Sunday, March 27, 2011

Elizabeth Taylor

She is said "the last star" in the world. Engaged the naturally born beauty and the afterward developed wisdom, Elizabeth Taylor owned nearly everything a woman (or even any human being) might dream. But still she passed away in the last week. What left behind her are plenty; what brought away with her were little. So, if even a star like Elizabeth Taylor, who lived and enjoyed whatever she wanted during her life, left the world like this, what does it mean as being alive?

Matthew (16:26)

What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?

In Chinese Translation (马太福音 16)

26 人若赚得全世界,赔上自己的生命,有什么益处呢?人还能拿什么换生命呢?

Why do we live?

If there is no afterlife, why don't we simply enjoy this life unlimited? Where does morality come? Why are we taught to be generous and self-sacrifice? All of them simple make no sense at all if we have only one life and it is done afterward.

And therefore it says, "Every man for himself, Heaven and Earth will destroy".

To the other, who believe afterlife, what are you doing now for your future?

May Elizabeth slept in peace.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Natural Disasters

A massive 9.0 magnitude earthquake hit the Pacific Ocean nearby Northeastern Japan at around 2:46 pm on March 11 (JST) causing various damages in Japan. Sincerely I wish the Japanese people be recovered from this natural disaster soon.

The earthquake, the tsunami, and the nuclear threat following show us how vulnerable humans are when facing the natural disasters. The disaster makes us think again an old question---what do the natural disasters mean to the rest of us? We ought to help the Japanese people now. At the same time, however, ourselves must also learn from the tragedy. To the end, the natural disasters do not distinguish who live in Japan from who live in anywhere else in the world.

Luke (13:4-5)

Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.

In Chinese Translation(路加福音 13)

4 从前西罗亚楼倒塌了,压死十八个人;你们以为那些人比一切住在耶路撒冷的人更有罪么?
5 我告诉你们,不是的!你们若不悔改,都要如此灭亡!

The disaster occurred in Japan is a disaster of mankind. What Japanese are suffering is a suffering to all of us. The inspiration behind the disaster is a revelation to all human beings. Although we may belong to different races and follow different cultures, although in history or at present between us there may be many rivalries and the conflicts of interest, we are on earth the same type of being fragile, being helpless, being imperfect, and suffering the daily painfulness. Indistinguishably God has given us sunlight and air, sea and land, water and food. All of these are to make us realize that we are ultimately one family under the same roof. Therefore, we ought to go to help the brothers and sisters in Japan. This is the right thing we must do.

If there is God, one may question, how could the merciful allow such a catastrophic event happen? Nobody may know the full answer to the question. But the quoted Luke (13:4-5) provides us a few insightful hints.

The situation described in Luke 13:4-5 was similar to what is happening in Japan. Although the scope of the latter one is much greater, the essence of the question is the same. Why did it happen if there is God? In Bible, Jesus did not answer it directly either. By contrast, he said, "But unless you repent, you too will all perish."

The reason of the natural disasters must be very complicated. Certainly all of us are the sinners comparing to the complete goodness of God. The question is, however, that why some are "punished" by the natural disasters while the others are not. Isn't it unfair? Nobody can claim that the ones who died in the earthquake or in the tsunami are worse than us who still live. By contrast, many of them may be very good according to our own standards. Many of them can be much better than some of us still living. The answer from Jesus thus deserves us more attention to thinking of its deeper meaning beyond the explicit expression.

In his speech, Jesus did not deny that the disaster was caused by sin. The Bible says that the whole world was cursed because of our sin. Be alerted, however, it is about all of us but not just about who are killed in any tragedy. By this mean, Jesus totally denied the accuse that God intentionally killed this group of people by a natural disaster because of "their" sin. On the contrary, many places in the Bible it tells that God save people from the upcoming disasters because of HIS love.

