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Search results for '"bruce sterling"'
24 November 2013

Bruce Sterling on the value of design fiction (and some example videos)

 

Bruce Sterling’s Wired UK article on the value of design fiction is very much worth a read, as it defines the field so well:

“A formal definition exists: “Design fiction is the deliberate use of diegetic prototypes to suspend disbelief about change.”

There’s heavy freight in that sentence, but most can be disposed of promptly. “Deliberate use” means that design fiction is something that people do with a purpose.

“Diegetic” is from film and theatre studies. A movie has a story, but it also has all the commentary, scene-setting, props, sets and gizmos to support that story. Design fiction doesn’t tell stories — instead, it designs prototypes that imply a changed world.

“Suspending disbelief” means that design fiction has an ethics. Design fictions are fakes of a theatrical sort, but they’re not wicked frauds or hoaxes intended to rob or fool people. A design fiction is a creative act that puts the viewer into a different conceptual space — for a while. Then it lets him go. Design fiction has an audience, not victims.

Finally, there’s the part about “change”. Awareness of change is what distinguishes design fictions from jokes about technology, such as over-complex Heath Robinson machines or Japanese chindogu (“weird tool”) objects. Design fiction attacks the status quo and suggests clear ways in which life might become different.”

So what is their value?

“The objects offered to us in a capitalist marketplace have three basic qualities: they are buildable, profitable and desirable. They have to be physically feasible, something that functions and works. They need some business model that allows economic transactions. And they have to provoke someone’s consumer desire.

Outside of these strict requirements is a much larger space of potential objects. And those three basic limits all change with time. Through new technology, new things become buildable. Business models collapse or emerge from disruption. People are very fickle. That’s how it works out — and the supposed distinction between “real” and “not-real” is pretty small.”

On his blog Bruce provides a huge, personally annotated catalogue of examples of design fiction.

They range from sketches to personas, from imaginary future scientific experiments to theatrical events, from apps to start-ups, from exhibitions
to exhibitions, and from physical objects to books, to inspiring videos.

Here are some examples of design fiction videos:


The future that Mirrobe (pronounced MEER-Obe), a design fiction by Samuel Kobe, is imagined to be from isn’t all the different from one we enjoy today. The technology will not be anything majorly advanced, but instead versions of existing technology both refined and more completely integrated into the household. Kobe expects it to be the year 2020 to 2025 when his design fiction would be in production and fully integrated into the households of the modern world.
[Video version without interface]
 


nuna by Guri Venstad is a system of patches that integrate with your skin and provide new sensory experiences.
In a time where visual displays are frequently asking for our attention, nuna offers a more subtle and unobtrusive approach using ambient touch. The system consists of three patches that use patterns in vibration, temperature and contraction to form a new haptic language.
 


Introductory video to Elvira Grob‘s speculative design project “Vitiosae Vigilis“.
 


A Digital Tomorrow” is a design fiction video produced for Curious Rituals, a research project conducted in July-August 2012 by Nicolas Nova (The Near Future Laboratory / HEAD-Genève), Katherine Miyake, Nancy Kwon and Walton Chiu from the media design program.
 


Corner Convenience is a thought experiment, newspaper, and series of three short films that explore the trivial and mundane objects coming soon to a store near you. Created by Julian Bleecker of the Near Future Laboratory with Nick Foster and students at a workshop at Arizona State University’s Emerge event.
> Article in The Atlantic

6 October 2010

Bruce Sterling interview by Rhys Hughes

Bruce Sterling
Last week, La Stampa newspaper of Turin, Italy published an interview with Bruce Sterling, conducted by Welsh writer and essayist Rhys Hughes.

The complete English version of the interview has now been posted on fortykey (which by the way has a very interesting collection of essays). An excerpt:

Rhys: The ‘Internet of Things’ is a truly startling concept. I seem to remember that you once described it as “inconceivable before the 21st Century”. I find the prospect of everything in the world being linked together as alarming rather than uplifting, a threat to liberty. Are my concerns naive?

