Weekending 03182012

In Geneva, Nicolas returned from SXSW 2012 to give an afternoon workshop with students at the Swiss Institute of Technology in Lausanne (part of their semester project)… and work on the game controller project with Laurent Bolli. There’s indeed a new opportunity to show some joypads in a design exhibit. Since the official ones are currently on display at the Swiss Museum of Science-Fiction, there’s a need to find new angles… which we worked on last Friday. Apart from that, the book about this project is moving slowly (introduction ready, chapter 1 being half-baked) and we had phone calls with potential clients about ethnographic research for new product development.

After SXSW 2012, Julian headed back to Los Angeles Julian to jump back into working on the Project Audio stuff. Hardware for Marshall Stack should be done by the end of this week. There was also some work in the model shop to find space and make a business case for a new set of machines — a pick ‘n place machine for the electronics bay which will make assembly and prototyping cycles much faster. Otherwise, there was a fun interview on usethis.com.

And Fabien returned from vacation last Sunday.

Week Ending 052110

Stamen Aphorisms

Good to my habits, I’m nearly a week behind weeknotes. No matter — they are more notes-to-self than anything else.

Last week — the one that ended on Friday the 21st — was a week of busy-bodying some knowledge for a small audio electronics prototype, which included remembering how the heck Op-Amps work. Clearly I was in need of some making activities because this one became obsessive. ((I haven’t been in the shop in weeks and I’m becoming symptomatic.))

Matt Biddulph visited the studio, which was awfully nice to be able to share some of our work with a sympathetic earball, and then to hear of what he is doing in and around the Nokia battleship.

Started reading Obliquity in the hopes of finishing it to write up a small review but, well — it’s another one of those business books that was derived from a newspaper essay and probably should’ve stayed at that. There’s not much more that should be said, unless you’re into endless examples shoe-horned into a principle, about taking the *oblique approach to achieving a goal, enjoying the journey, following your curiosity and passion. And this translates, in the business idiom, roughly to examples of those who claim to have gone after what they believed rather than shareholder value and profits, which, in the examples, are shown to just *come when business leaders just do what their heart tells them to do. Actually kinda silly, really. I mean that in the kindest way, but, you know.. ((I was hoping for something closer to The Craftsman. ((Parenthetically, I found this other Obliquity: Speculative Fiction from the Pacific Northwest while poking around for the business-y Obliquity..maybe I should read that instead as a purgative.

Those are the highlights, I would say.

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Week Ending 04232010

Saturday April 10 17:30 Ver.1.01

Well, I missed the Week Ending last week so I’ll capture a couple of the things that happened then, now.

There were a cacophony of tasks to be done, some fun, some that should’ve been fun, and all that tipped me into a level of activity-stress that translated into too little sleep and various physical ailments. These aren’t complaints at all — just a note-to-self to either learn how to manage multiple concurrent fun commitments, or spread them out like butter on a baguette.

There was a Skype lecture between here and Seoul given for a design seminar at Art Center Nabi. That was a curious thing — to lecture with the audience *sort of* there. Basically akin to talking to yourself, or rehearsing a lecture. I’m not sure I could do that again, comfortably. Aside from the challenges of dialing back my weird circumlocutions and the litany’s I dispense midtalk while trying to remember what my next point should be, or might’ve been had I not forgotten it moments earlier — it’s just a bit impersonal. Or maybe it was just the fact that it was 11 in the evening after a proper day in the studio and I just wanted to have a belt and fall asleep.

It was a roilingly active week in the studio, with this sense that there was an intense and focused round of design work on the horizon, and the sort — systemically speaking — that Nicolas and I had pondered would be an ideal way of working, especially after we both made a turn from academic and formal approaches to making things. Looking at the world obliquely, learning from new perspectives and points-of-view, redefining or differently defining what *success and *achievement might be — not just up-and-to-the-right. Somewhat in line with this talk at Lift in 2008 7.5 Rules for Working Together. I’m quite excited by the prospect this bit of work allows for a more skunky/stinky untoward refrain to the normal ways in which things are done. A bit — tip-of-the-spear actions.

Via our weekly Skype, forward progress continues on the iPhone edition of The Drift Deck, with Jon Bell and Dawn Lozzi taking that bull by its horns. Of course, we’re all excited by the prospect of a second life for The Drift Deck — and curious by the translation of a physical deck of cards into its electronic kin. There are a couple of iterations already. Engaged simplicity is the goal. There were discussions that I prompted around game mechanics — don’t know why I, in particular, would be bringing this topic up — and I think the conclusion is that it is what it is. The deck, is the deck.

