Why do I blog this? Seen in the Arlanda Express in Stockholm this week, this intriguing signage is meant for an invisible interface, the (standard) automatic door which always leads perplexed user to wonder how to open it. Although I like the icons here, I had to help two persons during the trip to downtown.
The kind of wearable computing you find at the market in Geneva. It's been a while these sound-activated t-shirts exist and I find it fascinating to see them around in 2015. Future mundane at its best here.
Here’s a list of services offered in an AC-intense mobile phone repair shop in Trinidad (Cuba): "desbloqueo decodificatión y liberación de celulares, código de usuario, cambio de idioma, cambio de frecuencia, reparación de software (flasheo), reparación de celulares Chinos, reparaciones generales de hardware (display, flex, táctiles, bocinas, micrófonos, régiment de carga), eliminación de humedad a móviles, instalación de aplicaciones, actualización de sistema Android, actualización de sistema IOS, configuración del coreo nauta, información et asesoria gratuitas."
A rather broad and interesting inventory. Some of the services can generally be fond in this type of shop ((I regularly visit these stores while traveling here and there )); unlocking the SIM card and change components (speaker, microphone ...) in particular. I also understood "eliminación of humedad has móviles" is not related to the climatic constraints of moisture as one might think, but rather to the fact that many people, there as elsewhere, seems to drop the phone in the water 📱💦. The other services are less common : assistance with phone configuration (language, messaging software, update OS) or app installation. The precision concerning the Chinese mobile phone repair is obviously intriguing too.
Basically, this type of store is not very different from those I have just a few meters from my home in Geneva. However, Cuba has many other shop/counters/garage/apartment????) offering repair services for all kinds of other artifacts : for automobiles of course (from 1951 Plymouth to the latest Audi), electro-mechanical watch/clock, garden and kitchen hardware, bikes, etc.
Given the difficulty to acquire property on the island, this is not hardly a surprise, but it reflects a important“repair culture". However, unlike many titles of articles or reference guide saying that a visit to Cuba is a “frozen in time", it is a lively present. With, one the one hand, a variety of technical objects both old and new, not necrotic at all. And, on the other hand, altered artifacts, with more or less recent parts. The best example being the bicitaxi (bicycle taxi) that are certainly rudimentary at first but whose sound consists bluetooth speakers hanging on the ceiling (cardboard, metal or wood) and controlled by a smartphone (iPhone or Android ). Similarly, American cars are certainly old, but the driver may well have a bluetooth headset for phone calls, and a USB key inserted into car stereos with tons of mp3s collected in in music stores delivering content more or less fresh downloaded from the Internet (and potentially via the Paquete Semanal). The government also contribue to this, as attested by the Soviet-like toll arches on Havana highways ... on which fixed cameras read the registration plates (according to our taxi driver) in a very contemporary robot world-readable fashion. This type of arrangement is also not limited only to hardware tinkering, it is found in fact in the service of such design… with Airbnb being available for in some casa particulares (guest capita ) with a payment made through an intermediary in an agency in Miami.
Another consequence of this culture of DIY also concerns the recycling of objects, materials and spare parts from multiple devices. Some examples encountered : along with the inevitable mention of 1950s US cars, I ran across a lawn mower made up of a screw motor metal rods and a small motorcycle tank, a leaf blower assembled with a vacuum cleaner motor mounted on a leather harness and a North American switch, a Lada VAZ-2101 engine placed in the hood of a 1957 Dodge, etc. This kind of bricolage is also described by the anthropologist Sarah Hill in a fascinating article titled "Recycling History and the Never-Ending Cuban Life of Things" ... who goes into more detail on what I describe here. Without idealizing these practices, it would be intriguing to compare this practices with other recycling and repair cultures including Gambiarra described Felipe Fonseca in Brazil.
Without offering the same conditions (political, social, technological and other) that the Western world, the island is far from being “frozen in the past” as I’ve seen written here and there. And one can also wonder wether this type of lively hybridization cannot be also considered as our future. It seems reasonable to think that a culture of recycling or DIY could become widespread in the Western world due to the scarcity multiple commodities / rare metals.
