Friday, February 29, 2008

story 1 - dabbling

In the lead-up to Early Designs I've decided to share a few of my own college stories. I've had a few emails from designers keen to take part on the 26th March but unsure how to approach it. Hopefully, as well as keeping the project fresh in people's minds, these stories might give those people some ideas.

The first is about dabbling.

Below is an animated music video I created in 2001, just as I was finishing university. The background on this project - if you're interested - is here.

Animation has always been a huge passion of mine. I drew cartoons from an early age and spent hours making hand-drawn flick-books with my dad. So when the opportunity came to try my hand at 3D animation, I jumped.
I taught myself the software (Lightwave 3D) and spent four long months to create this unfinished video from start to finish. I was obsessive about it and went through some fat manuals trying to teach myself the complexities of node-modelling and inverse kinematics. For the record, there is a 0.4 second sequence of a hand clenching into a fist. That 0.4 seconds took me six days, working 12 hours a day. I was keen to understand how to animate muscles in the hand even though you can't see any of it.

Fast forward a few years and below is an animation I worked on* for Motorola in 2005 to be shown before screenings at the prestigious Grand Classics events.

*To be clear, I did not do this animation. By this age, I was a Creative Director and my passion for animation would have to be satisfied by my collection of Pixar DVDs. Instead, I came up with the concept - to show the history of moving image from the zoetrope to 3G - and then brought in the incredible Smith & Foulkes at Nexus Productions. It was they who turned my concept into a mind-blowing piece of work.

But the point I want to make is that learning the craft of animation; studying it; playing with the software etc gave me a great advantage that really helped me on the Motorola piece. When I went for meetings at Nexus, they didn't need to over-explain things. I was able to imagine unfinished parts, knew what was possible and how long things would take. Also, studying animation gave me a great feel for timing, composition conveying personality and story-telling - all key in communication as a whole.

I have always tried to dabble in everything. In my opinion, it can only be an advantage. My inevitable editing process as I get older has led me to realise, one skill at a time, which things I should leave to the experts. But I am thankful I've always been so curious. You never know when the knowledge that comes from dabbling may come in handy.

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Thursday, February 28, 2008

here comes here comes everybody

I'm hoping this will be everything Wikinomics was not.

Cory Doctorow describes the author as: of those people who is able to crystallize the half-formed ideas that I've been trying to piece together into glittering, brilliant insights that make me think, yes, of course, that's how it all works.
I just ordered a copy.


This is the future, man.

This is Ribbit.


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I think this is a really interesting idea.

Ultimatums is a Facebook app that attempts to evolve the rather wishy-washy culture of passive digital support into real action. It's so easy to join a group on Facebook or forward an email, but most of these are empty promises. I'll be watching from afar to see what happens with this. I mean, I'll be joining the revolution. That's it. That's what I meant.

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Wednesday, February 27, 2008

the emotional spectrum of branding

Last summer, I posted my frustration about people describing marketing campaigns by the channels they occupy. I offered the following analogy:
If I tell you that Lucy and I speak on the phone, on IM and by text what does this say about my relationship with her? Not much. If I say we joke a lot together, we speak about serious family matters but avoid talk of politics it paints a much better picture.

Channels are a convenient but misleading barometer of brands’ connection with potential customers. What really matters is how much of the emotional spectrum they occupy (in relation to the service they offer).
The key outtakes:
1. Consumers do not see the world through channels
2. 'Brand' is only the sum of the parts consumers happen upon

Everything we see or interact with, from the coffee we drink to the music we buy to the gum we step on, falls into an emotional category. I've attempted to simplify this spectrum into its basic components, from positive to negative.

Please allow me some poetic licence, accept that the order may change for each person slightly and that there is some overlap.

Stuff we encounter is...


'Forgettable' is the neutral mark. Above it are positive feelings, below it, negative. Forgettable things are, for example, cows that aren't purple. Or in this case, cows that don't dance for you, suggest radio shows or kick you in the legs.

