Probably of the best graffiti I ran across in the last few months. That (and the composition) could be a nice book title.
An IP (Internet Protocol) address written on the wall of this building in Geneva, Switzerland. A new kind of graffiti ? An awkward reminder ? A weird joke ? A curious ritual anyway.
Update: my friend Hannes Gassert, on FB, commented on this by saying something that makes it's even more intriguing:
That's not an address, that's a subnetwork definition ("mask"), the /24 indicating a network with 255 possible participants. Usually that's used with 192.168.1.0, so this is one off, for some reason. This notation was introduced with a network architecture that is called classless, so this might very well the most nerdy propaganda for small, classless societies ever encountered. Or, as the name of that notation is CIDR and it's a bit off, someone just might have had a bit too much cider.
A fascinating assemblage – a five Swiss francs coin duct taped to a calculator – spotted at a bubble tea place in Lausanne few weeks ago. When asked about the meaning of this, the waiter told me that "the owner is from Taiwan and she's quite superstitious"... which is a good explanation for this coin-based lucky charm that I found interesting.
Why do I blog this? I like the low-tech character of this obviously, and lucky charms are generally low-tech, but the combination of plastic, duct-tape and metal is very interesting. I wonder about similar approach with smartphones, laptops and other digital artefacts. Are we going to see smart-watches turned into lucky charms with weird materials? Seing this, I'm pretty convinced that it's going to be the case.
Just finished reading "Eclats d'Amérique" by Olivier Hodasava. It's an intriguing compilation of chronicles about the US of A based on the author's drifting and musing on Google Streetview. Hodasava never actually visited North America. He wrote his text based on his perception of certain selected scenes he liked. It's only in French though,
The book is an extension of his long-time work written on his weblog called "Dreamlands": each post extrapolates on a Google Streetview scene. Characters receive names, intentions, history and tastes, places get projected meaning and situations are the objects of fascinating speculations.
Why do I blog this? I think I mentioned the "Google Demo Slam" a while back (two guys who used Google Streetview to race across America without ever leaving their home), which was quite a thing to watch. In the case of this book, the intention and the result is far more intriguing and poetic. Such a great example of how a tool can be re-appropriated to project meaning, and extend the notion of fiction.
I don't really know whether this would count as a "locative media" proper but it certainly a curious case of storytelling as described by Ben Russell in the headmap manifesto back in the days ("..spatial maps of films: where do the characters go? ..do they stay in a confined area or travel (linear or circular?)").
"Project Habakkuk" belongs to this list of weird projects I have somewhere in an Evernote note. A British aircraft carrier supposed to be deployed against German U-boats in the mid-Atlantic, the plan was to make it out of pykrete, a mixture of wood pulp and ice. Beyond this stunning fact, the most intriguing thing here is how this project ended. As reported by the Wikipedia:
"According to some accounts, at the Quebec Conference of 1943 Lord Mountbatten brought a block of pykrete along to demonstrate its potential to the bevy of admirals and generals who had come along with Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt. Mountbatten entered the project meeting with two blocks and placed them on the ground. One was a normal ice block and the other was pykrete. He then drew his service pistol and shot at the first block. It shattered and splintered. Next, he fired at the pykrete to give an idea of the resistance of that kind of ice to projectiles. The bullet ricocheted off the block, grazing the trouser leg of Admiral Ernest King and ended up in the wall."
Why do I blog this? It's one of these projects that may or may not find its way into a talk about innovation, technologies and failures. Besides, V2 in Rotterdam has a research project about it.
"The Future of Wearable Services: A Proposal for a Pop-Up Sensor Nail Salon" is an intriguing design studio project conducted by Kristina Ortega at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, in the Media Design Practices program. It addresses the adoption of wearables, which shouldn't rely on a "one size fits all" approach as "context and specificity matter". Such starting point led the team to focus on nail art and how to embed sensors into layers of a gel manicure.
