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Monthly Archives: March 2009

Apple’s iPhone 3.0 announcements caused a kerfuffle today, but it seems to me insane that the thing that’s being talked about most is… Cut and Paste?

At the time the event was running I summed my feelings up in <140 chars thusly:

Twitter / Matt Jones: of course, while I'm shaki ...

I mean – they’d announced that you could create custom UIs that worked with physical peripherals – they’d had someone from Johnson & Johnson on stage to show a diabetes sensor companion to the iphone – the nearest thing to AP’s Charmr you could imagine!

Then my friend Josh said:

“Am now wondering whether a bluetooth/serial module and arduino will be able to talk with iPhone. And, pachube

A rapid prototyping platform for physical/digital interactions? A mobile sensor platform for personal and urban informatics that’s going mainstream?

Imagine – AppleStores with shelves of niche, stylish sensor products for sale in a year’s time – pollution sensors, particulates analysis, spectroscopy, soil analysis, cholesterol? All for the price of a Nike+ or so?

Come on, that’s got to be more exciting than cut and paste?

—–
UPDATE

Tom Igoe points out in his comment correctly that I have been remiss in not mentioning Tellart’s NadaMobile project from late last year – which allows you to easily prototype physical/digital/sensor apps on the iPhone through a cable that cleverly connects to the audio jack. It’s also totally open-source.

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Etech09: Chris Luebkeman of Arup

At the Long Now London meeting yesterday (my rough notes here) I asked Stuart Candy a question about the language he was using.

I was intrigued that he was interrogating what ‘Future’ meant to people as part of his practice of exposing them to scenarios and futures in the hope of encouraging more habitual longer-term thinking. He said that he was interested in reclaiming the word “Future” from the more corporate and financial associations it’s had during late-capitalism.

My question was prompted by the fact that Candy’s fellow futurist and friend-of-this-show Jamais Cascio has recently stated that he’s going to stop using the term “long-term”, swapping it out for “multi-generational”.

It’s a subtle but important substitution:

When we talk about the long-term, the corresponding structure of language — and thinking — tends to bias us towards a kind of punctuated futurism, pushing us to look ahead to the end of the era in question while leaping over the intervening years. This skews our perspective. “In the long run, we are all dead” John Maynard Keynes famously said — but over that same long run, we will all have lived our lives, too.

I’m increasingly convinced that, when looking ahead, the focus should be less on the destination than on how we get there. Yet that’s not how we discuss long-term issues. When we describe climate change as a long-term problem, for example, we inevitably end up talking about what it would look like down the road, after some “tipping point” perhaps, or at a particular calendar demarcation (2050 or 2100). Although there’s no explicit denial that climate change is something with implications for every year between now and then, our attention — our foresight gaze, as we might think of it — is drawn to that distant end-point, not to the path.

This has made me think about the rhetoric of ‘futures‘, written, spoken – and as I mainly deal with – the visual and designed. The ‘punctuated futures’ we often imagine and illustrate.

I’ve also recently been thinking about the ‘permaculture‘ movements that have been rehabilitated in recent times from their hey-day in the 60s and 70s.

Permaculture thinking – looking for closed loops of living systems that have the fewest negative impacts as possible on the health and longevity of the systems that they are in turn embedded within – has often been characterised as at-odds with technology. As being anti-futurity perhaps.

But it seems to me that recent trends in emerging technology, as illustrated at Etech ’09 (have a look at Phil Gyford’s notes over at Overmorgen) last week – personal and product informatics, the spimeworld, low-cost rapid fabrication, biomimicry, new materials, cradle-to-cradle thinking, eco-urbanism – understood and deployed in linked and learning systems thinking manner at small scales – say, through a more technologically-oriented approach to the transition towns concept might to address this.

They would seem to be promising technologies of the multi-generational task ahead.

Of the path, not the punctuated end-point.

They could be forging Bionic Permacultures.

Permafutures.

Time to start illustrating them.

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Very rough notes from Stuart’s talk:

Long Now London
stuart candy
16.3.09

designs on a longer now

q: what drew you into the long now?

