I love the magically mundane virtual real world of Google Streetview, and like others I’ve longed for my 15 frames of blurry low-res Street View fame. So I’ve been wondering, how can I get into Street View without having to stalk the car and chase it down? Actually, I don’t just want to appear in Street View, I want to play in it and add things to it too. And I want to be able to invite my friends to join me on the street. I want to use Street View for more than looking at a random piece of the past. I want to use Street View as a place to make alternative presents and possible futures.

To help me fulfill this desire (and part of my thesis project), I’ve been prototyping magical portals to get into Google Street View.

I’ve also decided to launch a Kickstarter project to help take the prototype to the next level and see if other people might be interested in exploring this and other related ideas with me.


It turns out, making portals is also happens to be a good way to think about a lot of other things as well. For instance, why does the screen still feel like a glass wall between me an an interface? And how could I get around this wall in a fun and fluid way?

Lately, people have been really into using touch screens (pictures under glass) and gestures (lick a stamp!). But as cool as these things are, they still keep us on one side of the screen and the interface on the other. Not that I think we need to get rid of screens entirely and just have holograms in dark rooms every where. Screens are actually quite magical and we can take advantage of them. But what would happen if we could just make a little space for the real world between the screen and the interface?

Also, what other ways can we think about being co-present with people? There’s the completely CG virtual worlds, full of anonymity and low polygon fantasies. We also have plenty of banal desktop sharing and collaborative white boarding applications. Then there’s standard video conferencing which keeps people in their own separate boxes awkwardly avoiding eye-camera contact. And of course there’s always Real Life, but that’s bound by the rules of space and time. What if we could take a little from all these things and combine them into something that is both more real and more magical?

These are some of the things that I’ve been researching through making these portals. I’m not sure what other questions might come up as I move forward, but it’s a starting point for now.

If you’re interested in helping me explore these ideas while making these Portals, check out the Kickstarter project!

Continue reading Portals

SXSW 2010 Interactive Proposal – Design Fiction

Tuesday July 21, 21.18.24

Burger stand, downtown Los Angeles. I have never eaten here. And I probably won’t. I’m generally not particularly brave when it comes to street foods. But it’s a curious, particularly Los Angeles thing, I think.

Fortuitously, the SXSW folks provided a brief window of opportunity for us delinquents to submit a panel proposal in the “Late” category of things. Which I have done on behalf of several of us kindred design fictionists. The panel proposal machine at SXSW is wonderfully constrained – 8 word titles, 50 word descriptions, 10 sharp, short questions that will be addressed. This helps one go through the proposed panels efficiently. Unfortunately, when I was composing notes for the panel proposal, I got all academic-y and definitely had an enormous, colon-filled title, and about 300+ words of description.

Well, I winnowed it all down, and you can vote on our proposal here:


You’ll have to register, but I suspect all 37 people who occasionally read over my shoulder here are already in the SXSW system.

You confidence in our ability to bring insights and thoughtful examples, and practical take-aways is always appreciated. As usual.

Loosely associated and perhaps participating if this all happens will hopefully be, besides myself: Nicolas Nova (http://liftlab.com/think/nova/), Sascha Pohflepp (http://www.pohflepp.com/), Jake Dunagan (http://www.iftf.org/user/958). Bruce Sterling (http://www.wired.com/beyond_the_beyond/) and Stuart Candy (http://futuryst.blogspot.com/).

The too-long proposal, for my own record of things written, is this:

Design Fiction: Using Props, Prototypes and Speculation In Design

This panel will present and discuss the idea of “design fiction”, a kind of design genre that expresses itself as a kind of science-fiction authoring practice. Design fiction crafts material visions of different kinds of possible worlds.

Design’s various ways of articulating ideas in material can be seen as a kind of practice close to writing fiction, creating social objects (like story props) and experiences (like predicaments or scenarios). In this way, design fiction may be a practice for thinking about and constructing and shaping possible near future contexts in which design-led experiences are created that are different from the canonical better-faster-cheaper visions owned by corporate futures.

This panel will share design fiction projects and discuss the implications for design, strategy and technology innovation. In particular, how can design fiction bolster bolster the communication of new design concepts by emphasizing rich, people-focused storytelling rather than functionality? How can design fiction become part of a process for exploring speculative near futures in the interests of design innovation? What part can be played in imagining alternative histories to explore what “today” may have become as a way to underscore that there are no inevitabilities — and that the future is made from will and imagination, not determined by an “up-and-to-the-right” graph of better-faster-cheaper technologies.

Continue reading SXSW 2010 Interactive Proposal – Design Fiction

CfP Special Issue of Convergence: The International Journal of Research Into New Media Technologies

Convergence: The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies

Call for Papers – Special Issue on ‘Digital Cultures of California
Vol 15 no 1. February 2009

Guest editor:
Julian Bleecker (julian [at] techkwondo [dot] com and bleeckerj [at] gmail [dot] com)
(Near Future Laboratory and University of Southern California)

Please post and circulate

Download Convergence Call for Papers PDF

The deadline for submission of research articles is 1 February 2008.

