Monday, May 23. 2011
What do Pandora for music, Zite for news, or Amazon for shopping — along with many Silicon Valley startups I’m meeting these days — have in common?
• They are all offering the user a personalized experience by leveraging his/her social network.
• They also provide a social experience in line with every single user’s personal taste and identity.
Overall, there’s an increasing focus on the person and his/her environment versus the simple social media aspect.
These are only the premises of what I would call the persocial web — a new generation of digital products and services where personal and social dimensions melt together to put every person at the center of the game. The consequences of this trend will be extremely broad for the way we approach the Internet both from a sociological and business viewpoint.
A Socratic revolution
A similar kind of re-focus on the individual is physiological for humanity. It happened in the history of philosophy too, when Socrates put the man at the center of his intellectual quest after decades of philosophical thinking about nature, environment and physics.
In general, the fluctuation between holistic and individualistic eras is also very familiar to the history of ideas. Think about what happened in Europe from the 18th century to the 19th and beyond with the Age of Enlightment, followed by the Romantic Era and then by the Naturalistic movement. It’s just a dialectic and continuous evolution.
From the PC to the Social Media era. And beyond.
While these movements embrace more than one hundred years, my generation has already lived many of these ‘eras’ thanks to the time acceleration provided by information technologies.
The personal computer represents for people like me who are in their 30s the very first approach with computer technology. It was a very personal and sometimes solitary experience of writing and gaming. It was all about you. Well, you, the machine and the rest (games, floppy disks, your docs, etc).
Then the Internet came. First, we felt extremely powerless. We could interconnect and learn in the ‘cyberspace’ thanks to email, portals and chats. But we felt disoriented, until the point when Google figured out a way to have the individual navigating easily through all the amount of data, services and content that were out there in a more effective way than portals or email could do. But even at that stage, we lived in a personal web era. It was all about you, your Web browser and the rest. Beyond bi-lateral exchanges, multi-lateral interactions were difficult and sporadic.
Then Facebook disrupted that paradigm by creating a lasting and robust environment for sharing data and nurturing relationships. Our social life was, and is mirrored — sometimes diminished, sometimes augmented — on Facebook. It’s all about you, your social network and the rest.
I believe the next paradigm that is being formed today is going to envision the individual as the real center of a social environment (Facebook). Digital services and products will increasingly ‘talk’ to the individual in a personal way, by guessing his/her tastes and preferences in an intimate and closer relationship. Borrowing an expression from one of my professors at Stanford, Clifford Nass, they will become “adaptive and personalized systems“.
Leveraging what your social network (Facebook) or other random people (Amazon) do, read or buy to generate an experience that is more relevant to you is good. But designing a whole persocial experience is even better. That means taking into account countless personal data: sex, location, age, education, political and religious views, cultural tastes, all sort of affiliations, groups etc. and melting them with your social graph to offer a better user experience.
Facebook OpenGraph or Twitter API already enable such a personalization but its implementation has been so far more focused on real time and very much instant data (the feed of articles that my friends or people I follow read) than on more long-run information about my tastes (taking into account who I actually am, my background, sex, location etc.).
Towards a persocial news experience?
In the news industry, for instance, many are the news readers that are offering to improve the news experience by persocializing it. I tried to rate them by their personalization (1 to 5 points) and socialization (1 to 5 points) effort.
Thanks to its great feature on ‘what my friends are reading,’ News.me, developed by Betaworks and The New York Times, is so far the more persocial news reader, and also the only paid app among the ones we’re analyzing here. In reality, it offers a more social than personal experience. The best personalized features are so far provided by Zite, a Canadian news reader for the iPad, which recently received a ‘cease or desist’ letter from several U.S. publishers. While Flipboard is a fair trade-off in terms of persocialization, Pulse, conceived by smart Stanford students, is intentionally closer to a traditional and yet very clean news reader experience.
Overall, an iPad app that would combine the social features of News.me with the personalization of Zite, would probably be fully persocial.
In general, these new ventures are all part of an overall phenomenon that will reshape the way we consume and engage with web products and services. New privacy issues will raise of course but overall, thanks to persocialization, the web user will become a person again.
Photo Credits: Flicke CC Johan Larsson
Wednesday, April 06. 2011
by Hank Jarz
Manuel Gross, Patrik Staub, Stefan Vetsch and Yannick Vorberg, all recent graduates of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich, have shared with us their winning entry for the AIAS/Vinyl Institute 2015 Pan American Games Awards Pavilion to be situated in Toronto, Canada. Follow after the break for a comprehensive write up and additional images of their competition entry.
