Key 23
Tuesday October 09th 2007, 12:12 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Key 23, originally uploaded by blackbeltjones.

That happened
Friday October 05th 2007, 11:26 am
Filed under: Conferences and events, interaction design, service design

DSC_0191, originally uploaded by Chris O’Shea.

Went to the second (my first) This Happened event on Tuesday 2nd October at Rich Mix, in East London.

They filled a much bigger venue than the first one (a room above the Griffin pub) with both London’s interaction/product design crossover-crowd, and some visiting luminaries as a result of the FOWA halo-effect.

Great talks included Karsten ‘Toxi‘ Schmidt on the epic data-guzzling interactive table that Moving Brands built for London College of Fashion, and Crispin Jones on crackling form taking us through the evolution of his ‘Tengu’ toy.

What I walked away from the event from though was the possible connection between the last three talks.

Not sure if this was deliberate on the part of the curators, but Dee Halligan’s talk on developing The Science of Spying exhibition (something I’ve had an insider view of through Foe’s work on that, and probably the best overview of it online is by Regine) connected with Rory Hamilton’s presentation of the service design interventions Live|Work staged in The Baltic gallery, and Massimo Banzi’s guided tour of the Arduino sketching-in-hardware revolution dovetailed nicely to me.

Rory Hamilton @ This Happened
That is - centred around Rory’s lovely tales of getting the staff of the Baltic to re-engineer their environment (the ’service safari’ he took them on was wonderful - especially the way he hacked a special cover full of guidance and prompts for disposable cameras to take with them) and the service they provide through rapid prototyping (I really loved his phrase: “Creating service-envy”), and thinking about Science Of’s need to create many interactive installations in one environment - wouldn’t there be a great application there of ’sketching in hardware’ in rapidly developing fun and playful things for public spaces, that visitors could perhaps even participate in, for Arduino?

This happened / Should happen
Friday October 05th 2007, 11:20 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

DSC_0162, originally uploaded by Chris O’Shea.

My Cass Arts hack as a response to the risible “art is my hustle” stuff:

Let's fill this town with scientists

More and more I’m getting the feeling it’s time to pick a side.

The Big Draw
Friday September 28th 2007, 7:57 pm
Filed under: Art

The Big Draw, originally uploaded by blackbeltjones.

Iain wrote about ‘Courses I’d love to do’, and one of them was:

“Doodling for success - regardless of how good your drawing skills everyone can doodle, learn how to harness your inner doodler to illustrate any idea that might be lurking in your brain so that people immediately get your point.”

Wandering home from Spitalfields this evening I found this banner… looks like just the sort of thing he’s looking for… It’s part of the wonderfully-named “Campaign for Drawing” which runs for the month of October.

Looking forward to joining in if I can…

An idle thought for making work for idle hands

After reading Jane’s post about using time people spend fiddling with Facebook for solving problems with other (gaming) networks, I wondered whether there were other things you could do with all those idle hands.

What about Folding@home or Mechanical Turk tasks, as shown rather sketchily above.

Back in May, referring to Sony’s announcment that the folding@home client would be installed on the PS3, Alice wrote about “Games that do good”

“Are there games or game mechanics that could be used to fund-raise or awareness-raise?”

My quick mock up is not all that enticing or interesting, though touches like sparklines, league-tables and scoring could rapidly turn such things into more of a playful and engaging activity, turning all those idle hands to good causes.

Know of anything like this going on?

Tuesday September 04th 2007, 10:32 pm
Filed under: Dopplr


Dopplr Blog: Dopplr Receives Funding from Premier International Team: Varsavsky, Ito, Hoffman and Klein invest in online social-travel service

Thursday August 30th 2007, 7:02 pm
Filed under: Play and games

I asked one of my favourite questions on Facebook: Toys or Stories?

I got some lovely answers, which I’ve rendered anonymous to share/store here.

So far, toys are ahead, by a narrow squeak at 14 ludological fundamentalists, to story-fans’ 12. Three respondents opting for the indivisible wave-particle duality of the Toy/Story.

“Toys beget stories. It’s only the other way around when capitalism comes out to play.”

“Toys that are not attached to a story (i.e. unbranded generic toys). Not Transformer toys (or Toy Story toys, for that matter)”

“The two can never be torn apart.”

