Archive for January, 2010

A cat named Clarissa

January 31, 2010

She's 10.


Workspace adventure

January 29, 2010

Smart organic windows: MIT CROMA

January 29, 2010

MIT’s CROMA group brings together researchers from media arts, architecture, and chemical engineering. The group “aims at developing technologies and use case scenarios for building responsive, programmable, and energy-smart architectural components.” Their “smart organic window” project proposes the use of electrochromic organic polymers to enable touch- and motion-sensitive brise-soleil techniques.

A basic premise of this work is that a programmable and responsive façade element can not only be aesthetically provocative and improve energy-efficiency of architecture, but also has the potential to alter the ways we relate to buildings and surfaces, opening exciting avenues for new kinds of interaction and experience, and requiring new skills and competencies in the fields of design, architecture, and engineering. (CROMA)

iMAP cake

January 28, 2010

Mini-celebration on the occasion of the first iMAP cohort completing their exams. Cake courtesy Jen Stein.


January 27, 2010

I met Eric Gradman at a meeting of the recently-formed Transmedia LA group; his enthusiasm and sense of humor are as infectious in person as they are in his work. Gradman’s “uncomfortably augmented reality” project, CLOUD MIRROR, is currently on show at the Sundance festival.

The CLOUD MIRROR is an interactive augmented reality art installation… Live video captured by a camera and is re-projected on the wall behind the camera, functioning like a “magic mirror.” But the CLOUD MIRROR software alters the images on the way to the screen. It runs an algorithm that tracks faces from frame to frame and also examines each frame for 2D barcodes printed on attendee badges. By pairing each face with a badge, and each badge id with a database row, the CLOUD MIRROR can identify by name whoever is standing in front of the installation.

The CLOUD MIRROR then augments each frame, adding a thought bubble to each face in the image. The contents of that thought bubble are selected from a set of “tags” associated with that person. Tags come from various sources, including Facebook, Twitter, and SMS data.

When registering for the event, attendees were asked to optionally provide their Twitter name, Facebook profile ID, and to answer the question “Where is your favorite place in LA?” In the weeks leading up to the event, the CLOUD MIRROR software sent a friend request to any attendee that provided that information. The poor trusting souls who accepted this request had their personal profile gently data-mined. Specifically, the information captured was “Facebook updates,” “Twitter updates,” and “Facebook relationship status.”

CLOUD MIRROR also capitalized on peoples’ innate desire to embarrass their friends by allowing anyone to anonymously “graffiti” in a thought bubble by sending an SMS message to a special number containing the target’s unique badge ID. (monkeys and robots)

Ambient storytelling resources

January 27, 2010

Precedents and origins

  • Ergodic Literature: (ergon + hodos = “work” + “path”) “In ergodic literature, nontrivial effort is required to allow the reader to traverse the text. If ergodic literature is to make sense as a concept, there must also be nonergodic literature, where the effort to traverse the text is trivial, with no extranoematic responsibilities placed on the reader except (for example) eye movement and the periodic or arbitrary turning of pages.” (Wikipedia: Ergodic literature)
  • Grafitti

  • Mail Art “The more theoretical branch of postal art probably has its roots (left) in the Italian Futurists at the turn of the century. They actually used the mail as an artistic device. They sent letters back and forth from World War I praising the beauty of war (they were a sick bunch, what can I tell ya?) but they also used the mail imaginatively, creating innovative stationary, letterheads, logos, postcards and rubber stamps.” (A Brief History of Postal Art)
  • Sticker Art such as Shepard Fairey’s Andre the Giant has a posse
  • Implementation “Implementation is a novel about psychological warfare, American imperialism, sex, terror, identity, and the idea of place, a project that borrows from the traditions of, mail art, sticker art, conceptual art, situationist theater, serial fiction, and guerilla viral marketing. The text was written collaboratively by Nick Montfort and Scott Rettberg with some contributions from others. Its initial incarnation was as a serial novel printed on sheets of stickers that were distributed in monthly installments.” (

