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Monthly Archives: September 2005

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Swordplay, revolution-style, originally uploaded by blackbeltjones.

The Nintendo Revolution controller has been revealed, and I am predictably overexcited.

It’s made me more convinced that embodied and tangible interaction has a big, juicy, interesting mainstream future.

The video of it in action [via Russell Beattie] is wonderful, especially the way that a wide-range of genres of gaming and play can be inferred just from watching people’s movements and hearing a bit of soundtrack.

Who needs HiDef?

Or as Gillen puts it:

“Either you want more polygons or you want the Future.

Choose a side.

“Revolution! Revolution! Revolution! Revolution!”

Also, go read Andy Losowsky’s imaginings of where the Revolution could take us:

“if it’s that depth sensitive, if you’ll be able to use it to draw outlines around things in the room? Or people?”

He also has some great ideas about possible other nunchuk-plug-in peripherals.

And I was just calming down again, too.

Via 3QD: John Allen Paulos on telling just-so stories about the complexity in an article called “The Mousetrap” in Edge:

“Let me begin by asking how it is that modern free market economies are as complex as they are, boasting amazingly elaborate production, distribution and communication systems? Go into almost any drug store and you can find your favourite candy bar. And what’s true at the personal level is true at the industrial level. Somehow there are enough ball bearings and computer chips in just the right places in factories all over the country. The physical infrastructure and communication networks are also marvels of integrated complexity. Fuel supplies are, by and large, where they’re needed. Email reaches you in Miami as well as in Milwaukee, not to mention Barcelona and Bangkok.

The natural question, discussed first by Adam Smith and later by Friedrich Hayek and Karl Popper among others, is who designed this marvel of complexity? Which commissar decreed the number of packets of dental floss for each retail outlet? The answer, of course, is that no economic god designed this system. It emerged and grew by itself. No one argues that all the components of the candy bar distribution system must have been put into place at once, or else there would be no Snickers at the corner store.”

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Orbital Top 10, originally uploaded by blackbeltjones.

Very pleased to be introduced to Orbital by Jack Schulze on Saturday.

It’s in a dingy basement underneath a five-quid-a-time walk-in barbers at the Centrepoint end of Charing Cross Road. The staff are sarcastic and bristly for show, but helpful and enthusiastic once engaged. The “Top 10″ seems to change regularly, and there are ratty, comfy 4th-hand leatherette sofas to slouch on.

It’s great, and everything I look for in a comic book store. However I am a geeky male in his thirties. It’s not going to do anything to broaden the reach of the medium, lets say…

In contrast, the other best comics store I’ve been to in recent memory was in Yale Town, Vancouver.

That was clean, well laid out, didn’t smell like several Fields-of-the Nephilim fans had died there; and the assistants were helpful and engaging – resulting in selling me an armful of comics more than I planned to buy. I’d imagine the Vancouver store has a bit of a wider demographic appeal as a result, but Orbital’s ‘authentic charm’ has me under it’s slightly fusty spell.

Anyway, it gave me a sufficient jolt of nostalgia to get me back into a habit I haven’t had since I was 18 – a standing order for comics.

The last place I had one was in the late 1980′s in a dingy corner of Jacob’s Market, Cardiff – where the staff (Pete, Dave and Geoff I think?) were bristly, sarcastic and enthusiastic – and cheerfully took from me a large slice of the 15 quid a week I earned from after-school work at Harris Printers.

However, I had a bit of a blank when it came to actually placing the order, so I’m hoping you can help me out.

I’ve already taken a look at what people on The-Engine.net are reading, and there’s a few things there I’ll probably add, but here’s the rather meagre list I left at Orbital

  • Seven Soldiers *.*
  • Fell
  • Desolation Jones
  • Planetary (!)
  • Jack Cross
  • The Losers

So, what would you recommend?