The Pan Am Games of 2015 in Toronto are a great opportunity, to reconnect the waterfront with the city. This is our goal because the waterfront offers a lot of qualities. First of all, it is a great place to have a rest. There is a beautiful view and the connection to the water. The waterfront is the perfect place to meet, stroll and relax.
The Pan Am Village is located at the West Don Lands, an area that is separated from the waterfront by the railways, the Gardiner Expressway and the Lake Shore Boulevard. With our Project, we bring the people back to the waterfront. The selection of the waterfront as our site is urbanisticly very sustainable – we bridge the physical and psychological barrier of the Lake Shore Boulevard, the Gardiner Expressway and the railways. The pavilion becomes a starting point for the further development of the Lower Don Lands.
Pan Am Games Award Pavilion
Our Design is inspired by the Name of Toronto, which is derived from the Iroquois word tkaronto, meaning “place where trees stand at the water”. After a while, the meaning of tkaronot changed into “meeting place”. We really like the simple idea of a meeting place that is created through a couple of trees. The wood is an ethnic roof, which protects people from rain and sun, the wood attracts the people – our pavilion works as simply as that.
The huge roof of the pavilion creates an interesting and protecting place, where people can meet, relax or entertain themselves. The forest spreads over the site and leads the people to the water. Under the roof there are some boxes, which contain the different programs like public restrooms, ticketing and the stage with the back stage area and storage rooms. These boxes are inspired by the image of supported logs in the wood.
Use of vinyl
As a material concept, we tried to use vinyl not only as a cladding material. We developed a simple structure in which vinyl works as a supporting element in form of standard weather balloons. This structure only works with the use of vinyl and that was exactly our goal.
The form follows the function and the form became very plurivalent. People may recognize the pavilion as a forest, others may see lots of ephemeral clouds in the sky. This equivocation makes the pavilion so interesting and special.
The facade and the roof of the boxes consist of recycled PVC pipes. The pipes have different functions and are more than just a cladding. With this system we also design the furniture for the park. The Victory Soya Mills Silo is an icon of Toronto – townsfolk identify with this building. A light PVC roof creates a special room on top of it without disturbing the presence of the silo.
The Victory Soya Mills Silos connect our site visually with the city. Projections on the silos lead the people to the site, a bar on the roof makes this icon even higher. The bar attracts people, even after the games. This sustainable intervention supports the further development of the waterfront. Pedestrians and cyclists will arrive via the Union Station. We reevaluate the underpasses of the railways with the same balloon structure as we used for the pavilion. The Cherry Street underpass connects the village with the pavilion. The Bay Street underpass leads from the Union Station to the Queens Quai, our main bike and pedestrian path. The silo works as an orientation point, “balloon trees” reevaluate the Queens Quai and make the street attractive for pedestrians and cyclists.
A good infrastructure around the site brings people from the city, but also from the wider region to our site. We plan shuttle buses, which connect the Union Station, the Pan American Pavilion and the Pan American Village.
Standard, vinyl based and helium filled weather balloons support a PVC PES membrane. A PVC net holds everything together. Wire ropes with a PVC coating anchor the construction to the ground. The boxes under the roof consist of a simple steel substructure. Recycled PVC pipes clad and stiffen this steel frame at the exterior. The pipes also work as a sunblind and a rain drain. A vinyl insulation with an interior PVC cladding completes the construction.
We use an economical construction for this additional program. Reusable scaffolding stairways and construction elevators bring the visitors to the top of the silo. The bar consists of a simple steel and glass construction. A PVC PES membrane filled with helium and air works as a roof. Transparent organic photovoltaic cells are printed on this membrane. They catch the sunlight and transform it into energy, which supports the bar.
Thursday, February 17. 2011
By Joshua Noble on Wednesday Feb 16th, 2011
”Between the ubiquity of Internet access and the fact that data has no objective tangible form, internet users have long been plagued with the problem of determining the value of the content they are ingesting.” - Zach Gage
Seen in a certain light, the core of technological mediation has always been presence, absence, and distance. Writing established the possibility of presence during absence, arrows and gunpowder created force at a distance, the telephone created presence at distance, and network computing fundamentally altered the nature of being “absent” or “present” to an almost unrecognizable degree. No small surprise then that contemporary “media art” practice seems to return to these questions as being fundamental investigations. The question of what “presence” could be was explored and expanded throughout the dawn of the internet age: Ken Goldberg’s TeleGarden, Eduardo Kac’s concept of Telepresence, Sven Bauer, Heath Bunting, to grab but a few names. Each possibility of a new field of entry, a new method of retaining, mapping, signifying, and storing, opened a rich possibility. Now fast forward fifteen years and ever-presence is exhausting, a nuisance that forever asks and returns only the vague rewards of a slot-machine and seems to fray our sense of privacy, meaningfulness, boundary, and perhaps even self. So how then to artistically respond to this? Exhibit: Zach Gage.
