Soundbites at Cybersalvations

Live-blogging has lost it’s sheen for me lately. Especially when you know that whatever it is that you just saw is going to be filmed and available within 24 hours, then the written reports, the work of a typist almost, doesn’t seem that appealing. It’s like going to the theater to go to a conference these days. You go to say that you went, so that people appreciate the effort, understand what you fill the hours with. You go for yourself mostly, so that you do keep your nose to the screen, to say you’ve lived a moment, an experience. Like going to the movies instead of watching a download. Things like who you went with, how close you were to the stage, how good the pictures you took are, become interesting, shape your experience.

So I guess I’ll monologue about what caught ears about the very good talks from Peter Pels and Bruce Sterling this week.

1. Peter Pels soundbites:

Anthropologists and science-fiction deal with experiements about the future. The difference between them is that anthropologists deal with monologues and sad reflections on the present but are also interested in what science-fiction does for and with people.

The future has been a sort of religion. The future is another world, a different environment, close to the conception that we have of heaven?

Anthropology and geography made science fiction before engineers and scientists became the main protagonists.

The notion of the future positive is the ideological american-based notion that the future couldnt possibly be worse.

We are now in an era of design fiction. what does this meean for the way we imagine the future?
less outer space
less space, we forget about spaceshipts and time travel
relaxed about religion

isnt it all the time about the things we make, what does that mean for the way we imagine the future

2. Bruce Sterling soundbites

We are living in an obscurantist period.

Fiction has difficulties surviving because it believes in the power of the press and is very dependent on means of production which are very much under stress.

You can predict the future by finding the things most people are scared or nervous about.

Design is a method of action.

Science fiction is a culture, or a pop subculture, mostly inhabited by people who are bright, cranky and have poor social skills.

the terror is gone
the terror bubble broke
terror is bush1.0

We are now in an “internet bouillabaisse” (a great french fish based soup for those who were wondering) where people are using the same screens, search engines and means of cultural production. We’re in a communication glut.

So now we’re in a stew of internet hardware and software. Everything is melted down to creole media. He doesnt know what he’s about to do, and worries that he’ll be too vague to get anything done.

Having the choice of being stuck on a desert island between a writer and a designer, the writer will chew your thighbone off whereas the designer will build a boat out of the trees, instruments out of the coconuts.

—- end of transmission —-

PS: Linguistic “tee hee” moments:

niche was pronounced “nitch” and spime was pronouced “speem”

Reporting on Doors of Perception 2/3: Juice as in transport

It’s so easy to forget that your own behaviors are the result of your surroundings. India was a vivid reminder of that. Delhi is the home of 13 million people, or 9 000 people per square kilometer. That means nothing until you have to think about how those people will start going places and then it dawns on you that as a foreigner in this vivid city, you know nothing about traffic, that you know nothing of the subtle art of being able to fit 8 cars on a 3 lane highway, and that you’ve had it easy so far.

You see, in Delhi, going around could be an Olympic sport and being a tourist and needing to get around is actually a battlefield. It starts with trying to flag an auto rick-shaw, well enough of them if you happen to be a party of people. Each rick-shaw will only fit 3 people , no more, or you have a deathwish. Then you have to tell him where you want to go and he might just decline if it’s too dodgy, busy or not where he intended to go.
Then you talk price, you have to bargain your way through India, even if it means a fraction of a fraction of what you would have thought to be cheap in London, Paris or New York… 100 rupees to go across town on what is basically a motorbike dressed up for Halloween, that’s 1 pound in my mind and it’s just mind blowing. But you do it, and you’re told by the locals to do it, bargain till the price drops so low you could buy 20 , and you do it because otherwise if you come and buy everything at what they’d like you to pay, then the prices go up for everyone, and the locals will have to pay more, and considering how much they earn you don’t want that to happen to them.

