Play at Picnic2007


I had the great pleasure of participating again at Picnic, this time organizing a panel between Fabien Giardin, Nicolas Nova and Dennis Crowley on the topic “The Near Future of Pervasive Media Experiences.”

I gave a brief presentation on “New Interaction Rituals” (PDF available here) describing the curious prehistory of interactions between humans and keyboards that then evolved into the canonical desktop interactive computer setup of keyboard, mouse and visual display. Then the questions is — "what next?" Or, even better, "what else?" A small number of current projects are described briefly to outline interactions that expand beyond the current finger twittering, button twitching sort.

Lilypad Arduino

Leah Buechley’s “wearable” edition of the Arduino is this Lilypad styled PCB.

The LilyPad Arduino is a microcontroller board designed for wearables and e-textiles. It can be sewn to fabric and similarly mounted power supplies, sensors and actuators with conductive thread. The board is based on the ATmega168V (the low-power version of the ATmega168)

Travel Reading — "The Plenitude"

I came across Rich Gold‘s name when I decided to take proper stock of this ubiquitous computing thing maybe three or four years ago. Rich Gold, who I never knew personally, relished in being multi-discplinary, it appears. He describes the multiple hats he wore — engineer, (“pseudo”) scientist, artist, designer. It’s this sort of boarder crossing that I found most intriguing about his approach to work. He describes these hats as distinct, but ultimately I think the collapse in a way that offers unique perspectives on his creative endeavors.

A colleague mentioned his work a few years ago, and then I was surprised to find little available, until I read his bio and found out he died relatively young. I quickly found a PDF of "The Plenitude" and was glad to find a proper book edition of the same work from the new Simplicity series by John Maeda and MIT Press.

I’m looking forward to reading this on an upcoming trip to Amsterdam where I’ve organized a discussion session on Pervasive Media featuring Nicolas Nova, Dennis Crowley, Fabien Girardin.

Updates — 10/1/07

I finished the book on the flight back from Amsterdam and was a little disappointed. The beginning was a great set up for what I thought would be remarks on innovation, creativity and design — perhaps a bit on design theory as it relates to the tension between traditional creativity and culture-makers and the demands of consumer capitalism to create new “stuff” (the “plenitude” of things that we accumulate.) I found less there to feed my brain in this regard. It left me wanting a bit more — and then I realized that about half of the material that was in the PDF has been edited out it seems. The whole section in the PDF on Evocative Knowledge Objects (“EKOs”) is gone — I can’t find it in the book. That material, in my mind, are the more provocative insights to be offered. The descriptions of “the plenitude” as a suckers mediation of experiences is a little embarrassing at worst, and dated at best. In light of more nuanced theories of production, consumption and the circulation of culture, Gold’s remarks on us and our relationship to our stuff is a bit conservative and, well..kind of wrong. Suggesting that there is a simple relationships between us, the people who sell us stuff, and the way they mediate between our experiences as if it were a simple two-way relationship just doesn’t hold water. For example, playing baseball in the backyard versus being sold tickets to watch it at a park, or paying to subscribe to television to watch it at home, or paying for video game cartridges to play a video game of playing baseball doesn’t capture the nuance of the situation between fans, heroes, and the cultural-industrial complex that brokers the relationships amongst them. It’s curious to me that the book doesn’t contain the interesting auto-biographical material that describes Gold’s experiences and that lead to various insights on the relationship between design, technology and everyday life. Particularly his material on EKOs as kinds of “theory objects” would have been nice to disseminate in print.


Future. Planning. Innovation.

Technology Innovation Planning Team

Nicolas and I gave a talk serendipitously organized at SK Telecom’s Technology Innovation and Planning group. The purpose was introductory. I had met the group’s leader, Jong Chae Oh at a workshop organized by the Institute for the Future’s Mike Liebhold. It was an opportunity for sharing process, methodology and some aspects of the Near Future Laboratory’s areas of interest and activity.

To quote what Nicolas says about the meeting:

We spent 2 hours talking, exchanging about foresight methods, trend analysis and how it’s difficult to have a rigorous scientific methodology. Our point was that we aimed at mixing wide-analysis of social, cognitive and cultural trends to inspire sketching and prototyping + testing. Prototypes are not the end per se but a way to try and gain some understanding about tech uses and innovation. A sort of bricolage way to inspect the near future. We insisted on this aspect that we did focus not on tomorrow’s design nor long term-range foresight but 3-4 years ahead.

The presentation also included past project description such as the blogject workshop serie (See the report here and there), insisting on some concrete outcomes and how we appreciated that the meme spread and lead some attendants to design their own projects (see Blinks and Buttons for example).

Present projects we described revolved around the “new interaction rituals” (going beyond current I/O in pervasive computing) and the “new interaction partners” (letting pets participating in video games and the social web).

Here is a PDF of the presentation:

Mobile Phone Booth

Mobile Phone Booth

Found in Insa-dong district of Seoul, in a combination bookshop / cafe / newsstand. Bruce Sterling commented the other day that Seoul was one of the quietest cities he has experienced. I had not “heard” the city that way, but after talking about this point I realized that it was indeed quiet. Not forest and trees quiet but the usual ambient din of the cities I have experienced is not here — no sirens, no jack hammers, no overly loud yammering cell phone conversations. People talk very quietly on their cell phones, often covering their mouths. I have yet to hear a fire or police siren, although a police car passed us pedestrians on a small crooked side street the other evening, it only had lights flashing and no other emergency noises. While there is a full-on dig going on to construct an subway line around the corner from my hotel, I have never heard any noise from there — there is a noise baffling wall — clear glass, not the usual closed off barricade despite the fact that there must be a lot of rough and tumble rock moving underground.

I am most thankfully amazed by the lack of loud yammering cell phone talkers. What can be done to mitigate the yellers? More audio feedback of their own voice into the cell phone speaker so that they can self-modulate?

The Benefits Of Zealous Design

Flavonoid v07

I could say over design, but zealous sounds more purposeful.

So, zealously over designed peculiar digital life-game controller here. Added a coin cell holder for a 3v coin cell (12mm) to keep the RTC clock going if power drops or is removed. Added an on-off switch(!) Added two extra components to the power management circuit — a MAX4651 for the really off situation in which I use a removable battery and insert the battery backwards, and a MAX6439 battery watcher deal that’ll signal the MCU if the battery goes below a specified (factory trimmed) voltage, pull down reset if it goes super low, and signal if it rises back above a threshold, with a bit of hysterisis. Problem was that the thing could drain the battery into oblivion which made recharge long and tricky. But, frankly — now with the on/off switch and battery back-up for the RTC, it’ll be much easier to charge over USB. I hope. Found some small LiPo batteries from an iPod Shuffle battery replacement kits, of all things. One is 230mAh, the other one says it’s 400mAh but it’s marked 330mAh. Close enough for Jazz. It’s about 37mmx22mm.

Also I found this operation:

They sell small, flat, light LiPos with decent capacity (160mAh+/-), but much more expensive and harder to get.

Curious about what’s what? The Flickr page has “notes”.

Update. The iPod replacement batteries work great so far.