Black Swan Green

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Black Swan Green, originally uploaded by blackbeltjones.

“It is inevitable that we will be massively blindsided by events, because our understanding is misled by an array of beguiling illusions about reality.”

Stewart Brand on Nassim Taleb, in his introduction to Taleb’s forthcoming Long Now [SALT] talk, entitled: “The Future Has Always Been Crazier Than We Thought”

RCA Design Interactions work-in-progress show

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Went to the as-per-usual-hectic opening last night and was knocked out to see such resolved and beautifully communicated work from everyone on the Design Interactions course.
In the past, the interim show work has struggled to make intangible and challenging concepts engaging – not this time.
Playful, clear and concrete stuff – well done all involved.

Giant things that blog

After the BLDGBLOG lecture at UCL last week, Mark, Russell, James and myself retired to the Malborough Arms for post-match analysis; and Russell dropped on us the fact that Roll-Royce’s jet engines are now prolific bloggers.

They twitter about what they are doing back home to Derby from wherever they are above the globe, 33000 feet up.

At the risk of sounding a bit like one of the guest publications on “Have I got news for you”, here’s a quote from Aviation Maintenance Magazine that Rusell found to back-up his pub-fact

“Engine diagnostics, and predictive analysis that our technical people are doing, feed into the operations control room, the hub of global fleet support for large engines, to see how they are performing, combined with flight log monitoring.”

The company is able to monitor 3,000 engines in real time, collating technical data streamed via satellite in flight.”

Of course, there must be an entire swathe of giant things that blog, and have been blogging since the dawn of telemetry; but it still seems faintly magical.

“The Earth is becoming unearthly” – Geoff Manaugh/BLDGBLOG at The Bartlett



Free software and access = no obligation so feeds enthusiasm ?like sunlight or vitamin c?
(He speaks very fast in a NE USA accent this is not going to be a transcript)

Archigram x Ballard x Philadelphia x depression x claustrophobia = start of bldgblog

A catalogue of enjoyment.

Changed his life.
> Map of climate zones in europe projected in europe 2071 from the guardian
How do design climate-appropriately for a rapidly changing climate? What is site-specificity in this dynamic context?

Geoff Manaugh/BLDGBLOG at The Bartlett

Refs “solastaglia” cf. Collision Detection ( – climate-change melancholy. Losing a homeland without moving anywhere
Will future pharma companies sell you pill to combat climate change
Obsessed by the fact that the earth is becoming unearthly
Showing projected maps of the future coastline is in some senses “adventure tourism”
Be aware of the risks of showing these images – might be exciting rather than prohibitive

Geoff Manaugh/BLDGBLOG at The Bartlett

Quotes from “The Drowned World”
> Shows billboard architecture
Could climate change refugees be clinging to billboards on the hammersmith flyover?

Geoff Manaugh/BLDGBLOG at The Bartlett

> Battleship island, japan

> Bannermans island: private home of the world’s biggest arms dealer at the time of the spanish-american war’s_Castle

Geoff Manaugh/BLDGBLOG at The Bartlett

Rumour was that he used faulty cannons as rebar-the thoughts of turning weapons into architecture is exciting
> Island fortress of the coast of india
> Maunsell towers off whitstable – influence for archigram

Geoff Manaugh/BLDGBLOG at The Bartlett

Texas tower off the coast of new jersey – post-war

> Oilrigs by statoil
– Man standing on the seabed
Costs about the same as flat in downtown manhattan / camden designed by rogers
The premium offshore oil-rig market could be tapped into
Dubai terraforming
– The thing that you don’t realise is the scale
Dubai is very disappointing, very boring. Invest that much money and all you can come with is dumb homes for sports-stars? That much hubris, time, money and slave labour? And that?s all you come with? Islands in the shape of a palm tree?

> Artifical reefs – what if archigram had been active in this area?

Geoff Manaugh/BLDGBLOG at The Bartlett

– Looks remarkable looks like chinese armillary spheres- jesuit astronomy instruments
– The reef has a brand on it.
– In 300yrs when this is a “quote/unquote” a natural object – someone will find a logo.
– Sovereign control of undersea structures: there is a feature under the sea between china and japan. Japanese are cultivating coral in order to grow an island so that they can make the territory claim.
What do artificial islands imply for the future of sovereign territory: is the future of colonialism reef science?

George Perec: worms/table/epoxy
China Mieville: slow sculpture,,1312147,00.html

The evolution of the landmass of north america >california is not solid ground – it is “the remnants of islands, former continents, lost indonesias”

Geoff Manaugh/BLDGBLOG at The Bartlett

Google Earth: Ron blakey geology maps

San andreas fault is itself an assemblage of microfaults

Taipei 101 is activating the surface of the earth – causing minor tectonic faults – is it a long term weapon?

