September 7, 1999
[New York City]
My take on Long Lake. Over Labor Day weekend, I attended a design
gathering in Long Lake, a
hamlet (not a town, or a city, or a village) in the Adirondacks
situated on, well, a lake. Forthwith a scattering of thoughts and
personae encountered. Sorry there's not more embedded links.
For further context,
last year's gathering is featured in issue 1 of If/Then:
Design Implications of New Media, a tome of original essays
on the state of interactive design, situated around the theme of
play. If/Then has broad relevance to fans of petermemes,
as this passage demonstrates:
also came up with an excellent example of knowledge with a capital
K, in the shape of The Knowledge, the famous understanding
of routes that London taxi drivers have to master. At the lowest
level it is data, the names of the roads and streets; above
that it is information, about the spatial relationships
between the streets. Above all it is knowledge about how
to actually get from one place to another, incorporating contextual
information about matters such as traffic congestion and local
bottlenecks, and how to modify the Highway Code to London conditions.
And, of course, it is a set of maps." (p. 62, bold emphasis
This bolsters the notion
that everyone is an information designer, which begs the question,
that what is it that professional information designers do?
Random aside: If I'm
any bellwether of market trends, then there is a huge industrial
design opportunity in bicycle commuting, specifically for laptop-toting
knowledge workers. Who's with me?
The interrelation of
design and business and its implications on design education were
delved into. The level of multi-disciplinary breadth required for
good design suggests wholly doing away with design education as
it's currently practiced, which is typically in some degree of isolation
from essential understanding in technology, business, social sciences,
cognitive science. I was heartened to realize that successful design
requires bucking the trend of increasing specialization in favor
of more holistic understanding.
This lead to discussion
on how to guide designers towards a better understanding of their
craft. Information design for the Web has little formal curriculum,
and to me suggests that a master/apprentice relationship is imperative--too
often people are simply thrust into the role and expected to figure
it out. The role of coach was also suggested, someone to act as
a mentor, who might not have domain expertise, but whose wisdom
can be brought to bear on any situation. This holds appeal in that
it won't succumb the potential "Business As Usual" sentiment
already too prevalent in the design--"You'll design this way,
because I design this way, because the person before me designed
this way, etc."
Clever wordplay was often
the order of the day. Sawad proclaimed he practiced "affirmative
cynicism," which became something of a motto for the event.
In mentioning how I hate getting caught up in semantics, because
I find the constant definition of terms often serves only to get
in the way of real dialog, David asked, "Does that make you
Both Don and Kristi highly
recommended the business practices book Orbiting
the Giant Hairball, a tract on out-of-the-box type thinking
written by a 30-year Hallmark veteran. Normally I'd roll my eyes
at the thought of such seeming "alternative" thinking,
but I place a fair amount of trust in the suggestors' opinions.
Go with the flow.
Sawad Brooks and Beth Stryker
(the name looks vaguely Russian, nyet?), a beautifully fluid piece
of interaction design art, with a semantic (there's that word!)
model that could be appropriated for any number of information spaces.
David read Coyote
Trickster tales from Native American myths. It lead to a dialog
on the utility of subversion in design, particularly if it's possible
for designers to exploit their role as the shaper of the communication
and insert their own messages in the product.
September 5, 1999
[Long Lake, NY]
Representational distortion, among other things, is the subject
of this picture-filled
essay on maps.
Patron Saint of Free-Thinking
Oddballs. Today, in a discussion of virtual information spaces,
and the unfortunate reality of how such intermediation further divorces
us from the real thing that we care about, 16th-century philosopher
and proto-scientist Giordano
Bruno came up. Best known for his Copernican heresies around
heliocentrism, he also developed intriguing
memory maps as a way to store and catalog personal information.
September 2, 1999
Today only--get a Palm V at low cost through Accompany. I've just
purchased in this
group, and the more who buy in, the cheaper it gets! Ahh, the
power of positive aggregation.
August 31, 1999
Simply brilliant. Personal
Dictionaries is an old favorite computer art piece. I originally
saw it as part of the dearly departed New
Voices New Visions contest, which was among the best fora for
encouraging interesting interactive art.
NVNV was sponsored in
part by Interval Research,
which has made its publications
free to all! Most are pretty technical, though Michael Naimark's
Art--Maybe It's a Bad Idea" and "Art
("and" or "versus") Technology: Some Personal Observations"
are accessible and intriguing.
Wow. I'd buy this
and hang it on a wall, as long as the wall wasn't in my house. An
amazing picture, but, well, too depressing to live with, no? That
woman's face squarely defeats any witty detached irony. Thanks,
judith, errr, mrpants,
errr, katherine. (follow
the bouncing meme!)
August 30, 1999
Submitted for your approval.
don't need to top off my night with the shaky camcorder scanning
for a good place to ford the 5-INCH-WIDE CREEK! Thousands of dollars
worth of video equipment BUT NO CELL PHONE? Climb a tree and LOOK
AROUND YOU STUPID LITTLE BASTARDS!"
marches on. The term has entered Keith
Dawson's Jargon Scout (where you find out cool new sayings long
before they're mentioned in Wired), along with a handy verb conjugation
guide. In a private email, Keith mentioned the word's "ungainly"
quality, to which I responded:
I quite enjoy
it's "ungainly" qualities. I like that it's roughly onomatopoeic
of vomiting. These sites (mine included!) tend to be a kind of
Weekend grab bag.
Mark Pendergrast, who wrote the thoroughly brilliant For
God, Country, and Coca-Cola: The Unauthorized History of The Great
American Soft Drink and The Company That Makes It, has very
recently written Uncommon
Grounds: The History of Coffee and How It Transformed Our World.
I hope the new publication will bring For God... back into
print. It's a revelatory chronicle following the caramel syrup from
it's first batch through to global dominance, and reveals how Coca-Cola
blazed trails for much of modern capitalism, setting precedence
in trademark, attitude-based advertising, international distribution,
and more. I have yet to read the new book--yet another to add to
The Shuttlecocks rate
Coca-Cola's marketing slogans. (Though they neglected my favorite,
"The Pause That Refreshes.")
of the flavored fizzy sugar water throughout American society is
an overwhelming and potentially
depressing thought. The Onion had a marvelous take on the notion
of soda proximity, though the article appears to be no longer online.
In the spirit of the misplaced story, please answer the new poll
to the left.
of per capita consumption of beverage types in Canada, USA,
and Europe reveals some interesting trends.
Now why hasn't anyone
else done that? Microsoft's Knowledge
Base Search offers a brilliant and simple feature--"My
Last Ten Searches":
This is so wonderfully handy. My guess is that users often return
to a search engine wanting the exact same thing--in this particular
case, troubleshooting computers often means restarting the system,
so the ability to hop back to right where you are is a godsend.
(Unfortunately, I still haven't been able to figure out why Windows98
hangs when I attempt to Standby, Shutdown, or Restart.)
night I attended my 10-year high
school reunion. It reminded me how little I interacted with
folks when I was in high school. The fact that humans have a remarkably
specific facility for remembering faces proved ultimately draining--surveying
the room repeatedly triggered my face-recognition sensor, informing
me that I should know who all these people are, but when cross-referencing
the internal names database, I repeatedly drew a blank.
[Tangent: Recognizing faces is such a highly specified neural activity
that there is a term solely for the inability to do so, prosopagnosia.
Here's a thoughtful first