Posts tagged “producer”

Sometimes I feel…

Back in 2012, this video appeared on YouTube, with disc drives playing Soft Cell’s version of Tainted Love (did you know it was a cover?).

This sort of thing does go back decades; some folks got an IBM 1403 printer to play pop songs in 1970 (check out the actual songs here).

In a delightful twist, Marc Almond of Soft Cell recently came across the video, and decided to add his vocals to the disc drive music!

I’m reminded of when Gotye created his own remix (on YouTube) of the ubiquitous covers (also on YouTube) of Somebody That I Used To Know.

Platforms like YouTube enable the collapse of the separation between consumer and producer and it leads to interesting and surprising outcomes. These small examples highlight the disruption that is occurring today.

Just a song that I used to know

Back in 2005, I wrote The More The Merrier for Core77, exploring how consumer and producer continued to blur. Of course, that trend has continued, and even accelerated.

Meanwhile, for my next interactions article (coming out in November) I’m thinking about the creativity that can emerge from the massive libraries of data we now can access.

So here’s something astonishing that builds on both of those themes. Gotye, the musician behind this summer’s omnipresent song Somebody That I Used to Know digs into all the covers (and parodies and so on) of this tune on YouTube, and remixes them into a new cover. Of his own song.

Reluctant as I am to add to the mountain of interpretations of Somebody That I Used To Know seemingly taking over their own area of the internet, I couldn’t resist the massive remixability that such a large, varied yet connected bundle of source material offered.

Check it out, it’s pretty great example of something very much of our moment.

Notes: Gotye acknowledges this video for inspiring his remix; he has blogged a complete catalog of his sources; and I was pleased to see he included this parody video which addresses the song’s ubiquity in a funny and relate-able way.

ChittahChattah Quickies

P&G gets innovative [Cincinnati.com] – The process behind Tide Pods includes lots and lots of research such as “talking” to 6,000 consumers. It appears this research was all done in simulated environments. I am bemused by the willing self-deception that if you put a couch in a lab, it makes the research contextual. I’d like to see P&G watching people do laundry in their real, non-idealized, messy, distracted, semi-functioning environment. Because then maybe you’d get takeaways richer than “Most laundry-doers are looking for a way to get it done faster.”

Inside the Beckett Ridge “home,” P&G researchers interviewed regular people as they sat in the comfortable couches of a mock family room or at the counter of a mock kitchen. They did the wash in a fully functioning laundry room. Through it all, they were videotaped and audiotaped, so P&G can capture how the wash gets done in a real-world setting…Back at Beckett Ridge, researchers worked on the packaging and the store display. Inside the “grocery store” with its six aisles, two checkout lanes and a self-scan lane, cameras are everywhere, recording how shoppers shop. The video feed can be streamed to any P&G Intranet site so questions and comments can be called in.

Never Too Early Movie Predictions – Sure, if we care at all, we’re still digesting the most recent Academy Awards. But forgot about 2012, this site has predictions through 2017. Sheesh, I haven’t seen any of these movies! Another moment where the corners of the Internet remind you that everyday life is filled with some genuine science fiction moments.

2015 Oscar Best Picture predictions
1. Noah
2. Citizen Hughes: The Power, The Money And The Madness
3. Churchill And Roosevelt
4. Avatar 2
5. The $700 Billion Man
6. The Color Of Lightening
7. Serena
8. Americana

Young Women Often Trendsetters in Vocal Patterns [NYT] – I had missed the original “vocal fry” hubbub a few months back, but I also enjoy how this article reframes young-female speech into a positive, leading-edge anthropological act.

Girls and women in their teens and 20s deserve credit for pioneering vocal trends and popular slang, adding that young women use these embellishments in much more sophisticated ways than people tend to realize. “A lot of these really flamboyant things you hear are cute, and girls are supposed to be cute,” said Penny Eckert, a professor of linguistics at Stanford. “But they’re not just using them because they’re girls. They’re using them to achieve some kind of interactional and stylistic end.” The latest linguistic curiosity to emerge from the petri dish of girl culture gained recognition in December, when researchers from Long Island University published a paper in The Journal of Voice. Working with what they acknowledged was a very small sample – recorded speech from 34 women ages 18 to 25 – the professors said they had found evidence of a new trend among female college students: a guttural fluttering of the vocal cords they called “vocal fry.” A classic example of vocal fry, best described as a raspy or croaking sound injected (usually) at the end of a sentence, can be heard when Mae West says, “Why don’t you come up sometime and see me,” or when Maya Rudolph mimics Maya Angelou on SNL.