If you broadly accept this breakdown then I am fairly confident in saying that a person's day is divided purely into these eight categories. In the attention economy, brands are competing to feature in people's lives within the top four categories; to be inspiring, pleasurable, useful and interesting. The bottom four clearly aren't good business.

This is what today might look like for someone out there. Maybe you...

This is how people view the world. We might not go home and draw pie charts about it (that's just me), but we act based on what gives us pleasure and pain. The sum of these pie chart segments is our mood. Or, if you're willing to entertain a career-ending metaphor, the sum of these parts could be considered, for that moment, the world as a brand. Cough. Cough.

Forgive me.
But I wanted to link this concept of the 'world' as we perceive its parts to the world of a brand as we experience its ingredients. Brands can no longer "be squeezed into slogans, characters, and logos" as successfully as they once were. Companies have to create a world and this world - in my humble opinion - should be based not on channels, but on the same emotional spectrum as their consumers'. (Of course, channels should be chosen to satisfy the spectrum)

Here's what Google might like its world (and therefore, brand) to look like:

Usefulness/utility is clearly the lion's share of its brand.
Nike's, however, looks very different:

This raises a crucial point that lots of people seem to overlook this when discussing brand: Different brands have different roles in people's lives.

Google wants to be useful; Nike, inspiring. A chocolate bar; a TV channel; washing powder - they all fulfill different roles. A brand manufacturing peanuts can not mean the same to someone as their BMW.

The Nike and Google pie charts show a potential vision of their 'perfect brand' in the mind of their consumers. But they can't control the brand to that degree. The brand/world that matters is the one in the consumer's mind. What if the Nike consumer misses all their short films? What if a Google user sees it as pure utility?

Brands can only offer ingredients that consumers may want to pick from to satisfy their urges and assemble their perfect day. Perhaps that consumer's perfect day would look like this:

And if it does, then what ingredients do you have for her to pick from?
I'm not suggesting that people literally try to build their perfect day, only that as the day grows older they seek out these four things based on how they feel.

Half the inspiration to write this came from reading a post from Noah yesterday. I did a really bad job of explaining my viewpoint in his comments section and it caused me to really think hard about what I was actually trying to say. It reminded me of some of the above and I've tried to bring it all together in a way that might be helpful.

My above diagrams place utility/usefulness as filling one of the four positive roles in the spectrum. While the world goes brand utility mad, I see it in the context of the spectrum. Imagine a day where everything was useful. Shudder.

How to 'build your brand':
1. Make sure you have the appropriate balance of brand ingredients that are inspiring, pleasurable, useful and interesting, respectively
2. Ensure each one is easy to find and share at the most relevant moment
3. Boring, irritating and upsetting are the conditions in which people will be most receptive to your more positive alternatives (if you have a conscience, maybe leave upsetting)

I would rather post this now than sit stewing with it for days. I would love to hear your thoughts, positive or negative. I find 'opinions' these days are very stale in comparison to conversations...


the web is a woman

I like this analogy. Len Ellis on digital marketing:
Unlike representation which pushes messages out, simulation pulls visitors in; unlike the “masculine” tradition of targeting, capturing and penetrating, the Web requires a “feminine” approach of attracting, listening and involving.
Via the excellent Max Kalehoff


Tuesday, February 26, 2008


I've been wanting to take photos of this for ages. Such a lovely contrast of styles and colours; both council housing. The towers proudly stick their grey Rubik edges into the sky and the low blue buildings in the foreground remind me of Scandinavia or Holland. (*Bilder means picture in Swedish. I can pun in any language)

There concludes my architectural tour of Lambeth.

On Wandsworth Road, London. Right near my house:

View Larger Map

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flash gordon and the power of stuff

I know I'm several years late to get too excited about designer flash drives, but stick with me. This is Gordon. My girlfriend just bought him for me.

Not only is he useful and cool looking, but he's a fine example of added value.

He came in a little tube that held him, suspended a bit like (cough) space-travel folk in the movies. Or something.

And if the urge takes you, you can raise him up on a little platform like so:

And check this out. He's got a body-suit too!

