Laptops & Looms 2014, notes.

Here are the things I wrote down at Laptops & Looms 2 — direct quotes and indirect notes. Sadly, I missed the third day with no-doubt excellent thoughts and demos of things from Lou, Adrian, Tom A, other good brains:

Lars & Theo (Skrekkøgle):
– communicating finish
– international quality control
– changing scale from prototype to product: α to ß
– falling between hobby level and big industrial quantities

Mosse Sjaastad:
“learning through the skin”
– change perception of 5 minutes; old and new understandings

Lars:
“a cuckoo clock for short-term memory.”

Nick Hand:
“when setting type, you think about it more”
– process of thinking – engaging with negative space
– PROCESS IS THINKING
“A mobile career” – identifying skills through appearances

John Willshire:
“Design for one problem”
– Pictures are a common language
“Make with what is at hand” » design for necessity
– the making is the narrative is the product
– you can’t patent a story

Louise Downe:
“the internet is regional”

Alice Bartlett:
“it doesn’t mean anything if a computer can smell things.”

Henry Cooke:
– an interest in things that are replacing analog things
– ephemerality of timelines – breaking the loops of things; disappears into the ether
– JUDGES NOTABILITY and creates a memento
– LUMPY EVENTS
– Tying you to a time in a way that just scrolling doesn’t
– Vague enough to allow people to fill in the gaps

Brett MacFarlane:
– Fix the basics
– Lateralism / Diversity / Monoculture

George Oates:
– Cultural heritage design and service
– making archives more accessible » think about the archives first
“How many things do you have?”
– EXPLICIT NOTES TO THE FUTURE
– metadata for the physical objects
– mindful of how you describe digital materials
– ADDITIONAL CONTEXTS and multiple voices

George also spoke about an exciting project that at the moment is her “tiny, tiny fantasy” and can’t be mentioned. 

The two days felt like we have started to pass through the retrospective fetishism of object/print for object/print sake. People are now creating/making webthings as a point of purpose because those things fulfil a need, rather than a want or empty shelf where the George Foreman grill once was. It may be that we are leaving the gimmicky web behind and maturing.  

There were other things said — that I didn’t write those down is no indication of how much I valued them — around flow, focus, purpose, service, respect, problems/solving, the network and conducting. Smarter people will elaborate on those, I hope.

Of course, the main part of the thing took place amongst the trams, cable cars, Swedish knives, the fish, the chips, the ice creams. Many ice creams. Thanks to all that came, and particularly Matt and Russell for wanting to make people leave London for some traditional shambles in the East Midlands. 

Ugle: The Networked Owl.

Einar and Jørn from Voy have finally made a video to explain and demonstrate Ugle: the networked owl.

In their own words:

Ugle is a wooden owl that can be controlled over the internet with an iPhone application. It lets you send colour-messages from your phone to your home. When you change the position of the colors on the owl on the screen, the physical owl turns its head to the chosen color. It is a decorative personal message system where the household has to decide what the colours mean.

— Hoot hoot! A new Ugle film, Voy

I bring up Ugle quite a lot, in talks, in conversation, in day-to-day life. It’s the perfect example of the kind of products that people should be designing for the home — networked but not screaming network, undemanding, ambiently conveying meaning. The meaning is constructed between the people that use it, rather than being dictated by the object.

It is designed for natural tendencies, casual observation, rather than trying to create a new behaviour.

Too many products that come out of the Internet of Things end up putting utility above beauty, whereas it can be both. Ugle demonstrates that it’s possible to have a domestic, networked object that is functional and pleasing to look at (see also the Good Night Lamp by Alex D-S).

Ugle is calm, ambient, networked and beautiful, and that’s what our homes need.

Watch:

 

Lovely.

Finished. It’s finished. Nearly finished. It must be nearly finished.

Last week, Marie and I posted the last entry to Playlist Club, a 51-track compilation featuring an appearance from all the contributors of the last year. It was the end of a year-long project, and it wasn’t an easy thing to do. As I said over on PC:

Hopefully, you’ve found one or two new songs or artists that you hadn’t heard before, or rediscovered some forgotten gems, and that we’ve done our bit.