So you get on auto the rick shaw, the car, the bike rick-shaw, trying not to fall out of the vehicle , holding on to the frame for dear life, with a driver who will completely ignore where you’re trying to go or where you point on the map, and will take your somewhere else where his friend works, where he’ll argue and just stand there saying “this is better” on the off chance you’ll buy something from his friend/family out of frustration, so you fight it and you fight him and you argue and you get angry and then stoic, he might get back in the car and start over again.

And then of course there’s the honking, that in Delhi, is an indication of presence. Every auto rickshaw or bus is hand painted at the back with “horn please”, so make sure they know you’re there. I can’t imagine the sixth sense of presence you develop as a driver there. After 8 days in Delhi, I started to cancel the honking out slightly, it became part of the soundscape of the city. I can imagine that for a local person however, it must be like white noise.

There it is, the sights and sounds of Delhi. In the next report I’ll talk all about the tastes and smells.

Reporting on Doors of Perception 1/3: New Friends

If anything this trip has reminded me of how much I hate long haul flights. In the space of a day, I woke up at 4 in Delhi, took off on a plane at 8 30, landed in Bahrain 5 hours later to take a plane exactly 30 minutes later and sit there watching crap american movies for another 7 hours, to land at Heathrow, take a 2h30 bus to Stansted and jump on another 1 hour flight to Amsterdam to finally put the keys in the door at 11 at night…. ugh.

What made it worth it? Well among the many reasons, Doors was great for the people who attended and I think I can safely say that I made new friends. Friends who just happen to not live in Amsterdam of course, but in this modern world, that hardly matters. So a list of the people whose work I liked, or who became great travel companions:

John Thackara, UK
Caitlin Hood, UK
Garrick Jones, UK
Robert O’Dowd, UK
Francesca Sarti, IT
Maja kuzmanovic, BE
Margie Morris, Senior researcher for the Digital Health Group at Intel, US
Ron Paul, Consulting Director for the Portland Public Market, US
Keity Anjoure, Choreographer, FR
Mia Lindmark and Malin Lindmark Vrijman, Sweden
Debra Solomon, NL
Konstantinos Chalaris, UK
Kristine Malden, FR


My good friend Dave Chiu is helping put this together. Add it to your calendar, all you san franers out there…

February 24, 2007
San Francisco, CA



CookCamp Wiki page

The CookCamp un-conference will focus on food and health, bringing together people from diverse backgrounds (health, technology, design, food, politics, business, cooking, and more) to share, create, and learn from one another over the course of a day.

In true barcamp style, there is no set agenda prior to the event, so bring some enthusiasm, inspiration, and discussion topics around food and health. More information is on the wiki, which is editable, so please add demos, session ideas, discussion topics, etc.

Near-field interaction workshop post-mortem

I came back from a very vibrant Near-field interactions workshop in Oslo, hosted and organized by Timo Arnall,Julian Bleeker and Nicolas Nova. This is the third workshop organized of this kind around this subject, the first one, which I attended, took place at LIFT, the second one took place in Geneva again a few months ago. Here is a chronological aggregation of some of what happened over the weekend.

Timo started by asking what the physical link to a virtual connection is. There are those who see RFID as a field worth exploring and that will open the development of a number of interesting projects but there are also some very real concerns around privacy and identity, areas which also were addressed in some of the discussions over the weekend. Katherine Albrecht was mentioned as an anti-RFID activist with the idea of spychips. There are also questions around “near-field” and the concept of “touch” and how these things literally collide. What are the different cultural meanings behind touching? What happens when the web becomes physical and is that even the right question to ask?

Nicolas spoke about bridging first and second life, between a data-bound world online and how it relates to the world of objects. What are the interfaces for these bridges?

Then we moved onto a “5-minute-madness” where each of the participants had to present themselves, why they were interested in this workshop and what their point of view was. I was invited to speak about some of my thoughts later on in the afternoon as well, so was pretty brief in the morning with these 3 slides.

