Made Up Panel Discussion September 17 at Art Center College of Design

One week from today I’ll have the pleasure of sharing a panel discussion with my old chum Sascha Pohflepp and the eminent Norman Klien as Art Center rounds out its summer “Made Up” residency studio program. Fun. Come out and check it out!

Join the Media Design Program
Friday, September 17, 2010
3:00 to 5:00 pm
Wind Tunnel Gallery, South Campus, Art Center College of Design
950 S. Raymond Ave., Pasadena, CA 91105


AS IF: alternate realities

This panel discussion, moderated by MADE UP organizer Tim Durfee, will consider the value (or perhaps merely the appeal) of a methodology that could be characterized as: assume a set of conditions (abitrary, absurd, speculative), play it straight. Historically, alternate realities have been the realm of literature and film but what might be the effects of such an approach within a field (design) that is conventionally concerned with the cold, hard facts of the real world, of the here and now. And importantly, why does this work feel uniquely relevant NOW?

Detail from SUPERCALIFORNIA! by Sascha Pohflepp


Sascha Pohflepp, London-based designer and artist, was one of this summer’s researchers-in-residence. As part of the MADE UP theme, he produced the project “SUPERCALIFORNIA!” which turns the phantom futures of Southern California into compelling design fiction.

Julian Bleecker, a designer and technologist, is a researcher at the Design Strategic Projects studio at Nokia Design, and the co-founder of the Near Future Laboratory, a “design-to-think” studio.

Norman Klein is a cultural historian, critic, and novelist, and the author, with Margo Bistis, of the multi-media database/novel/website/art installation titled “The Imaginary Twentieth Century,” a historical science-fiction novel. His forthcoming book is called The Dismantling of the American Psyche: MediaBuzz, Political Branding, and Collective Amnesia: 1968-Present

“For alternative realities, I see many options in work that I have doing recently: from parallel worlds models to ‘wunder-romans’ (archival/media novels), to the misremembering of the future, and ‘the dismantling of the American psyche’…” —Norman Klein

“I have long been interested in how science fiction has influenced science fact. To me, design fiction encourages peculiar design practices in an attempt to create different sorts of near future worlds. The Made Up project promises to illuminate the future-oriented practice of design and help us understand how design probes imaginatively and materializes ideas, oftentimes through stories.” —Julian Bleecker

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The Urban Internet of Things 2010. An International Workshop


Coming up is an exciting sounding workshop on the “urban internet of things — programming the real-time city.” Some more opportunities to get this one right..or at least human.

** As more people move to cities, it becomes increasingly challenging )) the necessarily understated preamble (( to build efficient )) maybe we shouldn’t even hope for efficiency (( infrastructures that support the needs of inhabitants without sacrificing the quality of life. The increasing digital instrumentation of urban areas through various networked sensors provides many opportunities to design smarter cities )) smart? i’d settle for clever and wily (( through a meaningful interpretation and usage of all this real-time data. In today’s world, there are strong incentives to leverage the most recent technologies to create digital infrastructures that foster collaboration between the different disciplines involved in urban design. By considering the IoT as a platform for engaging citizen’s action, a new design space is created where citizens are at the center of its urban environment and empowered to actively shape the city they live in.

The goal of this workshop is to gather original and inspiring contributions from technology experts, researchers in academia and industry, designers, urban planners, and architects that are willing to share their knowledge, experiences, and best practices for building smarter cities. We will explore the design of open and efficient platforms and tools to collect, analyze, store, and share the enormous amount of real-time data digital cities generate through a mix of papers, demos, invited presentations and open discussions for collectively create the city of the future. **
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Weekending 07112010

Destroy The Future

Good lord. What happened just then?

Well — I missed a weeknote last week, but I’m not going to do penance. It happens.

I’ve been working — mostly in my head, with a swirl of notes — on two casual commissions for writing, both on the topic of Design Fiction. One is for a forthcoming volume for this journal called, like…Volume. It looks quite curious — reminds me of a cerebral Cabinet Magazine. I think that’ll be a trimmed-of-excess version of the already existing essay, but perhaps without out the Meringue. Along those lines, I continue to catalog these *genre conventions. I’m not entirely sure why, except that they are like the stylings and contours of what makes — in my mind — good Design Fiction, leastways as represented in visual stories.

The second commission is from the Swiss Design Network for their annual proceedings. I’ll be going to their conference in the Fall.

So..those things need to be tied up in short order.

