Posts tagged “writing”

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • Online and on iPhone, authors read 10 pages of their latest work – Aiming to introduce readers to authors they aren't yet familiar with, zehnSeiten (German for ten pages) promotes writers through videos that feature them reading ten pages from their latest novel.

    Available both online and as an iPhone app, the videos are simple, fixed-camera affairs. No dramatic introductions or filmed scenes, just black and white recordings of authors sitting at a table and reading from their work. By eliminating frills, the focus is on the author and production time and costs are kept to a minimum.

  • A Story Before Bed – asynchronous distant storytime – As Jason Kottke explains "A Story Before Bed allows you to record yourself reading a bedtime story to a faraway child…maybe you're away from home on business or a grandparent who lives in another state or just working late. When storytime rolls around, the child sees the book onscreen plus a video of you reading it to them. Slick."
  • Michael Turner on authors, digital, content, and meaning – (highly edited excerpt) – The problem with seeing "digital tools" as "problems" lies in the writer's inability to see the computer and the Internet less as tools than as a medium — the analogy being that the Internet is to the palette what the computer is to the canvas. If an author identifies his or herself as a "good old-fashioned storyteller", someone of bad manners and singular genius, a romantic, a lovable eccentric whose hat is always a little bit too big for their head, then the best way to convey that fantasy — and the book it squirted from — is to complain about "digital tools."

    Some authors have taken to [publisher requests to use digital to promote] better than others…using their books as a device by which to cast shade, create depth, movement, hopefully leading them to new places, new ways of making meaning.
    (via kottke)

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • 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    “When I look at books, I see an outdated technology, like scrolls before books,’’ said James Tracy, headmaster “This isn’t ‘Fahrenheit 451’.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)

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • Exercises in Style – 99 visual retellings of the same story – Matt Madden's visual version, where the same one-page story is told in graphic novel form 99 different ways.
  • Exercises in Style – 99 retellings of the same story – Exercises in Style, written by Raymond Queneau is a collection of 99 retellings of the same story, each in a different style. In each, the narrator gets on the "S" bus (now no. 84), witnesses an altercation between a man (a zazou) with a long neck and funny hat and another passenger, and then sees the same person two hours later at the Gare St-Lazare getting advice on adding a button to his overcoat.
  • Wally Wood’s 22 Panels That Always Work – "Wood created this piece not for others, but as a reminder to himself to not become bogged down in unproductive eddies" – like Oblique Strategies or McLuhan's Distant Early Warning Cards, this is another go-to set of tools for a creative problem (in this case, how for comic illustrators to present information in different ways)
    (via waxy)

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • Robert Fabricant of frogdesign considers whether understanding users means that design is or isn't persuasive/manipulative – How do we decide what the user really 'wants to achieve'? The fact is that there are a host of different influences that come to bear in any experience. And a host of different needs that drive user behavior. Designers are constantly making judgment calls about which 'needs' we choose to privilege in our designs. In fact, you could argue that this is the central function of design: to sort through the mess of user needs and prioritize the 'right' ones, the most valuable, meaningful…and profitable.

    But according to what criteria? These decisions, necessarily, value judgments, no matter how much design research you do. And few designers want to be accountable for these decisions. From that perspective, UCD, starts to seem a bit naive, possibly even a way to avoid accountability for these value judgments.

    [Obviously no easy answers here; even defining the terms for the discussion is challenging, but the dialog between Robert and others is provocative]

  • Dave Blum, treasure hunt designer, offers 100 treasure hunts around the world – I was always a puzzle and a game kid. I had a friend when I was growing up in Millbrae, Mike Savasta, and he and I were just board game and card game fanatics. Monopoly, Life, Sorry, Stratego.

    In college, I played thousands of games of cribbage. I like the intellectual challenge, the analytical challenge. I'm very much a "play-it-by-ear" kind of guy, so I like a game where you have to think on your feet.

