Slow Media Manifesto

SlowMessenger Capsule

“One might almost say that truth itself depends on the tempo, the patience and perseverance of lingering with the particular.”

Via nettime and @bruces, we come across The Slow Media Manifesto, a 14 point statement capturing what slow media is and where its benefits ((and challenges to conventional understanding of what media is and how it travels)) lie. Makes good, slow reading.

My favorites:

2. Slow media promote Monotasking.

8. Slow Media respect their users

9. Slow Media are distributed via recommendations not advertising:

13. Slow Media focus on quality both in production and in reception of media content: Craftsmanship in cultural studies such as source criticism, classification and evaluation of sources of information are gaining importance with the increasing availability of information.

The Slow Media Manifesto also comes with a blog.

Why do I blog this? Well, the slow sensibilties are something I’m quite intrigued by. There were a couple of projects that the Laboratory has done in the past years that were attempts to understand and design with slow principles. There was the Slow Messenger and the Slow Mail efforts, along with some ideas within the the WiFi Art Cache project that played with ideas of location, speed and activity as presence-based — that is, not everything happens as fast as you want and interactions change based on proximity and so on.
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Partial Truths: To Do Something Interdisciplinary

Thursday June 24 10:15

“Interdisciplinary work, so much discussed these days, is not about confronting already constituted disciplines (none of which, in fact, is willing to let itself go). To do something interdisciplinary it’s not enough to choose a “subject” (a theme) and gather around it two or three sciences. Interdisciplinarity consists in creating a new object that belongs to no one.”

Roland Barthes, “Jeunes Chercheurs”

A few words on interdisciplinarity that I recently came across from Roland Barthes, who I haven’t read exhaustively, but luckily my friend and writing partner Andrew Baird did. He turned me onto Barthes super short essay “The Reality Effect” in The Rustle of Language which helped me sort out a couple of dangling threads while writing my dissertation — “The Reality Effect of Technoscience”. ((It was, though, my other friend Sarah Jain shoving Latour’s Pandora’s Hope: Essays on the Reality of Science Studies into my book shelf that really let me feel as though I could, after a 10 year hiatus, finish my dissertation.

Why do I blog this? I came across this while recollecting some of Jim Clifford’s work as he has been on mind after seeing him at his retirement jubilee up in Santa Cruz a few weekends ago. This comes from Writing Culture: The Poetics and Politics of Ethnography which he edited with Greil Marcus. Some good essays in there, especially for me at the time when I was trying to figure out what the heck anthropology was, anyway.

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Weekending 06272010

Thursday June 24 12:11

An amphibian podcast interview by Chris Sallquist for Frog’s Design Mind on Air podcast. Great questions. I saved the cheat-sheet for future reference.

Thursday June 24 11:02

Seattle. A scooter tucked away.

Well, well, more phoning-it-in, as they say out here in Hollywood. If you’re doing it, do it til someone gets hurt. So, bulls taken by horns and all that with some promising conversations around the start of things for what will likely result in some defining design executions and implementations. It will be a curious road, working across worlds with teams who almost certainly do not see things the way we do, but — that’s okay. I wish I could say more. In the best of outcomes, it’ll be quite a tale someday.

Thursday was a trip up to Seattle where Dawn hosted me for a short talk at Frog Design, which means I also got to meet Jon Bell, who’s been working hard on the next edition of the drift deck and even though we didn’t get to work on or discuss it cause of the smash schedule, it was still swell to meet up. ((BTW, it was a rare 24 hour day, as my flight back was delayed a full 4+ hours, meaning I opened my front door at home at just about the time I woke up the morning before to catch the first flight up. *shrug*))

What else? Well — finished that essay for the 01SJ festival catalog and the notes are just now in for revisions, which shouldn’t be too hard seeing as it was quite short, and quite fun to write. Some discussions about writing an essay on design fiction for this curious journal called Volume Magazine. There was a bit of fun in the shop — nothing huge, really, but I want to spend more itme in there and absent something specific on mind, I laser cut a stencil for the Venice Skateboard and Surfing Association so I could put their mark on a huge cooler I got for them to keep at the park to keep stuff cold.

