Paul Revere Williams architect to many

Some of Paul Williams architecture in LA

I was listening to 99 percent invisible’s latest podcast episode about Paul Williams, the famous architect who was never really mentioned or credited in history. His story is quite incredible to hear from many different points of view.

It’s hard to say exactly what motivated Williams to pursue architecture. He didn’t know of any other architects as he was growing up, and didn’t really know that architecture was a profession. He did have a natural talent for drawing, and then somehow decided that this was the job for him.

Hudson says that her grandfather’s high school guidance counselor advised him not to pursue architecture, telling him “he should not try to be an architect. He should be a doctor or a lawyer because black people would always need doctors and lawyers. And white people would not hire him as an architect and black people couldn’t afford him.” Still Williams refused to let go of this ambition.

I always wondered what would have happened if I pursued architecture too, I was put off by 7 years of college, although 6 years of design focused education wasn’t far off.

…some clients were taken aback when they first met Williams — people who “came because they may have read about him,” Karen Hudson explains, “but didn’t realize he was black.” They weren’t sure whether to sit next to him or even whether to shake his hand. To put them at ease, Williams would keep his distance, sitting across the table from them, and as he asked them what they wanted in their home,  he would draw preliminary sketches upside down, so they could see their vision evolve as he drew. This helped put them at ease but was also just impressive in itself.

I have gotten this a few times in the past, mainly before you could look me up online. The name Paul Williams and even Ian Forrester could be anyone but I guess unconscious bias makes people think white males?

The distance thing is also something I’m very aware of… as a black man. Being able to draw upside down is super impressive and I imagine he had a lot of practice.

Williams wasn’t the first or only architect to draw upside down, but his consistent use of this skill illustrates the lengths he went to accommodate his white clients. He dressed impeccably, worked tirelessly, and tried to excel in all respects, simply to be accepted.

Enough said, but sadly…

Despite his vast volume of work (and being the first black member of the American Institute of Architects) Williams has remained relatively unknown, at least until recently. “Every black architect I know is familiar with Williams,” say Phil Freelon. “And I haven’t met a white architect yet who knew who I was talking about if I were to mention that name. And we need to change that.” This is why Freelon nominated Williams for the AIA’s highest individual award: the Gold Medal.

This is basically the award that welcomes an architect into the cannon of all-time greats. Past winners include Frank Lloyd Wright, Mies van der Rohe, Le Corbusier and Thomas Jefferson. Now, 37 years after his death, Paul Williams will officially join their ranks.

This award means a lot to Freelon and other African American architects in terms of general visibility. “There are very few African American architects working in this country, relatively speaking,” says Freelon. Just “2% of licensed architects in this country are black. And one of the ways you would want to combat that is to raise the visibility. [You] make sure people know this is a great profession and that young people see it as a possibility and as an option for them.”

Hopefully blogging this will encourage people to listen or read the transcript. Its a short story with lots of interesting links and discussion.

 

Deconstructed is the new artisan?

Diseñador: Juan Esteban Uràn

We were in the offices at media city and over lunch Simon got talking about progress. He never said it but I felt this was calling out of previous discussions about human progress.

Then he said…

Deconstruction is the new artisan

If you swap the artisan for deconstructed it gets interesting

Deconstructed food
Deconstructed cooking
Deconstructed coffee
Deconstructed tea
Deconstructed media
Deconstructed music

So what’s special about deconstruction? Well as most designers know deconstruction is something you are always doing. It drives creativity and performance; but a discussion with simon and roberto boiled down to this thought…

Destruction is the conceptual disassembly of an idea presented in a new realisation.

Realisation can be a product, idea, concept, service, gain, etc. Yes you could call it remix but it’s more… In a recent freakonomics podcast Dubner interviews Ericsson the writer of peak. In the interview he talks about deliberate practice. Deliberate practice being the act of deconstructing what you are doing, why and for a new realisation/direction?

