Category Archives: interface_2.x_

Dinosaur Interface and Bathroom UX

What’s your favorite dinosaur?

Most folks go ‘later-Mesozoic’, for a Cretaceous bad-ass like T-Rex, Spinosaurus, Triceratops, etc.

Few go for the earlier ‘betas,’ those sausage-fingered, blobby dudes, with the ‘fresh-from-the-primordial-sludge’ smell. If a museum DOES feature these earlier lizards – we’re talking deep Mesozoic, here – it’s usually a  ‘blob-on-a-rock-clearly-regretting-the-terrestrial-move’, or a half-hearted mural in muddy colors of blockheaded stumpy things. Those earlier guys barely feel like a footnote, despite kicking out a boatload of iterations and lasting hundreds of millions of years.

Cut to the “Internet of Things,” “smart”, sensor-embedded environments. And the Burgerville bathroom.

Now I LOVE Burgerville. It looks weird when you type it, but it’s SO GOOD. I  recently went to use the restroom at the Burgerville restaurant in Gresham, OR. It went something like this:

<bathroom>

I come in and notice the water running in one of the three sinks bathroom empty, faucet going full tilt, handle up.

Mental note: “idiot didn’t know it wasn’t automatic!”

I push down the handle and shut it off. I do my stuff, then when I go to wash MY hands, I wave them  in the area of the sensor under the faucet a few times before I remember, again, it’s a manually-operated sink.

I turn to the soap dispenser. I’m thinking “manual”. I’ve been primed for this user experience – I know how to navigate.

Soap Dispenser, Gresham Burgerville
Soap Dispenser, Gresham Burgerville

I press the dispenser to pump out soap. None comes. It doesn’t budge.

Because… it’s MOTION-ACTIVATED! The FAUCET was MANUAL, but not the soap dispenser.

I put my hand under, cursing. Nothing. I wave. Nothing. Wave again. Nothing.

 

The light is on, I hear it making machine-y sounding noises, so the power is working, but…THERE’S NO SOAP. Curse, move to sink on left. Hold hand under. Nothing. WAVE HANDS, soap dispenses onto countertop. Curse, place hand under, wave with other, get soap ON HAND. Seethe. Rub soap in, then place hand under faucet to rinse. Nothing. Wave. Nothing. Curse. Remember AGAIN that FAUCET IS MANUAL. Lift handle, rinse. Turn to paper towel dispenser.

paper towel dispenser, Gresham, OR Burgerville
paper towel dispenser, Gresham, OR Burgerville

Sign on front: ”pull down towel with both hands”, but no towel visible. Think: ‘YEAH, I GOT THIS, HOMES.’

Reach around side for those spinners (the ones they tell you to use if a towel isn’t visible?), probe with fingers, then hands. No spinners. Curse.

Pat up the sides through the wet tracks of those who’ve come before, until I’m patting the top of the damn thing. Nothing. Realize: must be a sensor underneath! Curse. Put hands under. Nothing. Wave. Nothing. Wave again – nothing.

Paper towel dispenser, Gresham, OR Burgerville
Paper towel dispenser, Gresham, OR Burgerville

Reach around, find a handle underneath – invisible, from my angle.

Pull handle, nearly tear dispenser from wall. Three realizations: (1) it’s a PUSH handle; (2) I’m not the first to pull; and (3) none of us ‘pullers’ have been gentle by this point in the chain of fail.

I push the dispenser back against wall, hoping the screws don’t fall out. I push the handle several times to dispense unapologetic towels.

VERY GENTLY take towel with both hands and tear praying dispenser doesn’t crash to floor. Dry hands.

As I leave, I notice some idiot has left the faucet running. Realize it’s me. Curse. Return to sink, push down handle. Leave.

</bathroom>

The franken-tech clusterf— of incompatible systems exploding around us is the result of individual solution providers (soap dispensers, towel dispensers, faucet manufacturers, etc.) each tackling their use-case-in-isolation, with no-one fighting for an overall experience that feels right. That’s why we’ll be stuck waving our hands under manual sinks and standing in front of our smart home locksets with dead phone batteries for a while to come.