Web-based ambient storytelling

  • The Nethernet “…(previously known as PMOG, the Passively Multiplayer Online Game) is an online game in which players “passively” participate in while browsing web pages. Players earn data points by taking missions, which they can spend on various game items that could be attached to web pages to trigger events when another player next visited that page.” (Wikipedia: The Nethernet)

Context: Play and Mobile Media

  • Come out and Play The website for this annual festival of street games can be a great source of inspiration for brainstorming new design projects. “Come Out & Play helps people rediscover the city around them through play. The festival offers a chance to explore new styles of public games and play. We show how much fun can be had by combining elements like GPS, sidewalks, chalk, smartphones, kickball, SMS, capture the flag, bluetooth, and treasure hunts in a dramatic urban context like New York City.”
  • Geocaching “Geocaching is an outdoor activity in which the participants use a Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver or other navigational techniques to hide and seek containers (called “geocaches” or “caches”) anywhere in the world. A typical cache is a small waterproof container (usually a tupperware or ammo box) containing a logbook. Larger containers can also contain items for trading, usually toys or trinkets of little value. Geocaching is most often described as a “game of high-tech hide and seek”, sharing many aspects with orienteering, treasure-hunting, and waymarking.” (Wikipedia: Geocaching)

Improvisition and personal micronarratives

Rabbitholes and User-Generated Content

  • The Jejune Institute Explore the site, then check out the Unfiction forum to find out more.
  • World Without Oil “World Without Oil combined elements of an alternate reality game with those of a serious game. The game sketched out the overarching conditions of a realistic oil shock, then called upon players to imagine and document their lives under those conditions. Compelling player stories and ideas were incorporated into the official narrative, posted daily. Players could choose to post their stories as videos, images or blog entries, or to phone or email them to the WWO gamemasters. The game’s central site linked to all the player material, and the game’s characters documented their own lives, and commented on player stories, on a community blog and individual blogs, plus via IM, chat, Twitter and other media.” (Wikipedia: World Without Oil)
  • Jane McGonigal: “Why I Love Bees” (.pdf) “Alternate reality games (ARGs) are massively multiplayer puzzle adventures that combine online interactive content with real-world game events. McGonigal proposes “stimulating ambiguity” as the central design philosophy of ARGs. She explores how ambiguous game content stimulates massively collaborative game play that allows for a greater share of leadership and meaningful participation in large-scale player groups. She also outlines how the open-ended puzzles of ARGs inspire multiple, creative interpretations that allow for diverse problem-solving strategies to flourish in a single player community. The essay is grounded in a close reading of player-produced conte nt and their interpretations of the core puzzle of the I Love Bees game: a series of several hundred GPS coordinates, dates, and times that were listed on the central game Web site.” (MIT Press)

Embedding media

  • Augmented Reality (AR) Please, please, please don’t confuse AR with ARGs. They’re totally different things. When we talk about ARGs, we’re talking about a set of practices related to storytelling and interaction; AR refers to a specific set of technologies that enable a real-world environment to be augmented by computer-generated imagery or information, creating a kind of “mixed” reality. Layar and Google Goggles are two examples of AR that have recently appeared on cell phones.

Location-specific ambient storytelling

  • Million Story Building “…an experimental design project exploring how location-specific mobile technology can add playful, imaginative and practical new layers to the relationship between a structure and its inhabitants.” (USC MEML)

Engineering Man for Space: NASA’s cyborg study

January 25, 2010

From NASw-512, “Engineering Man for Space”; May 15th, 1963 (abstract).

More: Cyborg bibliography.

via @caseorganic

Immersive Media 360-degree video of Port-au-Prince

January 23, 2010

Bestiario – interactive information spaces, complexity and data visualization

January 21, 2010

Bestiario is a Barcelona/Lisbon-based Flash-based info visualization
group whose projects “permit the treatment of abundant amounts of
diverse relational information of all kinds.”

Portfolio site:

Winter via the I-15

January 20, 2010

Some pics from the drive back to LA from Alberta