The dog and the clock on their way…

Ok so i sent out the dog to London through my good friend Mike who hopefully will be sending this to my friend Karola and then the experiment will start…

The clock is on its way to Montreal, via lovely Sydney who will send it from NY…

Since I havent gotten any answers from Marcos, Im trying to aim for Seoul instead of Tokyo through my friend Aram, hopefulle this can be done this week…

Good things come to those who wait apparently…:-)

Experiment 1: the jar, the clock and the dog.

Ok so from this point onward and starting tomorrow hopefully i will be able to document via this blog the trials and tribulations of a jar sent to Tokyo, a plush dog sent to London and a clock sent to Montreal. This is basically a spin off of the chain letter concept but with a communal twist. People receive these objects, personlize them, then have to pass them on to someone they know after having taken a picture of the object sent to me which allows me to publish the results online and documenting who gets these objects, how they got them and what they did with them.

I am interested in testing a few things here with this experiment. Firstly whether people are opened to not owning, if the value is collective and accessible by all members of the group is enough. Im interested in the modes of personalization which is why i have a fairly blank object (the jar) which needs total personalization, an emotionally charged object with little personalisation capacity (the dog) and a highly functional object with no emotional anchor and with a large personalisation capacity. I am interested in knowing how far these obejcts will travel, how large does the community around these objects get, how interested people are in the destiny of these objects. Will they seek for them? Will they wait till it happens to drop in their hands???

I am sending 2 of these objects tomorrow in the mail and so the games begin!!!!

Spimes???

Hmm, the more i learn the more i love Bruce Sterling…I learnt a new word today: spime, ie the idea of the intelligent device that is also aware of its state (of course this was in the context of object -driven programming but i extrapollated it to the idea of physical objects.

There’s a good book ive been meaning to read called The New Everyday: Views on Ambient Intelligence, which is a collection of essays on intelligent objects. I think there are some interesting concerns when we need to adress technology and embedding it in everyday objects, fabrics and wearables. What i am looking at in a way is the reverse situation where i will be trying to extract the physical qualities of objects to make them come back in high tech interactions.

Colin's feedback…

This is the feedback I got from Colin Burns last month who was talking about his work for an R&D team a few years ago:

We created good experimental evidence that authentic (i.e. from the real
context) objects are a highly effective trigger for reminiscence and memory.
(e.g. Souvenir of a trip, family members hat, etc…)

Much of the work in this area up to now focuses on the “mindful” capture of
memories (e.g. The photograph, “Kodak moment” scenario…). More mileage is
to be had in so called “quotidian” capture (see Proust, I think (or one of
those philosopher types..!) …) – i.e. those everyday things that at the
time don’t seem significant.

Patterns of “quotidian” data are highly relevant. (e.g. What would it be
like to have access to your lifetimes’ telephone records – what would that
reveal about certain periods of life…)

Thesis feedback…

I thought I would publish the feedback I’ve been getting from Lee Feldman from Blast Radius, a canadian born web company. He is part of the group of people who I am actively informing on my thesis process which includes Colin Burns, ex-head of IDEO London with whom i had the pleasure of working with this summer at the Design Council, then Jonathan Chapman author of “Emotionally Sustainable Design and founder of Safe house creative.

So here’s Lee’s take on my thesis that he sent out this week.

The first is/was/continues to be the interesting reality of Peak Oil
(http://www.peakoil.org),( http://www.lifeaftertheoilcrash.net/) The second
is status/reputation systems, the third is networking and gaming as social
collaboration and prototyping tool, the fourth is Japan, or perhaps more
precisely, Tokyo.

Peak Oil is the “scare tactic” that might drive a lot of usage pattern
change. www.endofsuburbia.com does a nice job of suggesting new living
patterns based on more community and communal living post-oil crash.
Wal-Mart relies on cheap oil to get its cheaply made products to market.
What happens when oil is no longer cheap? Will the Wal-Mart model fail, and
increasingly local markets, based on coopetition, re-emerge?

