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July 30, 2007

Making Things Visible

Touch creates a taxonomy of dashed lines in illustration from the last fifty years (with samples): to show hidden geometry, movement, path, and ephemera.

[via xBlog: The visual thinking weblog | XPLANE]

Found Objects: Square America


Square America is a found photography site compiled by one person. One weird (in a good sort of way) person. This is one of those sites that you can lose an hour or two in, without having accomplished anything particularly productive. And I mean that in a good sort of way. (Above is from SA's "Pleasures and Terrors of Youth" collection.)

Square America is a site dedicated to preserving and displaying vintage snapshots from the first 3/4s of the 20th Century. Not only do these photographs contain a wealth of primary source information on how life was lived they also constitute a shadow history of photography, one too often ignored by museums and art galleries. Or at least that's what I tell people- more accurately, the site is a catalog of my obsession with vintage photographs. For the last eight years or so I've spent countless hours digging through boxes of old snapshots at flea markets (mostly here in Chicago and in NYC) and too much money buying photos on eBay. The site is my attempt to create some kind of organizational framework, however idiosyncratic, for the sprawling mess my collecting has created. More importantly, now that the site is up I can tell people that I'm a curator rather than a collector.

Other collections include "The Book of Sleep," "Defaced," "The Road," and many more.

[via things magazine]

July 27, 2007

Graph Design Test

Perceptual Edge has a quick test of basic graph design principles. It's only ten questions and fairly straightforward and extremely basic (depending on things like making baselines zero, not overusing color, etc.) but would probably be a useful discussion starting point for classes. Especially if your students are the sort who think adding a third dimension to a simple XY graph is better because it looks cooler.

[via xBlog: The visual thinking weblog | XPLANE]

July 25, 2007

The Twelve Kinds of Ads

At Slate, Seth Stevenson overviews Donald Gunn's (1978) on the twelve common kinds of ads: Demo, Show the Need/Problem, Comparison, Unique Personality Property, and more. Stevenson's piece is available as either slideshow (w/embedded YouTube exampels) or a full video feature.

In 1978, Donald Gunn was a creative director for the advertising agency Leo Burnett. Though his position implied expertise, Gunn felt he was often just throwing darts—relying on inspiration and luck (instead of proven formulas) to make great ads. So, he decided to inject some analytical rigor into the process: He took a yearlong sabbatical, studied the best TV ads he could find, and looked for elemental patterns.

[via Fimoculous.com]

July 21, 2007

Repent, Accurate Typists and Spellers

A simple webform that automates misspelling. You paste or type in a few paragraphs, the form spits out slightly mangled text.

Sample output: "A simple form that automates misspelling shourt tiexts."

[via Maeda's SIMPLICITY]

July 20, 2007

Interactive Architecture: Performative Ecologies


Ruairi Glynn's Performative Ecologies project involves light, motion, and computation in an environment that watches and responds to motion in the environment. (Several video demonstrations are available at Glynn's site.)

Rather than pre-choreograph the actions of an interactive architecture, Performative Ecologies explores the role of the architect as a designer and builder of frameworks, rather than predefined events, in which responsive adaptive environments are able to not just react, but also propose. Often, through trial and error, these environments can suggest new gestural and spatial interactions and evolve their own expressive qualities while negotiating these actions with human inhabitants and other architectural systems.

Spaces and installations like this suggest what composition—writing—might become in the age of databases. Writers tending more toward design of interaction than creation of static, monolithic objects, creating a space for dynamic movement. We've had, of course, hypertext for several decades, which is a start. Dynamic features like those available in early incarnations such as HyperCard and Storyspace and later things like Flash (or any of the programmable text environments like Tinderbox, Processing, etc.) have been woefully underutilized by most writers. What will it mean when text ceases being simply an external object—at best, a pushbutton gizmo—and becomes distributed within spaces around us, responding to us?

At what point does a text cease to be like a text? When it's interactive? When it's spatial? When it's database-driven or pseudo-random? And why?

