We are concerns for the many perspectives that present a misconstrued perspective on Design Fiction. We felt the need to add a few notes to rectify some of the most common confusion about Design Fiction. A must read: On Design Fiction: Close, But No Cigar.
We are running a little background experiment to turn our “new idioms” observations into digestible and inspiring images that anybody can flipped through when chatting or working on projects. Follow #newidiomsfromthefringes on Instagram.
Nicolas was part of a panel about future imaginaries in Nantes during the Scopitone festival. Organized by Bastien Kerspern (Design Friction), Nicolas shared a presentation describing how we produce design fiction at the Laboratory, and discussed the implications of futures research with Mawena Yehouessi and Irini Papadimitriou (Future Everything).
After Helsinki in 2014, Taipei in 2016 and Mexico last year, Lille (north of France) is going to be the World Design Capital. Nicolas has been asked to be part of the curatorial committee of a big exhibit about design and fictions that will happen around April. More about that soon.
Fabien was part of a panel discussion at PrimerEU in Madrid and reported back from the conference. Like last year in Helsinki, it is the contributions of the younger designers on stage and in the audience with fresh approaches that really make Primer Europe unique and original. We also enjoyed how Jorge Camacho, who recently opened Diagonal Studio, explained in practical detailed his most recent “ethnographic futures” project. Jimmy Loizeau proved again how much of of good man he is with a long “personal” talk about his previous projects with James Auger and more recent work with refugee communities.
Nick spoke at the Emerging Practices Conference in Shanghai about the impact of Machine Intelligence on Culture. He also ran an introduction to Design Fiction session and teamed up with local Creative Associate Simone Rebaudengo to perform some cultural voyeurism through the city.
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“The contents of your shopping basket may change. Almost 30% of our food currently comes from the EU, and it is likely that some foods, such as fresh vegetables and fruit, will become more scarce and more expensive in the event of no deal.”
Today, Brexit would have happened if what eventually happened had not happened. The fears of a soft or a hard Brexit have been extended with a very abstract understanding of what might happen next.
As part of our regular internal Design Fiction exercises, we took something conflictual like Brexit and we placed it firmly in the context of a mundane archetype. Something everyone might experience in the future.
We bring a potential future to the present, not as a prediction but to create a shared understanding of a decision and to evaluate possible implications. The image above is how we translated the BBC headline into that type of mundane situation.
When discussing and writing about the future of cities with autonomous vehicles, it is easy to skip over complex details in favor of the “big headlines”.
Any decision-maker serious about evaluating the key opportunities of an idea, investigating challenges and possible complications, must consider the details through-and-through. This is what Design Fiction is good at. It is good at understanding the implications of today’s decisions. It reveals the ways futures could come to life and shows what that looks like in the form of material objects — the tangible artifacts from the future. For example, the creation of a Quick Start Guide for a Self Driving Car reveals a myriad of topics that would need to be addressed to describe how to activate, switch into Uber mode, upgrade firmware, etcetera.
This is the reason why the Department of Mobility at the Canton of Geneva commissioned us to investigate their “what if” scenarios around automated driving. Using our loose Design Fiction process, we selected an artifact that could reveal the implications for urban policy. We wanted a popular artifact, intelligible by a large audience. We created a foldable map of Geneva and brought it back from the future to be given out to the local public or tourists. The point of doing Design Fiction is to create the artifact and going through the work of actually making them — not writing about them. Practically, we loaded OpenStreetMap layers into a Geographic Information System (QGIS) to organize and project the road segment data into a possible future. We iterated several times after discussing the results and using Illustrator to polish the details (e.g. remove road segments, highlight potential consequences) and imagine new legends (e.g. urban canyons, levels of automated traffic).
The foldable map format also gives opportunities to add content alongside the actual street plan. We expanded the world-building inserting descriptions of career opportunities, an upcoming Swiss federal vote on the topic and how the system of fleets of autonomous vehicles actually works with its pick-up and drop-off areas. This content hides provocations and simple hooks to generate discussions. The overall result shows how self-driving cars may have an influence on traffic, urban infrastructures and mobility in general.