    After college, I lived in Japan for 3 1/2 years and taught English. Then I spent 11 months traveling through Asia and Europe, and when I came back to San Francisco, I worked in tourism for a while. I said, "I need to find a career that I really love." I thought if I could combine group work, travel, games and puzzles – that would be the ultimate job. I started Dr. Clue in 1995.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • Overused Food Words (from 2007) – Now we know what's wrong with "crispy" – it should just be "crisp." But here's a more thought-out list of overused terminology.
  • The Seattle Times (from 2006): Say what? A guide to menu-speak – We've blogged this before, but it's fun to revisit. This explains the meaning of some of the obscure food items that are becoming more common on menus.
  • (From 2001) Menu Cliches – "piping hot"
    "garden fresh"
  • Village Voice's List of Overused Food Words – List includes Dollop, Slathered, Homey, Wilted, Toothsome, Nosh, Drizzled, Garlicky, Crispy, Eatery, Well-Browned but doesn't seem that they've really parsed the difference between effective description and overwrought cliche. How is "crispy" an overused word? Some commenters add some good words but others support my confusion over the premise.
    (via Eater SF)

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • Reasonable Consumer Would Know "Crunchberries" Are Not Real, Judge Rules – Judge England also noted another federal court had "previously rejected substantially similar claims directed against the packaging of Fruit Loops [sic] cereal, and brought by these same Plaintiff attorneys." He found that their attack on "Crunchberries" should fare no better than their prior claims that "Froot Loops" did not contain real froot.

    (via BoingBoing)

  • A Manhattan Writing Of Six Therapists – “Everybody comes in with their own stories, and they can be so staggeringly original,” said Bonnie Zindel, the psychoanalyst who started the writing group seven years ago. “We all need stories to make sense of our lives, we’re all wired to tell stories, and nature gave us that. For us, we wonder, ‘What is the story that our patients are telling?’ There are mother stories, father stories, ghost stories and the eternal universal story of a child trying to separate from its mother.”
  • 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Persuasive – Read this post now, it won't last long! Most of our readers – including people like you – are already choosing to look at this post.

    (Lone Gunman, I'm giving you folks credit for this and look forward to you reciprocating, thanks!)

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • The “Raiders” Story Conference – Sure, there's a 125 page document on the interwebs now that transcribes the meetings that Spielberg, Lucas, and Lawrence Kasdan had to plan out Raiders of the Lost Ark, but even better is this post chock-full of analysis (with examples) of that document, finding principles of storytelling, screenwriting, and collaboration.

    "7) No idea is a bad idea when you’re brainstorming.

    These guys were all over the place with ideas and there’s nothing wrong with that. As I mentioned earlier, many of the ideas discussed, like the plane crash sequence and mine cart chase, were used in the second film. So what helped determine which sequence should be kept and thrown away? Redundancies in concept. You already had a chase scene here, so why have another one here? Let’s come up with something different. You know? That kind of thing."

Words

A writer is a person for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.
Thomas Mann

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Poet Kenneth Goldsmith calls himself an “uncreative writer,” and his works include: everything he said for a week; every move his body made during a thirteen-hour period; a year of transcribed weather reports, and the September 10, 2001 issue of The New York Times, transcribed.

My first reaction to Goldsmith’s work was that it seemed like a good piece of conceptual art scamming, but then I heard him read one of his transcribed weather reports on the radio.

Before he read the piece, Goldsmith explained that the process of transcribing these artifacts creates an experience for him of the poetry in everyday language use. And it was true-as Goldsmith read the weather report, in a fairly rapid, uncadenced style, I was struck by how vividly evocative the place names, the verbs of wind and temperature, the homey advice to “stay indoors” all were.

I think what Goldsmith is doing is a word-focused parallel to what we do in contextual research practice: we carefully observe and document the everyday, as much as possible suspending our own preconceptions of what is and is not significant, in order to see in new ways.

When I was younger, I effortlessly seemed to think in a more lyrical and poetic way than I do now. My hypothesis has been that this change is a result of being more involved with “putting my hands on things” than I was in my 20s. My creative energy now goes much more towards describing and solving problems-juxtaposing complex alternatives, articulating ideas that have the potential for real impact-and there’s just not the same kind of energy available for playing with language.

I’m happy with the direction my way of thinking has evolved, but at the same time, I feel a certain sense of loss for that earlier version of myself, and the ease with which I used to make words do tricks.

Hearing Goldsmith reminded me that I needn’t draw a hard line between between playing with language and solving problems, between the lyrical and the practical-that it’s all out there, evocative and full of potential.