Second, Jesus pointed out that the tragedy reminding us to repent. The ones who suffered the disasters were not only due to their own sin but also because of our sin. This is a very powerful message. By this mean without excuse we have to help these people. It is not because of our kindness. It is due to our responsibility since we are part of the reason why they suffered or even died. The Bible tells that we are fortunately still alive only because God does not permit the disasters killing us all.

Hence, based on the Bible, we have a very different view of the natural disasters.

1) We sin; hence there come the natural disasters.

2) The natural disasters want to kill all of us since nobody is not a sinner.

3) God loves us and hence HE does not allow all of us being killed.

4) Some of us, however, still are killed because the natural disasters must happen unless we do not sin (which is impossible).

5) For the ones who are not involved in the natural disasters, we must repent in contrast to celebrate because we must know that they who died were died for us who still live. They who suffered are suffering for us who apparently do not suffer. We have to help them because it is our responsibility instead of our mercifulness or kindness. By doing so sincerely we prove that we do repent.

The last but not the least, God gives life and can resurrect people from death. Therefore, the hope still preserves even if the life of someone is taken by a natural disaster.

May all of us loved more to each other by learning lessons from this catastrophe!

May God blessed all the people, not only the Japanese, who are suffering or were suffered in the natural disasters! Wish them be recovered from the catastrophe soon. May all of us who still live and being away from all these sufferings repent and turn ourselves back towards God so that there will be less and less natural disasters in this world! In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Fujifilm Healthcare Solution in iPad

iPad applications are not just for fun. They can be serious.

Recently Fujifilm Medical Systems U.S.A. (where I work now) announced a prototype of Synapse® Mobility, which allows users remotely access to Fujifilm's Synapse solution. Impressively, users can use their iPad to show the radiology images and the other related medical information anywhere in the world. It significantly improves the quality of patient care by allowing faster decision making and more convenient access to the patient's varied medical records. This is a great achievement to improve the quality of individual healthcare generally.

Besides iPad, I was told that the Synapse® Mobility solution would also be available in iPhone and the mobile devices equipped with the Android™ OS.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Seek and you will find. My testimony

Matthew (7:7-8)

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.

In Chinese Translation (马太福音 7):

7 你们祈求,就给你们;寻找,就寻见;叩门,就给你们开门。
8 因为凡祈求的,就得着;寻找的,就寻见;叩门的,就给他开门。

This post is my own testimony on how I became a Christian. The story is long but immersed by the amazing grace coming from the holy spirit. May God blessed every reader as if I was blessed in the story!



The toughest challenge in this world is to let a person accept Jesus. Instinctively we do not want to do so because Jesus asks us to leave what we are used to and be away from what we enjoy but to go forward to seeking a totally different mean of life that by "nature" we are not able to take.

I was born in China, an atheist nation. From childhood I was taught that there were no gods in the world and it depended on ourselves to make the world better and better. Such a teaching sounded very exciting to me, and to many of us too I believe. We are the masters of the world and we can determine anything by ourselves. What else can be greater than that? But, is it true really?

Once I opened a book titled The Holy Bible. In the first line of the first page it says "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." Almost immediately I threw the book away. Such a stupid book! I thought. God? How could the world have a god, and indeed, who needs a god? Can anyone show me a god? Certainly nobody can. And, more importantly, I told to myself: we do not need god at all to rule us.

Then I came to United States as a foreign student in graduate school. And I became a regular visitor to a local Chinese Christian church. Don't get me wrong, however, I went to the church only for the food. Chinese people like to eat Chinese food. The local Chinese church provided the attendants free but well-cooked Chinese food every Friday night and Sunday noon. As a new and poor Chinese student in America, this offer was very appealing to me. Therefore I went to the church regularly but just for the food. Some time, however, I also attended the Bible study and even the Sunday morning worship for showing my appreciation of the food. Sincerely I told the pastor of the Chinese church, however, "You Christians are good people. But you are fooled by things that can never be true."

"You will see," proudly I declared to a friend, "after the last person in this world who becomes Christian, there is still me."

