February 26, 2007
Shaping Things by Bruce Sterling

Shaping Things cover

Recently finished Bruce Sterlings Shaping Things (image of cover above left and contents page right) over a few lunch’s and train journeys (I’m a slow reader). The book is an example of one of those instances when you have a lot to say but just don’t quite know how to say it, here simply because of the recentness of the topic which Sterling is tackling and the fact that there isn’t the vocabulary. Of course this doesn’t stop Sterling in the slightest. His overwhelming enthusiasm for future technologies and his adept skill at inventing new terminology ad hoc easily make up for this slightly problematic scenario.

The premise for the book is clearly stated on the cover:

This book is about created objects and the environment, which is to say, it’s a book about everything.

This tackling ‘everything’ doesn’t help the ‘a lot to say but just don’t quite know how to say it’ scenario but we soon realise that everything is in fact every ‘thing’ and how these ‘things’ will be shaped in the future. Besides, as Sterling assures us:

Seen from sufficient distance, this is a small topic.

Sterling imagines a world in Shaping Things where every thing will be connected, networked with each other. A world where will be be able to know every thing in every detail, it’s constituent parts, it’s social-economic origins, it’s potential to be reused etc. He recognises that we may not want to know every thing but if we do, we can.

Shaping Things, Arphids

Among the technologies Sterling mentions he goes into great detail on RFID’s or Arphid’s as he calls them making himself sound as if he’s from the west country in England. RFID for Sterling is indicative of the type of short range and mobile networking technology which will enable an internet of things supporting what he calls our current Gizmo society and ultimately sometime in the future a Spime society.

I’m not sure I could, or indeed anyone could, have approached this enormous task with the enthusiasm Bruce Sterling has done. He manages to achieve what he sets out to do, to flesh out this very tricky and difficult topic, in under 150 pages.

If you haven’t read any of Bruce Sterlings musings on technology you could start with his keynote address from the 2006 O’Reilly Emerging Technology Conference which I’ve posted here previously.

Posted by: Garrett @ 10:30 pm
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Touch is a weblog documenting a research project based at the Oslo School of Architecture and Design in Norway and funded by the Norwegian Research Council which will run until 2009. It’s aims are to investigate and explore:

Near Field Communication (NFC), a technology that enables connections between mobile phones and physical things. We are developing applications and services that enable people to interact with everyday objects and situations through their mobile devices. Touch consists of an inter-disciplinary team involved in social and cultural enquiry, interaction/industrial design, rapid prototyping, software, testing and exhibitions.

The research will particularily focus on RFID and new technologies and standards that are emerging from the result of RFID’s successes. Touch believe that these “‘contactless’ systems” empower users, it moves them away from existing screen-based computing models, desktop, mouse and keyboard. Interaction with these new technologies:

is carried out with a simple ‘touch’, ‘swipe’ or ‘tap’. By using these simple actions, NFC puts a sense of human control back into otherwise complex and unwieldy ubiquitous systems. Touch is a natural, expressive gesture and can be used to create satisfying interactions…Touch-interactions are significant culturally and socially; our sense of touch is a large part of the way we understand and affect the world. Touch carries meaning and this changes according to context, situation and culture. The project explores these contexts through social, cultural and ethnographic research. This cross-disciplinary research will be used as a resource for further design and prototyping.

Touch Server

The Art Server is one of two Touch Service student projects run in March 2006 for the fourth year interaction design students at the Oslo School of Architecture and Design. The week long intensive investigation looked at:

new commercial models for artists and galleries, and the social sharing or artwork…students placed RFIDs alongside artefacts at a gallery. When touched with an NFC phone, an image of the artwork was sent to a digital picture frame in another place…The prototype was very simple and loaded URLs from the phone that prompted changes on a standard web-page. This was just enough to test out the interactions between users at the gallery and in the home context, which proved to be interesting and engaging. The system reinforced a strong connection between the two users, and the appearance of new images created the sense of a ‘gift’.

