Tuesday, September 25, 2007

the inter-geo-digi-space

A while ago I posted an article about EA's video game which features real, live weather conditions: another great example of the merging of physical and digital worlds. But my excitement about this cross-dimensional medium was over-shadowed by my desire to give it a good name.

Faris pointed me to his take on it and the name Interlife, which he confessed didn't quite satisfy. Faris beat me to the topic by 12 months - I'm a slow typer - so I thought I'd try to make a more worthwhile contribution by coming up with a more pleasing moniker.

My thinking goes like this:

Both Interlife and Geoweb (which really concerns geographical data specifically) feel like 'places', whereas for me, this interplay between the physical and digitally connected worlds is not so much a location as a medium.

I've been trying to think of a metaphor where something that operates on another dimension/plane intersects with something else. It's a bit like when Jeff Goldblum, in The Fly, has his genes merge with the insect -- that kind of genetic modification feels in the right kind of area. Think of it as the genetics of the physical world being tampered with by digital information. Or vice versa.

So perhaps this will cut it. Let me know what you think:

Real-world modification through digital re-engineering
Digital modification through real-world re-engineering

or maybe a juicier way of saying it is:

Digitally hacking the real world (meatspace)

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Monday, September 24, 2007

you story

Last week, I hobbled along the Fulton Street subway platform and rested awkwardly against a pillar, before reading this passage in Stumbling on Happiness:

"Whenever we find ourselves on the front end of a decision -- Should I have another fish stick or go directly for the Ding Dongs? Accept the job in Kansas City or stay put and hope for a promotion? Have the knee surgery or try the physical therapy first? ..."

The rest of the paragraph isn't important. What caused my eyebrows to raise more than previously deemed possible was the last bit. My hobbling, you see, was due to my knee. The one I had been talking to a physical therapist about that morning and discussing whether or not I should have surgery on it or wait and give the therapy a chance. As you can imagine, this made Daniel Gilbert's ensuing point a lot more personal and deepened its impact.

I started to wonder what it would be like if every article or story I read had personal references rather than general ones. AdSense has shown how easily personal data can be used to target advertising, but what about extending that philosophy to the very content you are reading?

A piece of software that knows what music you are listening to could throw it into a paragraph about a new music player: "So next time you fancy twenty minutes with The Knife, why not take this gizmo..."

The same software could know who your closest friends are based on Facebook interaction or email frequency. A cooking website could then tell you: "It's a perfect dish for friends, so drop Katie, John and Tamara a line and invite them..."

An article describing a new phenomenon need not patronise you if you're already aware of it. The next time an online community takes the media by storm, CNN might open with: "It's something you're already using, but millions more are set to follow..."

I think this is a really interesting idea. If only I was a clever programmer...

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Friday, September 21, 2007

cocoon 2

In the MoMA yesterday, I walked past a glass case with this in it:

It looked remarkably like the O2 Cocoon: a white, minimalist oblong with large LED clock glowing through the translucent plastic.

This phone is the Neon, by Naoto Fukasawa for KDDI. The similarities in design are there for all to see and don't need further comparison. But I'm going to do it anyway:

I'm not going to give o2 a hard time. Frankly I think it gets a bit silly when people point fingers every time ideas are used as inspiration. But it was interesting that I gave a subconscious thought to the Cocoon while the Neon was still in my peripheral vision. Just goes to show how design can create such distinct identity and equity in our minds.

And anyway, if Cocoon, the phone is anything like Cocoon, the movie, then 51 year-old Fukasawa should be happy. He'll share the rewards of the geriatrics in the film whom, according the back of the DVD were "hoping to find a new, rewarding and elongated life". There you go Naoto - if people keep re-using your ideas, you'll live forever.

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Wednesday, September 19, 2007

alarming clock

I don't know how accurate this is, but it's scary nonetheless. This screen grab shows the global 'activity' over the last ten seconds.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

caption competition

At Centre and Broome this afternoon.

Monday, September 17, 2007

saying nothing

A few weeks ago I wrote a post on the science of passive pleasure, quoting bits from On Intelligence in the attempt to... well, look clever.

About a week later I walked fairly randomly through a heavy curtain at the entrance to PaceWildenstein ( 545 West 22nd Street, Manhattan) and was blown away. Here's the thing though. I'm not going to tell you what I was blown away by and this is kind of the point.

