Weekending 03032012

In Switzerland, after an hectic week with Lift12, Nicolas went back to design workshops with students. Last Monday and Tuesday, he gave a course in interaction design at the Geneva University of Arts and Design and supervised the last details of the Urban Games project with Etienne Mineur and Daniel Sciboz. The workshop, which started last fall, is now completed with eight videos that are going to be shown at the Playtime exhibit. They describe different scenarios for location-based games using the city as a game board, we’ll try to show them on this blog as soon as it can be made public. Overall, this workshop was meant to explore different game mechanics at the city level and how to go beyond existing archetypes in this domain.

Also, the very same exhibit will feature the game controller collection and Nicolas and Laurent Bolli had to check the final arrangements for the pads to be shown. The piece will consist in a big cabinet with 42 joypads (41 actually since the Kinect doesn’t have anything) to describe the iterative evolution of game pads over time. This portion of the collection will be part of a section called “Bodies and Minds”:

“game pads have been the traditional interface between the player and the avatar, the thread that entangles both bodies. In recent years, though, both the video game industry and independent artists and researchers have presented new innovative ways to strengthen the role of the body in game interaction. From Nintendo’s Wii and Microsoft’s Kinect to more experimental corporal interfaces that play with notions of control and even pain, the future of game interaction will, no doubt, involve our flesh and skin in unexpected ways.”

At the end of the week, he went to Lugano (the swiss-italian part of Switzerland) for a talk about user research in design and to discuss potential workshops in this interaction design program.

Last week Julian spent a bit of time running the Marshall Stack project, which meant lots of semi-hands-on/semi-hands-off tasks. In the studio a very lovely little film was made to help communicate the project. As these things go, it wound help helping the core DRI’s for the project as well as those who are outside of it or just coming in from the outside and have no clue as to what we were doing. This is one direct area where Design Fiction film serves an extraordinarily useful role — it helps communicate in a way that words and discussions often cannot, or can once someone has seen the experience in a little film. It’s been very useful and well-worth spending about three-quarters of a day to produce. I’m excited about the development pace of Marshall Stack. The distance between the decision to do it, actually starting it formally, and our deadline has been aggressive — especially starting and the goal line. There’s something about the project and the way it is framed and the constraints put upon it to get to the core part of the UX — to focus ruthlessly on that core — that has some lessons to be shared post-launch. As well as some general observations about the nature of working on a rapid development project with a small team, where people sit, and how the collaboration unfolds that I’m looking forward to sharing when we’ve finished this up. I’m deliberately being mindful of the activities within the project and taking lots of notes so as to better produce a story about how you do this sort of advanced designing. I think that the core of the story will be about advancing design and not only the material design things we did along the way. Marshall Stack is one of those projects that has lessons both within and outside of it. By that I mean that it is attempting to advance what an organization does, but do so by doing the advanced, unexpected, weird things — but those things are actually viable things, not just exercises or substitutes for an unknown future-disruptive thing like a Lego brick or the generic stand-in, “the widget.”


Later in the week, I went on a one-day trip to San Diego to scope out some heavy equipment for the model shop — specifically for the electronics bay. We’re looking at Pick-n-Place machines so we can rev-up the rapid in rapid prototyping. (Now, it’s a daunting task to populate boards with SMT components that like to fly away and requires hours and hours of uninterrupted time to accomplish. The hours-and-hours is the operative term and right now I’m the only electronics guy.) A pick-n-place machine could be just the thing to make that job take on the order of tens of minutes rather than many hours/entire days — even for small numbers of multiple boards. (And we got a weird book — doesn’t matter but it’s called “Shatner Rules” — signed by Mr. Shatner himself..a perk of the APEX 2012 Electronics Manufacturing Trade Show!) Now if we can just figure out where this new robot will go in the already crowded shop..

At the end of the week, Julian and Nick (not Nicolas) met in Tempe Arizona outside of Phoenix. We were there to run a workshop on Design Fiction where we aspired to make a few little vignette-y films about the near future of the corner convenience store. This of course was based on the observation that many great innovations over the course of human history find their way into your corner convenience store — fire, aspirin, for example. Our question for the Emerge event was to project that observation into the future when all great things no matter how fancy or expensive originally, wind up with the net present value of 99¢ or 3 for $1.

