Websites and White Cubes

Dumb sign, originally uploaded by blackbeltjones.

Been asked to work on the nominations for designs of the year again at the Design Museum, which is very nice.
But it leads me back to this hoary old question – how should interactive work best be shown in a museum or gallery context? Should it be shown at all?

“Modern Architecture in Britain”

Given to me by my Paul Peter Piech as I left for the Welsh School of Architecture in 1990.

My Dad found it and gave it back to me last time I went home to Porthcawl. Honoured that he chose to sign it “Uncle Paul” – he was a great friend to my father and a great influence on me.

From Paul’s Obituary by Lottie Hoare from The Independent, 1996:

“Some remarkable individuals keep on believing, throughout their lives, that the world could change for the better. The artist and printer Paul Peter Piech was one such man. He was born in Brooklyn in 1920, the son of Ukrainian immigrants looking for a new way of life in America. From their tough example Piech learnt both to work hard and to speak out when it mattered. His books and posters confront the viewer with the need for global responsibility and co-operation. One piece borrows the words of John Donne, “Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind.”

It goes on to describe the way he worked – which I remember well. Prolific doesn’t begin to describe it. He spent most of his time in his studio working, but he often visited my dad in his framing workshop, or the printers where I worked. He would come in to get enlargements on the photocopier, copies from books – art, design, philosophy, politics, and he would always explain to me what he was doing with them, even though I was just a spotty 15 year-old printer’s devil.

“Piech did not crave the perfect studio. He was happy to work in garages. In his series of suburban homes, in Middlesex, Herefordshire and Wales, he would spend evenings cutting his lettering direct on to the lino, whilst keeping one eye on Coronation Street. It was a family joke that Christmas Day ended at 10 in the morning. Once the presents were open Piech went back to his proofs.

His fellow printer and writer Kenneth Hardacre once described the urgency of Piech’s output as that of “a man whose need to communicate his faith and his fears was so pressing that it often appeared to be impatient with the very means he had chosen for expressing that need”.

“Tony was right”: Etech ‘09 call for proposals/papers

The Etech ’09 call for proposals/papers has been out for a week or so, and it’s theme/focus is “Living, Reinvented: The Tech of Abundance and Constraints”, which makes me doubly-excited to be participating this year on the program committee along with some y’know, actual smart people: Mike Walsh, Annalee Newitz, Natalie Jeremijenko, Matt Webb, Nat Torkington, David Pescovitz, Timo Hannay and Kati London.

Over the years I’ve given Etech a fair bit of Tony-Stark/Warren-Ellis-inspired ribbing, so now it’s time for me to put-up-or-shut-up and find some “genuine outbreaks of the future” – so, if you know of anyone (including yourself) nudging up the future slider on the reality EQ, please encourage them to submit something as soon as…

The full CFP can be found here, and some of the themes I’ll be particularly looking forward to seeing the proposals for are:

  • City Tech: Our cities are growing, getting bigger faster than ever before. People are rushing to them in search of economic and social opportunity?jobs, urban living, and access to culture. How can technology help us create livable, prosperous, sustainable cities? What should mass transit look like? How can we infuse urban infrastructure with sustainability? How are cities using citizens? data to become smarter? What can economics tell us about the way urban populations will change and behave?
  • Materials & Mechanics: Mechanics and materials develop hand-in-hand. The creation of a new, lighter metal enables iPhones and Mars Explorers. We?ll examine the latest in mechanics and the materials that enable new developments. What mechanisms will be possible? How will the coming age of materials change our clothes, our products, and our everyday lives? Can they be made the cradle2cradle way or will we simply be clogging our landfills with ingenious, meticulously crafted waste?
  • Mobile & The Web: The next billion people will come to the Web via connected mobile devices. Currently, many of these devices are humble dumb clients, but the iPhone, Google, and Nokia are bringing smarter clients to the masses with open platforms. How will these mini-computers change our lives? How will these jumbo-sized sensors benefit us? Will we be able to use the third screen to view an augmented world? What data will be collected and who will have access to it? Is the Web ready for the Next Billion? What will their web apps look like?

I have a feeling the key to this is going to be a distributed, active hunt in territories unfamiliar – so if you have a friend who’s a grad student doing weird things in a lab somewhere, and architect or an engineer sketching strange bio-mimetic structures on pub beer-mats; or anyone outside of the usual O’Reillysphere that you know who’s doing something exciting, do encourage them to take a look at the CfP.

Let’s make Tony proud…

P.s.: I’ve taken Matt Fraction‘s “Tony was right” slightly out-of-context here, via the ever-lovin’ Ryan Freitas.