ERICSSON: Well, I think this has to do with the body. If you’re just doing things that feel comfortable and go out and jog, the body basically won’t change. In order to actually change your aerobic ability, people now know that the only way you can do that is if you practice now at a heart rate that is above 70 percent of your maximal heart rate. So it would be maybe around 140 for a young adult. And you have to do that for about 30 minutes at least two or three times a week. If you practice at a lower intensity, the body will actually not develop this difficult, challenging biochemical situation, which will elicit now genes to create physiological adaptations.

DUBNER: Let’s say I’m a crummy piano player, and I want to become a good piano player. For something like that, or for something like writing, or for something like selling insurance, what does it mean to get outside of one’s comfort zone and why does that improve my ability to get good?

ERICSSON: Deliberate practice relies on this fact that if you make errors, you’re going to find ways to eliminate those errors. So if you’re not actually stretching yourself outside of what you already can do, you’re probably not engaging in deliberate practice.

That drive for peak performance no matter how unattainable perfection is; requires people to disassemble or deconstruct what they have done; then rework that part heavily. Out of this comes new insight, ideas and direction. Designers do this all the time, its called the design process.

In the future if its not deconstructed, it won’t be worth considering… Something similar to how artisan is now, but imagine similar in 5 years? Maybe?

The good home project in Milan

gh_badge

I love what Alexandra does, super talented, creative and resourceful. But unfortunately I’m not able to be involved in the goodhome project at this stage. Shes collaborating with other smart people to show a vision of the home in the future which doesn’t scream nonsense wrapped in toilet tissue, like this recent video.

If you happen to be in Milan or going to the Milan furniture fair, make sure you stop by Fuori Salone and visit the Good Home. Wednesday 13th – Saturday 16th April.

Visit our second Good Home during Fuori Salone, the city-wide festival of design that accompanies the Milan Furniture Fair. We will be exhibiting product ideas around the future of the home.

Hope to make up for this in the near future at Mozfest 2016 and maybe London Design Festival 2016.

Do you have humility, a sense of craft and can you hustle?

http://radar.oreilly.com/2015/12/katie-dill-on-heading-up-experience-design-at-airbnb.html

I was listening to the Oreilly Radar podcast with Katie Dill from Airbnb. Half way through the interview she talks about what she looks for in people joining their user experience team.

Humility, Craft and Hustle

Humility is certainly hot on my radar, so no real need to go back over that, except to say the user experiences we craft/create/enable need a human/ethical dimension.

Craft goes without saying really. But I would say a level of attention, care and slight obsession fits in here. Dare I say a level of geekiness?

Hustle, is essential and without the hustle, the opportunities go missing or never happen. From dictionary.com

An enterprising person determined to succeed; go-getter.

A hustler can make opportunities happen by working hard but never forgetting their goal. They are entrepreneurial in nature.

People have asked me, how on earth Visual Perceptive Media and Perceptive Media generally got the pick up it did? Well thats the hustler side of me. It sounds slightly seedy but in actual fact its the ability to create opportunities and capitalise on them; to the best of your ability. Its hard work but super rewarding when things work out.

Katie Dill has some good points and talking to others, these are characteristics which make up most of the User Experience team in BBC R&D.

Cubic food, yes please

Taken from lernertandsander.com/cubes

When I saw the picture of cubicfood I instantly had to click and learn more.

The foods we eat come in all shapes and sizes, but something beautiful happens if you cut it all down to size — literally. Design studio Lernert & Sander did just that to make the remarkable piece of art above, which was commissioned by Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant last year for a feature on the nation’s eating habits.

There is something quite lovely about cubic food arranged in such a way. But I’m less interested in the arrangement and  wondering what its like to eat and build dishes of common meals as cubes?

Cutting down food down to the same basic shape brings something quite special to it, like the eating of sushi maybe?

 

 

…fund a lifestyle that makes everyone insanely jealous

Tokyo tower

Yeah I hate that title too but its worst than what I wrote… The full title is What it takes to get paid… and fund a lifestyle that makes everyone insanely jealous.

As I read the post recommended by Dave, not sure for ironic reasons or what. I pretty much hovered over the delete button but I did find a few things which I thought was actually interested.

“What you seek is seeking you” – Rumi

In other words… Imagine if what you really want, deep down – is actually seeking you out at the same time…

It’s a nice thought to hold as you go through tough times because it gives you faith to keep pushing through.

