Tag Archives: design

Upcoming – Calendar Asplosion!

MEIC

Holy Events Batman!

The next week in Toronto is going to be an exercise in schedulers staying calm and carrying on despite the amazing lineup of events that starts this Friday (and this has nothing to do with TIFF, unfortunately…) Friday is the start of the inaugural MobileInnovationWeek, the first in what is looking to be an annual event in mobile + wireless awesomeness. I’m thrilled to announce that the MEIC is a proud partner in Mobile Innovation Week, and that we’re co-chairing Mobile Business Bootcamp as well as producing MEIC4.

The events are:

  • FITC Mobile
  • Mobile Media World
  • MEIC4
  • MEF Canada Thought Leadership Series
  • Mobile Business Bootcamp
  • Mobile ThinkTank
  • I’m organizing MEIC4 (which is a free event that will lead into the FITCMobile/MMW main party at The Fifth), and happy to announce the following speakers (more to come!):

    • Alec Taylor, VP Windows Mobile Business, Microsoft
    • TBD, Enstream Ltd
    • Dylan Pask, OCAD + MEIC Research
    • Michael Lewkowitz, CEO Igniter, Ltd

    As well, I have a discount code for the Mobile Business Bootcamp (an awesome lineup of over 25 speakers and 8 sessions that will cover every aspect of mobile business and startup tips) – ping me if you’re interested!

    See you next week!

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    design as derivative – weapons of mass disruption

    last week torch partnership and sLab hosted the latest edition of the unfinished business lecture series, and we were treated to a robust and inspiring presentation by gong szeto, a new mexico-based designer. recently, gong has been designing derivatives trading platforms for financial services, and his hyperacute knowledge of these systems has inspired a unique perspective towards design, as revealing the meta layers of economics, politics, etc, and the implications around an emerging set of ethics relating towards the products, services and systems we design. As bruce nussbaum wrote last year – did innovation cause the crisis on wall st?

    gong gives good reason to believe this, and more importantly, frames why. the blurb from the talk is here as is the slideshow, but be sure to check his notes on slideshare.

    What implications does the current global economic crisis have for Design? For Gong Szeto the answers lie in understanding how design has evolved over the last 100 years in parallel with capitalism. We are in the midst of a global economic crisis, one whose contours are barely understood, even by today’s leading minds. This crisis reveals the very underpinnings of how our world works, and it is the story of finance (a classic tragic comedy) and its colossal role in the development of modern society.

    Design, the myriad ways it is practiced and consumed, owes its very existence to the thriving of a capitalist political economy. Design cannot claim primacy in this system, but is, instead, a shadow or derivative of the priorities of supply-side and demand-side economics.

    Billionaire Warren Buffett has called financial derivatives “weapons of mass destruction.”. Gong Szeto will demonstrate the powerful properties and dynamics of derivatives in financial world, and apply this framework to understanding Design’s origins and future possibilities. He will try to make the case that Design’s complex derivative nature, if better understood, can be combined with the powerful emerging attributes of massively shared social web platforms, and proactively insinuated in a (post) capitalist political economy, taking shape as “weapons of mass possibility.”

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    the limits of the imaginable..

    bruce sterling has an extraordinarily thoughtful piece in interactions magazine where he writes about, among many other ideas, why our current technosocial space is limited by the paradigms of previous centuries in designing our collective futures. bruce’s writing and speaking of late has resonated pretty deeply of late, it seems he simultaneously mourning, rejoicing in wonder and worriedly glancing at the state of the world. some of my favourite pieces of the article are below, but you should really go read the whole thing..


    What science fiction’s user base truly desired was not possible in the 1930s. Believing their own rhetoric, science fiction users supposed that they wanted a jet-propelled, atomic futurity. Whenever offered the chance at such goods and services, they never left science fiction to go get them. They didn’t genuinely want such things-not in real life.
    What the user base genuinely wanted was immersive fantasies. They wanted warmly supportive subcultures in which they could safely abandon their cruelly limiting real-life roles, and play semi-permanent dress-up. Science fiction movies helped; science fiction television helped. Once massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs) were invented, the harsh limits of the print infrastructure were demolished. Then the user-base exploded.
    No sane person reads science fiction novels for 80 hours a week. But it’s quite common for devoted players to spend that much time on Warcraft.
    This should not be mistaken for “progress.” It’s not even a simple matter of obsolescence. Digital media is much more frail and contingent than print media. I rather imagine that people will be reading H.P. Lovecraft-likely the ultimate pulp-magazine science fiction writer-long after today’s clumsy, bug-ridden MMORPGs are as dead as the Univac.
    What truly interests me here is the limits of the imaginable. Clearly, the pulp infrastructure limited what its artists were able to think about. They wore blinders that they could not see and therefore could not transcend.
    The typewriter limited writers. Magazine word counts limited writers. Even the implicit cultural bargain between author and reader introduced constraints on what could be thought, said, and understood in public. Those mechanisms of interaction-the letter columns, the fan mail, the bookstore appearances, the conventions-they were poorly understood as interaction. They were all emergent practices rather than designed experiences.