(the hope is) this group is a group of early adopters of an idea which can get into the broader culture eventually?

stewart brand: why haven’t we seen a picture of the whole earth yet?

made a hundreds of badges the next day with this on
echoing bucky: people don’t think about their impact on the whole earth as a system as they cannot see it

Apollo program picture ‘blue marble’ had the mainstream impact needed for this

Long now is trying to do the equivalent for time as the blue marble did for space

a cultural change in attitudes towards time

(shows protos of the LN clock and mt washington in nevada where the clock is to be built)

but – it’s not really the clock that is the central object – it’s designing culture around the clock… the clock is a catalyst for that.

manifesting futures in the present: ‘found futures’

why: because physiologically, neurally, culturally we all programmed for continuity while living through discontinuity (accelerating change)

building bridges across this] experiential gulf

project: hawaii2050: workshopping with 600 ppl, 4 different versions (scenario) of 2050
continued growth / discipline / collapse / transformation

project: art objects from a 2108 Hawaii: found objects from a future scenario

problem: not everyone you want to reach is attending these things (self-selecting)

solution?: guerilla futures : ad-hoc incursions into futures.
manifest futures in the present whether people have requested it or not

project: postcards from different scenarios printed and sent to the most powerful people in the state of Hawaii at their home addresses one a day without explanation

project: simulated urban gentrification takeover : used vacant lots and filled them with fake posters of multinational brands moving into a chinatown. ‘save chinatown’ group went out and lobbied passers by. unintended consequence: ppl annoyed that they had been ‘hoaxed’

projects: scenario where relationship between Hawaii and china supplants that of the usa, and a bird flu scenario of 2016, played out in wall plaques and street signs (backwards)

Future Shock-therapy

bruce sterling asked: what would happen if you changed ‘guerilla’ interventions into a regular standing army?

got candy thinking: a 2nd strategy: ‘ambient foresight’

foresight as an emergent capacity – instead of being deliberately disorienting and interventionist – it’s more subtle and day-to-day. implicit, incidental

‘what kind of practice do we need to be thinking about the future day to day, for it to be woven into culture’

cf. paul hawken: ‘sustainability should be as easy as falling off a log’

ambient foresight examples: lung pictures on cigarette packets? nutrition facts (!)

carbon/energy facts: jamais’s cheeseburger footprint

aim: ‘social capacity for foresight’ (richard slaughter)

I thought that delivering my webstock talk, and finishing reading Welcome To Mars, Cold War Modern and The Bomb while on holiday would let me escape my obsession with the post-war and the high-modern. I had reckoned without James Coburn.

Obsessed with the production design of "The President's Analyst"

Tom Armitage picked up on my love of the Derek Flint movies, and suggested that I had not really experienced Coburn at the height of his powers until I had experienced him in “The President’s Analyst“. The plot is a thing of gossamer, and the dialogue is probably best described as “very much of it’s time”, but the production designs and way that product and environment is photographed is wonderful.

I watched it on my flight to Etech, and went a little crazy taking screengrabs of every beautiful detail I saw…

Obsessed with the production design of "The President's Analyst" - a set on Flickr

The complete set is here, but I want to just point out a couple of wonderful moments.

The Archigram-esque travelling gate-lounges of Dulles, shot to echo the infrastructure of Apollo, and foreshadowing somehow the decaying post-future of Lebbeus Woods. Obsessed with the production design of "The President's Analyst"

The classic Cold-War combo of the long fluoro-lit corridor with tiny psuedo golf-cart.

Obsessed with the production design of "The President's Analyst"

Amphibious vehicles and long-zooms…

Obsessed with the production design of "The President's Analyst"

Headquarters of Corporate Evil, designed by Bruce Goff?

Obsessed with the production design of "The President's Analyst"

With corporate communications by DePatie-Freleng. (What was the first in this line of ‘hi-modern corporate communications animation vernacular’ as parodied eventually in Jurrasic Park amongst others?) Obsessed with the production design of "The President's Analyst"

My absolute favourite detail however, has to be – The Networked Shoe: Obsessed with the production design of "The President's Analyst"

That controls the corporate automatons Obsessed with the production design of "The President's Analyst"

Look at this… the way they are curled, and nested, and converging to a central control point… This might just be the ne-plus-ultra of command-and-control cybernetics of the cold war meets the high-modern consumer culture! Obsessed with the production design of "The President's Analyst"

As Coburn himself might say “Beautiful… BEAUTIFUL!Obsessed with the production design of "The President's Analyst"

cornelius

It’s the 25 anniversary of the Miner’s Strike.
I was around 11 or 12 at the time, along with the Falklands War and the ongoing existential background-radiation (!) of the Cold War it was one of the defining events of the 1980s that I ‘woke up’ in.

My elder siblings were watching Boys from The Blackstuff to make sense of the recession, the end of Britain-as-industrial-power and the human toll it was taking.

I read Skizz.

Skizz is still one of the best slices of storytelling, and certainly characterisation Alan Moore has ever done I think.

If you’re not familiar with it, then the all-too-brief wikipedia entry sums it up quite well as “E.T. meets Boys from the Blackstuff“. It can still bring me to the verge of tears, and to think this was in a comic still at the time aimed at and read by kids is remarkable and wonderful.

The sad demise of the DFC aside, I really hope that as we tumble into seemingly-similar times, someone else will write something as powerful and moving and life-affirming for a younger audience.

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