Ok I think this actually nice to remember and think about.

Designing your life so that everything is a pure delight to use

See the most exciting thing about lifestyle design for me, is treating the world like a giant smorgasbord of delicious options. You pick and choose the stuff that RESONATES with you the most. And discard the stuff that doesn’t vibe with you.  I believe in making every single area of your life, from the time you open your eyes and wake up to the moment you go to sleep – an absolute DELIGHT to use.

I quite like this outlook, it makes it loud and clear you are somewhat in control of your own destiny. You need to design/craft your life. The choice about people, places, things and activities is quite key.

When I asked people what I should do in Japan, I included a list of conditions.

  • I speak little or no Japanese, so best not recommend somewhere in the middle of nowhere.
    Very true!
  • I’m also not so big into the traditional culture (don’t hate me, just being honest!) so you may want to limit the amount of shrines.
    Indeed, only went to one.
  • I love metropolis cities, so I’ll spend all day at markets and cafes soaking up the modern culture.
    Oh and so I did!
  • I’ll spend most of the time in Tokyo because theres so much to see…
    I wasn’t wrong there!
  • I also love modern art, manga, people watching, amazing architecture and great landscapes like Mount Fuji.
    Certainly did a lot of these…
  • Love theme parks! and amusements.
    3 theme parks and lots of rides
  • I don’t have a problem just wandering around suspect locations like the red light district in Amsterdam.
    Well I did rub shoulders in Roppongi and Shibuya
  • I’m going in mid April for 2 weeks, so it will be coldish and maybe wet
    I was right at first then it got really hot, sometimes up to 29c!
  • I will get a JR pass, so the trains should be fine
    Well in theory yes, but I wasn’t prepared for the changing of
  • I’m terrified of dying from eating fish, seafood, nuts, beans or peas. So don’t recommend a fish restaurant 🙂
    Enough said…
  • Actually if you can recommend places where they do lovely meat, I’ll be very happy (heard the Korean BBQ’s are perfect for me)
    Enough said once again.

You can look at the list as restrictions on myself but I don’t see it that way, I see it as myself designing my holiday by removing the things which don’t resonate with me.

When I moved to another place when my airbnb screwed me over in the 2nd week. It was important to me, because I just knew it was going to upset my holiday and I wasn’t going to let that happen!

Alone together forever with the narcissistic?

Tokyo from the Skytree

There is something not quite right about the whole selfies thing. I can’t quite put my finger on it but I think it unlocks something much deeper and more troubling…

Its all about me

The selfie thing, I do find it self indulgent and dare I say it – slightly narcissistic in nature.

Narcissism is the pursuit of gratification from vanity or egotistic admiration of one’s own attributes. The term originated from the Greek mythology, where the young Narcissus fell in love with his own image reflected in a pool of water.

Maybe instead of a pool of water, its a reflection of yourself in a 533 DPI mobile screen?  I don’t think everyone who does a selfie are inherently doing it for narcissistic reasons. Let me be clear about that. But there is something not quite right about seeing friends Selfies all over my facebook timeline of nothing more than people trying to style things out in front of a mirror. Then you get the likes or +1’s.  Finally you got the millions of selfie sticks being sold and used by people who should know better… its enough to  makes you wonder, right?

While in Tokyo, I saw a lot of selfie sticks and lots of people using them. There use seem to go from a picture with friends to a slightly more worrying shot after shot after shot of them self till they got the right one to share. One guy must have taken about 30 pictures before he was happy with one of them. I know because I was watching him on his super bright iPhone 6  plus.

Its about you… alone

As you can imagine I’m not the only one thinking this.

What greater testament could there be to the “me generation” than the rise and rise of the selfie? Anointed by Oxford Dictionaries’ editors as the word of the year after a 17,000% increase in its usage, the selfie is surely the ultimate emblem of the age of narcissism.

One of the names I’m most unlikely to align with is Andrew Keen. I have slammed Andrew in the past for his views on the internet. But it kills me to say, he makes some good points on  Twit.tv’s Triangulation 183. I’m sure his new book will still have me and many others shaking our heads, I haven’t read his book and are unlikely to buy it to be honest but he’s spot on about the use of algorithms and the selfie thing.