Up North, Fabien went to San Francisco for a talk at Strata, the O’Reilly conference about big data and “building a data-driven”. He presented several projects conducted by the Laboratory and then took off for Maui for a well-deserved break.

Weekending 26022012

Over here in Geneva, the Laboratory was involved in the Lift 12 conference with various activities. Fabien attended the event and Nicolas is part of the editorial team and, as such, he took care of one third of the keynotes presentations with sessions about games, stories, mobile and near futures. He also organized three workshops, one about networked data (with Interactive Things), one about location-based games (with Mathieu Castelli) and another one about foresight methodologies (with Justin Pickard and Anab Jain from Superflux). The week was therefore very active and it was a great event overall. Lots of encounters with good people, new ideas and existing memes (it’s now time to digest all of those).

Saturday was then devoted to a sort of pilgrimage at CERN with Lift12 speakers.

Well, here in Los Angeles we mostly were working on, oh — let’s call it Marshall Stack. It’s a Project. It’s another project along with Ear Freshener that belongs to the Project Audio Suite. It was some very pragmatic, tactical bits of work that we were doing which meant corralling the team, especially the instrumental implementors — the engineers. It also meant writing up a UX specification but doing it in a non-tedious but very clear way. No boxes and arrows. It’s narrative. It’s more a story than flow chart, which I like. My hope is that it engages people in a way that a story does, rather than making people’s eyeballs glaze over and close as a flow chart or wireframe potentially can do. There was some good, very promising engagement with the technology team who come across as confident and certainly capable. But there’s always that nagging concern that comes from a twinge of engineers’ over-confidence. When idioms like “we can just smash this”, “correct me if i’m wrong — but this smells like just a weekend project” — a little bell goes off in my head that is a mix of “great! this’ll go smooth” and “hold on..but *how and which weekend are we going to smash it?”

Part of the job of creative lead in this case is, I think, to run ahead of that end of things as, at this point — it’s the known unknown. Meaning — there isn’t certainty as to how to implement this although it is definitely possible — we’re not trying to get to Mars or make a cold fusion reactor in a mayonnaise jar. This is entirely doable. It’s now time (4 weeks), enthusiasm and motivation and quite a bit of good, engaging story telling that will put a lovely frame around the experience.

I’m doing some detailed logging of the evolution of Marshall Stack because I think there are some good procedural lessons in the project. The bump and shove of a project and where things get lost and where new things get found. The evolution of things from initial aspiration to a sudden simplification; how different aspects of a project get culled in the interests of expediency. Ways of communicating and sharing and discovering new facets of a concept. Etc. We’ll see. It’ll make for a good postmortem narrative, or whatever you’d call it.
Continue reading Weekending 26022012

Weekending 05022012

In Geneva, where the cold winter is striking back, the week had been, for once!, very quiet with data analysis (head-mounted display project) and book writing (game controllers!). We’re also preparing two workshops for the upcoming Lift12 conference. The first one is about location-based games organized with Mathieu Castelli, who used to be the founder of New Game, a pionneer in this domain (they released Mogi, one of the first commercial LBG). The session will consist in a series of group activity based on Meatspace Invasion, a location-based game recently developed by C4M and Mekensleep. After a quick introduction about these, we will form groups who will test different combinations of game parameters. We will then go on the field in Geneva to test these scenarios and regroup after the game session to debrief the outcomes. The second workshop is organized with the friends from Superflux (Anab Jain and Justin Pickard). It’s called “Foresight suprise” and as the name indicates, I won’t tell much about it except that it’s going to be about futures and futurescaping.

Hi. It’s Julian. In Los Angeles last week we got back the PCBs for Ear Freshener. One thing that was wrong is I mucked up the holes for the little audio card that plops onto the controller card. It won’t go all the way through, but it’s fine for testing. I’ll also be trying out these PCB stencils for the solder paste process The entire week was devoted to audio design and prototyping and team wrangling, I’d say. Nick Foster was in the studio for the last few days of the week so we had time for planning the project, eating tacos, working on the future of the whoopie cushion and the like.