This call invites submissions for a special issue related to digital cultures of California. Internationally, California is a phenomenon in terms of its relationship to creating, consuming and analyzing the era of digital technologies. From the legendary garage entrepreneurs, to the multi-billion dollar culture of venture capital, to stock back-dating scandals, to the epic exodus of California’s IT support staff during the Burning Man festival, this territory plays an important role in the political, cultural and economic underpinnings of digitally and network-mediated lives on a global scale.

The Bay Area of California (often referred to somewhat incorrectly as Northern California) is perceived as a hot-bed of technology activity. Nearby Silicon Valley serves as a marker for the massive funding of enterprises that shape many aspects of digital culture. The new interaction rituals that have come to define what social life has become in many parts of the world can often be traced back to this part of California. New, popular and curious forms of presence awareness and digital communication such as Twitter and Flickr have found a comfortable home here. Lifestyles of the Northern California digerati have enveloped the cultural milieu, often changing the social landscape to such a degree that it become unrecognizable and unpalatable to those less engaged in creating and consuming digital cultures. Complimenting the Bay Area’s technology production activities is Southern California – the greater Los Angeles basin in particular – where Hollywood sensibilities bring together entertainment with technology through such things as video games, mobile content distribution, digital video and 3D cinema.

California is also the home of several colleges and universities where digital technologies are developed in engineering departments and reflected upon from social science and humanities departments. This curious relationship between production and analysis creates the promise of insightful interdisciplinary approaches to making new kinds of digital networked cultures. Many institutions have made efforts to combine engineering and social science practices to bolster technology design. Xerox PARC probably stands as the canonical example of interdisciplinary approaches to digital technology design. Similarly, combining arts practices with technology as a kind of exploratory research and development has important precedent at places like Intel Berkeley Labs and PARC and at the practice-based events such as the San Jose California-based Zero One festival.

In this special issue we welcome submissions which investigate, provoke and explicate the California digital cultures from a variety of perspectives. We are interested in papers that approach this phenomenon in scholarly and, particularly, approaches that emphasize practice-based analysis and knowledge production.

* What are the ways that social networks have been shaped by digital techniques?

* How has the phenomenon of the digital entrepreneur evolved in the age of DIY sensibilities?

* What are the ways that ‘new ideas’ succeed or fail based on their dissemination amongst the elite, connected digerati, as opposed to their dissemination amongst less more quotidian communities?

* What is the nature of the matrix of relationships between Hollywood entertainment, the military, industry and digital technology?

* Can the DIY culture explored in the pages of Make magazine produce its own markets?

* How does the Apple Inc. culture of product design and development shape and inform popular culture?

* How have the various interdisciplinary approaches undertaken at corporate research centers connected to universities such as Intel Berkeley Labs shaped digital cultures?

* What does ‘Silicon Valley’ mean in other geographies? How has the model of associations between innovation, research and funding been transplanted elsewhere and to what measures of success?

The deadline for submission of research articles is 1 February 2008.

Submissions/proposals for papers should be directed to the guest editor. The special issue will be published (by SAGE) in February 2009. For full details of house style and submission format, please consult www.beds.ac.uk/Convergence

(For all other submissions/inquiries, please contact convergence [at] beds.ac.uk)

Download Convergence Call for Papers PDF

Interdisciplinary Knowledge Production In Collaborative Research Between Artistic and Engineering Practices

Test Harness

A proposal for research seeking support.

A. Research Question and Objective

This research sets out to develop a digital, web-accessible literature review of recent engineering and arts-based interdisciplinary collaboration (art-technology) projects. It is expected that developing such a literature review, and the criteria necessary to delineate the projects to be contained within the review, will help develop an understanding of how these interdisciplinary collaborations can contribute to the production of knowledge, invigorate activity within engineering and the arts, advance techniques for teaching and engaging in such creative practices, and contribute to the formation of new areas of research and development.

Over the last decade or more there has been an increasing interest in interdisciplinary approaches to performing research and development within the arts and technology fields. This interest has lead to the creation of special interest areas within professional societies, unique research clusters within industry and academia, public festivals that combine art spectacle with technology innovation, and, perhaps most significantly, the formation of scores (close to 80 by some recent counts) of undergraduate and graduate art-technology degree-granting programs at universities and colleges worldwide.

Interdisciplinary art-technology work crosses the boundary between instrumental engineering research and artistic creativity. Such boundary crossing is evident in a wide variety of significant, professional areas. For instance, the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM), the largest international professional society for computer science and related disciplines, has had an electronic arts show at its annual computer graphics conference (SIGGRAPH) since 1994. The ACM’s large, influential special interest group devoted to studying computer-human interaction (SIGCHI) design has turned its attention to more creative approaches to computer interfaces through a variety of new submission tracks, opening the way for those who are not strictly within the engineering fields to participate within this professional society. Since 1979, the Ars Electronica Center in Linz Austria has held a festival dedicated to celebrating artistic uses of technology, highlighting how research and development can also be a creative, artistic practice. An informal survey of “new media” programs emphasizing practical and theoretical curriculums related to art, technology, media and design, includes 74 such programs throughout the world.