By this point, I was very excited and thinking this is about as much fun as someone can have with data storage. (Oh and there were stickers in the pack too)

Then I plugged him in. (No pics sorry, but a little blue light between his feet comes on)

On the drive was over 300mb of content; wallpapers, icons, games, animations and even a video of Art Brut in concert.

The moral of the story:
A flash drive is never just a flash drive. It's a little character called Gordon, a host of content and the start of a small army of other little characters. Like Douglas Rushkoff once asked, is it the bubblegum or the free trading card you get with it that offers real value?


Monday, February 25, 2008


The Wii has already been used at a Manchester hospital in the rehabilitation of a boy who suffered burns after being struck by lightning.
Full story here.

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I turned 29 on Saturday.

Today, I decided to look through 'things to do before you're 30' lists, with the intention of compiling a super-list.

The lists were pretty predictable though and mostly centred around going 'against' something. Against your better judgement; against conformity; against character. There was a whiff of mid-life crisis about them - a sense that the reader will definitely be unhappy with his life so far and should follow any action that changes things.

I'm pretty happy with my life so far though. So the 'before you're 30' list got binned.

The culture of 'not wanting to miss out' annoys me sometimes. If I was going to be pretentious, I would say it reminds me of the sentiment behind Xavier De Maistre's Voyage autour de ma chambre.

But I won't. Instead, I'll sum up with a quote from Eddie Murphy during his stand-up show, Delirious in 1983:

"Any 18-year olds in here?"
[Young whooping from the audience]
"Y'all don't know how to fuck yet."

Friday, February 22, 2008

album generator

Random Wikipedia entry + random quotation + random Flickr results in...

Well, this is mine. What's yours?

Via Neil (again)

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sleeveface reclaimed

Neil just posted his annoyance at how a company had ripped off Sleeveface.

His main gripe was that they had made no attempt to evolve the idea and just slapped their logo in the corner. I agree.

Forgive me for going all Naomi Klein for a moment, but if companies can be lazy enough to assume a logo in the corner makes an idea theirs, then removing that logo reclaims it on behalf of the originator.

You might think I'm a bit of a wanker for this, but any good marketeer knows that somewhere on the brief it says: "It must be an idea that only our brand could do". Therefore only bad, lazy ads can really be reclaimed by covering up the logo. So rather than sitting here with my knickers in a twist, really this is just a way to highlight lazy copying and logo-slapping.

Feel free to reclaim ideas you see ripped off with the cunning use of a similar sticker.

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more thingyness

I recently wrote three short posts about our love of 'things'.
Synopsis: We might be in the age of fragmentation, but we like to mash the pieces back together again to stop our brains from exploding.

Anyway, here's a lovely example of a tool called Dumble, written by Deepak. Turns your bookmarks into a feast of pictures and links.

Via Selective Amnesia, which btw has the best tag line I've seen on a blog.


Thursday, February 21, 2008

Michael Johnson, back to school

This is rather charming account of Michael Johnson's experience explaining design to a hoard of ten year-olds.
A little hand went up. I gulped – a ten-year old with a penchant for Deco graphics? Unheard of! There’s a child star in our midst, I thought.
He's clearly warming up for Early Designs. See what I did there?


Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Windows, the musical


Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Early Designs - launch day

This is a bit more special than my average post. It's the announcement of a project that launches, well, now.

Early Designs is an open project where (hopefully) hundreds of designers, artists and illustrators from across the world will - on the same day - upload pieces and sketches from their college years.

On that day, we'll get a glimpse into the past of 'creative types' everywhere and hear the stories, learnings, late nights and bad hair that made them what they are today.

That day will be March 26th (five weeks tomorrow)
If you'd like to take part, check out this Early Designs pdf for details.

You'll be in excellent company. The following people have already signed up:

Michael Johnson
Ben Terrett
Alex Trochut
Lauren Brown
Alistair Hall
Susanna Edwards
Nathan Cooper
Sebastien Antoniou
Ryan Belmont
Noah Brier
Chris Bolton
Brian Ponto
Will Robinson

And more are trickling in every hour, currently spanning six countries.