We are in the early Mesozoic Era of connected environments interface. And it looks pretty slimy from the Burgerville bathroom.

But it will get better.

We have to go from ‘use’ cases to ‘love’ cases. I don’t need a “smart” environment – I’ll take a “stupid” one…that cares a lot more.

Sausage-fingered-lizard UI will make way for velociraptors, and ultimately delicious, delicious chickens.

We’ll need experience designers and technologists who understand, deeply, the emotional weight of need states and our urgent journeys through them. They’ll need to grok us and how we’ll crash their parties and trash their assumptions with our messy, irrational, emotional selves – and love us for it. These folks won’t just build solutions we’ll use, but the experiences we’ll love.

Yes, please.

We aren’t counting our chickens yet, but we’re investing in a few and starting to break a few eggs trying to make irrationally beautiful omelletes – and I hope more people will, too.

We’ll love you for it.

 

we are hard-wired for ‘same day’

Much of the heat around the Walmart and ‘eBay Now‘ plans to test same-day shipping has been generated through the positioning of these efforts as a ‘retail/e-tail battle royale’ with pretty much everyone against Amazon.

Rebecca Greenfield at The Atlantic writes: “Walmart will send Internet-purchased items to you the very same day as online check-out, in 5 select cities…Amazon already offers that same quick delivery time in 10 cities…Walmart [has] 4,000 stores primed for this delivery option…Amazon…40 warehouse distribution centers. That means Walmart could offer same-day delivery to a lot more people in far more obscure places.”

Game on!

There are operational and logistical hurdles to overcome (and Amazon’s done this “e-mmediate” thing before – remember Kosmo?), but with the global near-ubiquity of mobile, marketers should pay close attention: when you can impulse-buy anywhere there’s a data up/down, every brand impression is a potential point-of-sale.

Imagine: on your lunch break, you see a Coca-Cola awning – a minute with your mobile, and Amazon ‘Same-day’ has a case waiting on your doorstep when you get back from work. All the light touches that add up to our personal brand experiences – vending machines, retail signage, delivery trucks, packaging, social media, and yes, advertising – are purchase-enabled product shelving in the infinite aisle of Amazon.

(And people LIKE instant gratification – the more instant the better. We are hard-wired for same-day. That’s why 3-d printing is the next industrial revolution and all this will change again.)

Granular sales attribution to individual brand expressions may be hellish, but if Amazon, eBay and Walmart (and their partners) enable infinite-shelf impulse-buy, could this be a way for CMO’s to use their brand footprints in entirely new ways to drive revenue? Could an unintended consequence of “Same Day” be a reconsideration of the right column for ‘Marketing’ on the P&L (revenue, instead of expense?), and with it, a reconsideration of the value of brand communications in the overall revenue mix?

I think it’s cool to get stuff the same day. Or even better: yesterday.

what do you think?

 

 

Art hits Tech Hard in Rhizome’s “Seven on Seven” LHC: The Loooong Part One

The line between “artist”and “technologist” is blurring as code fluency becomes increasingly critical to the creation of meaningful cultural objects.

Three years ago, Lauren Cornell and the Rhizome/New Museum team launched “Seven on Seven“, a 24-hour “sprint-posium” pairing artists/technologist teams to create privately and explain publicly…something. A work, an idea, a prototype. Something resulting from the collision of their very different world views. Like a cultural LHC, “Seven on Seven’s” real premise is: can seven successive impacts of sufficient force throw off new cultural particles?

W+K got involved because the “Seven on Seven” platform confronts issues we tackle daily: What is an idea, now? How fast can you get to a compelling idea? How do artists and technologists productively collaborate? How do we build timeless stories in timely ways?

The teams had 24 hours to create two equally critical things: a collaboration, and the story of that collaboration. The story without the thing was fantasy, the thing without the story was unengaging.

