- [from steve_portigal] At The Movies, A String Of Futures Passed [All Things Considered - NPR] – No matter how accurate they may be, all fictional futures — especially alarmist ones — lose urgency as the concerns that fueled them fade. The Cold War paranoia of 1984 and 2001 now feel distant, even if the tech-boom fears in Blade Runner may be a bit more current. This decade, we're uptight about the environment and our increasing decrepitude, so we get Wall-E. In the flower-power era, we were skeptical about social conformity, so we got A Clockwork Orange.
- [from steve_portigal] Fusion: The Synergy of Images and Words [Steve McCurry's Blog[ - [Photjournalist assembles series of images of people reading, across the planet]
- [from steve_portigal] Coca Cola Village Like Facebook [The Inspiration Room] – [The ability to "post things" to Facebook or similar from far away (online or offline) is provocative but perhaps limiting, when the feedback loop - I post and I see what I post appear- is broken as badly as here] Coca Cola Village in Israel is a summer holiday resort designed for teenagers finishing their school years. For its third year experiential marketing agency Promarket provided residents with RFID bracelets (Radio Frequency Identification) to help them share their experiences on Facebook. Teens were able to put a digital ‘like’ on their choice of forty facilities in the camp, from the pool, the spa, to the extreme activities and sport section. If photographed by one of the official photographers, the RFID technology would automatically tag everyone in the photo and upload it to the relevant Facebook profiles…Real world Liking resulted in up to 35,000 posts per cycle…On average each visitor was posting 54 pieces of Coke branded content to their Facebook profile.
- [from julienorvaisas] Is the Web Dying? It Doesn’t Look That Way [Bits Blog - NYTimes.com] – [There's always a way to get the same data to tell a different story. ] Mr. Anderson of Wired magazine argues that a world of downloadable apps, which work through the Internet and arrive via gadgets like the iPhone or Xbox, are quickly cannibalizing the World Wide Web as consumers prefer buttoned-up, dedicated platforms, designed specifically for mobile screens. Is he right? Should we plaster R.I.P. signs all over the Web? Not exactly.
- [from steve_portigal] The Tragic Death of Practically Everything [Technologizer] – [You can hum Jim Carroll while you read this short piece that tries to dehype tech media a teeny little bit] Wired Editor in Chief Chris Anderson is catching flack for the magazine’s current cover story, which declares that the Web is dead. I’m not sure what the controversy is. For years, once-vibrant technologies, products, and companies have been dropping like teenagers in a Freddy Krueger movie. Thank heavens that tech journalists have done such a good job of documenting the carnage as it happened. Without their diligent reporting, we might not be aware that the industry is pretty much an unrelenting bloodbath.
- [from steve_portigal] BK to offer shareable Pizza Burger [Nation's Restaurant News] – [While results won't appeal to all, exciting to see Burger King with an appetite for innovating - crazy-sounding products - and a place to sell those non-core products] Burger King plans to introduce a giant hamburger shaped and flavored like a pizza to its new Whopper Bar in NY, adding to the list of extreme sandwiches at restaurant chains. The NY Pizza Burger is made with four 1/4-pound Whopper patties, mozzarella, marinara and a Tuscan Herb Mayo. They are placed on a 9.5-inch bun, which is sliced into 6 wedges, selling at $12.99. Burger King said the pizza burger, which is intended to be shared, would likely be introduced next week. Each wedge is about 400 calories, they said. The NY Pizza Burger is currently planned just for the New York City Whopper Bar location, which opened July 31 near Times Square. The pizza burger will join the Meat Beast Whopper, also exclusive to the New York City Whopper Bar. The Meat Beast is a Whopper topped with pepperoni and bacon and sold for $6.99.
- [from julienorvaisas] What’s with Steampunk? [More Intelligent Life] – [Subculture alert!] Inspired by the early science-fiction writings of Jules Verne and H.G. Wells, steampunk has a romantic, fantastical sensibility. It's not just a look, but an embrace of a nearly mythical era of mad science and weird contraptions at a time when most people rarely use their hands to make or discover anything. It is a subculture that uses virtual tools to honour the more crude and tangible kind. "Steampunk manages to be both conservative and progressive, backward-looking and forward-looking at the same time."