    and


    We have entered an unimagined culture. In this world of search engines and cross-links, of keywords and networks, the solid smokestacks of yesterday’s disciplines have blown out. Instead of being armored in technique, or sheltered within subculture, design and science fiction have become like two silk balloons, two frail, polymorphic pockets of hot air, floating in a generally tainted cultural atmosphere.
    These two inherently forward-looking schools of thought and action do seem blinkered somehow-not unimaginative, but unable to imagine effectively. A bigger picture, the new century’s grander narrative, its synthesis, is eluding them. Could it be because they were both born with blind spots, with unexamined assumptions hardwired in 80 years ago?
    There is much thoughtful talk of innovation, of transformation, of the collaborative and the transdisciplinary. These are buzzwords, language that does not last.
    What we are really experiencing now is a massive cybernetic hemorrhage in ways of knowing the world.

    and finally…


    Rather than thinking outside the box-which was almost always a money box, quite frankly-we surely need a better understanding of boxes. Maybe some new, more general, creative project could map the limits of the imaginable within the contemporary technosocial milieu. Plug that imagination gap.
    That effort has no 20th-century description. I rather doubt that it’s ever been tried. It seems to me like a good response to events.

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    the hammer metric

    hammers!

    The Hammer Metric is measured by the strength of one’s desire to smash any designed tool (device, machine, system, etc) with a hammer in relation to particular aspects of design, functionality or use, especially as said usage relates to feelings of epic frustration or FAIL. As such, a low rating is desired, as it reflects a minimal urge for destruction based on what could be construed as user-centric antagonization on the part of the designer/maker.

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    finding design frontiers: larry keeley at ocad

    larry keeley, ceo of doblin, spoke earlier today at ocad, in a wonderful talk sponsored by torch partnership and the strategic innovation lab – the new incarnation of my alma mater the beal institute for strategic creativity. big thanks to the folks that hosted “the john cleese of innovation.” there were a few key ideas that really stood out for me in his talk.

    the thesis of larry’s talk focused on a new emerging discipline of innovation, one that is still in its infancy and will eventually encapsulate the methods and rigour demonstrated in fully or semi-institutionalized disciplines such as medicine, law or business. at a time of great uncertainty, as the systems we have come to rely on for the exchange of economic, physical and political capital begin to erode globally, larry offers that innovation, far from dead, is thriving.

    as is often the case in times of turmoil, people innovate when they need to think differently, act differently and make different things. they explore the boundaries of what is possible. however, larry asks “what if everything we thought we knew about innovation was wrong?” especially when we consider that most innovation posts a success rate of less than 4%, worldwide. he then gives the following example of how innovation commonly goes down in a company (which i’m sure will be a bit mucked up in my retelling, but the point will get across ;)

      the executives of a major corporation realize that their earnings are tanking, and so product lines are trimmed, teams are reduced and gap analysis is conducted. and the gap analytics indicate that in order to close the gap between the economic projections and the actual company performance, one needs to innovate. so the sr execs comb through the company and pick the best and brightest, and get them all together in the board room. then comes the stirring speech, in which the selected team is inspired and charged to innovate with no margin for error, a super short timeline, no guidance, no resources, threat of termination upon failure and little in the way of exactly *what* they’re supposed to innovate towards. ambiguous expectations and concrete deliverables. however, there will be whiteboards and flipcharts to aid in generating ideas. this is akin to picking a bunch of random people and asking them to perform neurosurgery with a few exacto knives and some rubbing alcohol.

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    in case y’all were needing some last minute christmas ideas

    one of the neatest ways to organize your stuff, if you have stuff and a hankering for the elegance of math…

    bookshelf.jpg

    Equation Bookshelf is a simple idea of to divide things in priority order… put together the books that you need immediately or more important between (parentheses)! Set others between [square brackets] and {braces}.

    Courtesy boingboing

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    all this useless beauty

    Sketch (leaves) 2005, blown glass, 15 x 23 cmcali balles, photo

    i came across this paper* while researching for my project and prepping for the last lecture of the year before presentations, and it really highlights some of the ideas i’ve spoken about previously as well as given articulate phrasing to some really interesting connections in the relationship between craft, design and digital technology. craft and design have had a schism since the industrial revolution, when, for all intents and purposes, design was born. greg calls design ‘creation for reproduction’ – making with the direct intention of replicating, and thus requiring systems and standards to ensure exactness throughout that reproductive process. and most digital technology reflects this, presenting us with clean and simple efficiencies of form but very little humanity. i think that craft, however, embodies a bit more of our humanity as the unique experience of making by hand can’t be replicated and our tools and processes do not become extensions of ourselves, but rather interfaces in an empathetic relationship with the materials, the ideas, the user and ourselves. and beauty.

    jayne wallace and mike press (the latter of whom is speaking this week in halifax at nscad university’s neocraft conference- i SO WISH i was there) express their thoughts on the role of beauty in craft, it’s approximation in design and it’s role in creating better digital technologies.