Bruce: I would agree that the privacy risks are always the first issues to strike thoughtful people. As people become more engaged with the many startling possibilities of the Internet of Things, they understand that those first concerns are primitive. They are not wrong, just simplistic.
It’s like learning about the railroad, and immediately thinking that it means that foreign spies will come to your town on the railroad. That is true. Yes, foreign spies really are a threat to your liberty, and they will use railroads. But railroads are alarming for many good reasons other than mere foreign spies.
The worst concern about a railroad is this: if a rival town gets the railroad, and your town doesn’t get that railroad, then your town dies. You will live a dead town. Posed in the rhetorical terms of the Internet of Things, this would mean a frightening “Internet of Things Gap.” This would be something like yesterday’s famous “digital divide.” When no one has it, then it might be bad to have it. When others really have it and you don’t, that deprivation is terrifying, unjust, evil. This would crush all your intelligent and skeptical reservations because it would reframe the debate in a way you could not counter.
The Internet of Things is indeed startling. It is also dangerous. But that’s just theory. To to have no real Internet is worse. To have no Internet while others do have it can be lethal. The Regione of Piemonte understood that problem, and that’s why I am able to type this to you on some very nice state-supported broadband.

Read interview

26 April 2009

Design Fiction, an Interactions Magazine cover story by Bruce Sterling

Bruce Sterling
As a contributing editor for Interactions Magazine, Experientia partner Mark Vanderbeeken was tasked with finding clever people to write a story for the magazine. His first choice was Bruce Sterling. Bruce accepted and wrote a wonderful contribution — much appreciated by the editors — that was chosen as the magazine’s cover story.

“We have entered an unimagined culture. In this world of search engines and cross-links, of keywords and networks, the solid smokestacks of yesterday’s disciplines have blown out. Instead of being armored in technique, or sheltered within subculture, design and science fiction have become like two silk balloons, two frail, polymorphic pockets of hot air, floating in a generally tainted cultural atmosphere.”

Thank you Bruce.

Read full story

1 March 2009

Book reviews of The Caryatids by Bruce Sterling

The Caryatids
Bruce Sterling’s new science fiction novel The Caryatids is out and is collecting its first reviews. Here are the ones I found so far:

Cory Doctorow – Boing Boing
“Bruce Sterling’s The Caryatids, my pick for best book of 2009, a novel of clear-eyed hope for the future.”
“Bruce Sterling has been one of the most important and challenging writers in science fiction since 1977 — and 32 years later, his books are progressively better, smarter and more important. Run, don’t walk.”

Thomas M. Wagner – SF Reviews
The Caryatids is one of those books that doesn’t so much tickle your funnybone as take a dentist’s drill to it. Which means half of you are likely to love it while the other half will find it impossibly off-putting. I’m guessing Bruce wouldn’t have it any other way.”

Nisi Shawl – Seattle Times
“It’s a tribute to the ability we all have to re-envision our own pasts and thus change the looming future.”

John Clute – Sci Fi Wire
“I cannot think Sterling conceives that the raree-show convolutions of The Caryatids amount to a portrait of a world being saved; I think Sterling in this novel is telling us that the world, like his novel, is a shambles; and that we are kidding ourselves if we think an entablature of dancing clones could possibly model anything but chaos to come. I think he has created The Caryatids as a sandbox for his readers to play in, because he no longer has the heart to glory in another round of pulpit talk about winning the game of the future.”
[Make sure to read the comments too.]

Matthew Bey – American Statesman
“Sterling has grown so good at being a visionary that his fiction has suffered. As a repository of futurist concepts, “The Caryatids” is required reading. As literature, it’s adequate.”

Read also this interview of Bruce Sterling (by Futurismic’s Paul Raven) about the book, Viridian and the death of print.

12 December 2008

Bruce Sterling’s brixels

KashKlash
Bruce Sterling looked at the KashKlash questionnaire results and condensed it all into four narrative future scenarios. An excerpt from the last one:

But then his son — who had gone into “cloud design,” God help him — started referring to bricks as “brixels.”

A brick house was a byword for solidity. “Solid as a brick house.” For a brick house to be malleable, temporary, gaseous, was a weird, crazy, extreme idea — as crazy as a trip to the moon. But a brixel was a brick: a mobile brick. A smart brick that was also a phone. A brick built around a phonechip, phones so high tech, so cheap, that they were cheaper than bricks. So that yesterday’s crown jewels, mobile phones, because building blocks.

Brixels locked together like children’s toys, and they were picked up and dropped, not by honest union bricklayers, but by little blind robots like an iPod lashed to Roomba. It took very little machine intelligence to move “brixels” around or to stack a huge wall out of “brixels.” A wall of brixels grew overnight. It was extravagantly patterned, like a computer screensaver. It was gorgeous. It was magnificent. It was very Italian.

