July 02, 2011
Cognitive rules of distance

A slight observation: I'm remote controlling my home server (a Mac Mini) via SSH and also via VNC when needed. I'm having unreasonable amounts of fun generating speech on the remote machine with text-to-speech. Some observations set in:

  • My knowledge of what's going on adds magic. The machine has a CPU, it's a brain. Making brains do things is fun. Controlling loudspeakers in another room does not produce the same effect at all, even if the sensory result is the same

  • The bandwith of the control interface is important - or maybe it's the sensory reality of it. I find that SSH'ing to the machine to control text-to-speech feels like remote magic, whereas VNC'ing to it and using a console on the desktop remotely just feels like watching television

It's a strange mix of world model cues and sensory cues in interplay. For some reason, the command line with remote access feels like action-at-a-distance and only that. I'm reading books on information theory currently, so an information theoretical model comes easily to mind. In communications you always have the classic

Sender <-> (channel) <-> Receiver
What's at play here is the complexity of the receiver and the bandwidth of the channel. The fun comes from the asymmetry of the channel and the receiver. If the channel is simple, but the receiver complex, the ability to control feels like magic. If this imbalance is destroyed, by simplifying the receiver - just speakers - or adding bandwidth to the channel - VNC - the magic goes away.

Posted by Claus at July 02, 2011 11:37 AM | TrackBack (0)
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