I enjoyed Florian and Stephan’s presentation about the Mobile Prosumer. They were interested in researching whether touching is relevant in the retail environment and what is the relevant technology to support it. They were interested in developing a service-oriented architectures which I think is something very interesting.

Vincenzo Palotta, from the Université de Fribourg, presented his project on KUIjects or Kinetic User Interface objects. Based on the activity theory paradigm, he argued that if you want to avoid interactions between objects, you have to focus on their movement itself as the source of design. There will be incidental interactions that occur without an explicit focus on the object, in short removing objects from the equation of interactions all together.

Janne from Nokia, with whom I had a lot of fun in the group work, had some interesting thoughts about security and RFID. If we assume that near-field capabilities will be accessible to everyone owning a cell phone, what happens when 2 000 million users have access to it. How do you build trust in the technology? He also pointed out that people care about security once it’s gone and it’s in the newspapers.

Ulla-Maria talked about some of the thinking behind her project Thinglink. She spoke about the perception of potential NFC action and how we can either pre-determine these affordances or let the user generate the social affordance. These then become accumulative and organised around shared motives. We connect on a very personal and emotional level with objects (i want, like, hate, own, sell, give) and so we need to equip these objects with personal relationships on a virtual level as well.

Matt talked about the “middleware” of that project and the impact that this has on thinking about global naming and collecting information about objects that are independant of context.
He spoke about what happens when you focus on object-oriented development, literally and open-data.

Then Gil, from Plot, introduced the movie that they produced based on some interviews with “future-casters” in London. When asked to think of future RFID-services they asked some very real questions:

How visible am i? How information-leaky am i?
How close can orgs get to me?
What are the layers of visibility?
What are the implications of having things close to me?
How do we design behaviours that are appropriate behind this?
How do we build-in empathy?
How do we deal with attention span?
What is the level of agency of that technology? How are questions of control engagement, permissions dealt with?
Participation: how do i see it, how am i taking part, how can I self select in and out of this?
Data as a commodity: how are we leaving an information trail that becomes more visible, tangible and tradable?
How are people seen and valued? Are people considered active users and not passive ones?

At the end of the 2 days, Ben made the final presentation, the first time I say him speak, although we’re good friends. It was quite a treat. Some of the points he talked about I will only attempt to list as a bullit list, this will most probably not make any sense to anyone who wasn’t there…

What does nearfield mean from a culture flow: layering space with meaning in a way that we can’t see.

This is something that happens on a peer to peer level.

There will be grouping and rules that will be sorted in the background, messages that will be passed back and forth, what does this mean for civic and architectural structures.

Flow of movement is tracked, leaving information behind.

The flow through architectue becomes erosive.

People’s own awareness is accued. a new definition of personal space…the virtual fields get more physical.

Movement is happening in the heard and self organisation within flicks of people become more visibla ena tangible.

Signification intentions are blurred

Modeling – New Bablyon condensation of social purpose… second life transformation of the city… a social city above the city itself.

What does this do to products and spaces? How do you suggest action because there is no longer a physical interface? How does this influence architecture?

Illustrating a service design process

I wont be attending Emergence but I had the pleasure on working on illustrating our design process for the poster session where Fresh Start will be presented and i suddenly found it a fascinating exercise. How do you represent what starts out by being boxes and arrows and make it compelling? I had to think about the flow of the process for one. We went through some design steps that influenced the way we analyzed prior assumptions (so the loop) and iterative processes around core design elements (around experience prototyping for example) that completely shaped the final product. So I tried to convey the dynamic essence of that process without losing sight of the visual flow i wanted to keep, i.e. some respect of a left to right, top to bottom way of reading.
So what i came up with eventually was reshaped because we had a lot of copy to include for each step as well as pictures, but i still really like the visual illustration of 7 weeks of hard work, that solely focuses on process and not on detailing the service. On an academic level it’s really interesting and worthwhile.

The final poster version will be present at the conference of course, but consider this the teaser ;)