Apr 15, 2008
The future is freer, smaller, mobile. This is not news in terms of design and consumer products. But what about other aspects of culture?
I predict a revival of the novella in literature. Perfect for our small attention spans and mobile demands. Or maybe the American pulp "novelette" of the 1940s and ’50s? Not only are novellas small, but in many ways they were the original blog or communal autoblography: stories and news from urban life worth repeating for amusement and edification.
This image was taken at Melville House, which has published a series "THE ART OF THE NOVELLA", helping prove my theory.
Apr 14, 2008
We need a new word for how we, as urban dwellers, live, work , love, relate and engage with the world. In the article "Nomads at last", the Economist coined the term "techno-Bedouins" to describe 21st century nomads. But I think we are in need of a better aggregate word as we seek to understand ourselves, our interactions and the way we shape our world.
We vibrate with a hum of constant connectivity, not external motion. Simultaneously localized and global, we participate in the rewards and consequences of an ubietous and ubiquitous culture. We are both rooted in our local communities and constantly connected to the larger trends and happenings of the planet.
Apr 8, 2008
The distracted self. Disembodiment and dislocation are consequences of the way we browse and parse information in our busy, overloaded lives. This is bad when we lose the context as Bell argues. But what about when we glimpse the beautiful, connected patterns of ideas in the array? Isn't this why we do it--traverse all the connections? Why we design, invent, evolve?
Many of the new innovations that are considered "technologies" are much more than that. They are interaction patterns, behavioral developments, evolutions of our senses.
As we evolve into twittering, snapping cyborgs, who are we really and what do we lose along with the context?
This paper by Brian Whitworth (crazy New Zealand physicist) explores the idea that the universe is a giant virtual-reality construct created by information processing. It's an interesting read, even if Occam's Razor--science should strive for the simplest theory--makes this argument fairly implausible.
But this paper and the ideas associated with it have arisen repeatedly over the last few years as we try to deconstruct and contextualize our real/virtual beliefs, philosophies, lives. It seems important to make note of ideas that get recycled and re-blogged.
Libraries are places of experimentation and truth, where we and our users put ideas to the test. In the age of ubiety and ubiquity, location and place matter. The here and where. With new technologies (see my post) we will be able to see who and what is checked in, who/what was there earlier, and what or where they/it will be in the future. We don't really understand yet how people feel about this, and what it means for usage, access and interaction. Let's find out.
Apr 7, 2008
Apr 6, 2008
Michel de Certeau, in ‘Walking in the city’ from The Practice of Everyday Life, describes the act of urban walking (or cycling) as an articulation of the language of the city. It is how we understand the boundaries and particulars of our urban consciousness, community, and self. The body as text vocalizes the unseen textures of urban interaction.
It is once again the time for exploration and exposure, leaving our winter havens for the unpredictable city streets. Walking, I get pulled into the minutiae, jolted into a new awareness of the urban landscape and my body. Slowly traversing the streets of Brooklyn late on a spring night, I know exactly where I am, it's locative. Stepping into the awakened verdure after a rough winter, I fall in love again with the city.
The physics of crowds, self-organization phenomena and the effects of this on urban ecology are a fascinating read in the Dynamics of Crowd Disasters: an Empirical Study.
Those with asperger's or a fondness for structured repetition should try algorithmic or generative walking, pioneered by the Dutch art collective Social Fiction. Just imagine where you might end up.
Check out Conflux (happening September 11-14 this year), an event that uses art and technology to explore urban public space. Projects often highlight the physical consciousness of cities and use walking, mapping and psychogeography to ask "who are we?"/"where are we?"
Go there, get lost, the city is there for you to wield.
Cyclists: head over to Grand Army Plaza on April 12th (11:00-3:00), where the DOT will distribute free NYC bike helmets and volunteers will offer tune-ups (bike not body).
Apr 2, 2008
- Collaboration is the key. Multiple people working and engaging in a shared space.
- Information is here. A librarian/curator/information person will always be present to act as a guide and connector of people and ideas. Through social software, users can share books/media.
- Community is at the center of this experiment. It is both local and virtual. The space is dictated by us, the users.