Two visualizations (among many others) from unknown authors.
This two-pages document is from a magazine called EPOCA:
A simple series with some design parameters presented with icons from 3oneseven:
The next one is made by Bogdan Răuţă for usell.com:
Why do I blog this? I recently started a project about smartphone gestures, a sort of follow-up to Curious Rituals. These representations (which are not perfect of course) are relevant for that matter, as they show how different parameters evolved over time.
"Fortress of Solitude" by Space Caviar (Simone Niquille), sound by M.E.S.H:
"is an essay film in three chapters investigating the technology used to make the home smarter. The internet and alternative network protocols are the backbone to home automation. Much of the technology infused into homes and our everyday lives have a history of defense funding or only exist because of military research. Is the smart home in fact a militarisation of the domestic, home.mil? Is our home becoming a data machine rather than architecture for living? Are our most privates spaces broadcasting our lives involuntarily instead of providing shelter?"
Why do I blog this? Both because the topic is important wrt to recent project (cloud computing project, as well as smart cities scouting reports), and because the format itself is intriguing. This is a great exemple of how design work materialize issues, situations and consequences of domestic technologies.
Futures research, foresight and speculative design often use the notion of "possible", "potential", "plausible" and "preferable" future. See for instance the work by Stuart Candy who uses the diagram above based on the work of different researchers. This typology is described in more details in these two articles:
Hancock, T. & Bezold, C. (1994). Possible futures, preferable futures. Healthcare Forum Journal, vol. 37, no. 2, 23–29
Voros, J. (2001). A Primer on Futures Studies, Foresight and the Use of Scenarios, prospect, the Foresight Bulletin, No 6, Swinburne University of Technology
Why do I blog this? It seems that this graph spread like an internet meme, and it's relevant to get back to how it has been produced, why and how.
Here's a photo of the poster we presented two weeks ago at the European Academy of Design Conference in Paris. It's based on a research project conducted at HEAD – Genève which led to this book (we're working on a second edition). The diagrams depicts the different profiles of designers (regarding the way to carry out field research in their projects) and the set of steps they go through (from producing data to analyzing them and creating design elements out of it). This is the type of process I am using in my workshops about design ethnography, as a pedagogical tool to help participants. We're going to use it in the upcoming studio organized with Annelore Schneider at the Geneva School of Art and Design in order to explore the future of mobile photography.
The graphic design has been done by Fabienne Kilchör and Sebastien Fasel from emphase.ch
Here's the PDF if you're interested in printing it (and you have access to a plotter).
"At a time in which the digital is omnipresent, the interdisciplinary group exhibition Short Cuts highlights the dialogue between two generations of artists who operate between art, design and technology. This comparison makes clear how technology and its influences are present in the electronic arts of our own times as well as in the concrete and kinetic art of the 60s and 70s. In these works we see graphic design, algorithms, innovative production processes of series and new kinds of aesthetic forms. Comparable with the view through a kaleidoscope, the exhibition allows access to a variety of formal and discursive approaches which refer to the interplay between the increasingly digitalised world in which we live and artistic practices influenced by digital media."
Some examples below, among many inspiring pieces.
"Teacher of Algorithms" by Simone Rebaudengo and commissioned by thingtank.org/ is an highly intriguing project "built with Cardboard and a lot of randomness". It's basically an exploration of algorithm training, how "smart/learning objects" are not finished entities and can evolve by observing contextual data such a people's habits.
Why do I blog this? A fascinating speculative exploration of an important topic; i love the notion of "teach of algorithm" based on the fact that people might be too lazy to train their so-called smart things. It's the "internet of things" equivalent to goldfarmers to some extent. Besides that, the future mundane flavor is great in there.
Some serious business going on here: a Facetime-enabled visioconference operated while walking (seen in Geneva, Switzerland). Verbal and non-verbal communication in the context of a heated debate on a subject I could not parse because of my lack of knowledge of this language.