The Apparatus for Capturing Other Points of View was sent to LABoral Centro de Arte y Creación Industrial, where it — and the material produced — will be in an exhibition next month. ((More on that in the appropriate week note)). That was an epic undertaking — I mean the operational mishegoss of sending an 8 foot pole to Spain. DHL took it in stride..literally.

@ibogost was a house guest as he had some weird lecture to do, and that meant snifters of Port in the kitchen talking about #OOO, the shapes of things and a discussion of knob-turned-to-11 materializations of social practices, which is something I’m trying to figure out how to talk about beyond just saying that and, as it turns out — it might make more sense to materialize the “talk” about that than to just talk about it. And he’s on this *Carpentry thing, which I think would be our point of contact on this whole Object-Oriented Ontology vector he and his 12 friends appear to be all hopped-up about. ((They had a seminar on it last week — I hope it was captured in something ≫ 140 character tweets. ((That’s the 12 other people all hopped up on #OOO, and I might be number 13 based on our boozy conversation.))

Saturday April 10 17:30 Ver.1.01

This actual week — all that except @ibogost’s visit was the week before — started off with performing the duties of guest critic for the Art Center College of Design’s Media Design Program’s thesis year projects. That was a completely full day — almost 10 hours — of crits. Good work all around, with some curiously strong failures and seductively tenuous successes. Despite the work, which I certainly enjoyed in total, the crits were lots of fun, tiring and engaged. That culture of this sort of design critique was something sorely missing at the Interactive Media Program, leastways when I was there and I reflected on that contrast in the back of my mind. It’s something that is a way of working in the studio, frankly and only adds to the work. Patient, mindful intervention; conscientious and respectful criticisms; hard intellectual and creative framing that is only meant to make the work better.

The rest of the week consisted of some low-key efforts to have Design engage Research differently. We’ve been doing roughly monthly, completely casual, completely self-initiated link-ups with the Research part of the organization, mostly because there are friends there and it’s nice to share and discuss projects. Never really looking for *actionable points of collaboration — the collaboration is in the discussions. For me professionally, The Laboratory is much more interested in finding ways of working than specific things to work on, although sometimes specific things to work on are the ways you understand how different disciplines do what they are disciplined to do. Later in the week when there was another link-up, I found myself a bit sensitive to these different ways of working — Research wants a particular kind of action to unfold rather than action-as-reflection. It’s all sorted out somehow — we just need to make it, and that will be that. Rather than the *crit and the conversations that wonder in the first instance — why this and in this instantiation? Or — let’s throw out all that *work and start fresh with the possibility that we will come back to it at some point. Or, the journey rather than the finalé.

It all ended with a confidential review and excitement about the approaching National Pretzel Day, as well as the book launch of Digital Blur at The Architectural Association on Tuesday evening.

The Week Ending 080110

Sunday September 20, 12.53.26

Markings for repair or warnings to mitigate accidents? Seen in Seoul, South Korea.

Whilst technically still on holiday, there were some things done as usual and *holiday* is never entirely just not doing nuthin’.

There was a quick visit to the studio to begin to finish the second of two commissioned Trust devices, which is looking simultaneously quite insightful and lovely. I hope some day that this becomes a lever to torque the rudder if even ever so slightly.

Jennifer Leonard’s interviews in Good Magazine’s Slow Issue (*Perspectives on a smarter, better, and slower future*) with Esther Dyson, Jamais Cascio, Bruce Sterling, John Maeda, Alexander Rose and myself appeared online. The topic of the short discussions? “We asked some of the world’s most prominent futurists to explain why slowness might be as important to the future as speed.”

And, prompted by Rhys’ clever insights into a richer, smarter less ROI-driven vector into thinking about this whole, you know..augmented reality mishegoss, I’ve been reading a fascinating history of linear perspective that has been helping guide more meaningful thinking. (I have yet to see anything that leaps much further beyond flags showing where something is by holding up a device in front of my face, which just seems momentarily cool and ultimately not particularly consonant with all the hoopleheaded hoopla.

I’ve started The Renaissance Rediscovery of Linear Perspective, which has a number of curious insights right off the bat, particularly ones that remind us that linear perspective is only a possibility and not necessarily something to be thought of as “realistic” from a variety of perspectives. In fact, it merely makes renderings that remove experience and abstract points-of-view, something that I recently learned from Latour’s Visualisation and Cognition (which, not unsurprisingly, led me to this Edgerton book via a reference and footnote.)

Configuration A - Binocular Form Factor

A Laboratory experiment from 2006 — *Viewmaster of the Future* — using a binocular-style form factor. ((The lenses are removed in this photo.))

