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Xkcd's Long-running "Time" Comic: Work of Art Or Nerd Sniping? 190

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the trolling-your-readers-for-fun-and-profit dept.
Fortran IV writes "Randall Munroe's xkcd webcomic has done some odd things before, but #1190, 'Time,' is something special. It's a time-lapse movie of two people building a sandcastle that's been updating just once an hour (twice an hour in the beginning) for well over a month (since March 25th), and after over a thousand frames shows no sign of ending; in a few days the number of frames will surpass the total number of xkcd comics. It's been mentioned in The Economist. Some of its readers have called it the One True Comic; others have called it a MMONS (Massively Multiplayer Online Nerd Sniping). It's sparked its own wiki, its own jargon (Timewaiters, newpix, Blitzgirling), and a thread on the xkcd user forum that runs to over 20,000 posts from 1100 distinct posters. Is 'Time' a fascinating work of art, a deep sociological experiment — or the longest-running shaggy-dog joke in history? Randall Munroe's not saying."
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Xkcd's Long-running "Time" Comic: Work of Art Or Nerd Sniping?

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    I looked at it. Big black flat space with two stick figures. The Economist cares about this why?

  • by redmid17 (1217076) on Sunday May 05, 2013 @03:53PM (#43636179)
    I don't really care? I even like xkcd
  • by DavidClarkeHR (2769805) <david DOT clarke AT hrgeneralist DOT ca> on Sunday May 05, 2013 @03:53PM (#43636185)
    Sure, the author of XKCD might have a sarcastic streak, but even if part of the reason is a shaggy-dog joke, I'm sure part of the reason is also art.

    I mean, it's not an either-or situation, and setting it up as a false dichotomy isn't going to generate meaningful discussion.
  • If anything, it shows how bored we are with the internet and that ANY new content sparks interest, however trivial.
    • by paiute (550198) on Sunday May 05, 2013 @04:08PM (#43636263)

      If anything, it shows how bored we are with the internet and that ANY new content sparks interest, however trivial.

      In my head I hear my response in Louis C. K.'s voice: You've got a slab of plastic and metal you can carry around under your arm that lets you look up the answer to any question, have a text conversation in real time with anyone on the planet, access all the works of art ever created - and you're bored. Seriously. I just searched the word 'artichoke' and got 9.9 million links in under a second. And you are jaded. That's not even good enough to hold your attention anymore?

      • by mrbester (200927) on Sunday May 05, 2013 @04:48PM (#43636479) Homepage

        I think of the Star Trek universe, in particular Picard explaining to characters in "First Contact" that as money is outmoded (apart for the stubbornly mercantile Ferengi situation) the utopia of self advancement for the betterment of all as a primary activity is pretty much a reality in the Federation.

        Then there is this, the dystopia, just a few hundred years early. GP can access all this accumulated knowledge and better themselves, maybe even the world, yet their view is so etiolated it seems like too much effort. Gene Roddenberry is spinning in space right now.

        Perhaps we ought to let it all go to hell and become servile chattels of a corporate controlled stagnated "society" because no one gives a flying fuck apart from getting their fix of kitten pictures.

        Sometimes I really despair of this world.

  • by talexb (223672) on Sunday May 05, 2013 @04:03PM (#43636245) Homepage Journal

    Either the site's slashdotted already (after twelve minutes, on a Sunday afternoon?), or it's The Most Boring Movie Ever Made.

  • He's reminding us all that we have too much time on our hands. (And I was sure that I had posted a longer post before this one, but it appears not to be showing. In it, I also mentioned a forum that is also a long running joke on it's participants...)

  • Oblig (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 05, 2013 @04:08PM (#43636271)
  • So... (Score:4, Funny)

    by transporter_ii (986545) on Sunday May 05, 2013 @04:10PM (#43636279) Homepage

    Are the frames worth any money? Is there any way I mine my own and sell them?

    • Re:So... (Score:5, Informative)

      by femtobyte (710429) on Sunday May 05, 2013 @04:29PM (#43636395)

      If you can figure out how to predict the next hash (each frame is named [random hash].png, with the website pointing to a new one every hour --- so there are probably a bunch of not-yet-released frames on the server, if you could crack the random sequence generator), you will win at least three internets of nerd credit (and perhaps a job "offer you can't refuse" from the NSA).

