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Conferences and events

Thanks to Tash, Mike, Ben and Deb and all your team of special agents for inviting me and looking after us so amazingly. And, extra special thanks to the Webstock participants for indulging me during this and the fine conversations with you all in the bar afterwards!

And, of course – thanks to Carl Sagan for the title

If you were there and enjoyed it – run, don’t walk to Adam Greenfield’s site and pre-order “The City is here for you to use”!

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Haven’t done much of it since leaving Nokia, and certainly didn’t get the chance at an awful event I got invited to speak on a panel at last year (see the sketch above); but did get to bang on about some ongoing obsessions and thoughts while climbing out of a terrible hangover at the PSFK Good Ideas Salon today. I think it was being taped, so that might be online at some point for you to laugh at. Also, got to catch¬†Christian Nold speak which was great. Thanks to Piers Fawkes for the invitation.

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Update: a very nice write-up from Jemima Kiss of The Guardian

Can I have a … ?, originally uploaded by straup.

This Saturday saw the first-ever PaperCamp successully prototyped.

After an amount of last-minute panic, I think I stopped being stressed-out about 5 minutes into Aaron’s talk.

Instead I started to become delighted and fascinated by the strange, wonderful directions people are taking paper, printing and prototyping the lightweight, cheap connection of the digital and the physical.

Jeremy Keith did a wonderful job of liveblogging the event, and there is a growing pool of pictures in the papercamp group on flickr.

Highlights for me included the gusto that the group gave to making things with paper in a frenetic 10min session hosted by Alex of Tinker.it, Karsten‘s bioinformatic-origami-unicorn proposal, and the delightful work of Sawa Tanaka.

Also, the fact that we’ve made Craft Bioinformatic Origami Unicorns a tag on flickr has to be seen as a ‘win’ in my view.

Lots of people didn’t hear about this one as I was deliberately trying to keep it a small ‘prototype’, and also we were luckily operating as a ‘fringe’ event to the Bookcamp event that had been set up by Russell, Jeremy and James and didn’t want to take the mickey too much (thanks guys) – so apologies to those who didn’t make it.

But, the enthusiastic response means we’ll definitely be doing this again, as a bigger, open, stand-alone event, maybe in the summer, with more space, more attendees and hopefully more heavy-duty printing and papermaking activities.

The next PaperCamp is going to be in NYC in early Feb, and I hear noises there maybe one gestating in San Francisco also…

Stay tuned, paperfans…

Peter Molyneux

Went to the Design London STIR Lecture by Peter Molyneux this evening, and came away disappointed.

Actually, I didn’t have very high hopes in the first place, as I’ve seen Molyneux before, and although he’s certainly passionate, found his charm ran out pretty quickly – but worse, he had little insight to offer.

But the over-riding thought I kept having was that he didn’t have the critical language to describe what he (or more correctly, his teams) had created. He isn’t nearly as literate in why his own games work as the current generation playing his games.

Based on events like EIGF, this seems to be the case, at least amongst Molyneux’s generation of industry veterans. Bedroom-programmers-done-good, pioneers to be sure, but not able to form a critical appreciation of what they are doing or have done beyond the commercial impact.

This is something that reoccurs with every new medium, of course.

The next generation on from them – e.g. Jonathan Smith, Doug Church and of course Greg Costikyan (from whose classic essay on developing such a critical language the title of this post is lifted) are always eloquent, passionate and insightful speakers and spokespeople for their medium.

Unlike Molyneux.

peter molyneux / lionhead / stir lecture
19.11.08

i think i might have heard him do this talk before… this will be far from a transcript…

the constraints of his programming skill led to some of the core mechanics
some of sound effects for populous were created by throwing wet sponges into baths
what did people enjoy? the graphics were not good, the sound effects were awful, and the game play was repetitive: people believed there was more in the game than there was.

“there are only about 8 million gamers tops, and there are 6 billion of everybody, so games for everybody are better to make”

people got obsessed by the “AI” but it is ‘soft, simulational AI, not real AI’ – a sufficently-complex feedback system is seen as an AI.

again people believed there was more in the game (theme park) than there really was.

B&W: the creature -> initially made it humanoid, but realised that the first thing that anyone did was fiddle with the creature’s genitalia… the more humanoid you make something, the less-believable it is (uncanny valley) the closer we got to realism in B&W, the less believable the world became

the creature was prototyped to have desires, which could be satisfied by actions… creates a ‘real’ illusion of mind. Internal needs, wants, motivations – first one we gave the creature was to satisfy it’s hunger.

11pm one night… developer (richard) said “we’re ready to turn on the brain”

allowed the player to play with the mind of the creature – teach…

fable 2: dog (avatar, daemon) learnt from mistakes of B&W creature. Dog has a set of rules in it’s head, much like the asimov robot rules. prime directive: ‘i must not aggravate the player’

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The conference cliché strikes again.

The highlights of my time at the Sarasota Design Summit were found in the spaces outside the formal sessions. One theme pervading the interstices inspired by Dave Gray and Josh DiMauro was the renaissance of paper as a medium in a mixed digital/physical world – as prototype spime.