And I think that was pretty much it.

Continue reading Weekending 06272010

Air Show Design Fiction


A curious bit of making science fiction fact which is one of the themes and motivations and conventions of design fiction is the Sci-Fi Airshow, a tour of the various air/spacecraft from your favorite science fiction shows. It’s all done in the stylings of the airshow, as the name suggests, where pilots and fans gather at a local airbase and gawk at the fascinating flying machines. The significance of airshows is precisely this — the gathering of fans to invigorate and extend and flex their creative, intellectual and technical affinity for flying machines of a particular variety.

I used to enjoy going to airshows — it was the geek in me, mostly, as well as adolescent fantasies of wearing coveralls, a sheep skin’d collar’d bomber jacket and an ascot. And of course all the technical aspects of flying a machine.

What the creators of the Sci-Fi Airshow have done is extend that fascinating imaginary into the realm of science fiction flying machines. They make the flying machines somehow ordinary insofar as they appear at a typical airshow with families and fans enjoying the machines, the sunshine and a chat with a pilot. In this way, the objects become tangible. There’s a playful confusion that is going on with the conceit of the Sci-Fi Airshow website. The backstory tells a bit more, with motivations similar to those of the best design fiction creatives — a young obsession with engaging, creating and crafting the fantastic worlds of their imaginations and sharing them in as compelling and provocative a way as they could. In this case, it is this artist Bill George or traces his passion with this kind of story telling to a lent copy of The Making of Star Trek.

Why do I blog this? A wonderful instance of playful science fiction that provides some ideas and insights into how we can communicate ideas by making the extraordinary ordinary.
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Is There Such A Thing As An Invisible Metaphors


This is a curious project from some students at MIT. They’ve used a laser beam and a camera sensitive to the light reflected from that beam to track the motion and articulations of one’s hand as it moves and makes mouse-like gestures. So, effectively they’ve gotten rid of the mouse. Which is why they call their project *mouseless and why they’ve given it a bit of fun by an explanatory video ripped and sewn with some Tom and Jerry cartoon wackiness.

What I find curious here is the way they’ve extended the “mouse” metaphor even when the mouse has become “invisible” — or, rather — those bits of plastic and wire and so forth that constitute the mouse are now no longer necessary. But, we’re still operating with the same movements and gestures as if the mouse were there. Which makes me wonder why go through the hassles of taking it away, losing the physical tangibility of moving something with momentum and weight and texture and feedback and all that. It’s like one of these weird engineering efforts to do *something with the technology and then backfill the rationale. I mean — it’s all tiring in a way how little refinement and design and thinking and iteration goes into things like this. I’m exhausted just looking at the invisible mouse..that I can’t see. I mean — I guess the mouse not being there is as weird as the mouse suddenly appearing attached to a computer back in the day, but it’s easier to think of manipulating something material, no matter how weird and unexpected it might be, than it is to pretend that something’s there, that could just as easily be there if we just ditched the idea of an invisible mouse and kept a visible mouse there to begin with. Or something like that.



Well, I guess this is what to expect from the best and brightest. The simple obsession with refining and refining and refining rather than just doing something “’cause” seems to yield much more subtle *wheels-on-luggage designs, just making something a little better, as they say.