A brief synopsis of the teams and the results:

Team #1 was Taryn Simon and Aaron Swartz, who used “the hidden spaces between cultures” as a visual root for their project: a tool that translates a query into a local language image search in fifteen countries – a “simple” act that exposes cultural differences visually (e.g., here’s “party“). Aaron described their process of considering “how supposedly neutral and statistical tools that claim to present an unmediated world carry with them biases that program us.”  The internet, they argued, has created an illusion of cultural flattening that this tool exposes.  (other examples: Liar, crazy and freedom).  Simple Formula, complex results.  So hot Clay Shirky (@chsirky) was tweeting it during their presentation. Watch their presentation here.

Charles Forman and Jon Rafman were Team #2.  They were interested in using images to explore memory and its plasticity. Charles described how looking at old photos created  “chronologically impossible” memories.  Jon has found unintended stories in images. Both sparked to the way old photos confront us with our “mistaken notion that we’ve always been whomever we’ve become,” and their collaboration generated the “Memory Box“. As described, by Jon, it’s as an “ivory box with golden circuitry” that records a reaction to any of your personal images, then serves that image and reaction back up seven years later for re-consideration. Not an archive of memories, the Box is an archive of what we’d forgotten, intentionally or not. Your chance to confront your neuro-plasticity. Without their invention, said Charles, “Ten years from now, I’ll remember that I was the funniest guy here at that you all loved me. And right now, there’s nothing to prevent me from doing that.” 20:47 video here.

Team#3 delivered the event’s “homeless hotspot ZOMG” moment.  Jeremy Asheknas, who enjoyed lifting “the constraint of the newsroom requirement of sticking to just the facts”, was working with Stephanie Syjuco, an artist who amongst other things, leads counterfeiting workshops. “I’m supposed to be transgressive,” she said,  “and he has a code of ethics.” Together they created an alternate “crowd-sourced” Seven-on-Seven they called “Seven on Seven, Again“.  They described their recruiting process and the resulting seven ideas – from “Hushamaphones” to a “Market of Intangibles”, but the mood shifted perceptibly in the room when the two revealed the entire project to be a fiction.  As required, they’d built a product (a website of the event) and a story – but in this case, the product was an artifact of a story that was a fiction. They raised all kinds of questions about authenticity you can watch here.

Team #4’s Aram Bartholl and Khoi Vinh were one of two team in Wieden’s NY office. While outside their office people leapt a swimming pool filled with rancid coffee and stale donuts, the two considered the ubiquity of the internet: Aram noted “it’s in pockets and cafes, but always in rectangles.” Khoi noted screens had gone from social experiences to personal ones, and wondered if you could reverse that trend. Aram didn’t buy technology deliverance – “I don’t believe in the AR thing – floating in a pool, connected to a brain…”, “or floating in a pool of coffee and donuts…” added Khoi.

They built a circular case for an iPad, then filmed Aram wearing it around NYC to see what reaction it caused. And while a circular screen “may not be culturally viable”, it was an important part of breaking cultural expectations for screens.

To see how it would change interactions. To see if people would engage with it differently. What would it mean if people could touch your content? Unsurprisingly, it took some convincing for women to engage with the gestural interface on Aram’s chest. Their video is priceless.

Team #5 was Blaine Cook and Naeem Mohaiemer, representing activism and left politics.  In wrestling with the creative process and where ideas come from, they considered the way the brain processes images and ideas, and thought about “slow” and “tactile” time. They explored five concepts:

“Don’t let me be lonely”: Naeem quoted Blaine with “poetry looks like ass on a blog.” And I can’t remember how this explained the concept, but it was so good, it’s here.

“Killing Time”: Now that people “Google” mid-conversation, everyone is an instant expert.  Or as Blaine put it, “I feel my memory doesn’t work anymore, and it doesn’t matter.”

Constellation Theory: Not a single note here. I google-ed it (see “killing time”, above) and got this blurb: “the self is organized into a stable concept, our defenses protect the self-concept and how to be aware of our defensive nature” from this book.

For the specificity of the local: you can’t flatten everything.  Local matters, illustrated by way of the German word, Doch, a hard-to-translate word roughly meaning “I affirm your negative structure.”  Also, (and I’m not sure why) they described Tacqawores, a work of fiction that described a micro-community (“Punk Muslims”) that was inspired to form because of the book.