It was actually a bit of an existential week for the audio project insofar as I had to figure out what the fuck was up with a bit of anxiety I felt during the previous weekend’s bike ride. I don’t like anxiety on bike rides. It was best summed up as a consideration as to new team configurations and advanced design team best practices. The conclusion? In this particular Advanced Design team a few things happen. First, we are asked to put eyes on an existing project and help make it better than it would’ve been were it not possible to have an experienced team of thoughtful designers who are comfortable working in an unstructured. We are asked to work on new, emerging things that are being done in a traditional structured way. And we are expected to come up with new things. I’ve come to the conclusion that we treat the “asks” — the things that come from outside — with more urgency than the latter projects — the things where we’re expected to come up with new things. It seems that we respond to the “battle stations” klaxon as if it matters more than the things we believe in first. Those things disappear into the closet and desk drawers. Which felt a bit like self-loathing in a really horrid way. Like — when someone *else says jump, we jump. When we believe in something enough to jump, we sorta *shrug. Or put it to the side when a “client” asks for something from us, *even *when *we *don’t *believe in it.

(Although, have to say — not believing in something someone else is doing is often a great opportunity to collaborate to make it better and believable. Not to be too normative about it, but there are plenty of things that seem like lovely fancy door knobs with awesome new mechanics and latching technologies that someone will bring to us and basically ask — what sorta house do you think this should go on? And the problem is that the door knob was thought of without really thinking about either the house..or the people who might have to use the door knob and, pray — live in the house. That’s the curse of the technologists and accountants/business people and the opportunity for more collaboration with design from the get-go.)

I hope to correct this through the audio project because otherwise — what’s the point?

So, I’m treating this quite as if someone from somewhere else came down and “made” the team get to work. Which effectively they did. The team will consist of folks who can commit the majority of their time to the project — it’ll run short and sharp and be quite deliberate. Sorta no nonsense; no whining. Polite..but ruthless.

This week in Barcelona has been almost exclusively dedicated to Quadrigram performing some interface polishing and documentation tweaking with the help of Tim Stutts and Brava Büro. In the backstage, the pipes and wires are gently coming into place with some mind blowing resulting reaching the frontiers ‘Quine computing‘. All this will make sense in the near future.

I also took some time to step back and order my thoughts for an upcoming talk at Strata that will focus on our approaches and tools to work with network data. This week, I will test and rehearse a first iteration responding to the invitation to our friends at Claro Partners.

I will use our study hyper-congestion at the Louvre as one case study. A work that was actually featured yesterday in the newspaper El Periodico as a consequence of Yuji presenting some results in Sweden last week.

Finally, our measures of mobile phone network activity in Geneva have led to some beautiful visualizations and animations produced by Interactive Things. Keep your eyes wide open if you happen to stroll around the Geneva main train station during Lift12.

A Few Things The Laboratory Did In 2011


* It was a year of mostly audio creations ahead and around of Project Audio for Nokia. Some very exciting little bits of design, fiction and design, fact. These will continue into 2012 with some more public than others, necessarily. The over-arching theme of creating a renaissance of Audio UX across the board and to say — listen, we’ve been very screen-y over the last, what? 50 years. Our screens a nagging jealous things. What about our ears? Has design fallen short in this regard and actually is design incomplete insofar as it relies so heavily on what we see and what we touch, sit in and so forth without regard to the studied appreciation and elevation of what and how we hear? Effectively, sound is an under-appreciated and, from within the canon of even just UX and Interaction Design — basically ignominiously ignored.
* Made a couple of little electronic hardware things, but not as much as I would’ve liked. An incomplete portable audio mixer; an incomplete portable Ear Freshener. Those’ll go into the 2012 pile.
* We worked on a bit of Radio Design Fiction for Project Audio at Nokia. The conceit was to work with and understand radio as something that possibly everyone did and had — rather than centralized broadcasting, such as big commercial radio stations — everyone had a radio and possibly radio was a viable and successful alternative to personal communication such that point-to-point communication (e.g. cell phones) never took off because a bunch of powerful men met in a high-desert compound in New Mexico and conspired to make Zenith and RCA the largest corporations in the world. Cellular never takes off and AT&T becomes a little lump of spent coal in the global economic smelter.