Why do I blog this? Thinking about the inevitability of metaphor in design while poking through Raphael Grignani’s remarks on Home Grown’s List UI inspired by Mike Kuniavsky’s draft chapters on metaphor for UI/UX for his forthcoming book, and a recent document that pleads for the end of metaphor and direct manipulation. With regard to *mouseless, I see this as another instance of moving from one extreme to another while missing anything in-between or even off to the side, which might be typical of engineering efforts when it plays in the UI/UX sandbox. ((It also is likely not their point at all, but rather a quick sketch of an idea to refine some thinking, or just a clever computer nerd stunt, but I’ll use their work *unfairly to make a perhaps not all that interesting remark on the blog, and to try to up my blog/writing quotient for practice.)) A bit like coming up with weird doorknobs and then looking for a house to put it on. Carts before horses, or gizmos first, humans last. Maybe somewhere we’re missing the subtleties and low-hanging fruit rather than the grand theatrics (engineers) and broad oratory (chatty design gurus who talk rather than make and refine and get into the material of things.)

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Weekending 06202010


Last weekend was a trip to Santa Cruz for the retirement jubilation of a professor and mentor from grad school, Jim Clifford. He reminded me that retirement isn’t quite the right word. I believe him when he says he’s looking forward to doing more of the fun intellectual work rather than the prickly hassles of university bureaucracies.

An outcome of the weekend and thinking back on the days when I was more solidly in academia and starting to look for ways to knit together the intellectual tools with the more parochial *industry opportunities that were out and about in the late 1990s. I remember hearing about someone at MTV who was doing what they called “ethnography.” ((Another outcome was a reminder as to how positively obscure and technical academic dissertations titles can be. Sort of like service manuals for ideas or something.))

Through Jim, who is trained as a historian and may be best described as a historian of anthropology, and Donna (pictured above) I learned about anthropology from a sort of *critical perspective, meaning the nature of it, how it has a history and role in the organization and making of culture and so on. And of course at the time there were fascinating discussions about *corporate ethnography, work-place studies, institutional culture studies and all this. It was happening a bit not too far away. Lucy Suchman at the time was nearby and others at PARC back when that’s what it was and we’d all spend time grappling around. But I remember this MTV guy in particular. A guy from MTV..doing ethnography. When I saw the documentary that contained his ethnography, it started with him rolling up to some teenager’s house in a black town car and sitting with him going through his closet and asking him about his guitar. I thought I’d never stop throwing up.

The recollection of that over the weekend and then thinking about the design research penchant for puttering off to far away places to do embedded field studies or whatever, then coming back and putting up lots of post-it notes to sort out what is what, and what should be made and why. Well — I think I’m a cynic on that practice now, and maybe I just haven’t seen the example of that work that’s thicker than paper in its substance. I enjoy getting out and away and it’s a good way to focus on a topic, and maybe that’s it. An informal field trip to turn the studio inside out for a spell.

In my experience — which isn’t broad and wide, but it’s not nil, either — the outcomes are not entirely that which could arise with a small team of engaged, thoughtful designers prepared to refine and hone and question their own assumptions without the need for a trip advisor and hundreds of interviews. Keen observation and thoughtful reflection may be what some people in the corporate design research world call *ethnography when they haven’t a clue and want to back-load their justification for expensive trips.

It may not always be called ethnography, but I suspect these design research embedding trips often lean heavily against the authority the ethnography can bestow. Going native in a way and then returning to explain — all the trappings and snappings that lend this authority to the work in naive eyes..we’ve been to the other side and are now coming back with the primal formulation that authorize us. The translation of experiences into insights into principles into recommendations is a slippery slope. And so is the near opposite, which would be *we know best what you people there in dusty, rank parts of the world need.

Anyway, that popped into my head during last week and while looking at a fascinating body of work which was the product of what I personally thought might’ve been excessive jetting around to out of the way places ((not really)). There was one crucial insight that came out of all that work, and the one principle which I think just about justifies it all. But, I’m nearly convinced that that one nugget could have come otherwise. Then again, it’s easy to look back with the benefit of hindsight.

Well, that was that.