Such emphasis on interdisciplinarity and collaboration between arts practitioners and engineering or technology practitioners has led to a wide variety of important projects. These projects have both art exhibition contexts while often serving simultaneously to further research and development in important and widespread topic areas such as computer-human interaction, online gaming, design of fitness programs, mobile communication, online social networking, and more. These are oftentimes difficult to define in strict disciplinary terms. Much of the work is contested as to its proper practice idiom. Is it artistic expression, or a form of engineering research and development?

The significance of this web-asccessible literature review is that it will provide insights into how several disparate practice idioms have engaged in, learned from and taught interdisciplinarity, specifically in the areas related to interactive technology-based media. A review of recent projects would provide a basis for assessing how interdisciplinary art-technology collaborations have been taken-up within educational institutions, art contexts, as well as within commercial industry, and with what benefits or effects to the larger goals of these practice idioms.

Some of the pertinent questions for this research have to do with what gets to count as interdisciplinary art-technology. How does one talk about art-technology as an interdisciplinary practice, and how does each discipline separately understand the practice as one that advances the production of knowledge within the respective fields. Where are the disciplinary boundaries and how are these boundaries defined — according to method, objectives and goals, audience?

While we can answer affirmatively to each of these boundary criterion, the goal of this research is to clearly describe the criteria from the perspective of the collaborators within the distinct disciplines so as to better understand how to create effective, creative and productive interdisciplinary collaborative environments.

The hypothesis of this research is this:

Interdisciplinary collaboration amongst instrumental engineering disciplines (Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, chiefly) and art practices (taken to mean fine arts specifically), represents a significant form of research and development for all the involved disciplines. This can be taken to mean that interdisciplinary collaborations productively advances in the respective fields by producing knowledge, invigorating and sustaining activity within the field, and contributing to the formation of new areas of research and development.

B. Research Methods

I intend to perform a literature review of two areas wherein the boundaries between purely art-based and purely-technology based practices have blurred sufficiently to possibly count as interdisciplinary. The first is the Ars Electronica festival held annually for the past 26 years in Linz, Austria. The second is a cluster of three engineering and computer science professional societies in which a noticeable number of research reports, notes, demonstrations and papers have included projects that have a distinctive artistic element. These professional societies are the Association for Computing Machinery’s Special Interest Group on Computer-Human Interaction (ACM SIGCHI), the ACM Special Interest Group on Computer Graphics (ACM SIGGRAPH), and the Ubiquitous Computing (Ubicomp) professional society.

This literature review will cover four (2004-2007) years of contributions, projects, research, presentations and papers from Ars Electronica, and the transactions from the annual conferences of ACM SIGCHI and ACM SIGGRAPH and Ubicomp. I will specifically look for projects that can be readily identified as interdisciplinary insofar as the goals of the work is specified as interdisciplinary, or the knowledge contributions resulting from the projects circulate across arts and engineering disciplinary boundaries.

My method will include using web-based technologies for developing the literature review and coding primary source and reference material, primarily to facilitate sharing and disseminating the results.

C. Expected Results and Impacts on Long-term Research Program

The result of the research will be an online, web-accessible review of selected projects, coded and tagged according to keywords and idioms appropriate for searching, sorting and sharing the findings. A sufficient number of projects will be reviewed to either support or refute the hypothesis. It is expected that the number of selected projects will range between 25-40. Along with the selected projects, the review will include a comprehensive summary of each project. Finally, the literature review will include a synthesis of consisting of overall findings, analysis of distinctive aspects and features of the projects themselves as well as their approach and methods. The literature review itself will be made available on the web under creative commons license.

The outcomes of this research will serve two purposes. The first is to contribute to the substance of a book-in-progress I am preparing specifically on the topic of interdisciplinary collaborations amongst engineering and art as a form of knowledge production. This book is meant to contribute to pedagogical and practical methods-based questions related to this topic. That is, contribute to ongoing discussions, largely within the field of interactive media, related to understanding how to teach art and engineering simultaneously.

The second goal is to contribute to developing “best practices” pedagogical methods for teaching interdisciplinary art-technology as a form of knowledge production and creative practice.

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WiFi.ArtCache? Meet Processing

One possible idea for the UCI event this summer, and perhaps for ISEA2006, is to develop an ArtCache hybrid where the WiFi.ArtCache API is ported to Processing. It is presently just Flash. Same basic idea — anything written in Processing will work through an ArtCache library that allows for the behaviors of the Processing applet to change based on whether it is:

1) In or outside of range of the ArtCache’s WiFi node
2) How many times it’s been downloaded
3) How many people are connected to the ArtCache’s WiFi node
4) How many people are presently interacting with that particular object from the ArtCache
5) Whether are any available based on the limited quantity idea

Advantage here:

It would be nice if you actually downloaded the processing applet so you could run it at another time. This could be done through an option on the page that renders the art object. You could download an executable version of it somehow.

Why do I blog this? To remind myself that I need to revive the ArtCache API and see what I can do to bring some life back to it. It’s also providing some intellectual fodder for this mobile social software application I’m thinking of submitting as the core of a position paper for the Workshop on Mobile Social Software that is going to happen at CHI 2006.

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