« September 2007 | Main | November 2007 »

October 28, 2007

And Another on Type (w/Interviews)

Features interviews with Steven Heller, Jonathan Hoefler, and Tobias Frere-Jones.

[via kottke.org]

What is Typography?

Nice short movie that covers basic features of typography. Primarily short definitions of key terms, but still interesting.

[via information aesthetics]

October 27, 2007

Mister Rogers Plays Video Games

Mister Rogers learns to play Donkey Kong. Really. "So he's a carpenter. That's why he'd be using a hammer, isn't it?"

[via metafilter]

October 26, 2007

Using the Structure of Games to Design Better Web Apps

Dan Saffer's presentation from Voices That Matter 2007, Gaming the Web, advocates using game theory and practice to structure application design of all types (including Flickr as game).

[via O Danny Boy]

Vectors: Journal of Culture and Technology in a Dynamic Vernacular


Vectors new issue covers/explores/interrogates/demonstrates Difference:

Many writing on new technology in the mid 1990s commented on the parallels between the ways of knowing modeled in computer culture and in theories of poststructuralism. Meanwhile, critical race and postcolonial scholars have highlighted how certain tendencies within poststructuralist theory simultaneously respond to and marginalize blackness. This maneuver may at least partially be possible because of a parallel and increasing dispersion of electronic forms across culture, forms which simultaneously enact and shape these new modes of thinking. Certain modes of racial visibility and knowing coincide or dovetail with specific technologies of vision: if the electronic underwrites today's key modes of vision and is a central technology in post-World War II America, these technologized ways of seeing and knowing took shape in a world also struggling with shifting knowledges and representations of race.

The pieces are experimental, interactive essays on postmodern archiving practice (a self-reflective experiment), annotated video of Iraq and Afghanistan combat, distributed culture, and more. Very interesting takes on interface design for academic discourse as well. The screenshot above is from David Theo Goldberg and Stefka Hristova's "Blue Velvet: Re-Dressing New Orleans in Katrina's Wake," an interactive multimedia space for exploring race, capitalism, and reconstruction in New Orleans.

[via serial consign - design / research]

October 19, 2007

La Cucaracha - 2007

Ween's new album, La Cucaracha, now streaming in its entirety from their MySpace page.

[via metafilter.com]

October 17, 2007

Education, Culture, Technology

Mike Wesch's group has another interesting video about technology, education, and culture (or maybe about the conflicts among the three terms), A Vision of Students Today. (Among other things, they did the The Machine is Us/ing Us clip last year). Most of this should be common knowledge to teachers but, unfortunately, isn't. (And to some extent, the issues covered in the video are big ones. I taught mass media in a classroom more or less identical to the lecture hall most of Wesch's video was shot in. Interaction in a space like that is like running in mud.)

[via Dan Mandle]

Lo-fi: Speakerphone

Either a very well executed spoof or postmodern hi-fi (which means, possibly both and more): Speakerphone provides heavily tweakable emulations of low-fidelity speakers (including "Fedtro Megaphone," "Ampeg B18 in a bedroom," "Crackling Walkie Talkie," and [cool!] "Mac SE").

A bad GSM connection on a busy sidewalk, a bullhorn with feedback and a helicopter overhead, or a 1952 rockabilly guitar amp in a recording studio live room: Speakerphone gives you authentic speakers of any size together with their natural environments.

All the walkie-talkies, distant transistor radios, Guitar cabinets, upstairs TV sets, bullhorns and cell phones you'll ever need. Speakerphone will add dial tones, operators and static, and you can select from a wealth of ambiences on either the caller or receiver's end. And with a click you can send anything from the sample-playback bay right to the cursor in your Pro Tools track.

The product page includes audio and video demonstrations of the software in use with ProTools. (I'm digging around now to see if there's a Tom Waits module.)

[via KVR Audio]

October 16, 2007

Icastic Visualizing Time Database


How people visualize the passage of time. You can scan and submit your own.

[via information aesthetics]

October 14, 2007

Newer Work: Sculpture and Sound

sculpture and sound

maddscientist39110's sculptures involving circuit-bent audio at Flickr. (No audio available, unfortunately. But they look cool.)