Thank God, however, HE did not give me up though seemly I had totally given HIM up.

One day another friend handed me two books---认识真理 (Recognizing the truth) and 游子吟 (Song of a Wanderer) and asked me to read. Both books are about the gospel. I was surprised because the friend was not a Christian yet. So we had the following conversation.

"Why do you want me to read the books?" I asked.

"I feel nervous," he answered. "the books are so convincing that I feel I am going to be Christian soon."

I laughed at him. "Pity." I said.

"Well, I may help you." I continued, "But, you know, it must NOT be the truth. We study science and we know how to prove or disprove things. Therefore, I will show you why the teaching in these books must only be false truth. Actually there are only two ways people may adopt to establish a false truth. The first way is using the false or the unrelated evidence in proving. The second way is using the methodology of sophism. Either way, however, I will show you why the arguments in the books must be wrong."

With great confidence, I brought the two books back home and started reading. It was the Christmas time. So I had plenty of time in reading. I told to myself: I am smart enough to catch this false truth. It was this self-pride that drove me deep into reading these Christian books. Only when later on I thought of this story again, I realized that how merciful God is. By using my own self-pride of fighting against God, God made me know HIM the first time. How Great Thou Art!

After I opened the book, a chapter title caught my attention. The title was "耶稣基督复活的证据(The evidence on the Resurrection of Jesus)". Aha! I told to myself. This was it! How could resurrection be true? Of course it must be wrong and I would catch the tail of the author immediately.

Carefully I started reading the chapter. And then ... I was shocked.

If only I was honest to myself, I could not deny the proof in the chapter. It was not a scientific proof by the rigid mean. But it was a strong-enough historical proof. As the author said in the book, any other historical event must have already been widely accepted as a truth in history even if the evidence was weaker than we had for this one. But many of us still did not accept it only because we did not WANT to accept the result.

It was in that night that I started thinking of Jesus and the Bible seriously the first time in my life. In the night I committed my lack of knowledge about Jesus and Christianity. I realized that I must not self-boasting but started being humble to learn what I did not know. With such a new emotion, I opened the Bible again. Surprisingly, this time I was able to read beyond the first line.

In the next two weeks, I read the Bible thoroughly three times. I was overtaken by the great wisdom the book discloses. I am a thinker myself. Hence it was breathtaking when I found a much much greater wise person standing in front of me and speaking. Totally I surrendered. "No humans may author a book like this one," I told to myself.

The wisdom itself, however, was not enough to make me be a Christian. But it was then the starting point of my seeking to God.


The biggest obstacle from seeking God is human's unwillingness of repentance. I heard many complaints that God never respond. People told me that they sought but never found. It is because the seeking without repentance is hopeless. It is not because God do not want to help people. It is because the holiness cannot stay together with sin. Fortunately, repentance is not a problem to me.

I knew I was a sinner before I knew Jesus. What I truly took care was just myself and nobody else. How could such a person not a sinner? But nearly all people around me thought I was a very good young man. And it was not surprising at all since they were the same type of persons as me. By addressing me a good person it indicated they were good too. This was, is, and still will be the world we live. I was, however, honest to myself; and thus I knew indeed I was not good. Therefore, I had few resistance when I was told that I needed to repent. In front of God, I confessed that I was a sinner and needed salvation.

The repentance, however, did not make me accept Jesus. The logic is straightforward. That I was a sinner did not derive to that Jesus is God or even God do exist. Hence I questioned God: how could I truly know you? Like Thomas the Apostle I fought against God by demanding the observable evidence about HIM.

And the following was my pray:

God, I do not know whether you exist. To my heart, however, I do wish you existed since I need salvation. But I cannot believe it unless I could have an undeniable evidence. You are God. I do not know how to reach you. I even do not know which evidence I need to convince myself. But if you are real, you must know how to reach me and make me believe. And thus please show me because I do look forward to you. In the name of Jesus Christ, I pray.