Why do I blog this? Such situation is nonetheless utterly fascinating as a curious rituals happening these days (with or without a selfie-stick). The "private bubble" located in the public sphere in a new way with different instruments.
This coffee machine encountered at the University of Lausanne (thanks Olivier G. for pointing me this example) seems like an interesting example of an everyday situation reconfigured by digital technology. Apart from cash, coffee drinkers can use their RFID "campus card" (see the plastic things that hold the card on the reader), which also happens to open door and pay restaurants among other tasks:
Why do I blog this? documenting the digital everyday, as mundane as it may be.
An inspiring article in ACM interactions called "on the importance and implications of studying technology non-use" by Eric Baumer, Jenna Burrell, Morgan Ames, Jed Brubaker and Paul Dourish. It revolves around the idea that the "the dominant discourse in HCI still focuses primarily on technology users" and that "non-use and other forms of technological relationships" are both common and relevant to analyze. The topic that caught my attention is the typology of non-usage:
"Non-use could be understood as the absence of action and, as such, may not be amenable to study through methods traditionally used to study participants’ actions. [...] In contrast, Jonathan Lukens’s study of visual artists who avoid using tools such as Photoshop for specific portions of their work demonstrates how non-use can require as much, if not more, conscious, deliberate, effortful action as technology use does. In this way, while non-use is often understood as the absence of a phenomenon or practice, something else likely exists in place of use, and it is that something we should be studying. [...] Lindsay Ems’s research highlights that even individuals or groups famous for non-use, such as the Amish, do not avoid information and communication technologies entirely, but rather selectively take them up, mediated by cultural norms and religious values. [...] non-use could be understood not as an identity, where a given individual is either a user or a non-user, but rather as a continually negotiated practice. For example, Alex Leavitt’s work studying situational non-use of Google Glass points to the moment-to-moment negotiations, often around privacy, between the Glass wearer and others about when and how the technology should (and should not) be used."
See also the position papers from the workshop that led to this paper.
Why do I blog this? Because this kind of blind spot might be interesting to focus on in a design ethnography class.
"Activate switch", "Touch to Exit", "Push to Exit", "Press to operate door": the vocabulary of doors is impressive here.
The "Legend of Zelda" watch is a multi-purpose device made by Nelsonic Industries, who obtained the Nintendo license back at the end of the 1980s. According to the Wikipedia, 12 million copies were sold, which is quite impressive and perhaps better than recent watch computers.
Is that a smartwatch? That's maybe not the main point here, but it's intriguing to think about the fact that there's already a lot of examples (like this) of showing how computation can help triggering a playful user experience on a wrist-based tiny device.
Beyond the functionalities, I'm also curious of the gestural behavior of the user here. The manipulation of the buttons is tricky but doable, although it's way different than the NES version of Zelda.
WORLD BRAIN by Stéphane Degoutin and Gwenola Wagon:
World Brain proposes a stroll through motley folkloric tales : data centers, animal magnetism, the Internet as a myth, the inner lives of rats, how to gather a network of researchers in the forest, how to survive in the wild using Wikipedia, how to connect cats and stones… The world we live in often resembles a Borgesian story. Indeed, if one wanted to write a sequel to Borges’ Fictions, he could do it simply by putting together press articles. The World Brain is made out mostly of found materials : videos downloaded on Youtube, images, scientific or pseudo scientific reports, news feeds… The project describes the planetary network surrounding us and offers theoretical tools to interpret it. It considers the perverse effects of the universal connection, and the risk for the individuals to become numb, under the reign of collective intelligence. Its goal is to build an alternative project for the survival of mankind. [...] World Brain takes the viewer through a journey inside the physical places by which the Internet transits: submarine cables, data centers, satellites. The film adopts the point of view of the data. The audience view the world as if they were information, crossing the planet in an instant, copied in an infinite number of instances or, at the contrary, stored in secret places.
