Monuments of the Times

Sunday March 08, 09:35:02

Sunday March 08, 14:46:54

From the blog-all-curious-monuments desk, Sunday morning coming back from Lake Arrowhead California on a clear, crisp March morning, came across this on a pull-out along the bold mountain road. A monument. To one Donald S. Wieman, for his handiwork..I guess for contributing to the construction and design of this “rim on the world”. It’s quite a nice road, with a steep, boldly winding swerve up to some amazing views. This road was part of a large public works effort during the “Great Depression”. Lately we’ve been learning more about public works and their stimulus effects, with varying opinions on whether and to what degree they may work for this particular “crisis.”

Later that day, doing the hyperspace jump from the mountains to the beach with concomitant shifts in pretty much all parameters — altitude, weather, temperature, air quality.. — I found myself on a merry afternoon perambulation. I came across this bucolic portrait of modest living except — what’s that? A sporty roadster in the garage, clearly an owners favorite pet. There are racing stripe floorings and the clean, well-kept settings of a diligent mechanically-inclined individual. The contrast I saw, without any substantiation was to wonder the ratio of house value to car value. Given its location and other factors, (and personal insights from perusing the local listings) I thought it could in fact be the case that the car may in fact be worth more than the house. Probably not, but the factors are closing in on one another.

Why do I blog this? Are the goodies that many people debt-financed, or financed based on their speculation about tomorrow’s values of their house — their largest ever investment — now like a taunting by the proverbial Albatross-around-the-neck? How will people and their practices change in the coming years? The coming generations? Will their be a “Credit Crisis Generation” to go along with all the other generational monikers? This one defined by its reluctance to trust; its simple ways; its avoidance of credit financing?

Just some musing.
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Etech 2009 This Week

Monday February 16, 17:13:32

This week, high on the list of things to look forward to (definitely well-above my appointment with my accountant, nice as she is..) is O’Reilly Etech. I’m glad to be going this year, after missing it entirely last year.

I’ll be talking on Thursday March 12 at 11:55am in the Imperial Ballroom, immediately after the Senate has their deliberations on whether or not to leave a garrison in Cloud City.

My topic? Design Fiction. Hopefully the essay that attaches to this thinking will be done in a matter of a few dozen hours. We’ll see. Had quite my share of Tawny Port last night and I don’t write particularly well when juiced like Hemingway or, whatever..Joyce or something.

Design is a kind of authoring practice, crafting material visions of different kinds of possible worlds. Design’s various ways of articulating ideas in material to create social objects and experiences can be seen as a kind of practice close to writing fiction. This is a presentation about the relationship between design, science fiction, and the material elements that help tell visual stories about the future — mostly props and special effects.

The questions here are this:

How does design participate in shaping possible near future worlds?
How does the integration of story telling, technology, art, and design provide opportunities to re-imagine how the world may be in the future?

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Announcement: Copenhagen Institute of Interaction Design..Accepting Applications

Drowning Danger For Cars

From the pass-the-information-along desk here at The Near Future Laboratory, this dispatch just clanked off the teletype. The seduction of school can be an adequate response to the frustrations that many other “normal, human-world” activities offer. In principle, its where you get to do what’s been on your mind with a bit of the protection of “academic freedom” and Ivory Tower pursuits and all that. Okay, sometimes, but this sounds like it could be just the place, leastways from what I’ve heard. And school is usually recession proof in a fashion, so long as you don’t do something silly like overpay with the expectation that the expense is returned in alumni “connections” or “brand prestige” on the other end of your schooling. That’s silly — don’t be fooled..that’s the adjustable rate mortgage of academia. Save your future earnings, be clever in what you do, circulate widely with your ideas and projects, meet people, spend your pittance on some beer and protein shakes, but mostly spend it on travel so you can meet, share, contribute. Make culture, not personal debt. Honestly. Here, at the Copenhagen Institute of Interaction Design, if you’re from the EU, your tuition is 0. Outside the EU, it’ll be 9600 euros. That’s about what a student at my former academic teaching post would spend on parking fines, hot-links and hair mousse.


We are very happy to announce the opening of the application process for next year’s interaction design programme, run by the Copenhagen Institute of Interaction Design and the Danish Design School. This graduate programme is the successor to our current Interaction Design Pilot Year. It will offer students an intensive 12-month education in interaction and service design. Contingent on confirmation of funding, we will begin the programme in September 2009.

For more information and the online application form, see:

Deadline: Applications must be received by April 1st, 2009.


The interaction design programme teaches students to apply technology to everyday life, through the design of software, products, and services. We believe in a hands-on and user-centered approach to interaction design. Students learn the programming and electronics skills needed to work with technology as a design medium. They conduct user-research and experience prototyping to provide real-world grounding for their concepts. Frequent work in multi-disciplinary teams encourages peer-to-peer learning. A diverse selection of visiting faculty exposes students to a range of expertise.

Next year’s interaction design programme builds on the structure of the pilot year. The twelve month programme is divided into three tiers: foundations, investigations, and the thesis. The foundations are short workshops that provides students with the skills they need throughout the year. The investigations give students the opportunity to pursue in-depth projects around a particular design brief. The thesis provides students with an opportunity to explore an area of their choosing, combining design work with reflection and knowledge generation. Additionally, students will participate in innovation projects: collaborations with industry on briefs of mutual interest.

For more information on the current Interaction Design Pilot Year curriculum, see:

A gallery of course information and student work from the Interaction Design Pilot Year is available at:


As an education concerned with the broad potential of design and technology, the interaction design programme is looking for a wide diversity of students. We welcome applicants from all over the world and from any background. You should be curious and creative; enthusiastic about design and working in a cross-disciplinary environment. Whether you’re currently studying or working, you should be interested in the connections between education and interaction design practice. As this is a new programme, we’re seeking students with an interest in helping to shape the education and curriculum. We plan to have a class of approximately 25 students.


For more information about the interaction design programme, see or write to
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Inscribed History

Monday March 02, 07:38:09

A found inscription, quite elaborate with its multicolored typography. It reads:

Marc Lord. I got the AAA Tow. Be back @ 4:30 PM. V.

It seems “V” had car trouble, called a friend for help — perhaps after some frustration in getting the auto club to come to the rescue. (They can be good at times, but I’ve waited hours, unfortunately.) But, finally the auto club arrived before the friend — Marc Lord — arrived.

What is curious here is that “V” must have called from a pay phone or perhaps their cell phone died, otherwise they could have easily rung back Mr. Lord to say, “thanks, but no thanks..”

They evidently met again later in the afternoon — or planned to. In any case, the sign was left until the next morning, I assume, when I saw it while on my morning perambulation.

Why do I blog this? Found inscriptions are traces of activity, little bits of micro histories. Not as weighty as archival documents, but more intriguing for the way they capture the quotidian experiences of people and their moments, stories rarely told in broad histories but perhaps even more meaningful for close observation of people, their practices and moments of failure mitigation, like a blown tire. This is also intriguing to think about in the context of trusted allies — who do people turn to in moments of dire straits such as these? Close friends and agents like the AAA before a random call to the first tow service in the phonebook, I would assume.
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