Presentations & Workshops
* At the beginning of the year was the Microsoft Social Computing Symposium. I went, and mostly listened. I think I got happily wrangled into facilitating something.
* There was the 4S conference where I presented on a panel to discuss the relationship between science, fact and fiction. David Kirby was on the panel, so that was tons of fun. Discovered this book: Science Fiction and Computing: Essays on Interlinked Domains, but then realized I had it already.
* I participated in a fun panel discussion for the V2__ Design Fiction Workshop in Rotterdam
* I went to The Overlap un-conference outside of Santa Cruz
* I went to Interaction 11 to see about the world of interaction design.
* Australian Broadcast Corporation interview on Design Fiction — Transcript and here’s the actual audio and stuff.
* Interview on Vice – Talking to the future humans with Kevin Holmes.
* Interview on Steve Portigal’s The Omni Project
* UX Week 2011 Design Fiction Workshop
* Fabulous Project Audio workshop in London with the fine folks at Really Interesting Group.
* And there was Thrilling Wonder Stories event at the Architectural Association in London in October.

That’s all the stuff that I can remember right now. I’ll add to it for the Laboratory log as things return to my memory.


Our main investigation line on network data (byproducts of digital activity) brought us in direct contact with the different actors of the urban environment (e.g. city authorities, service providers, space managers, citizens) jointly exploring the opportunities in exploiting this new type of living material. Our projects strategically split into self-supported initiatives initiatives and client works with a common objective to provide new tools to qualify the built environment and produce new insights for its actors. We experimented complementary approaches with observations and prototyping mutually informing our practice. For instance, along our investigations we like to employ fast-prototyped solutions (see Sketching with Data) to provoke and uncover unexpected trails and share insights with tangible elements such as interactive visualizations and animation. We found it to be an essential mean to engage the often heterogeneous teams that deal with network data around a shared language. Practically, we teamed up with:

* A real-time traffic information provider to produce innovative indicators and interactive visualizations that profile the traffic on key road segments.

* A multinational retail bank to co-create its role in the networked city of the near future with a mix of workshops and tangible results on how bank data are sources of novel services

* A large exhibition and convention center to perform audits based on sensor data to rethink the way they manage and sells their spaces.

* A mobile phone operator and a city council to measure the pulse at different parts of the city from its cellphone network activity and extract value for both city governance and new services for citizens and mobile customers.

* elephant path is a pet project to explore the actual implementation of a social navigation service based on social network data. Would love to develop it more, automate it and port it to mobile. It won the 2nd price at the MiniMax Mapping contest.

The second part of the year was also dedicated to collaborating with our friends at Bestiario to land a product that provides tools for individuals and organizations to explore and communicated with (big) data. Our role consists in supporting Bestiario in matching market demand with product specifications, orchestrating the design of the user experience and steering the technical developments. Quadrigram has integrated now our data science toolbox.

* After staying out of the stage for most of the year (expect a lecture at ENSCI in Paris), I entered the polishing phase on the work with data with a talk at the Smart City World Congress.

* Our friends at Groupe Chronos kindly invited us to participate to an issue of the Revue Urbanism. We contributed with a piece on the ‘domestication’ of the digital city. I also wrote a text for Manual Lima’s recent book Visual Complexity. The text was not published eventually, but I appreciated the opportunity to write about my domain for a new audience.

