Matt Jones: Jumping to the End — Practical Design Fiction from Interaction Design Association on Vimeo.
This talk summarizes a lot of the approaches that we used in the studio at BERG, and some of those that have carried on in my work with the gang at Google Creative Lab in NYC.
Unfortunately, I can’t show a lot of that work in public, so many of the examples are from BERG days…
Many thanks to Catherine Nygaard and Ben Fullerton for inviting me (and especially to Catherine for putting up with me clowning around behind here while she was introducing me…)
How the Penguin Cafe Orchestra got their name is as beautiful as their music:
“In 1972 I was in the south of France. I had eaten some bad fish and was in consequence rather ill. As I lay in bed I had a strange recurring vision, there, before me, was a concrete building like a hotel or council block. I could see into the rooms, each of which was continually scanned by an electronic eye. In the rooms were people, everyone of them preoccupied. In one room a person was looking into a mirror and in another a couple were making love but lovelessly, in a third a composer was listening to music through earphones. Around him there were banks of electronic equipment. But all was silence. Like everyone in his place he had been neutralized, made grey and anonymous. The scene was for me one of ordered desolation. It was as if I were looking into a place which had no heart. Next day when I felt better, I was on the beach sunbathing and suddenly a poem popped into my head. It started out ‘I am the proprietor of the Penguin Cafe, I will tell you things at random’ and it went on about how the quality of randomness, spontaneity, surprise, unexpectedness and irrationality in our lives is a very precious thing. And if you suppress that to have a nice orderly life, you kill off what’s most important. Whereas in the Penguin Cafe your unconscious can just be. It’s acceptable there, and that’s how everybody is. There is an acceptance there that has to do with living the present with no fear in ourselves.”
“Have you ever read the speech he made when he accepted the Nobel Prize? This is the whole speech: ‘Ladies and Gentlemen. I stand before you now because I never stopped dawdling like an eight-year-old on a spring morning on his way to school. Anything can make me stop and look and wonder, and sometimes learn. I am a very happy man. Thank you.’”
– Cat’s Cradle, Kurt Vonnegut
Happy New Year.
Ian’s experience of using Android Wear echoes my own in large part, especially this paragraph:
It’s also much, much less intrusive in social situations. Glancing at your wrist for a second to check an alert lets you stay more present in the conversation which is happening around you than ferreting around in your pocket, dragging out your phone, switching it on, checking whatever and putting it back. And of course with the phone, you’ve got the temptation to keep it on the table in front of you, glance at it, maybe see what Twitter is talking about… all of which breaks the social contact you’re having in the real world.
To which I’d add that the physical gesture of glancing at one’s watch is something we’re pretty much globally comfortable with in social situations, unlike say getting your phone out and trying to maintain a conversation…
The session I staged at FooCamp this year was deliberately meant to be a fun, none-too-taxing diversion at the end of two brain-baking days.
It was based on (not only a quote from BSG) but something that Matt Biddulph had said to me a while back – possibly when we were doing some work together at BERG, but it might have been as far-back as our Dopplr days.
He said (something like) that a lot of the machine learning techniques he was deploying on a project were based on 1970s Computer Science theory, but now the horsepower required to run them was cheap and accessible in the form of cloud computing service.
This stuck with me, so for the Foo session I hoped I could aggregate a list people’s favourite theory work from the 20thC which now might be possible to turn into practice.
It didn’t quite turn out that way, as Tom Coates pointed out in the session – about halfway through, it morphed into a list of the “prior art” in both fiction and academic theory that you could identify as pre-cursors to current technological preoccupation or practice.
Nether the less it was a very fun way to spend an sunny sunday hour in a tent with a flip chart and some very smart folks. Thanks very much as always to O’Reilly for inviting me.
Below is my photo of the final flip charts full of everything from Xanadu to zeppelins…
A quote I used in Dan Saffer's session on smart devices using data collection to attempt predictions around what their users might want:
“Today's devices blurt out the absolute truth as they know it. A smart device in the future might know when NOT to blurt out the truth.” - Genevieve Bell
Also got to point everyone there to Steffen Fiedler's fantastic 2011 project "Instruments Of Politeness"
Personal 3d Printing has been overhyped for a while now, so I’ve found myself tuning out more and more, despite using them nearly every week in my work.
A couple of weeks back I met Steve Schell, co-founder of New Matter, and it got me excited again about personal 3d printing for the first time in ages. I mean, they kind of had me from the Anathem reference, but that wasn’t the SF link that I think has the most resonance…
They’re running a crowdfunding campaign (natch) that’s ending soon, and seems to be going great guns. Their pitch is, well, not everyone wants to fire up solidworks or even sketchup every time you want something – what if it was more like an infinite vending machine where you picked from a catalog of design? It’s also a lot cheaper than competitors – $250 bucks… and they’ve called the first one the ‘Model-T’…
No, the SF story that springs to mind isn’t one of Neal Stephenson’s but part of William Gibson’s “Bridge trilogy” – namely the “Lucky Dragon” chain of convenience stores that have brought replicator-like vending machines to the corner store…
New Matter’s not there yet – the objects in their ‘vending’ library will have to be more useful and durable than the typical mainly decorative 3d printed spamjects you find so prevalent at the moment – but well worth tracking I think.