The Week Ending 050210


Looking back on the calendar to see what notes I have from the week ending last week and poking through the notesbook, the thing that stands out is an engaging discussion with Kurt that, as it turns out, was about communicating ideas. You know *how do you enroll someone into your conversation and evolve intellect into action and materializations? Originally planned as a meeting to share with him the material of the project itself, we ended up spending the two+ hours talking about various strategies to make an idea compelling to someone who is perhaps not entirely inclined to ingest a rather unusual project, with (*quite potentially) rich implications. In an organization with the inertia of a planetary body, shifting trajectory and adjusting priorities is an epic task. (*With, here, only modest expectations here as to doing this, and certainly not alone.)

The conversation obviously perpetuated thinking about the theater, drama and story telling techniques that can benefit from a mix of design and fiction. How do you tell the story of *Trust through exemplars first rather than the usual front-first build up. As a story, could it be more intriguing to start *at the police line-up, for instance, tell the story as a knot of associations, linkages, encounters, coincidences — in other words, show the Latourian *knot and then walk folks through its unknotting — it’s *denouement? More of a story than a linear, beginning-to-end explanation. Do you start with the outcome, in the form of peculiar, confusing, provocative *evidence/*objects/*exemplars and tell the story backwards? Doing so could certainly begin to shift the conversation, to be a provocation that is not the ordinary tale that one sees in the usual suspect — mundane, boring, creaky, poorly crafted, baroquely illegible PowerPoints?

And then the *prototypes shift more into the role of *props — behaving as a different sort of story telling device. Somewhere along this rough continuum are *canonical prototypes (doing as they do, to test a proposition, idea, technique or technology), *diegetic prototypes (David A. Kirby’s formulation for ideas run through a story, simultaneously achieving their function to contribute to conversations about science, for example, that exist outside of/alongside of the film’s story, as well as serving a role as a bit of narrative glue in the film itself), and *props as used in films that serve no specific function except insofar as they help move the story of the film along (as in the Macguffin which need not be anything particular or have a legible meaning or function outside of anything except the film — the suitcase that all the characters want, for some reason we need not worry about — so long as our characters create drama that is the final source of enjoyment of the film.)

An exciting consideration that requires as much consideration, crafting, production as telling a good story. But, also — as difficult, if not more so, I am certain. What we’re ultimately trying to do is turn good intellect into something more than just that. The communication should be more than a rejuvinating *brown bag lunch chat. It should call people and things to action.

Weeknotes and <a HREF="weeknotes

The Week Ending 220110

Sunday January 24 14:01

What one finds house hunting in Los Angeles and coming across one owned by a Hollywood set designer. Also looking at the same moment, a demure, polite and inquisitive actress vaguely recognized and thence confirmed to be the nitty Shannon from season one of Lost.

Diligent weeknotes are already eluding me. Perhaps because it was a short week last week and I wasn’t in the studio until Thursday. Nevertheless — mostly a couple of days of dusting off the desk and considering what remained to finish from the previous year and continue on into the new one.

Project Trust achieved its milestone late last year and the last couple of days last week were spent assessing it’s 2010 tributaries — where and to who does it get shared? How to distil what has been learned both in practical terms as well as in the very intriguing, curious *meta* terms such as — what did we learn about how to design in such a way as to achieve unexpected, new, perhaps innovative things? What about the friction of design that hones and reshapes and burnishes a nascent idea into a new, curious, future form that moves away from the hum-drum expected outcomes? What about the style of communication, which has moved away from PowerPoint / Keynote into visual stories? What is that and how can it be informally formalized as a new way of sharing ideas that, for the time being, while this style is still new — shock, excite and awe people into becoming fervent allies and help turn that idea into its deserved material form.