His works are at once sophisticated and remarkably simple, both in presentation and concept in a way that might be recognizable to Joseph Kosuth or Lawrence Weiner, rather than the Baroque conceptual complexity on display in much media art in the 90’s. Computational art or interactive art has generally taken two tacks in dealing with the complexities of technology itself -- unabashed celebration and dystopian anxiety. At either extreme is the grandiose challenge of prediction: this possible or actual relationship to technology will lead to this consequence or benefit. The reality of living with technology is not only simpler but is often much more banal. The most refreshing element of Gage’s work is how it asks us to do nothing more than consider what is. Working with the instantly familiar data sources, Twitter, Google, chat servers, at their simplest, his work often resembles a refreshingly sharp Occam’s Razor taken to notions of the richness of data and networked experience.
His thesis show, “Data”, is an extremely visually and thematically understated installation comprised of several pieces. Small wooden boxes, wires, and simple placards: none of the forced estrangement, hand-waving interactivity, or spectacle that one associates with computer arts. In particular, one of the pieces in the show, Hit Counter stands out as particularly poignant: a simple measurement of the number of times someone has stood in front of the work. Face recognition software is used to keep track of the actual viewers and the number is displayed on an old-fashioned mechanical counter. Gage states “with no other means to judge it, Hit Counter demands to be assigned a worth based solely on its popularity.” But then, Hit Counter is not merely asking to be judged on popularity. It, like so many things in our media culture, is popularity. It’s nothing else, and it’s not any kind of popularity other than actual physical presence; a sharp reminder of the relationship between presence and popularity. No matter how many people hear about it online, what is written about it, what buzz is generated, it’s a simple box that generates a number based on how many unique people have stood in front of it. I’m not sure whether I’m more struck by the concept itself or that I am so struck by the concept as an ontological exercise: something that simply is actual physical presence. It’s odd that it is odd and, in that oddness, it is a stance closer to Sol Lewitt “Sentences on Conceptual Art” than many other re-interpretations of his legacy and ideas. Reformulating the simplest data object imaginable in the simplest terms has a markedly clarifying effect and in clarification is a rare kind of beauty. I spoke with Zach Gage about Hit Counter, as well as his larger practice.
More about it HERE.
Wednesday, August 25. 2010
The way privacy is encoded into software doesn't match the way we handle it in real life.
By Danah Boyd
The reason for this disconnect is that in a computational world, privacy is often implemented through access control. Yet privacy is not simply about controlling access. It's about understanding a social context, having a sense of how our information is passed around by others, and sharing accordingly. As social media mature, we must rethink how we encode privacy into our systems.
Privacy is not in opposition to speaking in public. We speak privately in public all the time. Sitting in a restaurant, we have intimate conversations knowing that the waitress may overhear. We count on what Erving Goffman called "civil inattention": people will politely ignore us, and even if they listen they won't join in, because doing so violates social norms. Of course, if a close friend sits at the neighboring table, everything changes. Whether an environment is public or not is beside the point. It's the situation that matters.
Whenever we speak in face-to-face settings, we modify our communication on the basis of cues like who's present and how far our voices carry. We negotiate privacy explicitly--"Please don't tell anyone"--or through tacit understanding. Sometimes, this fails. A friend might gossip behind our back or fail to understand what we thought was implied. Such incidents make us question our interpretation of the situation or the trustworthiness of the friend.
All this also applies online, but with additional complications. Digital walls do almost have ears; they listen, record, and share our messages. Before we can communicate appropriately in a social environment like Facebook or Twitter, we must develop a sense for how and what people share.
When the privacy options available to us change, we are more likely to question the system than to alter our own behavior. But such changes strain our relationships and undermine our ability to navigate broad social norms. People who can be whoever they want, wherever they want, are a privileged minority.
As social media become more embedded in everyday society, the mismatch between the rule-based privacy that software offers and the subtler, intuitive ways that humans understand the concept will increasingly cause cultural collisions and social slips. But people will not abandon social media, nor will privacy disappear. They will simply work harder to carve out a space for privacy as they understand it and to maintain control, whether by using pseudonyms or speaking in code.