Three times a day, I insisted on the pray for a month. And God answered.


It was February 26, 1998, Thursday.

An older sister in Christ (Sister Pan) invited me to do Bible study in her home at that night. At the meantime, she lived in Kent, Ohio. I was a graduate student in University of Akron. There was a half-an-hour highway drive between my school and her home. I replied her with yes. I just bought a used 1984 Honda Accord with $1400, more than half of the money I owned at the moment. I had, however, a class to attend at that night till 7:30 PM. Therefore, I told Sister Pan that I would arrive at her place at about 8:00 PM. So far everything seemed just normal.

In the morning of that day, however, abnormal things happened. February 26, 1998, the day was destined to be abnormal to me because it was the day I reborn.

In the morning when I came to school, many Chinese students were talking about a free movie that was going to be displayed in the student theater inside the campus. Free movies were not abnormal for UA students. Every semester there were a few free movies in campus, some of which were the movie previews. Anyway, be very honest I had totally forgotten the name of the free movie in that night. But very clearly I remembered how enthusiastic many of the Chinese students were in that day talking about the movie. It was said that the movie was fantastic! The movie would be displayed in the campus theater at 9:30 PM.

After I came to the campus, very abnormal things started happening around me. During the day, there were four groups (which means more than one in each group) of Chinese students who came to invite me for the movie. It was very abnormal because before and after the day I got none movie invitations at all though there were several other free movie nights. More weirdly, each group told me differently about the fascinating of that movie. Some told me that the story was great; some told me that the director was great; some told me that the actors and actresses were great; and some told me that the movie contained some well-shot porn scenes that was great. It was sounded to me that the movie must be the greatest ever.

In the beginning I was not moved. At the end, however, I hesitated. Although politely I refused their invitation with the excuse of a conflicted appointment, secretly I went to get a movie ticket and hided it in my pocket. And the following was my perfect plan of the night.

7:30 Class end, drive to Sister Pan's home
8:00 Arrive at Sister Pan's home, start Bible Study
9:00 Bible Study end, drive back
9:30 Back to school, watch movie

A perfect plan, isn't it?

About 6:30 PM when my last class of the day started, I was told that all the movie tickets were gone and there were still many students outside asking who had extra to share. "Very weird," I told to myself because so long as I knew the free movie tickets had never run out before. With satisfaction I held the secret ticket in my pocket. At 7:30 PM, I started the car and the exciting night.

Before joining the highway, I pushed the acceleration pedal and a problem occurred immediately. No matter how hard I pushed the pedal, the car could not be accelerated over 30 mph. The automatic transmission stopped working.

Beside the road there was a large parking lot. At that time of the day, the parking lot was empty. And thus I drove the car into the parking lot and started checking the car. After having tried all I knew, the car still could not be accelerated over 30 mph. Finally I gave up. It looked like that God wanted me to watch movie, I laughed at myself. Then I drove back school.

In front of me, there was a red light and I stopped my car. At the very moment, a question caught me from nowhere (later on I believe that it was from God).

"What do you really want tonight, Bible study or the movie?"

It was weird that I was not worried about my car at all at the time despite it meant the lost of a huge percentage of my money at the meantime. At the time in my mind, there was only this question.

Suddenly a voice emerged from somewhere deep inside myself. "Bible study", it cried, "I am not interested in that dumb movie." I knew it was me who answered though it must be some deep me in contrast to the superficial myself. And then, the light turned green. And then, I pushed the acceleration pedal. And then, the speed meter showed over 30 mph. I took a look at the clock in the car. It was 7:57 PM.

I stopped the car and was stunned. What happened and what should I do in the next? Let's review my original plan. Now it was about 8:00 PM. If I insisted on the original plan, it would be as the following.