Plastic Surgeons See iPhones Increase Demand for Cosmetic Procedures [Austin-Weston Center for Cosmetic Surgery] – It’s hard not to be cynical about this “press release” in which plastic surgeons tie the need for their services to a particularly hot tech brand. If you do this (the wrong way, at least) in China, you can get into trouble!

“Patients come in with their iPhones and show me how they look on [Apple’s video calling application] FaceTime,” says Dr. Sigal. “The angle at which the phone is held, with the caller looking downward into the camera, really captures any heaviness, fullness and sagging of the face and neck. People say ‘I never knew I looked like that! I need to do something!’ I’ve started calling it the ‘FaceTime Facelift’ effect. And we’ve developed procedures to specifically address it.” (via Kottke)

draw me in – Jeff Johnson’s quest to become a comic book extra. The best summary of the project – yet another example of the collapsing gulf between producer and consumer comes from this Wired article (quoted below).

Popping up in nearly 30 comic books, he has become the industry’s Waldo-a lurking stowaway who has managed to hijack the unlikeliest panels. “It’s the ultimate bragging right to go into a comic store and pick up a book you’re in,” says Johnson, a 30-year-old Kmart electronics clerk from Leavenworth, Kansas. His infamous glasses-and-goatee mug has been zombiefied (The Walking Dead), digitized (Tron: Betrayal), and placed alongside Sinestro (Green Lantern Corps), thanks to his ceaseless lobbying and the cooperation of artists. The idea sprang from a 2006 FHM contest in which entrants sent pictures of themselves in homemade costumes of villains; the winner (if you want to call it that) was drawn into Ultimate X-Men. Johnson didn’t want to dress up, so instead he handed out DrawMeIn flyers at Comic-Con, after which penciler Ryan Ottley worked him into Invincible.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • [from steve_portigal] Disney Reviving Muppets Franchise With Movie This Fall [NYTimes.com] – [As rock star's kids become rock stars and classic films get remade, rebooted and prequels, that trend combines here with the fan-enthusiast-consumer-becomes-producer trend, suggesting a slice of Hollywood culture is a microcosm or reflection of mainstream culture. Kevin Smith and Seth Green are possible precursors to this.] “This is the first Muppet production of any size that is really being spearheaded by fans instead of hard-core Muppet professionals,” said Lisa Henson, Jim Henson’s daughter and chief executive of the Henson Company….“As it turned out, nostalgia for the brand went way beyond our little circle,” he said of the unusual wave of interest that eventually swept celebrity after celebrity into the project. In a single scene, Whoopi Goldberg, James Carville, Neil Patrick Harris, Judd Hirsch and Selena Gomez all make cameos.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • [from steve_portigal] New record label hands decision-making over to fans [Springwise] – [This is exactly what Devo did in 2010 with their Devo 2.0 initiative which we blogged about extensively. Love how rapidly an experiment/social commentary becomes a "straight" idea in someone else's hands] Crowdbands is offering users the chance to become record label executives from their homes. Established by Tom Sarig and Peter Sorgenfrei, the Crowdbands label has already signed LA-based band The Donnas. By signing up as a Crowdband member for USD 25 a year, users are entitled to vote on major decisions in The Donnas’ career, from which songs are included on their albums, which artists they should collaborate with, where and where they tour, and even ideas for album cover art. In exchange, not only do members get to see their decisions implemented, they also receive the band’s releases before the general public.

The acceleration of immediacy


Marshall Herff Applewhite, Jr., aka Do

On March 26, 1997, my friends and I sat watching as the evening news was dominated with the lurid story of the Heaven’s Gate mass suicide. The image of Do, through an evening’s viewing, quickly became iconic. With semi-serious earnestness, we figured that if we had some way to get that image off of the television and print it on a t-shirt, we could go down to San Francisco’s Haight Street the next morning and sell ’em on the street. We loved the idea of immediate translation from news story to meme to hipster product. We didn’t have the technology (or really, the motivation) to make it happen, but for me that was an early signal of the potential to really collapse the time in that cycle.