We have been actively collaborating with academic entities such as:

* Yuji Yoshimura at UPF on a follow-up investigation of our study of hyper-congestion at the Louvre. The first fruit of this collaboration that also involved Carlo Ratti at MIT has been published in the ENTER2012 conference proceedings: New tools for studying visitor behaviours in museums: a case study at the Louvre
* Jennifer Dunnam at MIT for which we collected Flick data used in her Matching Markets project.
* Francisco Pereira at MIT for the article Crowdsensing in the web: analyzing the citizen experience in the urban space published in the book From Social Butterfly to Engaged Citizen.
* Boris Beaude at EPFL who helped us run a the co-creation workshop on open municipal data at Lift11
* Bernd Resch at University of Osnabrueck who spent endless hours developing and run models for our specific needs for spatial data analysis

and studios and individuals:
* Urbanscale for their effective and beautifully crafted maps
* Olivier Plante who designed Elephant Path
* Bestiario, the team behind Quadrigram
* Brava, our german graphic designers


* Three field studies about the appropriation of various digital technologies: Shadow Cities (a location-based game), 3D interfaces on mobile displays, the use of head-mounted displays in public settings. While the first one has been conducted internally (and will result in a presentation at the pre-ICA conference), the two others have been conducted for a French laboratory in Grenoble. Although field research about this has been conducted in 2011, it’s quite sure that the insights we collected in these 3 projects will be turned into various deliverables (speech, articles, report…).
* Interestingly, the Geneva bureau has more and more request for projects out of the digital sphere. This year we worked with a cooking appliance manufacturer, a coffee machine company and a electricity utility on various things ranging from new product development (the near future of …) to co-creation workshops or training the R&D team to deploy design research approaches (based on ethnography).
* I also took part to the “Streets of BBVA” project with Fabien, contribution to the workshop series about the use of networked data for a spanish bank.
* My second book, about the recurring failure of digital products, has been released in French. It eventually leads to various interviews and speeches (See below).
* For Imaginove, a cluster of new media companies in France, I organized a series of lectures and workshops about digital technologies.
* The game controller project is slowly moving forward (discussion with editors, writing, drawings…). Laurent Bolli and myself not only work on the book but there will be also an exhibit at the Swiss Museum of Science Fiction (planned for March 2012).
* I wrote a research grant with Boris Beaude (Choros, EPFL) about the role of networked data in social sciences. It’s a quite big project (3 years long!) and we’ll have the answer by April 2011.

Various speeches and workshops
* Des usages au design: comprendre les utilisateurs pour améliorer les produits, Talent Days, December 1, Lyon, France.
* Panelist at Swiss Design Network Symposium 2011, November 25, Geneva.
* Mobile and location-based serious games? At Serious Game Expo, November 22, Lyon, France.
* Les flops technologiques, ENSCI, PAris, November 17.
* My interaction with “interactions” in interaction design, ixda Paris, November 16.
* User-Centered Design in Video Games: Investigating Gestural Interfaces Appropriation, World Usability Day, Geneva, November 10, 2011.
* Fail fast. Learn. Move on, Netzzunft, Zürich, October 27.
* Wrong is the new right, NEXT 2011, Aarhus, Denmark, August 31.
* Robot fictions: entertainment cultures and engineering research entanglements, Secret Robot House event, Hatfield,, UK June 16.
* Tracing the past of interfaces to envision their future, Yverdon, June 9.
* Traces and hybridization University of the Arts, London, June 19.
* PostGUI: upcoming territories for interaction design, Festival Siana, Evry, May 12.
* The evolution of social software, April 7, Lyon, France.
* De l’ethnographie au game design, Brownbag Tecfa, April 15, Geneva
* interfaces & interactions for the future” Creative Center, April 8, Montreux.
“The evolution of social software”, April 7, Lyon, France. Gamification Lift@home, March 3, Lyon.
* Smart Cities workshop with Vlad Trifa and Fabien Girardin, Lift11, Geneva, Switzerland
* Culture et numérique : la nécessité du design, L’Atelier Français, January 27, Paris, France.

* At HEAD-Geneva, at masters level, I taught a semester-long class about user-centered design (how to apply field research in a design project) for two semesters. This fall, I also taught interaction design and acted as tutor for 9 masters students (which is obviously time-consuming!).
* At ENSCI, I conducted two week-long workshops/courses: one about reading in public places, one about the use of rental bikes with Raphael Grignani (from Method).
* At Zurich school of design, I gave a day-long course and workshop about locative media last June.
* At Gobelins Annecy, I gave a three day course about innovation and foresight, last June.
* At HEG Geneva, I also gave 3 lectures about innovation and foresight last fall.