Back to a room of my own: Naeem asked “how do we get our minds back when they are so linked into rectangles?” Blaine “we are against pecha kucha and TED. we are for the slow jam. we need our room back.”

The result: roomofmyown.org – a deliberately reflective collage-wall of ideas you can share with a limited number of people. While today’s “social” tools pressure us to expand our networks, this one forces choices to be made – and attention to be paid.  The prototype, said Naeem, is a means to an ends: How do we slow down? Watch their video here.

Team #6, Anthony Volodkin and Xavier Cha built an idea around the notion “you are what you eat” – and felt a fair proxy interactively was the twitter stream you consume. What if you could see the tweets someone else consumes, rather than projects? Would you get better insights into who they than reading their carefully curated tweets?  Boom: Peep, the tool that lets you step into someone else’s twitter feed. Xavier: “Foursquare isn’t a record of where you’ve been, it’s a record of missed opportunities – at any given moment, a friend is having a better time than you.” Peep looks for you in your incoming stream – in other words, the you you’ve chosen, not the you you create. You can watch them here.

Team #7, Latoya Ruby-Frazier and Michael Herf (also based in the W+K building) shared a concern about how technology is used – and how it affects us. Both interested in how you talk about culture and images – and how you raise visual literacy around the meanings embedded and encoded in images. Their project, Decode: A Encyclopedia of visual culture, is a collaborative platform on which users (identified by age, gender and race) can offer their cultural insights and perspectives on images in popular culture and communications. The tool would look for modifications, and layered cultural meanings. So that the font you use isn’t the one used by…say…Nazis. Video of the presentation is here.

If you’ve made it this far, wow. Buckle up – travelogue is over. Next stop: key takeaways

in

post….2.

(and here’s the liveblog stream of the event from Rhizome. Nifty.)

Everything has an app – even kids

I was at the playground with my two boys yesterday.

We began a game of tag.

As I closed in on the older son, he shouted “magnet charge”.

Beeping loudly, the younger son came at me from the side, wrapped his arms around me and clung while his brother scrambled to the top of a jungle gym.

With my younger son still beeping triumphantly around my ankles, I asked the older about the ‘magnet charge’ move.

From atop the junglegym came the answer:  “It’s one of his apps.  He’s got ‘move silently’, ‘night vision’, ‘minigun’ and a whole bunch of others.  We downloaded all of them.  Isn’t that awesome?”

“Beep!  Beep!” came the shout from my ankles. “Beep!”

Turns out amongst his friends, you don’t have ‘skills’ or ‘superpowers’ on the playground anymore, you have ‘apps’.

From the top of the jungle gym came the closer:

“You can activate the apps across the playground with Siri – you just need to know their names!”

PIE gets +1’ed by Google

 

This week saw a few highlights:  geek data overload from OSCON tore out AT&T’s PDX mobile backbone like Sub-Zero doing a Mortal Kombat killing move (see it here @ :22), while Old Spice Guy Fury-Fist-Wall-Punched his Fabio duel to an end, @grigs hosted another solid mobile portland night, and just today, GreenGoose, Sendgrid and Mashery (including @delynator) stopped by PIE pre-API Hackday.

Awesomeness.

But the one that got my +1 was Google joining Coke and Target as the newest partner in the Portland Incubator Experiment (PIE).

The Google team said (their words, not mine) ‘having been small tech start-ups at one point, Google and YouTube are thrilled to join in supporting the Portland Incubator Experiment [and] helping next generation tech start-ups.'”

The Google/YouTube mentor list will include folks from a diversity of Google departments, including YouTube, Android, Google Ventures, Google+, etc. We are excited to have them on board, and we know they’ll provide valuable insight for participating start-ups – and the applications surged after the announcement hit the wires.

Additionally, we’ve got VC’s from Intel Capital, Founders Co-op and Voyager Capital participating as mentors and prospective backers for companies seeking outside funding.

