Trend-based store layout and online user-experience design.

Dan Hill holds forth on the parallels between real world store architecture and information architecture online. I know taking TOO direct a metaphorical relationship between them annoys some people, but there’s some food for thought here if not taken too literally, imho.

» cityofsound/blog/The Information Architecture of Liberty, London

Oblaat

“Socrates: Maybe McLuhan was right about artists being the only ones who really see the importance of context in communication. I came across a website about a Japanese laptop artist called Oblaat, a New York-based sound curator called Keiko Uenishi. Even the name Oblaat contains a reference to McLuhan’s insight: in Japanese ‘oblaat’ means the colourless, tasteless, self-dissolving gel which surrounds pill capsules. You can’t taste it, but it gives definition to the shape of the pill, helps you swallow it. It’s a perfect symbol of making defining, invisible contexts visible.”

and…

“This, then, was the sound of humanism. It shone like an exit sign in the palace of mirrors.”

» Momus: Thought For The Day:
The Electroacoustics of Humanism

Archigram get architecture’s highest acolade

What heartening news. The awesome Archigram take their place in the architecture hall of fame, if they hadn’t already, by being recognised with the Royal Institute of British Architects Gold Medal.

Reading the following quote about the creative act of “dare” from the citation mind me to mind of a few current digital design threads around the place. Oh, And if you go over to heyotwell.com you’ll see that Andrew has spotted this nodal point too, and has summed it up eloquently in a post about “designer responsibility”.

“What Peter Cook has called “The Archigram Effect” is that of “dare” and of watching how other architects are sometimes encouraged to find it possible to innovate, to turn a programme on its side, to fly in the face of local traditions or inhibitions. The effect has been to instil a mood of optimism, so that, however it turns out, a piece of work will not actually worry too much about justification.”

» Judges’ Citation for the 2002 RIBA Royal Gold Medal Winner

The art of conversation

[Attention conservation notice: long self-induldgent post composed late at night while tired discussing things I don’t know enough about. The usual then.]

Matt Webb’s at it again. Read about his experiments with conversational interfaces.

I think he’s spot-on with his points about the failings of Activebuddy, and the avoidance of trying to build a better penknife. I have a couple of complementary ideas around this area – but keep having doubts to the mainstream application of conversational interfaces.

These are tempered however when I think of the resurgence of popularity of what amounts to the command-line interface, especially amongst younger people, due to SMS and instant messenging.

Talked about this before. Dare me to think. Dare me play with language, symbols, understanding. Actually I’ll invent my own thanks. Stop mediating my experiences – I’d rather have them myself and then share them with peers, not watch them played back to me by you.I like it in here. Let’s play. Maybe it’s a revolution in the making.

The next passage where the is from Neal Stephenson’s “In the beginning was the command-line” – it’s very hard to quote out of context, so maybe better to go and read the whole thing here. It’s incredibly rewarding and aside from the interesting dissection of operating systems and culture, the points he makes on geopolitical and cultural issues are pretty thought-provoking too, right now.

“Contemporary culture is a two-tiered system, like the Morlocks and the Eloi in H.G. Wells’s The Time Machine, except that it’s been turned upside down. In The Time Machine the Eloi were an effete upper class, supported by lots of subterranean Morlocks who kept the technological wheels turning. But in our world it’s the other way round.

The Morlocks are in the minority, and they are running the show, because they understand how everything works. The much more numerous Eloi learn everything they know from being steeped from birth in electronic media directed and controlled by book-reading Morlocks. So many ignorant people could be dangerous if they got pointed in the wrong direction, and so we’ve evolved a popular culture that is (a) almost unbelievably infectious and (b) neuters every person who gets infected by it, by rendering them unwilling to make judgments and incapable of taking stands.

Morlocks, who have the energy and intelligence to comprehend details, go out and master complex subjects and produce Disney-like Sensorial Interfaces so that Eloi can get the gist without having to strain their minds or endure boredom. Those Morlocks will go to India and tediously explore a hundred ruins, then come home and built sanitary bug-free versions: highlight films, as it were. This costs a lot, because Morlocks insist on good coffee and first-class airline tickets, but that’s no problem because Eloi like to be dazzled and will gladly pay for it all.”

Take a look at http://www.de-construct.com/ (careful – It’s Flash-only and it spawns a browser window that fills your whole screen) It got a great debate on the LondonUsability email group started, with the majority of correspondents slating the interface, and a vocal few defending it for trying something different.

I was one of those who gave a qualified defence, as IMHO, the site does try the right thing at the wrong time… >ahem< wrongly… Using a command-line as a primary interface to a marketing site seems a little daft, and the experience of using it can be frustrating, as the feedback mechanism operates on a controlled list of questions you can ask based upon the first let you type. Kind of like the worst exesses of predictive text features on cell-phones (something I don’t have time to write about, but is definately closely-knit with this thread of throught)

However, a small bouquet with all the brickbats to them for TRYING it. Does anyone know of more considered applications of this sort of way-new command-line-interface anywhere? If not, then why not. Information scientists and Info-science-focussed-IAs (!) with their knowledge of creating controlled vocabularies could really contribute to a new generation of easy and fun to use command-line interfaces…

Vive le retro-revolution!