Instead of forcing users to do that, why not make our social software support the way we naturally handle privacy? There is much to be said for allowing the sunlight of diversity to shine. But too much sunlight scorches the earth. Let's create a forest, not a desert.
Danah Boyd is a social-media researcher at Microsoft Research New England, a fellow at Harvard University's Berkman Center for Internet and Society, and a member of the 2010 TR35.
Copyright Technology Review 2010.
In connection to this post, you can look a this picture from Mashable site.
Tuesday, March 16. 2010
At The Mobile City, we are currently researching the design processes that shape the cities of the 21st century, and bumped into an interesting paradox (also pointed out by others):
The experience of our present day city in every day life is increasingly a hybrid one – meaning that it is made up of both physical and mediated experiences that mutually influence, extend or contradict each other. At the same time, the design of our cities is for the most part still a rather stratified process where different disciplines shape the different ‘layers’ of the urban experience.
Planners and architects are still mostly interested in the physical, spatial design of cities. Whereas it is artists, telecom-operators, activists, and dotcom-start-ups that shape the software and interface layers through which the experience of a physical place is optimized, extended, reframed, negated, denied, contested or contradicted. What is more, these different disciplines all have their own traditions of understanding what a city is or should do. Often they don’t even understand each other’s language.
This is of course not necessarily a bad thing. Cities have always been heterogeneous or hybrid spaces where different logics are at work – and in competition with each other. Urban culture has always been a negotiation between the spatial embodied ideals of architects and the messy practices of everyday life.
At the same time we think that this time around this negotiation is becoming more complicated. It is not just the architect or planner that sets the stage for our urban experiences. Digital media, software and embedded technologies – varying from location based services to ‘smart’ sensors – play a co-constituting role in setting and sorting the stage as well as in both enabling and regulating public interaction.
While trying to get a grasp on the different ways that digital media technologies are shaping our cities and could be incorporated in the design process, we came up with a number of possible ‘design approaches’. They form a somewhat ad lib constituted list of categories, each made up of different elements that together set the boundaries for the design process. These design approaches combine certain design tools, a methodology, a particular way of understanding what a city is (often embedded in one or another discipline) and/ or particular urban ideals. A design approach thus consists of a particular way of understanding the world, and / or a particular methodology, tools and objectives to intervene in that world.
These design approaches are not neatly comparable variables: in one approach the tools might be decisive, another departs from social processes, a third from technologies and a fourth stresses a particular urban ideal. Some operate at the scale of urban planning, others mostly focus at hyperlocal interventions. Some of these approaches are overlapping, others might be combined.
This list is also not exhaustive – please feel free to add any approaches that we might have overlooked. Yet we do think that it gives a sense of all the different concurrent and sometimes competing approaches at work in the 21st century hybrid city.
· The Wiki-City – Designing with new media – How can the design process itself be restructured through the use of (social) digital media? How can one allow for more participation, bottom-up input, and engagement in a productive way? How does this change the relation between client, architects and other performers, and the audience?
· The Real Time City – Data-aggregation in the Design Process With the rise of digital and mobile media and gps receivers, urbanites have started leaving numerous digital traces behind that when aggregated reveal their usage patterns of the city. What exactly do we learn from these datasets, and how can they be incorporated in the design process?
· The Living City – Urban experience, narratives and design Digital media can be used to annotate urban spaces with people’s everyday stories and lived experiences. How does this temporal inscription of place change they way we see and interact with the urban environment?
· The Multimedia City – The design of urban screens and media facades Architecture is increasingly using multimedia components as part of their elementary set of building blocks. How can you incorporate these into urban design?
· The Augmented City – The design of informational services in a physical context In augmented reality, additional layers of information are projected on or over physical environments. Thus the domain of digital information is embedded in the physical domain. What is the potential for urban design?
· The Sentient City – Designing Responsive Architecture Various sensors can register real-time information about the environment, and movements, (social) processes and identities of people and objects. Technical systems may also respond to changing conditions. How can this be employed to adapt the shape, function, usage of or access to buildings and infrastructures?
· The Smart City – Using artificial intelligence to design urban systems that respond or anticipate what is happening Can AI be integrated in urban design to anticipate and respond to urban patterns?