- [from steve_portigal] What Futurists Actually Do [GOOD Blog] – When looking at the multi-variable, massively complex confluence of more than six billion free actors responding to (and continually creating) cultural, economic, and political forces, it is virtually impossible to plot a path to a definite and unambiguous future. And yet, we still use the singular—the future. Moreover, the future is not an end state. Tomorrow will someday be today, which will fade into yesterday. As our world moves through this unyielding passage of time, how people act in our world will determine just which of many possible futures we end up with. When we transform our notion of "the future" into visions of alternative futures, we transform our relationship to the very idea of change. We move from thinking we are heading toward an inevitable destination to seeing the world as a dependent, contingent, and therefore actionable, possibility space for us to design. Pluralizing "the future" makes us both more empowered and more responsible for our ultimate outcomes.
- RIT Future of Reading Conference – This three-day symposium will be organized around a central question: How will reading change in the coming decade? Evolving technologies and habits of information exchange have profound effects on how societies (their thinkers, writers, scientists, and citizens) envision, create, articulate, distribute, absorb, remember, and assimilate content. Commercial competition and technical innovation, as well as the perpetual desire to create and share, are reshaping the information systems on which reading depends: the private act of writing, the interpretive act of typography, and the social act of publishing. The aim of this symposium is to foresee where and how new modes of reading will take us—socially, politically, economically and aesthetically—in the coming decade, and will feature provocative and challenging presentations by experts in writing systems, content creation, vision and cognition, typography, visual media, digital publishing and display technology.
- Steven Levy on How Gadgets Lose Their Magic [Wired] – "Any sufficiently advanced technology," Arthur C. Clarke wrote in 1962, "is indistinguishable from magic."…This applies to all the similar fruits of Moore's law. In the past 40 or 50 years, such mind-stretching advancements have become the norm…We all, I think, have become inured to Moore's law. The astonishing advances that once would have brought us to our knees are now reduced to a thumbs-up on Gizmodo. They're removed from the realm of magic – they're just cool gear…As technological magic becomes routine, I wonder whether a visit to a preindustrial society might teach me more than it teaches them. The only thing more fascinating than our technology is the idea of getting along without it. Maybe the way to recapture the magic is to turn all that stuff off.
- How Tony Gilroy surprises jaded moviegoers [The New Yorker] – Gilroy believes that the writer and the moviegoing public are engaged in a cognitive arms race. As the audience grows savvier, the screenwriter has to invent new reversals. Perhaps the most famous reversal in film was written by William Goldman in "Marathon Man,.” Laurence Olivier, a sadistic Nazi dentist, is drilling into Dustin Hoffman’s mouth, trying to force him to disclose the location of a stash of diamonds. “Is it safe?” he keeps asking. Suddenly, William Devane sweeps in to rescue Hoffman. In the subsequent car ride, Devane wants to know where the diamonds are. After a few minutes, Hoffman’s eyes grow wide: Devane and Olivier are in league! “Thirty years ago, when Bill Goldman wrote it, the reversal in ‘Marathon Man’ was fresh,” Gilroy says. “But it must have been used now 4000 times.” This is the problem that new movies must solve. “How do you write a reversal that uses the audience’s expectations in a new way? You have to write to their accumulated knowledge.”
- Secret of Googlenomics: Data-Fueled Recipe Brews Profitability [Wired] – [Echoing some of what I wrote about in a recent piece for interactions "We Are Living In A Sci-Fi World"]
It's a satisfying development for Varian, a guy whose career as an economist was inspired by a sci-fi novel he read in junior high. "In Isaac Asimov's first Foundation Trilogy, there was a character who basically constructed mathematical models of society, and I thought this was a really exciting idea. When I went to college, I looked around for that subject. It turned out to be economics."
