Monthly Archives: March 2013

Making a show of it

Artist Vela Phelan of Gang Clan Mafia — photo provided courtesy of JONATHAN WIGGS / GLOBE STAFF

Artist Vela Phelan of Gang Clan Mafia — photo provided courtesy of JONATHAN WIGGS / GLOBE STAFF

Its totally exciting to see the recent press about the vibrant performance art scene in Boston as covered by Cate McQuaid in The Boston Globe in her article Making a show of it { for some reason delivered with a re-imagined headline ‘Performance art is thriving in Boston‘ in the eVersion on bostonglobe.com }

The amazing historic reference to Raphael Montalez Ortiz’ destructive Fluxus work aired on Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show way back when — direct references to Mobius all over the article, and deservedly so — mention of all the groups and spaces that’ve come and gone over the years, like Meme, Oni Gallery and others { they failed to mention Cambridge’s legendary venues, like: Zeitgeist Gallery; Out of the Blue Gallery; Open Faucet Productions; Squawk; Naked City Coffeehouse; the Art Cheerleaders; and Burlesque Revival Association ( better known as BRA ) as well as other more musicky venues that regularly support performance art on a regular basis, like: Lizard Lounge; TT the Bears Place, Middle East Café; Precinct Bar; PAs Lounge; Milky Way Lounge and Lanes; Midway Café; Middlesex Lounge; Book Cellar Café; Jorge Hernandez Cultural Center; The Actor’s Guild Workshop; Club OBERON; and so on, etcetera }

Of course, front and center and most vital to the performance art scene to me and to SO many others growing up in the Greater Boston Area is the legendary and incomparable Marilyn Arsem — the founder of Mobius and such a passionate performance artist, educator, mentor and performance artist community leader in Boston and around the world — without her contributions and the amazing and gentle spirit she brings to performance art, and without the photodocumentary contributions of her incredibly visionary and talented late husband Bob Raymond — I think the Boston performance art scene wouldn’t be what it is today

And what better time than now to experience and celebrate live performance art? The article quotes Arsem’s definition of performance art as:

‘An action designed and executed by an artist that takes place in time and space with or without an audience’

… and as vague and confusing as that might seem, its such a refreshing and honest way to describe this rather unique and elusive artistic, expressive medium — and its actually far more specific than the now seemingly rather outdated, original New York City definition of performance art by RoseLee Goldberg from her book Performance: Live Art Since 1960. Goldberg says performance art is:

‘Live art by artists’

Seems a lot simpler than Arsem’s definition, right? I think Goldberg does go on to elaborate more on the extreme interdisciplinary tendancies and potentials for performance art, as do most folks trying to help drive better understanding about what performance art is and isn’t — but I prefer Arsem’s definition mostly because it describes an audience, and as a user-centered and experience design professional this concept of audience is at the core of what experience and performance art is all about — and then, in the end, I also tend to trust Arsem’s definition of performance art more just due to the fact that Marilyn is a living, breathing, passionate performance artist, whereas Goldberg comes from the comfortable and removed distance of being an art critic and historian

Anyhow, back to the point — so cool to see this recent press about performance art and the promotion of such amazing professionals as Marilyn Arsem, Bob Raymond, Vela Phelan and others working in this space — you can read the full article here on Boston Globe dot com — and if you’re not quite up to speed on the vast and interesting history of performance art as a medium, you can check out more context on Wikipedia here, which I personally hope will lead you to deeper research and reading on the topic in books, journals, magazines and on Amazon’s Kindle eReader { but not The Nook }

a perfect world

crackedGlass_1016047_lz

we all know its not a perfect world out there, right?

