We launched public profiles on Dopplr yesterday – and the thing that seems to get people talking is their personal velocity, rendered as an animal.

I’m not sure when this occured to me, perhaps it’s my fascination with daemons and familiars – but it seems to strike a chord.

The hardest part of implementing this was finding enough animals at lower speeds – the internet has lots of data on fast, exciting beasties, but not so much on the slowpokes.

We’d love to get more members for our menagerie…

If you’re a zoologist or know one please get in touch!

No, really.

O, skateboarding!

21062008260, originally uploaded by antimega.

I’m far too old and creaky for it now, but as long-time readers will know I still have a fondness for those who skate the city.
This sign – captured by Chris, adapted liberally by another – is at the Brunswick Centre in London.
I especially like the way that perhaps the graphic designers or someone along the chain chose symbols that make the prohibited activities seem enormous fun…
This post is also a mental book mark for an idea I had while wandering the RCA show to adapt my long-neglected deck into something more useful for my sedentary, border-line geriatric self…

If it walks like a singularity, and quacks like a singularity

The always-thought-provoking Charlie Stross writes:

What kind of society are we likely to get if it turns out that yes, we’re hitting peak oil round about now, but that it’s possible to process random junk biomass into crude oil for $100 a barrel, and $1000 will buy you a machine that you plug into your laptop and that can make, well, just about any small macroscopic structure you can design, out of feedstock derived from biosynthetic crude oil or woodchips, or paper?

Fortune500 companies would be better off hiring science-fiction writers than MBA consultants right now.

RCA Future of Money project

At the end of last year I had the pleasure of working on a project with the first and second year Design Interaction students at the RCA. It was sponsored by Intel’s People and Practices Group, extending and examining their work on the future of money.

The brief we put together had this question at it’s core:

“As the technology of e-money and currency advances, how will that effect the social and psychological dimensions associated with those technologies? What new behaviours, new dangers, new rituals, and new pleasures could emerge?”

RFID force-feedback transactions from chriswoebken on Vimeo.

It was a great experience, and very satisifying to now see all the finished work up on the web, and looking great. Amazing to see what they did with a very abstract brief, not much time and the handicap of a first-timer as one of the tutors…

Core77’s already written about it, and I’m hoping to see some some of the pieces in the RCA Final Show shortly.

Congratulations to all there on the work so far, and good luck for the final push!

Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory feedback

Old / new media mash-up part 2

Originally uploaded by mattedgar

As Matt Edgar points out in his associated blog post about letterpressing QR codes, the delicious sound of ink on roller and impression of zinc on paper is so much more satisfying than the bleeps and shudders of the mobile UI.
It’s a succinct illustration of the sensorial joys of ‘old’ media and the failings of the new (so far…)

My outboard brain = my walking city

WALKING CITY, originally uploaded by blackbeltjones.

Jonathan Feinberg emailed me and said “Inspired by your typographically sophisticated “hand-tooled” cloud, I came up with a novel way of cramming a bunch of words together.” which is underserved praise for me, and dramatically underselling what he’s acheived with Wordle.
It does the simple and much-abused thing of creating a tag-cloud, and executes it playfully and beautifully. There are loads of options for type and layout, and it’s enormous fun to fiddle with.
As I said back when Kevan Davies did his delicious phrenology visualiser, there is some apophenic pleasure in scrying your tag could and seeing the patterns there – so I was very pleased when my playing with Wordle returned me an Archigram-esque walking city of things I’ve found interesting.
Congrats to Jonathan on building and finally releasing Wordle!

T5: Expectations of agency

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I’m in Oslo for a few days, and to get there I went through Heathrow’s new and controversial Terminal Five. After all the stories, and Ryan’s talk on the service design snafus it’s experienced I approached my visit there with excitement and trepidation.
Excitement still, because it’s still a major piece of architecture by Richard Rogers and Partners – and sparkly new airports are, well, sparkly and new.
YMMV, especially as we were travelling off-peak, but – it was pretty calm and smooth sailing all the way. I’m guessing they’ve pulled out all the stops in order to get things on an even-keel.
Saw both pieces installed in the BA Club Lounges by Trokia (‘Cloud’ and ‘All the time in the world’), both of which were lovely – you can get to see them both without having to be a fancypants gold carder, which is good.

The thing that struck me though was the degree of technological automation of previously human-mediated process that were anticipated, designed and built – that then had to be retrofitted with human intervention and signage.
It’s a John Thackara rant waiting to happen, and that’s aside from all the environmental impacts he might comment on!

My favourite was the above sign added to the lifts that stop and start automatically, to make sure you understand that you can’t press anything. Of course, we’re trained to expect agency or at least the simulation of agency in lifts – keeping doors open, selecting floors, pressing our floor button impatiently and tutting to make the lift go faster. Remember that piece in James Gleick’s FSTR where lift engineers deliberately design placebo button presses to keep us impatient humans happy? People still kept pressing the type panels – me included!
To paraphrase Naoto Fukasawa: sometimes design dissolves in behaviour and then quickly sublimates into hastily-printed and laminated signage…