Following Josh’s Paperbit’s work, Aaron’s Papernet thinking and Dave’s investigations of the changing form of books, we came up with a nascent plan for a PaperCamp – a weekend of hacking paper and it’s new possibiities.

I scrawled some ideas.

  • Way-new printing
  • Protospimes
  • Ingestion/Digestion/Representation
  • Bionic sketching
  • Folding/structure
  • Paper’s children

As per usual, I don’t really know what any of these mean exactly. It was kind of automatic writing.

But.

It does feel like there’s something here, and I’m really intrigued at what might happen at a papercamp(s).

Who’s with me?

I missed quite a lot of Picnic, mainly due to getting together with the Dopplr team for a rare physical pow-wow – but I did manage to spend a good chunk of the Friday in the Internet of Things special session.

Speakers included Rafi Haladjian of Violet/Nabaztag fame and David Orban of Widetag/OpenSpime, and there were demos from Tikitag, and Pachube (Usman Haque‘s excellent new venture).

Sat in the audience was God-Emperor of Spime, Bruce Sterling which lent it an extra something. I managed to snag a Tikitag start kit, which I hope to have a play with this week – I’ll post some unboxing pics when I have chance.

It was one of those sessions where the palpable sense of the scenius is the thing, rather than the content so much (although there was a lot of good stuff in there too) – I came away with renewed enthusiasm for ‘practical ubicomp’ and all things spime-y.

I wasn’t sure whether the talks where being video’d, so I managed to record two of the speakers on my N95, so the quality of the audio isn’t particularly great.

So, with that disclaimer, here are the presentations by Matt Cottam of Tellart and Mike Kuniavsky of ThingM.

The Etech ’09 call for proposals/papers has been out for a week or so, and it’s theme/focus is “Living, Reinvented: The Tech of Abundance and Constraints”, which makes me doubly-excited to be participating this year on the program committee along with some y’know, actual smart people: Mike Walsh, Annalee Newitz, Natalie Jeremijenko, Matt Webb, Nat Torkington, David Pescovitz, Timo Hannay and Kati London.

Over the years I’ve given Etech a fair bit of Tony-Stark/Warren-Ellis-inspired ribbing, so now it’s time for me to put-up-or-shut-up and find some “genuine outbreaks of the future” – so, if you know of anyone (including yourself) nudging up the future slider on the reality EQ, please encourage them to submit something as soon as…

The full CFP can be found here, and some of the themes I’ll be particularly looking forward to seeing the proposals for are:

  • City Tech: Our cities are growing, getting bigger faster than ever before. People are rushing to them in search of economic and social opportunity?jobs, urban living, and access to culture. How can technology help us create livable, prosperous, sustainable cities? What should mass transit look like? How can we infuse urban infrastructure with sustainability? How are cities using citizens? data to become smarter? What can economics tell us about the way urban populations will change and behave?
  • Materials & Mechanics: Mechanics and materials develop hand-in-hand. The creation of a new, lighter metal enables iPhones and Mars Explorers. We?ll examine the latest in mechanics and the materials that enable new developments. What mechanisms will be possible? How will the coming age of materials change our clothes, our products, and our everyday lives? Can they be made the cradle2cradle way or will we simply be clogging our landfills with ingenious, meticulously crafted waste?
  • Mobile & The Web: The next billion people will come to the Web via connected mobile devices. Currently, many of these devices are humble dumb clients, but the iPhone, Google, and Nokia are bringing smarter clients to the masses with open platforms. How will these mini-computers change our lives? How will these jumbo-sized sensors benefit us? Will we be able to use the third screen to view an augmented world? What data will be collected and who will have access to it? Is the Web ready for the Next Billion? What will their web apps look like?

I have a feeling the key to this is going to be a distributed, active hunt in territories unfamiliar – so if you have a friend who’s a grad student doing weird things in a lab somewhere, and architect or an engineer sketching strange bio-mimetic structures on pub beer-mats; or anyone outside of the usual O’Reillysphere that you know who’s doing something exciting, do encourage them to take a look at the CfP.

Let’s make Tony proud…


P.s.: I’ve taken Matt Fraction‘s “Tony was right” slightly out-of-context here, via the ever-lovin’ Ryan Freitas.

To which you could add ‘tardy’: a shameful two months after the event the slides and notes from the talk are now up online here. Sorry to everyone who asked for them – and thanks for your patience!

It was a presentation by Tom Coates and myself on an area that fascinates us both – the coming age of practical ubicomp/spimes/everyware.

Although hopefully grounded in some of the design ideas explored in our respective current projects, it was a whistlestop tour around the ideas and conversations of many.

The title slide shows Timo Arnall‘s everyware symbols and obviously, Adam Greenfield‘s and Bruce Sterling‘s books loom large, as well as the work of Dan Hill, Matthew Chalmers, Anne Galloway, Schulze and Webb, Christian Nold and many others who I’ve been fortunate to meet, mail or read around this subject.

There’s certainly some scenius going on. As if to underline this, Nicholas Nova’s posted his slides from what sounds like a fascinating talk today: “Digital Yet Invisible: Making Ambient Informatics More Explicit to People”.

Looking forward to a summer of more digital/physical brainfood…

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