KashKlash is a lively platform where you can debate future scenarios for economic and cultural exchange. Besides Bruce Sterling, the initial collaborators are Régine Debatty (of we-make-money-not-art), Nicolas Nova (LIFT) and Joshua Klein (author and hacker), who have been collaborating on initiating the discussion. The public domain project is conceived and led by Heather Moore of Vodafone’s Global User Experience Team and run by Experientia, an international forward-looking user experience design company based in Turin, Italy

(Also, make a note of Bruce’s forthcoming book, The Caryatids)

11 November 2008

The Caryatids: a new book by Bruce Sterling

The Caryatids
The Caryatids (hardcover)
by Bruce Sterling
Hardcover: 304 pages
Publisher: Del Rey (February 24, 2009)

During a speech at Mobile Monday Amsterdam, Bruce Sterling announced his next book “The Caryatids”.

According to Sterling, the book which will be published in February, is an “internet of things” book, set in the 2060′s, that “tries to describe what life is like in a working internet of things”.

Promo copy
In the vein of William Gibson’s Pattern Recognition and Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash, The Caryatids looks at the near future and forecasts not just our problems, but incredible solutions using technology currently under development. The caryatids are three identical clone sisters: Vera, a pollution expert who’s dealing with worldwide cleanup efforts; Mila, media star extraordinaire and member of the most powerful family-firm in southern California; and Sonja, a medical specialist stationed deep within China’s Gobi Desert. All three have the brains and the talents desperately needed to save a world suffering from global warning, runaway pollution, and uncontrolled political maneuvering. Too bad their explosive family history has left them hating each other…

11 November 2008

Bruce Sterling preaching the tech gospel

Bruce Sterling preaching
In this nearly 27 minute video Bruce Sterling, a leading futurist, speaker, columnist and science fiction writer, shares his vision on where mobile is heading.

Preaching his story from a somewhat unconventional place, the pulpit instead of the stage, he managed to silence the audience.

Check the video to see what he had to say to the Mobile sinners.

(via InfoDesign)

7 March 2008

A conversation about Torino with Bruce Sterling

Bruce Sterling
Today Torino World Design Capital published an interview Experientia partner Mark Vanderbeeken recently conducted with Bruce Sterling. This time not about spimes, ubiquitous computing or digital fabrication, but about his experience with the city where he lived for the last six months.

Bruce likes Torino and in this interview he gives quite a few reasons why. He goes into much detail about why “Turin is really a 21st Century” and how “it has somehow managed to deal with problems that many, many other cities, regions, cultures and nations have not yet faced up to.”

“Turin,” he says, “is one of those places that appeal to my temperament. If I were an Italian person, I would likely have been a Turinese.”

He also shares with us a content of a new story he has been writing:

“Yes, it’s a fantasy story set in Turin. The protagonist is a FIAT executive, but he’s also a necromancer. The story is set in an esoteric Turin where all the magical things that are said about Turin by New Agers are factually true.

There’s a chunk of the New Cross here and the Holy Grail is here. The Shroud of Turin really is drenched in the blood of Jesus Christ himself; there are all these ley-lines and axes of mystical power. Our hero who is an R&D investment guy at FIAT, is called into hell by Gianni Agnelli, who is dead, yet still upset about urban development issues in Torino. So he calls this former chairman down to hell to have a board meeting.

My hero, the necromancer, is accompanied by his spiritual advisor, an Egyptian mummy from the Museo Egizio whom he raised from the dead. This mummy accompanies him now and gives him good advice. It’s like the “Lone Ranger and Tonto” thing – him and his mummy. It’s a comical story, exaggerated and satirical, a fable about Turin and its issues. I could never have written it without being here.”

Bruce is now in the last days of preparation of the Share Festival that he has been curating. Come and see it if you can.

The interview is suffering a bit from poor layout and it is not so easy to see what my questions are, for instance. All the links have also magically disappeared.

Read interview

13 September 2007

Bruce Sterling lecture in Torino, Italy

Shaping_things
Bruce Sterling will be speaking on his recent book “Shaping Things” in Torino, Italy on Thursday 27 September at 6pm. The event will take place at the “Circolo dei Lettori” [Readers Club].