- What is the Status Quo Bias? [Wisegeek] – A cognitive bias that leads people to prefer that things remain the same, or change as little as possible. People will make the choice which is least likely to cause a change. This can also play a role in daily routines; many people eat the same thing for breakfast day after day, or walk to work in exactly the same pattern, without variation. The inability to be flexible can cause people to become stressed when a situation forces a choice.
It explains why many people make very conservative financial choices, such as keeping their deposits at one bank even when they are offered a better rate of interest by a bank which is essentially identical in all other respects.
While this provides self-protection by encouraging people to make safer choices, it can also become crippling, by preventing someone from making more adventurous choices. Like other cognitive biases, this bias can be so subtle that people aren't aware of it, making it hard to break out of set patterns.
- Sports, sex, and the runner Caster Semenya [The New Yorker] – There is much more at stake in organizing sports by gender than just making things fair. If we were to admit that at some level we don’t know the difference between men and women, we might start to wonder about the way we’ve organized our entire world. Who gets to use what bathroom? Who is allowed to get married?…We depend on gender to make sense of sexuality, society, and ourselves. We do not wish to see it dissolve.
- Don Norman on Ethnography and Innovation – Some great commentary on Norman's piece (discussed here as well) including the very exciting revelation that Edison did something very much like ethnography!
- General Motors – The Lab – It’s a pilot program for GM, an interactive design research community in the making. Here you can get to know the designers, check out some of their projects, and help them get to know you. Like a consumer feedback event without the one-way glass.
We work on ideas that will influence our future vehicles. We want to share our ideas, inventions and pre-production vehicle designs. We want to build the right cars and trucks for your future. We want your opinion.
- Iceberg Digital Book Reader for the iPhone – Digital books as content, as hardware, as a platform, as an OS, as an app? Interesting to see a range of approaches appearing. Iceberg use the iTunes store to sell the books, which seems like a brilliant strategy, leveraging a storefront/distribution platform that already exists.
- Steal These Books – From Wikipedia page about book theft, a set of articles that describe what books get stolen from bookstores (independent, chain, and campus) and libraries.
- Archaeology’s Hoaxes, Fakes, and Strange Sites – A large set of links to articles about fake archeological-type stuff (discoveries, artifacts, and the like). How and why.
- Bonnier Mag+ Prototype for a digital magazine – The scenario/prototyping in this video is one of the most awesome things I've ever seen, done by Bonnier and BERG. It's very gentle, and very rich.
- Will gadget revolutionize our reading habits? – For the concept of a device that allows books to be read electronically, "this is the year we get it," said Steve Portigal, the head of Pacifica consumer research firm Portigal Consulting. "But there's this huge psychological chasm we have to cross before people buy them."
- 15 Google Users Tried Bing for a Week and 10 of them Switched – Students often ask me about ethics, i.e., our findings being influenced by corporate agendas. Here's a study that Microsoft commissioned to see if Google users would switch to Bing if forced to use it. Results say "yes." The research question may not have been "Will Google users switch to Bing?"…it may have been "Help us understand how Google users react to Bing [once they don't have to think about the choice between Google and Bing at search-time]" It may be that the findings led themselves to this promotion.
- Sports Illustrated future vision for their Tablet – So the future of reading is, apparently, television. They've managed to throw everything into this demo, including nekkid (almost) ladeez, game playing, and really bad sound effects (note: boop and page-flip don't make a coherent soundscape IMHO).
- Universities reject Kindle over inaccessibility for the blind – The National Federation for the Blind said Wednesday that while it appreciates the Kindle's text-to-speech feature, the "menus of the device are not accessible to the blind…making it impossible for a blind user to purchase books from Amazon's Kindle store, select a book to read, activate the text-to-speech feature, and use the advanced reading functions available on the Kindle DX."
