Category Archives: on_offline_mesh_

See the Future in Malmo


Unsworn Industries, maker of the 'Telemegaphone Dale' have just announced the launch of their 'Parascopes, Malmo' – site-specific "binoculars" that show not the present, but the future.  Specifically, the impact of a proposed urban planning effort.  Rather than put the plans on view in Malmo city hall, they built immersive viewers people can use to see the potential of the proposals in situ.  Nice.

Runs in the family?

My six-year-old wanted to make a birthday card for my wife.  He grabbed a pen and mumbled something about "doing a computer thing", then came back with this.  He informed me that the 'Happy Bir' is followed by "a blinking cursor, because I'm still typing".  He put on the 'Caps Lock' and though my wife uses Safari @ home, Daddy uses Firefox, and that browser made the cut.

Geek waters run deep chez Gleeson. 


Can't wait to see his Linux/Maemo version next year.

\o/ FrontlineSMS Makes Us Better \o/


Ken Banks (@kiwanja on twitter) is an honest-to-goodness tech hero.  When much tech-related news and developments wallow in wonk and wank, or seem aimed at folks with more daily discretionary spending power than many global households make annually (PS3 Home launches!  Waaa waaaaah), Ken's FrontlineSMS (@frontlineSMS on twitter) is a free piece of software that enables NGO's and grassroots organizations worldwide to communicate rapidly and effectively with geographically dispersed groups using basic text-messaging (SMS) technology.  If you can get a signal, you can communicate/aggregate/congregate/advocate.  And it works in spite of the natural disasters and power outages that regularly cripple other tech solutions. 

Just how far ahead of the curve is Ken?

After a year of exhaustive research and millions spent, Larry Brilliant's announced (at TED 2008 last year) that they'd arrived at the conclusion that an SMS-enabled tool could be a good idea to invest MORE time and money to create a team to build and research and prototype and maybe, just maybe, deploy.  Net: according to Google, it would take years and millions to do, in effect, what FrontlineSMS had been doing for years.  Like announcing in 1973 that a moon trip looked "feasible".  Proof yet again that insitutional hubris and groupthink can blind even the smartiest of smartie-pants to nimble people with a passion doing a reverse windmill dunk over them.  [See "Salamis"]

Sure W+K sells soda and sneaks better than anyone, but we love passionate folks using innovative technologies to make peoples lives better.  We were honored to work with Ken on his web presence and logo – both of
which had to work on low speed connections and use text characters
(since many folks would interact with them only via text message).  BTW – the logo we developed with Ken is ASCII friendly and does some great stuff when you paste it into skype.  seriously. 

And it looks good on a button (see photo above).


NIN Secret concert…finally

Maybe my favorite bit about the NIN Year Zero ARG was that damn concert that I had heard about but never actually saw documented.

The story went that players and fans were made aware of an 'Art is Resistance' meeting…then climbed into vehicles (I had heard buses, but apparently it was vans ok, it WAS buses) and driven to an undisclosed location in the LA factory district for a wild 'experience'. Sounded cool, but though I kept coming across references, I couldn't find documentation. Until now.

Karl Bode's WordSoup blog mentioned the concert back in 4/07, and though his video's been yanked, he links to one of the YZ websites 'Open Source Resistance' where the video still exists. bingo.

It's worth watching to see

  • the crowd reactions – they shift [frequently] between willing disbelief, outright disbelief, mild discomfort, wild euphoria and s–t scared. Just try to quantify the 'engagement metric' on that puppy, Holmes.
  • watching the intersection of realities between Trent and the actors/assistants with the fans – Trent is firmly embedded in the album's alternate worldview, and for once, the fans don't just imagine it after huffing airplane glue and cranking it up, they get to be there when the SWAT team bursts in. Shooting.

Trent and 42 Entertainment built the Year Zero roller coaster ride that turned music into a game you could play. And kudos to 42 Entertainment, but make no mistake: Trent has spent the better part of the last two decades doing the heavylifting of brand narrative world building. And with the dystopian foundation laid and the narrative arc in motion, you can subcontract/modularize the activation to map to technographic, demographic, and psychographic subsets. And net a solid selling album in the process. Yes, I am a NIN fanboy. Sue me.

For anyone unfamiliar with this year's Cannes Viral Advertising Gran Prix winner, here's the synopsis, from their entry:

"The ambitious Year Zero alternate reality game (ARG), a work of
cross-media art involving websites, emails, phone calls, album
packaging, tour t-shirts, thumb drives, music videos, murals,
interactive games and live concert events with the new music of Nine
Inch Nails at its core. Playing out over 10 weeks, the Year Zero ARG
engaged over 2.5M participants. It started with a message hidden in the
back of a concert t-shirt that lead to online websites, ultimately over
29 websites discovered over several months, 7.5M page views, 7M forum
postings, 2M phone calls and thousands of original art submissions."

Are you letting people play YOUR brand communications?

Dead people are fun to trick.

[Disclaimer:  If anyone tries to stiff my rotting carcass with mock fake real things, not at least real fake real things, I WILL come back from hell and go ‘Ring’ on your ass.  I mean it, people.]   

Studio Leung brings a Chinese tradition dating back to the Tang Dynasty (739A.D.) up to date with .pdf’s, just in time for the Qingming Festival (April 5th).  Real on the left, ‘Printable offerings’ on the right, below.  And yes, if you were dead, it would be hard to tell the difference.


Per Studio Leung’s site:

"when a person dies, their spirit will still need the things that they used when they were alive…if the spirit [is] not content in the after-life, he or she will not bring good fortune to the living…in response to this Chinese tradition and today’s widespread access to the Internet, we have created a range objects to be printed, assembled and offered to loved ones."