The intention for the Department of Mobility at the Canton of Geneva was to generate debates about the challenges that would be faced, the failures that might occur, the services that might emerge, the new kinds of signage and rules, etcetera. The map was used in the context of a local event about the future of the city, along with a series of talks and workshops on various topics public institutions have to deal with (places for kids, agricultural facilities, urbanism against climate change, etc.). In this context, it acted as a tangible future for a group of people with conflicting opinions to exchange point of views. We found out that the discussion revolves around two main topics : the way urban traffic may be reconfigured and redefine what is acceptable on certain streets (e.g. pedestrian movements, presence of non-autonomous vehicles), and the energy infrastructure needed for this technology to happen.
In this project, we imagined the near future as a territory. Maps provide a popular support to tell us how humans, technology and nature co-evolve. They make you travel to a future without actually going there. They bring a future into the hands of an audience with an objective to better understand the implications of today’s socio-technological developments might have on everybody’s life. Finally, our experiment of mixing today’s datasets with future narratives opens the doors of a new practice that uses techniques in Data Science not to predict what comes next but to speculate on the implications of the work of Data Scientists (e.g. automation, augmented intelligence).
The business of dishonest automation and how the engineers, data scientists and designers behind it can fix it
“The pilots fought continuously until the end of the flight“, said Capt. Nurcahyo Utomo, the head of the investigation of Lion Air Flight 610 that crashed on October 29, 2018, killing the 189 people aboard. The analysis of the black boxes had revealed that the Boeing 737’s nose was repeatedly forced down, apparently by an automatic system receiving incorrect sensor readings. During 10 minutes preceding the tragedy, the pilots tried 24 times to manually pull up the nose of the plane. They struggled against a malfunctioning anti-stall system that they did not know how to disengage for that specific version of the plane.
That type of dramatic scene of humans struggling with a stubborn automated system belongs to pop culture. In the famous scene of the 1968 science-fiction film “2001: A Space Odyssey”, the astronaut Dave asks HAL (Heuristically programmed ALgorithmic computer) to open a pod bay door on the spacecraft, to which HAL responds repeatedly, “I’m sorry, Dave, I’m afraid I can’t do that“.
1. The commodification of automation
Thankfully, the contemporary applications of digital automation are partial and do not take the shape of an “artificial general intelligence” like HAL. However, the computational tasks that once were exclusively applied to automate human jobs in critical environments like a cockpit have reached people’s everyday lives (e.g. automated way-finding, smart thermostat) and the techniques often deployed for more frivolous but yet very lucrative objectives (e.g. targeted advertisements, prioritizing the next video to watch on YouTube).
“What concerns me is that many engineers, data scientists, designers and decision-makers bring digital frictions into people’s everyday life because they do not employ approaches to foresee the limits and implications of their work”
The automated systems that once relied on programmed instructions based on their author’s understanding of the world now also model their behavior from the patterns found in datasets of sensors and human activities. As the application of these Machine Learning techniques becomes widespread, digital automation is becoming a commodity with systems that perform at Internet scale one task with no deep understanding of human context. These systems are trained to complete that “one” job, but there are evidences that their behavior, like HAL or a Boeing 737 anti-stall system, can turn against their user’s intentions when things do not go as expected.
2. The clumsy edges
Recent visual ethnographies at Near Future Laboratory like #TUXSAX and Curious Rituals uncovered some implications of that commodification of automation. In a completely different scale of dramatic consequences that brought down Lion Air Flight 610, these observations highlight how some digital solutions leave people with a feeling of being “locked in” with no “escape” key to disengage from a stubborn behavior. A wide majority of these digital frictions provoke harmless micro-frustrations in people’s everyday lives. They manifest themselves through poorly calibrated systems and a design that disregards edge cases. For instance, it is common to experience a voice assistant unable to understand a certain accent or pronunciation or a navigation system that misleads a driver due to location inaccuracies, obsolete road data or incorrect traffic information.