none of us are, like, THAT delusional

but, what if we all just pretended we live in a perfect world and we began to treat each other a little better? that couldn’t really HURT anybody really, now, could it? in fact, it might be kind of cool and awesome in some strange and cool way

here’s a f’rinstance for ya

what if instead of having a continuous stream of bad things to say about people, what if we only said generally positive things? doesn’t it just feel good to receive a compliment? it feels even better to give a compliment to someone — even if you get nothing in return { and you should never even expect anything in return, right? then you might be complimenting someone for the entirely wrong reason } it just feels good — it feels good to know you’re recognizing the incredible awesomeness around us all, that you’re appreciating life, and that you’re appreciating the people in life that make all of this so worthwhile and fun and happy and alive

bad things are going to happen no matter what

its inevitable, its just the nature of every time-based medium

and life is a time-based medium, so hold on, here it comes ;]

i mean, we can all be honest, too — no need to walk around like an imbecile or something, and its certainly okay to have an opinion about someone or something, but try and back it up in some way with some real reason why you’re feeling so down about these things — just a little bit of research can go a long way, and it will also give us all a little bit more insight into your thinking process and why you’re judging in the first place

if you have a point to make with these observations, with your researched and clarified opinions that veer toward the negative side of life, then good for you — and maybe even good for the world

but realize, at least, just how vulnerable we all are — and especially you as the judge and jury expressing these opinions, especially if you’re expressing them in a very public place like on a blog or on Facebook or at church

unless you’re working at the Lynn District Court or something, too, remember that the Judge also receives some judgment from the social community within which they lay comment — and even THAT judge, the courtly official presiding, will ultimately receive judgment — after all, its not an entirely efficient process — the pay looks real nice and there’s no reason to be efficient if you’re getting paid by your hourly input as never ever reflected by the actual quality of those then quantified hours

but that’s beside the point

let’s all try a little experiment

let’s pretend

what if we lived in a perfect world? what would we say to each other? how would we behave?

try acting like we live in a perfect world and that people act and behave certain ways for good reasons

it might make us all a little less critical of our brothers and sisters

and then we might just concentrate on good things, good people, good feelings, and all the stuff that makes life fun and exciting

i’m gonna try it

let’s see what happens

the decision

CruelShoesFirst

i’m re-reading Luke Wroblewski’s A Book Apart instant UX classic Mobile First while traveling to New York City on an Amtrak train and simultaneously reading Cruel Shoes by Steve Martin — i sort of take a break from one by reading a bit from the other — i’ll admit, its an early ride in to The City and i’m kind of nodding off from time to time, wiping the drool out of the left corner of my mouth from time to time, but its an interesting little ping pong combination of intellectual consumption to start the mind to wonder

i think a lot about mobile experiences

i design for mobile, ubiquitous and cross-domain experiences at Mobiquity, which is like the best job i’ve had so far as a design professional and as someone who is personally interested in influencing the way we think, design and ultimately use our technological advancements and innovations

i mean, for the first time in more than a decade i actually get to DESIGN with a capital D

there’s no time for the typical politics and the dreadful corporate trumpings that come with the terrain of egomaniacal VP opinions and Jobsian self-proclaimed geniusness on the part of this marketing guru or that cSuite idea killer — we’re simply trusted to do our job and amazing shit gets done because of this sort of setup in the workplace

but this isn’t an endorsement for the firm i currently work for { well, i guess its a micro-endorsement of sorts, right? we’re growing, let me know if you’re interested in joining The Mob, aight? }

back to the topic, back to the wondering

i sometimes think that all of this anywhere, anytime connectedness afforded us as modern people has more negatives than pluses — i hate to say it, but i’m not the kind of person that simply drinks the kool-aid and just loves every device, every software, every social web experience, all technology — i hope you don’t mind

having this sort of critical pessimism for our progress via technological innovation, as much as it might seem to conflict with the very core of being an experience designer for mobile technologies, actually helps me scrutinize every aspect of the experiences i design on a day-to-day basis

makes a lot of sense, right?