Tokyo from up high

While on my trip to Tokyo I took a few selfies. I never quite feel good about it, my face generally describe how I felt about the whole thing. I also started to wonder if the break down in our social humanity (if people like sherry turkle are correct) can be seen ahead of time in Tokyo?

Japan is always known as way ahead of the curve. When most of us were still using desktops and laptops to connect the internet, residents of Japan were using their phones. Theres many other examples but I spotted something which deeply worries me. Sherry Turkle’s connected alone was playing out everywhere you went.

Selfie Sticks

I was in the queue for a rollercoaster and 4 guys were standing in silence through out the whole 40-50min queue. There were each transfixed to their phones not uttering a single word till we finally got on the ride and then they were best buds, laughing and chatting away. I saw them again later (the theme park wasn’t that busy and isn’t that big – about the size of Thorpe Park) and it was more of the same.  They may have been playing the same game but together they were alone.

Alone together

Sad as it may be (you could say its part of the Japanese culture, but I’m not so sure), you are seeing more and more of this. And its not just a age thing. The online world can be very seductive and some people forget the offline world for many reasons. Maybe things are difficult there, things are not going so well, they can be somebody else? Theres a load of reasons.

Two pieces I have saved in my instapaper, really got me going…

One is via Tony Churnside10 Reasons Why This Generation Is Losing The Ability To Be In Love.

Every individual in the world is egocentric; we all think about our needs and ourselves first and foremost. Whether this is good or bad doesn’t really matter; the world is the way it is. It’s part of human nature.The problem arises when our egocentricity overtakes our ability to feel empathy. As human beings, we have no choice but to live and function within society, within communities of different sizes.

And I found the next one while following links on a site called Thought catalogueThis is the new loneliness

Our generation of sadness and loneliness is of the unchecked variety. Of wallowing. Of letting ourselves be disconnected from both others and ourselves. Learning to soothe more than heal. Learning to put a band-aid on problems instead of working through and solving our problems. If something is not immediate, we don’t want it, even if it’ll make us stronger. We’re not growing as people, not really. We’re shoving away “bad feelings” we don’t want to face by clicking, refreshing, scrolling until we’ve numbed ourselves out enough. It’s addiction.

We cut ourselves off from others, avoiding contact with outsiders. How scared are we? That we are not willing to hand over our camera and talk to (maybe) a familiar stranger?  Who knows what fruitful conversations may spring up because of that moment/encounter/opportunity? But we will never know because we are too focused on our virtual selves.

Sherry Turkle and Andrew Keen could have wrote either and I would somewhat believe it was them.

Akihabara, Tokyo

Virtual friends and likes

This should go without saying because there has been so much said about virtual friends, buddy lists, likes, +1’s, follower counts,  etc. And this is also where the difference between Narcissism (the pursuit of gratification from vanity or egotistic admiration of one’s own attributes) and Egocentrism (the inability to differentiate between self and other).

I use narcissism because I feel it requires other people to breed as such. Its also something we shouldn’t be heading towards. I can deal with a room of egocentric people for a short while, but a room of narcissists is deeply worrying.

Its all pretty troubling but I have hope for humanity. I feel like its a craze right now. The market can sell more goods you don’t actually need. The drive has always been to make us feel less empowered and cut us off from each other. A disfranchised citizen makes a good consumer?  Retreating to the wall gardens of the 5 stacks.

My hope is we will have more which saddle between the real and virtual worlds and operate in a open fashion. I believe the user interfaces we build, shapes our use and therefore it shapes us – ontological design. From the Cluetrain

#79 –  We want you to drop your trip, come out of your neurotic self-involvement, join the party.

Warning!

This was written and scheduled during a 17 hour flight with very little actual sleep (trying to adjust to GMT as soon as I get off the plane). I’m very tired and I am likely to be connecting things in a very weird way (not like that never happens eh?). But I do feel like there is a link and worth posting…

Alternative user interfaces

I studied interaction design in university and always had an imprecation for good interaction and interface design. Recently I seen a few examples which have got me a little excited.