I won't go on and on, because the pdf explains things fully. But if you like this idea, do please get involved, get in touch (andy a.t. nowincolour dot com) and spread the word!

And if you have any thoughts/suggestions don't keep them to yourself. On that note, if someone wants to offer to aggregate all the visuals into a nicer online gallery of sorts, that would be wonderful. Ahem.

Early Designs - The College Years. I hope you'll be a part of it.


the masque of the red button?

I treat 'high-culture' like a baby does his dinner: Thoroughly excited about it when it suits me and then quickly bored. I don't know. Blame MTV.

Last week however, I experienced something that literally got my heart racing in a way no visit to the Tate or spoonful of apple puree could. I went to The Masque Of The Red Death, an immersive theatre production at the Battersea Arts Centre. Based on the short stories of Edgar Allan Poe.

I was in two minds about posting about it, because my experience was certainly heightened by knowing nothing until I walked through the curtain. If you think you might go (apparently it comes to New York soon) then stop reading this now and just go!

For a full-ish review check this. It calls TMOTRD 'immersive theatre', but the word immersive doesn't do this justice. That's like calling TV 'interactive' when a red button icon flashes up. I'll try to find words that go some way to infecting you with the wonderful experience I had.

I'll break the experience into two observations. The first is about the narrative. The best way I can describe the sense of narrative is like a piece of music in a dream. You drift in and out of it (literally) as you make your own journey through the passages and hidden rooms. The trade-off with this more intimate approach is that dialogue is minimal and disorientating. I confess to have picked up very little of what was unfolding and yet it had its ghoulish claws around my gut every step of the way.

Then there is your part in this experience. Every audience member - who is wondering through the venue as an observer - wears the same mask. See above. It is a simple, powerful prop that makes everyone anonymous but also pulls you together like a hoard of ghosts, observing as a silent unit. In fact this was the single most amazing part of the evening for me: Feeling like a ghost; able to walk anyway, move around the actors, look them in the eye with the impression that I was invisible. I even found myself half-playing a character. I would chase actors down dark, winding staircases (not something I would do normally) and hover in the doorway as they burst into tears or embraced their lover.

Can your red button on your TV do that?

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Monday, February 18, 2008

freezing in london

Here's the Trafalgar Square one. I like the guy lighting his cigarette.

Almost too many people though don't you think?

good looking radio

Just came across these logos for BBC Radio news (Russian, Arabic, Spanish and Persian). Nice. Must be fun designing the 'look' of radio stations. I wonder how they choose colours.

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Saturday, February 16, 2008

danger mirror

This is the warning that came with an Ikea mirror we just bought. Made me laugh. They should do a whole series of really unlikely accidents. Maybe catching a neighbour undressing in the mirror and being subsequently tortured with an Akut kitchen set by her husband.

Incidentally, I wonder if this affects their curtain sales...

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

the end of endings?

We all love surprise endings. Like when Bruce Willis turned out to be a frozen yoghurt salesman at the end of Sixth Sense. That's all well and good for movies, but when it comes to quick, attention-craving branded content, does it really work?

I was sent the link to earlier today and after a quick look, I just thought, these are just ads - and not particularly watchable ones. I was then told that they all had "controversial" endings. There's the problem. I didn't watch them 'til the end because I was a bit bored.

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freezing in new york

Brilliant! Via Nitmesh

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

traffic design

This will be interesting.

via PSFK

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tongue-seeing & eye-listening

Lovely insight here from Daniel Levitin (Your Brain On Music):

The lowest note on a standard piano vibrates with a frequency of 27.5Hz. Interestingly, this is about the same rate of motion that constitutes an important threshold in visual perception. A sequence of still [images] displayed at this rate will give the illusion of motion.

This is particularly interesting when you consider scientific findings that suggest our senses are closer to one another than we might think. I.e. Experiments have been carried out to enable blind people to 'see' through sensory input on their tongues(!) More on tongue-seeing here.
The thinking is that our bodies evolve to sense the world around us through any means and that patterns of data between touch, sight and sound are incredibly similar.