Just today, some PIE guys were working on a unique monitor/dashboard that should provide a lot of utility/info/visualization possibilities for participating start-ups…

The boys are working on some tools to make life as a startup @ PIE easier

 

The application for PIE is open now through 8/8, so get your great ideas in!

 

 

 

Portland Incubator Experiment, Reloaded: PIE 2.0

You may have seen some news about PIE today, or came across it on Twitter.  The application form went live yesterday.  What is PIE?  Well, let’s start with “delicious”:

“PIE is technology accelerator/incubator seeking 8-10 brand-collaborative startups who’ve identified an emergent opportunity in brand-aligned and business-aligned hardware, software, services or experiences – and we’re particularly interested in mobility.  Applicants need an existing prototype or proof of concept, and a scalable, viable idea deployable in 3-9 months.  Most importantly, they need a collaborative spirit and want to work with some of the world’s greatest brands – including Coca-Cola, Target and Nike!”

I believe you don’t really talk about something until you’ve got something real to talk about.  Crazy, I know, given the business I’m in, but hopefully fair when you consider that Dan Wieden (the guy who let us set up PIE in his building) speaks pretty convincingly about brand voice and brand truths.   We wanted to make sure we had a few before we ran off at the mouth.

 

"Know your voice or STFU"

This is why my first blog post about the PIE experience comes a full year after it began, when a motley band of W+K’ers, technologists, entrepreneurs and ne’er-do-wells set up camp in the old PICA/Icebreaker space at the corner of NW 12th and Davis in Portland, Oregon.

PIE was initially conceived as a social and entrepreneurial experiment by four folks – myself, Silicon Florist blogger Rick Turoczy, serial entrepreneur/mobile force of nature Scott Kveton, and the man who has turned the notion of ‘side projects’ into an art form, Jason Glaspey.  But it wouldn’t have been what it became if the idea hadn’t caught the imagination of a wider group of interesting people – what we called PIE’s “crust” and “filling”.   [insert your own bad joke here – lord knows we have]

Mobile PDX meetup at PIE

All of us (from the fruity middle to the flaky edges…I know, I know) wondered: what would happen if you put a bunch of entrepreneurial technology optimists into an open space? Would you get a brilliant hive mind?  SkyNet?  Given the ready availability of solid off-the-shelf and web-based software packages, how quickly could you build entire businesses (Bac’n took 21 days) ? What happens when you bring iterative speed development by folks who don’t eat if their idea fails, inside Wieden’s walls?  Would the proximities and adjacencies in PIE make ideas better than they might have been otherwise?  would unexpected things happen?   would it be fun?

Short answer?  Yes.  And the keg helped.

Taking the name “Portland Incubator Experiment”, or “PIE”, we set out with some pretty vague but audacious goals – build a techno-cultural social hub for Portland, launch new businesses fast, build platforms/cultural disruptions not one-offs.  We didn’t know what to expect, but we did know that there was a lot that PDX tech culture and W+K culture could learn from each other.

In our first year, PIE was home to 20 startups, and amongst other things, generated 3 venture-backed companies, hosted a wide range of interesting events and kicked out a book on fast innovation, fast-ly.

So with that under our belts, and some innovation where our mouth is, we are taking off our stealth paint.

PIE 2.0: fresher and more delicious.

Dan Wieden judges the entries in Wieden + Kennedy's tenth annual PIE contest
Dan knows PIE

This time around, Wieden+Kennedy and a hardy band of technology innovators and entrepreneurs are joined by tech-forward brand partners Coca-Cola, Target, and Nike.  We’ll work together to explore and redefine brand experiences.  PIE will continue to serve as an active hub for the PDX tech community, entrepreneurship, and creative thinking, but now we’ll collaborate to help brands find unexpected solutions, accelerate mobile efforts, share brand wisdom and insights with young startups and expose brand organization to the wacky world of real-time, startup-flavored innovation.  Each brand has volunteered amazing mentors for the program; they and the extended PIE mentor network of tech entrepreneurs, geo-location wizards, mobile gaming experts, open source advocates and techno-cultural disruptors will look to make communications objects/products more compelling and our lives a little more interesting.