8:00 Drive to Sister Pan's home
8:30 Arrive at Sister Pan's home, start Bible Study
9:00 Bible Study end, drive back
9:30 Back to school, watch movie

Obviously the plan became unrealistic since half an hour was too short for a Bible study. It meant that I had to choose 1 among the two. Either might I go to study Bible or I could go for watching movie. More importantly, at the time I had a very excusable reason for not attending the Bible study---my car had problem. The past half an hour was real. The problem was real. It would be disaster if I insisted on driving to Bible study but the car was broken in the half way highway at the night. The perfect excuse was simply laid in front of me. I was tempted not to go for the Bible study.

Just at the moment, however, the same voice inside me cried out again---"I will go for the Bible study!" And so it be. Suddenly I believed that my car had no problem at all without any reason. I just believed it. And then I turned around my car again forward to the highway.

I remembered the following very clearly. Just at the moment when the front tires of my car touched the surface of the highway, I experienced the most exciting moment in my life till now. Just at the moment, a great deal of joyfulness and peacefulness was poured down from heaven and immersed me. It was like a huge bottle of oil poured on the head and running down to the heel. In Pslam 133:2, it says,

It is like precious oil poured on the head, running down on the beard, running down on Aaron's beard, down upon the collar of his robes.

This verse describes exactly the same type of feeling I had at the moment.

There are no words in this world that can describe precisely that feeling. In this world the greatest joyfulness and the greatest peacefulness are actually not harmoniously existed. When one is very very happy and excited, she is unlikely very much peaceful since her blood is burning. In similar, when one is with the greatest peacefulness, she feels calm and safe but must not in the greatest excitement simultaneously. The co-existence of the greatest happiness and the greatest peacefulness is like that the sea is with the greatest storm but at the same time there are no tiny waves on its surface. It was unreal. Or, more precisely, I had experienced something that is truly surreal!

The joyfulness and peacefulness from heaven were with me for not just a minute, but the entire half an hour journey. I do not know how to express my feeling in that half an hour. The only thing I could tell was, when finally I stopped my car, knocked the door, and saw Sister Pan, I told her: "Today, I believe." And the feeling stopped.


What can I say?

In Bible, it says "...if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you." (Matthew 17:20).

My story, however, tells that if only one can have faith that is greater than a free movie ticket, she can see the evidence of God. What is the value of a free movie ticket? Zero. Or maybe 0.01 cent at most. And that is the amount of faith God ask man to have in order to see HIM.

This is my testimony. Wish you had this blessing from my Lord as well!

About my 1984 Honda Accord. It did not have any problem at all since that night until Sister Pan moved to another city, which was more than half a year later. In particular, the transmission of the car had never encountered a problem. Several years later I gave the car free to a friend and he drove it to California.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Twitter and the collective storytelling

Along with Google and Facebook, Twitter has been an icon of the new Web. To learn from its success, in this post I take a look at the relationship between Twitter and the collective storytelling.

As we know, an essential character of Web 2.0 is the embodiment of collectivism on the Web. Besides the often-mentioned collective intelligence, however, there are many other types of the embodiment of collectivism. One of them is collective storytelling---a particular joint between collective intelligence and collective behavior. As its name tells, storytelling is the combination of "story" and "telling". Apply it to the associative law, the collective storytelling is therefore the combination of the collective story and the collective telling. The collective story is a particular form of the collective intelligence. The collective telling is a special embodiment of the collective behavior.

According to Frank Rose, we tell stories so that we may make sense of our world and share the understanding with others. Therefore, the collective storytelling is a collective way of making sense of the world we live and sharing the understanding with each other. By this mean, we see the compelling value of the collective storytelling. Through it, we actually are able to get touch to each individual's reasoning about the portion of the world and the society he lives. Such a reasoning is the essence of many modern time business models such as advertisement, retail, and the news business. Twitter's success of implementing the collective storytelling, therefore, forms the foundation of its business success.

There are a few bright spots of how Twitter has implemented the collective storytelling. The understanding of these spots may help many of us know how to create our own solutions in the new Web.