In other news, I finished the short, short essay I promised for the 01SJ festival catalog. That was both fun to do and good way to rev up the writing chops, as I have another writing deadline on a similar topic due at end of July for the Swiss Design Network conference. Also, reasonably good progress on stuff in the studio, although it’s getting vacation-y and quiet as we enter into the summer months.
Continue reading Weekending 06202010

Weekending 06102010

Digital & Analog Day In The Studio

Thursday June 10 21:35


Well, without making a big thing out of it, I thought I’d just share a few of the installation photos from the Apparatus for Capturing Other Points of View, which is at the HABITAR exhibition at LABoral Art and Industrial Creation Centre. ((It’s always fun to see the preposterous things you get excited about installed in a big-ass exhibition hall.))

Thursday June 10 21:44


The exhibition catalogs showed up in the mail and Regine put up a nice blog post about the exhibit, which also includes some fine work from Timo who is like *vapors on the internet and with curitorial assistance from Fabien Giardin. Nicolas contributed a nice essay for the exhibition catalog, as well as Molly Steenson, Anne Galloway, Bryan Boyer, Usman Haque, Anne Galloway, José Pérez de Lama and Benjamin Weil.

What else happened in the week that just ended?


Good times in the studio ((as seen above in the first photo)) — a mix of digital and analog activities all in the spirit of thinking, processing and making with zealous enthusiasm. And some back-to-writing attempts for an essay commissioned for the 01SJ catalog, which is due pretty dang soon.

Final simple preparations for a day trip to Seattle to do a short-sharp talk at the Primordial *Amphibians and mostly meet up with some old friends.

Continue reading Weekending 06102010

Gibson And The New *Quotidian. A Quote.


Paper map next to its alternative.

From William Gibson’s recent Book Expo American luncheon talk?

“..the future, be it capital-T Tomorrow or just tomorrow, Friday, just means more stuff, however peculiar and unexpected. A new quotidian. Somebody’s future, somebody else’s past.”

Something that may have once been routine will transform into a curiosity and then to old-fashioned, quaint, peculiar, ancient, confusing, a lost art, alien, &c. On the other hand, today’s fascinating, spectacular will go the way of the normal, routine, everyday, banal, quotidian, boring, unspectacular, old-fashioned, a relic, collectible, museum quality, a prop to tell a story about history and how things once were, to an unknown artifact to be puzzled over in order to understand a bygone era. This perspective of seeing something as even so banal as to be boring is useful, I think, in the design process. A slight shift of perspective that adds temporality to the work one does, puts it on a timeline that is more than the rush-rush of go-to-market working schedules. At the end of it all — it’s either trash or on a pile of other crap in a flea market in Ankara or a vintage shop in Austin or something.

Why do I blog this? A nice juxtoposition that I find useful to consider. When designing things that are meant to be the new, great object, or idea — think of it also, or maybe to start, as the new normal, everyday, perhaps even boring or discarded thing. Why, I am not sure, but I think it helps to round out the considerations, and to look at something fascinating as also something boring, or quaint or even illegible — as if a kid today were to look at a rotary wall phone or paper map.

[Update: Nicolas has his own related remarks on Gibson’s talk at his Liftlabs blog.]
Continue reading Gibson And The New *Quotidian. A Quote.

*Wheels On Luggage

Luggage without wheels

A short-hand expression used in and around the studio to describe that one, usually small, unexpected and deceptively obvious designed feature that makes an artifact suddenly transformatively useful/helpful/up-graded. The kind of transformation that makes you look back and wonder how the heck you ever schlepped that awkward, sagging Samsonite with one arm across entire airports..cities..continents. Like..what took them so long to put wheels on luggage, anyway? I mean — I’m sure there’s a business case study on it ((if you know, please share with me..I’m curious..))



Above is just one example I came across and was prompted to mention briefly after Ian blogged about his feelings towards presentation software. This is a simple button to do the switch-a-roo between displays that is inevitably a big bump in getting set up to present from Keynote. Often enough, almost inevitably, your presentation notes screen gets piped to the audience display and you have to hunt about in display system settings to switch them. Always awkward to have people staring at your notes, or, worse — your desktop or email. Here’s a quick ejection button that toggles the displays right from within Keynote. No hunting for your System Settings, losing track of where the display mode modal dialog has gone, etc.

