Keep up to date on new work, our thinking, ongoing projects, things we’ve noticed and what we’re up to in the studio with our weeknotes and occasional articles.

Week 45: Operations in the shadow of Arnall

Adam Greenfield on 11 November 2011

We’ve just completed principal photography on the video we’re making to showcase our Farevalue cards, the project formerly known as PERRY.

It’s a funny position for us to be in. Making such videos is more or less de rigeur in interaction-design circles at the moment — due largely, I’d wager, to the influence of our friends at BERG and their not-so-secret weapon, Timo Arnall — and we don’t like to do anything just because it’s what’s expected of “firms like ours.”

Timo’s films, both the ones he makes for BERG and those he produces in support of his own Oslo-based projects, are dreamy little gems of artifice, so captivating that you can walk into a café just about anywhere in the week after one is released and stand a decent chance of hearing a random civilian discussing his work animatedly and enthusiastically. So it’s easy enough to understand why manufacturers of personal electronics, interaction-design agencies and those in related domains of practice might want to do something similar with and for their own work. Who doesn’t crave that kind of notice?
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Weeks 43-44: International garbageman

Adam Greenfield on 3 November 2011

In teaching and public speaking, I pretty routinely make the point that every act of design involves choices that are deeply interested, in the sense that they necessarily serve someone’s needs before (or to the exclusion of) those of other parties.

This is not a particularly profound point, but you might be surprised how much pushback it generates. I’m, at least, always a little taken aback by how defensive people can be in the face of this argument. It’s not a value judgement, after all, just an assertion that it’s more or less impossible to design from a stance of neutrality and objectivity.

The trouble is that neutrality and objectivity are precisely the qualities that people habitually tend to ascribe to machine-readable flows of information, especially if that information was recorded by sensors in the first place. Very often, you’ll hear folks refer to something unimpeachable called “the data,” as though it had been Inscribed by God In The Morning Of The World. This tendency is particularly endemic to technologists, but it affects most of us in one way or another.

Again, we’re not suggesting that being interested — having an interest — is somehow an ethically compromised position, underhanded or dishonest. We’re saying it’s inevitable.
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Week 42: Notes from NAMAland

Adam Greenfield on 21 October 2011

Just back from Ireland, where I had the honor of presenting a keynote at the launch of Dublinked, a joint data-sharing initiative of the capital region’s four local authorities.

I last visited Dublin in 1989, which means my experiences of the place neatly bracket the economic boom and all the Celtic Tiger rhetoric that went along with it. It’s clear that the flush times swept over the city and then receded like the tide, leaving it (like so many other places) now having to do more with less; Dublinked, in its own way, is part of that effort.
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Week 41: On trolls

Adam Greenfield on 12 October 2011

Conversation in the studio this week has orbited two distinct kinds of unbecoming intellectual-property trollery, one of which is mostly just risible, but the other of which poses significant challenges to our ability to offer users all the functionality we’d like to.

The first, like I say, is merely silly. More than a few of you pointed us at this rather lazy piece of reportage — stenography, actually — on the part of the BBC. Put aside for a moment the troubling degree to which a well-respected newsgathering organization here accepts several foolish assertions uncritically, and by passing them on unchallenged lends them an entirely undeserved imprimatur. What’s worse is that the article makes it seem as if this notion of an “urban OS” is an entirely original idea on the part of Living PlanIT.
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Week 40: Thank you, Steve

Adam Greenfield on 6 October 2011

I had a pretty conventional weeknote all ginned up and ready to go, but I don’t think we’re going to go with that today. It seems a little beside the point, given events. We’ll use this space, instead, to thank Steve Jobs for everything he gave us in his 56 years on the planet.

We know that nothing we offer here will be counted among the more eloquent or insightful or resonant of the hundreds of thousands of words that are bound to be devoted to Steve’s memory over the next days and weeks. But I can’t imagine many other news events capable of bringing work in the studio to an utter, sudden, silent halt the way the news did yesterday — certainly, I daresay, there are very, very few individuals whose passing would have affected us so. So neither can I imagine not acknowledging his loss in some way.
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