These clumsy automations can be mitigated but will not disappear because it became impossible to design contingency plans for all unexpected limitations or consequences. However, other types of stubborn autonomous behaviours are intentionally designed as the core of business models that trades human control for convenience.
3. The business of dishonest automation
Many techniques to automate everyday tasks allow organizations to reduce costs and increase revenues. Some members of the tech industry employ these new technological capabilities to lock customers or workers into behaviors for which they have no legitimate need or desire. Those systems are typically designed to resist from their user’s demands AND are hard to disengage. Let me give you a couple of examples of what I call “dishonest automations”:
3.1. Data obesity
Automatic cloud backup systems have become a default feature of operating systems. They externalize the storage of personal photos, emails, contacts and other bits of digital life. Their business model encourages customers to endlessly accumulate more content without a clear alternative that promotes a proper hygiene with their data (i.e. nobody has yet come up with “Marie Kondo for Dropbox ™”). Regardless of the promises of the providers, it becomes harder for people to declutter their digital lives from a cloud storage service.
3.2. Systemic obsolescence
Today’s apps automatic updates often increase the demand of resources and processing power for cosmetic improvements almost in a deliberate attempt to make a hardware obsolete and the software harder to operate. After years of impunity, there is now a bigger conscience against systemic obsolescence because it is wasteful and exploits customers.
3.3. Digital attention
As content grows exponentially on the Internet, (social) media companies rely increasingly on automation to filter and direct information to each one of their users. For instance, YouTube automates billions of videos to play next for 1.5 billion users. These algorithms aim at promoting content for higher engagement and tend to guide people against their interest.
In the light of these examples of clumsy and dishonest automation, what concerns me is that many engineers, data scientists, designers and decision-makers bring these frictions into people’s everyday life because they do not employ approaches to foresee the limits and implications of their work. Apart from the engineering of efficient solutions, automation requires professionals to think about the foundations and consequences of their practice that transcend any Key Performance Indicator of their organization.
4. The design for humane automation
The design of automation is not about removing the presence of humans. It is about the design of humane, respectful and trustful systems that automate some aspects of human activities. When working with data scientists, designers and engineers in that domain, we envision systems beyond the scope of the “user” and the “task” to automate. I encourage teams to a) learn from the past b) critique the present and c) debate the future. Let me explain:
4.1. Learn from the past
When it comes to automation, the acquisition of knowledge in academia and in the industry are not separate pursuits. Over the last 50 years, there has been an extensive body of work produced in research institutions on the implications of automating manual tasks and decision-making. The key findings have helped save money in critical environments and prevent numerous deadly errors (e.g. in cockpits).
Today, that knowledge is not translated into everyday tasks. For instance, many engineers or data scientists do not master concepts like automation bias (i.e. the propensity for humans to favor suggestions from automated decision-making systems) or automation complacency (i.e. decreased human attention to monitor automated results) theorized by research communities in Science and Technology Studies or Human-Computer Interaction. Sadly, only a few organizations promote platforms that gather academics, artists, engineers, data scientists and designers. Industries in the process of digitization would greatly profit from this type cross-pollination of professionals who learn from considerations that already emerged outside of their discipline.
4.2. Critique the present
I believe that the professionals involved in the business of automating human activities should be persistent critical reviewers of the solutions deployed by their peers. They should become stalkers of how people deal today with the clumsy, the dishonest, the annoying, the absurd and any other awkward emerges of digital technologies in their modern lives.
When properly documented, these observations offer a complementary form of inspiration to the multitude of “naive optimism” and glamorous utopian visions of the tech industry. They provide material for professionals to question arguably biased goals of automation. Moreover, they set the stage to define attainable objectives in their organization (e.g. what does smart/intelligent mean?, how to measure efficiency?, what must become legible?).