"The big disappointment was learning that the Kindle DX is not accessible to the blind," Ken Frazier, the University of Wisconsin-Madison director of libraries, said in a statement. "Advancements in text-to-speech technology have created a market opportunity for an e-book reading device that is fully accessible for everyone. This version of the Kindle e-book reader missed the mark."
- ‘Sesame Street’ Responds to Dispute – An executive for Sesame Workshop said a segment on the show that upset political conservatives was “equal-opportunity parody” that made fun of both CNN and Fox News. The skit featured Oscar the Grouch as a reporter for the Grouch News Network (or GNN). When his work upsets a female viewer and fellow Grouch, she tells Oscar: “From now on I am watching Pox News. Now there’s a trashy news show!” Some conservative bloggers called the comment a veiled shot at Fox News, and Michael Getler, the PBS ombudsman, wrote that “Sesame Street” producers should have avoided the joke. Miranda Barry, an executive vice president at Sesame Workshop, responded that “no political comment or comment about Fox News, subtle or overt, was intended.” Having the “grumpy, grouchy, contrarian Oscar” on “Sesame Street,” Ms. Barry wrote, “shows kids that you can listen to someone with a very different worldview, and even be friends with them, without losing your own perspective.
- The Media Lab | Center for Future Storytelling – Storytelling is fundamental to being human: it's how we share our experiences, learn from our past, and imagine our future. With the establishment of the Media Lab's Center for Future Storytelling, the Media Lab, together with Plymouth Rock Studios, is rethinking what "storytelling" will be in the 21st century. The Center will take a dynamic new approach to storytelling, developing new creative methods, technologies, and learning programs that recognize and respond to the changing communications landscape. The Center will examine ways for transforming storytelling into social experiences, creating expressive tools for the audience and enabling people from all walks of life to embellish and integrate stories into their lives, making tomorrow's stories more interactive, creative, democratized, and improvisational.
- IST2010ENG/ EDEBIYAT / 40 Districts 40 Books by 40 Authors: ‘My Istanbul’ series at Tüyap 2009… – My Istanbul is a monumental project of 40 books in which 40 distinguished authors told their own districts.
40 authors born and lived in Istanbul wrote their own feelings, thoughts and memories in their own style about 40 districts of Istanbul for this project originated from the idea that every district has a different story, a different identity and a different spirit.
Realized in cooperation with Istanbul 2010 European Capital of Culture Literature Directorate and Heyamola Publications the project ‘My Istanbul’ will display Istanbul’s recent history by the words of witnesses while each district is being re-interpreted by sui generis views of the authors.
- Jake Cressman – Part of the Hot Studio team that won the Portigal Consulting/Core77 1-Hour Design Challenge! Congrats, Jake!
- CONGRATS: Hot wins ‘The Future of Digital Reading’ design challenge – Designers + Beer = Fun: Late on a Friday afternoon, a group of Hot’s designers and a good-natured friend gathered in Hot’s biggest conference room. We spread books of all sizes out on the conference table, salty and sweet snacks in every corner, and several six packs of beer on ice. What more could you need? We watched segments from Portigal Consulting’s video where they outlined their findings, and paused a few times to discuss amongst ourselves. After we got comfortable with the background material, we divided into a couple teams, each focusing on a different approach
The winning SuperFlyer concept came from a collaboration of Shalin Amin, Holly Hagen, Leslie Kang, and our buddy Jake Cressman.
- Pictorial Highlights of IDSA Project Infusion – Without really getting into the content at all, a visual review of the trip to Miami Beach.
- Project 10 to the 100 – Google crowd-sourced 150,000 "ideas to change the world by helping as many people as possible." They've boiled then down to 16 'Big Ideas' and now are going to decide (they are taking votes but it doesn't seem that is the actual decision mechanism) which one to fund. But the process looks random, the results appear ill-defined, and the next steps are murky. I'm not harshing on Google here; this is the process we see in most engagements, moving from insights to opportunities to actual next steps. It's very challenging to do what. Google has done here and make this a public-facing activity, without the benefit of people sitting together in a room developing a shared understanding. We also don't have as much of a stake in what Google does as we would in our own business; we're the public, not members of the team.