Get our latest article: The Journey Is The Reward

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My third interactions column, The Journey Is The Reward, has just been published. I offer some thoughts about the experience of the outsider, especially when we travel to other countries, and how that outsider experience can be so generative in understanding other frames of reference and cultural models.

Get a PDF of the article here. As the interactions website only has a teaser, we’d like to offer a copy of the article. Send an email to steve AT portigal DOT com and (if you haven’t given us this info before) tell us your name, organization, and title. We’ll send you a PDF.

Other articles

The Google cliche

It used to be that you could take notice at the outset of a poor essay or speech when it began with the dictionary definition for the central topic. The Simpsons referenced this at least once

Homer: “What is a wedding? Websters defines it as a process of removing weeds from ones garden.”

But now lazy bloggers and NPR journalists are pretending to channel the zeitgeist by using the number of Google hits for their term as a proxy for cultural relevance. When the numbers are over 1,000,000, how meaningful is this? It’s simply a cheap cliche.

Full disclosure: I’ve probably done both of these and will probably do them both again. In the interest of always trying to tell better stories, I will attempt not to, however.

The FreshMeat archives

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From 2001 to 2005, FreshMeat was a semi-regular email column about the relationships between business, culture, technology, products, consumers, and so on. As this blog found its voice, it gradually replaced FreshMeat as our outlet for the same sort of commentary.

This is a jump page for archived FreshMeat issues.

4/29/05 – Push to Talk
1/04/05 – Total Recall
7/26/04 – License to Shill
4/05/04 – The More The Merrier
12/23/03 – Pun Americana
6/30/03 – Livin’ La Vida Luxa
5/21/03 – The Houses of the Wholly
2/18/03 – She Blinded Me With Silence
11/07/02 – American Girl, Mama Let Me Be
8/05/02 – Free Agent Irritation
4/06/02 – Get Down Off the Shelf
1/16/02 – The Name of the Game is the Name
12/07/01 – Why The Cleaning Lady Won’t Do Windows
11/21/01 – A Load On Their Mind
11/09/01 – Beaming Up Scotty
10/30/01 – Got Zeitgeist?
10/04/01 – Everyone Remembers Their First Time
9/28/01 – If I Had A Hammer…Would Everything Look Like A Nail?
9/18/01 – Take Pictures, Last Longer!
9/04/01 – Cleaning Up On Aisle 5
8/27/01 – Reading FreshMeat Declared Safe!
8/17/01 – We Love to See You Smile?
8/09/01 – Every Product Tells a Story (Don’t It?)
8/01/01 – Blue Hawaii, or Viva Las Vegas

Note: TurnSignals (PDF) – originally sent out by fax – was an antecedent to FreshMeat.

Get our latest article, Persona Non Grata

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My first interactions column, Persona Non Grata, has just been published. In the article, I consider some of the fatal problems with personas and how they can hurt while pretending to help.

Get a PDF of the article here. As the interactions website only has a teaser, we’d like to offer a copy of the article. Send an email to steve AT portigal DOT com and tell us your name, organization, and title. We’ll send you a PDF.

See what else we’ve written about personas.

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Steve Portigal’s upcoming column in Interactions Magazine

I’ll be contributing a regular column to Interactions Magazine in 2008. I can’t wait til the issues ship and their website goes live!

We see a world rich with culture, emotion and human connections. The human-built world has afforded a sense of beauty, sublimity and resonance, and through our advancements in technology can come advances in society. At the heart of these advances are interactions: conversations and dialogues. Interactions exists to tie together experiences, people and technology, and to provide an international venue for dialogue and the forging of relationships.

5 year of Portigal @ Core

Last week’s IDSA conference was personally significant as it marked five years since a random chat in the IDSA02 gallery turned into a productive relationship with the fine folks at Core77.

I wrote up my thoughts on that conference, and then a piece about Meary, a quintessentially Japanese product that is stickers to turn ordinary objects into faces. Kawaii, anyone?
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Since then, I’ve blogged extensively over there, continued to write articles, done some fun podcasts, and even presented at Core77’s top-shelf Design 2.0 event.

This wide-ranging and rewarding collaboration reached a new plateau last week, after the Core77 ICSID/IDSA party, where I assumed the role of official designated driver.
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Here’s to the next five years!

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