4.3. Debate the future
In today’s Internet, the design of even the most simple application or connected object has become a complex endeavour. They are built on balkanized Operating Systems, stacks of numerous protocols, versions, frameworks, and other packages of reusable code. The mitigation of digital frictions goes beyond the scope of a “Quality Assurance” team that guarantees the sanity of an application. They are also about documenting implications on the context the technologies live, unintended consequences and ‘what if’ scenarios.
Typically, Design Fiction is an approach to spark a conversation and anticipate the larger questions regarding the automation of human activities. For instance, we produced Quick Start Guide of Amazon Helios: Pilot, a fictional autonomous vehicle. In that project, we identified the key systems that implicate the human aspects of a self-driving car and we brought to life such experiences in a very tangible, compelling fashion for designers, engineers, and anyone else involved in the development of automated systems. Through its collective production, the Quick Start Guide became a totem through which anybody could discuss the consequences, raise design considerations and shape decision-making.
5. The business of trust
Like many technological evolution, the automation of everyday life does not come without the frictions of trading control for convenience. However, the consequences are bigger than mitigating edge cases. They reflect human, organization or society choices. The choice of deploying systems that mislead about their intentions in conflict with people and society’s interests.
In his seminal work on Ubiquitous Computing in the 90s, Mark Weiser strongly influenced the current “third wave” in computing, when technology recedes into the background of people’s lives. Many professionals in the tech industry (including me) embraced his description of Calm technology that “informs but doesn’t demand our focus or attention.” However, what Weiser and many others (including me) did not anticipate is an industry of dishonest automation or solutions that turn against their user’s intentions when things do not go as planned. Nor did we truly anticipate the scale in which automation can bite back the organizations that deploy them with backslashes from their customers, society as well as policymakers.
These implications suggest an alternative paradigm that transcend the purely technological and commercial for any organization involved in the business of digital automation. For instance, a paradigm that promotes respectful (over efficient), legible (over calm) and honest (over smart) technologies. Those are the types of values that emerge when professionals (e.g. engineers, data scientists, designers, decision-makers, executives) wander outside their practice, apply critical thinking to uncover dishonest behaviors, and use fictions to take decisions that consider implications beyond the scope of the “user” and the “task” to automate.
I believe that the organizations in the business of automation that maintain the status-quo and do not evolve into a business of trust might eventually need to deal with a corroded reputation and its effects on their internal values, the moral of employees, the revenues and ultimately the stakeholders trust.
Do these selfies taken by two people who don’t know each other give us a glimpse of the future? Will the ever-increasing use of technological devices reconfigure our bodies? Will it affect our posture even in the most banal situations?
Those are some of the questions we asked in Mobile Ordinary Gestures, a booklet that describes a typology of gestures and postures adopted when using smartphones. Without claiming completeness, this selection represents a pictorial archive documenting people intriguing interactions with mobile technology.
Similar to Curious Rituals, we use this type of visual ethnography as signals of change of the present from which to extrapolate when designing futures. The documentation of this current body language can also inform the adaptation of current interfaces, or the creation of products that can support, help or benefit from the gestures and rituals we found.
Paperback by Nicolas Nova (Near Future Laboratory) in collaboration with Constance Delamadeleine (Future Neue) Publisher: The Near Future Laboratory Published: October 1, 2016 Language: English Pages: 68
We created eight tiny “Design Fictions” (two of them will appear as Instagram Stories — so keep an eye out..they may be the best ones) that will appear in their feed.
Why did we create these? Aside from the unique opportunity to work with the Design Museum, it gave us an opportunity to do what we enjoy the most: creating meaningful design fictions that reflect upon the challenges of life in today’s weird worlds. Those reflections are meant to be engaging enough that designers of all kinds, which does not include “technologists” nor “business managers” — will consider that their ideas for tomorrow may actually be really shitty, and they should go back to their workstations and workshops and try harder to make products, services, experiences that stand a better change of making a more habitable near future.