Sterling [wikipedia - blog] is an American science fiction writer and highly acclaimed futurist thinker and design critic.

He will be living in Torino for the next eight months, “helping out” with the Torino SHARE festival, do his customary blogging and novel writing, cover the design scene for the US press, and also write some contributions (we hope) for the Torino 2008 World Design Capital website.

His book “Shaping Things” [now also available in Italian as "La Forma del Futuro"] introduced the term “spimes” for future manufactured objects with informational support so extensive and rich that they are regarded as material instantiations of an immaterial system.

At the event there will also be interventions by Andrea Bairati (Piedmont Regional Government Deputy for Universities, Research, Innovation and International Relations), Luca de Biase (director of the NOVA supplement of the Sole 24 Ore newspaper), and Claudio Germak (Polytechnic University of Torino and Torino World Design Capital). It will be moderated by Chiara Garibaldi and Simona Lodi, who are in charge of the Piedmont Share Festival.

26 August 2007

Bruce Sterling writes ‘dispatches from the hyperlocal future’ for Wired Magazine

hyperlocal
Bruce Sterling has written a number of “Dispatches from the hyperlocal future” for Wired’s July 2007 issue.

The fictional dispatches dated 2017, have the writer post from Turin (“Torino” in Italian), Milan, Dubai, Mumbai and Washington, DC.

As per usual with Bruce, it is dense and highly entertaining prose, virtually untranslatable, and difficult to quote from. Here is a quote about the hyperlocal web:

“You see, the difference between the old-fashioned semantic Web and the new hyperlocal Web — that’s hyper as in linked, and local as in location — is that the databases of the new Web are stuffed with geographic coordinates. Real positions. Real distances. So the bodyware I carry in my pockets and travel bag broadcasts its location to any device within earshot. (Of course, the RFID chips embedded in everything help the manufacturer get it out the door, but I programmed my own tags so I can’t lose anything.) Roomware — that’s houseware to you troglodytes who still live in houses — is the stuff that runs a hotel room. You know, the remotes that control temperature and unlock the liquor cabinet, plus the window overlay that displays the weather forecast and traffic conditions. Streetware is my mobile’s navigator, plus social tags, ad filters, and all those black-and-white barcode blotches painted on walls like graffiti. Cityware is the next scale up. That’s how the local government monitors traffic, chases down leaky water mains, and keeps tourists on the straight and narrow. Stateware, nationware, globalware — you get the idea.”

In the middle of the long piece, you can even find a visual demo for the Sensicast-Tranzeo 3000. (The article also introduces the Samsung-Olivetti SeeMonster, “a hefty Italo-Korean interactive designer coffee table with an eight-handed, 40-fingered 3-D touchscreen”.

Nice too is Bruce’s image of the Torino of the future:

“Torino worked hard on changing their public image by installing the Zone. Torino used to be the “Detroit of Italy,” but some of its derelict Fiat assembly plants have been turned into city-subsidized creative-class hangouts. Big retrofitted lofts, lots of auto-watered greenery, ping-pong tables and massage chairs…. Lots of freeware. You want a bicycle, you just beep at it and take it. Free Italian movies every night, right up on sides of buildings.

In Torino’s cyber-district, you get your basic Euro-trash laptop gypsies, some installation artists, robotics freaks, do-it-yourself makers, raffish free-software fanatics — stir continuously and feed with cheap spaghetti. Result: a classic Euro-bohemian ferment. It’s like a garage sale Ars Electronica that runs all year.”

Enjoy.

2 June 2007

Bruce Sterling moving to Torino, Italy

Bruce Sterling
Bruce Sterling will be moving to Turin (a.k.a. “Torino”), Italy, starting September – for a period of six to eight months.

Sterling [wikipedia - blog] is an American science fiction writer and highly acclaimed futurist thinker and design critic. His recent book “Shaping Things” introduced the term “spimes” for future manufactured objects with informational support so extensive and rich that they are regarded as material instantiations of an immaterial system.

As he wrote me, he will be “helping out” with the Torino SHARE festival, do his customary blogging and novel writing, cover the design scene for the US press, and also write some contributions (I hope) for the Torino 2008 World Design Capital website.

He will move to Torino with his wife Jasmina Tešanović [wikipedia - blog], a Serbian author and film maker, who is a fluent Italian speaker and “has a lot to occupy her here”.