So. Decisions made, for the most part, about what prototypes find their way downstream, or up-the-ladder, or to new lands. Movies blocked and storyboarded, or at least decided upon. That was those two days last week.
Continue reading The Week Ending 220110

Ikky Futures — Back To The Futures on VHS Tape

Thursday August 06, 18.53.55

“Icky Futures” — a brilliantly distorting collection of corporate visions of the future, packaged in an original BTTF VHS (FTW!) tape. The redoubling ironies here are precious.

This arrived in the mail over a week ago and I just now managed to actually watch the thing, mostly because access to a VHS deck is not super easy. There are a few around the studio. Irony Number One: The first one I tried — which I tried because it appears to be connected via some piping of cables into a wall, probably up in a ceiling, then down the wall on the opposite side of the room, finally tumbling out in a completely incomprehensible bundle of unmarked, inconsistent wires which vaguely attach themselves to a fantastically huge piss-off-and-die flatscreen of the sort I am certain Sir Edmund Hillary would demand were he alive today.


The only thing that came through, despite a good 45 minutes of fiddling and wrangling from the guy who used to run the film loops and projectors and such back in the day — was sound.

A few days later, an attempt in the other room with a VHS deck, but the television — a proper, gentleman’s cathode “ray” tube — wouldn’t turn on. Just wouldn’t.

Finally, got one going in the other, other room and the tape rolled. Not wanting to push my luck as far as actually seeing something, I watched on my computer screen through my trusty ADVC110 video converter.

Called “Icky Futures” — the video cassette tape that Chris composed contains almost 1h:30m of corporate future visions, many of which I would be hard pressed to watch while keeping a straight face. Of course, some of that has to do with production style and value, or seeing yesteryears technology darlings (Bellcore, for example, Apple with a striped rainbow logo) pin their dreams on one thing or the other.

Well, despite these things having a compendium of past future visions of what some little aspect of the world might look like is fantastic stuff. These sorts of things should be required viewing for anyone who gets into the racket of trying to communicate their vision of possible near futures. Observing tried techniques for expression of sometimes tricky ideas is a quite useful approach to the communication craft. Talking heads combined with described scenarios? Or acted scenarios? Do you show the technology in its prototype form? Or do some visual special effects to make it seem as though it is working? What kind of people? What fields of trade? Business people? Cops? Etc.

It is also interesting to identify visions of the future that “failed” (or did not come to fruition, not yet at least.) So much attention is placed on things that happen, we rarely look at the things that were supposed to (according to some people), but did not. This is endemic to the futures community, I think. You can say lots of things, and you only have to be right once for those “misses” to fall away.



What I would say Chris and Natalie are doing or attempting to achieve in part is precisely what was enacted through this mishegoss of trying to get a VHS tape to play and be seen and potentially enjoyed. As well, the fact that the material is in a physical object and in some sense “unique” for each instance. I can’t actually “send it around” in the sense of uploading the digital bits without violating some aspect of the physicality of the thing. Yes, i know this is stretching it — I could “rip” the VHS tape into digital form, but then it is something else, at least I assume different from Chris’ intention with it. And I like having it up on my shelf this way. It has a certain integrity to itself. A different sort of media and content that will ultimately degrade into something barely viewable or not viewable at all because the extremes I would have to go to to find the equipment to play it will be way too much for me to endure.

There are some powerful ironies and a heavy wiff of whatever us optimistic cynics dose ourselves with before going on the hunt for the next ridiculous “meme” that everyone gets hopped up on. The combination of the means of delivery of this object (Chris mailed it to me, using the normal, human postal service), and the VHS tape (which forced me to stop and think about how/where I could actually view this), the scratchiness of the video picture (which is a configuration of zillions of magnetic particles intricately aligned on a microscopically thin plastic tape for chrissake) — all of these things force one to think about what futures were planned, which came to be and which did not, what futures we actually deserve, and the things we end up leaving behind.

Why do I blog this? A nice, evocative object to think with. Thanks Chris! Check out Chris’ project page for more.
Continue reading Ikky Futures — Back To The Futures on VHS Tape