Ubuntu’s scopes
I like ubuntu’s unity paradigms of scopes and lens, even though I prefer to use Gnome Shell as my default on the desktop. The scopes and lens really make a lot of sense. It was fascinating to see Ubuntu apply it across their phone and tablet. Be interesting to see how it works on Ubuntu TV if thats still ongoing?

Pebble timeline
When I first saw the pebble time interface, I instantly thought, when are they going to roll that across there existing line of smartwatches? If not, maybe I might invest in one of the new ones. Division of a interface by future, present and the past on a watch makes a lot more sense than anything else I have seen to date including the Apple Watch.

Android Material Design
Ice cream sandwich or Android 4.0 was a massive step up in style for Android but Android 5.0 Lollipop really was the first Android when the interaction design was thought about at a deeper level.

I don’t necessarily  like the style of flat plates of colour for example the Google hangout app is just the wrong kind of green for my pallet but the interaction model is nice. Although I have spotted a few places where the rules are broken by certain apps.

The walls eyes up a design award

BBCRD up for a design award

So happy for Libby, Andrew and Jasmine who worked on the Walls have eyes exhibition within the ethical dilemma cafe at Mozilla Fest last year. Its been a bit of a secret but now its been announced along with the other digital entries.

Mozfest 2014

Knock them over guys! It was a great idea and the images were so great. So happy to have given you guys the space to run it and frankly make us think about the ethics of our personal data some more.

Interestingly while thinking about the ethics of personal data, Doc Searls and David Weinburger recently kindly took time out of their busy schedule to talk about the Cluetrain and NewClues at Commonground. Doc said something which got people going a little

..what seems to have struck the Chord of Controversy was something I blabbed: “Tracking-based advertising is creepy and wrong… and needs to be wiped out.” Martin Bryant (@MartinSFP)tweeted a video clip and a series of other tweets followed.

Being tracked around spaces is something we did within the ethical dilemma cafe and its a mistake to think others are not doing this already.

The dilemma is what are you going to do? And I’d love to see a proper public debate about this all. Maybe this could be arranged following some of the work I’m about to release…

 

Dropbox as furniture design company

This Alabamiana Library Is A Beaut

Dropbox as furniture design company” – @iledigital (Jon Rogers)

When Jon first said this to me, I had to think for a second. Then I got it.

Amazon, ibooks, etc all have their own proprietary ways of holding your ebook. But imagine if you  used many different sources to gather books and organise them. Some digital and some physical (like I do) These are sync’ed using Dropbox or other syncing systems and instead of being displayed as files, appear like dropbox’s photos stream. A far more useful way to display books you have and heck why not make it sharable while your at it?

Next leap… Instead of it being just a digital thing, how about as a physical manifestation? Dropbox could sync the physical and digital together, like a wispersync for binding digital and physical items. Maybe it slots a bookmark into position or folds over the top edge of a page?

But one thing you don’t want is some ugly as sin apple skeuomorphism bookshelf in your living room. It would need to fit with the rest of the furniture and surrounds. Making Dropbox a furniture design company. Not such a massive leap in imagination I would say…

Apple have lost the plot

iPad 2 as a Video Camera

I have been meaning to write about those disgusting Apple adverts (yes disgusting, I was almost sick in my mouth when I first saw it) but been so busy, then Maggie reminded me at Hacked.io about what I wanted to say.

Fast Design write up pretty much how I feel

Watch the ad closely for me. As we’re told that products are what matter, we see a series of shots in which people actively turn away from life to engage with their technology.

  • A woman closes her eyes on the subway to soak in electronic music.
  • A room of students looks down at their desks instead of at their teacher.
  • A parent and child cuddle, focused on a screen that’s so powerful it illuminates the kid’s face.
  • A couple kisses in the rain, then immediately turn away to look at a phone.
  • A tourist opts to FaceTime instead of bathing in visceral, smoky yakitori.

In what should be a warm, humanizing montage, people are constantly directing their attention away from one another and the real, panoramic world to soak in pixels. They’re choosing the experience of their products over the experience of other people several times in quick succession. And Apple has a warm voice in the background, goading us on.

