How Louis Daguerre invented Salvador Dali

I woke up this morning to see that Google had produced a front page “Doodle” in honor of Louis Daguerre’s 224th birthday. While I admit to being puzzled as to the significance of his 224th birthday (why not wait for 225?), nonetheless it piqued my interest. As some readers may know, through the 80’s and 90’s I was privileged to work as a commercial photographer for many of the world’s leading high tech companies. What some may find surprising is that my interest in photography began largely as a result of a fascination with old photographs and the window they provided into a very different world.

Daguerre’s creation changed the way mankind saw the planet… not just through the introduction of the photograph, but also by changing the scope of the visual arts.

Introduced in 1839, the Daguerreotype photo process started a 20 year sequence of events that resulted in more and more simple photographic processes, and ultimately in the art of Picasso. Not bad for a chemical process that yields a fragile image that can only be viewed at an angle.

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The Medium is the Message

As a teenager, I first encountered the writings of Marshal McLuhan. His books took me on an adventure…, imagining that society was formed by its mediums of expression. People didn’t use a typewriter, they were typed. Like Joyce in Ulysses, he invented a new language to address the phenomena. Some of his language is mainstream today, although no one seems to remember where “The Global Village”, and “information surfing” came from.

McLuhan was a Canadian Professor of English Literature and communications theorist whose ideas about media and communication were innovative and controversial. A core premise was that our technology was both means and molder of communication, and accordingly shaped our culture. The content of a medium is less important that the medium itself. It is the medium that shapes us. Geronimo may have “heard” his world…, but literate man “saw” the world because typography shaped his world perception and cognition. Henry Ford could only exist because of Gutenberg.

In 1962, McLuhan wrote that “The next medium, whatever it is – it may be the extension of consciousness – will include television as its content, not as its environment, and will transform television into an art form. A computer as a research and communication instrument could enhance retrieval, obsolesce mass library organization, retrieve the individual’s encyclopedic function and flip into a private line to speedily tailored data of a saleable kind”. Sounds a little bit like the world web doesn’t it?

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First War of the Information Age

While re-organizing some notes for my upcoming book, I chanced upon this piece…  written in early 2001 for a speech. Enjoy…
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The First War of the Information Age

Strangely, the phrase “information age” entered the vernacular with very little assessment of what was meant or implied by the term. We understand clearly that the “Iron Age” and the “Bronze Age” have a meaning beyond being colourful names for historic periods.
Bronze was an early metal alloy that could be worked and shaped after heating to 2000’ F. The ability to work bronze meant that a civilization possessed the ability to create knives, swords, utensils of more usefulness than could be produced by a society without the ability to work the metal.

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April 11 – Mark the Date

An important date in the history of the World Web has come and gone and almost no one noticed. How did it get missed?

On February 24th, Google rolled out the Panda update. Amidst great howls of pain and gnashing of teeth, a significant number of websites learned the hard way that having a good website mattered. The Panda update was designed to identify “thin” content…, content that may be “unique”, but really doesn’t add very much to the human experience. I like to call this content the “plastic water bottles” of the Internet. It takes up space, it’s useless, and it won’t go away.

The other thing Panda did was to incorporate an algorithm based on human factors. The algorithm attempted to quantify the results of questioning Internet users about such things as:

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