The website described the process they adopted:
For the first part of the lab we designed wearables with the idea that they would be "useless". This was our first version of our nail service, which we called "ritual nail". We experimented with form, 3D printing cats with LEDs embedded in them and embedding a nano pixel into the nail. [...] After our first round of making we decided to take a research trip to a nail art salon. While we were there we were fascinated by the process and negotiation that took place between the technician and the client. We really discovered the place of the service in the process. What would technicians look like in a electronically embedded salon service? The process of making prototypes, some with "sensor extensions" others made extremely brittle from the z corp 3D plaster printer. [...] We tested out five sensored options during a workshop/ user test [...] After user testing our early prototypes we decided that our project wasn't so much about the electronics embedded into nails, but more about the new services that will grow out of the need for wearables that can be specific and customizable. The new question is: who are the technicians in a new electronic fully customizable salon? We stopped looking for a solution and started looking for scenarios.
Why do I blog this? The topic (wearables) and the way it's addressed via nail art is interesting. I take the project as a relevant counterpart to lots of boring-and-utilitarian products or prototypes. Plus, the design process (with the useless-to-useful move) is curious, and somehow typical as an assignment.
A fascinating line observed in Montreal, QC.
Why do I blog this? Simply because it highlights a cultural use of space that is different than other places.
Why do I blog this? I'm not necessarily a big brand advocate, nor a fan of Lulu Lemon. However, I'm fascinated by the way their products come with such USP-oriented "why we made this" tags. Obviously, the answers are sometimes so-so (#1 and #3 overlap here) but I would certainly find fascinating to see ANY product around us with similar labelling. It's perhaps an intriguing assignment to ask workshop participants.
Currently reading “Software Takes Command” by Lev Manovich, i’m fascinated by the part where he explains the lack of interest about the history of cultural computing by our cultural institutions and computer industry itself. He explains that a possible reason for this lies in the absence of profits from the old software by current companies, unlike, say, Hollywood which "continues to receive profits from old movies as it reissues them in new formats (VHS, DVD, HD, Blu-ray disks, etc)”. The most intriguing part corresponds to this affirmation that I find super intriguing:
"given that consumer culture systematically exploits adults’ nostalgia for the cultural experiences of their teenage and youth years, it is actually surprising that early software versions were not seen as a market opportunity.”
I guess that’s quite common in the video game industry, see for instance the release of yet-another-version of Eric Chahi’s Another World, but what about other types of software ? What would that entail ? Which software would you pick?
Why do I blog this? Thats looks like a good design fiction angle, and alternatively, a curious assignments for marketing students: how would you sell the resurgence of Quark X Press and Mac Paint ?
At some point, I'll have to investigate this. A phenomenon that always fascinates me: how players use paper as a (brick-and-mortar?) substitute to video games when devices are not available, or as a complement (for taking notes, drawings maps, etc.).
Why do I blog this? This is definitely fascinating. Not just because you see kids' fantasies and ways to change mediums. It's intriguing because it reveals how a game mechanic, or a graphic pattern, circulates and mutates to create a curious experience. I've seen once kids playing together on paper and I enjoyed observing how they "filled the gap", how the absence of the mighty computer was turned into creative engine.
Plus, I find this interesting because it obviously leads to curious game design propositions, and bc it makes me think of how to take this into consideration in video game design itself: how would you enable the other persons around a player to use paper to improve the game? Can one create a game in which the person holding the controller needs a friend to use a hand-drawn map to help her?
Besides, no one here thought of booklets with video game grids, Zelda open world maps in B&W versions, Super Mario Sunshine levels... with weird paper game mechanics so that players can "interact" with them? I'm pretty sure this exist. The Star Wars starfighter battle book series is a good start but still...