Now I’m fully aware most adverts are like this but frankly for Apple, this is bad bad news.

On top of that, the fact Apple are advertising this factor, is worst still. So much for creativity…!

Just to be clear the best adverts in this class were the Orange adverts, which never showed the actual device but rather the effect of the device. Now unfortunately Orange or rather EE have switched to another style which isn’t much better than most.

The technology should be the glue not the end point. However Apple want you to marvel at there devices. I’m not certain when this changed but its certainly changed for the worst.

Have to be clear I’m not against devices, heck if you follow this down the line you can end up somewhere with Sherry Turkle.

Our devices and software are great but I have to echo some of the thoughts about using your mobile while dating and dare I say it, some of the Orange Cinema adverts. Don’t let your device get in the way of a great time. No matter how pretty it maybe.

Its not going to take 20 years… Its outdated and shockingly backwards already…

User experience design with Aral

Safety dip

Before I start on this little rant, its worth pointing out this is following a talk from Aral Balkan’s talk at Thinking Digital 2013. I have still yet to write my review of the best talks and my own experience with Perceptive Radio but I had to stop and moan about Aral’s talk.

Aral is a friend and I like him a lot but even in the early days I disagreed with him on so many things.

Aral showed many examples of really bad user experience design, many where they got the focus wrong.

User experience bugs me, I agree with a lot but then there are many examples where it seems like a simple no brainier. I would generalise what Aral was showing but I lost my notes by accident in the wifi handover (hoping there still on my tablet and just need to load up evernote and sync the notes. So as I was saying user experience is important but they sometimes go too far…

Here’s something I tweeted last year…

“Frankly this is the worst keypad layout I’ve seen in the wild. #Metrolink should be a shamed of this! http://yfrog.com/odgevclj”

Aral spoke about washing machines and how complex they are. He suggested all you need is a some places to put the washing powder and fabric conditioner. A button or two to maybe start a programme and thats it. Well no I disagree. My mum is a genius with the washing machine and she knows exactly what to put in for the weight and volume of clothes. To be such a expert required time and effort, shes proud than shes mastered the washing machine.

Having a single button machine would rob my mother of her mastery of that machine.

Now I imagine Aral would say, for the bulk of people, all they want to do is get there clothes clean and they don’t really care. And he would be right. I generally don’t care but robbing people of the ability to master a system or device seems a real shame and I’d say is criminal.

After Arals talk and a slight break for audience clapping. He launched into how he’s been involved in helping the next generation to learn how to get their digital skills. How ironic that most of us got our start by mastering the computer by ultimately being geeky.

If you subscribe to the idea that we are almost all geeky about something (coding, design, cars, cooking, paintings, trains, stamps, celebrities, tv shows, beer, phones, films, cocktails, gardening, farming, sports, etc). Most of these require experience, understanding and mastery. Robbing someone of this seems at least to me anti-human.

Not that I’m saying you should have to go through an ordeal to get a ticket for the train/metro/tram. The example of the CTA machine is a total joke, I remember looking at it when I last was last in Chicago and thought what level of hell does this machine come from?

Heat control

I would say the showers in most modern hotels is up as a example of a great user experience because they have that recommended option but if you know better you can press the button and get even more heat. Yes the button protects you from burning but it can also be easily bypassed. Now thats my kind of user experience.

Aral mentioned a few other things which had my fingers tapping.

“Design can not be democratic, design is opinionated and full of assumptions.”

Design can not be democratic? I say rubbish, designers work in small groups and collaborate on problems all the time. I would go as far as to say design in isolation is art. Design doesn’t have to be opinionated, in actual fact user experience design is about designing around the accordances of the user. This means working around them and not making assumptions…

Anyway everything I’ve said is just my view and I’m sure I would say the same to Aral’s face. Looking forward to next time we meet and of course 🙂 Which will be soon… Good talk even though I was screaming inside 🙂

Context is queen?

I wanted my grandmothers pokerface....

