This is an Urbanscale Weeknote titled “Week 55: SOPA, Madrid, and doing the impossible,” written by Mayo Nissen in New York on the 19th of January 2012.

Week 55: SOPA, Madrid, and doing the impossible

Mayo Nissen on 19 January 2012

» Looming over the internet this week has been the debate about and protest against SOPA/PIPA, and a wider discussion about copyright, censorship, and state control – or, if you prefer, corporate control – over a network that spans nation states and legal jurisdictions. The two bills currently before the US Congress, the Protect IP Act (PIPA) in the US Senate and the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in the US House of Representatives, threaten free speech, hamper innovation and increase insecurity on the web. We hope you’ll join us in opposing this dangerous legislation. Find out more here.

» For the first time this week, the clocks on our new about page each did something useful – indicating where each of us was. With Adam, Leah, and Jeff in Madrid for the previously alluded-to workshop with BBVA, the studio has been emptier than usual this week. Adam, joined by Kevin Slavin and Nicolas Nova, also gave a free and open-to-the-public talk titled “Beyond Smart Cities” at BBVA’s Innovation Center last night.

» That left J.D. and I holding the fort back in New York – hustling for new business, shipping a proposal, and cranking away on some of the thornier interaction questions remaining for Transitflow.

Although the Farevalue prototype arrived in the studio more than a month ago, it’s taken us a little while to push a short video demonstrating its existence, functionality, and performance out of the door. Nonetheless, it’s exciting to be able to show definitive proof that the technical concept behind Farevalue – pronounced impossible and against the laws of physics less than a year ago – very much works.

Although clearly there’s space for optimization on the size of the actual electronics and components, the prototype does everything we could want it to do at this stage: the update of the e-paper display on the card is powered purely through induction from the coil on the base station, and the value on the display is decremented by the appropriate amount ($2.25, the cost of a single ride on NYC’s subway) – and if there isn’t sufficient value remaining on the card, the base station responds approriately. Thanks again to Justin and Benedetta at Groundlab, and Todd Bailey’s expert wrangling of the magic of induction coils, for creating this prototype for us.

It’s also highlighted the power of the two-pronged approach we’ve taken with Farevalue. With the combination of the design fiction and the technical development, we’ve been able to do a kind of pincer movement, prototyping the idea, vision, and execution on the one hand, and prototyping the technology, feasibility, and constraints on the other. Whether in presentations, or, more viscerally, when somebody visits the studio and gets to play with the prototype, the two parts together tell a greater story than either element alone could ever communicate.

» Logistics: Next week Adam is speaking at Deloitte GovLab’s Future of Transportation event in DC, while the rest of us will be in the studio all week, working away. If you’re in town, why don’t you swing by for a visit? Failing that, there’s always Temple Bar – do join us for a drink, and perhaps a t-shirt? Endmark