Thursday, July 15th, 2010...09:00


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10 years ago, I worked for a company where I worked very closely with designers to create websites that typically had a lot of playful movement/interaction/motion graphics. While a lot of the coding dealing with motion attempted to mimic real-world physics and trigonometry e.g. friction and trajectories, in a number of instances I ended up coding variations of Random Walks or Brownian Motion instead to produce a more unpredictable motion.

Before that, while in college, I created a simple piece of netart in an attempt to explore the fundamental feature of the Internet i.e. connectedness. One of the structures layered on top of the Internet is the World Wide Web, the greatest feature of which is the interconnectedness of information via [hyper]linkes. Anyone with access has the ability to take a seemingly endless walk through information e.g. one might start on a page about a current event in California and 10 minutes later be on a page about 19th century knitting in Finland, having read about the corn crop in Nebraska, the ratio of humans to sheep in New Zealand and the resurgence of sweaters in Europe among other things along the way.

This morning, on the bus I went for a what I like to call a WikiWalk, which typically starts as search for a particular piece of information on Wikipedia and leads to an unintended reading of other Wikipedia articles, each of which are less related to the original topic and continually remind me of how little I know. My wife and I have been watching a series called Leverage and one of the characters is referred to as a grifter (the others are a hacker, hitter and thief). The characters repeatedly refer to themselves collectively as thieves, putting on cons, so I was curious as to the relation between the terms grifter, thief and con artist. This lead me to the realization that while I knew the term “con” was synonymous with scam, I did not know it’s origin or that it was short for confidence trick/game.

From that page, I checked out George C Parker, a 19th century con artist who sold people NYC landmarks such as the Statue of Liberty and the Brooklyn Bridge (giving rise to the saying “and if you believe that, I have a bridge to sell you”, again something I was familiar with but did not know the origin). That same page also linked to Eduardo de Valfierno who supposedly orchestrated the theft of the Mona Lisa in 1911. I wasn’t so much interested in Eduardo as I was about what Wikipedia had to say about the Mona Lisa. I hadn’t realized Leonardo Da Vinci worked on it over the course of 15 years or that Pablo Picasso was a suspect in its theft. My final stop on this WikiWalk took me to a parody of the Mona Lisa, L.H.O.O.Q which I will have to learn to pronounce in French before my next trip to France.

Another thing I was reminded of during this WikiWalk was how many times my brain stores information in a directed graph. Another con artist listed was Frank Abagnale, a name which I recognized as the check forger whom the movie, Catch Me If You Can, was based on. However, if you had asked me who the check forger was in that movie, I never would have been able to come up with Frank Abagnale, but that’s a topic for another time.

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