This month, I'm giving a workshop at HEAD–Genève with Frédéric Kaplan and Yannick Rochat about Information Visualization and TV-series. The idea is to show the students how to visually depict events, characters' network, geographical evolution, among other things in these shows... using various sources (scripts found in imsdb, subtitles, Wikipedia entries fan encyclopedia like wookiepedia, etc.). Some examples below we discussed in class:
ALL ABOUT TV SERIES by DH101 students EPFL
Production of various visualizations, like the one below (Game of Thrones)
TWIN PEAKS 1990 on moviegalaxies
LORD OF THE RINGS PROJECT by Emil Johansson
CORE-SAMPLE by Aurelien Farina:
This editorial and artistic project is based on the metaphor of "coring", a technique used for geological and industrial ground surveys. The project was elaborated as an application of the coring technique to a particular mass-culture production : the "Starsky & Hutch" TV series. The book consists in a number of chapters made of screenshots captured in the series' first two seasons (1975-1977) : all recurent scenes are gathered and accumulated in series of similar images.
Why do I blog this? Collecting examples for the coming days of the workshop: types of visualizations (social networks, maps), sort of data proposed (texts, images...), the type of analysis, etc.
A dialogue from Mad Men S07E04:
"Lloyd: These machines can be a metaphor for whatever's on people's minds.
Don Draper: Because they're afraid of computers?
Lloyd: Yes. This machine is frightening to people, but it's made by people.
Don Draper: And people aren't frightening?
Lloyd: It's not that. It's more of a cosmic disturbance. This machine is intimidating because it contains infinite quantities of information, and that's threatening, because human existence is finite. But isn't it godlike that we've mastered the infinite? The IBM 360 can count more stars in a day than we can in a lifetime.
Don Draper: But what man laid on his back counting stars and thought about a number?
Lloyd: He probably thought about going to the moon."
Why do I blog this? Just found this dialogue interesting as a metaphor for discussion in the 1960s about "computing" and the role of this machinery in society.
Based on various examples coming from Jan and his current/former colleagues, it's full of insightful material for design researchers, field explorers and people interested in product/service/strategy development. The set of tools and the approach explained in this book are meant to show how to manage "rapid immersion" into new cultural forms, people's practices and use that material to surface new ideas and designs. Lots of details are provided about how to do that and what it means practically (studio duration, use of space, budgets, check-lists, ...). It seems like a great companion to the upcoming "the field study handbook".
Why do I blog this? Definitely because I'm interested in others' methods, guidelines, recommendations and informed opinions. It's always good to take them as inspiration and cases to create one's approach. Plus it's related with a current project that aims at describing how designers repurposed ethnography in their own work context (book to be released in few months).
Coincidentally, I received two magazines today about a similar topic: collection and compilation. The first is the last copy of The Wire, the British music journal; and the second is FACTA, a fascinating Brazilian fanzine about "gambiologia" (the study of creative improvisation and electro-digital DIY).
"What is a compilation but a collection of similarities and differences? To compile is to suggest or imply that everything within it has something in common, whether it be a sound, a time, a place or a theme. The remainder is difference: the varying species of that sound, other elements in that time or place, alternative angles on that themes" describes Adam Harper in his introduction to the special issue of The Wire on compilation.
Why do I blog this? I'm curious about the role of compilation, collection and selection, mostly with regards to the analytical mindset of designers/artists and ethnographers. There's something in common here that should be explored, beyond the type of artifacts and cultural content that is collected. I generally work using aggregation of various types of material and enjoy this type of process. For instance, the game controller project was based on collecting actual game pads that we explored in conjunction with patents, interviews with designers and players, books about the history of video games... the careful compilation of facts, anecdotes, pictures, opinions, statistics and hypotheses created a curious assemblage that helped creating various intermediary objects (diagrams, genealogy trees, installation in exhibits) and two books.
The May edition of the Smithsonian has an article on sci-fi, the Future (capital F) and design fiction. Based on interviews with various science-fiction authors (Kim Stanley Robinson, Cory Doctorow, William Gibson, Ursula Le Guin, Ted Chiang or Neal Stephenson), this piece by Eileen Gunn highlights how the genre acts as a sort of laboratory and "how the task of science fiction is not to predict the future. Rather, it contemplates possible futures."
