Muttering about mobile

Haven’t done much of it since leaving Nokia, and certainly didn’t get the chance at an awful event I got invited to speak on a panel at last year (see the sketch above); but did get to bang on about some ongoing obsessions and thoughts while climbing out of a terrible hangover at the PSFK Good Ideas Salon today. I think it was being taped, so that might be online at some point for you to laugh at. Also, got to catch¬†Christian Nold speak which was great. Thanks to Piers Fawkes for the invitation.


Update: a very nice write-up from Jemima Kiss of The Guardian

RIP Jan Kaplicky

Confessions: Jan Kaplicky, originally uploaded by moleitau.

Missed this last week. One of my design heroes, Jan Kaplicky has died.

Met him when I was in college, and did my written thesis for B.Sc on the work of Future Systems.

Wrote my only published and paid review for Wired UK (original version) on his book “For Inspiration Only“. Operated his carousel of slides when he came to give a lecture to us at the Welsh School of Architecture. This was in the same format of the book – he would show two oppositional images, and jab you (verbally) in the ribs with an aphorism linking the two.

One that always stuck with me was him showing a moody, uplit black-and-white press portrait of Richard Meier in the cliché black-turtleneck and severe glasses in front of venetian blinds Рeyes directed up and away in search of the future Рvery fountainhead.

Kaplicky rumbled: “This is not design”

He pointed at me to click the slide carousel forward. An image of a carpark full of Boeing employees, from design engineers to HR to office cleaners in 777 project t-shirts waving at the camera.

Kaplicky, now beaming, crookedly: “This. This is design.”

Over warm white wine after the talk, he leant over and said to me “When you see a bumpy road, take it”.

Trying to.

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PaperCamp prototyped…

Can I have a … ?, originally uploaded by straup.

This Saturday saw the first-ever PaperCamp successully prototyped.

After an amount of last-minute panic, I think I stopped being stressed-out about 5 minutes into Aaron’s talk.

Instead I started to become delighted and fascinated by the strange, wonderful directions people are taking paper, printing and prototyping the lightweight, cheap connection of the digital and the physical.

Jeremy Keith did a wonderful job of liveblogging the event, and there is a growing pool of pictures in the papercamp group on flickr.

Highlights for me included the gusto that the group gave to making things with paper in a frenetic 10min session hosted by Alex of, Karsten‘s bioinformatic-origami-unicorn proposal, and the delightful work of Sawa Tanaka.

Also, the fact that we’ve made Craft Bioinformatic Origami Unicorns a tag on flickr has to be seen as a ‘win’ in my view.

Lots of people didn’t hear about this one as I was deliberately trying to keep it a small ‘prototype’, and also we were luckily operating as a ‘fringe’ event to the Bookcamp event that had been set up by Russell, Jeremy and James and didn’t want to take the mickey too much (thanks guys) – so apologies to those who didn’t make it.

But, the enthusiastic response means we’ll definitely be doing this again, as a bigger, open, stand-alone event, maybe in the summer, with more space, more attendees and hopefully more heavy-duty printing and papermaking activities.

The next PaperCamp is going to be in NYC in early Feb, and I hear noises there maybe one gestating in San Francisco also…

Stay tuned, paperfans…


Half an icebow

“Overhead, obscurity unveiled a star. One tremulous arrow of light, projected how many thousands of years ago, now stung my nerves with vision, and my heart with fear. For in such a universe as this what significance could there be in our fortuitous, our frail, our evanescent community?

But now irrationally I was seized with a strange worship, not, surely of the star, that mere furnace which mere distance falsely sanctified, but of something other, which the dire contrast of the star and us signified to the heart. Yet what, what could thus be signified? Intellect, peering beyond the star, discovered no Star Maker, but only darkness; no Love, no Power even, but only Nothing. And yet the heart praised.

