Category Archives: Everything else

Human-Crafted Design

Today I learned that mankind is incredible.

“Human-Centered Design,” a process coined by IDEO, takes into account the needs of the human at all points of the design process. This is a great approach in comparison to the oh-so-common “cubicle designer” that creates objects without considering the user. I was thinking about “Human-Centered Design” today while I was on the toilet. Lucky enough, I looked to my right only to stumble upon an epiphany.

The bathroom stall I frequent is extremely awkward due to the lack of privacy the large, 3-inch, gap between the wall and the door consists of. Every morning and late afternoon, I walk into the bathroom and stumble upon the same thing. A make-shift  gap-filler that is made out of a long piece of toilet paper tied to the top of the stall. Every morning I enter, and this piece of Human-Crafted Design has been taken down (by the janitors), but by mid afternoon, BAM, there it is again. I hypothesize that it is not replaced every afternoon by the same frequenter of this particular potty but instead by multiple “humans.” This proves that we are all born with the ability to understand our own needs as well as the needs of others, and are more than capable of improvising a design artifact to accommodate the issue at hand.

I think as designers we should consider not only designing for humans, but instead attempt to design with humans. Inspiration can come from a lot of places, and very often it is not within the walls of a design studio. Instead, perhaps, it can be found in the stall of a bathroom.

 

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Augmented [poker] Reality

What if the restrictions that take place in virtual game play existed in physical game play? This weekend I held a poker tournament. This was not a normal poker tournament. The rules, based off of the popular iPad app, “Pokerist,” implemented modern censorship techniques used in virtual worlds as a restriction in conversation and augmentation in game play. The hope from this experiment was to do a sort of “people-knowing” test that would highlight the complexities of self expression in virtual worlds and raise questions on the validity of certain forms of censorship in these realms.

 

The players were presented with the above gifts as well as the set of rules below, on the Joker card. As the rules below state, the players were not allowed to speak during the course of the game. Doing so would result in expulsion from the table (and a bit of lost poker money).

 

In order to speak to the table, the participants had to send a text message to the moderator (me). I would then go through the same process in real time as the Internet Chat Relay System, selectively censoring what I please. To speak to individuals, participants were asked to exchange gifts that were placed under each player’s chair. To clarify – none of these players were familiarized with any other information before hand, and none had ever played the Pokerist app, thus the act of gift giving was an entirely new restriction on the game of poker for these players.

 

The experiment resulted in the above image (click image for full size please) which serves as a still shot into the game play that took place, providing a mixed reality (pokerist iPad app meets the physical world) that explores censorship as a method for creative writing restriction. From this experiment I have concluded that adding a separation from the one-on-one communication methods we use in our daily lives actually give the players a similar “confidence” in their acts of insult. This experiment works on the threshold of fantasy and reality in order to explore the potential connections between the two worlds, and author critical media around the discourse of censorship and it’s validity.

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The Utopian Designer Society

The Utopian Designer Society (UDS) is a Fictional “club” of sorts that dedicates their lives to creating art-works that rely on process, not final outcome. Every year, the UDS meets to complete a project in which each member of the society designs a perfect world. Upon completing the project, each member is to immediately destroy their creation. This manifesto serves as a representation of a concept of mine – the idea that utopia is not a place, but a destination. I believe that the act of lookign for utopia is, in it of itself, utopia. If we were to ever discover utopia, I believe that the entire world would immediately re-set, similar to a “big-bang.” Similarly, I find that my ideal future would be one that is not rid of all of it’s problems, but instead one that believes it can be. Always be in the pursuit of the donut! Forget the hole.

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Weather Lore

What would The Weather Channel be like if it Paganism was the leading theology today, and the scientific revolution never happened? Weather Lore is a brief exploration of what life may be like if these turning points in our nation’s history were to have never happened. By overlaying samples of ancient weather lore beliefs on found weather channel footage, I am exploring the position a large network such as the Weather Channel may take in a down-graded scientific and technological context.

“Weather Lore” aims to critically analyze the importance of technology, specifically weather forecasting, within our society, and imagine a world without the ability to check our laptops or television sets before we decided on wearing a sweater or a tank-top. My project uses weather forecasting as a catalyst for a larger discussion on tradition, its importance, and society’s reliance on technological advancement, in every aspect of our lives. Will a perfect future involve technology?

Medium: Stills from Weather Channel overlay.

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Good Living in Mixed Reality

The development and integration of technology in our daily lives will create individuals and culture that are more social. This phenomenon has already been seen in the development and growth of venues such as Facebook and AOL Instant Messenger. I argue that these new modes of social networking have not divided us through screens, but have connected us due to the invention of “events,” accumulation of friends, and the publishing of photos. Each of these features in virtual space serve as proof of our “real life” social qualities, and therefore provide pressure to socialize in the physical world. I believe our society will grow more and more dependent on one another as a result of our constant virtual connectivity, leading to a culture that will lose a sense of independence and self. The result of this will go beyond the loss of independence, it will also inherently foster a culture which suffers from an uprise in paranoia – one that feels as though something is always present, because something always is. Symptoms have already been seen as a result of the birth of the internet, and precaution should be considered as we continue to develop and make sense of what this network is, and the implications that it’s inhabitance within our daily lives may have.