i don’t ever simply agree with the latest interaction paradigm and stick it into my design work just because its at the bleeding edge — or, if its something that works for the Facebook app, i don’t necessarily think its some experiential interaction we should simply copy-paste and plop over into an entirely different experience

although cookie cutter approaches can sometimes save a client money and cut corners off of the edge of time, i don’t bake like that at all

hope you don’t mind, but i think we should really craft these experiences in very thoughtful and deliberate ways — and we should review and assess each design in an iterative fashion and see how that design work or doesn’t work and adjust it along the way using real human decision-making processes as informed by smart interpretation of the findings we gather from usability, data collection from embedded metric reporting mechanisms, qualitative observation and interviewing, all that amazing stuff that makes us more like cartoonish forensic scientists and crime scene investigators with pockets full of pixels as opposed to little DaVinci’s with a big paint-by-number outlook on how to cobble together the Mona Lisa 2.0

ya know?

so, back to Wroblewski and Martin, now, perhaps?

depending on your outlook, your mood and the people you socially experience along the journey of your day, you might view the new push to mobilize just about damned near everything as either extremely negative or extremely positive — if we translate that to the theatrical equivalents of asking something like:

do our mobile devices result in a future social story of our technohumanic tragedy or comedy?

well, i tend to think of it all from Steve Martin’s perspective

what wonderful opportunity to gather new material for farce and spoof and stand-up hilarity

but then, like the stand-up comedian, we should perhaps learn to see how the audience immediately receives the jokes we live while we’re talkin’ on the phone, texting or accessing the web in highly public situations, right? and then, uhm, we can hopefully all learn to adjust the act a little bit, in a more intentional and consciously aware sort of way

humor that’s been carefully honed, crafted and developed is almost always bound to be far funnier and enjoyable than the potentially risky and tragic alternative of improvised and unthoughtful mayhem

at least that’s my humble opinion as a semi-professional humorist and lifelong late-blooming technologist

don’t forget

medium-is-the-massage

the wheel
is an extension of the foot
the book
is an extension of the eye
clothing, an extension of the skin,
electric circuitry,
an extension of
the
central
nervous
system

The Medium is The Massage, Marshall McLuhan

i think we can all interpret these effects, as McLuhan calls them, in various extremes, dimensions, and ways

one way i interpret some of our extensions as influenced by books like The Body has a Mind of Its Own and The Moving Body: Teaching Creative Theatre is that in some way, the tools we use become a part of us, and likewise the other way, too — we become part of the tools we use

i specifically think of the performance art and new media works of the Australian artist Stelarc — in his piece called Muscle Memory { seen in the image included in this post, below }, the artist installs himself into a robotic, spider-like structure that augments and extends his physical abilities as a human being through this strange, science fiction-like machine contraption

003_mm_stelarc

a question i think about a LOT recently is — well, what’s so controversial and different about this performance and the gadgetry involved and, let’s say, the average commuter driving to work at 6:34 AM?

in the case of Stelarc’s Muscle Memory, the artist demonstrates the sheer power and new capabilities afforded the machine operator to an audience in a gallerySpace — its a performance and a demonstration, and its very future-forward and cyberSurreal and interesting in a way that might inform the audience in both a positive and negative way — we might be able to very obviously see how Stelarc, now living and breathing within the confines of this ginormous metal robot, might start to behave, well, like a ginormous metal robot — he, in many ways, becomes the machine, and he learns and adapts and adjusts to both the new things he can do with it while simultaneously sacrificing his own human experience along the way — or, maybe i’m thinking far too much like a transitional, if that’s even a term — i’m not sure that he evolves in any literal way by using the robotic equipment as part of his Muscle Memory performance piece, but his discussions on the topic of this Singularity between man and machine, the combination of the biological and the technological extensions of the previously nearly-pure physical human form, put us in the typical uncanny valley of confrontational wonderment — what does this all mean for us as human beings — will we all need to put on a robotic suit in the near future to perform our on-the-job tasks and assignments? or are our human capabilities ‘man’ enough to get the job done? perhaps it depends upon the line of work you’re in, not sure though, but i’m sure we’ll find out in 10 to 15 years