  • by Ryanator2209 (1577631) on Sunday May 05, 2013 @04:10PM (#43636283)
    Explained xkcd has a gif that combines most of the individual 'time' comics: http://www.explainxkcd.com/wiki/index.php?title=1190:_Time [explainxkcd.com]
    • Thanks for that link, got to see the whole thing in about ten minutes (after the first full viewing it really speeds up). So now I know that he's 'Cueball' and she's 'Megan'. Very trippy, in a minimalist, b&w kinda' way.
  • It Fits Right In (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 05, 2013 @04:11PM (#43636285)

    Every now and then, a graph or a chart or some insight appears in the xkcd lineup that seems somehow very different from what has gone before. I remember the day I brought up Time and was initially puzzled. I didn't get it. I moused over it and saw "Wait for it." and started staring at it intently. My mind started playing tricks on me and I thought I saw a pixel or two change, but after awhile I realized they hadn't. I checked back an hour later and the castle had changed a little, and I laughed at the notion that my experience with and interpretation of the comic had already changed with the passage of Time. I decided that that was one of the primary points. I like it.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by larry bagina (561269)
      So... it's best to smoke up before you look at it? Got it.
    • Re:It Fits Right In (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 05, 2013 @04:28PM (#43636387)

      I forgot to mention - he had also done one not long before where you pan around on it exploring ( #1110 ) and after awhile you realize that it's huge. It would make sense that, having done a comic that plays with the concept of space in comics, he'd do one that plays with time.

  • The characters built some stuff on the beach, and now they are wandering around trying to figure out how their world works Their world does not work like our world.

    The form of story is unusual, in that one must use additional technology to follow it. Which the reading community developed very quickly. I use xkcd.aubronwood.com/ [aubronwood.com].

    • Their world does not work like our world.

      In what way? I don't see anything that's non-terrestrial about it. Apart from them being stick-people and it being 2D.

      • by femtobyte (710429)

        Well, their oceans and rivers (and general hydrological cycle) seems to have something going on that the characters (and us viewers) don't understand --- and might not be quite like our world. A monotonically rising ocean (with no waves)? Uncertainty about whether rivers are "broken"? Unknown gigantic rivers within a relatively short walk of where they live? Something tells me we're not in Kansas anymore.

        • Well, their oceans and rivers (and general hydrological cycle) seems to have something going on that the characters (and us viewers) don't understand

          That sounds very terrestrial to me.

          A monotonically rising ocean (with no waves)?

          Time flattens out short term fluctuations and leaves the trend.

          Uncertainty about whether rivers are "broken"? Unknown gigantic rivers within a relatively short walk of where they live? Something tells me we're not in Kansas anymore.

          Not knowing. Questioning. Researching. Something that takes a lot of time.

          Did Dorothy leave Kansas? Or was she at home all the time. Those faces looked awfully familiar didn't they.

          • by femtobyte (710429)

            Time flattens out short term fluctuations and leaves the trend.

            The moving people aren't "smoothed out" by time --- so something odd is happening if their world is time-averaged differently than their bodies.

            Not knowing. Questioning. Researching. Something that takes a lot of time.

            I don't know what Randall has planned; however, if the result of the characters' research/exploration endeavors turns out to be a simple elementary-school picture of the terrestrial hydrological cycle (rather than something more of a philosophical/metaphysical allegory), I'd be a bit surprised.

            Did Dorothy leave Kansas? Or was she at home all the time. Those faces looked awfully familiar didn't they.

            The other 13 books in Baum's Oz series indicate a separate existence and

            • The moving people aren't "smoothed out" by time --- so something odd is happening if their world is time-averaged differently than their bodies.

              You're being quite literal. Art isn't literal, it combines ideas. It hints at things.

              I don't know what Randall has planned; however, if the result of the characters' research/exploration endeavors turns out to be a simple elementary-school picture of the terrestrial hydrological cycle (rather than something more of a philosophical/metaphysical allegory), I'd be a bit surprised.

              That wasn't what I was alluding to. I'd be gobsmacked and disappointed too if it was that. But I don't want to spell out what I think it is about.

              The other 13 books in Baum's Oz series indicate a separate existence and continuity for Oz outside of Dorothy's mind.

              Indeed. That's also clear from the current OZ movie. Again I was hinting, nor trying to prove or argue something.

        • by HJED (1304957)
          I though it was just symbolic of human ignorance and that the characters simply don't understand the rivers. It could also be a reference to global warming, but I doubt it.
  • on me wall (Score:3, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 05, 2013 @04:19PM (#43636335)

    Finally some use for my LCD picture frame.

  • It's been over a month and it's still going. Hell, it seems like it's just getting started, if it really is trying to tell a story.

    I would not be exceptionally surprised if this lasted a full year. Or at least a significant portion of one.

    • Re:Length (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Patch86 (1465427) on Monday May 06, 2013 @04:29AM (#43639813)

      I wonder idly if he has drawn every frame and they are now sat on a server waiting to be served up each hour, or if he's still drawing frames for it as it goes. Obviously he must have drawn them with at least some buffer space, but I wonder how much? A day? A week? If he's drawing them as he goes, is he going to keep it up forever?