Impatiently I shook off this folly, and reverted from the inscrutable to the familiar and the concrete. Thrusting aside worship, and fear also and bitterness, I determined to examine more coldly this remarkable “us,” this surprisingly impressive datum, which to ourselves remained basic to the universe, though in relation to the stars it appeared so slight a thing.”

Star Maker, by Olaf Stapledon

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Danny The Street has a question for you.

1) Think of the street you spend the most time on.
2) Think of a magical difference you could make to the fabric of that street (i.e. not the people that annoy you)
3) Tell Danny (and me) about it in the comments to this post.

More about Danny here, and many thanks to Tom for introducing us.

Shaping Cities?


This morning began well, with Zaha Hadid’s guest-editorship of BBC Radio 4’s Today programme spooling some wonderful reminiscences and thoughts from Peter Cook onto the wireless and the web, including this audio slideshow about the work of Archigram.

One of the things floating in the back of my mind at the moment is the reality of the technological reshaping of our engagement with cities contrasted with the 1960s utopias of Archigram.

It’s a mix of mobile phones, practical ubicomp, twittering infrastructures and building-sized blogjects that skirts the framing of The Hill/Greenfield/Shepherd Scenario (that sounds like a ubicomp free-jazz combo!), but is a bit more BLDGBLOGgy too – stranger and more situationist in flavour.

More on this will float out soon I hope.

Then, next, with: more from The SpimePope’s yearly commencement speech:

So the model polity for local urban resilience isn’t Russia. I’m
inclined to think the model there is Italy. Italy has had calamitous
Bush-levels of national incompetence during almost its entire 150-year
national existence.

Before that time, Italy was all city-states — and not even “states,”
mostly just cities. Florence, Milan, Genoa, Venice. Rome. They were
really brilliantly-run, powerful cities. (Well, not Rome — but Rome
was global.) Gorgeous cities full of initiaive and inventive genius.
If you’re a fan of urbanism you’ve surely got to consider the cities
of the Italian Renaissance among the top urban inventions of all time.

And cities do seem in many ways to respond much better to
globalization than nation-states do. When a city’s population
globalizes, when it becomes a global marketplace, if it can keep the
local peace and order, it booms. London, Paris, New York, Toronto,
they’ve never been more polyglot and multiethnic.

In my futurist book TOMORROW NOW I was speculating that there might
be a post-national global new order arising in cities. Cities as
laboratories of the post-Westphalian order.

However… okay, never mind the downside yet. Let’s just predict
that in 2009 we’re gonna see a whole lot of contemporary urbanism going
on. Digital cities. Cities There For You to Use. Software for
cities. Googleable cities. Cities with green power campaigns.
Location-aware cities. Urban co-ops. “Informal housing.”
“Architecture fiction.” The ruins of the unsustainable as the new

A President from Chicago who carried the ghettos and barrios by
massive margins. Gotta mean something, I figure.”

I wonder if Cook and Sterling could be convinced to team up and write “Shaping Cities: towards a new spimurbanism”…

Software for cities, and practical citymagic. That’s something I’m resolving to dig into this year, especially for WebStock.

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Bruce Sterling’s state o’ the world 2008/09

Is beginning on The Well:

“I always knew the “War on Terror” bubble would go. It’s gone. Nobody
misses it. It got no burial. I knes was gonna be replaced by another
development that seemed much more burningly urgent than terror Terror
TERROR, but I had a hard time figuring out what vast, abject fright
that might be.

Now I know. Welcome to 2009!

What I now currently wonder is: what kind of OTHER development makes
us stop maundering about liquidity issues? You know what’s truly weird
about any financial crisis? WE MADE IT UP. Currency, money, finance,
they’re all social inventions. When the sun comes up in the morning
it’s shining on the same physical landscape, all the atoms are in
place. It’s not merciless enemies would blow themselves up in order to
bleed on our shoes… oh wait. They are. Well, it’s not like the
icecaps are melting.

Oh wait. The icecaps ARE melting. Okay, maybe I’ll start over next

Happy new year…