- "Reading Ahead" Project Fuses Consumer Reading Habits With Opportunities to Enhance the E-Reader Experience – A press release about Reading Ahead and our design competition in partnership with Core77
- Sleep Dealer – Alex Rivera's 2008 film turns his Why Cybraceros? political-commentary 5-minute short into a feature film about an immigrant labor solution where impoverished Mexican workers use implants to remotely control robots in other countries, performing crappy dangerous jobs no one one in those countries wants to do. But they stay in Mexico to be exploited, rather than coming over the border.
It's a powerful idea and the movie's history from agit-prop to entertainment meshes nicely with some of the points I made about science fiction recently in interactions magazine, in We Are Living in a Sci-Fi World.
- Cybracero Systems – The ultimate in remote control. Workers doing whatever you need, from our state of the art facility in Tijuana, Mexico.
- Why Cybraceros? (1997 video) – Link to the 1997 video
Why Cybraceros? – As agriculture has become a larger and larger industry in America, it has become harder and harder to find American workers willing to do the most basic farm tasks. Picking, pruning, cutting, and handling farm produce are all simple, but delicate tasks. Work that requires such attention to detail remains a challenge for farm technologists, and as of yet, cannot be automated. As the American work force grows increasingly sophisticated, it is even harder to find the hand labor to do these grueling tasks.
Under the Cybracero program American farm labor will be accomplished on American soil, but no Mexican workers will need to leave Mexico. Only the labor of Mexicans will cross the border, Mexican workers will no longer have to.
Using high speed internet connections, directly to Mexico, American farms and Mexican laborers will be directly connected. These workers will then be able to remotely control robotic farm workers, known as Cybraceros, from their village in Mexico.
- Organizational Culture 101: A Practical How-To For Interaction Designers – Great piece by Sam Ladner. Success requires so much more than "doing the work" and this is a great look at some of the softer-yet-killer aspects of "consulting."
- Bruce Sterling on the normalcy of the future – [See also our recent interactions piece: We Are Living In A Sci-Fi World]
They’re phantom far-out notions gobbled up by the real world. They packed in there so deep that nobody notices them. So, yes, I can write about it. It’s just: it doesn’t look futuristic. It looks way too real.
Why isn’t it grand? Why isn’t it as fantastically grand as the spectrum of all possibility? Well, why isn’t today grand? Why didn’t we wake up this morning in direct confrontation with the entirety of past and future? The present day is the only day we’re ever given.
- An interactive map of more than 52,000 prose-literacy profiles across Canada – The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) defines the following five levels of literacy:
* Level 1—Very poor literacy skills. An individual at this level may, for example, be unable to determine from a package label the correct amount of medicine to give a child.
* Level 2—A capacity to deal only with simple, clear material involving uncomplicated tasks. People at this level may develop everyday coping skills, but their poor literacy makes it hard to conquer challenges such as learning new job skills.
* Level 3—Adequate to cope with the demands of everyday life and work in an advanced society. It roughly denotes the skill level required for successful high-school completion and college entry.
* Levels 4 and 5—Strong skills. An individual at these levels can process information of a complex and demanding nature.
- New England prep school Cushing Academy gets rid of printed books – With more than 20,000 books, officials decided the school no longer needs a traditional library. They have decided to discard all their books and have given away half of what stocked their sprawling stacks.
“When I look at books, I see an outdated technology, like scrolls before books,’’ said James Tracy, headmaster “This isn’t ‘Fahrenheit 451’. We’re not discouraging students from reading. We see this as a natural way to shape emerging trends and optimize technology.’’
They have spent $10K to buy 18 Sony and Amazon electronic readers which they’re stocking with digital material for students looking to spend more time with literature. Those who don’t have access to the electronic readers will do their research and peruse assigned texts on their computers.
- Neil Gaiman’s Bookshelves – Photographs of author Gaiman's extensive collection of books (via BoingBoing)