I’m just going to do a quick run-through of the Lovebytes/We Love Technology presentations (12/02/10) and what I thought.
The Boardwellian Man — James delivered the first “human” presentation of the day, at the perfect time. I was beginning to lose heart that people only cared about technology, rather than people using technology. James’ talk was a cogent wander around the de-socialising nature of social technologies/media.
You can read it all over here, but I took particular value from the discussion around algorithms removing social barriers, behaviour and manners. We no longer have to do the social dance to develop relationships, or negotiate intricate rules to maintain them. We no longer have to make an effort to stay in touch, because we’re told when we haven’t (even if we have seen them in ‘real’ life). We are now automatically paired with a friendset because we have X people in common, or have e-mailed that person at one time or another. James advocates building in a level of ‘friction’ to social web applications, forcing people into negotiating social rules, develop manners and achieve rewards for it.
Of course, the presentation was a winner because it included an obligatory playful graph.
Mr. (Crispin) Jones — Crispin used to work at IDEO, so you probably know where he’s coming from. He designs products for behaviour. Or rather, products to effect behaviour (improve anti-social, or just deliver on the promise of depressive behaviours). Mr. Jones ran through a quick showreel of products he has developed, ranging from ZXZX (a robot that gets highest possible scores on Track & Field), Invisible Force (a magic 8-ball table that heats a metal plate on your hand as you wait for the answer), Social Mobiles (electric shocks based on unsociable voice volume) through to a set of watches (with uplifting/depressing messages depending on time of day).
Following on from Boardwell’s friction/reward for successful social interaction, Crispin Jones demonstrated that the basic platform for human understanding and behavioural management is pain. It both dictates (Social Mobiles) and validates (Invisible Force) behaviour. The reward of pushing through the pain is an answer, whereas the reward for speaking at an acceptable level is to avoid minor electric shocks. Carrot & stick, dictation & validation. Good stuff.
Alexandra Deschamps-Sonsino — Alex of Tinker.it is excellent at these kinds of talks, balances it very well between a brief run-through of the maker/hacker scene, Open Source hardware/electronics and what you can actually do with it. On this occasion, it was that public money is drying up, no one is going to fund you to do this stuff, so “make something you can take to the ad men.”
Advertisers, as the modern story goes, get it. They are keen to use cool new technologies to show-off products they’re hawking. It’s not true, but there are some. Advertisers are also results-driven, so will force you to hit deadlines, finish projects and actually find a way around problems you might not have to. Alex presented around the #pumpt viral campaign for Sony Ericsson that used Arduinos hooked up to twitter to inflate space hoppers. Of course.
Matt Pyke — I’m very familiar with the Universal Everything showreel and the work that Matt Pyke does. It is, however, very enjoyable to be talked through the bits in between idea and product. Not the process per se, but the creative inspirations and problem solving that go into showing Audi’s new TT without showing Audi’s new TT, or creating hair plug-ins for MTV idents.
Willian Ngan — William works on UX design for Microsoft, but also experiments with generative art. Ngan had nothing in common with the other gen artists on display though, in that he genuinely wanted the end product to be artful, spiritual and beautiful, rather than the result of a process. Ngan walked around the various different approaches he has taken to create process-derived ‘watercolour’ paintings. He was not bound by a superformula or desire to see what the process would create, it was very much about the delivery of art. A fascinating talk and seemed to shame some of the other speakers.
Owl Project — Owl Project are a well-executed confidence trick. They stand as being very innovative because they take things most nerds would put in plastic or metal, and put them in wood. It’s incredibly edgy, quirky and deeply authentic. Their unique instruments are basic synths/ring mods put into wood. They proceeded to demo their innovative approach to workshop electronics by premiering ‘sticks’. Sticks, as you guess, is two pieces of wood. The amazing thing is that by hitting them together rhythmically you can perform simple computer tasks, like send a blank e-mail to someone you didn’t mean to.
It was presented as a “slowing down” tool, encouraging a sort of rediscovered, elementally-enabled clarity and focus on your work. Seemed like a totally bullshit backwards project, that didn’t even really work. If you want a rhythmical communicative tool, Morse code is already simpler and widely adopted. If you want to do “post-digital” then it has to be something that adds value to the original method or medium, not just remove the function and make things harder to use. Toss.
Tobie Kerridge — Tobie was very interesting, discussing the hypothetical scenarios of speculative biotechnology. Some people found it a bit Skynet, others inspired that they could (hypothetically) plug their heart into a sound mixer. Biological, not human enough for me.
Tuomo Tammenpää — talked about OHANDA, the Open Hardware and Design Alliance. It was just a business card talk, really, promoting OHANDA. It had no value to me. Bit of a tech-heavy start to the day.
David Dessens — I pretty much zoned out here. My notes say “generative art, repetition of the phrase superformula over and over. Possibly autistic.” So I’ll leave it there.
That’s it really. I don’t really love technology, but I love what people can do with it, how we interact and adapt to the changing rules. Without people technology is nothing.
“Designing the Rules.” — Matt Pyke
“Half-life of relationships.” — James Boardwell
I think it’s important to leave them out of context, and you can come to your own conclusions around them.