- Workable and non-invasive. Working can be anything: building software, plotting a new business, writing, reading, telling stories to kids.
- Accessible and usable, it will endeavor to create both a financially, physically and psychologically accessible space.
- Open and free for everyone. What happens here will be transparent and open. People working in collaborative spaces and talking about their ideas.
- Sustainable and ecological because sharing space is better for the planet.
- Beautiful and flexible because this makes it desirable to be there. Art will be incorporated in the space and change regularly.
The community decides what else happens here: movie nights (aka CitiCinema), openings, book clubs, demoshackathons (like Mash Pits), meetings, non-profit events, seminars’, salons’, art shows, book launches, meetups, etc.
This space will be downtown, in an accessible urban area, wireless (with laptop locks, etc), welcoming, friendly and serious.
It will NOT be a crashpad, library, lounge, restaurant, private, exclusive, remote, sterile.
Most important, there will be good people here and therefore good things will happen because this is a coworking environment.
Are you with me?
Apr 1, 2008
With GPS, Google Maps, and the ever present iPhone, I miss being able to get lost. It is extremely difficult in a mediated, controlled world.
What if it were possible to map the future, which would constantly shift. We would regain our disorientation, that dizzying moment when nothing looks familiar. In the physical world, you have to slowly find your way back to recognition with your senses. What about in Google Earth?
Mar 31, 2008
The Color Wars on Twitter are a perfect example. It has been twelve days and they are solidifying and getting serious. There are thousands of people playing on dozens of teams and there are games for the teams to participate in. Official headquarters are at ColorWar2008, made by the SepiaTeam. This may be the first time Twitter has been used on a wide scale for any kind of game. Check it out, just do it. I can't explain.
The creator Ze Frank says: "So, for a while I've been thinking about how a color war might look online. How would you play tug of war, or other group games that were silly, time limited, and awesome... and more importantly how could you create teams within an already functioning environment to have that same people-mash-up effect that we did at camp. Twitter seemed perfect."
As with the best games, there is always meaning behind the fun, and Color Wars is "an idiom that can be used to create rapid affiliation and action models in the future." (ZF)
Thank you Ze Frank. Thank you thousands of bored, creative people.
P.S. There is a youtube video about it, there is a comic. It is officially in the zeitgeist. Rock on Colors.
In the past day, I received a string of Tweets that were as follows: "at work, early", "grading & then on 2 podcasting", "doing errands. woot!", "lunching", "eating sandwich", "breathing". Etc, ad nauseam.
The tag line is "what are you doing?" and Twitter delivers by exposing the minutiae of our lives. The simple sharing of day-to-day activity of people you know. But is it really sharing if you are simply advertising yourself and your activities? When everything is a headline, a media event, doesn't it lose meaning? Can we be conscious while constantly being on exhibit? And there is a cycle of exhibition vs. paranoia (look at me/are you looking) that displaying the spectacle of the self creates. Twitter is a manifestation of either Jean Baudrillard's dreams or worst nightmare.
I am not anti-Twitter. I appreciate its asynchronicity. It connects disparate people and communicates snapshot information very well. And it merges movements in social software usage, such as personal blogging, LPIs, and IM status messages, and creates a fascinating, contradictory vortex of Me. Is it ephemeral or permanent? Important or vacuous? Public or private?
Twitter evolves constantly. In the past few weeks alone, you can now use Skitch to twitter an image, there are Tweviews (mini Twitter reviews), and 17 ways to visualize Twitter.
But does this make our lives better? Richer? Deeper? What value does it add? There is an extreme loneliness to shouting out "me" statements into the great void. And little purpose that I can detect. But I am happy to be proven wrong.
Mar 29, 2008
Thinking about this idea (beyond the teen motivational realm) is enlightening. But can we still make mistakes or do we live in a society, a world cushioned to failure?
Innovation happens through creativity. Risk, exploration, diving with mysterious purpose into the unknown.
We invent new things--artifacts, objects, ideas--and technologies because existing ones have failed us and we can imagine better. Nature comes to us as perfect, and yet we invent because we want tools that improve upon what is and make it into what can be. We want to navigate the impossible. This is why design (of buildings, objects, etc) is so exciting, because it flirts between the real and the fantastical.