[via Interactive Architecture dot Org]


I drove down past the swamp to the end of our driveway this morning, and three kids were standing on the shoulder across from the end of the drive, looking at me as light rain fell on them. A girl, about twelve, and two smaller boys, maybe seven or eight. They were dressed in long, dark coats, and the girl wore a civil war-style cap. She held a sturdy, ten-foot stick like a staff, bark still on it. Near the top was lashed a shorter stick, to make a crude cross.

I stopped for a moment, while they looked at me. They turned and walked up the road to the right. I turned to the left and drove into town.

I have no idea what this might mean, but it creeped me out.

July 19, 2007

Mamadou Diabate Ensemble

Mamadou Diabate Ensemble  3

Grid Notebooks Based on Famous Layouts

Grid-it has a series of notepads with layout grid lines based on the grids used in publications ranging from the Gutenberg bible and The Guardian to Die Neue Typografie and A Designer's Art. (No info available on cost or where to purchase, unfortunately.)

[via xBlog: The visual thinking weblog | XPLANE]

Email in 5 Sentences or Less

Another one of those great ideas that I think everyone should use, but that I'll never succeed in using: The sentenc.es project (with variants for two, three, four, and five sentences) encourages people to keep their email messages short: 5 sentences or less (depending on which version you participate in). Mike Davidson, the designer behind this, suggests setting up a signature line for your email that explains your goal and links to the appropriate and fittingly brief website.

five.sentenc.es is a personal policy that all email responses regardless of recipient or subject will be five sentences or less. It’s that simple.

As an email reader, I usually make a decision on whether or not to spend time with a message based on several importance factors: the sender, the subject, my own level of responsibility for whatever's in the email, and other factors. Like most people, I'm willing to spend a long time reading a message if there's some reason I want to spend a long time reading it. But all of this involves a complicated rhetorical dance, and often a sender's message (or even subject line) provides enough mis-cues that I delete messages I should probably read. When I send messages, I normally try to apply a variant of the 3 sentence (or less) rule to the first paragraph: make sure it's clear to readers why they should read this, and clear to them what they're supposed to do with the information after they read.

Not that I'm actually very good at any of this, but in that perfect little world that exists in a dark corner of my brain—not the corner where me and Elvis and Janis Joplin live on a remote island in the Pacific, but another corner—I write interesting and perfectly effective email (and weblog posts, for that matter).

[via Lifehacker]

July 16, 2007

David Foster Wallace

I like David Foster Wallace's work, but mostly liked the title of the link that Fimoculous gave to the YouTube clip: David Foster Wallace speaking at an Italian conference and looking like Axl Rose (mainly, I guess, shorthand for long hair, scruffy beard, and bandana).

[via Fimoculous.com]

Rich Web Apps & Rhetoric

At Boxes and Arrows, Uday Gajendar discusses rhetorical concepts and rich web applications (Web 2.0). Which isn't a new sort of analysis for rhet/comp people. (Includes things like a series of diagrams to illustrate the parallels among the standard rhetorical stance (ethos, pathos, logos), Baxkley's model of web apps (structure, presentation, behavior) and Wroblewski's model of user experience (organization, presentation, interaction).

July 15, 2007

Photosynth Demo

Cool TED demo of Microsoft's Photosynth, which analyzes an existing collection of photos of a place, then constructs a navigable 3D space based on the multiple views. The 3D representation can then share information (such as tags) back and forth with the source photos. The image spaces scale very well, allowing users to scale back to view arrangements of thousands of pictures or in to view details of very small portions. MS has a demo version and background info here.

