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!!!

4 Comments

Filed under Everything else

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?

1 Comment

Filed under Everything else

The Public School + “Fictional Entrepreneurship” Class?

I have submitted an idea for a class on “Fictional Entrepreneurship” to be taught at the Public School. If you are interested, please sign up!

THE PUBLIC SCHOOL is a school with no curriculum. At the moment, it operates as follows: first, classes are proposed by the public (I want to learn this or I want to teach this); then, people have the opportunity to sign up for the classes (I also want to learn that); finally, when enough people have expressed interest, the school finds a teacher and offers the class to those who signed up.

The class structure would be roughly as follows:

  • A brief introduction to the concept of Fictional Entrepreneurship, it’s relevance in today’s culture, and examples of fictional business.
  • Concept / Ideation time (think tank). As a class, we will all work togetehr to come up with a loose premise for the company (i.e. a tea store!)
  • Break into groups / mini teams. The teams are as follows:
  • Business Plan Design Team: What does this company’s business plan look like? Is it a series of drawings? Is it a collage? Is it written?
  • Brand Identity Team: What is the name of this company? How does it present itself to the world? Why does it do it that way?
  • Products / Services Team: What does this company do / make?
  • Marketing Team: How does this company differ from others? How does it get the word out?
  • Reconvene as a class and make presentations.
  • Return to small groups, revise, and finish.
  • The result: a business: potentially critical, definitely wacky.

If you are interested in the class, please sign up, and if you are interested in this workshop being taught at your venue, contact me leaving a comment here or emailing me directly @ matt@averynicedesignstudio.org.

In other news, this Saturday is the opening of MADE UP at the Art Center College of Design featuring a diverse group of artists and designers within the Design Fiction realm. The show should be fabulous, I know for a fact –

Leave a comment

Filed under Fictional Entrepreneurship

An Investment of Imagination

An interesting tool that Design Fiction brings to the table is the advocacy for the use of an expansive imagination and elimination of practicality in order to craft design solutions and pose questions that, like Science Fiction, are not impossible, but possible. In the same way, Fictional Entrepreneurship offers a method that calls for a complete abandonment of practicality (something near impossible in the field of business) in order to think in new, very specific, ways, with the intention to generalize and inspire a practical, real, outcome. My next posts will highlight and analyze specific examples of Fictional Entrepreneurship, stay tuned…

1 Comment

Filed under Fictional Entrepreneurship

SONNY, son of SONY


Interesting! “A cybertronic mutant evolved from sony electronics searches for his real father.” I love the use of a blend of real life with consumer electronics in order to craft a nice piece of design fiction. What would the son of Sony look like? This piece was the winning entry for the ‘PSP Amaze Me’ competition back in 2006, created by lovely productions.

1 Comment

Filed under Creative Review

The importance of Fictional Entrepreneurship

Fictional Entrepreneurship (Business Design Fiction) takes what is expected of the future, and turns it on it’s head in order to change the ways in which we understand the world, and the way we understand the future of business design. Fictional Entrepreneurship is a method of story-telling through imagining new business and a tool to help imagine new innovations within the business industry in order to craft the culture of the future, or critique the culture of the present.

The design of fictional business can accomplish more than the design or growth of any non-fictional business. Business is an industry that is extremely limited by practicality due to the interest of investors, demographics, and financial matters. The desire for efficiency and viability is a hindrance on the creativity of an entrepreneur, and the ability for an entrepreneur to define our future. Fictional Entrepreneurship, on the other hand, requires no investment of money, only the investment of imagination.

Fictional Entrepreneurship not only has the ability to imagine what future businesses might look like, or be capable of through their products, but also has the ability to define what our future culture is, and, even more so, the future of our world.

 

2 Comments

Filed under Fictional Entrepreneurship

Fictional Entrepreneurship as a tool for designers

The other day I made a post defining Fictional Entrepreneurship and spoke about it as a method for entrepreneurs. This post aims to continue that thread, highlighting the possible applications of Fictional Entrepreneurship as a tool for graphic designers.

If all of us designers, especially brand identity specialists, take a moment and think back at the best client work we have done, or some of the best brand work we have seen on the internet, it is clear that the success of that project’s design is directly tied to the client. Let’s face it – a really interesting client such as a pastry shop that caters only to bulldogs will result in a piece of design that is (often times) much more interesting and intriguing to outside viewers than your average identity for a an average business.

I would like to argue that it is not necessarily the designer’s style, typeface selection, or color combination that makes a client project thrive, but instead the creativity within the client’s business plan. Interesting business and creative entrepreneurship inspires strong design work that breaks new grounds within the field of design.

Designing as a fictional entrepreneur allows artists to dream up the most bizarre and innovative business plans, and use them as a tool for making. Instead of waiting for that AWESOME client to come knocking on your door, be the client. Doing so will allow a designer to contribute to critical discourse within the field of business, proving that design thinking is the most prominent approach to innovative business. As skilled design-thinkers, we have developed a strong eye for understanding visual trends, realizing the psychology behind our experiences, and defining new culture through the innovation of unseen niches within our industry. These skills are what makes a designer a powerful driving force for entrepreneurial endeavors.

Leave a comment

Filed under Fictional Entrepreneurship