And, the follow-on, which I haven’t started yet is the enticingly titled The Mirror, the Window, and the Telescope: How Renaissance Linear Perspective Changed Our Vision of the Universe, which immediately caught my eye as I am drawn more to the history, imagery, rituals and *user experience* dimensions of telescopes and binoculars as affordances for, bleech..*augmented reality* than this stupid hold-a-screen-up-to-my-face crap. ((cf. this stuff below — the screen-up-to-my-face configuration — never felt as good as the second iteration of this *Viewmaster of the Future* experiments we did a few years ago.))

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The Week Ending Today 181209

Saturday November 28 13:30

Some old-fashioned augments — I think that’s some Mario and an old-fashioned, chemo-tech *wheat paste* post-up — found in Paris, France over the Thanksgiving holiday — which means nothing there in France.

Last week was maintenance and tidying-up. Like returning from a long trip and sorting through all the stuff, experiences, dirty laundry and receipts. There was mostly a bit of cataloging and filing of material related to Project Trust (aka *Project Foghorn*, a.k.a. *Project Firefoot*), which has tipped into a nice swirl of spin-off explorations mostly related to the power of sight/speech and signaling. Very exciting futures yet to be had.

Over the last few weeks we sluiced quickly and excitedly into the world of *match moving* production for the purposes of exploring some of the background challenges of designing and communicating design concepts in a way that avoids the dreaded *PowerPoint* ((cue blood-curdling scream)) — there will be more to say to this point when we can cue up some examples of why and what-for this approach to designing and communicating the designing (in-process, in-final form, &c.) All 12 people who read this blog will know why this is important and, indeed — significant to doing what we do. In the meantime, take it on faith that this will be a cornerstone of the design fiction idiom. Visual communication + story.

To this point, we have been adding to the design quiver — Mocha, Syntheyes and a rough competency with AfterEffects, Maya and an ongoing leveling-up of Catia and Bunkspeed’s Hypershot. (Sadly, the new Bunkspeed Hypermove animation package — while perceivably as easy to use as Hypershot with the addition of *time* has no integration with fbx animation throughputs so the tool basically sits on its own in a big world of scripted or programmatic animation. We’ll keep an eye on it for future editions that would allow camera moves to be integrated properly.)

It was pre-holiday time in the Nokia studio with lots of people drifting off for their vacations, which the laboratory will do *as well* starting presently. Vacations are vague in the Laboratory. I expect to see lots of ongoing dips and dives in and out of what we do.
Continue reading The Week Ending Today 181209

The Week Ending Today 111209

In the spirit of the curious weekly updates I’ve begun paying attention to, and within the practicalities of this laboratory log, I think we’ll give a try to remind myself what the heck has been going on in and around the laboratory nervous center mostly for our own record, and for those who are curious.

This week was spent mostly in Helsinki, mostly in Espoo, mostly in Nokia House. In the weeks preceding (is this a violation? can i talk about the weeks preceding this one if it provides context?), most attention and energy was focused on pulling into a focus a most extraordinary design project for sharing here. The project has been running for most of the year. Truly fascinating materialized conclusions from an extraordinarily intangible design brief that I had given myself as a bit of a challenge, but it was also considered to be a good design project with benefits to the larger organization.

The substance of the project will have to wait for another day — and it almost doesn’t matter, although the conclusions are fascinating designed embodiments of the insights+principles — but the form of the conclusions are worth mentioning — effectively the translation of an intangible core social element into a guiding principle for design practices. Through the project we learned quite a bit more about what it is to lead a design project with a team of peers and supeeriors; what it feels like to be part of a well-functioning, supportive, generously creative design studio; and, what it is to share design insights, and tangible prototypes containing “dialed-to-11” peculiar interaction rituals (of the sort the laboratory uses to provoke/prod/probe possible weird near future worlds) with both whiplash smart, kung-fu smooth designers and minders of brand-marketing cubicle lands.

We also evolved a style of communication that bucks the PowerPoint/Keynote trend so as to force a conversation when someone asks us to “just send the deck” cause, like..the project has no “deck” to send. This style has been called, in a positive way, “disarming” — which we’ll take as a vote of confidence. Effectively, “designed fictions”, visual stories, and ritual moments. The goal originally was stories, and the practicalities of the moment forced the moments. Stories were story boarded, time + tool-chain learning forced the fall-back, which were still quite entrancing to watch. Or maybe I was just tired and zoning out in front of the screen. We’ll compose more on the practical aspects of some corners of the technical production of design fictions in the near future.

The week ends today, with a return to Los Angeles. Then, a nice bike ride down the coast, to be followed by a couple of days in the desert to watch a meteor shower.

Continue reading The Week Ending Today 111209