Great case study here of a kid that developed the ability to 'see' his surroundings by clicking like a bat when he lost his eyes to cancer.

I find it exciting that Levitin's insight hints that we could have a universal threshold for sensory perception that transcends specific organs and tissue.

Not sure that all made total sense, but take from it what you will!

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Monday, February 11, 2008

murdered by volume


That's how I feel. And it's because yesterday, I (temporarily) gave up on reading Wikinomics. I was almost half way through it and I hate giving up on books. It makes me feel dim and impatient, but I couldn't take it any more.

Wikinomics is guilty of something I see happening - or perhaps just notice - more and more in books these days: Constant repetition of the same point. Every chapter a near clone of the last. And it got me wondering how writing and reading books has changed in the advent of information snacking?

The premise of Wikinomics is simple, but its world is vast. Thus, the book is filled with interesting case studies. BUT, every case study ends with several paragraphs that say things like: ", even though opening up their archives to the public may have seemed crazy ten years ago, the company tripled its turnover that month thanks to the input of individuals across the globe."
I get it. I get it!! This basic point is laboured to the point I couldn't take it any more. I feel as though the book could have been a fifth of the thickness. Just give me an intro and then the case studies in short bulleted format.

I've heard people complain about other books in the same way. Several friends have said this of Gladwell's Blink: that they got it after the first chapter and didn't bother reading the rest.

So, some questions:
Have readers become less patient with repetition/elaboration?
Have writers failed to adapt to the changing culture of publishing?
Do writers flesh out points without adding value in the hope that it becomes 'book material' just by being 'book-length'?

Words should lubricate information - make it slide down your throat a little easier. They shouldn't clog the passages. When this happens, the format of a book can sometimes kill its content.

I've just started on This is your brain on music. Here's hoping it's not the literary equivalent of Whigfield's Saturday Night.


Sunday, February 10, 2008

my big ten

I just updated my blogroll. Most of them pretty well known, but if you see something you haven't come across, do click, tap or press, depending on your technology.

Over there on the right... down a bit. That's it.

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Friday, February 08, 2008


I just received this message in my shoutbox:

tremorwave said:
Hey, was just doing a bit of random browsing, woo. Anyway, obviously you like using :) I wondered - have you tried idiomag for reviews etc? It creates a magazine based on your favourite artists.

What amused me was the use of the word "woo" to try and make it look like it was a casual user and not a company. Maybe CEOs should try this when they write difficult emails, or even in verbal announcements to staff:

"I've been thinking seriously about our future, woo. And you're fired. :)"

Thursday, February 07, 2008

who do you blog to?

I have a question for anyone that blogs.

Frank Sinatra used to pick out one person in the audience and sing to (presumably) her. My creative writing tutor at university told us that and also encouraged us to do the same when we write. After all, no matter how many people end up reading you, each incident is a one-on-one.

I got thinking about this recently in regard to blogging. It's a slightly abstract question, but when you blog, how many people do you imagine talking to?

Do you think of one specific person?
Do you write to an imaginary, anonymous and infinite crowd?
Do you write as though you're addressing a small group?
Do you write as though it's just for you - like a diary?

I've found that it has changed for me over time. Initially, I wrote as though this was a diary. After all, no one read it. Once a few comments trickled in, this changed. My work also influences me. I often put together presentations to walk clients through marketing strategies and the like - and I'm sure this has affected my tone at times.
More recently, since becoming more aware of the rough numbers that read this blog - and being influenced by the style of others, it's evolving again.

I think at the moment I write as though I'm a third person - neither the writer, nor the reader, but someone observing both. Huh. I guess this is magnified when you catch people linking to you and quoting you. I'm sure there's something clever in Patrick Berger's Ways Of Seeing about this...

I might try Frank's technique for a while and see if anything changes. That alright with you, Mum?

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leave flickr alone


Read the rest about the Flickr community's inevitable backlash, here.