[via TapeOp Message Boards]

Type Pedagogy

My week has sort of been like this. (NSFW if your co-workers can read and don't have a sense of humor.) Perhaps not surprisingly, the RSS feed I pulled that from was pointing to something else: The first cell of this PDF from BanComicSans.com..

[via Design Observer: Main Posts]

October 13, 2007

Alex Blagg's Review of New Radiohead Album

Alex Blagg offers his keenly perceptive track-by-track review of Radiohead's new album. Here's a sample:

5. ALL I NEED - After opening with the sound of a Jack-In-the-Box, the song explodes into unholy brain-demolishing death metal while Thom Yorke screams and screeches in Space Alien language gibberish. Stunning, their finest achievement since OK Computer.

[via The Huffington Post | Raw Feed]

Janice Caswell: Memory Landscape


Janice Caswell's work (wall drawings, works on paper) follows people's memories of movement through geographies:

My drawings and installations represent mental maps, an investigation of the mind's peculiar ways of organizing memories. I attempt to trace the edges of recalled experience, plotting the movement of bodies and consciousness through time and space.

[via information aesthetics]

Deconstructivist Architecture (Real and Symbolic)

things magazine, a place I normally crib individual links from, has an interesting (link-filled) post, We Can Never Look at Fractured Facades, on the 1970 Greenwich Village Explosion (a Weatherman bomb factory accident), MoMA's 1988, Daniel Libeskind, and the contradictory symbolism of appreciating/fearing/commemorating deconstructivist architecture.

[via things magazine]

October 12, 2007

Typography School

Omair Barkatulla's short film Typography School, from the London College of Printing, argues that traditional letterpress techniques can provide a better foundation for understanding type than computers. Printer/teacher David Dabner says, "Computers make students sloppy. It makes for sloppy thinking. It make for sloppy thinking ... a sloppy approach. Good typographers can think. If you can't think, you produce a lot of nonsense."

Arguable, but Dabner has a good point: Ease of use does not always (or even often) translate into better learning. Sometimes it's crucial to step back and slow down, to do something manual that tends towards enforced reflection rather than easy (and oversimplified) gratification. You can see a similar feeling expressed in the number of relatively geeky people who use Moleskine notebooks and fountain pens (me included): communication media are never neutral ecologies. They structure our interactions in differing, sometimes extremely powerful ways.

[via IxDA Discussion List]

Dylan's Competition for "Worst Interview Subject"

NPR's website hosts the video of their recent Sigur Ros interview, which even the hosts describe as "possibly the worst interview in the history of electronic media." And they have the video to prove it. (NPR claims they still love Sigur Ros, but advise you to "never invite them on your radio show.")

[via metafilter]

October 11, 2007

Magnetic Migration Music

Found/made audio objects: Magnetic Migration Music collects fragments of found audio tape from city streets in London and other locations, short impromptu interviews, and other audio ephemera. Sort of difficult to describe (even after having read the website and listened to sample assemblages), but interesting.

Have you noticed that there are fragments of audiotape flapping in the wind?

Strands can be found all over the world, in gutters, snagged on trees, wherever tape players have ventured it seems they have chewed, snarled and spat too.

These fragments create a shifting inaudible soundscape. Some of the strands have travelled far, they are worn and battered but can be re-spooled, and listened to.

[via things magazine]

October 10, 2007

Writing Code as Writing

Michael McCracken has a short post about making an editing pass through first drafts of programs:

I give paper sections and important emails a while to sit after I write them, and they always benefit from another look with fresh eyes. I think that doing this with code is worth thinking about.

We'd all like to get everything right the first time. But, face it: That rarely happens. And acting like it's supposed to happen enforces a lot of bad habits: Some projects are better handled by recursively drafting and revising (particularly complex projects). Some projects benefit from peer- or user-review (and then revision).

Pretending there's a perfect world in which all our texts come out fully, perfectly formed on the first try is like pretending there's a perfect world where we all have circus ponies. Or, more commonly, you end up decontextualizing and over-simplifying what "perfect," reducing standards to meet what we can easily do rather than raising our work to the standard. (Cool! Word didn't flag any spelling or grammar mistakes! Perfect!)