Why do I blog this? This film nicely complements Timo Arnall's contemplative movie "Internet Machine". This is obviously interesting wrt to a project I'm working on related to cloud computing.
"Listen to the world of tomorrow"
Last week, Julian recommended me this book called "Super Sad True Love" by Gary Shteyngart. A long flight over to Fog City CA gave me plenty of time to peruse it carefully. It's a good novel set in a near future dominated by media, retail/commerce and the collapse of the US economy. It feels a bit like Steak crossed with Idiocracy.
There are many interesting and humorous bits in the book (the critique of media/retail, the transhumanists perspective) but what caught my attention is the way smartphone usage is portrayed. Shteyngart use the term "äppärät" to refer to smartphone/mobile devices. The book offers various descriptions that shed some light on current socio-technological rituals, and upcoming ones:
About the device behavior:
"my äppärät buzzing with contacts, data, pictures, projections, maps, incomes, sound, fury"
"my äppärät began to produce its “heavy thinking” noises, a wheel desperately spinning inside its hard plastic shell, its ancient circuitry completely overtaxed by the otter and his antics. The words ERROR CODE IT/FC-GS/FLAG appeared on the screen"
"I’m learning to worship my new äppärät’s screen, the colorful pulsating mosaic of it, the fact that it knows every last stinking detail about the world, whereas my books only know the minds of their authors."
"My äppärät pinged."
"But even he seemed unimpressed, glancing impatiently at his äppärät, which was alive with at least seven degrees of information, numbers and letters and Images stacked on the screen, flowing and eddying against one another as the waters of the Tiber once did."
On device usage and gesturing practices:
"A half-dozen of my fellow citizens were seated behind their chewed-up desks, mumbling lowly into their äppäräti. There was an earplug lying slug-dead on an empty chair, and a sign reading INSERT EARPLUG IN EAR, PLACE YOUR ÄPPÄRÄT ON DESK, AND DISABLE ALL SECURITY SETTINGS."
"I took out my äppärät, flicked it open in a gesture that was au courant maybe a decade ago, held it stupidly in front of me, put it back in my shirt pocket, then reached for a nearby bottle and refilled my glass."
"my äppärät picked up on some scan-able faces, an old-time porno star and a slick guy from Mumbai just starting out on his first worldwide Retail empire."
"I took out my äppärät and began to thump it loudly with my finger to show how much I loved all things digital, while sneaking nervous glances at the throbbing cavern around me, the wine-dulled business travelers lost to their own electronic lives."
"I took out my äppärät, but noticed that the new kids all had the new pebble-like model around their necks, the kind Eunice had worn."
"I lay in my bed, listening to Eunice teening furiously on her äppärät in the living room."
"her index fingers raised above the book as if ready to tap at the BUY ME NOW symbol on her äppärät,"
"Shu descended into another äppärät reverie. I did the same, pretending it was something serious and work-related, but really I was just GlobalTracing Eunice’s location."
Of course, there's a lot on social rituals, scanning, personal scores (which reminded me of Doctorow's reputation currency called 'whuffie') and surveillance:
"My äppärät data were sampled and scanned to a military äppärät by a young man who seemed to be missing a face beneath his cap’s long green visor."
"he wasn’t there. He didn’t have an äppärät, or it wasn’t set on “social” mode, or maybe he had paid some young Russian kid to have the outbound transmission blocked."
"They trooped past me, surprised, agitated, bemused, their äppäräti already projecting data about me, perhaps telling them how little I meant, my thirty-nine-year-old obsolescence."
"We need to get you a new äppärät,” he said. “You’re going to have to learn to surf the data streams better. Learn to rank people quicker.”
"Shu, a goddamn relentless immigrant in the mode of my janitor father but with English and good board scores on his side, was dealing with three äppäräti at once, his callused fingertips and spitfire Chinatown diction abuzz with data and the strong, dull hope that he was squarely in control."