Interestingly, this article describes classical debates about the mutual relationships between sci-fi, science and technological research: the opposition between utopian and dystopian futures (as well as the acknowledgment that this dualism is flawed), the "where's my flying car?" frustration that some authors want to move away from, the need to embrace new visions of the future, etc. The paper concludes with this sort of summary of the role of science-fiction for society:
Science fiction, at its best, engenders the sort of flexible thinking that not only inspires us, but compels us to consider the myriad potential consequences of our actions. Samuel R. Delany, one of the most wide-ranging and masterful writers in the field, sees it as a countermeasure to the future shock that will become more intense with the passing years. “The variety of worlds science fiction accustoms us to, through imagination, is training for thinking about the actual changes—sometimes catastrophic, often confusing—that the real world funnels at us year after year. It helps us avoid feeling quite so gob-smacked.”
This piece is quite interesting. However, I'm not sure about the current debate on the importance of reading science-fiction in research labs ("Brueckner laments that researchers whose work deals with emerging technologies are often unfamiliar with science fiction.") Of course, I'm convince about Delany's quote above but I'm unsure whether this applies to ANY book, film, video-game or comic-book related with "the Future". Would the Warhammer 40K series of book really help like a JG Ballard novel? Besides, one might also argue that poetry or other forms of literature might be helpful? And why limiting oneself to this? Perhaps there are other ways to get this "flexible thinking" promoted by the authors there: RTS games or Eve-Online situated in a distant future might be relevant too. This problem was recently address in another article in The Atlantic. Robinson Meyer commented on Google's process for selecting Google X projects: "lt must utilize a radical solution that has at least a component that resembles science fiction.", to which the author wrote:
When we imagine a “science fiction”-like future, I think we tend to picture completed worlds, flying cars, the shiny, floating towers of midcentury dreams. We tend, in other words, to imagine future technological systems as readymade, holistic products that people will choose to adopt, rather than as the assembled work of countless different actors, which they’ve always really been. The futurist Scott Smith calls these ‘flat-pack futures,’ and they infect “science fictional” thinking. Science fiction, too, can underestimate the importance and role of social change. For every feminist science fiction writer or Afrofuturist, there is a still better-known member of the genre’s far-right.
Why do I blog this? I'm currently writing a book (French) about these topics, and such articles offer interesting parallel to my current thinking and projects carried out at the Near Future Laboratory.
For people intrigued by such material, these pieces should be read alongside Julian's essay on design fiction, as well as "Better Made Up: The Mutual Influence of Science fiction and Innovation" (Caroline Bassett, Ed Steinmueller, Georgina Voss, Nesta, 2013) and "Imagining Technology" (Jon Turney, Nesta, 2013).
Some resources about design fiction I'm use to share with students. Note that the term itself is polysemic and covers different perceptions about its meaning.
Auger, J. (2011). Alternative Presents and Speculative Futures: Designing fictions through the extrapolation and evasion of product lineages., Negotiating Futures / Design Fictions, Swiss Design Network 2011, Basel.
Auger, J. (2013). Speculative design: crafting the speculation, Digit. Creat., vol. 24, no. 1, pp. 11--35, 2013.
Bassett, C., Steinmuller, E. & Voss, G. (2013). Better Made Up: The Mutual Influence of Science fiction and Innovation”, Nesta Working Paper 13/07.
Bleecker, J. (2009). Design fiction: A short essay on design, science, fact and fiction, Near Future Laboratory, Los Angeles, CA,
Bleecker, (2011). Design Fiction: From Props To Prototypes, Negotiating Futures / Design Fictions, Swiss Design Network 2011, Basel.
Bleecker, J. & Nova, N., (2009). A synchronicity: Design Fictions for Asynchronous Urban Computing. The Architectural League of New York, New York, NY.
Candy, S. (2010). The futures of everyday life: politics and the design of experiential scenarios, PhD thesis. The University of Hawai.
DiSalvo, Carl. (2012). Spectacles and Tropes: Speculative Design and Contemporary Food Cultures. The Fibreculture Journal(20).