[via Daring Fireball]

October 08, 2007

And Ballard Reads Gehry

At the Guardian, JG Ballard interprets Frank Gehry's Bilbao Guggenheim:

The one thing that someone visiting the Bilbao Guggenheim can forget about is any thought of actually entering the building. Stay outside it, at a distance of about one hundred yards, and you will absorb all its audacity, magic, good humour and genius. And its infantilising charm. This is Disneyland for the media studies PhD.

[via Ballardian]

Theroux Reads Borges

This is one of those posts where I try to come up with something witty or interesting to add, but fail, and end up just posting the full text of someone else's blog post that points to yet a third, "original" post (itself a link to an audio commentary in which one author reads a text written by another author and discusses it with a third person).

Theroux reads Borges: "Paul Theroux reads Jorge Luis Borges’s short story The Gospel According To Mark and discusses Borges with The New Yorker’s fiction editor, Deborah Treisman. mp3"

[via metafilter.com]

Do Not Adjust Your Set

On the Way Out

Workspace Clutter (Maybe)


Although the survey comes from a slightly impeachable source (a study funded by CableOrganizer.com), 30% of survey respondents said their workspaces were cluttered to "hinders productivity" level. To be fair to CableOrganizers.com, only 8% listed cables and wiring as the source of clutter; paper and files was a much larger problem, at 50%.

Which are interesting datapoints. But they leave a great deal unexamined. What counts as "productivity"? For that matter, as "clutter"? To some extent, I think most of us apply a modernist approach to work structure: The ability to lay your hands (or eyes) on a particular piece of information exactly when you need it. But for more postmodern work, flux and chaos are sometimes useful: productive in weird ways. Not that "clutter" (whatever, exactly that is) for clutter's sake is necessarily a goal, but accident and shifting juxtapositions of information have their own benefits, especially in exploratory thinking.

I've been doing the Getting Things Done mantra for the last couple of years, and I like a lot of it: focusing on actions, setting up structures for, well, getting things done. And I spend a certain amount of my day on it. But I've also found that that there's a necessary oscillation to this: moving back and forth between chaos and order is (for me at least) produces more interesting things than simple efficiency. GTD does provide a structure to support that, but it's too easy to focus on setting up and checking off actions in a list at the expense of interesting work.

(Anyone who has seen my workspaces will attest to the fact that all of the above seems like a futile rationalization.)

[via lifehacker]

October 06, 2007

Day Off

Trout Pond

Pond near Paul Smiths, NY.

October 02, 2007

Design and Unlearning

To design means forcing ourselves to unlearn what we believe we already know, patiently to take apart the mechanisms behind our reflexes and to acknowledge the mystery and stupefying complexity of everyday gestures like switching off a light or turning on a tap.

- Alain de Botton, The Architecture of Happiness, p. 247

The Reflective Practitioner (Saffer's Review)

Dan Saffer posted the first two parts [part 1] [part 2] of his thoughts about Schön's The Reflective Practitioner.

I've been circling around Donald Schön's The Reflective Practitioner: How Professionals Think in Action for years now and finally got around to reading it. As it turns out, I should have read it a long time ago, since it has so much to say (indirectly) about design and what it means to be a designer today, especially designers in the experience design realm. As it turns out, there is a reason for the fact we're constantly fighting about things like role/discipline boundaries and titles. The book also offers and analyzes a way of working that is very very much how I work and, I suspect, how many people in my field do as well.

I've been working my way, tardily and very slowly, through Schön's book over the last several years (I keep it in the XTerra and read it when I'm waiting for oil changes). I can't say the book is dramatically changing how I think about work and research and practice (if it was, I'd probably be making quicker progress), but it does provide some useful structures for explaining things to people when I talk about what I'm researching. (Now that I think of it, my own research is progressing about as quickly as my reading of Schön's book. So clearly the "progress" issue is me.)

[via O Danny Boy]

October 01, 2007

Isolated Building Studies

David Schalliol's Isolated Building Studies (a Flickr set) documents (you guessed it) isolated buildings in urban Chicago: homes, churches, storefronts in the absence of any surrounding structures.

Initially, viewers may see the buildings in this set as identical, but the novel, consistent context shows these buildings as symbols of communities in flux. Whether a building is a pioneer or a survivor, built by gentrification or decayed by divestment, these buildings and their environs demonstrate how investment cycles affect the visible differences and similarities in our built environment, urban community and community relationships.