On May 6, 2010, we had a strange stock market crash. In the Twitter era, a commemorative t-shirt (‘I survived the crash of 2:45 pm”) was available within a few hours.

crash

The tools to deliver this immediacy are now available to more of us. You could probably have a Do shirt up for sale on the web within a few minutes of reading this post. But the very idea of this immediacy is more part of the zeitgeist. It’s becoming a norm. We expect more immediacy. We expect that we can create an immediate experience for others. Meanwhile, consumers become producers. At the same time, we see an emergence of slow movements (from food to media), because every trend has a counter-trend.

Ironically, it took me a week to write this post. Immediacy makes no concessions to busy, I guess.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • The Book Industry Turns A Page on Talk of the Nation (NPR) – The Kindle, the iPhone and other electronic book readers have changed the way many people read — and left some in the publishing industry desperate for new ways to make money. A new venture from the TheDailyBeast.com, will soon upend the traditional publishing model. With Peter Osnos, Founder of Public Affairs Books and Former Vice President at Random House, Tina Brown, founder and editor-in-chief of The Daily Beast, and ZZ Packer, author of Drinking Coffee Elsewhere
  • Google to launch online electronic book store – Google plans to launch an online store to deliver electronic books to any device with a web browser, threatening to upset a burgeoning market for dedicated e-readers dominated by Amazon's Kindle. They will be initially offering about half a million e-books in partnership with publishers with whom it already cooperates where they have digital rights. Readers will be able to buy e-books either from Google directly or from other online stores such as Amazon.com or Barnesandnoble.com. Google will host the e-books and make them searchable.

    "We're not focused on a dedicated e-reader or device of any kind," Tom Turvey, Google's director of strategic partnerships, told journalists at the Frankfurt Book Fair.

  • Barnes & Noble Taps Kindle Designer For Its AthenaNook e-Book Reader – Ammunition supposedly did the original Kindle and is now supposedly doing the Barnes & Noble device. Meanwhile, stay tuned for the Core77 1HDC Reading Ahead results!

Bank of America “One” gets covered

Comedian David Cross blows my mind with post-modernity when he covers (with Johnny Marr on guitar) the widely-seen Bank of America corporate meeting new-lyrics-cover of U2’s One.

To recap, in 1991, U2 release song “One” on Achtung Baby. And very very recently, some goofy corporate dudes earnestly adapt the lyrics to motivate the Bank of America troops. And within 2 weeks David Cross covers that version (also at a comedy festival).

Meanwhile, Universal Music is sending Cease-and-Desist notices out to stop sites from hosting a song (One) to which they own the rights.

We truly live in wonderful times.

Big, disgusting and delicious

PimpThatSnack is an insane website, documenting in reasonable detail some ambitious projects to look at a familiar snack and cook up really really large versions.

I wrote recently about rediscovering the vanilla slice on a trip to Toronto. Here they produce a very very large vanilla slice, shown here next to a regular-sized treat.
Pimp That Snack 6 24 2006 11 33 14 PM.jpg
That is the money shot in all their projects – the original dwarfed by their pimped-out creation. Here’s a Nutrageous, complete with insanely-supersized-wrapper.
nutrageoues-14.jpg
Another great example of consumer participation in a previously-limited-to-producer behavior, a theme I wrote about a while back.

And of course, we’ve got some ironic Google ads inserted into their pages.
pimp-that-snack-6-24-2006-1.jpg
Low-Carb? Sugar Free? These are death-inducing creations; not sure where Google’s algorithm gets those ads from!

When Group Therapy Means Coming Clean on TV

The New York Times , in (a very good) article about reality tv validates the thesis of my recent FreshMeat.

‘Technology has taken down boundaries between the ones producing and the ones receiving,’ said Betsy Frank, executive vice president for research and planning at MTV Networks. ‘Young people have an incredible need to use the media to connect with their peers, to validate their choices. After every episode of `Real World,’ they’re on the Internet talking about what happened.’