Status and reputation systems, specifically networked, are creating a
“semi-non hierarchical” meritocracy and putting more power into the
hands of consumers. Web 2.0 (www.emilychang.com) is extending the system
from pure consumptive environments like Amazon, to bloggers, podcasters
etc…So every individual has an opportunity to express themselves, and be
open to rating, criticism in a democratic market of ideas- beautiful.

What if we could extend the reputation system, starting on a voluntary
basis, to peoples’ actual consumption footprint?
(http://www.thersa.org/projects/carbon_trading.asp) Can we replace “bling”
with “fling?” fling being the temporary usage of something, rather than
the full-blown ownership of the thing (www.livework.com). Can fling be
a new reputation based on sharing? How can status be conveyed? How can
it be “branded” so that fling becomes the more desirable?

What if we could make a game out of this? The game requires community based
teams to collaborate on web/social network based services aimed at
maximizing resource usage. The game environment might be a habbo-like space
(www.habbohotel.com) that resembles your neighborhood so that you can
configure your ‘hood and and start iterating and prototyping service
designs. Key data is entered and an AI system, based on known behaviours can
run simulations (the sims). All totally possible now ! Combine it with the
reputation system, combine it with real usage……

Japan…post-post industrial, people living full lives in tiny spaces. They
CANNOT accumulate stuff, so they seek out quality, craft, or become otaku
and focus on collecting. The problem in Japan is not overconsumption it is
hyperconsumption. No second hand market for electronics, cars BUT huge
market for vintage clothing. Why? The homogeneity/individuality paradox.
CRAFT is the way young Japanese who do not want to be salarymen or office
ladies express their individuality. (www.designfesta.com). Produce AND
consume (Prosume) precious things.

SONY or Panasonic will reinvent consumer electronics to be
reusable/upgrade-able (like Toyota making 100% recyclable cars), and/or
create precious objects that become collectible…Sony needs help
right now…

Simplicité Volontaire

The previous post on the new puritain reminded me of a movement in Québec that started a few years ago called “Simplicité Volontaire” which is explained on this french website and which basically advocates a different and richer way of living that gets away from our conventional understanding of being rich (ie involving money).

What this makes me ponder about is the fact that whatever it is that i am to come up with has to have sex appeal and appeal to people as being in conjunction with their lifestyle and cater to their need for status through it. These are all fairly obvious considerations but very difficult to implement and design for. Perception is a fragile beast.

New experiment on its way…

A next step for me which i shall implement in the next week is aimed at discovering what values come out of sharing a unique object and being able to see the hisory of interactions that people will have with it. Being inspired by the chain-letter phenomenon, i thought i might try a chain-object event and use the web to my advantage for once as a way to link people and as a feedback mechanism. So more to come this week as i decide who to send this to, what objects i will send, what feedback mecanism to use.

The New Puritain

This Guardian article descibes an interesting social twist on current concerns about consumerism.

“So, with a few grand gestures and some high-profile converts New Puritanism offers a powerful escape route from our impulsive, reward-driven lifestyles. It might just have the potential to stave off the horrors promised by an out-of-control consumerist culture in which, according to agrarian essayist Wendell Berry, ‘The histories of all products will be lost. The degradation of products and places, producers and consumers is inevitable.'”

I am not sure turning to the Amish lifestyle that’s advocated here is the best way to get any kind of social responsibility message across but its a start :-)

Interdependant systems

As this IDFuel article adresses, we find ourselves looking at complex systems present in nature and enviously trying to mimick them.

“The natural world has evolved over billions of years to include an unbelievably complex array of interactions and dependencies, most of which are unknown, and many of which are remarkably unexpected. Intentional design, while very much different from evolution, shares a number of common solutions and themes, as we’ve discussed many times before. Would it be so surprising that the same sort of web of interdependency exists in the product design world?”

The web is indeed a stricking example of interdependancy and complexity in a system whose inherent values include sharing, communities, etc. and which are completely absent from the product world. I am really interested in this issue and hope to find more material to inspire a possible real-world application.