The interaction between architecture, weight and the earth’s surface could be further explored
The more people move to LA and build, the safer it will be to live there. The anti-taipei101. Pin the earth down.
We could be massaging the tension out of the earth surface with traffic.

A view to a kill – christopher walken and “terrestrial weaponisation”

Geoff Manaugh/BLDGBLOG at The Bartlett

US military: “Earthquake Array”

Geoff Manaugh/BLDGBLOG at The Bartlett

The us military is the real Archigram.

Modular, portable cities, temporary structures, flexible autonomous cities
Dungeon instancing/sharding: in WoW – what are the implications of that for architecture. If you had billions of dollars and very nimble stagehands you could perhaps achieve this effect in the physical world. If I walk into the same building 5 mins later to you? Is it the same?

Geoff Manaugh/BLDGBLOG at The Bartlett

Subterranea Brittanica
Where have all the trapdoors gone? Why doesn?t pret-a-manger have trapdoors?
Border tunnels – hidden entrances in cargo containers on the border. Crosses through sovereign space into a store front in mexico. “The border is filigreed with this sort of thing. Landscape experiences that are not available to you if you are law-abiding”
Ground-penetrating radar – non invasive archeology

Geoff Manaugh/BLDGBLOG at The Bartlett

Underground cities could be faked? if you hack the GPR?
Biking under london from bethnal green to whitehall – in the 80s?
Urban exploration: burgeoning
Michael Cook/toronto: interview on bldgblog
Different tunnel technology sound different – you can almost sonically-navigate around

Geoff Manaugh/BLDGBLOG at The Bartlett

From underworld to offworld
Mars rovers are the landscape photographers of the future
The new landscapes of the sublime are off-world
Kim Stanley Robinson: comparative planetology is a new thought process for humans.
We’re exporting a earth-centric template onto the other.

Geoff Manaugh/BLDGBLOG at The Bartlett

> Columbia hills complex of mars of memorial sites for dead astronauts
“Mars is becoming earth through our melancholy”
Mars analogue site is being constructed on earth: mars conditions and appearance.
We are making mars like earth and earth like mars, either deliberately on a small scale like this or accidentally on a large scale through climate change :

These are interesting times – “The Earth is becoming unearthly”

Top Secret Howies Project: more cowbell!

One project I’m doing that I haven’t written anything about yet is our Top Secret Howies Project, that isn’t a secret at all.
It’s going pretty well, and should be in the store very soon – just spent the afternoon with Henry and Russell, tinkering and discussing some of the niceties of the installation, in a kind of more genteel, smaller, slower version of “Scrapheap Challenge”.
With cake.
The pleasure of tinkering with a machine is something that I get quite a lot in software, especially in discussion with Boris, Tom, and Matt B., but to tinker in hardware and software (especially Meccano) is a rarer thing.
It seems to activate a way of thinking with the eye, the mind and the hand that is entirely natural, proving in practice some of the early chapters of Malcolm McCullough’s “Abstracting Craft”; and the playful problem-solving instincts of childhood come rushing back.
More of this in 2008 I think.

Exploratory philanthopy and public-service content

Gates' telescope

While this might be a typically hilarious technocratic and somewhat bloodless statement by Bill Gates, you have to admire the project itself:

‘”LSST is truly an internet telescope which will put terabytes of data each night into the hands of anyone that wants to explore it. [It is] a shared resource for all humanity – the ultimate network peripheral device to explore the universe,” he said.’

Gates gives $10m, Charles Simonyi gives 20$m. Various other software billionaires are exploring the human genome, or building space programmes.

In the past I’ve somewhat facetiously wondered what would happen if the BBC used it’s annual billions to move into space exploration, creating entertainments as spin-off.

A question I asked Max and Jack in the pub before Christmas was – what if these ‘exploratory billionaires’ made a land-grab for the public-service broadcaster’s territory instead?

Gates after all already owns Corbis etc., Google is mapping and measuring the Earth constantly for representation. While these are definitely for-profit enterprises, what if Larry and Sergey et al decided not to settle for just Google Earth but go after “Planet Earth” also?

If Google decided to beat the BBC’s Natural History Unit at it’s own game, what would be the result?

What if they decided to devote technology, money, phd’s and determination to mapping, recording, simulating, visualising and telling stories of the natural world with data rather than film. A kind of Quokka-for-nature, might be one possible outcome I guess.

What if they offered all of the data and assets they gather to scientists, students, schoolkids, storytellers with an open license? What if they gave it to games developers, educators, exhibitions to be used in playful, interactive, engaging ways?