Wednesday, February 06, 2008


I have this obsession with looking at the tops of buildings. Particularly when I'm on the bus. I feel like we never notice the tops when we're rushing around and there are some beauties in London.

These were all taken within a 50 yard stretch of High Street Kensington. So many styles mashed together.

If I had endless amounts of time I'd do a Google Maps of all the rooftops in the city. No. Actually I wouldn't, but, well, you get it. I like rooftops.

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Tuesday, February 05, 2008

reassembling information - part 2b

I feel like a chimpanzee trying to explain where bananas come from. I love this topic but it's a little bigger than my brain. I will, however, continue to alternate between pointing at the gleaming yellow fruit I'm so fond of and gesturing to the tops of trees whilst making noises...

iii. Reassembly
Do we really want to reassemble all this information back into bigger 'things'? Shouldn't we be grateful to this technology for freeing us from permanence? Isn't this the beauty of digital; that we are finally the masters of information, cutting and pasting code to deliver ourselves what we want, when we want it? These are open questions to anyone reading this.

Of course we should welcome our new freedom to manage information, but despite the ease with which we can fragment and filter data like this, I believe we have an in-built craving for mountains. We like 'things'. They're manageable, reliable and definite. They're there in the morning and when we get out the shower. And as Matt Webb and subsequently Russell Davies talked about, we have a desire to indulge in more substantial activities.

2007's uprising of widget culture is an interesting development in reassembling information. Widgets put a just little mountain back into the raindrop. Whether it's text, sound, video or imagery, widgets reappropriate information into neat little parcels that we can embed into our lives with a little aesthetic and conceptual stability.

But widgets don't help much with more substantial text-based information.

iv. Efficiency vs value
In June 2006, The Guardian launched G24, an online service with which readers could print a Guardian-formatted pdf with the latest news in it. The content is updated every 15 minutes - pretty impressive if you compare that to a newspaper which only delivers you stories once a day.

It's a brilliant idea. It takes raindrop culture and puts back a little solidity. It embraces the speed of the internet, but maintains value by turning it into a neat 'thing' which you can read on the bus or toilet, or even slot into an archive if you're into that sort of thing.

But whereas G24 concerns only Guardian content, I have a grander vision. I've had this fantasy for a while of creating my own bespoke editorial team; choosing the bloggers and writers I admire the most and having a beautiful document created by aggregating their independent efforts. Not only useful, but a new unique thing.

Currently, I receive RSS feeds from about thirty blogs. Most if it is for snacking, but the odd article jumps out as being a bit more weighty. These are the ones I have stars against and have occasionally printed out to read properly. But printing off random articles crudely onto a pile of A4 just isn't satisfying. I stuff them into my bag and maybe go through them on the train or just forget about them completely.

What if there was a single button that turned all my starred items into a short, beautifully designed pdf for printing. Let's go further and suggest that the template for this pdf was a little more sophisticated. Imagine you could choose your editorial team based on the following:

5 Headliners (these are the people/companies that write excellent, substantial posts)
6 Middleweights (the bloggers that are interesting, but tend to write in short bursts)
3 Quick-hitters (People that offer constant snacking: cool pictures, cartoons, snippets)

Every time you click the print button from Google Reader, you get a beautiful new object - a journal in the vain of G24 - filled with a nice selection from today's blogs.

Each post includes a photo of the blogger and their name. As time goes by, you tailor your editorial team based on your favourite writers etc. Don't like Jack's posts? Delete him. Think you'd like to open with Jenny's thoughtful pieces? Upgrade her to a headliner. Perhaps you could even choose a pool of designers or Flickr users and have your front cover feature their work. It isn't restricted to printing either. I imagine aggregating lots of different bloggers' content in one screen, where I can literally switch on and off the writers I do and don't like.

This reassembly I'm describing is akin to an evolutionary characteristic that Dawkins (if I remember correctly) calls the bottleneck. Simple cells grow into complex things, which produce simple cells and so on. It's a natural cycle to build things until they're too overwhelming to control and then break them into pieces to start again. After all, this is what happens in business every day. Three smart people break away from a corporation that can no longer negotiate the market nimbly enough. They grow their new venture slowly and the cycle continues. I'm rambling.