We look at design fiction as a form of extrospection — looking from today to see possible near futures based on present state. What might the world look like tomorrow if the assumptions about what’s “new” projected into the future? What are the procedures and methods by which we can project into the near future a new product idea or service strategy — and learn about where the idea might work really well, or how the service strategy could go horribly wrong?
Design Fiction is one of the ways we work with our partners and clients to learn from the future and apply those learnings and insights to make better decisions.
The Ikea Catalog From The Near Future was done in collaboration with Boris Design and Mobile Life Centre. It was done as a workshop to teach Design Fiction — one of our approaches to investigating possible near futures by making things tangible, imminent and extant.
Why did we chose an Ikea catalog? Because it is one of the more compelling ways to represent normal, ordinary, everyday life in many parts of the world. The Ikea catalog contains the routine furnishings of a normative everyday life. It’s a container of life’s essentials and accessories which can be extrapolated from today’s normal into tomorrow’s normal. In this case, we projected a set of key technical issues, societal concerns, imminent artifacts and instruments into an unspecified “soon.”
Each of our Design Fictions has its moment as they project in a line from their present (in this case, a time in 2015 in Stockholm) into their near future. Much like the Design Museum’s “Home Futures” exhibition — which looks at predictions made in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s about the home of the future — the Ikea Catalog From The Near Future looked at the “Ikea Home” as we considered it from 2015.
The Home Futures exhibition runs at the Design Museum from November 7, 2018 – March 24, 2019. The catalog itself is a must-have, I’d say. Well-produced and fulsome in its representation of objects and artifacts.
Ever since the slow death of Dopplr after its acquisition by Nokia a decade ago, the internet has lacked a dedicated space for people to casually share their travel intentions. Back in those days, it was also a feature of trip planning services like TripIt which since then pivoted to booking management for frequent flyers and real-time notifications when things go out of the route. With the ubiquity of smartphones, it made a lot of sense for social network platforms to propose services that focus on the instantaneous, the moments and the now. The fascination of the Big Now has been the major trend of the current version of the internet.
For some of us — regularly on the move — the practice of documenting familiar destinations and travel intentions demands its own casual and intimate space. This is what Próximo provides.
In consequence, I have observed people using multiple channels like emails, Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp to share their travel plans and request knowledge about destinations from their online contacts. And almost inevitably, I have noticed how that information would get lost in the noise of overfed inboxes or get buried within minutes under endless social media feeds.
Próximo: Thoughtful Words with Pretty Maps
For some of us — regularly on the move — that practice of documenting familiar destinations and travel intentions demands its own casual and intimate space. This is what my recent pet project Próximo provides and I need your help to figure out how it can better cover that need.
Próximo /ˈpɾoɡsimo/ means nearby and upcoming in Spanish. I have conceptualized, designed, developed and deployed it thinking about travelers who perform any of these habits: the record keepers, the connoisseurs and the prospectors.
Habit #1. The Record Keeper
You regularly transform what you hear and see about destinations into reminders, notes or references. You have probably already tried Google Maps, Evernote or travel planning apps to organize them. Próximo offers a natural way to further support that practice. You can both provide context to your notes like in a travel guide AND easily map the relevant places.
Habit #2. The Connoisseur
You have good tastes and your friends, colleagues and family know that.You respond to email/social media requests for personal recommendation about the cities and destinations you are familiar with. In Próximo you can write brief notes tailored to your vegetarian coworker, his sister on her honeymoon, that shopaholic colleague, the foodie friend on a weekend wedding anniversary without her kids or a cousin on a business trip.
Habit #3. The Prospector
You ask around for ideas, suggestions or personal anecdotes to step away from the beaten path. You are also good at browsing the web for hours to spot that special sunrise place in Maui or that unique capsule hotel in Kyoto. In Próximo, you can keep notes of your research and invite friends to contribute with their thoughtful words, recommendations or stories based on who you are.
