The Week Ending 04092010

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It was an insane week on the side of things happening between homes..a move. Number 3 on the list of the most traumatic things that can happen in life, I’ve been told. ((I may’ve misheard, but it made sense at the time, so I’ve assimilated that as a part of the life’s-trauma-list.))

On the side of things happening in and around the Nokia Studio and the Home Laboratory there were some fun, curious things.

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Design Fiction Panel at SXSW 2010

Sunday March 14 21:20

That’ll be from the wonderfully understated Artz Rib House out on the periphery of the SXSW core. Well worth it.

An exceptionally short, late Friday dispatch just as a waypoint on the way to *then — the audio *podcast from the Design Fiction panel with Jennifer Leonard, Sascha Pohflepp, Jake Dunagan, Stuart Candy, Bruce Sterling and myself, she’s available now. As Bruce mentioned — it is missing something without the video, which will hopefully be available soon. In either or anycase — I can’t listen to myself speak, but I gleaned an additional crop of luscious insights from Jennifer and the fellas and dozzled in a glaze from Bruces flash-bangs. Giver a listen and let me know.

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The Week Ending…031910

Monday March 15 17:26

Well, it was half SXSW 2010 and half back in the studio with some exciting, hungry activities moving things into the happy quadrant. SXSW was a wonderful swirl of head-exploding conversations. Scott Kraft helped me with the material metaphor for the Nokia 1100 — it’s the Mercedes 200 of mobile communications. Like the Mercedes 200, it’d found in *developing, other-wordly places and used as a workhorse. It just keeps working, in all matter of climates and conditions and is a parts-based ecosystem. It just gets repaired to work again, as a taxi, &c., &c., all over the place.

Nathan Moody and I got in a terrific conversation about film production and genre conventions — something I had been thinking hard on in the lead-up to SXSW as I wanted to bring some new insights on this to the Design Fiction conversations but it turned out to be way too much to toss into a 7 minute presentation. He had some curious film suggestions — I take them all and put them in the queue or cart. One was this film Russian Ark: The Masterworks Edition — a single shot film shot in — and “edited to” — 90 minutes. Which means it was one, long take done with a SteadyCam and a lot of batteries. These sorts of curious production challenges and concepts and genre-bending practices are something I find quite intriguing.

It was fun to have a bit of a chat with Eric Rodenbeck about this idea of the selling of aspiration and how you loose perspective. In the selling of a thing that people think’ll be a fine German touring vehicle, they find the bumps and the misses and the grinding gears and rattling suspension. That sucks. It doesn’t inspire trust from the outset and this got me thinking about a different set of physical material metaphors for that first moment with the new thing/service.

Hanging out with David Merrill from Sifteo was good fun — just to hear how they are going about manufacturing their wonderfully evocative Siftables device. That panel was good fun as well — with Nathan Moody David, Johnny Chung Lee, Michele Parras and Peter Merholz moderating — Beyond the Desktop was the panel name and topic. There were lots of good insights in there, of course. Johnny Lee Cheng had some good ones that reflected on that stupid *Moore’s Law graph that goes dizzingly up-and-to-the-right intersects the capabilities of humans well below it’s precipice — succinctly, most people are satisfied doing email and surfing a web page and fuck-off gigahertz processors do not make that stuff faster/easier. The rise of the modestly kitted netbook indicates this much at least. Intel’s created its own Madoff pyramid-scam bubble, using Moore’s Law as a marketing platform. So annoying.

Monday March 15 14:29

The David Byrne film Ride Rise Roar directed by David Hillman Curtis premiered at SXSW 2010 so I kinda hadta go and see it. It was fantastic, but I’m biased. I personally think it sets a new benchmark for concert/tour documentary, seeing the process through each song, the conversations with the creative folks and so forth were enlightening. I think there was a line in there as there was a conversation with Byrne and a collaborator — I forget who, darnit — where there’s this phrase *Dread and Promise* in reference to the sensitivities of one of his/Eno’s songs. I need to get back to what that was because I’ve been trying to find a way to describe something similar to this — *Hopefully Pessimistic. That tension is productive.

Oh yeah — I almost forgot. One of the highlights of SXSW was in the Film component, which I sort of spent more time with this year. There was a collection of films called “Futurestates” that asked several directors to take a social issue and extrapolate it into the near future. I mean..this kind of stuff is great — it coheres much of what we’re doing here in the studio and in the laboratory and now on the set. We saw a handful, and it looks like everything is available online — I highly recommend taking a look. They’re not all spectacular — Plastic Bag seemed to be a one-liner that went on forever — but they are all compelling and provocative if only in the corners and seams of the stories. All short and all dramatic and all done with a high degree of commitment.

There was a round of emails from my alma mater at UC Santa Cruz that was quite intriguing. We do this once a year — who has done what over the year. It was good fun to put that together as in the past I had been timid about being not traditionally academic but turns out that may be more intriguing than holding down a post somewhere in a rather placid discipline. And there were some history documents found under a desk in a box with some wonderful early-days descriptions of how the department got started, how much people hated the idea and some internal memos from Norman O. Brown and Herbert Marcuse. FTW.

That’s it.
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Do or Do Not.

Sunday March 14 20:44

Monday March 15 00:45

Monday March 15 15:14

The variety of permissions and their signals in Austin Texas during SXSW 2010. No firearms, smoking’s okay — and no firearms — licensed or unlicensed — because of this peculiar 51% law in Texas, versus only the forbidding of unlicensed firearms which means, like..there exists unlicensed firearms. Just people buying guns and walking around with them. In Texas.
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The Week Ahead: SxSW 2010 — Design Fiction Panel

Pervasive Electronic Games Panel

SXSW in 2007. A panel I organized called Pervasive Electronic Games with heroes Dennis Crowley (*Dodgeball!/*Google!?), Aaron Meyers (Mobzombies mad-man), and ultra-hero fron the other planet, Kevin Slavin (Area/Code). That was fun.

So, early heads-up and there’ll be more — if you’re heading to SxSW this year, I’ve organized a panel under the rubric of *Design Fiction. The full title is Design Fiction: Props, Prototypes, Predicaments Communicating New Ideas, and I feel prescient with that title because it captures much of what’s been going on in the studio over the last, like..3 months.

It’s going to be good. It’ll be Jake Dunagan from the Institute for the Future; Sascha Pohflepp from Supercalifornia (whatwha?!), Stuart Candy from The Long Now Foundation and Jennifer Leonard from IDEO, with perhaps a special delta-net guest operator to flash-bang this one all to hell and gone. We’ve actually done planning and have had *skype conference chats to discuss what we’ve been thinking on this one.

Add this to your conference schedule..and see you with a plate of dry rub in front of me.

Design Fiction: Props, Prototypes, Predicaments Communicating New Ideas

BBQ @ Salt Lick

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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 (, Sascha Pohflepp (, Jake Dunagan ( Bruce Sterling ( and Stuart Candy (

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.

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