· The Hybrid City – Designing for hybrid practices. Digital and mobile media have led to changing urban behaviors and the rise of new cultural practices. For instance, the advent of WiFi has increased ‘mobile work’ from (semi-)public spaces. How can these changes in cultural practices be translated back into design, either by physically accommodating them or by design interventions that discourage them?
· The Layered City – Integrated design of the parallel experiences of physical places and mediascapes If the experience of the city is shaped by both the shape of the physical city as well as through exchanges in the media landscape, can we design both layers (or ‘channels’) of an urban project in concordance with each other?
· The Plugin City – using digital media to optimize, personalize or extend the experience of the city Can digital media be designed as ‘plug ins’ to the existing city, make the usage of existing urban structures more efficient and personalized or extend and deepen their experience?
· The Tactical City – using digital media to design alternative usage of the city Can digital media be designed to open up the design of physical spaces to other users or practices than initially intended?
· The Critical City – using design to foreground and discuss the dominant discours on urban culture Can design be employed as a means to a debate on urban culture, rather than shaping urban culture itself?
· The Interface City – designing urban ‘interfaces’. Some urban theories understand the city itself as an information platform where goods, opinions and ideas are constantly exchanged. Can new services be designed that optimize or extend this function of the city as a platform of exchange into the digital domain?
· The Informational City – The design of information spaces In our understanding of the media world spatial metaphors play an important role. Some architects have made the leap from designing physical structures to using their spatial expertise in ‘information architecture’.
Via The Mobile City
To follow the previous post, a list of mashup terms linking digital media and architecture/urbanism. The list seems quite complete and interesting, even so I believe it should hybrid itself with less media centered approaches (i.e. the previous post...).
Friday, February 05. 2010
by Brenna Ehrlich
Virtual memorials are nothing new — people have been paying their respects to departed loved ones on Facebook and Myspace for years. But a Facebook page set up for Henio Zytomirski, a 6-year-old Polish boy who was killed during the Holocaust, is truly revolutionizing the way we recount history and remember the dead. His profile is, in essence, a virtual museum.
The profile functions as kind of a piecemeal storybook, with Polish status updates in Henio’s voice as well as photos and other updates in the third person that tell his tale. Henio’s own voice is simple and touching, as you can see in the selection below. (Rough Translation: “I am seven years old. I have a mom and dad. I have a favorite place. Not everyone has a mom and dad, but everyone has their favorite place. Today I decided that I will never leave Lublin. I will stay here forever. In my favorite place. With Mom and Dad. In Lublin.”)
According to the AP, not everyone is happy with the project — the news company cites Adam Kopciowski, a historian at Lublin’s Marie Curie-Sklodowska University who specializes in Jewish studies, who thinks that writing in the dead boy’s voice is ethically unsound and amounts to “abuse toward a child that has been dead for the past 70 years.” Others have also raised the fact that the page — much like Doppelganger Week — violates Facebook’s TOS.
Still, Henio’s cousin makes very clear in a note on the profile that the young boy’s voice is meant to be purely speculative, and that he is to function as a symbol:
And judging by his 3,000+ fans, scores of thankful wall posts and avalanche of virtual gifts, people have become enamored of the long-lost boy.
Aside from being a touching memorial to a tragically departed boy, Henio’s profile is also a fascinating use of social media as an educational tool. Some of us have probably visited the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. Upon entering, you receive a passport depicting someone who experienced the Holocaust, and throughout your tour through the museum, you learn his or her fate. Henio’s page brings this experience to another level, allowing you to interact with the boy, and to learn about his life in a way that integrates fully into your own social media experience.
This profile only goes to show how sites like Facebook are no longer silly time wasters or places to troll for your next collegiate hookup, they provide us with news, entertainment, advertisements and, now — as more and more people are seeing it as both a news portal and source — education. I recently became a friend of Henio’s, will you?
Monday, January 25. 2010
by Arnoud van den Heuvel
That’s one small tweet for man, one giant tweet for mankind.
Friday, January 22. 2010
by Pete Cashmore
Facebook’s new approach to privacy is bold, pushing users to be increasingly public with their data.
This public sharing is the new “social norm”, said founder Mark Zuckerberg in a recent interview. But is Facebook really responding to cultural changes or simply encouraging the type of behavior that will help the company to grow fastest? Possibly both.
That’s the topic of my guest column today in the UK’s Telegraph newspaper.
fabric | rblg
fabric | rblg is the survey website of fabric | ch -- studio for architecture, interaction and research. We curate and re-blog articles, researches, exhibitions and projects that we notice during our everyday practice.