[via Aesthe/tech:tonik]



July 14, 2007

Bloomberg Makeover

Portfolio asked IDEO, thehappycorp, and Ziba Design to redesign Bloomberg's dated financial information terminals. Nice results. thehappycorp, for example, integrates a Wii controller. Although the controller apparently just gives users an occasional break from work to play virtual golf. The only innovative part is that your handicap is based on your trading history. (Creepier is the little icon of George Bush in the lower corner of the golf screen. Let's hope it's just a cable news feed and not some sort of running color commentator on golf play.) Seems like a missed opportunity: Why not an n-dimensional dataspace to move around in or manipulate data onscreen, at the very least?

[via Cool Hunting]

July 13, 2007

Walking the Hypertext


The Mission Stencil Story (Flickr photos here) makes space for a choose-your-own-adventure story using stencil graffiti on sidewalks (making literal the idea of a reader's "path" through a text).

The mission stencil story is an interactive, choose-your-own-adventure story that takes place on the sidewalks of the Mission district in San Francisco. It is told in a new medium of storytelling that uses spraypainted stencils connected to each other by arrows. The streetscape is used as sort of an illustration to accompany each piece of text.

Its a love story with 2 characters who start in different locations. His story starts at 16th and Valencia, in front of the Crown Hotel / Limon Restaurant with the text "He Leaves his Lonely Apartment." Her story starts at 21st and Guerrero in front of a stunning mansion with the text, "She Leaves her Lonely Apartment." Eventually their paths merge, at the point where they meet, and their paths travel together until drama pulls them apart.

[via metafilter.com]

July 09, 2007

?, etc.

Neatorama's The Origin of Everyday Punctuation Marks. Short but useful trivia. Here's the entry on !

Origin: Like the question mark, the exclamation point was invented by stacking letters. The mark comes from the Latin word io, meaning "exclamation of joy." Written vertically, with the i above the o, it forms the exclamation point we use today.

Includes that "Artist Previously Known As" thing, which is now deprecated, since Prince went back to being Prince. (Someone needs to name that punctuation mark—I say we call it the Princemark, just to be recursive.)

[via Fimoculous.com]

July 06, 2007

(Massive) Multitasking in WoW

Kotaku has a brief article (and some interesting pics) about a couple who both play multiple Worlds of Warcraft characters simultaneously. Which isn't that uncommon, but the couple play a total of 46 characters at the same time. Gameslah (half of the boxing team) has a post on Dual-Boxing's forum with additional info.

I went through alot of hardware along the way. At first it was X-Keys and KVMs, then I went with Cherry programmable keyboards and KVMs. I never felt the urge to go monitor crazy -- like many boxers I focused my attention on a single screen, had another monitor locked onto another character, and finally the 3rd monitor cycled through the KVM.

If you count the number of PCs, you'll get 47. My girlfriend controls 23 and I control 23. The other one is a server. All but 2 of those pcs are diskless. It got to the point that updating 46 pcs just took too long, the hard drives added to the electric bill and generated heat, so I found a good PXE solution that works great.

[via Kotaku]

Against Resting in Public Spaces


The anti-sit provides photographic examples of devices used to keep loiterers from sitting on ledges, pipes, and another structures in public spaces.

[via things magazine]

July 04, 2007

Carrying Cellphones

Jan Chipchase's Where's the Phone? reports empirical research on how people carry their cellphones around. Which is more interesting than it sounds. At least to me.

Each street research team includes an interviewer and a photographer, with multiple teams typically working concurrently to collect data from between 100 and 200 participants over a 3 day period. Mixed gender research teams were used in all cities except Tehran and Delhi where local norms dictated a gender split. The studies generate a mixture of quantitative statistical data covering age, gender and phone location that is supported by richer data including photographs of the phone, its carrying position and the phone owner. Phones were photographed both in and out of the carrying location. In later studies particular emphasis was placed on collecting photographic evidence of physical phone personalisation - straps, the use of protective covers and other adornments, plus the same for keys and money - this data being used to support related studies on personalisation.

[via things magazine]

Walter Murch on BLDGBLOG

BLDGBLOG publishes an interview with Walter Murch," as well his short essay, Manhattan Symphony (itself followed by a reprint of Michelangelo Antonioni's essay on the same topic).