It is built on the latest secure web frameworks and technologies (MEAN stack: MongoDB, Express, Angular, and NodeJS). You can delete your account at all time if you are not convinced or no longer want to use Próximo. Click the “Delete Account” in your “Profile” panel and all your data and texts will be deleted immediately.
Like an amateur painter I mainly create software like Próximo for myself. Keeping my hands dirty helps me think better as a professional. I am honored if a few people find the result compelling or inspiring. However, I never fall into the distraction that every idea must scale. This is human scale technology, built for a few, not the whole world. It is the best scale to learn.
I would love to hear from you or anybody you know who might be interested. Thanks for spreading the message. Feel free to comment or contact me.
At Near Future Laboratory we regularly engage into prototyping and envisioning exercises that explore how people negotiate their relation with time and space via digital technologies. For instance: Slow messenger, Humans, Memento, Omata and now Próximo.
Or how the observations of mundane technological glitches and frictions offer a complementary form of inspiration to the multitude of glamorous utopian design visions.
At the Near Future Laboratory we are fascinated by the co-evolution of humans and technology, how technology is changing and how it is changing people. Practically, this means we constantly observe this interplay, and we love to question, design and create the future of this relationship. We are persistent stalkers of the partially broken, the tinkered, the seamful, the annoying, the absurd and any other awkward ways technologies surfaces in our modern lives. These observations offer us a complementary form of inspiration to the multitude of glamorous utopian design visions.
In a recent project in the form of the fanzine TUXSAX: the user experience will be as shitty as expected we highlight that perfection, prediction and seamlessness are biased goals for the design of future technologies. They describe an ultimately unattainable and arguably undesirable world.
Our observations are not meant to accuse or mock the institutions or people that are behind all the little digital glitches and frictions that all connected humans must deal with in their daily life. Rather they act as documentation of the state of contemporary technology, how we as a society experience a constantly postponed future, how the promises of tech giants are never really met and more importantly how people deal with the implications: cleaning memories from a bulging cloud storage service, finding out that your USB cable was planned for obsolescence, entering a 16 characters password handwritten on a small piece of paper to access the hotel WiFi, mastering a living room system with 5 different remote controls…
This work echoes with Sliding Friction: The Harmonious Jungle of Contemporary Cities a pamphlet that assembles photos and annotations we took here and there along our dérive through the many cities we lived in and visited. Published 8 years ago but still very contemporary, Sliding Friction was an attempt to showcase the curious aspects of contemporary urban spaces and question the visions of the ‘smart city’. Through 15 topics and 4 themes we focused our lenses on the sparkles generated by the many frictions between ideas, practices and infrastructures that populate cities.
Both TUXSAX and Sliding Frictions, are invitations to engage with the knotty, gnarled edges of technology that say ‘there is humanity here’. We aim to provide some raw food for thoughts to consider the mundane frictions between people and technologies. Do we want to mitigate, or even eliminate these frictions? Or as Julian argues in the postface of Sliding Friction:
Friction is a force exhibited at the point of contact between two objects. As a metaphor, friction is a powerful image describing where life happens. The effect of contact between ideas, practices, infrastructures is seen at the points where that contact squeaks and groans or throws sparks. We operate from the perspective that friction is something that should be mitigated, even eliminated. But friction is absolutely necessary, especially even as a metaphor. Without friction, our shoes would not allow us to walk. Without friction, airplanes and birds would drop from the sky. Without accepting friction and its effects as necessary, we would be fooling ourselves into thinking perfection were the ideal.
Our aspirations should be to embrace the humanity that is imperfection — the humanity that friction echoes. Whether in the imperfection of broken and exposed wires that suggest net- works of communication, the faulty and imperfect WiFi zones that require a very human kind of improvisation or the rewriting of infrastructures with human faces, friction effects are an enduring mark of human and individual action, rather than systemic, technocratic and faceless agency.