The first bright spot is the 140-character length limit. This brilliant innovation must be laid upon a very deep understanding about the nature of the collective storytelling. To be effectively empowered by the collectiveness, we need to break a barrier that the collective outcome is biased by few over-weighted messages. The enforcement of the 140-character length limit breaks the messages into small pieces so that the system may compose stories collectively with rich content and concise structure. It, therefore, enables us to see the objective realities of the collective stories created without be trapped too much into individual biases.

The second bright spot is the embedded tags. In each tweet one can embed one or more arbitrary tags by adding the symbol "#" in front of the tag word. This little invention is a great leap forward in the history of storytelling. This simple but effective method enables the storytellers (i.e. the Twitter users such as you and me) to subjectively direct his or her own small pieces into multiple grand story plots. This method is a great example of how a small piece of information can be creatively and at the same time automatically reused in the Web. By this mechanism, the collective storytelling is no longer a traditional many-to-one process but a novel many-to-many process. Therefore, creatively Twitter has improved the production rate of the collective story creation. As we all know, the improvement of the production rate of the key product is a cornerstone to any business success.

The last but not the least, the third bright spot I share about Twitter is the embedded links among the storytellers. A hardness to tell a story collectively is the sequence arrangement of the many storytellers. When a story is contributed by many people, it is really difficult to sort the people in an order that is best for the storytelling. Twitter has not totally solved the problem either. But, at least, it has invented a way so that there is an order of the storytellers that is reasonably well for the thoughtful storytelling. The method is again fairly simple. Any Tweet writers can embed the next or previous storytellers in their own small pieces of story by adding the symbol "@" in front of the name of the designated storytellers. Through this simple mechanism, the small pieces can be linked by the storytellers based on the volunteered election of their peer tellers. This type of election must not be the perfect solution for the order of the storytelling. But it is a reasonably well and so far the best solution we can achieve.

I believe, however, that if Twitter can invest more of its human resources in studying the concept of storytelling and applying it to its product, the service will become a more and more crucial piece of the new Web. Storytelling is a primary character of human beings. And this is why a service designated itself to this character may also become a central piece of human life.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Repent from where fallen

Today I made a commitment. Every Sunday since today I will write a post about Jesus Christ, my lord and savior, and HIS grand mission. May the blessing from my God to every reader!

Revelation (2:3-5)

You have preserved and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first.

In Chinese Translation (启 示 录):

2:3 你 也 能 忍 耐 , 曾 为 我 的 名 劳 苦 , 并 不 乏 倦 。
2:4 然 而 有 一 件 事 我 要 责 备 你 , 就 是 你 把 起 初 的 爱 心 离 弃 了 。
2:5 所 以 应 当 回 想 你 是 从 哪 里 坠 落 的 , 并 要 悔 改 , 行 起 初 所 行 的 事 。

It was February 26, 1998, the day when my life had been totally revised. I was immersed by the holy spirit pouring down from the sky. Before the day I was an atheist. After the day there is no way I can deny the existence and the greatness of God. The testimony I had at that day is breathtaking. There is absolutely nothing in this world that is more joyful than being immersed by the holy spirit.

"Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him." (Psalm 34:5)

After the day, I was eager in spreading the gospel. Although it was hard and many people, including quite a few old friends of mine, left away from me because of Jesus Christ, my life got renewed every day and my soul and body became fresher and fresher. The blessing from Lord to me was countless.

But my love to Lord was fallen when time lasted. The less and less I started praying but to seek the "normal" solutions of men when facing problems. While I was lazy to the work of Lord, Lord became less and less involved in my work. Until I suddenly turned around and sought God again, I finally realized that how far away I had been from Lord since the beginning. Therefore, deeply I repented and prayed God for the forgiveness. Thank to Pastor Ray T. Chen who had helped my renaissance in the past weekend.

The message is not just for myself. It is also for whoever had deeply loved our Lord before but was lost in the world since then. As God promised, once we repent and do the things you did at first, HE "will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God."