Currently in the domain of natural history, there are efforts to build a ‘commons of content’ such as ARKive that are, pretty good, (although the Terms of Service are not exactly inviting) but you can’t help thinking if someone of the GOOG mindset and resource-base got their hands on it, it would be truly, literally awe-inspiring.

I guess the thrust of my question is what happens when software people with serious resources behind them get very, very serious about what’s traditionally seen as the preserve of ‘content’ or ‘editorial’.

Often at ‘content companies’, especially notable public-service broadcasters (ahem) – the great teams taking technical, systemic approaches to knowledge are indulged and somewhat encouraged at early stages, but if there is a spark of promise then ‘of course someone editorial will be brought in’ above them.

This does not often end well.

The troubling thought, that even in core areas of expertise with glorious heritage such as natural history, we’ll see that public-service broadcasters can, and will get dis-intermediated in a world where data is played with as much as stories are told.

Based on the rise of ‘exploratory philanthopy’ that aims to create “a shared resource for all humanity” as evidenced in quotes like Gate’s above, this might not be a bad thing…

A finer grain and fluid time…

I’m sat in my house waiting for the delivery guy.
What I wouldn’t give for a fuzzy read from the delivery van’s GPS/location, piped through a traffic report to give me an estimate of how far away they are.
I’d pay a small premium to be able to leave my house! The city is here for Amazon, Parcelforce and myself to use, ideally.
On which subject, you can go and pre-order Mr. Greenfield’s new book, which will hopefully be designed to fit in a mailbox so you won’t have to wait in for it…

Two-thousand and prate

Happy New Year

I’ve got a couple of speaking gigs coming up in the new year, and I’m getting down to thinking beyond the proposals I made for them, to what I’m actually going to, y’know, say.

I’ve spoken at conferences in the past, but the difference this time, which I’ve not experienced before is that I’m not speaking on behalf of anyone other than the company I co-founded.

It’s fast coming up on Dopplr‘s first birthday (I think MattB wrote the first lines of code at year ago tomorrow) and now it’s been getting a little bit of attention and serious usage, I’ve been taking a little bit of time to step back and look at the faults, the lessons and the next things to fix, improve, change.

Over new year in Tokyo with Boris we couldn’t help but discuss some of the design problems we’ve got and came up with what (at least, wandering around in the sunshine and cold, and far away from a computer screen, or even a whiteboard) seemed like nice solutions.

The stuff I think I’ve learned in the first year of doing Dopplr is going to be the core of my first talk at IxDA08 in Savannah in February, although as it’s going to be an expert audience, I’m also hoping to go into some more abstract territory that Boris, MattB, Tom and myself sometimes head into when we’re chatting over a Greggs Tea in the office.

I’m very excited about the event itself, which is the inaugural get-together for iXDA, with some awesome keynotes – but also to expose what I’ve been doing with Dopplr to probably the toughest audience I could dream of.

The other talk I’ve just gotten confirmed is on the design and user-experience track at Web2.0Expo in San Francisco this April.

Polite, Pertinent and… Pretty: Designing for the new-wave of Personal Informatics

There?s an explosion in what?s been called ?personal informatics?: services that surface information about you and your network to your advantage. I?ll examine how great UX design can maximise the benefits to all.

Primarily reviewing design decisions from the development of, I?ll also draw on many other applications, devices and services from the cutting edge of personal informatics, to identify patterns and principles that work for power-users and newbies alike.

Privacy is often, quite rightly, the first concern of users, designers and developers ? but I?ll argue that some other ?P?s: Pertinence, Politeness and, yes? Prettiness are equally important for the adoption and success of such services.

The multi-disciplinary nature of creating great user experiences is taken to extremes in the nascent area of ?personal informatics? and I?ll touch on information visualisation, user-centred service-design, copywriting, geo-location, wayfinding, design for mobile, ubiquitous computing, video-games, ?spimes?, industrial design and even urban planning before we?re done.

Web2.0Expo’s audience I have no idea about, but I’m guessing it’s more oriented towards business people and developers / technical managers.

As you can guess from the blurb, I’m going to try and connect some of the stuff we’re doing with Dopplr to some of my favourite themes of the last few years, and stuff that I think is going on around the area more generally, including work by people like Tom, Adam and the Stamens.

I’m not sure it’s strictly “web2.0” but it’s what’s most exciting to me at the moment, so thanks to the organisers for feeling the same way! Currently, I’m ‘sole billing’, but I’m hoping to get some guest stars roped into the discussion.

I thought I’d write down what I want to do in order to make myself do it, and perhaps invite some wit and wisdom to inject also.

Hope to see you at one or both of them, anyway.