The balancing act between efficiency and palpable value is a delicate one. Total efficiency (Google Reader) leaves me a little cold. I see a lot of things, but nothing gets my full attention. Seeking out substance and indulging in it takes effort and time. But with a combination of automated aggregation and personal input, I think the fragments we continue to smash into more pieces can be reassembled in exciting new ways that are efficient, but also valuable and pleasurable.

So to conclude, basically when the wind blows those trees, these bananas fall down. It's brilliant.

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Sunday, February 03, 2008

reassembling information - part 2a

Last week I suggested that our relentless fragmentation of information had perhaps eroded our sense of the whole. That filtering the information we want piece by piece is all very well, but that we could be in danger of losing 'thingyness' to wrap it all up in.

I must confess, I'm a little nervous about setting up this second part as though I have the answers. I don't. In fact, I've barely begun to grapple with this and the following will be riddled with holes and contradictions.

What I do have is some questions, a metaphor I rather like and a comments button, which I would love you to click.

Turns out I had more to say than I thought, so I've broken it into four parts:

i. Thingyness
ii. The mountain & the raindrop
iii. Reassembly
iv. Efficiency vs value

i. Thingyness
“The universe is populated by stable things. A stable thing is a collection of atoms that is permanent enough or common enough to deserve a name.”
Those are the words of Richard Dawkins. He was referring to the physical world, but it's a good place to start. Because whether physical or otherwise, humans need to apply 'thingyness' to handle all the information around them.
Whether it's a man-made name or a cluster of atoms, the same thing is true: We can only tame the world with a sense of thingyness to solidify the endless data. This is put a little more eloquently on the inside cover of Michael Frayn's The Human Touch:
"[Mankind] has had to fashion from its transitory contacts a comprehensible world in which action was possible."

ii. The mountain & the raindrop

In discussing what makes a 'thing', Dawkins refers to The Matterhorn and a raindrop as examples of permanence and commonality, respectively. The Matterhorn is as permanent as anything you're likely to encounter. And raindrops, while short in lifespan, fall reliably enough to require a consistent label.

The mountain and the raindrop represent the two extremities of thingyness, from the "ok, we're stuck with it" to the "it's gone - oh here comes another."

When we move from the physical world to the digital world, the basic principals of thingyness remain: Lots of information, organised into human-facing 'things'. The key difference with thingyness digitally, is the concept of permanence. The internet - anything pixel-based, really - is generally more raindrop than it is mountain. (Bit of poetic license here - Amazon and Google are mountains in lots of ways)
The transient nature of digital thingyness is set up nicely by these words by Frayn:
“[…] the world is shaped by the traffic that passes between us and it in that one single shifting instant. From that tiny blur of contact we have constructed the universe and ourselves.”
And millions of people spend most of their days trading in fleeting digital raindrops - each one helping to shape that moment. From the vastness of the internet we filter tiny droplets of information we like and spray them out again in new clusters.

The result of this culture is that the type of information we seek out changes. We snack. We peck away at tiny pieces of larger thoughts and longer articles rarely get a look in, as Matt Webb discusses during his piece on Peak Attention. Is putting these pieces back together part of the answer? Does everything need to be chopped into chapters?

It seems appropriate that I should now say: To be continued... tomorrow probably.

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Friday, February 01, 2008

age of conversation

I just signed up to be part of The Age Of Conversation.

No idea what I want to say yet, but I think it's better that way. Somehow I think it will be more poignant if it feels more immediate. Let's see how things pan out.

If you've got something to say, sign up here and get involved.

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I'm slightly embarrassed by my last post, so I'm pushing it off the top of my blog asap. With this quick plug for Speechification.

If you haven't heard of it - or heard it - you should. I've started downloading the podcasts to my iPod to help endure public transport. They make me feel grown up and interesting; things I can only claim to be sporadically. Check out Will Self's Psychogeography and Zine Scene in particular.

See, it's not all toilet humour here.

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