If you are (or intend to be) in New York before October 20th, I urge you not to look up who is exhibiting there. I knew nothing about the artist and had no clue what would be behind that curtain and it was this that made it such a wonderful experience. I am certain that if I had planned to see it or been told about it, it would not have had nearly the same impact.

There seems to be so few examples of primary cultural experiences these days. Everything is heavily documented and bookmarked. Most things are secondary experiences, for others and for our future selves. So, going against the very nature of blogging, I'm going to say nothing except: Go.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

remembered experience

This week I've been giving myself a triangular, facial tan mark by keeping my nose in the hilarious and insightful book, Stumbling On Happiness by Daniel Gilbert. There's a bit in it that supported a long-term belief of mine: that the retelling of an experience is more impactful than the experience itself. It's why I bang on about social currency a lot and insist that 'amplification' should not be an afterthought, but a considered as a building block of the core idea itself.

Gilbert describes an experiment on 'remembered experience' where participants were shown colour swatches and then had to pick the colour out a few moments later. One group of participants were given this straight test and a second group were asked to spend the interval describing the colour out loud. What the scientists discovered was:

"The describers' verbal descriptions of their experiences overwrote their memories of the experiences themselves, and they ended up remembering not what they had experienced but what they had said about what they experienced."

This is worth remembering when 99% of people are experiencing something second-hand. Just like sharing great holiday snaps from an average vacation, with the right approach and tools, the passing on of the experience won't just stay true to the original; it will surpass it. Powerful idea.


Friday, September 07, 2007

goodbye advertising

I've seen posts from both Noah and Nathan this week on the Firefox app AdBlock. I'm pretty sure it's not a new idea, although I can't be bothered to research it properly. Anyhow, it seems to have captured our attention.

Here's a thought: As more of these ad-censoring technologies are adopted, will people start to miss advertising?
Marketing folk have just about started to acknowledge (probably over an expensive lunch) that they have to create "ideas" that consumers actively choose to interact with, rather than passively accept. With that in mind, we'll be depriving ourselves of great entertainment and social currency by using AdBlock and its brothers and cousins.

Secondly, perhaps we'll also the miss bad ads and irritating messages?
If you were only ever exposed to things you outright chose, life would be boring. Imagine never running into the annoying guy from your last job; never hearing a bad joke and galleries only featuring artwork you completely approve of. Picture a dating site that only ever presented you with perfect matches. You would be deprived the smug satisfaction of ignoring someone yourself. Life would be dull.

There are of course, plenty of banner ads we won't miss at all, but I do think to some degree, we enjoy people fighting for our attention and we like turning our noses up at things. We like talking about things that are bad as well as good. Hopefully this censoring will rid us of the meaningless, but maybe it will remind us that dismissing things is much more enjoyable if we do it ourselves?


Thursday, September 06, 2007

the life of blogger

Yesterday, I was thinking about the moment when amateur bloggers suddenly find themselves with a following. In a flash there's a heap of expectation on what they say next, strangers challenging every word and an awkward acceptance of new power. I think this clip from The Life of Brian (excuse the time-lag audio) is a lovely metaphor for that moment.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

the power of myth

I just finished Big Fish by Daniel Wallace. It's a charming story about the life of a legendary man - Edward Bloom - dutifully told by his son. The narrative hinges on the idea that over time, man and myth have become inseparable. Truth, hyperbole and fabrication have been churned up and gooped out in mouthfuls too sweet to scrutinize.

Here comes the brand bit:

The power of myth is immeasurable. In this wiki-twitter-sphere of a world we live in, ideas become myth the moment they pop into existence: reinvented; retold; forgotten and recalled. This is just the way it is. You can't stop it. You shouldn't want to. In fact, the most loved brands are built on myths - started within the company and moulded by fans.

There's a lovely bit in the book which is a reminder of this and why brands should be giving people the inspiration and tools to build their own story - not carve it for them in stone:

"In Specter [the town Edward Bloom inspired], history becomes what never happened. People mess things up, forget and remember all the wrong things. What's left is fiction. [...] It doesn't matter; the story keeps changing. All of the stories do. [...] the townspeople's memories take on a peculiar tint, their voices loud in the morning when, during the night, they might have remembered something else that never happened, a story good enough to share with others, a new twist, a lie compounded daily."

Sound familiar?

Creative agencies also trade on a similar culture of myth and we, like the townspeople of Specter, filter and spread it. This isn't a bad thing. We love stories and truth is only a part of the mix.

Here's to myths.


Sunday, September 02, 2007


Or is the internet more like the Tundra?...