Weekending 25122011

It was Christmas Day when the week ended here in Los Angeles.

The week before, lots of fun stuff happened, mostly these two interviews.

One was with Steve Portigal for his Omni Project, called Creating Wily Subversions. Nicolas did an interview with Steve a little while ago: http://www.portigal.com/blog/nicolas-nova-scanning-for-signals/

There was also an interview I did with Kevin Holmes for month or so ago that I just found here: http://www.vice.com/read/talking-to-the-future-humans-julian-bleecker

Oh yeah — there was some general thinking about what goes on the project list for 2012.

Continue reading Weekending 25122011

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.

Continue reading Weekending 11132011

Weekending 12122010: Clarity via Complexity

Thursday December 09 17:50

A week spent last in the Nordic EU discovering the knots and twists and snarls and kinks of the imbroglio that goes along with executing on damn good design. On the one hand there was the work of workshops meant to work *upon the work; on the other hand, there are the traces that appear as — if illuminated by forensic investigators UV light — the trails of interconnected relationships, goals, aspirations, roadblocks, paths of hope, begrudging words, encouraging words, optimistic personalities and personality disorders, cues and clues as to how things work, or how they do not; who talks to who, and who does not; where things can get done, and where they will not, despite everything. Very intriguing. Certainly not unusual activities; just the analysis and awareness that comes with trying to understand, and that from the perspective of a science-technology-studies kind of person. It’s like being inside a Latourian analysis of the making of things. I should draw a map.
Continue reading Weekending 12122010: Clarity via Complexity

Weekending 11212010

Friday November 12 12:22

Well, I haven’t done a weekending in awhile, partially because I was away in Switzerland (for the Swiss Design Network Conference) and then Italy and Spain on vacation and I almost didn’t take any kind of computer, but I did take an iPad partially as an experiment. In any case, I mostly read and photographed and walked and didn’t do any real blogging.

In the meantime, coming back I barely got home when I went off again for some friends’ wedding in Seattle, then back and then a drive down to San Diego for a team meeting with the larger international members of the Design Strategic Projects studio, which was good. We’re onto something here and if I could say more, I would. Aside from the substantial work, I’m also intrigued by the design process — mostly the translation of ideas into their material form as specifications for components and all that. I see it as a way of making the ideas legible in a specific way to those who have to make it. I should say that this is as you might think things work, except that they don’t normally when ideas are coming from advanced design, which in the past has been more involved in *vision or *concept work that rarely if ever becomes something much more tangible than a book, or short film or concept sketches. While I have been intrigued by that sort of work in the past, mostly because anything closer to the metal is often clipped in the expanse of its thinking, or is just ruled impractical or beyond scope — or whatever — now I found that it is difficult to translate, or get it closer to the making-of-things for a variety of reasons. In many cases, I think its systemic. By that I mean that it could be the case that parts of an organization are just completely unaware of another — or they don’t have the languages and linkages to communicate, or the mandate. That’s systemic or organizational. But then even when you do create the linkages you need to translate what might make complete sense in one studio into the terms and idioms of another, or into the language of code and software, or machines for making and fabricating. Whatever it might be — it’s a huge bit of work and in the process of doing the work, you refine the idea and iterate upon it, and learn from it when the gaps start showing, or when questions start coming in for clarity and refinement. Things that at one point you could ignore, or you didn’t even know about.

So — that’s what’s going on at this point. Learning about how to do advanced design thats relevant, rather than just sort of ideating or concepting or visioning.

I also went to Calgary Canada basically just for the night. It was cold. There was snow. I had to hunt around for my Patagonia Windstop, which I found just in a nick of time. And I wore sneakers, which was fine but I felt silly not thinking that snow meant more than cold. In any case, my hosts at the Faculty of Environmental Design had me up to do a talk for their “Design Matters” lecture series, which was fun. Another opportunity to refine some thinking, mostly editing together some new examples of science fiction film clips to explicate the conventions of design fiction.