I think the greatest designs find the paradisiac balance between.
The field of design is all about anticipating failure. Donald Norman talks about this in The Design of Everyday Things. Henry Petroski talks about this in Success through Failure:The Paradox of Design. History is filled with quaint examples: 3M Post-It-Notes, Penicillin.
Do machines have our backs, preventing the ideal failure? Is it both easier and more impossible to risk in an age of ubiquity and ubiety? Ambient environments cushion us from failure. Social networks demand our attention, turning us away from true invention. We live in dangerous and exciting times.
Mar 28, 2008
From Jan Chipchase's Future Perfect, visual based signage at a Bangkok library.
The more we embed ourselves in a visual culture through example, the more we become visually literate. In our attention fatigued society, the less text the more we can really read.
Contrary to the above, these library signs in an (anonymous) urban New York City library are offensive. I want to instantly disobey their rules. It is insulting to be told to do something by such visually revolting and badly created signs.
Mar 27, 2008
There is a whole genre and field of ubiquitous computing, an ubiquitous dialectic that argues that human-computer interaction and information processing has been thoroughly integrated into everyday objects and activities. Many computational devices and systems are used simultaneously, anywhere and everywhere. Read Adam Greenfield's book Everyware: The dawning age of ubiquitous computing.
I argue that while we have certainly entered the age of ubiquitous computing as Adam states, we have simultaneously entered into the opposite, the age of ubiety, or whereness.
Social networking is now mobile (Twitter) and becoming aware of its location, its ubiety, with mobile services such as GyPSii, a mobile social network that is being touted to become a bigger phenomenon than Facebook. Mobile social networks care about where you are and seek to capitalize on location information. Ubiety Entrepreneurs.
More and more, geospatial technologies allow us to identify a general sense of whereness.
Live video streaming from anywhere/everywhere reveals both ubiquity and ubiety. Qik is software that provides a video streaming service, but is designed specifically for mobile phones. This technology combined with whereness locative technologies provides interesting opportunities in recording and sharing experiences through a visual, mobile medium. Their tag line is "be an eyewitness."
We can exist both here (ubiety) and everywhere (ubiquity), but as we switch between these two modes of being, our consciousness will be forced to adhere. Our attention will once again be in demand. And we will either adapt and find the harmony in being here, there and everywhere, or be mugged of our time.
I highly recommend Andrew's website if you are interested in visualizing data.
Mar 26, 2008
Scott Douglas, author of the McSweeney's column
Tags are those little nuggets of truth that we all crave and Shirky is a believer. He is critical of top-down classification schemes, and rightly so. But bottom-up classification schemes are not necessarily the solution. There is the desire in the Shirky cult to deify bottom-up organization, without critically assessing the structured, traditional literacy culture that surrounds us. When the majority of people apply a certain tag to a work, they are still harnessed to the same inherent language system (English in this case) that limits us in its structure. As the Playful Librarian notes, classification systems are all built on structured and labeled database systems. With these limitations, can we--the powers of one and many--really make Shirky(ies) happy? How do we shake this up and look at it differently? Luis von Ahn is an example.
The work of Luis von Ahn seeks to understand the crucial component of play in organizing knowledge. He makes human generated games based on tags that teach computers to understand beauty. Games pair random players to solve a computing problem. Because the two players get points when their answers (tags) match, the accuracy, fun quotient, and stakes of tagging increase. Freed from familiar structures, we can really ask what is beautiful? What has meaning to us as both one and a collective many?
Above is an image from German filmmaker Anke Haarmann's documentary 'Public Blue'. It shows homeless people's tents beside a train station in Osaka. There is an interview on Ping.
"The facts are vague: there seem to be about 25 000 homeless people in Japan. Some of them describe themselves as ‘no jyuku sha’ or ‘field campers’ - as they manage to settle in parks and other public spaces on a more permanent basis, easily distinguishable by their tent houses made of stark blue plastic covers. Especially in Osaka, these ‘campers’ not only organize themselves increasingly over the internet. They also engage in political activities to stand up for their rights and protest against the increasing park clearings by the municipiality."