“Toys. Will Wright’s TED demonstration of Spore as a ‘montessori toy to help kids think long-term’ blew… my… mind. ‘Tis the next gen’s literacy, and potency. But I do like to submit to a good story at times. Kind of geronto-therapy, these days.”

“stories. through stories comes the invention of toys”

“Toys so long as it is old Lego not new - my own stories are better.”

“Toys! Stories come with them for free!”

“Stories! Let your imagination run wild…”

“Stories. Stories stay with you, toys end up in landfill.”

“Stories, a toy is just a story in Vinyl form :)”

“Toys…cause you can make up your own stories with them ;)”

“it all depends on which kind of toys…”

“If it were J, toys and if it were N, stories. Depending on the time of day.”


“Toys. Most stories are just made up anyway.”

“Why has no-one said both, surely not an either/or question - not for my two boys anyway…”

“Toys. Because you can use them to create your own stories.”

“Narrative first always. Expanding narrative through imaginative play second.”

“Stories! The merchandising deals come after the original IP!”


“toys then as i like plastic things”

“You can have stories without toys but not toys without stories. Maybe that’s where Pixar started from, there are always stories that go with the toys. Epic, life-defining stories. Now I feel the need to go get more toys.”

“Stories; as they force you to use your imagination more, and that’s richer than any manufactured experience. However, a crappy DVD could be a story and a stick and ball could be a toy, and the stick would involve you using your imagination more.”

“Life is stories. Toys are the friendly characters and landmarks. (My two-year-old says Jemima Puddleduck is scary… but he then admits he’s joking. Jokes — the shortest stories around.)”

“stories are always best - and most in demand - as they require interaction and contact. that said toys enable self produced narrative in the years before writing. mind you toys are cool and provide problem solving & physical fun (blocks/puzzles/autobots)”

“Stories, because they don’t precipitate the opening of out of town warehouses branded ‘Stories R Us’”

“Oral stories because even the worst ones can be mass-produced without causing waste. :)”

“Stories. They feed the imagination and can help you turn anything into a toy.”

“Object is story. Toy is object. Toy is story.”

“story-telling toys (like the Young Lady’s Illustrated Primer, not Teddy Ruxpin)”

“toys: the reassuring teleology of narrative appeals only to the weak of spirit (in a nice way)”

Imaginary buttons for real web-services
Tuesday August 28th 2007, 4:05 pm
Filed under: Interface, web 2.0, Web/Tech

I’ve been using for a long time, and I’m a fan.

However, there’s one thing I find annoying, which is sometimes it seems to ‘fixate’ on a particular track by a particular artist and heavily-rotate it until it drives me crazy.

While I probably like the artist, and originally liked the track before I got sick of it - I have one option - to ban it.

Instead, I’d like to propose a ‘Snooze’ button for radio streams, that allows me to ‘rest’ the track or artist for an appropriate amount of time. (Illustration below with sincere apologies to the excellent design team)

Perhaps the amount of time the track ‘rests’ for based on my usage stats - but that could be presumptuous and annoying.

Better then to use a pattern that’s pretty well understood - a quick pop-up showing a few different ’snooze’ options exactly like you get in PIM and calendaring software.

It wouldn’t negatively impact my rating of that artist necessarily, just give me a chance to come to the track with fresh appreciative ears a little (or a lot) later.

While I’m on the subject… And I’ve got photoshop open… Perhaps there’s room for an extra feature in too…

Nintendo DS adverts on the tube.
Tuesday August 28th 2007, 9:14 am
Filed under: Play and games

Sometimes you have to grudgingly admire the nous of advertisers/marketers.

Reaching out to non-gamers by making a piece of gaming hardware seem appealling by

  1. avoiding all the games industry marketing cliches
  2. making it look (superficially) like a generic advert for pharmaceuticals / insurance / beauty products.
  3. advertising a boredom-destroying device on the tube where people are bored, by giving them something quite dense to read about said boredom-destroying device.

I have yet to see a rash of Nicole Kidman-a-likes on the Central Line however…

Fortress of Amplitude
Saturday August 25th 2007, 4:05 pm
Filed under: Architectural and urban design

This is a scheme called “Urban Freeflow” by Ben Stuart, of Nottingham University that’s featured in Blueprint magazine this month.