now let’s take the case of driving to work in the morning — i embed myself into my maroon Honda Accord every morning and drive from Boxford to Waltham every day and i would like to argue that while i am in the car i actually become the car — i adopt the personality, the feelings and the mentality of driving to work, at least for 40 minutes to an hour, twice a day — and, depending on traffic and the flow of traffic and other automobiles on the highway as i drive down Route 95 South, and depending on my mood as a human being now living and breathing as a wetware organ beating inside the machine like a nearly obsolete heart of meat, i act quite differently than i normally do when we talk face-to-face in the office or when i’m at home playing with my son or my grandchildren on the floor — i really think i can become the car in a very literal way, at least if you let yourself follow the subconscious flow of desire that stands in front of you like the temptress you know she is

let’s say you’re in a hurry and you know that if you stay in your conscious state as a person sitting at the wheel that you’ll get to work in about an hour and 15 minutes — not bad, not bad

but why not trust you’re own muscle memory as a driver, as a commuter that’s gotta get shit done, as a worker bee that’s gotta shake the tree and make the magic happen today, ya know? that care now becomes far more than a mere vehicle for rapid movement across a peripherally streaked landscape of trees and jersey barriers and guardrails flying by at 80 miles an hour

that’s right, think about it

from a human-centered perspective, you’re not really moving at all — in fact, you may move here and there, adjust the ball of your foot to move from brake to gas, click the direction into the left position to send a signal to the 20 people behind you as you course like blood through the body that is the highway, but for the most part you’re parked solid and still on your ass, sunk into a quite comfortable chair that let’s you command your magic journey some 30 to 50 miles away from where you live

if you let go a bit and begin to think and behave like the car, you start to decipher new rules of the road that can be leveraged to your advantage — little openings in the flow of traffic beckon you to quickly shift lanes and push ahead of the losers driving slowly in the passing lane to the left — sure, they’re supposed to pass you, but for whatever reason the first and second lanes are wide open and you can make better progress by ignoring the implicit rules of the road — let’s get moving, right? and so on, and so forth

your a little less human when you drive, and more like the pilot of a zombie robot that’s bolting to the office, zipping in and out of the lanes that help you make it all happen

the wheel is an extension of the foot is what McLuhan said in the original quote from The Media is the Massage, but i beg to differ

with our newly adapted and evolved modern lives and our commonplace daily use of machines and devices like cars and trains and other vehicles, the person becomes and extension of the automobile — we become the force that operates a vehicle such as a car, a forklift or an airplane — we become a reverse-extension of it, or them, and we do all the adjusting and discover the new terrains now opened up by our technological progress

i’m not sure where that leaves us as human beings

but i think we should all exercise, at times, a little more conscious awareness and control over our newly-extended selves

cyberSurrealism is about looking at the self by psychoanalyzing the human element through our cybernetic machine influence back on the wetware components of our society — how do our machines change our behavior? how do they then influence: our culture; our interactions with each other as people; and our capabilities on a more holistic scale? as certain capabilities improve, is it inevitable for us to lose other very valuable skills and qualities as human beings? and, in all of this, these thoughts and experiments and explorations through progress and innovation, do we still have any control whatsoever over the evolution and invention of the tools we create and use? or do these things almost subconsciously invent themselves now? how do we keep focusing on the valuable potentials of these human ingenuities and foster more humanly helpful technologies and progress? and most importantly, what the fuck does 4G mean? 