Our time is up now, kids. These 12 months — and the shedload of songs, stories and elevenses they have brought — have been a lot of fun, but it’s time to move on. A year seemed about right, and there are lots of excellent new ways of discovering music that have popped up since we started (a favourite of which is This Is My Jam, say hello & hai! ), and perhaps our purpose is served.

The other side of that, is that it got a bit tiring. I have endless respect and admiration for the people behind the 365, curating a person to contribute every day, needs full-time editors. Marie and I jumped in head-first without really thinking it through. I’m glad that we did it, after calling her on a flippant comment, but harrying people every week — with occasional anxiety about missing our set publication time — came to be a bit of a drag. When people are dead into it, they are dead into it; when they’re a bit lackadaisical, it’s a bit frustrating. Of all the weeks, we only missed one day (cheers, Brandon) and had a couple of late shows. Not bad, I think.

Anyway, so the ending of it. We’d got tired early December, but decided we would stick with it until there was a natural moment to break it up. A whole year, 52-weeks, seemed as arbitrary as it did good, so we decided that mid-February would see the end of Playlist Club.

It seemed so final. We’ve got a real URL, a proper logo (thanks Kipi), shiny badges (shout if you want one) and a massive stack of people who still wanted to contribute (sorry, pals). We’ve put in many hours to this thing, often with minimal reward, but it was a fun thing.

Importantly, it was a thing, but its life had run and we put it to bed. I thought that maybe we could just tweak it, make it a monthly thing and lighten the burden on us, but it would just slowly diminish and lose any lustre that it had. This way, it may be a bit disappointing to a few people now — but we’re not disappointing everyone for a long time.

It was good to do. I’ve been thinking about endings, off and on, for a while now. There seems to be a disjunct between ending Real things and Digital things, even if they’re not that different. In the ‘real world’, it is easy to put things to an end. Artists end their own stylistic periods, musicians kill off personae/bands (“Mount Eerie is a new project. The Microphones was completed, or at least at a good stopping point. I did it because I am ready for new things. I am new.“), narratives are drawn to a close (Gold Blend couple) and we all sup the last of the tea.

I’ve noticed an odd trend of the concept of time in Digital. In ‘the past’, time has been planned, forward. Things plotted against and things made to arrive on a certain date, for a certain reason. An ad campaign would have its lifespan for as long as it could afford screenspace, newspaper ads, or billboards, or backs of buses. The product was locked into time and – because of that – had to end. Digital has given the illusion that time is some how more real now. Things are always on and always available, Day V Lately from the Yellow Pages campaign could be, right now, looking for his record in Vinyl Tap — so he will tell you about it, right now.

But what happens when he definitely is not?

He gets busy, doesn’t have time for us any more. Takes a break. Or goes on holiday:

It might be a bit facile to pick two fictional characters from ad campaigns, but they’re indicative of the difficulty in letting go. There’s the illusion that they could always come back, but there’s a slight hint of desperation — if what we’ve got lined up doesn’t work out, we’ll be back.

There’s no desire to sever the ties, but I think that’s important for getting on with new things.

Bangkok & The Inevitable City (redirection point)

Last month, I went to Bangkok with Toby.

It was my first full week at Mudlark, and a pretty strange experience — Bangkok is a full-on city where the volume for all the senses seems to be stuck on eleven.

Bangkok

Emo etc.

We spent the time walking around, setting up remote offices in the TCDC or hotel bar, looking at everything, and even squeezed in a screening of Sucker Punch. (I need to see it again because it was either brilliant or the worst film of the year.  I’m siding with brilliant for the moment.)

Here is an impressionistic post I wrote for the Mudlark blog detailing our minds being stretched a bit. In comic book style, words: me; pictures: Toby.

Enjoy.

Analogue glances.

There’s a decent amount of talk going on about “glance-able information” in the form of dashboards and second-screens. The central idea is to use digital to be ambiently aware of information, or add commentary to your experience. They augment what you are currently doing. Not in an AR kind of way, just casually. backchannel