Dunne, A. & Raby, F. (2011). Design noir: The Secret Life of Electronic Objects. Basel: Birkhäuser, 2001.
Dunne, A. & Raby, F. (2014). Speculative Everything: design, fiction and social dreaming. MIT Press.
Forlano, L. (2013). Ethnographies from the Future: What can ethnographers learn from science fiction and speculative design?, Ethnography Matters.
Franke, B. (2011). Design Fiction is Not Necessarily About the Future, Negotiating Futures / Design Fictions, Swiss Design Network 2011, Basel.
Galloway, A. (2013). Towards Fantastic Ethnography and Speculative Design, Ethnography Matters.
Grand, S. & Wiedmer, M. (2010). Design Fiction: A Method Toolbox for Design Research in a Complex World, DRS, 2010.
Hales, D. (2013). Design fictions an introduction and provisional taxonomy, Digital Creativity, 24:1, 1-10
Jain, A., Ardern, J. & Pickard, J. (2012). Design Futurescaping, Journal of Futures Studies.
Johnson, B.D. (2009). “Science Fiction Prototypes Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying about the Future and Love Science Fiction”, in Intelligent Environments 2009 – Proceedings of the 5th International Conference on Intelligent Environments, Callaghan, V., Kameas, A., Reyes, A., Royo, D., Weber, M. (Eds.), IOS Press, Barcelona pp. 3-8.
Johnson, B.D. (2011). “Love and God and Robots: The Science Behind the Science Fiction Prototype “Machinery of Love and Grace””, in Workshop Proceedings of the 7th International Conference on Intelligent Environments Augusto, J. C., Aghajan, V., Callaghan, V., Cook, D. J., O’Donoghue, J., Egerton, S., Gardner, M., Johnson, B. D., Kovalchuk, Y., López-Cózar, R., Mikulecký, P., Ng, J. W. P., Poppe, R., Wang, M. J., Zamudio, V. (Eds.), IOS Press, Nottingham pp. 99-127.
Kirby, D. (2010). The future is now: Diegetic prototypes and the role of popular films in generating real-world technological development. Social Studies of Science 40 (1), pp. 41-70.
Kirby, D., 2011 Lab coats in Hollywood: science, scientists and cinema. MIT Press, Cambridge, MA.
Morrison, A. (2014). Design Prospects: Investigating Design Fiction via a Rogue Urban Drone, In Proceedings of DRS 2014 Conference. Umeå, Sweden.: 16.06.2014–19.06.2014
Raford, Noah. (2012). From Design to Experiential Futures, The Future of Futures: The Association of Professional Futurists.
Shedroff N. & Noessel C. (2012). Make It So Interaction Design Lessons from Science Fiction. San Francisco: Rosenfeld.
Sterling, B. (2009), Design Fiction, Interactions 16 (3), pp. 20-24.
Ward, M. (2013). Design Fiction as Pedagogic Practice Towards a fictionally biased design education, Medium.
Zeller, L. (2011) What You See Is What You Don’t Get: Addressing Implications of Information Technology through Design Fiction” Lecture Notes in Computer Science 6770 pp. 329-336.
An interesting post Olivier Mével sent me, right after I saw a "3D rice cooker": Why Rice Cookers Are Exciting. Some excerpts I find intriguing:
"Consider the everyday rice cooker. It seems rather dull: a squat box occupying space on the countertop, usually without any grace or sense of style. Yet this unimpressive appearing cooking device now simplifies the lives of tens of millions of owners all over the world. A quick search for “cooking with a rice cooker” reveals it being used to cook a wide assortment of food: chicken, fish, bread, and even chocolate cake. Take a closer look and you might be surprised at the sophistication of these devices, with high-end units containing microprocessors, multiple temperature sensors, multiple induction heaters, and displays. They use advanced artificial intelligence with fuzzy logic control systems. As one manufacturer’s description puts it: Equipped with a computer chip, the rice cooker can “think” and adjust cooking length and temperature according to the thermal sensor’s calculations.” For rice, the machine figures out the soaking and steaming times, the cooking temperatures, and then, when the rice is done, switches to a safe holding temperature, where the food can be kept for many hours without affecting taste. "
Why do I blog this? I'm fascinated by how such so-called "mundane artefact" are changing based on recent technological advances. The rice cooker is an unexpected but obviously good example here.
