Weekending 11132011

Hello. It’s time for the weekending post. A few things.

First — I was introduced to this graphic above from @bruces. It shows a Venn diagram showing a kind of perspective of what-could-be. For that reason, I chose to interpret it as another “graph of the future”. How’s that? Well, because it indicates the measure of what can be a product and therefore, what can enter into the world at a particular scale — it’s represents things that can exist at some point in the future. It’s a really simple measure of “product” or “possibility”, but because of its simplicity, its admirable. It says that what can be a product must be desirable, profitable and possible/buildable.

Update: @bruces posted his notebook drawing that I originally saw three, wine-fueled hours into a midnight dinner in London. It comes from Hugh Dubberly.

I pondered this a bit over the week. I shared it for a moment at the recent Society for the Social Studies of Science conference, as a way to think about the future. But, what I want to consider are the unexplored, peculiar areas that are not at the super-sweet spot there in the middle. Are these various terrains that can be explored — perhaps to shift the meaning of what is desirable, profitable and possible? Ultimately, that sweet spot in the middle has to become some sort of least common denominator. What about the impossible? Or the barely possible? Or the unprofitable, but possible and desireable? You see what I mean? How do yo get out of the rut of assuming that everything must be a product — desirable/profitable/possible — and actually innovate? Make new impossible things? Or new, weird things only desirable to 17 people?

Update #2. Here’s Hugh Dubberly’s drawing — at least I think it is. I never saw the one from which Bruce did his notebook sketch.

Yet to be considered.

Well, also this week was a bit of frustrating time figuring-out-new-stuff. Can you believe that we still have to use USBSerial dongles by Keyspan in 2011 in order to talk to modern bits of development hardware? What gives with that?

This is a development board for a VS1000 chip which does audio decoding. I’m hoping to learn more about how to make it do interesting things for some real-time audio hacking and making-of-things. Look for cool stuff soon. Definitely desirable, possible and unprofitable little gizmos and hatchapees.

The last thing is that the video of the Thrilling Wonder Stories thing I did in London last week with Bruce Sterling and Kevin Slavin is available online now at the Architectural Association web site. It’s worth a look. If you fast forward to about 1/2 way through, you’ll get to the start of the presentations from myself @bruces and @slavin_fpo.

Finally, had a lovely coffee time chat with David Kirby who was in town to do some interviews for his upcoming projects.

That’s it for what happened.

In upcoming news, you’ll find more people blogging and doing things through the Laboratory.

The band is getting back together. Yeehaw.

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And the time it takes to make them is the time taken to mean it.

Monday February 09

[Martin Puryear’s] sculptures look the way they do because they need to in order to mean what they do. The labor that is compressed into them allows them to work over time, and the time it takes to make them is the time taken to mean it. That they so often employ specialized tradesmen’s skills in their making allows them to work at the edges of utility—vessels that might be dwellings in the shapes of bodies—and in that fertile seam between representation and abstraction.

A quote from “From Head to Hand: Art and the Manual” by David Levi Strauss.

Why do I blog this? I like the way that time is emphasized here rather than the outcome. The emphasis is on the practice and process, which have so much to say about the sculpture. This distinction comes up often while materializing ideas. So often we can throw away ideas but once the idea becomes material, we’re less inclined to consider getting rid of it, likely because of the commitment of time and the costs of tangible materials. Some material things are still prototypes of an idea and not yet the right expression of an original idea, or stated intent. This means that it’s okay to put them aside as an expression of an idea because it doesn’t feel complete or does not “mean” what they are fully or satisfyingly. The gap between ideas and their materialization perhaps too often is a commitment rather than a looped path for refinement.

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The Week Ending 150110

Saturday January 16 15:51

From here, the next week begins. Sayulita, Mexico to repast, float, read, drink and celebrate with friends, a friend’s birthday.

The week began with the Microsoft Social Computing Symposium, 2010 edition. I’ve put my notes from the event here in the immediately preceding blog post.

Back in the studio on Thursday and Friday to tidy up a few loosened ends with the Trust project and coordinating some final assembly particulars with Tom, Simon and the fine folks at the prototyping family house Aeolab for the second clock. The industrial design is fantastic and lovely which only complements the provocation of new interaction rituals embodied in the object itself. Next Tuesday should be close to the last hand-off of hardware and I suspect we’ll begin machining next week, and finalize some decisions about stock and some workarounds to avoid a rather expensive block of acrylic.

I did a share on the project in-house on Friday, sort of slipping and sliding over the story and the communication — it’s been probably a month since I’ve been up in it, what with the holiday break and all. Soon, it’ll be back on the tip of my tongue.
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Refinement in Degrees

A scale of design models in these check boxes suggests refinement from basic form to mechanical, color, materials and so forth — stopping at full appearance. Appearance absent functionality, which can only be inferred based on what it is a model of. In the world of mobile phones, the functionality is implicit — making calls and so a design prototype need not concern itself with use and operation.

Or does it?

What are the ways design can dig below the appearance, into actual use in order to better understand the contexts and vernacular aspects of people and their practices? Can it be done rapidly — quick enough to place things in context so that the freshness of the idea from its inception is decanted into the “model”? What about fictionalizing that experience — making props, instead of prototypes?
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