I have developed the ADT Footstep Security System (FSS) as a way to raise dialogue about this concept. Will a more technologically inhabitted society be a more paranoid one? Will we find ourselves fearing what we have never feared before? The FSS is a fictional service that tracks all movement in the user’s backyard in order to evaluate and quantify the data from the movement within the yard and display it as a layer on all media devices within the home. The system provides interesting analysis that includes the evaluation of the intention of the animal as well as the speed, and exact identification. Doing so actually inherently creates quite the dramatic soap-opera of sorts. Example: Squirrel #374840 visits the yard daily with Squirrel #575950, but today he has arrived with Raccoon #29220030!!!! OMG, DRAMA!!!

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Censorship as a Method of Creative Writing Restriction

Censorship and severe constraint have a substantial history in the crafting of new language and forms of self expression through the restriction it has provided speakers, writers, and communicators of language. From the way we speak in virtual worlds to the short hand that children use on the playground to avoid detention, restriction in the way society communicates is present in every culture and constantly manifests itself in different forms as new methods of censorship emerge. Many historical examples to modern censorship-dictated writing restriction exist, but two relevant forms created amongst victimized subcultures in history are the songs of the underground railroad and the hobo code.

The underground railroad, an informal network of secret routes and safe houses were created in the 19th century for african slaves that were brought to America as a way to escape to free states that were developing at this time, as well as to the aid of abolitionists and allies who shared a passion for the cause to bring these people to freedom. The underground railroad brought with it a new form of writing restriction that took the form of song. These songs used specially crafted lyrics in order to ensure that the path these slaves were escaping towards were safe routes. A famous example of one of these songs is “Follow the Drinking Gourd,” with lyrics including:

“The riverbank will make a very good road.
The dead trees show you the way,
Left foot, peg foot traveling on,
Following the drinking gourd.”

What if our culture today had to speak of forbidden topics in the form of song? What kind of lyrics would we write to convey our message?

Another famous form of writing restriction as a result of severe societal constraint is Hobo Code. Hobo code was created by hobos for hobos in order to cope with the difficulty of the lifestyle they were forced to lead. This code, often times written on cardboard with chalk or coal would provide fellow hobos specific directions, instructions, and, most importantly, warnings. These warnings included markings that suggest the wealth of an area, a safe camp site, a guard dog, and so on.

What if the affluent were forced to provide codes to signify messages about a space? What kind of icons would wealthy entrepreneurs craft to provide insight to the safety of an investment or business plan?

The dawn of the 90s brought with it the censorship of Internet communication, and a catalyst for a new form of writing within internet culture. Operation Sundevil, a nation-wide “witch hunt,” lead to three arrests, and the confiscation of equipment from numerous hackers and phreaks. Prior to this crackdown, these sub-cyber-cultures were never effected by law enforcement for their acts, and as a result, censorship and concerns over game forums + chat rooms unintentionally created a new method of writing-restriction, and written language. Leetspeak (1337), some believe, was developed as a way to defeat the numerous text filters that were being created by Internet Relay Chat system operators. These filters were meant to track down those using language that was considered inappropriate within game forums, such as conversation centered around hacking and cracking, and censor them.

Years later, internet security has gotten stronger, and hacking, while still an issue in cyber-culture, has taken a back seat to new issues at hand such as harassment, racism, and homophobia within game and internet based forums. Because of the rise of venues such as facebook as well as the substantial growth in the accessibility of the internet, the popularity of online games has welcomed a much larger crowd of over 1 billion people. This growth in popularity has welcomed new, interesting forms of writing restriction that go beyond the usual f******* censorship methods commonly implemented, such as asterisks. These forms of censorship, or new modes of internet communication, have resulted in new, more creative forms of insult within the gaming culture by means of restriction.

Two modern iphone / ipad apps that utilize interesting techniques for restriction in communication between players are Mancala and Pokerist. In the online mode of Mancala, users can converse with one another, but are limited to a series of short phrases on a scroll wheel. These phrases include the following:

Hello, Good Luck!, It’s your turn, Do you know how to count?! :), Stop capturing my beads!, I’ve got you now., Nice move!, Good Game, I didn’t even see that, I’ll be right back, You need an internet name, Goodbye, Why go on? Let me lie here., I love this game!, Next time I will have you, Thanks.

It is interesting to observe how these restrictions in what can be said in the context of this game between players can be used creatively to insult one another. For example, I have observed that if a player captures the opponents beads, they will insert “Thanks.”

Pokerist, like Mancala has an interesting form of writing restriction. One mode of communication between online players in this poker app is through the exchange of gifts. These gifts range greatly, from a roll of toilet paper and beer to a teddy bear and flower. It is interesting to observe how players interact with each other and attempt insult through the use of these items. For example, a good way of saying “you shit head!!,” I have noted, is by gifting the opponent a roll of toilet paper.

What would the world be like if the modes of restriction in these games were to exist in our “real” life? What few phrases or set of exchangeable gifts would be suitable for expressing ourselves in every day conversation?

Taking the conversation outside of gaming culture, and into virtual culture in general, there are two very relevant issues at hand as I type this blog post. The first of course being the recent shut down of internet communication throughout Egypt. This shut down is unlike any drastic measure we have seen in the history of internet communication, and has shown us a government’s fear of the power that virtual communication can have as a method of activism. Another example of similar censorship in virtual research and communication is the limit of search terms in China, most notably the inability to search in virtual worlds for the historic demonstrations that took place in Tiananmen Square.

Who decides what can be communicated and what cannot be communicated in virtual worlds? Why do we have a language that is more limited in virtual space than it is in physical space? Does free speech exist on the internet? What would the world be like if the lack of free speech on the internet was synonymous to that of our physical world? Can censorship be seen as a mere creative tool / obstacle for self expression?

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