Friction is the sinews of the world as we know it. It holds things together even in its messiness. Friction is the rough edge of planned social space and the mark of social activity — it is part of the lived social world where humans live, play, argue and pay taxes. Improvised trash bins in hollow tree stumps, and service personnel trying their best to keep street surfaces clean are evidence of these rough edges. Friction is part of the “real world” — the world of individual action resisting seamless, smooth perfection to inscribe the presence of its occupants. Perfect, planned, frictionless operation is a faulty perception that some hold as the goal for the future city. In my mind, it describes an ultimately unattainable world. I’d much rather see the knotty, gnarled edges as exhibitions that say “there is humanity here.”
Enough curious things and publications and prototypes and robot news and VLOGS are currently happening in our different bureaux that we need to issue a dispatch with a note from each of us.
Together with Rhys Newman — a friend and colleague from back at Nokia — we started a company 14 months ago called OMATA to build a beautiful analog GPS bike computer. We launch our product in a few weeks on Kickstarter. It’s something Rhys and I had been talking about for a good long time and the wind-down of the Advanced Design studio at Nokia gave us the impetus we needed to start a company and build a product.
A bike speedometer? Why this, you might ask? What ever happened to weird future algorithms, catalogs and robots? What about workshops and consulting to future-starved clients?
Making “things” has always been a passion as followers of the Laboratory will understand. Making “things from the future” is a driving motivation for all of us here at the Laboratory. OMATA is an opportunity to do that on the terms that Rhys and I set, without the slow, arduous, punishing, soul-crushing briar patch of decision making protocols found in large, old-fashioned consumer electronics companies.
Aside from my passion for cycling, this product is, in many ways, a deviant object from a future where people have given up on the assumption that everything needs to be fully digital, have a touchscreen, be a nebulously defined “thing” of the Internet, and be a receptacle for distracting alerts/updates/notifications/etc. This is a focused object, designed to show what matters most while riding a bike: how fast, how far, how high and how long. It’s incredibly modern on the inside — very sophisticated GPS, ARM processor, BTLE, beautiful mechanics and world-class industrial design. It just ends up looking more beautiful on the outside then your typical connected digital thing.
You can follow along on Instagram and sign-up on the mail list on OMATA.
From Herr. Foster
I turned 40. I started a Vlog. Why?
Turning 40 made me evaluate a lot of things, but primarily that life moves fast. Whilst I consider myself generally well-motivated to stay creative and busy, I feel that sometimes I slip into the Netflix and pub comfort zone. There’s nothing wrong with this, but I have a feeling that I want to do more of the things which forge stronger memories.
I want to understand social media a bit more than I do. By creating a YouTube channel I have already learned a great deal about what’s good and bad about the platform, how it all goes together and how it feels to use it.
I procrastinate a lot. By forcing myself to make a film every week, I’m going to have to get quicker at production. This will force me to learn on the hoof and improvise, which will hopefully make me a better film-maker.
It’s a good experiment in storytelling. Much of the work I do, particularly the work at the Near Future Lab involves telling stories. I’ll only get better at that with practice.
So what’s it about? Primarily I’m scoring my weeks. A 10 would be ‘best week ever’, based on an entirely non-scientific algorithm, but not limited to: new things, new places, new people and the creation of interesting things.
Most connected humans suffer from poor ‘data hygiene’. I wrote a piece on Medium on the reasons why we developed Humans an app that offers a way to rationally manage too many social media contacts and slows down the consumption of status updates, tweets, selfies, and photos of all kinds. This work invites designers and data scientists to adapt their social interfaces and algorithms to human pace rather than uniquely focus on the real-time, the ‘now’, and the accumulation of ‘likes’ and ‘contacts’.
Dr. Prof. Nicolas Nova
I recently wrote a book (with Joël Vacheron) about/bot algorithmic cultures. Régine Debatty at We Make Money Not Art blogged about it last week. Besides that, I recently gave a talk on the topic of “Smart Fictions” with Simone Rebaudengo (Automato Farm) at IxDA Interaction 2016 in Helsinki about frictions with smart technologies. I’m also starting work on a new project regarding mobile phone repair cultures.