding, became less important than reaching down to the lowest common denominator. The meteorological consequences of this are a loss of skill at reading the atmospheric conditions. The wider impact of this increased dependence and reduced competence is something we shall have to weather together.

A Hundred Cyborgs, #47


Radio DJ

Radio DJ BoothDespite the decreasing importance of radio waves to their job, the radio DJ remains emblematic of the contemporary cyborg. This odd claims rests on the recognition that every radio DJ exists only through their relationship with technology, that anyone who encounters their work does so through technological means, and that behind and below their work lies a vast network of cyborgs dominated by corporate interests yet still in certain places resistant to that inevitability.

To ask about the cybervirtue of the radio DJ is not to ask whether DJs are virtuous people but to ask ourselves whether our engagement with these cyborgs is virtuous or can encourage the good in us. And the brutal truth of this is that I do not know what to think. I know I enjoy listening to the music championed by Radio 6 Music, and to the eclectic selections of Justin Robertson's Temple of Wonders on Soho Radio... But is my entertainment enough? I am increasingly sceptical of the pervasive logic that makes entertainment value our unchallenged core value, and nervous about jumping to the valorisations of the term 'art' as a defence, even though I do not doubt music's credentials in this regard, and rather suspect even the act of DJing might in itself qualify as an artform.

Perhaps I stumble around the way the radio DJ presents themselves as a distant friend. "A little bit of me, a little bit of you" is how one Radio 6 presenter advertises her show. But there is nothing of me there at all, except my time: the music chosen is almost all her, the monologue comes from one source. Less than 1% of listeners carve out even a mere minute of time in any given show. The disproportion of DJ to listener is evident... we buy into a relationship offered as reciprocal that is decidedly and necessarily one-sided. Even thinking about how this staves off the epidemic of loneliness for the lovelorn-many does not assuage my concerns.

Yet even if the technological construct we call the radio DJ were not cybervirtuous, even if no part of my participation with their work encouraged anything good from me, I would still defend the virtue, in its old fashioned sense, of those who advocate for musicians, whose work would be untenable without the acts of discovery and support that DJs on Radio 6 and other stations provide. If I quietly sneer at those presenters on commercial radio who exist almost solely to line the purses of ultra-rich recording industry nobility, it does not dint my admiration for those engaging on a daily basis with the cyborg artform par excellence: music. The DJ is not especially cybervirtuous for me, the listener. Yet in so many cases they might still be a site of cybervirtue all the same.

A Hundred Cyborgs, #46


100Cyborgs: 31-40

The Virtuous Cyborg - Cut-outWhat are the behavioural effects of technological networks? What happens if we stop thinking about technology as shiny machines and start looking at other, subtler tools? Can we design technology to have better effects upon humans? These and other questions are what this blog project, A Hundred Cyborgs, are all about. Here are the ten posts from 31 to 40:

    31. Cinema
    32. Free Parking
    33. Venture Capital Funds
    34. The Black Library (filesharing)
    35. Techno
    36. Suits
    37. President of the United States
    38. Halloween
    39. Spaceships
    40. Earpieces 

There's a lot of line blurring pieces in here, particularly #36 Suits, #37 President of the United States, #38 Halloween, and #39 SpaceshipsIf you only read one of these, #36 Suits is perhaps the most unusual application of the term 'cyborg' you're likely to encounter. The remaining posts are more straightforward concepts of cyborg existence, and I am particularly fond of #35 Techno, which makes a positive case for our relationship with technology. 

I am always interested in discussion, so feel free to raise comments either here (ideal for longer debates) or on Twitter (perfect for quick questions). And if you’ve enjoyed any of these pieces, please buy a copy of The Virtuous Cyborg and support my research into cybervirtue!

New Cyborgs coming next week!


Tropico 6 Arrives to Glowing Reviews

Tropico 6 Header

One of the projects International Hobo has been working on over the last two years is Tropico 6, which has now shipped to rave reviews. Having worked on the narrative design and scripts for this game, we were particularly pleased by this review on Windows Central:

My favorite thing, though, is the writing.The quips of both average citizens and named characters in your nation poke fun at dictatorship stereotypes, and they're written and voice-acted well enough that they always got a laugh out of me. My personal favorite was when my own El Presidente character lamented on his desire to arrest someone, "just to see the look on their face."

It's truly wonderful to see this game finally out and receiving the praise it deserves, and although working on it has been challenging, it has also been highly rewarding. We wish Limbic and Kalypso every success with this wonderful game.

Cross-posted from ihobo.com.


Silk Kickstarter Fully Funded!

Silk Fully Funded

After an incredible final day of the Kickstarter, I'm proud to report that Silk is fully funded! It's a huge step forward for the project and we're very excited to be bringing the game to all our wonderful backers, and all the other players who are going to discover the game in the future. Our infinite thanks to everyone who supported us over the last month, and watch this space for further updates as we continue development of the game.