mediaLuscious Design + Art Review

i just recently finished editing up the official exhibition catalog for mediaLuscious Design + Art Review — thanks to everyone for not only showing your work and participating in such an amazing gallery exhibition, but for also patiently putting up with my random email requests for photos, writings, input and feedback over the last few weeks

i have to say — this is probably the best book i’ve put together to-date, much better-looking in my mind’s eye than my own thesis even, which can probably be contributed to the fact that this project of capturing the spirit, energy, community and fun of this show was done for DMI and The DMI Family moreso than myself

anyhow, after a few more tweaks here ‘n there, i will be sure to post this up to Blurb and get a print proof to deliberate — and then and only then the book will be open for more public consumption via Blurb, ISSUU or wherever

[: what a show :]

a box full of music, rose petals and seaShells

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last night i found a box in the basement, a treasure

as much as Marco and i buckled under the legal pressures brought on by our contractual relationship to XeXeX | OBLiViON back in the ’90s and stopped recording our beware the haberdash material on carefully planned, sequential schedule — we did move forward in our secret underground recording studio to capture that haberdash magic on tape to create a veritable bucketful of bootleggy sounds

only select tracks made it to any official releases over the years, however, as litigation got rather nasty and we both chose to focus on the positive experience of making music over fighting against ‘The Man’ every step of the way to merely preserve this rather eclectic and strange post-deathmen project we both still treasure to this day

so here you have it — the visually-designed artifactual remains of the overarching master gameplan for every pre-Sewingbox beware the haberdash release as envisioned and begun back in the late 1990s / early 2000s

xDx and some notes on posterous

logo_xDx

hey hi ho there UX fanz and frenemiez — how goes it? what’s the latest?

well, as someone that believes in moving in and out of my own personal subconscious ADHD-laden internal thoughtSpaces, i firstly and most importantly want to quickly blog on this coolish idea i just came up with that i think will really be exciting to explore, and that’s that thar xDx thing you see in the logoPlay up above

the idea is pretty straightforward and goes something a little like this

so, i’m not entirely sure why or anything, but for whatever unbeknownst reason and such, when it comes to corporate work in general most of us are kept tied up in our little silos an’ such, right? the big division that i perceive over the years is any instance where art and science come up — there’s always been this schism, this division between where we keep our ‘creative’ people and where the more ‘logical’ folks set up shop

i don’t know, can’t understand the reason why, but — its just my own observation that whether its design and dev, or art and science, or engineering and interior design, companies far and wide keep these internal groups locked up in different pens

anyhow, in a recent thang that my good friend and colleague Robert Fiztgibbon and I set up and ran through AIGA Boston, a cool event called UX Roundtable — we brought together a nice cross-section of Boston-area design professionals to discuss Luke Wroblewski’s Mobile First methodology and why it might or might not work as universally as one might need as a modernday designer working with real clients in a professional scenario — we invited folks through AIGA Boston, but also extended the invitation to any and everyone at the company Rob and I work for, Mobiquity, as they graciously sponsored the event and let us meet in a Mob Conference Room and all — anyhow, we had some folks from our development and sales departments in attendance and i have to say, their presence and participation added an entirely new depth and color to the conversational mix and, as designers often solving everything from the very narrow vantage of what we, as designers, do, i felt the cross-disciplinary exchange in the room really helped fill out some parts of the picture that typically get left blank during discourse around design, business and process improvement

and — i would like to encourage, foster and arrange for MORE of these cross-disciplinary conversational exchanges — in the Boston-area and beyond

and that’s where i hope xDx can begin to organize that larger conversation

there’s that

and now, just a side note kinda

i’m moving my posterous acount, piece by piece, over to this WordPress blog under my dot com website

unfortunately, it seems posterous is going away — Twitter bought them a while back and some major change felt a bit inevitable — whenever we see this sort of purchase happen online, you can’t help but wonder something like, ‘aight, what’s that mean then?’ — on some realistic scale of things to come we all know it won’t all just stay the same — but i’ve loved using posterous up until recently, i think i specifically loved the simplicity and elegance of the presentation of my blogposts, and although i’m not sure if that’s something to credit to the posterous experience alone, that’s a HUGE thing for me — the fact that there’s been no advertisements on posterous ever seems somewhat amazing and Surreal to me, but besides that, i’ve almost solely posted to posterous for my personal bloggings over the last few years, with the exception of some experiments with tumblr and posting to half dozen other WordPress sites ‘n all