    1st part of the excerpts below (2nd to follow shortly)

    Beauty, we argue, plays a vital role in humanising technology and ensuring its cultural relevance… Industrial design can
    employ the illusion of beauty to temper the beast of technology by providing a veneer of desire, seduction and usability. But let us not confuse eternal beauty with the passionate but fast fading blooms of desire. We enjoy the delights of the G4 Powerbook as much as the next fashion-conscious academic, but only as a well designed one night stand at the orgiastic party of our consumer culture.

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    value of nature

    niagara-escarpment_jpg.jpg

    from henri lefebvre, the production of space, 1974; 1991

    [...] natural space is disappearing. granted, natural space was – and it remains – the common point of departure: the origin, and original model, of the social process. granted, too, that natural space has not vanished purely and simply from the scene. it is still in the background of the picture; as decor, and as more than decor, it persists everywhere, and every natural detail, every natural object is valued even more as it takes on symbolic weight (the most insignificant animal, trees, grass and so on).

    as source and resource, nature obsesses us, as do childhood and spontaneity, via the filter of memory. everyone wants to protect and save nature; nobody wants to stand in the way of attempting to retrieve its authenticity. yet at the same time everyone conspires to harm it. the fact is that natural space will soon be lost to view. anyone so inclined may look over their shoulder and see it sinking below the horizon behind us. nature is also becoming lost to thought. [...] even the powerful myth of nature is being transformed into a mere fiction, a negative utopia: nature is now seen as merely the raw material out of which the productive forces of a variety of social systems have forged their particular spaces.

    i was lucky enough to grow up in the niagara peninsula (well, really an isthmus), a fertile microclimate in southern ontario famous for tender fruit, vineyards and the rusting remains of a once-thriving auto industry. historically inhabited by first nations and then settled by the united empire loyalists and the site of the war of 1812, the niagara region birthed 4 incarnations of the welland canal, is one of only two regions in canada that can produce grapes and peaches, and the home of the spectacular niagara falls. it has always been valuable for it’s natural resources and political geography, .

    why lucky?

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    gva’s wiigrano

    my colleague greg van alstyne has been up to trouble while pursuing his msc from the integrated digital media institute at brooklyn polytechnic university.

    This gestural interface prototype, completed for one of my digital media masters courses, emphasizes an intuitive and performance-friendly interaction model. I’m exploiting the physicality of Nintendo’s Wii controller by aiming to drawing out visceral, subtle, and “quasi-analogue” possibilities.

     

    Thanks and shout out to Professor Joshua Goldberg, Brian MacMillan and other classmates at Integrated Digital Media Institute, Polytechnic University, Brooklyn; Masayuki Akamatsu for the aka.wiiremote Nintendo Wii Remote Handler and Les & Zoax for the Granularized Max/MSP patch.

    the hack is great, and the added bonus of tweakily conducting douglas adams, among other, is pretty sweet! yay greg!!

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    arts & crafts revisited

    williammorris-goldenlilyminor.jpg

    ***update below***

    a few weeks ago i gave a talk on the arts & crafts movement that emerged during the latter part of victorian britain, from roughly 1860 to 1900, and i was taken with the similarities between now and then, in relation to the changes and/or transformation our culture has undergone over the past twenty years or so; and i think i’m still in teacher-mode, so this is a bit of a long post. while the circumstances and contexts are very different, there are arguable parallels in the nature of how people responded. lately i find myself more and more fascinated by the past incidents of massive change, thinking about what insights into the future can be gained by looking back.

    bit of history…. originating a few centuries prior with the printing press, the industrial revolution took hold in the early 1800′s with the advent of mechanized innovations in the textile industry, and the mechanization of labour quickly spread to other industries and spurred the production of goods towards extraordinary volumes, creating a greater need for regulated tradeways (rail, road, canal, etc) and urban development. mass production of goods was rampant, newly established factories hired workforces in the thousands, and a new middle class of entrepreneurs and nouveau riche emerged.

    by mid-century, the industrial revolution was reaching the crest of its first wave, transforming every aspect of british culture while it gained strength as a global empire. it’s critical to remember that these changes were happening for the first time ever, accelerating human life into the modern age at a pace that barely allowed time to gain vantage on the present before hurtling into the future, all the while changing the expectations of what that future might hold.

    more after the jump…

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