I can’t find it online anywhere, so apologies for the poor image.

It’s a training facility for traceurs - practitioners of Parkour, or free-running.

Beautifully-rendered - a Hugh Ferris production study for a Luc Besson straight-to-video movie.

I find it fascinating - an architecture specifically for superhumans.

Imagine designing a system, a city - of engineered environments and inhabitants.

Dare Protoplay vs Edinburgh Interactive Festival 2007
Wednesday August 15th 2007, 10:51 pm
Filed under: Play and games, Games and play, games industry

Just came back from the Edinburgh Interactive Festival - a curates egg, I think it’s fair to say.

Revealing, fascinating sessions such as an interview with stage actors about how they approached motion-capture work for Heavenly Sword on the PS3, bumped up against unrevealing corporate slideware and old boy’s club self-indulgence.

Apart, of course, from my boss at the BBC’s spiel (ahem), other stand-outs included Ren Reynold’s virtual societies panel (which wasn’t just about Second Life! Hurrah!) and Hilmar Petursson of Eve Online’s funny and thought-provoking talk on emergence in online societies and breaking the Dunbar number.

He also revealed he was on a secret mission from the Icelandic government to find the Scottish rats that had gnawed through a cable depriving Iceland of internet in the past…

But, it was often more frustrating than entertaining.

A few of us gathered over beers at the end of the first day and came to the conclusion that, now that in various forms there has been an interactive entertainment festival in Edinburgh for five years; it’s time for there to be a ‘fringe’ - where risks can be taken, old boys clubs can be left behind, and up-and-coming creators can have a platform.


It so happens that it already exists… Sort of.

Just before I had to go to the airport I skipped out of the last session and kidnapped a couple of colleagues to visit the Dare Protoplay event, where young teams of games creators were showing playable demos of their efforts - I guess a bit like the indie games jam.

Dare to be Digital ProtoPlay event, Edinburgh

There were some little crackers there too - ones that stand out for me right now would be the delightful heaven2ocean, a collaborative climbing game who’s name I forget but which I really do hope makes it onto Xbox360LiveArcade, a steampunk pilotwings-a-like using hacked Wiimotes, and a novel stealth game that used sound - amongst many others.

Dare to be Digital ProtoPlay event, Edinburgh

Enthusiasm, fun and actual punters (mainly kids visiting the Dynamic Earth centre) abounded… with a tinge perhaps of disappointment that they hadn’t seen that many industry delegates from the EIF come down there.

They missed out.

They really missed out.

The likes of the Dare Protoplayers should get the assistance for next to mount a real creative fringe to the EIF, where they can talk of SKUs and IP till the cows come home - while the new skool just gets on with delivering the fun that should be the lifeblood of the industry.

Monday August 13th 2007, 1:25 am
Filed under: Uncategorized, Nonsense, play

Icon in computer break out shock, originally uploaded by pixellent.

Denise turned around and there he was, fresh as the day he was hatched in Twitchr, down in Brighton all those years ago. This is just fantastic.

Soon, we will be invincible…
Friday August 10th 2007, 1:38 pm
Filed under: Sufficiently-Advanced Technology, Sufficiently-advanced literature

“I remember those nights, planning technologies that didn’t exist yet, outsider science, futurist dreaming, half-magical. The things I could do outside the unversity setting, now that I didn’t have to wait for the pompous fools at the college! I was building another science, my science, wild science, robots and lasers and disembodied brains. A science that buzzed and glowed; it wanted to do things. It could get up and walk, fly, fight, sprout garish glowing creations in the remotest parts of the world, domes and towers and architectural fever dreams. And it was angry. It was mad science.”

The words of Doctor Impossible, from Austin Grossman’s excellent “Soon, I will be invincible”

Warren Ellis, on his creation of another mad scientist: Doktor Sleepless:

“I was ready to do another big piece of political sf, and I knew what I wanted to talk about. I wanted to talk about the subsumation of authenticity into fiction. I wanted to talk about liars, on a grand scale. I wanted to talk about the end of the world, in the major and the minor. And I wanted to talk about where I think we are today, and where we could end up in ten or fifteen years. The motor of innovation and novelty is really kind of cranked up right now, but, in contrast, the general culture is still in a sort of post-millennial shock, just laying there and drooling over its nipples.”