May God blessed whoever follow HIS words!

Friday, March 04, 2011

The Art of Immersion, the magic of storytelling

Life is storytelling. Or let's say it alternatively---writing a story is constructing a life. On the Web we tell stories, our own stories. Some of them are professional, some of them are personal. What in the stories are the lives embodied. These stories altogether constitute the Web. By the constitution the Web becomes us and we are immersed into it since it is indeed our lives. The ways of utilizing the storytelling is therefore the art of immersion.

I just finished reading a new 20ll book authored by Frank Rose, a writer and contributing editor at Wired. The title of the book is The Art of Immersion. The book is well written with solid and rich content. I am afraid, however, that the content is so rich and the theme is so profound that the author has not fully disclosed the potential of the topic in spite of the over 300-page length of the book. Nevertheless, I highly recommend the book to whoever is interested in learning how the Web has fundamentally revised our society. In particular, how may we start thinking of the art side of the Web? Make ourselves be immersed and become part of the Web in contrast to being the gods of the Web.


What is a story? In the Prologue Rose wrote, "Stories are recognizable patterns, and in those patterns we find meaning. We use stories to make sense of our world and to share that understanding with others. They are the signal within the noise."

This description of stories is insightful. To a Web researcher such as myself, the term "recognizable pattern" has a few unique interpretations. For example, a recognizable pattern often means a well-defined semantics that machines can identify. Following this interpretation, a story is a meaningful arrangement of data that machines may logically render. Therefore, may we say that the ultimate goal of the Semantic Web is indeed to have data presented in stories? Data without story is a string of digits; but data within a story becomes a reusable product. Isn't the Semantic Web to assign every piece of data a context of story so that we (and machines) can speak of it with emotion? By the way, have I mentioned emotion? What the hell is that?


Through the art of immersion, we can use WWW to drill down as deeply as we like about anything we care. Many Semantic Web people are enthusiastic about the creative consumption of the linked data. I am wondering, however, whether such a linked-data initiative is an art of storytelling indeed. Linked data by themselves are boring. But to speak of them into various stories is fascinating. To me, this is probably the ultimate meaning of the Semantic Web.

But there is another point. Through the storytelling what do we really look for? There is a difference between to explore the characters and to explore the stories. The characters are us, or more precisely the embodied ourselves. The stories are the embodied thoughts and behaviors of us. The difference is as the following. If the storytelling is about to explore the deeper inside of each of us, the data must be annotated in the sense of subjectiveness. On the contrary, the data shall be annotated in the sense of objectiveness when the storytelling is about to explore the objective extent of each of us. This delicate difference is an often neglected point in the exercises of the Semantic Web.

If life is true and art is construct, is a virtual world such as the Web a truth or an illusion? This is a tough question. To me, a virtual world such as the Web is about experience. In particular, it is about the embodied human experience. When we are immersed in the Web, we do not simply put ourselves into a fiction, but into an embodied fiction. A fiction is not real. But it is surreal to have embodied fictions, such as the Disneyland. The Web is a surreal existence that is the embodiment of the countless storytelling.

The wonder of being immersed (and embodied)

In the book Rose frequently referred to an example that is the success of the produce of Mad Men, an AMC's Emmy and Golden Globe-winning series. There is a question. Who shall control a story such as the story of Mad Men---the story writer or the fans?

Accompanied the rise of Web 2.0, there is the crisis of the authorship of the story writers. The prevalence of the social networks makes the communication between the authors and the audience become in dual ways. The storytelling is no longer a single direction activity from the author to the audience. By contrast, more and more audience have participated into the storytelling that is imitated by any author, especially the popular and well-known authors. (Am I doing an editing of the story told by Frank Rose right now?) Especially to the fictions, the audience are revising the characters the author created. The ownership of the characters is no longer solely belong to the author, but to the public collectively. The author creates the characters and the situation they find themselves in. The audience, however, complete the drawing of the characters within the scenario. This is one consequence Web 2.0 has brought to us. Its impact into our society is deeper than we ever have imagined.

