We are here — drawing a map of our collaborative thought space

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In december 2012, I participated in the Lorentz Workshop Innovation at the Verge: Computational Models of Physical/Virtual Space Interaction . On the last day of the workshop, the organizers asked me to write a kind of summary of my personal experiences and insights at the workshop. In an attempt to create a virtual continuation of the workshop (which didn’t really take off and remained too much behind closed curtains, in my opinion), I wrote the following blog post, meant as the first in a series by all participants:

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Multiplatform mobile web development

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Recently I built a multi platform (iOS/Android/BlackBerry) mobile web application using Senscha Touch for the VU University Library. Here is a quick demo of the (almost complete) final result:

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Sencha Touch proved to be a very powerful and reliable technology.

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Frameworks for (multi platform) mobile application development

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In the next four months, I will be developing mobile applications with and for UBVU (the university library of the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam). The goal is to provide a mobile entry point to the library’s catalogues, make content and information about the library (opening hours, contact information, maps) available on the go, provide quick and easy access to several library services (reservations, and to lay the groundwork for possible future services using innovative technologies such as QR codes, Near Field Communication (NFC) and augmented reality.

The mobile world is a fragmented world. Because we want to support as many users as possible we decided to build three versions of the application: an iOS version, an Android version and a mobile website to support other platforms. The goal is to make these versions almost identical to each other, although target platform differences will have to be respected. It is important to note that while iOS and Android may have relatively large user bases, the number of people potentially using the web version is probably bigger.

Many development frameworks are available to facilitate (multi-platform) mobile development. In order to choose the development framework that is most suitable for this project, I have investigated several of these development frameworks. For each platform, I indicate what it does, as well as its advantages and disadvantages.

Note: these frameworks are free, open and/or open source.

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Update UitgeverijOlthof.nl

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I’ve spent a few hours updating my company’s website www.uitgeverijolthof.nl using Adobe’s new Edge beta.

I have to say I do like Edge, although it has some performane and productivity problems (changing properties on a large number of similar items is both slow and cumbersome). Still, HTML5/Edge has a long way to go before it will be able to really compete with Flash/ActionScript’s featureset and ease of development.

Check out the new website: www.uitgeverijolthof.nl

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A phenomenology of game design

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Computer game design is an innovative sub discipline of the field of multimedia. In some sense computer games are the newest type of media, succeeding film and television. While games are becoming more and more realistic, reality becomes more and more like gaming. Games can be considered art, in the sense that they reflect and represent the human condition.
Learning and playing have always been intrinsically related, as all children and young animals learn things by playing. It is only logical that learning and playing are moving into the digital age, like many other parts of human life. As this is not a text about learning, we won’t go into pedagogical discussions about what constitutes true learning, but at least a development can be identified towards more creative types of education.
Creative learning transcends the classical educational distinction between talent and technique, where a talent is an innate mastery of a certain skill and a technique the execution of a set of rules that can be learned from a teacher. Instead of choosing one of these classical sides, creative learning focuses on placing student users in educational situations, where students have to solve a certain problem with a certain toolset. As a result, students gain experience, and improve themselves. In (serious) games, experiences are structured similarly.

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Android Development

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The Android operating system is a great new mobile operating system from Google.
We wanted to test this platform out, so we decided to develop an array of small test applications.
Still under heavy development by Google, and new version of the OS continue to be released.
For the applications including source and documentation see www.niftysystems.nl/android.

Update (2 sept 2010):
Thanks to great work by Peter, the Xbox Live Stats Widget now has a lot more functionality and uses the official Xbox Community Developer Program information feed. The widget was already downloaded 16700 times!
Recently I created a few other GUI test applications. We are also looking at possibilities to create tablet applications, for example for the upcoming Notion Ink Adam and the iPad.

Update (29 dec 2010):
The Xbox Live Stats Widget has now been downloaded over 55000 times! Thanks everyone!

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Multimedia @ VU

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To summarize and sample some work by students at the multimedia courses at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, I created a collage video:

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Multitouch Audio: NiftySynth

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Because we wanted (a) wanted to do something with multi touch technologies, and (b) wanted to do something with sound manipulation, we decided to create our own multi touch instrument.
This resulted in NiftySynth, a multi touch synthesizer application built in ActionScript3 with a few small support applications to support the multi touch hardware.

For more information see NiftySystems.nl

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Ebooks should be books

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Now that the software and hardware of ebook reader devices is becoming more mature, ebooks really have the potential to take over the publishing industry. In this literature study I first present an overview of the advantages and disadvantages of ePublishing. Next, after I have discussed the key aspects of the ‘reading activity’ as distinct from other information activities, I will describe how ebook reader devices could support this activity in different usage settings (educational, office, entertainment). I conclude with a discussion of the competition between eBook readers and tablets. In the appendix a review of the current state of development, including a technical dissection of the ePub format and an evaluation of the eReader devices that are currently on the market, can be found. Finally I include an annotated bibliography of important articles, as well as a regular bibliography of all sources used.

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PICNIC 2009 hot 100

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Every year, the PICNIC Academy organizes the hot100 program for (multi)media talents, and this year I was one of them. The event was a very pleasant and fun experience, during which I met a lot of interesting people. During a workshop, we tried to come up with innovative solutions for waste recycling and sustainable development processes.
The booklet about the hot 100 participants can be found here.

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