      I don't want to get involved in any discussions about whether it's high art or low nerd sniping or whatnot, but you've got to hand it to that guy for dedication to the art of internet stick men. Between this one, the massive pannable one, and his excellent log-scale ones, he's a man who puts some serious effort into his website...

  • And that, sir, ain't no joke.

  • Amazing (Score:4, Insightful)

    by gmuslera (3436) on Sunday May 05, 2013 @04:52PM (#43636513) Homepage Journal

    You mean that there are people that don't consider most of xkcd a piece of art?

    Anyway, of all the amazing, insightful, and informative things things that are in xkcd, probably the one that impressed me more recently was one in What-if [xkcd.com], explaining whats the worst that could happen missusing pressure cookers, few days before Boston bombing. That it remains there is a big message.

    • You mean that there are people that don't consider most of xkcd a piece of art?

      Yeah, pretty much anyone* over thirty or who have otherwise outgrown the sophomoric phase of their life.

      Anyway, of all the amazing, insightful, and informative things things that are in xkcd, probably the one that impressed me more recently was one in What-if, explaining whats the worst that could happen missusing pressure cookers, few days before Boston bombing. That it remains there is a big message.

      I've all but given u

  • by Tom (822)

    Is 'Time' a fascinating work of art, a deep sociological experiment â" or the longest-running shaggy-dog joke in history?

    or simple all of the above ?

  • Xkcd's Long-running "Time" Comic: Work of Art Or Nerd Sniping?

    Who says nerd sniping can't be art?

    Not sure I needed to see Cue Ball take a dump though.

  • Personally (Score:4, Insightful)

    by muridae (966931) on Sunday May 05, 2013 @06:07PM (#43636891)

    I see something different in the story being told. The characters spend a bit of time building something amazing, and then worry that it's going to be taken away from them. They set out to figure out the reason for that.

    Maybe because I've read his blog, or just because of http://xkcd.com/931/ [xkcd.com] that I see something darker in the story he's telling. Maybe it's just a metaphor, all good stories are. But that, as of now, the characters are almost visually back to where they started seems . . . poignant.

  • by ChuckleBug (5201) * on Sunday May 05, 2013 @06:10PM (#43636901) Journal

    I prefer something less frantic, like: http://smp.uq.edu.au/content/pitch-drop-experiment [uq.edu.au].

    • by ArsonSmith (13997)

      So I had to watch the one year time lapse camera shot. I couldn't notice any change at all.

  • and I feed bad for possibly slashdotting the guy, especially since it's been a bit of an insisider thing. He's been animating since quite early, and it's a long strange trip. Give him money. http://xkcd.aubronwood.com/ [aubronwood.com]
  • or it might just end...

    ... in decay: http://thecodelesscode.com/case/68 [thecodelesscode.com]

  • I was puzzled by the image, the first time I saw the regular XKCD page -- I didn't see the point. So I looked at Explain XKCD, and found out it that the image was being updated periodically. I checked in again later, and saw that it was basically an animated movie, which is easily missed if you look at just one static image. The thing is, there's no point to watching an animation going up, one frame at a time, over months. You're not going to get any special insights that way that you can't get when it's completed, by watching the whole thing. You could presumably go back over individual frames at that point if you want to do a close analysis of it. But there's not enough to go on yet to make sense of it.

    From what I've seen of this series so far, I'm guessing it will turn out to have some meaning that can be fully explained in a sentence or two.

    There's a trend in entertainment of measuring out some serial narrative, one tiny fragment at a time, and encouraging the development of a fanbase that will analyze each succeeding fragment. This happens with Webcomics, and augmented reality games, as well as with series of computer games, series of novels, and television series. While there's no shortage of bunk that appears in the fanbase's theorizing, you'll inevitably see theories emerge that are far more interesting than what the writer originally had in mind. Inevitably, the fanbase will end up burned out and disappointed.

    At some point, people need to learn to develop the self-respect to just stop hitting refresh to find out what the answer is to the enigma. Just check in again in a few months, when it's all over. It'll probably seem quite clever or interesting for the minute or two it takes to watch the whole thing.

    • by jo_ham (604554)

      If you are watching it unfold as it goes, your imagination can get involved.

      It's like reading a book and speculating about what is going to happen. Sure you can do a little of that in a movie running at 24 fps, but not for long before the next bit of info comes along.

      There is merit for those watching it in real time.

  • by geirlk (171706)

    Comic sans comic. Yet still I return.

"Never give in. Never give in. Never. Never. Never." -- Winston Churchill

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