I’ve also spent idle moments pondering a response to the Six Questions posed by the fine friends at Kicker Studios for their forthcoming Device Design Day next month. I think I’ll share some thoughts on the industrial design of Star Trek as a way to talk about the explication/explicitation actions of objects. How objects “speak” or incite/compel/describe actions and social-actions. And as to the Six Questions — I mean..I’m not sure how deliberate I should be in answering them, or thinking of them as some kind historic remarks or anything like that. But they are good ones and they get me thinking — Jack’s are my favorite, still. Criminy his a thoughtfully-funny guy.

Crimminy — and unless the activity of true southern california skateboarding suddenly vanishes without a trace, the going-will-be-slow on the Man Lodge in the back, which is meant to be the Laboratory’s studio. ((The ladder and table saw have spent more time staring at each other and less time being climbed on and/or rip-sawing timbers.))

Sunday July 11 16:16

Daniel Cuervo, Frontside Japan Air. Me? Underneath paying close attention to where he might land.

Why do I blog this? A few notes to remind myself of what I have done but, this week — more to remind myself of what I should perhaps be doing more, or things I should be doing just a little bit less.

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iotaSalon: The City @ UCLA

Sunday March 29, 13.18.40

This sounds like fun.

May 6, 2010, 7pm
Experimental Digital Arts at UCLA.

iotaCenter’s mission is to inspire both new and existing artists in a historically dispersed and constantly changing technological environment.

The theme for our next iotaSalon is THE CITY. We will be investigating the way urban environments are depicted in abstract and experimental works. How does construction influence image creation? How does the urban environment surrounding an artist inform or invade their work? How does the process of abstraction change our view of the city? How have architectural tools and thinking affected abstract and experimental moving images?

Screening on 16mm ((16mm FTW!!)) as part of the historic film segment:
Sausage City (1974) – Adam Beckett
Diagram Film (1978) – Paul Glabicki
Commuter (1981) – Mike Patterson

Screening on video for the contemporary segment:
Giant Steps (2001) – Michal Levy
Communicate (2009) – Erick Oh
Berlin Skin (2007) – Kim Collmer
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Week Ending 04232010

Saturday April 10 17:30 Ver.1.01

Well, I missed the Week Ending last week so I’ll capture a couple of the things that happened then, now.

There were a cacophony of tasks to be done, some fun, some that should’ve been fun, and all that tipped me into a level of activity-stress that translated into too little sleep and various physical ailments. These aren’t complaints at all — just a note-to-self to either learn how to manage multiple concurrent fun commitments, or spread them out like butter on a baguette.

There was a Skype lecture between here and Seoul given for a design seminar at Art Center Nabi. That was a curious thing — to lecture with the audience *sort of* there. Basically akin to talking to yourself, or rehearsing a lecture. I’m not sure I could do that again, comfortably. Aside from the challenges of dialing back my weird circumlocutions and the litany’s I dispense midtalk while trying to remember what my next point should be, or might’ve been had I not forgotten it moments earlier — it’s just a bit impersonal. Or maybe it was just the fact that it was 11 in the evening after a proper day in the studio and I just wanted to have a belt and fall asleep.

It was a roilingly active week in the studio, with this sense that there was an intense and focused round of design work on the horizon, and the sort — systemically speaking — that Nicolas and I had pondered would be an ideal way of working, especially after we both made a turn from academic and formal approaches to making things. Looking at the world obliquely, learning from new perspectives and points-of-view, redefining or differently defining what *success and *achievement might be — not just up-and-to-the-right. Somewhat in line with this talk at Lift in 2008 7.5 Rules for Working Together. I’m quite excited by the prospect this bit of work allows for a more skunky/stinky untoward refrain to the normal ways in which things are done. A bit — tip-of-the-spear actions.

Via our weekly Skype, forward progress continues on the iPhone edition of The Drift Deck, with Jon Bell and Dawn Lozzi taking that bull by its horns. Of course, we’re all excited by the prospect of a second life for The Drift Deck — and curious by the translation of a physical deck of cards into its electronic kin. There are a couple of iterations already. Engaged simplicity is the goal. There were discussions that I prompted around game mechanics — don’t know why I, in particular, would be bringing this topic up — and I think the conclusion is that it is what it is. The deck, is the deck.

The Apparatus for Capturing Other Points of View was sent to LABoral Centro de Arte y Creación Industrial, where it — and the material produced — will be in an exhibition next month. ((More on that in the appropriate week note)). That was an epic undertaking — I mean the operational mishegoss of sending an 8 foot pole to Spain. DHL took it in stride..literally.