FreshMeat #21: The More The Merrier

========================================================
FreshMeat #21 from Steve Portigal

               (__)
               (oo) Fresh
                \\/  Meat

People, put your hands together now for FreshMeat!
=========================================================
There’s a party in my mind and everyone’s invited
=========================================================
At the dawn of the eighties, I looked towards my imminent
ritual transition to manhood – my Bar Mitzvah. My
preparations began with the acquisition of a portable
tape recorder (used for listening and practicing the
Torah portion I would eventually chant). My friends and I
immediately put this device to use, creating fake radio
programs, with interviews, songs, commercials, and
closing credits. The post-modern media parodies of
National Lampoon and Saturday Night Live were well-
established at that point, but not to a 13-year-old. To
us, presented with a new enabling technology, pretending
to be on the radio seemed the natural thing to do.

These new technologies continue to appear. Within recent
memory, some products that put previously unachievable
professional-grade abilities in the hands of ordinary
people include video cameras, desktop publishing, teeth
whitening, home theater, hairstyling products, and home
dry-cleaning. Further, consider some of the brands that
offer “professional” as part of their promise: Hummer,
Jeep, Viking, Thermador, SubZero, Bosch, Nikon, and Smart
and Final.

In our culture there is a growing interest in trying to
be like the professionals. As consumers, we’re interested
in how business is done. The popular press reports the
amount of money that a new movie makes in its opening
weekend. Advertisements (most recently Dell) profile the
product designers, user researchers, usability testers,
and others who are behind the scenes for the products we
buy. Many of the ubiquitous reality-TV shows are simply
pulling back the veil on a previously hidden process
(MTV’s Cribs documents the homes of the famous, Take This
Job- tracks the work activities of people with unique
occupations, Airline shows the minutiae of getting
passengers boarded for an on-time departure, and Family
Plots tells all about a family-owned funeral home). The
boundaries between consumer and producer continue to
blur, a change that was massively accelerated by the
Internet. For more about this, check out The Cluetrain
Manifesto
. Customers (really, fans) of companies form
communities to debate how those companies and their
products should evolve. For example, Google’s social
networking site Orkut includes two communities with over
1000 subscribers: What Should Google Do? and What Should
Orkut Do?

But beyond simply acting upon that sense of ownership by
talking about the companies, many people are taking
advantage of new enabling technology (i.e., Photoshop) to
go one step further – to create new “products.” And, with
a distribution channel like the Internet, they can also
share their creation with an enormous audience, just like
the professionals.

Fan-created fiction (or “Fanfic”) is artifact of fandom
in general, but the quantity and breadth of Internet
sources further demonstrates the extent of consumers
acting, literally, like producers. The “Lois and Clark”
Fanfic archive
has over 2300 stories and is updated
regularly. There are other fanfic sites devoted to NYPD
Blue, Law and Order SVU, Felicity, anime characters such
as Sailor Moon, and video games including Max Payne and
Zork. As well as many, many Star Trek sites.

Similarly, DVD Tracks is a site that was set up to host
alternative commentary tracks for DVDs, recorded as MP3
files by ordinary viewers.

For products, specifically, one of the most popular
formats for consumer-developed concepts is the parody.
SomethingAwful.com runs a regular forum where
participants create realistic, disturbing, obscene,
bombastic and hilarious product concepts, ads, book
covers, movie posters, and more. Check out this for
fictitious recalled food products like Nestle Boogers, or
this for fake religious toys such as Biblical MadLibs and
Erotic Dreidels.

Some people might look at those pages and groan, grimace
and think “Hardy-har, I’ve seen stuff just like that on
comedy TV shows.” That’s exactly the point! Now, ordinary
folks can create parodies of real products and services
as well as commercial media. Ironically (or
frustratingly, if you can’t handle too much recursion)
this trend was beautifully pegged in a Saturday Night
Live parody ad for computer they called McIntosh Jr.
Using the tagline “The Power to Crush the Other Kids” one
young boy earns the envy of his classmates by printing
out a fake brochure for the “pubic library.” See the ad
here.