BLDGBLOG: When you’re actually editing a film, do you ever become aware of this kind of underlying structure, or architecture, amongst the scenes?

Murch: There are little hints of underlying cinematic structures now and then. For instance: to make a convincing action sequence requires, on average, fourteen different camera angles a minute. I don’t mean fourteen cuts – you can have many more than fourteen cuts per minute – but fourteen new views. Let’s say there is a one-minute action scene with thirty cuts, so that the average length of each is two seconds – but, of those thirty cuts, sixteen of them will be repeats of a previous camera angle.

Now what you have to keep in mind is that the perceiving brain reacts differently to completely new visual information than it does to something it has seen before. In the second case, there is already a familiar template into which the information can be placed, so it can be taken in faster and more readily.

So with fourteen “untemplated” angles a minute, a well-shot action sequence will feel thrilling and yet still comprehensible: just on the edge of chaos, which is how action feels if you are in the middle of it. If it’s less than fourteen, the audience will feel like something is lacking, and they’ll disengage; if it’s more than fourteen, so much new information is being thrown at the audience that they’ll also disengage, though for different reasons.

At the other end of the spectrum, dialogue scenes seem to need an average of four new camera angles a minute. Less than that, and the scene will seem flat and perfunctory; more than that, and it will be hard for the audience to concentrate on the performances and the meaning of the dialogue: the visual style will get in the way of the verbal content and the subtleties of the actors’ performances.

July 02, 2007

Stanley Fish Interprets Brad Paisley

In an NYT column, Stanley Fish interprets Brad Paisley and Nashville in general.

“I’d like to check you for ticks.” I was taking three days to drive from Florida to upstate New York last week when I heard that line coming out of the radio on the second day. On the first day I had done the respectable thing and searched the dial for NPR and classical music; but they were nowhere to be found after I left Savannah behind, and I was free to go where I always wanted to go anyway – to a country music station. You’re not going to come across a line like “I’d like to check you for ticks” anywhere else, and the same goes for an earlier line in the same Brad Paisley song, “You press that bottle to your lips and I wish I was your beer.”

It gets funny after that. Well, funny if you think Stanley Fish and academics interpreting popular in a tongue-in-cheek way is funny, which I do.

You'll need a TimesSelect account to read it (free for academics).

July 01, 2007

Locking in Users/Customers

Cryptography Research, Inc. hopes to end the evil plague of unscrupulous users who steal music illegally threaten national security save a few bucks by buying off-brand cartridges.

Although solid figures on counterfeiting are impossible to determine, it's estimated to cost the industry at least $3 billion a year, according to the Image Supplies Coalition, a lobbying group formed to fight piracy and cloning in the ink and toner industry. [...]

CRI takes a different tack with its protection scheme: its chip generates a separate, random code for each ink cartridge, thus requiring a would-be hacker to break every successive cartridge's code to make use of the cartridge.

As Ars Technica notes, a similar lawsuit by Lexmark against third-party cartridge manufacturer Static Control was denied. The real issue isn't "piracy" (or reverse engineering), but the need to lock users into purchasing a steady stream of inkjet cartridges from the same company that manufactured their printer.

Companies like Cryptography Research attempt an end-run around the legal issue, sort of like a defacto shrinkwrap agreement that locks users the printer manufacturer's income stream. Inkjet printers have dropped fast in price over the last five years—partially because printer manufacturers have realized that the real money is in the cartridges. This has long been the dream of tech companies: open a long-term revenue stream. It's why credit card companies make so much money: hook customers on the front end and get them to pay forever. People complain about the high cost of software upgrades, but the cost of inkjet cartridges over time is a huge and more-or-less hidden expense, especially for average users who don't run professional applications like CS3 or Final Cut Pro (let alone real vertical apps). I know I've spent far, far more money on HP inkjet catridges over the last two or three years than I've spent on upgrades to OS X.

[via Slashdot: Your Rights Online]