ETHICAL AUTONOMOUS VEHICLES by Matthieu Cherubini is a stunning project I ran across tonight:
"Many car manufacturers are projecting that by 2025 most cars will operate on driveless systems. While it is valid to think that our roads will be safer as autonomous vehicles replace traditional cars, the unpredictability of real-life situations that involve the complexities of moral and ethical reasoning complicate this assumption.
How can such systems be designed to accommodate the complicatedness of ethical and moral reasoning? Just like choosing the color of a car, ethics can become a commodified feature in autonomous vehicles that one can buy, change, and repurchase, depending on personal taste.
Three distinct algorithms have been created - each adhering to a specific ethical principle/behaviour set-up - and embedded into driverless virtual cars that are operating in a simulated environment, where they will be confronted with ethical dilemmas."
Why do I blog this? This definitely counts as a project related to my interest towards algorithms and how their use influence everyday life.
This morning I've been to the Collection de l'Art Brut (Outsider Art) in Lausanne, for the "vehicles" exhibition. It's a new series, addressing means of transport with over 200 pieces by forty-two authors:
"Vehicles of the most rudimentary kind or of a more technical nature, and whether intended for travel by air, land or water, have always fascinated mankind. Incorporating a link with the childhood world with which Art Brut creators tend to remain attached, vehicles also embody an idea of power, both physically and sexually, as if to prolong human aptitudes."
It's brilliant and the pieces that caught my attention were the one by Serge Delaunay:
"Delaunay uses black felt pen on large sheets of paper. Colour is rare. Cars and spaceships are his favourite subjects. He is fascinated by science, especially astronomy and mechanics, and buys science magazines every week. He adds texts and captions to his drawings. The initials GTX, often under his signature, refer to the automotive industry too. "
Two examples: (Copyright Collection de L'Art Brut)
See also some this one that reflects his interested towards technological futures:
Why do I blog this? I'm very curious by Outside Art and the way these pieces exemplify some alternative and curious vision of our reality. Delaunay's vision of technological artifacts such as car, TVs and robots are utterly stunning.
Having written and talked a lot about technological flops and failures, I'm always fascinated by this time of the year. With the CES at Las Vegas, there's always this resurgence of bad product ideas... and the internet/smart/intelligent/connected fridge is one of them. Ars Technica has a good piece about the problems that one may encounter with smart devices. The list they make is strikingly interesting IMO:
"the "Internet of things" stands a really good chance of turning into the "Internet of unmaintained, insecure, and dangerously hackable things."
These devices will inevitably be abandoned by their manufacturers, and the result will be lots of "smart" functionality—fridges that know what we buy and when, TVs that know what shows we watch—all connected to the Internet 24/7, all completely insecure. [...] Flaws and insecurities will be uncovered, and the software components of these smart devices will need to be updated to address those problems. They'll need these updates for the lifetime of the device, too. [...] In addition to security, there's also a question of utility. Netflix and Hulu may be hot today, but that may not be the case in five years' time. New services will arrive; old ones will die out. Even if the service lineup remains the same, its underlying technology is unlikely to be static."
This necessity to have "updates" is problematic given the tendency tech companies have to badly handle them:
"That costs money, it requires a commitment to providing support, and it does little or nothing to promote sales of the latest and greatest devices. In the software world, there are companies that provide this level of support—the Microsofts and IBMs of the world—but it tends to be restricted to companies that have at least one eye on the enterprise market. In the consumer space, you're doing well if you're getting updates and support five years down the line."
Why do I blog this? The update bit is a problem i didn't consider in my argument against smart fridges but it sounds reasonable and relevant. Concerning CES products, I have to admit I'm far more intrigued by vaping devices and bluetooth-enabled piercings than such smart fridges/watches.