Jumping 23 miles and landing on your feet.

Today, we watched a man jump from the edge of space, 23 miles above the surface of the planet. He landed on his feet.

We watched it live on a social network video sharing site, via wifi and 3G, whilst sharing our collective anxieties with everyone in the world on our handheld super computers. Live.

Don’t ever let anyone tell you that the future isn’t what it was supposed to be.

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‘Limited Edition’ publishing in a digital age.

Walk The Plank 7" first press, "limited blah blah"

Today is Record Store Day 2012. A day designed to “celebrate the art of music” by encouraging people to visit, engage with, and purchase physical products from physical record shops.

It’s a noble aim, to support something that has brought a lot of light to people’s lives — the people at Probe Records in Liverpool, Piccadilly Records in Manchester have been particularly helpful in nudging me down avenues that the racks of HMV, Virgin MegaStore or the algorithms of Amazon’s recommendation engines never could.

The first thing that is particularly interesting about RSD is that it mimics the music industry’s recent shift from sales to events. Touring acts are now the primary focus for income from the major labels, and RSD is an event to encourage merchandise sales. There are plenty of in-store performances in record shops to entice the curious. Although, if you’re a regular at Rough Trade East in London, you might be put-off by today’s special performance: Keane.

The second thing that is interesting is the means in which RSD offers added value: limited edition records. Small number pressings of seven/twelve inches by bands such as Arctic Monkeys, The Hives, Talibam!, Belle & Sebastian and, er, Abba.

What these two things are doing is drawing a massive line in the sand, demonstrating what record stores can do that the online merchants of Amazon, eBay, Discogs etc can’t do: physicality and ‘value’. The online value is usually down to price; offline value is about being able to be part of something, hold something beautiful, and — crucially — be one of the few people to have that experience or product. As Andy Votel notes, “tangible & sociable (not invisible)“.

The internet does scale well, the ‘real’ world does intimacy well. The question is: can the web successfully do limited edition publishing, with intimate value?

It is dangerous to mimic the models of one form in another, and I don’t want to see a replica, but the frictionlessness of online is perverting the value in supply and demand. If everything is always available, can it have value?

It’s a question I’ve looked at briefly in some work. MemCode — a small publishing project — follows an issue model of publishing, looking at quarterly editions of memories and form experiments (issue 2, blue). An initial idea was to have a payment system, for intangible moments/memories, with a built in half-life of the link. That’s a form of the solution, but it doesn’t enable a person to retain the ‘product’ permanently, and leaving a trail of dead links across the web is littering.

Another form of this is a project I have worked on with Philter Phactory’s Weavrs MMM — a storytelling platform for bots, where a majority of the narrative is hard-written and a percentage is generated based on searches and API calls. It’s a version of ltd edt as each version is likely very different, but it’s not quite the same.

At the moment, it is very binary: paywall or completely open. Yesterday, I noticed this tweet from Caitlin Moran (by way of Mary Hamilton) about a temporary paywall amnesty:

I think this is the start of something along the lines of what I describe above. The offering is the value of not having to pay, but also the satisfaction of being one of the people who got it when it was available.

A limited edition offering, a ‘first pressing’.

Back Red Pop.

I’m not a massive Kickstarter user, I don’t trawl it looking for interesting things to put money into; the only thing I’ve backed before was for one of my favourite bands to record with my favourite producer.

Sometimes, though, an idea is just so stupidly good it needs to be made. This is where Brendan Dawes (of magneticNorth) and his newly-founded physical objects imprint, Beep Industries come in. Despite being a web/interaction design agency, mN have made a couple of nice physical things over the years — the Mixa USB c90 and MoviePeg — so to move those things over into a new company is logical.

The thing that makes it perfect is their latest product prototype, Red Pop. Red Pop is a physical camera trigger for the iPhone. More than anything, it’s a BIG RED BUTTON for the iPhone. It is this kind of stripped down and fun thinking that Brendan brings to everything (even if he does indulge in being grumpy from time to time).

Watch:

http://vimeo.com/23965562

Now go and back it. With 40% pledged in just over a day, I am looking forward to this being available in all the best places.

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

The Television Set.

I wanted to write a little bit about the television set.

Over the years, the basic design of televisions has changed quite dramatically, whilst staying the same: a screen in a box. There are knobs to turn, or buttons to push, maybe a remote control, and the screen has got less bulbous over the years. Largely, it is a screen in a box.

don’t touch that dial