The news is already making the rounds here in Torino and there is genuine enthusiasm about it – and this on various levels. Bruce is well known in Italy and many of his books have been translated in Italian.

Ah, Torino lost Régine but gained Bruce.

We will do our best to keep him busy and excited. Welcome Bruce!

11 March 2006

Bruce Sterling on the internet of things

Bruce Sterling’s opening speech at the eTech 2006 conference is impossible to summarise. Let’s say it is rich, thoughtful and provocative for the mind.

Just an apetiser:

"The primary advantage of an Internet of Things is that I no longer inventory my possessions inside my own head.  They’re inventoried through an automagical inventory voodoo, work done far beneath my notice by a host of machines. So I no longer to bother to remember where I put things. Or where I found them. Or how much they cost. And so forth. I just ask. Then I am told with instant real-time accuracy.

"I have an Internet-of-Things with a search engine of things. So I no longer hunt anxiously for my missing shoes in the morning. I just Google them. As long as machines can crunch the complexities, their interfaces make my relationship to objects feel much simpler and more immediate. I am at ease in materiality in a way that people never were before."

Just read it (and enjoy)

24 January 2006

“Shaping Things” by Bruce Sterling

Shaping_things
Shaping Things is about created objects and the environment, which is to say, it’s about everything,” writes Bruce Sterling in this addition to the Mediawork Pamphlet series. He adds, “Seen from sufficient distance, this is a small topic.”

Sterling offers a brilliant, often hilarious history of shaped things. We have moved from an age of artifacts, made by hand, through complex machines, to the current era of “gizmos.” New forms of design and manufacture are appearing that lack historical precedent, he writes; but the production methods, using archaic forms of energy and materials that are finite and toxic, are not sustainable.

The future will see a new kind of object — we have the primitive forms of them now in our pockets and briefcases: user-alterable, baroquely multi-featured, and programmable — that will be sustainable, enhanceable, and uniquely identifiable. Sterling coins the term “spime” for them, these future manufactured objects with informational support so extensive and rich that they are regarded as material instantiations of an immaterial system. Spimes are designed on screens, fabricated by digital means, and precisely tracked through space and time. They are made of substances that can be folded back into the production stream of future spimes, challenging all of us to become involved in their production. Spimes are coming, says Sterling. We will need these objects in order to live; we won’t be able to surrender their advantages without awful consequences.

Amazon page of this book
Core77 book review

5 August 2013

Smart cities workshop with the Design Center Busan

EXP_DCB_Workshop

A few days ago Experientia’s latest collaboration with Korea’s Design Center Busan wrapped up, as 21 South Korean students completed a summer study program in Turin.

Experientia ran a creative workshop for the students, titled “Barely legal, but very nice! Smart interventions in public spaces, offices and services“. The diverse curricula of the program included architecture, industrial design, visual design, fine arts and more, and was selected by the Design Center Busan (DCB), in collaboration with Gwangju Design Center (GDC) and the Daegu Gyeongbuk Design Center (DGDC). Experientia’s faculty were Design Director Jan-Christoph Zoels, and interaction designers Renzo Giusti and Seungjun Jeong.

Experientia’s workshop tackled contemporary issues in the design discourse about Smart Cities and smart citizenship, raising awareness of public interventions, grassroots initiatives, and the formal and informal best practices that cities around the world are rolling out to meet the challenges of civic development.

The workshop explored the use of participatory design techniques aimed at urban scale issues. The students were exposed to a diverse palette of solutions for issues of civic consent creation and management, creative problem solving, citizen engagement and public sphere re-appropriation.

Students were also challenged to come up with creative solutions to address real issues they identified, from their fresh perspective, during their stay in Turin. To face the challenge of designing in an unknown territory, they were invited to take a bold yet borderline stance. To conceive design intervention capable of bringing citizens together, students could design light and pop-up solutions that would achieve the goals expected, even eschewing full compliance with official regulations.

The workshop ended on Tuesday July 30th with a final exhibition of a set of posters showcasing the design interventions conceived by the 4 groups of young Korean designers. A final keynote speech by world-famous futurist and science fiction author Bruce Sterling officially concluded the proceedings.