I’m hearing a lot of talk about how 2013 is The year responsive design starts to get weird… or rather how its going to be all about responsive design (what happened to adaptive designing who knows)

Think it’s hard to adapt your content to mobile, tablet, and desktop? Just wait until you have to ask how this will also look on the smart TV. Or the refrigerator door. Or on the bathroom mirror.

Or on a user’s eye.

They’re all coming…if they aren’t already here. It doesn’t take much imagination or deep reading of the tech press to know that in 2013 more and more devices will connect to the internet and become another way for people to consume internets.

We’ll see the first versions of Google’s Project Glass in 2013. A set of smart glasses will put the internet on a user’s eyes for the first time. Reaction to early sneak peeks is a mix of mockery and amazement, mostly depending on your propensity for tech lust. We don’t know much about them, other than some tantalizing video, but Google is making them, so it’s a safe bet that Chrome For Your Eyes will be in there. And that means some news organization in 2013 is going to ask: “How does this look jammed right into a user’s eyeballs?”

Stop! Nieman labs is forgetting something major! And I could argue they are still thinking in a publishing/broadcasting mindset

Yes the C word, Context…

Ironically this is something Robert Scoble actually gets in his blog post, The coming automatic, freaky, contextual world and why we’re writing a book about it.

A TV guide that shows you stuff to watch. Automatically. Based on who you are. A contextual system that watches Gmail and Google Calendar and tells you stuff that it learns. A photo app that sends photos to each other automatically if you photograph them together. And then there’s the Google Glasses (AKA Project Glass) that will tell you stuff about your world before you knew you needed to know. There is a new toy coming this Christmas that will entertain your kids and change depending on the context they are in (it will know it’s a rainy day, for instance, and will change their behavior accordingly)

Context is whats missing and in the mindset of pushing content around (broadcast and publishing) and into peoples faces, responsive design sounds like a good idea. Soon as you add context to the mix, it doesn’t sound so great. Actually it sounds damm right annoying or even intrusive? I do understand its the best we got right now, but as sensors become more common, we’ll finally be able to understand context and hopefully be able to build perceptive systems.

We already demonstrated, sensors don’t have to be cameras, gyroscopes, etc. The referral, operating system, screen resolution, cookies, etc all are bits of data which can (some maybe less that others) be used to understand the context.

I can come up with many scenarios where the responsive part gets in the way, unless you are also considering the context. In a few years time, we’ll look back at this period of time and laugh, wondering what the heck were we thinking…

I’m with Scoble on this one… Context and Content are the Queen and King.

The power of narrative

Children at First Lubuto Library

While working on Perceptive Media, I came across many examples of narrative and the power of storytelling. Something which I’ve been trying to demonstrate in my presentations pointing at how little subtle things can have huge effects. Recently I saw this which reminded me I haven’t posted anything about it recently

Telling stories is not just the oldest form of entertainment, it’s the highest form of consciousness. The need for narrative is embedded deep in our brains. Increasingly, success in the information age demands that we harness the hidden power of stories…

…in four decades in the movie business, I’ve come to see that stories are not only for the big screen, Shakespearean plays, and John Grisham novels. I’ve come to see that they are far more than entertainment. They are the most effective form of human communication, more powerful than any other way of packaging information. And telling purposeful stories is certainly the most efficient means of persuasion in everyday life, the most effective way of translating ideas into action, whether you’re green-lighting a $90 million film project, motivating employees to meet an important deadline, or getting your kids through a crisis.

When I was training to be a designer, it was drummed in to our brains that you need to have a story to explain the product, service, etc… Without that story or narrative your on a loosing road. Not only that but you want to give them the least distractions as possible.

Stories, unlike straight-up information, can change our lives because they directly involve us, bringing us into the inner world of the protagonist. As I tell the students in one of my UCLA graduate courses, Navigating a Narrative World, without stories not only would we not likely have survived as a species, we couldn’t understand ourselves. They provoke our memory and give us the framework for much of our understanding. They also reflect the way the brain works. While we think of stories as fluff, accessories to information, something extraneous to real work, they turn out to be the cornerstone of consciousness.

Enough said… but if you do get the chance to read all 3 long pages, it will be worth it…