Continue reading Weekending 11212010

Weekending 10172010


Well, got about half way through the new Steven Johnson book Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation and still going. He tells a good story and I believe much of it. There’s something funny going on in there, though. I’ll sort it out. Seems maybe a bit simple in its argument — things alongside of things, or the adjacent possible. It makes sense and I don’t want to do the typical academician’s “but it’s more complicated than that.” As an alternative to the more popular imaginary of the genius in a basement working alone when inspiration strikes, this is much better.

So..there was that. Then lots of work and time in the studio corralling several (not a few, several) projects into their present state to be shared. Shared, not finished off or anything — but raked and slightly burnished to a semi-finished finish. It’s a good exercise to begin to bring that level of overview and organization to the work. And it’s all good stuff, all well-done. ((I’m slightly eager to get into the material more tangibly. More on that in the coming weeks, I suspect. Or, wait. Not “I suspect” because I can if I want to, so it’s more like — I will make the material more tangible, and make the time to do such. Except — oh, bugger. Look at that calendar for the coming months.))

Anyway, there was also some preparation for the upcoming Design Fiction components of the 6th Annual Swiss Design Network Conference. I’m excited. The line up for both Friday and Saturday look great. I’ll be there with earballs wide open. In preparation, aside from the paper I prepared some months ago, I’ve been continuing my process of cataloging Design Fiction in Science Fiction Film for the DVD collection the Laboratory will be releasing.

I was thinking about what possible projects either way on the back burner or up front, sizzling right now that I could send off to a design project *challenge. Thought about that back and forth wondering what the consequences might be of doing so. Best case, I get to run the project. Worst case, I still get to run the project, but maybe in another context or just *later, at some other time. Should it be something I’ve always wanted to do or force myself to think about enough to put it before someone. Or something to make a point, even if I never get to say anything more about it because, *shrug*..someone’s going to look at it and think, why’d he put this in front of us, anyway?

I had flounced off of the skate photography thing, but that didn’t last long and it was more of a joke to myself, but not doing it for 10 days made it seem like I hadn’t been doing it for months. Went to the indoor ramp around the way. With the winter light setting so much earlier, a drive-by the park becomes less possible these days. Anyway.
Continue reading Weekending 10172010

Weekending 10032010


Well, probably the most intriguing thing that happened last week was the unexpected conversations that started up around the graphs of the future presentation I gave (all of 15 minutes) at the University of Michigan last Saturday the 2nd. It wasn’t unexpected in the sense that it was an award-winning 15 minutes of fame at all — just that it was more legible to people it seems than I had expected. The surprise might be that I had sorted out what I wanted to share in a low-level panic. When I first started thinking about the design fiction stuff and shared it at Design Engaged 2008 in Montreal I had this idea that was super formative about showing representations of the future. And because Design Engaged was a place wher eyou could show things that were still busted up and incomplete, I went for it, and basically showed three kinds of futures from three different thinkers/writers/futurists. But — I didn’t really have good representations so I found some stand-in photos that showed them. Like..for the William Gibson the-future-is-here-its-just-not-evenly-distributed I showed sandwich spread — peanut butter, I think — on a piece of bread to give that sense that the future can be spread about. It didn’t really work. This time, I drew in my wobbly drawing way, the graphs I wanted and I guess it worked because in contrast to the very sophisticated renderings of the surrounding presenters (architects, mostly) it was low-res and low-fidelity which provided a nice contrast, I suppose.

I still want to find a good Latourian graph of the future. Something knotted and gnarled with multiple intersections and conclusions. Inadvertently, Sascha may have given me this when he shared this Tim Hawkins piece “Wall Chart of World History from Earliest Times to the Present” (1997) shown at the top of this post. I wonder if anyone knows how I can obtain detail photography of this?

Aside from that, I have been assembling collections of movie clips for the evolving series on Design Fiction Chronicles. I hope beyond possibility that Volume 1 will be available for the upcoming Design Fiction Swiss Design Network conference at the end of this month.

Also, I owe a call to Nicolas for preparing our workshop on Failures at the same conference.

That’s it.
Continue reading Weekending 10032010