Archives: Bruce Sterling

My internet friend Allana and I are live blogging a reading of The Difference Engine by William Gibson and Bruce Sterling.

I started by smelling my copy of the book, which is something Allana insists is not advisable if you get your books from the library. My book came from the internet, through the mail. So I smelled it.

We’re reading it now, and posting our observations, and interesting discoveries. There is cool historical fact and cooler fictional machinery that we’re finding people have actually built versions of in the real world.

Click over and read along with us through the month of April!

Watching Inglourious Basterds this weekend, I was afterward struck by how casually European that film was. Half of it was spoken in German and French with subtitles, and there were multiple points at which humor and or plot development depended on the regional authenticity of the characters’ accents. The film is something like a WWII Western, but in the Sergio Leone, not the John Ford sense. My impression was that the bulk of it’s cinematic nods were to European films or film traditions.

And this is a major studio Hollywood release opening wide across the US, and starring Brad effing Pitt.

Then I watched this Bruce Sterling Layar Keynote linked to from Warren Ellis’ blog recently, in which Mr. Sterling, observing the list of top ten cities in which Augmented Reality technology is being R&Ded, marvels:

Google Trend “Augmented Reality”; where are they interested, you might ask? Seoul! Number one, Seoul South Korea. Number two, Singapore. Number three, Munich. Number four, Kuala Lumpur. Kuala Lumpur! Number five, Auckland. Auckland! Taipei, Amsterdam, Delhi, Lisbon. San Francisco, last. That’s Silicon Valley.

If you’ve got about 50 minutes time, watch or listen to the whole thing:

Video: Bruce Sterling’s Keynote – At the Dawn of the Augmented Reality Industry from Maarten Lens-FitzGerald on Vimeo.

Cultural gravity precesses around the globe over time. For a while post WWII it settled under the United States and innovation in culture and engineering all seemed to follow threads that took them through Manhattan, Detroit, San Francisco and Los Angeles.

I’m guessing that was largely due to the relatively open welcome the US maintained to the world’s intellectuals and creatives in those post war years. Whole swaths of brainpower from the countries swallowed by Fascism at that time transplanted to the US. During the cold war, if you were smart or creative behind the Iron Curtain and wanted out, and could get out, the US would take you in.

Those days are gone, and Europe, written off by American Nationalists as moribund, has made itself a more attractive environment for global creatives and is seeing the gravity of invention returning.

In design, green tech, augmented reality, mobile communications – basically in every cornerstone of tomorrow – it is Europe that is moving forward and the US that is moribund.

Personally, I hope the US can shake itself out of the grumpy sulk it currently persists in.

But I have to say it’s very nice to see the names of cities other than San Francisco linked to next generation web development – and to hear languages other than English spoken casually in mainstream American films.