The workshop benefitted from the contributions of many practitioners in Turin and Milan. Experientia wants to thank: Matteo Robiglio (Tra), Simone Carena and Marco Bruno (Motoelastico), Paolo Maldotti (Archilandstudio), Isabella Steffan (studiosteffan), Carlotta Bonvicini and Francesco Cerroni (MiC, mobility in chain), Stefano Recalcati (ARUP), Giovanna Castiglioni (Fondazione Achille Castiglioni), and Luca Troisi (Enhancers).

Finally, special thanks go to SeungJun Jeong (Experientia) for managing the workshop preparation and facilitating the relationship with Design Centre Busan, and to Federico De Giuli for hosting us at the wonderful Cluster Learning Communities space.

19 July 2013

“An Aura of Familiarity”

RTEmagicC_aura_of_familiarity_cover_sml_01.jpg

In 2013, the Technology Horizons Program of the Institute for the Future commissioned six leading science fiction writers — Cory Doctorow, Rudy Rucker, Warren Ellis, Madeline Ashby, Ramez Naam, and Bruce Sterling — and artist Daniel Martin Diaz to create short stories tied to our research on the coming Age of Networked Matter. They asked these collaborators to envision a world where humans have unprecedented control of matter at all scales, and to share with us a glimpse of daily life in that world. It was a process meant to make the future tangible.

The results is the anthology An Aura of Familiarity: Visions from the Coming Age of Networked Matter.

Read the stories from the book released so far:
- By His Things Will You Know Him, by Cory Doctorow
- Apricot Lane, by Rudy Rucker
- Social Services, by Madeline Ashby
- Water, by Ramez Naam
- From Beyond the Coming Age of Networked Matter, by Bruce Sterling

25 April 2013

Steampunking interaction design and other Interaction Magazine articles

IAX20.3_Cover

Interactions Magazine is no longer the influential voice in the interaction design community that it used to be a few years ago. Lots of the reason why has to do with the fact that the bulk of the articles are behind a membership paywall, while the content remains as relevant as ever. Here are the publicly available articles published in the latest, May-June 2013, issue:

Creating the World Citizen Parliament
The cover story by Douglas Schuler explores, very seriously and thoughtfully, how interaction designers could create a World Citizen Parliament, a bottom-up, social, and material infrastructure and a vast interconnected network of deliberative assemblies, that helps people better deliberate together to make better decisions.

Steampunking interaction design
In this feature story, Matt Walsh, who works for an advertising agency, writes about the awesome power and potential of tension as a tool for interaction designers.

Harnessing the power of positive tension
Joshua Tanenbaum, Audrey Desjardins and Karen Tanenbaum like to view Steampunk through the lens of what Julian Bleecker and Bruce Sterling have termed design fiction, and believe they have a general relevance to design within the HCI community and for the future of interaction design.

Austin Center for Design
Interview with Jon Kolko on the educational institution in Austin, Texas that teaches interaction design and social entrepreneurship.

There is more in personal heritage than data
Daniela Petrelli explores personal memory and heritage in a time of digital obsolescence.

Interactive systems for health
Gillian Hayes, the new Health Matters forum editor, lays out three ways in which designers, researchers, and practitioners are reconsidering information and evidence within the realm of health IT.

2 February 2013

Dan Hill’s critique of the smart cities movement

fabrica

Dan Hill (of CityofSound, ARUP, Sitra and now Fabrica fame) is not only extremely prolific, but his writing is also very much to the point.

His latest Smart City (or better “Smart Citizen”) manifesto is a case in point. Weighing in at 10,000 words, it is a “cleaned up” and “stitched together” version of two separate pieces he wrote for the London School of Economics and Volume magazine, which he is now sharing on his CityofSound blog as “one single critique of the smart cities movement”.

The goal, he says, is entirely constructive, and to shift the debate in a more meaningful direction, oriented towards the raison d’etre of our cities: citizens, and the way that they can create urban culture with technology.

The essay surveys three types of activities, and scenarios, demonstrating active citizens, noting some issues along the way, and then critiques the opposite—the production of passive citizens—before asking a couple of questions and suggesting some key shifts in attitude required to positively work with the grain of today’s cultures, rather than misinterpret it.

“The promise of smart sustainable cities is predicated on the dynamics of social media alloyed to the Big Data generated by an urban infrastructure strewn with sensors. Feedback loops are supposed to engage citizens and enable behaviour change, just as real-time control systems tune infrastructure to become more energy efficient. Social media dynamics enable both self-organisation and efficient ecosystems, and reduce the need for traditional governance, and its associated costs.