@ibogost was a house guest as he had some weird lecture to do, and that meant snifters of Port in the kitchen talking about #OOO, the shapes of things and a discussion of knob-turned-to-11 materializations of social practices, which is something I’m trying to figure out how to talk about beyond just saying that and, as it turns out — it might make more sense to materialize the “talk” about that than to just talk about it. And he’s on this *Carpentry thing, which I think would be our point of contact on this whole Object-Oriented Ontology vector he and his 12 friends appear to be all hopped-up about. ((They had a seminar on it last week — I hope it was captured in something ≫ 140 character tweets. ((That’s the 12 other people all hopped up on #OOO, and I might be number 13 based on our boozy conversation.))

Saturday April 10 17:30 Ver.1.01

This actual week — all that except @ibogost’s visit was the week before — started off with performing the duties of guest critic for the Art Center College of Design’s Media Design Program’s thesis year projects. That was a completely full day — almost 10 hours — of crits. Good work all around, with some curiously strong failures and seductively tenuous successes. Despite the work, which I certainly enjoyed in total, the crits were lots of fun, tiring and engaged. That culture of this sort of design critique was something sorely missing at the Interactive Media Program, leastways when I was there and I reflected on that contrast in the back of my mind. It’s something that is a way of working in the studio, frankly and only adds to the work. Patient, mindful intervention; conscientious and respectful criticisms; hard intellectual and creative framing that is only meant to make the work better.

The rest of the week consisted of some low-key efforts to have Design engage Research differently. We’ve been doing roughly monthly, completely casual, completely self-initiated link-ups with the Research part of the organization, mostly because there are friends there and it’s nice to share and discuss projects. Never really looking for *actionable points of collaboration — the collaboration is in the discussions. For me professionally, The Laboratory is much more interested in finding ways of working than specific things to work on, although sometimes specific things to work on are the ways you understand how different disciplines do what they are disciplined to do. Later in the week when there was another link-up, I found myself a bit sensitive to these different ways of working — Research wants a particular kind of action to unfold rather than action-as-reflection. It’s all sorted out somehow — we just need to make it, and that will be that. Rather than the *crit and the conversations that wonder in the first instance — why this and in this instantiation? Or — let’s throw out all that *work and start fresh with the possibility that we will come back to it at some point. Or, the journey rather than the finalé.

It all ended with a confidential review and excitement about the approaching National Pretzel Day, as well as the book launch of Digital Blur at The Architectural Association on Tuesday evening.

Digital Blur Book Launch At Architectural Association April 27

This book Digital Blur — in which John Marshall and I have a sort of drunken, double-bandolier-wearing bandito-style essay on *undisciplinarity — will launch on April 27th in London at The Architectural Association Bookshop, which is a fantastic bookshop anyway so you basically can’t loose.

if anyone goes..i wouldn’t mind a photo of the event just to show my mother what i have wrought, in my own humble, minuscule way.

Digital Blur: Creative Practice at the Boundaries of Architecture, Design and Art’

On behalf of Libri Publishing I am delighted to invite you to the launch of Paul Rodgers and Michael Smyth’s new book.
A formal invitation is attached.

The launch is being held on: Tuesday 27 April 18.30 – 20.30

The AA Bookshop
Architectural Association
36 Bedford Square

The nearest underground station is Tottenham Court Road.

Wine and soft drinks will be served. We hope you will be able to join us.

Please R.S.V.P. by email to:

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Award Category: Design Fiction

Day of the Figurines

There are a variety of ways to measure the degrees to which an *out there idea becomes somehow normalized and convention: (in no particular order) (1) It becomes bandied about at conferences and lectures and so forth; (2) Someone writes a book about it; (3) It is a canonical hashtag; (4) It is a canonical normal, old fashioned tag, tag; (5) It evolves into its own practice or *proprietary process; (6) Someone is anointed or self-anoints themself as its Guru; (7) A course is offered in it; (8) It becomes a job title or someone in a shitty sitcom has a job doing it; (9) It is blamed for something, or is the death knell of the thing it undoes; (10) It becomes an award category or you can get a medal and a nice dinner for doing it well.

Joseph Binder Award 2010: Graphic Design & Illustration

Summary of the rules & regulations in English

designaustria (DA), the Austrian professional association of graphic designers, illustrators and product designers, organizes a biannual international design competition, the Joseph Binder Award, which for the first time was held in 1996.