People make places @ Demos

Just wandered tonight along to Demos for the launch of their “People make places” report. A skim on the bus home made it seem the sort of thing I would like the Dan Hills and Anne Galloways of the world to have a look at…:

“The rise of privately owned corporate malls, out-of-town shopping centres and the virtual landscapes of the internet have cast doubt on the publicness of our towns and cities. Privatised space is seen to be in the ascendancy and, it is argued, this is squeezing out the possibility of shared social spaces in our cities, replacing them with a ‘shopping mall culture’ of sanitised, frictionless consumer environments where architecture and technology are used to filter out undesirable people and groups. So far it is unclear whether the new set of public spaces created through the urban renaissance are countering this trend and proving effective hosts for shared public life and exchange between people, or whether they are adding to the loss of publicness by imitating the character of private space. Many of the shiny new quaysides and squares seem either curiously empty of people or curiously monocultural in the type of people they attract.

The mission of Demos over the past 12 months has been to take on this uncertainty and track down the public life of cities – to identify the shared spaces of interaction and exchange, the value that such spaces generate and how that value is created. We explored in depth three cities in the UK – Cardiff, Preston and Swindon – to discover and illuminate the processes by which the public life of cities more widely might be reinvigorated.”

I arrived a little late as I only read about the event on the train back from Farnborough, so I don’t know whether it was covered before I got there, but there was little on the effects of digital technology, particularly personal, mobile digital technology on the use of public space. The debate wasn’t all that, although Greyworld were exciting – pointing out the role of play and playful technologies in invigorating and maintaining public spaces.

There’s a small mention of the venerable grassroots geoguide Knowhere in the report, but otherwise very little investigation it seems (again, I haven’t read it in great depth yet) of the impacts of digital technology.

There is a tantalising section heading: “Visible and invisible choreography” on page 62 of the report [PDF], with a brief mention of NYC’s “311” phone line as a concrete example – but nothing about pershaps, how space and place can be ‘reprogrammed’ smartmobs-style by mobile technologies, or how invisible infrastructures can change a place, e.g. free wifi in Bryant Park. I’m sure there are better examples, but hopefully you get my drift (derive?)

Worth a read, and as I say, I hope some of the more hardcore cyburbanists I know will offer their 2p…

In response to an essay on why console gaming does not bode well for raising future generations of hackers, Mike Sugarbaker hits upon an idea of pure molten genius: a pokemon-style collecting game, where what is collected traded and battled with is code:

“Instead of blocks, cards. Instead of Pokemon or collectible monsters and magic items on the cards, commands. Or types of loops, or even objects with multiple slots for properties and other commands. That’s right, I said collectible programming commands. Make the powerful, difficult-to-grasp ones rare, have some server-mediated market for getting them, and provide an anime-like story shell about being the greatest hacker. Then just let the kids loose and let ‘em fight each other with code.”

This is just fantastic.

Instead of Fred Harris and Ian McNaught-Davis in cosy, chunky jumpers, I imagine the next generation would want a hyperkinetic saturday morning show full of begelled young turks and turkesses in directional topshop clothing gunging youngsters who have careless with their memory handling.

Alice, Tom and the other BBC skunkworks-types should be on the phone to Mike today to ask where they should throw the money to make this happen.

Anecdote of the day, courtesy of the Guardian’s interview with Mick Jagger:

There was the time when, according to Watts, Jagger called him in the middle of the night, said “Where’s my drummer then?” and told him he was ready to record. Watts got out of bed, dressed himself – immaculate as ever, suit, tie, ironed shirt – walked downstairs to meet Jagger, pulled back his arm, swung his fist, and laid him out. “Don’t you ever call me your drummer,” he said. “You are my singer.”

Fantastic.

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Rather than a Rokr (and you have money to burn, can’t wait for n91, live in Japan)- how about Chris‘s idea of sticking a Nano on the back of the Talby? Probably still thinner that the Rokr.

Depressing quote of the day for anyone working in mobile experience design from Engadget:

1:27pm – Garriques [President of Motorola’s mobile phone division] on the ROKR: “It’s a great ARPU story.”

Sheesh.

—-
UPDATE: Peterme asks what “ARPU” is. I apologise – it’s jargon, much used in the cellphone industry, for “Average Revenue Per User” – the grail is finding applications and services that drive it skyward, and mobile music is seen by a lot of the industry as one of those.

Over the last few days The Guardian have flung themselves into Finland.