The application for PIE is here. Got a business idea, a dream and a prototype?  Want to work with some of the world’s most amazing brands and the insight and scale they can provide?  Applications close August 1st.  September 1st, the new class takes their seats.

We are pretty excited.

I’m done with Foursquare

Remember when foursquare was a ruthlessly brutal playground “app” where you downloaded a BALL from the GYM and kicked ASS?

HELL yeah.

"Three enter, but only one can serve."

Then it became an OCD compulsion.

I couldn’t talk to the hostess at a restaurant til I’d checked in.

Or land without fumbling for my mobile and using the last of its battery (EVERY F-ING TIME) to tally another airport.

When I became the on-again, off-again “mayor” of Sadness (aka Portland International Airport, or PDX), I knew I was pushing it.

When I was dethroned as the “mayor” of the Auburn Hills Marriott Pontiac at Centerpoint, in Pontiac Michigan, 4square suggested cheerfully that a few more soul-sucking stops there might ‘put me back on top’.

Done.

I’m not over geolocation – I believe it’s huge and getting huger and will be super super huge. But here’s the thing: I want more storytelling and less box ticking. More participatory narrative, less faster badge acquisition. Things like Blacktop, or Casey Halverson’s Nike+ hack are neat directional moves…but they focus on automating the process of check ins and check in aggregation, and I want ones that deepen the actual experience.

Geolocative DEPTH, not breadth. In the moment, not for posterity

Things that make ‘being in a place’ about more than a few finger taps and adequate wireless coverage.

Seven on Seven

W+K is collaborating with Rhizome.org and the New Museum on the upcoming Seven on Seven event –

“Seven on Seven will pair seven leading artists with seven
game-changing technologists in teams of two, and challenge them to
develop something new –be it an application, social media, artwork,
product, or whatever they imagine– over the course of a single day. The
seven teams will unveil their ideas at a one-day event at the New
Museum on April 17th.”

Who’s in?

On the “technology” team

And on the “artists” side of the floor:

Why is W+K there?  Because the future of storytelling, narrative and human experience lie at the crossroads of art and technology.

Seven teams of two will offer you a glimpse of the future.  And they’ll make it real in twenty-four hours.

And then they serve cocktails.

Sweeeet.

All Currency is Social. So what’s in YOUR wallet?

I was looking up the definition of currency on Wikipedia, when I came across this line: "modern currency…is intrinsically worthless".  I'm no economist, but the info there indicated that the dollar, euro and other currencies have no value beyond the government declaring them to have value, and markets effectively betting on their future value.

So it's kind of funny that there is a distinction between hard currency (cash) and social currency (as in "net promoter value", WOM recco, blog readership or twitter followers, etc.).  Because both are effectively social constructs (for the cash, at least, since the 'Nixon Shock' ended convertibility of US dollars for gold).

But faith in institutions, like faith in people, can be fragile. 

What the hell does that have to do with marketing?

Well…

I'll go out on a limb here.  The era of the one stop shop, or agency network, or do it alone communications company – or brand, for that matter, is dead.

No brand is an island.  No agency a one-stop shop.

Brands ask for multi-year communications plans in 2010, when in 22 months between February 2005 and November 2006, YouTube went from startup to $1.65 Billion Google acquisition.  One thing you can count on is guessing wrong on the right tactics to employ in three years' time. Many of them simply don't exist yet.

So here's where the currency/social currency comes in:

Agency and brand "currency" will be a reflection of their social portfolio strategy. 

The most successful brands and agencies will be driven by a net value comprised of actual sales of goods and services + the "stored value" of their social currency (in the form of their networks of collaborators).

The key will be how quickly and effectively they can convert stored value to real value, by unlocking the power of their collaborators to achieve mutual goals. 

Darpa-network-challenge_1
DARPA's "Network Challenge" was just such a test to see test the value of networks in real world problem solving.  An MIT team used a tech-fueled "inverse pyramid" scheme to solve in nine hours a problem DARPA assumed would take significantly longer.

The trick is identifyng mutual goals.  Creating a shared vision – and shared risk.  Opportunity – and accountability.