“Learn how to use this thing immediately,” Shu told me. “Especially the RateMe part. Learn to rate everyone around you. Get your data in order. Switch on CrisisNet and follow all the latest. An ill-informed salesman is dead in the water these days. Get your mind in the right place."
"I put the name of my oldest Media pal, Noah Weinberg, into my äppärät and learned that he would be airing our reunion live on his GlobalTeens stream, “The Noah Weinberg Show!,” which made me nervous at first, but, then, this is exactly the kind of thing I have to get used to if I’m going to make it in this world"
“Damn, cabrón,” Noah said, eyeing my pebble. “Whuddat, a 7.5 with RateMe Plus? I’m going to stream that shit fucking close-up.” He filmed my äppärät with his äppärät, while I swallowed another mug of triglycerides."
“‘FAC? What’s that? Who am I? Where’s my diaper?’” “It means ‘Form A Community,’” Vishnu said. “It’s, like, a way to judge people. And let them judge you.” He took my äppärät, and slid some settings until an icon labeled “FAC” drifted onto the screen. “When you see FAC, you press the EmotePad to your heart, or wherever it can feel your pulse.” Vishnu pointed out the sticky thing on the back of my äppärät that I thought could be used to attach it to a dashboard or a fridge. Wrong again. “Then,” Vishnu continued, “you look at a girl. The EmotePad picks up any change in your blood pressure. That tells her how much you want to do her.”
“Set up your Community Parameters. Make it ‘Immediate Space 360’—that’ll cover the whole bar. Now look at a girl, then press the pad to your heart.” I looked at the pretty brunette, at the hairless crotch glowing from within her see-through Onionskin jeans, at the lithe body crouched imperiously atop a set of smooth legs, at her worried smile. Then I touched my heart with the back of my äppärät, trying to fill it with my warmth, my natural desire for love. The girl across the bar laughed immediately without even turning my way. A bunch of figures appeared on my screen: “FUCKABILITY 780/800, PERSONALITY 800/800, ANAL/ORAL/VAGINAL PREFERENCE 1/3/2.”
“The personality score depends on how ‘extro’ she is,” Vishnu explained. “Check it out. This girl done got three thousand–plus Images, eight hundred streams, and a long multimedia thing on how her father abused her. Your äppärät runs that against the stuff you’ve downloaded about yourself and then it comes up with a score. Like, you’ve dated a lot of abused girls, so it knows you’re into that shit"
"Vishnu worked my äppärät until some RANKINGS came up. He helped me navigate the data. “Out of the seven males in the Community,” he said, gesturing around the bar, “Noah’s the third hottest, I’m the fourth hottest, and Lenny’s the seventh.” “You mean I’m the ugliest guy here?” I ran my fingers through the remnants of my hair. “But you’ve got a decent personality,” Vishnu comforted me, “and you’re second in the whole bar in terms of SUSTAINABILIT¥.”
And finally on attention and disconnection:
"She really listened to me. She paid attention to me. She never even looked at her äppärät while I was speaking to her."
"My äppärät isn’t connecting. I can’t connect. No one’s äppäräti are working anymore. “It’s an NNEMP,” all the thirty something Media wizards hanging out in the lobby of our building are saying with finality. A Nonnuclear Electromagnetic Pulse."
"Eunice had opened up her äppärät and was concentrating on the last shopping page stored in its memory before communications collapsed. I could see she had instinctively opened a LandOLakes Credit Payment stream, but every time she tried to input her account info, she ended up throwing her head back as if stung. “I can’t buy anything,” she said. “Eunice,” I said. “You don’t have to buy anything. Go to bed.
Why do I blog this? I started recently a follow-up project to "Curious Rituals", in which I'm exploring smartphone usage. I'm mostly interested in people's gestural and postural habits with these devices. Shteyngart's writing is spot and offer a fascinated perspective on this topic. The humor and accuracy of his descriptions are impressive and it's fascinated to see how such a novel offer a good ethnographic perspective on mobile technology. The fact that it's set in the near future is also pertinent, as some of the features are just a stretch from existing practices.