Criteria and Categories

Who may enter?
Professional designers or design students, either as individuals or teams.

What to enter?
Projects in the fields of graphic design and illustration that were produced in 2008 and after. The number of entries is not limited. Entrants declare that they are owners of their designs and that no rights of third parties will be infringed by their publication. designaustria declines any responsibility as to the infringements of rights of third parties. Entrants agree that their works will be published by designaustria in connection with the competition and will be shown in Austria and abroad.

Special Category: Design Fiction
unpublished works / independent or non-commercial projects

How to enter:
Entries must be sent by 17 May 2010 to:
designaustria designforum Wien Joseph Binder Award 2010 MuseumsQuartier Museumsplatz 1, Hof 7 A-1070 Vienna, Austria

Design Fiction at 6th Annual Swiss Design Network Conference

Round Display

[[This just in. Sounds fun and curious. Almost makes me not loathe the academic conference context if only because the topic seems far enough beyond the typical that it may in fact suggest that there is an active imagination or two left in the tower.]]

Dear fellow design researchers.

The Academy of Art and Design FHNW in Basel and the Swiss Design Network are pleased to invite you to participate in the 6th Annual Swiss Design Network Conference in Basel, Switzerland, October 28-30, 2010. The SDN Conference belongs to the leading European design research conferences and brings together scholars, professionals and students who come from diverse backgrounds and share interests in design and design research. The 2010 conference theme addresses the topic of “negotiating futures. design fiction.” It builds on the assumption, that designers see the world not simply as it is, but rather as it could be. In this perspective, the world is a laboratory to explore the contingency of the existing and the thinking in options. Imaginations of the contra factual are a key source for the creation of alternative political, technological, social, or economic constellations of artefacts, interfaces, signs, actors, and spaces. At the same time, strategies of materialization are pivotal to shift the boundary between the fictional and the real and to finally bring possible new realities into being. The conference therewith addresses the question of how fictions are designed and how the multiplicity of possible new futures is negotiated and realized. Keynote speakers include James Auger, Julian Bleecker [[* note to self: write it this time; don’t rack a round and hope for the best *]], Ruth Durrer, Franz Liebl and Alexandra Midal.

Call for Papers

We invite you to present your research at the SDN Conference 2010. We are looking for high quality papers in the field of design research to be published in the conference proceedings. While the conference addresses all current areas of design research, we especially encourage the submission of work that addresses the main conference theme of “design fiction” and the respective empirical research, theories, methods, and educational work.

Deadline for the submission of abstracts is May 2, 2010, deadline for the submission of final papers is July 18, 2010. For more and updated information on the conference and on how to submit your work, please see the attached call for papers and visit the main conference website at

The Week Ahead: SxSW 2010 — Design Fiction Panel

Pervasive Electronic Games Panel

SXSW in 2007. A panel I organized called Pervasive Electronic Games with heroes Dennis Crowley (*Dodgeball!/*Google!?), Aaron Meyers (Mobzombies mad-man), and ultra-hero fron the other planet, Kevin Slavin (Area/Code). That was fun.

So, early heads-up and there’ll be more — if you’re heading to SxSW this year, I’ve organized a panel under the rubric of *Design Fiction. The full title is Design Fiction: Props, Prototypes, Predicaments Communicating New Ideas, and I feel prescient with that title because it captures much of what’s been going on in the studio over the last, like..3 months.

It’s going to be good. It’ll be Jake Dunagan from the Institute for the Future; Sascha Pohflepp from Supercalifornia (whatwha?!), Stuart Candy from The Long Now Foundation and Jennifer Leonard from IDEO, with perhaps a special delta-net guest operator to flash-bang this one all to hell and gone. We’ve actually done planning and have had *skype conference chats to discuss what we’ve been thinking on this one.

Add this to your conference schedule..and see you with a plate of dry rub in front of me.

Design Fiction: Props, Prototypes, Predicaments Communicating New Ideas

BBQ @ Salt Lick

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Art History of Games

A short note to draw the attention of the two of you to this event that pal Ian Bogost and related/sundry other chums are putting on: Art History of Games to be held February 4th, 5th and 6th right there in Atlanta. Sounds delightful — wish I could make such things as this. I’m fond of these sorts of thoughtful considerations and probing lenses upon things that are often mistakenly trivialized — Art History and Games. Fantastic. Seems like they’ve commissioned a few games, including one involving enormous game pieces and what sounds like a cunning form of bribery.

Check out the schedule and weep with me in sorrow for not being able to attend..

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