Future of Technology Conference University of Michigan September 24-25

Friday October 16, 15.04.18

I’ll be speaking at the Future of Technology conference at the Taubman College of Architecture, Planning and Urban Design on September 25th — the conference is on the 24th and the 25th. This courtesy of my chum John Marshall, who I visited last year to be a guest in his fantastic Heliotropic Smart Surfaces design studio which, if I remember correctly — John and Karl had no idea (in a good way!) what would happen other than that they would look into “smart” and the sun and surfaces. Brilliant guy, he is. That’s the way to run a creative studio. Optimism and enthusiasm and a tinge of creative recklessness.

Friday October 16, 11.34.47

Anyway. That’s where I’ll be. In Ann-Arbor.
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Stuart's *Fragments of Possible Worlds* / Reperceiving The Future

Saturday October 03, 17.27.54

Just a fragment of a post — something that’s been sitting in drafts for a few months now for some reason. I guess I was trying to find something to put alongside of it, but it sits well by itself.

It’s from a post by Laboratory cousin Stuart Candy and its got some suggestive little nuggets — particularly appealing to me is “reperceiving.” This is the way he is describing what artists and futurists do as their vocations — “enabling new perceptions.”

Stuart Candy Reperceiving Detroit

" Called “Fragments of Possible Worlds: The Art and Design of Experiential Scenarios”, my presentation encouraged the audience, mostly Cranbrook students and faculty, to consider the resemblance between the role of the artist and that of the futurist. What the two have in common, as I see it, is the vocation of enabling new perceptions. Compared to the artist, whose self-understanding frequently seems to include a studied refusal of the constraints to which many other kinds of work are subject (viz. “artistic licence”), the futurist’s role may be somewhat more circumscribed, especially in a consulting setting, by the client’s needs. But the general role is fundamentally similar. And, while there is a conscious turn towards public and political engagement in my recent work, compared to the more narrowly targeted, strategic use of foresight as used in organisational settings, this common ground shared by art and futures is well captured by the elegant phrase of Royal Dutch/Shell scenario planning pioneer Pierre Wack: “the gentle art of reperceiving”."

Why do I blog this? I like this way of describing the work of creating new visions of possible worlds as reperceiving, or helping people to reimagine what the world could be like. Finding new ways of describing the work we do here in the Laboratory is quite helpful. Related is this diagram by James Auger that I recently came across on Nicolas’ blog in which he describes Auger’s diagram showing how paths to the future can be mapped out in a specific way. This might be a side, side project — to create a visualization that describes this action of re-imagining and reperceiving.

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Design Fiction Pictures Presents: Earth to Luna

A suggestive and left-to-the-readers scrap of net-archeology found at http://desi-fi.posterous.com/earth-to-luna — a title card for a design fiction film? By Design Fiction Pictures? Lovely.
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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.

Nada.

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.

BTTF_02

BTTF_01

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.
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Mail Call

Monday July 20, 12.14.48

JCB_21072009_095114_1417

Monday July 20, 20.25.01

Four parcels in one day, all good, gooey, design-y stuff.

What’d we get?

1. A collection of four “designmind” journals from Dawn up at Frog Design in Seattle.

2. A parcel from Zero Per Zero consisting of about 15 subway and city maps of various cities around the world — Barcelona rules, FTW.

3. A VHS Tape that is labeled “Back to the Future” — but I suspect it is something else about the future, from Chris Woebken. I’ll have to find a VHS deck at the studio or something to see this for real.

4. Nicolas Nova’s book recently released. Let me use the Laboratory’s brand-spankin’ new Universal Translator to tell you the title: “Les medias geolocalises”

That’s it.

Why do I blog this? We have never received four parcels of such promise in one day.

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