The just-announced Call-For-Papers for Etech 2008:

At the 2008 version of ETech, the O’Reilly Emerging Technology Conference, we’ll take a wide-eyed look at the tech that’s just arriving and cast a cynical one at some that have been emerging for too long. From robotics, health care, and space travel to gaming, finance, and art, we’ll explore promising technologies that are just that–still promises–and renew our sense of wonder at the way technology is influencing and altering our everyday lives.

A theme (ahem) emerging?

Ellis’ Tony Stark took a pop at Etech (and I joined in, embolded by the lead taken by a fictional alcoholic billionaire superhero) and the somewhat introverted web-centricity of it in his run on Iron Man a few years back.

Perhaps with Shellhead poised for mainstream glory, it’s time for science heroes again?

Perhaps, at last, some genuine outbreaks of the future…

Interacting with InterSections 07
Sunday July 29th 2007, 9:26 pm
Filed under: Conferences and events

Nico mailed me about what sounds like an excellent gathering in October: Intersections 07

“The conference chair is Jeremy Myerson, and sessions that have caught my attention include:

– ‘The challenges of design thinking’ with Tim Brown
– ‘Mission creep - The limits of design’ with James Woudhuysen
– ‘What is the new know-how in service design?’
– ‘From job to jobs: the rise of the polymath’ with Richard Seymour
– ‘The design toolbox for life experiences’ with Clive Grinyer
– ‘The social anthropology of design’ chaired by Deyan Sudjic with Richard Seymour, Peter Saville and John Thackara”

Nico himself is chairing a thread which sounds up-the-collective-streets of a lot of people I know:

The seminar sessions in my thread are ‘Designing interactions, media or experiences?’ with Daljit Singh of Digit London, Durrell Bishop of Lucky Bite, and Andy Altmann of Why Not Associates, and we will be asking ‘What do designers from different backgrounds and who are designing interactions to different ends, consider to be their core skills?’; and ‘Can good design be ‘co-created’?’ with Future Cities Project director Austin Williams and Joe Heapy of Engine, and we will be asking ‘What has design got to learn from the open-source software movement and ‘wiki-nomics’? and ‘While everyone is a designer, isn’t it the job of professional designers to champion good design?’.

I mailed Nico back (somewhat hastily) about the event, saying that it that occured to me is that it’s quite an “old school” event in some ways, compared to the emerging ‘unconference’ status quo in the tech world - i.e. It’s going to be established, well-known, vocal clever people on stage talking to (probably, mostly less-established) clever
people in the audience.

I wondered whether there might be opportunity for a fringe of ‘pecha-kucha’/’ignite‘-style open mic stuff?

Or some space and time for people to get together and make stuff, a little like the Hardcore-Hardware-Hacking weekend recently, or the interactionaries that have happened at various CHI events, or the design games that Jess McMullin writes about here.

I wonder if it might be possible to find a friendly bar in Newcastle/Gateshead to do a design barcamp? Perhaps along the lines of the “This Happened” night that was in London a little while ago?

Although - creating a Foo/BarCamp for designers might be a thankless task!

Mike Migurski has written a thoughful piece on just this quandry.

On second thoughts perhaps it would be nice to just sit, laptops shut, minds-open and listen to clever people in the nice surroundings of the Baltic Mills.

The “early-bird” rate is ending on the 31st July, so better make it snappy…

P.S.: entry for the event is here

Electrical Beauty
Tuesday July 24th 2007, 10:03 pm
Filed under: Misc.

Electrical Beauty, originally uploaded by blackbeltjones.

Monday July 23rd 2007, 10:37 pm
Filed under: Sufficiently-Advanced Lifestyle, web 2.0, presence

Continuous-Partial-Apology, originally uploaded by blackbeltjones.

I switched off everyone outside London at the beginning of the month, in what I now know to be the mistaken belief that the value I was deriving from Twitter was geographically-bounded.