Beyond straight-up parodies, we can find people crafting
conceptual visions of the future. Look at this to see
wireless coffee delivery and payphones converted to
clean air dispensers, among other imaginings.

But what probably hits closest to home for many of us are
the proposed design evolutions of real products, created
by regular people. A beautiful iPod watch is here. You
can see 150 other iPod concepts – new form factors, new
finishes, skins, features, and more here.

These people obviously have real passion and enthusiasm
for the iPod. We also find a similar energy with an
eagerly anticipated product update, such as the Nintendo
DS. When the public has no idea what their future object
of desire will look like, fake images begin circulating
to feed that hunger. Gizmodo.com, an excellent site for
information about the latest technology products, has
been soliciting concepts for the Nintendo DS (see some
examples here) as part of their campaign to obtain an
actual pre-release image of the product. They are even
offering a bounty (get the details here) for whoever can
provide this image.

A further variation is the how-to information created by
enthusiasts who not only share the result of their
project, but also publish detailed instructions for
others who may want to duplicate their example. They are
publishing their own designs, and the means for others to
complete that same design. Want to build a lit cityscape
for your kitchen window? See how Ryan Hoagland did it
here
. Mike Harrison tells you how to build a Nixie Tube
clock here. Physically modifying a PC (or “casemodding”)
has produced a entire subculture of DIY hardware
designers who no doubt are influencing manufacturers like
Alienware. See the process of building a casemod that
looks like an anime girl here, or visit www.moddin.net to
see ultra-custom designs like a toaster, an Underwood
typerwriter, a V8 engine and others that evoke futuristic
technogeek wet dreams. The turn-your-Mac-Classic-into-an-
aquarium meme became so widespread that there is an
entire collection of Mac-based aquariums here.

Product designers may have a negative knee-jerk reaction
to all this. Who do these people think they are? Up to
this point, the limited availability of glorious tools
(and training needed to use them) placed this type of
speculative conceptual activity out of the reach of the
masses. Now the technology, if not the ability, is within
reach of millions. But for designers this is really a
“the-more-the-merrier” situation. These new enabling
technologies (i.e., PhotoShop and its brethren) further
the discourse about what is possible, and what is desired
– and that discourse is an essential ingredient in the
work we do for non-fake clients.

For example, consider how user research methods such as
participatory design (also known as PD) explicitly
harness this desire. PD asks regular people to help
design future products. The designers work directly with
users to identify needs, rapidly prototype solutions, and
iterate those solutions on-the-fly. Although some may
fear that bringing non-designers into the actual pencil-
and-paper moments of design may reduce the design to a
mere sketchmonkey, PD is not consumer-led design. The
designer takes the lead, informed by what the users know
best – the problems they have today with existing
products (of a lack of product). People will offer
alternatives to ideas suggested by designers, but the
biggest value for the designer is in understanding the
needs behind that input (i.e., it’s not clear that people
are ready for an emergency fresh air dispenser as
suggested above, but we can see the connection between
that concept and existing products such as the USB-based
personal ionizers that are sold online).

When someone says, “I want a handle,” that shouldn’t be
taken literally. The need being expressed is, “I need an
easy way to carry this device into another room.” The
designer is not simply implementing a wish-list but is
actively translating and transforming. That is what they
do best: act as a magic engine that takes in needs and
spits out wants – in a way that solves the need. No one
really “needs” an iPod watch, but they may “want” one.
Some people want one badly enough to create a picture of
what it would be like!

Participatory design is a significant shift in how we
approach user research – instead of focusing on the
problem we are now working with users to develop the
solutions. Of course, in the process of creating
products, needs, wants, and solutions are often just
proxies for each other as we struggle to articulate half-
baked ideas. But half-baked ideas are artifacts of the
creative process. It’s exciting that these regular people
are already creating partially cooked concepts on their
own, without a client, without a PD session, without a
designer, or a facilitator. For the designer who seeks to
center their solutions in the world of the user, rest
assured that the users are already headed out to meet you
halfway.

If we ever wanted proof that such a thing is possible,
that everyone really is a designer, we need look no
further than these impassioned expressions of desire to
be involved with products we love.

A similar version of this article appears on the Core77
Industrial Design Supersite
. Check it out, with pictures
and everything, here.

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