As an agency, it's a good idea to treat partners well, and treat everyone you meet as a future collaborator.  If entire alliances are forming because you are ridiculously awful to work with, you have a serious problem.

And collaboration prevents legacy investments (or entire company acquisitions) from dictating your solutions – a dev shop full of C sharpies not so useful for your Ruby project.  A search shop with an a state-of-the-art proprietary tool yields decreasing returns once that tool gets dumped onto an overall dev list across an agency holding company.  Flash devs on iPhone/iPad?  waaa waaaa.  Or in our case, it helped to have access to the right folks when we wanted to build a robot.

Victor & Spoils promised crowdsourcing as a creative model.  Meh.  What they have done is built a seriously impressive network of freelancers.  The danger is that that network is built on unstable bonds -  bonds that consist of the promise of hard currency.  Hard currency buys you loyalty with an expiration date (the better offer). 

And while money can't buy you love, earned social currency just might.

The agencies and brands that win will build networks of shared inspiration and mutual goals.  Bonds of social currency.

Because an inspired network, a network built on passion and trust, not submission forms and "friend requests", has the power to move mountains.

Brain Belches and Sentience

Somewhere this past year, I effectively traded blogging for brain belches.  Blog posts gave way to tweets, FB status updates and foursquare check-ins. "@"replies and retweets replaced blog comments as my virtual crack.

I'm not proud of it, and I will  rectify that this year (resolution #3, just after #2's "ripped abs")

In Katie Hafner's NYT piece "Driven to Distraction, Some Unfriend Facebook" (a piece dealing with kids attempts to self-regulate their Facebook addictions) she quotes Michael Diamonti, head of school at SF University High School:

"[I support] these kids recognizing that they need to exercise some control over their use of Facebook, that not only is it tremendously time-consuming but perhaps not all that fulfilling."

Hafner goes on to quote Sherry Turkle, director of the MIT Initiative on Technology and Self, who writes of an 18 year old male who quit FB while working on his college application:

"Facebook wasn't merely a distraction, but it was really confusing him about who he was."

Jonathan Harris, in his recent piece on World Building, writes

"Our online tools do a great job at breadth (hundreds of friends,
thousands of tweets), but a bad job at depth. We live increasingly
superficial lives, reducing our relationships to caricatures and our
personalities to billboards, as we speed along at 1,000 miles an hour.

We trade self-reflection for busyness, gorging ourselves on it and
drowning in it, without recognizing the violence of that busyness,
which we perpetrate against ourselves and at our peril."

There is something beautiful, terrifying and powerful about the rise of ambient intimacy, and our willing adoption of the latest and greatest tools to feed it.  We feed it with our hearts and souls like a confessional booth after a Las Vegas bender, but occasionally forget that every wry observation and catty tweet is now searchable, indexable and forever. 

But seeing is not knowing.  Telling alone does not create understanding. And the fact I can't actually deal with the immediacy of a restaurant until I've "checked in" in pursuit of my "Crunked' badge is…well, a little sad.

Sad, but I believe it will evolve into something beautiful.  This stuff would not survive, we would not be obsessed by it, if it did not meet a fundamental human need.  Our job is to understand that need and work to meet it with technology that enhances our humanity, and deepens our connections, rather than reduces our rich world of experience to 140 character bleats.

But it does make you think – children learn interaction by observing our emotional states.  How much of our hearts and souls can we pour into the technosphere before it develops its own api to tap our raw data, and begin to react?

It feels inevitable that a status update will someday generate a reaction – "feeling blue" may generate a skype call from an unknown (but somehow familiar soothing) voice, suggesting you "look on the bright side – you've got that Mexico trip coming up!  You'll be tan and happy, and you'll probably hook up!" – and when the line goes dead, you'll feel great, and maybe slightly, momentarily unsettled.  But you shouldn't be – you put the trip into dopplr, booked it through Expedia, and you've got a profile that matches someone else who did the same (and is single)…weather.com predicts sun for the 10-day forecast, and the tweets you posted from Tulum the last time were, algorithmically speaking, the happiest of your 8,956 posts. 

You can't miss!