But even just this effect has other deeper meaning. If we are embodied in the Web and the embodiment of ourselves is not totally controlled by each of the individuals, the Web actually reveals a deeper resemble of our society, which is beyond we could have thought of before.

How much value and how much reality to be a fictional character online after we are immersed? This is another grand question. The answer to this question could be the motivation to Web 3.0, the next generation of the Web.

Back to the real life

"Life is a constantly functioning information exchange." Rose wrote in the book.

The statement is profound. It tells that a virtual life must also be a constantly functioning information exchange. That is, the Web composed by the virtual lives shall primarily be the aggregation of services in contrast to the ontological layout of concepts. It matches what I foretold the Semantic Web must not be realized until it would be more than a web of data.

In the book, Rose described a four-piece composition of storytelling in the real life. A successful storytelling shall consist of the narrative (one who tells story), the conceptual (one who creates the theme), the stylist (one who decorates the story), and the systemic (one thinker who constructs and directs the distribution of the story). According to the author, the last component is brand new to us due to the emergence of Web 2.0. Moreover, the nature of online distribution is the "serendipitous discovery on a global scale". Unless we start to learn more about this new pattern of storytelling, it will be difficult to lead to the next true leap forward in the Web evolution.

What a deep-thought book it is!

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Interfilm, movie with forking paths, and Web links

Recently I read a story about Interfilm, a pioneer explorer that tried the concept of interactive movies in the middle of 90s. Nevertheless did the attempt fail, what Interfilm had experienced made me think of several things, which I share in this post.

Why did the concept of interactive movies failed in theater? The typical critics, such as Frank Rose in his 2011 new book The art of Immersion, concluded movie was not the type of media that is for storytelling with many forking paths. I, on the other hand, believe that the failure of Interfilm was due to the hardness of producing a compound story with many meaningful forking paths. In the other words, it is not due to that people do not like to interact with movies or movies cannot deliver the format of interactiveness; it is because few writers and movie directors have the capability of writing a story and producing a movie with many meaningful forking paths.

The adjective "meaningful" is crucial when we discuss the concept interactiveness. When interacting to a system, human beings expect to get a meaningful alternative (in contrast to simply an alternative) after each interaction. It is very hard to fulfill this request though generally we are eager to it. In the middle of the 90s, Interfilm was not able to deliver the audience a concept-rich interactive movie equipped with meaningful forking paths. Therefore, it was unsurprising about the failure of the experiments.

Now let's switch the attention to the Web links. A question is risen: is a purpose of the Web links for the nonlinear storytelling as some critics distinguish the media format of the Web from the media format of the movies? Cautiously, however, I do not think so; or at least it has not been so yet.

There is a core intent of either the nonlinear storytelling or the interactive storytelling. Through the enabled interaction to the story, the audience are sent to another version of the same story in contrast to be sent to totally another story or an explanation of the original story. Until now, however, the Web links are served as either the directions to a related but totally different and independent another story or the auxiliary explanations of the main story. Few authors have really made it be an interactive tool for the nonlinear storytelling. Again, it is not due to that the Web links cannot serve this function. It is because few authors have the ability of creating such a compound story with varied meaningful forking paths.

Now there comes the most interesting part of this brainstorming. It is indeed true that we have little ability of creating a content-rich nonlinear fiction. But how about a nonfiction? If an event in reality owns the property of being nonlinear by nature, should we embrace the power of the new technology and grant it the new way of exploration? The answer must be yes, and healthcare is a typical example of the nonlinear storytelling. The typical forking paths are: what will happen if I choose that instead of this doctor in the selected day? Many of us know that the consequence could be dramatically different due to the varied personality pairs and many other reasons between the doctor and the patient. Should Accountable Care Organizations include this point into their consideration?