*Wheels on luggage.

More generally this idea of *wheels on luggage is useful to remind ourselves that things have not always been as they are — things have been different and they’ll be different again. It’s useful, to me at least, to think that we are in the Jurassic era for *something. Where are the exemplars around us that are waiting to have a set of four wheels put on to make things work a little bit better, a bit more humanely, or sanely? What is the relationship to all our “new” things today to what they will become sooner than we expect — E-waste? Something squirreled away in another bin of lost-and-forgotten things that we once thought we couldn’t live without? bits-and-bobs in a vintage shop display case?

Why do I blog this? I find it a very useful approach to design to imagine that I am making the past for some future, rather than the future itself. Artefacts that reflect ideas and inspiration but are things that someday will be quite ordinary, quotidian and unspectacular. Normalizing heroic ideas to the everyday yet exceptionally useful — such that they are impossible to imagine a world without. Like wheels on luggage.
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Week Ending 04052010

Saturday January 17 20:00

It now occurs to me that I should probably just end the week on Sunday, or Monday morning, seeing as that appears to be when I consistently write weeknotes. And the writing of them? That’s just more intrepid pushing-through more than anything else.

It was one of those weeks where time at home was evenly divided with time in the studio, it being a four day holiday weekend and a four day week. Over the holiday weekend I had the good fortune of meeting a completely baller skate photographer who basically took me to *school on the history and practicalities of photographing in the skate park. It was positively brilliant, and I may be overstating it but from my eyeball, I basically wasn’t taking photos until Jay showed me what to look for. Of course, in hindsight I was interpreting this accidental couple of hours through the filter of The Craftsman, which I am re-reading.

I kept wondering where a bunch of audio parts I had ordered are — I’m curious to try out some different ways of mixing audio to make in-ear audio appear to be more ambient rather than closed off and cocoon-y. I’m not sure this is even interesting, except that I’m interested in what it might sound like — as if you were listening to a stereo in a room rather than stereo in your earballs. ((Turns out the place I ordered from is about as clueless as it gets with their order handling — I called the number on the PayPal receipt and I got someone’s home in Florida who evidently gets lots of these calls from the merchants customers.))

I found a way to participate in the upcoming 01SJ (ZeroOne San Jose) festival in the fall. I had helped Steve formulate the statement for the festival’s “Build Your Own World” theme, but sort of lacked the wherewithal to get the studio to participate in a way that made sense and what with life and all — people starting families and all that — it just seemed impractical to organize a kind of studio-embedding-in-San-Jose sort of thing. Which was frustrating and made me a little prickly and anxious for practicing designing inside-out rather than inside-in. Originally I was corralling the studio to go up there and do a collective project and instead, after being sort of frustrated with myself and taking that frustration out on the drywall in the man-lodge with a new reciprocating saw, Steve and I talked and I offered to contribute to the catalog, which is better-than-good-enough as I should be writing for this Swiss Design Network conference anyway. It’ll be an evolution of the Design Fiction thinking, but written in a more quotidian way.

Things I didn’t do — again — that I meant to do: Capture the breeching sequence in COD4 on video to point out the peculiarities of superpowers and as a linkage to these academic papers by Jessica K. Witt that describe the baseball-the-size-of-a-grapefruit and hole-the-size-of-a-bucket phenomena that baseballer’s and golfer’s experience when they’re on top of the game. I’m interested in this superpowers phenomenon and these moments in COD4 when everything slows to a crawl and its like the world has slowed down giving you the chance to have these super human powers — this is intriguing. ((I’m not intrigued by the violence, but it is part of the game play.)) I also didn’t capture the final faked-steady-cam title sequence of COD4, which I think is a curious exemplar of making something fake appear real, viz. the Design Fiction principles.

There’s more I’m sure, but that’ll do.
Continue reading Week Ending 04052010