Yet is there a tension between the emergent urbanism of social media and the centralising tendencies of urban control systems? Between the individualist biases inherent within social media and the need for a broader civic empathy to address urban sustainability? Between the primary drivers of urban life and the secondary drivers of infrastructural efficiency?

And in terms of engaging citizens, we can certainly see evidence of increased interest in using social media for urban activism, from crowdfunding platforms to Occupy Everywhere and the Arab Spring. Yet does it produce any more coherence or direction for the new cultures of decision-making required in our cities, or simply side-step the question of urban governance altogether? And what if the smart city vision actually means that governance becomes ever more passive, as it outsources operations to algorithms or is side-stepped by social media, whilst citizens also become passive in response to their infrastructure becoming active? Or might they be too distracted to notice as they’re all trying to crowd-fund a park bench?”

Bruce Sterling’s reaction:

“*After reading this I feel that I understand myself better: I like *other people’s* cities. I like cities where I’m not an eager, engaged, canny urban participant, where I’m not “smart” and certainly not a “citizen,” and where the infrastructures and the policies are mysterious to me. Preferably, even the explanations should be in a language I can’t read.

*So I’m maximizing my “inefficiency.” I do it because it’s so enlivening and stimulating, and I can’t be the only one with that approach to urbanism. Presumably there’s some kind of class of us: flaneuring, deriving, situationist smart-city dropouts. A really “smart city” would probably build zones of some kind for us: the maximum-inefficiency anti-smart bohemias.”

16 January 2013

Rob van Kranenberg’s comprehensive global Internet of Things action plan

action_plan_iot

Rob Van Kranenburg, a member of the EU Expert Group on the Internet of Things, has published a provocative comprehensive global Internet of Things action plan, as input for the inaugural meeting of the Internet of Things World Forum Steering Committee, February 20-21, 2013 in San Jose, California, USA.

Bruce Sterling posted it on his blog.

“Owning the hybrid objects of IoT makes no sense (liability, accountability). Leasing is the logical business model. As items and platforms can no longer be secured, the logical business model of IoT is the smart city. You buy life. Pick your car, you lease mobility. Your fridge will be always full, you lease storage of food. You can secure a city. So there you have the logical trajectory of IoT: traditional policing and military securing traditional proprietary business models. The former have become militia’s as the states are gone. The latter will pay for the development of bio and nano as sophistication and preservation of their initial investments. This is happening as we speak. Gated communities are the fastest rising form of building in the US and in China. The smart cities models for 50.000 persons are no labs, and not intended to become inclusive. In 2020 there will be 1500 smart cities and Mad Max in between. You would not want to live in either.

Is there an alternative? There is.”

30 October 2012

Google and the UX challenge of augmented reality

fieldtrip

The new Google FieldTrip app probes the question: What digital information do you want to see overlaid on the physical world? A challenge that Bruce Sterling describes as “‘experience design’ problems”. Alexis G. Madrigal explores it in The Atlantic:

“If you pick up a book, do you see a biography of its author, an analysis of the chemical composition of its paper, or the share price for its publisher? Do you see a list of your friends who’ve read it or a selection of its best passages or a map of its locations or its resale price or nothing? The problem for Google’s brains, as it is for all brains, is choosing where to focus attention and computational power. As a Google-structured augmented reality comes closer to becoming a product-service combination you can buy, the particulars of how it will actually merge the offline and online are starting to matter.

To me, the hardware (transparent screens, cameras, batteries, etc) and software (machine vision, language recognition) are starting to look like the difficult but predictable parts. The wildcard is going to be the content. No one publishes a city, they publish a magazine or a book or a news site. If we’ve thought about our readers reading, we’ve imagined them at the breakfast table or curled up on the couch (always curled up! always on the couch!) or in office cubicles running out the clock. No one knows how to create words and pictures that are meant to be consumed out there in the world.”

4 April 2012

The UK Government’s digital design principles, alpha release

govuk

The UK Government has published an alpha release of its digital design principles with examples of how they have been used so far.

1. Start with needs
2. Do less
3. Design with data
4. Do the hard work to make it simple
5. Iterate. Then iterate again.
6. Build for inclusion
7. Understand context
8. Build digital services, not websites
9. Be consistent, not uniform
10. Make things open: it makes things better

(via Bruce Sterling)