First, in the Guardian Review, an overview of Finnish popular literary action including Tove Jansson, creator of the Moomins:

“Tove Jansson wrote her last cult Moomin book for children in 1970, but lived till 2001. English-speakers were reminded of her later adult fiction by the reissue two years ago of her 1972 novel The Summer Book. Its publishers, Sort Of Books, are now working on a short story selection, and the novel Fair Play. In Jansson’s Helsinki penthouse studio-turned-museum, her niece, Sophia Jansson (the model for the six-year-old granddaughter in The Summer Book), tells me the elliptical fiction often explores relationships among artists, but leaves much unsaid. Tove grew up in a Bohemian household with a sculptor father and graphic artist mother, while her lifelong partner was the woman artist Tuulikka Pietilä. They spent time on the rocky islet in the Gulf of Finland where The Summer Book is set. And, says her niece, she still answered 2,000 fan letters a year by hand.”

Then, Monday saw Marimekko get the Grauniad once-over, highlighting the brand’s female-led work culture.

Some excerpts:

It is a proudly female company, run by women, for women, employing generations of women. From the moment you enter its low-rise building outside Helsinki, you know you are on female territory. The wide, open-plan interior is blindingly white in the late summer sun, devoid of the phallic statues that traditionally adorn business HQs, and its famous printed textiles – oversized geometric patterns in vibrant colours – hang down the walls…

…From its inception, Marimekko was in the hands of women. Even now, women occupy all the top positions. Founded in 1951 in Helsinki, it was initially intended to be a collaboration between textile designer Armi Ratia and her husband Viljo, who ran a small printing company. Legend has it that Ratia, as a woman, couldn’t get a bank loan, so it had to be done through her husband. But it was she who saw the potential for a designer-led textile house; she took charge and recruited Maija Isola, the first and most important of many young female designers, to create original prints: Marimekko was born…

The clothes were unconventional, informal, accessible to anyone – young or old, fat or thin. The name itself means “a dress for Mary” – ie the woman on the street. “Marimekko’s clothing in particular, with its clean unisex lines and free-flowing style, conveyed a utopian feel of sexual equality,” says Marianne Aav, director of the Design Museum in Finland. When Ratia was accused of peddling “sexless” clothes, she replied: “A woman is sexy, not a dress.”

…Paakkanen thrusts a sales chart into my hands. The graph shows a steady increase in sales from the 1950s to 1985, then the graph dips under the axis until 1991 when it skyrockets. Her two-inch painted talons jab at the dip: “During these years, men were in charge of Marimekko,” she laughs. “When I arrived in September 1991, it was like the end of the world; there was low morale, dirty windows, a broken building. The first thing we did was clean the windows…

…No one was surprised a woman was running Marimekko again. “I got flowers and faxes when I took over. People hoped I would take the company back to how it was when Armi Ratia was in charge,” Paakkanen says. She believes women have better business heads. “Men in business start at the top, they create positions for themselves then work down. Women work from the bottom up, and value their workers.”

…Isola’s daughter, Kristina Isola, who works at Marimekko, agrees. “If ‘feminist’ in business means women can take care of affairs themselves, then yes, Marimekko is a feminist company,” she says. “We don’t have to lean on men. Marimekko’s success has much to do with the fact it is a woman’s company: we’re practical, we don’t waste, we can do many things at the same time, we’re less nervous about our positions, we express our feelings better.”

Go Finland!

Sony's magic wand patent

Via Jim Rossignol’s Esoteric Beat (Reg. Reqd) comes this news of a patent registered by Sony for what sounds like an extension to Eyetoy.

“Sony’s new idea is to plug a webcam into the console, and give the gamer a handheld wand similar to a pocket flashlight. The wand has a battery, a few mouse-like buttons and several different coloured LEDs that can be switched on and off in various combinations.

By pressing the buttons and waving the wand towards the webcam, the gamer can click to shoot aliens, drag-and-drop images on screen and navigate menus.”

Moreover – the affordances of a wand give a whole pallette of gestural interface for games developers to work with – adding ‘compositional’ control to rhythm – and possibly a whole other level of emotion to interface.

Sounds perfect for god games or RTS games, and even action games with elements of ‘compositional commands like Okami or even Darwinia if it ever made it to Playstation.

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