Collection 1 is environmentally better than real fake objects printed on metallic papers, etc., is formatted to work on printer-friendly A4-sized paper, and "focuses on everyday objects that play a huge role in Chinese culture, such as the Octopus travel card and Bic biro".  And apparently, the iPhone. Download ’em here and burn ’em:

And have no worries:  Collection 2 is expected to hit a month before the Hungry Ghost festival.

[caught by Core77 and Textually, photo from Textually]


Virtual Realities – San Francisco, New York, Dubai-land, Falcon City, Second Life, Cloverfield, oh for gosh’s sake

Some I’m going to apologize in advance for bad logic, poor application of social theory, bad understanding of the neurologic basis of memories and the like.  And I welcome any thoughts anyone has on the following.


I was talking with Penny Brough of W+K London about the Golden Gate Bridge.  I’ll admit, I was a little jet-lagged, but from what I recall, she was saying more folks know San Francisco through images of the Golden Gate bridge than will ever see the real bridge…so there are probably more virtual Golden Gate bridges traveling the world in folks heads than real memories experienced by folks who’ve actually seen it.  And the SF of the mind may be as real to the non-visitor as the real one is to folks who’ve been there.   And sometimes when you finally do see something, the real one isn’t as pretty as the cumulative virtual one you remember though you’d never really seen it, anyway.

Golden Gate Bridge from Renny's N95

Maybe, somehow, getting a gray day downer the first time you cross the Golden Gate is like when you meet a movie star like Tom Cruise, and find out he’s REALLY SHORT.  Or not.

The power of cumulative virtual memory, not Tom Cruise, may be part of the reason why NYC seems to keep getting blasted to bits in movie after movie – it’s a quick cheap "gimmie" for a filmmaker/storyteller to leverage the virtual NYC in viewer’s heads, built from postcards, movies, TV shows and commercials – to create an instant pang of connection. 

Below, does Lady Liberty get her head torn off so Cloverfield can tap the collective unconscious?


Side note – Lady Liberty gets the short end of the stick in quite a few movies – Planet of The Apes, The Day After, Escape From New York, etc. – she’s even in the movie posters for them all.)

A good storyteller, one who engages and moves an audience, weaves the most effective tale when they leverage their listeners’ cultural conventions, ideals, shared images, symbols, archetypes, creation myths, known characters and historical situations to create entry points – think Aesop’s fables, Grimm’s tales, Disney, Tolkien, The Apostles.  NYC, through the cumulative weight of visual imagery and narrative, has entered the world’s global memory bank.  It is a virtually ‘shared’ city, though few (proportionally to the globe’s population) have actually been there.  A terrorist attack there, then, became an assault on a real thing AND on our global collective virtual memory.

We’re familiar with taking a real thing (Golden Gate Bridge) and provide virtual copies (postcards) to create a virtual visual memory (of the card initially, but ultimately of the "Bridge").  Now we can personally create a virtual thing (an avatar) and create real copies (paintings, figurines, etc.) – like a 3-D printed ‘Spore’ figurine, a World of Warcraft figurine, or a portrait of your second life avatar.  In the former, shared virtual memory is gleaned from a representation of the real.  In the latter, real is distilled from virtual.   Is one of those more real, less real, or more virtual?

Something happens, anything, and if the experience makes it out of your short term memory into long term, you are left with an accessible memory.  Is the similarly accessible memory of a virtual experience  (say finally mastering and manning the turret guns in Gears of War – FTW!) somehow less real than the memory of a real experience? 



As worlds become truly immersive, the distinction between real and virtual is going to get awful gray, especially since you’ll be able to upload your brain to the data cloud by 2050 and get rid of that pesky meat-space interface we call a "body".

Second Life is a real thing, and a virtual place and a collective memory fed by its citizens activities and preserved by Linden Labs infrastructure. It’s a place where people can live out their fantasies (mundane and/or bizarre).  Players create real space (and value) in a virtual place, ‘real’ because it can be perceived by the senses, remembered accurately by the brain, bought and sold, and it adheres to a rule system that preserves and protects the reality it creates.  And players pay for the privilege of creating more value for others with each interaction.  Sweeeeet.

Dubai-Land is a real thing, too.  But it started as a (mind-numbingly expensive) dream, and is being forced, inch-by-terra-formed-inch, onto an incredibly inhospitable landscape.  Watch the video below and be simultaneously blown away and appalled…and not just by the "action-movie-voiceover" narrative with memorable quotes like "think eco-tourism, but BIGGER", or "watch your kids turn into adults INSTANTLY, and live out their DREAM professions", but by how much this promo video reads like the opening sequence for a soon to be released post-apocalyptic film riffing on the follies of man:


Falcon City of Wonders, my favorite part of Dubai-Land, is a land mass tastefully formed to resemble a falcon spreading its wings, and features scale reproductions of the Pyramids ("with retail space the Egyptians would never have dreamed possible!"), the Eiffel tower, Big Ben, and the Taj Mahal.  To keep this thing humble, the designers thoughtfully put in a jogging track around the scale Central Park in the form of a section of the Great Wall of China.


Falcon City of Wonders = big.  Tom Cruise = not as big?

Are virtual worlds creating new collective memories?  Yes.  Will Dubai-land create a new collective memory pool (before its overrun by nuclear/plague/ebola/alien infested zombies)?  Yes.  Is Master Chief the new Luke Skywalker?  Yes.  What happens when you can’t tell the difference between a virtual world and a real world?  When does the difference not matter anymore?