I thought what was near me was signal, as often you could act on it. Y’know: “I’m in town and wondering if anyone wants coffee”

It turns out that nearly no-one I know is in town or wants coffee. It turns out - as so often through the twelve or so years of having a digitally-mediated social life - the noise is the signal.

In fact, the cross-time-zone river of mundanity is much missed in the new gig, where it feels a little wierd to be surrounded by mainly brits after such a long time in a multinational group of designers.

As much as I was convinced otherwise - and against previous experience of lists, forums and other digital communities - it’s as much the psychographic as the geographic, for me at least, with Twitter.

I guess the difference of these presence networks is that they can have the geographic so powerfully nestled at their core. It’s both/and not either/or.

So, I will go grovelling back to those I so swiftly removed a month ago and see if they will take me back…

Here begins the continuous partial apology…

More i-men
Saturday July 21st 2007, 12:26 pm
Filed under: Nonsense, play

raver, originally uploaded by processwhite.

Gareth of newfuturegraphic has been making some more of their “i-men” using photobooth.

Simple, wonderful, scary.

Go and have a look.

Design is seedy

From the Seedcamp about pages:

“There will be a diverse mentor network of serial entrepreneurs, corporates, venture capitalists, recruiters, marketing specialists, lawyers and accountants that will help the selected teams put together the foundations of a viable business.”

How about designers?

Technology plays alone are starting to lose their distinctiveness in many of the more-crowded areas of the marketplace.

Great service and interaction design are on the rise as strategic differentiators for products as diverse as the iPhone and Facebook.

Bruce Nussbaum in BusinessWeek:

“Innovation is no longer just about new technology per se. It is about new models of organization. Design is no longer just about form anymore but is a method of thinking that can let you to see around corners. And the high tech breakthroughs that do count today are not about speed and performance but about collaboration, conversation and co-creation. That’s what Web 2.0 is all about.”

The article that’s taken from is entitled: “CEOs Must Be Designers, Not Just Hire Them”.

Not sure I agree about CEOs breaking out OmniGraffle, but what about entrepreneurs?

I wonder how many Seedcamp teams will have a interaction designer on board, as part of the core - or even a designer as the lead entrepreneur?

Are they going to bake great design in from the get-go, or put lipstick on their baby gorillas?

I think it will be the former.

If there’s one Brit caricature of the entrepreneur, it’s the inventor - the engineer/designer/impressario: Baylis, Dyson, Roope!

Nussbaum’s article, in bulk is a speech he gave at the RCA, which traditionally has grown quite a few of those designer/engineer/inventor/entrepreneurs in the world of atoms.

Prof Tom Barker’s crew springs to mind, as do some of the graduates of the Design Interactions course.

The line between hackers and interaction designers is blurring as they start small businesses that are starting to make waves in the big business press.

As I mentioned, my experience of HackDay Europe was that

“It really does seem that the hacker crowd in London/Europe at least is crossing over more and more with the interaction design crowd, and a new school of developers is coming through who are starting to become excellent interaction designers - who really know their medium and have empathy with users.”

So I have high-hopes.

I’m also glad to say that the Seedcamp team are going to have user-researchers, usability experts and interaction designers in their mentor network, including me for some reason…

Looking forward to it.

Interesting reads
Tuesday July 10th 2007, 5:57 pm
Filed under: Conferences and events, Books

Russell busted me for not posting the books I promised many from the talk I gave at the Interesting2007 ‘happening’ he organised.

Jack, the lazy pulsar, even beat me to it.

I had in fact written it down, but only mailed it to Rebecca/Beeker, so here it is:

I probably didn’t mention all of them explicitly in the talk, but they’re definitely all forming the conceptual henge around it…

“We are boring”
Monday July 09th 2007, 10:17 am
Filed under: Play and games, play, games industry

Says John Riccitiello, the new CEO of Electronics Arts

“We’re boring people to death and making games that are harder and harder to play,”

The report by Om Malik goes onto say:

“EA and the video game industry at large has a massive problem: one that of attention. Video games are no longer the only game in town when it comes to digital entertainment. Riccitiello himself says the games are “at risk of being a little less interesting than Facebook and iPods and the next cool cellphone.”

I guess EA need to stop stripmining just one of the rhetorics (play as power), before the others are colonised…