i do have to say this about posterous though — i just can’t understand for the life of me why posterous never seemed to implement an auto-save feature for those in the middle of writing a blogpost, ya know? there have been 2 times when i’ve lost a TON of amazing writing due to this lack of foresight and understanding for the general writing public — and those 2 times were like the fish that got away kinda moments for me, just really nicely evolved writing that i felt would be valuable and honest and real all POOF! gone in a bit of an instant thanks to the schmucks at posterous

so this is goodbye and thank you and good riddance

adieu

posterous2

why i pretty much HATE email

email1

so, email seems to be the glue that holds it all together in the officeplace, ya know? companies that are especially dispersed across multiple geolocations — or teams that are collaborating across corporate cultures and all that — rely on quick, asynchronous messaging — little threads of messages that progress over microbits of time, really — to help get the job done, whatever that job may be

woman typing on computerbut email falls short on the promise almost every step of the way

and it seems to happen almost every time, too, these little missed opportunities to effectively communicate in an efficient and real way

a lot of the time we’re trying to ask very timely questions of other teammates, with the expectation that an email response will help guide the next decision in a process that needs some human form of input — the message goes out when the email is sent, and like some sort of nearly-primitive technohumanic echolocation system of perverted expectations, that message goes out and the actual physics of the system are totally inexistent in the natural world

whether we want to admit it or not, too, my friends, we, as human beings, are simply animals that still exist in a natural, analog world — and no matter what the original impetus of the outgoing signal might have been, to solve matters of virtual or physical logistics, the actuality of the decision that needs human input is almost always critical in the context of a moment

sending-emaila lot of times, too, email is used as the mechanism to pass the buck, if you know what i mean — someone asked me to do something in good faith, and now i, as some aspiring corporate assistant manager looking to get ahead and climb the corporate ladder through perceived internal office delegation to coworkers, i forward the request { or sometimes even start up a new thread to build the illustion that this request originates directly from me } as an attempt to get someone else to do the work i was originally asked to do

this shit drives me crazy

and i pick up on it right away

almost every time

what’s cool, though — and i hate to admit this — what’s really cool about email, though, is that built into the asynchonicity of the system is the extremely amazing capability to leverage passive-aggressive methodologies in a nearly invisible manner

if some total lugnut with these lofty aspirations of garnering promotional titleshifts attempts to pass their work off onto you with an email forward or some request that is obviously not written in their own virtual-vocal cadence — my first recommendation to you, as one office survivalist to the other, is to simply fail to respond

don’t bother

ignore the signal

oops — a digital coral reef blocked the message from one dolphin to the other and ultimately you just need to pretend you never received the communication

its actually pretty simple to feign this missed blip on the radar, simply because there is such an overproliferation of email communication in just about every office workplace out there

its epidemic, really

its disgusting

email is overused and misused

people do not understand how to effectively use email as a tool for good

its a rare individual that can write and send a clear, concise email message and actually move a process forward to the next step with real, human input involved as the response

there is almost always a delay, an awkward stutter in the flow of email communications

People_Computeranother thing to remember, when communicating via email, is that email is almost always written in consensus with others on the other side of a relationship — sometimes we even ask for advice regarding the nature of the request and wording of that communication involved in the crafting of an email before it is sent over the fence

in other words, there is an art to email and there is a lot of team editing involved in the nuance of these messages

another reason to let an email sit for a while as you digest the potential twists and turns involved in the myriad potential interpretations of the language implemented in our email communications

email is almost never an overtly direct form of communication

its not explicit

unless, of course, its spam we’re talking about

but office email leaves a LOT of room for interpretation, translation and creative thought

to be continued …