Instructions on how to see a demo of this are available at _solder and bytes_:

A simple php server was put up with the help of my server provider.

The receivers “frame” was logged into this url:
using Opera Softwares Browser due to its full screen capabilities.

The RIFID tags that was placed on the physical work of art in the gallery contained the following urls:
http://skjelvik.com/a/s.php?i=1&b=7 (Default screen, blank)

When the RIFID phone was held near the tag, a url loaded on confirm, and the “transaction” was done.

To test the demo open two browser windows. One to represent the “frame” the other to represent the RIFID phone and the tag. When the tags url are loaded in browser window 2, the browser window 1 will update the art file. Note that to do this simple test we had to make frame 1 update every 20 second.

All research originally seen at _solder and bytes_.

Posted by: Garrett @ 4:11 pm
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February 25, 2007
Screen Threshold

Screen Threshold

Aether Architecture, a design practice “focusing on the convergence of new media and architecture” who have been reviewed here for Ping Genius Loci, Wifi Camera and The Remote Home have a wealth of interesting work and research on their site. Screen Threshold (images above, video of the works motivation below left and of the final installation below right) is a piece which I found a few weeks ago which is part of their Mediated Spaces series of seven prototypes, an MSc in Architecture thesis by Adam Somlai-Fischer exploring the extension of architecture and its territories. It has remarkably similar mechanisms to a collaborative piece I am currently finalising and so has become an important reference for me.

Screen Threshold explores the boundaries between ‘real’ and ‘virtual’, physical and digital through a diverse set of physical interfaces for on screen media:

The installation consists of two main sides – a small virtual creature, that is dancing behind the screen, reacting to physical forces coming from the outside. This was made possible through a device attached to the glass on the other side, so the visitor can blow on it, switch it, magnetise it. This very direct attack on the virtual side resulted in something mesmerising, the small tangible environment became one with the media, the glass threshold of the screen became blurred.

Screen Threshold trailer
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Posted by: Garrett @ 1:30 pm
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February 22, 2007
Student teaser

One of my students has posted a teaser concerning his year 3 essay concerning Networks. This is a work in progress but looks as if it will be promising:

‘The problem with communication… is the illusion that it has been accomplished.’

(George Bernard Shaw)

One would assume that a network, in effect a series of computers connected to one another, would offer only a limited number of functions. That one could share data, disribute information and so on. Yet with the rise of network non-places, there in lies an evolution, a cultural phenomenon which has slowly been encouraging a change in the way one would percieve the internet and indeed any network. The rise of concepts such as ‘myspace.com’ and ‘facebook.com’ have brought with them a trend, a fashion if you will. That an individual may feel so insecure in thier being that, it is found neccessary to describe, if not validate ones self in these non-places. The influence of being webwize has extended itself, through the need to be digital. To exists as flesh and bone, as well as inprint ones ‘digital representation’ in a non-place. One looses the concept and meaning of communication, in expressing a feeling, or statement in a public arena, for all to see. This may perhaps be for a greater sense of importance, as a statement of self. However it is percieved as both a new media and sociological development. It may well be that of a passing trend, or it may be the start of something bigger. The need to fulfil ones wants and desires as though it were a exhibition to others. This concept may be foriegn to some, but think about it the next time you are reading a posting, or a comment in a public space, ask yourslef, why is this here?, why would one choose such an open arena to display a message or pose a question? As a concept it intruges me, Your views may be posted below in the irony of this illusion.

Posted by: Garrett @ 10:23 pm
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February 21, 2007
FragMental Storm

Fragmental Storm

Exonemo recently updated / reworked Fragmental Storm (images above), an art browser originally created in 2000, for an exhibition at the National Art Center, Tokyo from January 21 to February 4, 2007.

Fragmental Storm, which I need to add to my list of art browsers here, is software which carries out web searches displaying the data disjointedly. Both the original and 2002 version are available to download from the artists site.

Posted by: Garrett @ 11:01 pm
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