Category Archives: data

on wearables and beyond

wearables_oldskool

and with wearables, virtual reality, augmented reality, holographic technologies we become even more immersed as human beings into the strange cyberSurreal otherSpace — a betweenSpace in our spectrum of new and ever-expanding realities — that exist between: the natural world we were born into; the artificial worlds we create; and the evolving technological realm of an alternative set of subconscious realities that our inventions open up to us ( both in realSpace + time as well as in cyberSurrealSpace + time )

for the machines — we become the wetware accompaniment to the technoHumanic symphonies developed through both our extensions and their extensions — whether purposefully created and developed or perhaps even unintentionally built mechanisms to escape our natural environmental context

at first these inventions allowed humankind to survive the elements — to brave and rise above the threats, the harsh realities of Nature

in fact, even the belief systems we invent, such as language, religion, mathematics, psychology and Science, to some degree, act as other tools to help us dominate the unexplainable phenomena of the universe that feel stacked up against us

these become methods for our survival at first

through measurement, logic, reason, discovery, explanation and blind faith — we get to reframe our existence toward an imagined superiority and rulership over everything we experience in life

but now the evolution of these tools into unexplored areas within — areas that reside within the subconscious, invented realities of our belief systems and our technological augmentations beyond the powers of Nature — these have become addictive forces that unfortunately begin to rule over our humanity

at this point, we are no longer able stop our continuing urge to technologically advance and ‘evolve’ ourselves

its become an addiction — an addiction that gets the full financial and emotional support from our official governments and corporations — after all, vast economic promise depends on the  hot streaming ever-inventive production and output of ‘the new’

but we no longer need to invent new tools for survival — at least not those of us born into the privilege and supposed leisure that The First World offers up to humanity

our escape from Nature and the feeling of sovereignty we fabricate through our tools, inventions and technologies now seem to only encourage a disconnectedness from our larger contexts within the world and within a greater holistic and collective sense of our humanity

the otherSpace we create tends to consume us

we subconsciously travel in our ethereal, cerebral thinking so very far away from those aspects of our social animal selves

we are distracted from, perhaps, a bigger purpose

how can we better channel our energies to best serve this bigger purpose?

i am not advocating for a suppression of our inventions through Science and technology

i’m just hoping we can leverage them — and the passion and energies that go into these sorts of development efforts — to optimize the larger, collective human experience of people all around the world

products like the Apple Watch distract us from working towards the greater good that we could potentially provide to our brethren world citizens

products like the Apple Watch feel superfluous, unnecessary and more for the benefit of companies, surface economies and governments than for the majority of actual people

frivolity

derivative

and ultimately unimportant in comparison the grander potential of what we can all be offering the world at this point in time

our data

maggots

our data lives like insects inside our machines

you can hear the little scratchy sounds of them skittering about inside when you’re looking for a file or for some new meaning

we collect them — we store them — we trust they’ll serve us in some way

but in the end its all simply meaningless, just an unfortunate silly game

 

being a transitional

laEvolucion

one of the fun parts about being human is that we are always evolving

like it or not — the only thing we can truly count on actually staying the same is the fact that things always change — and we are a species that is very much under the influence of things — so, following that logic, to some degree, as our things change, we change, almost purely as a means to adapt to our things

this concept, in many ways, is in direct conflict with my very purpose as a human-centered designer — my job and daily activities are focused solely on driving and guiding the design process, mostly aimed at creating technology-based experiences, to hopefully result in interactive and dynamic software and interfaces that: intuitively make sense to users { or people as i prefer to call them }; that are usable and valuable and user-friendly { or ‘easy to use’ and understand with a minimal learning effort }; and that largely serve the actual human goals and business goals of the overall technohumanic experiences being delivered

we now live in a world population increasingly geared toward the digital natives

 

the other day my son Maceo was taking a bath and, with Maceo being extremely social and fun-loving but also a bit co-dependent, he invited me to come in to the bathroom to talk with him while he relaxed and washed { before settling in to read and eventually fall asleep in his bed on this typical school night }

Maceo is 10 years old

he’s definitely a digital native, meaning, he’s grown up in The Digital Age and for the most part has never been in a world without computing machines, as we used to call them — he understands computers and our mobile devices in a much different way than my wife or i do because he’s grown up with them as a simple and accepted set of objects within his natural living environment — and he’s grown up in an era when, for the most part, the information-based, interactive experiences delivered via the medium of our digital technologies already have a lot of the kinks worked out of ’em — due to Steve Jobs and the iUniverse he’s created through his prosumerization of our computers and devices, through Jobs’ efforts to make these relationships we have with our modernday technologies ‘just work,’ Maceo’s never really had to deal with the first 3 or 4 generations of the rather krudgy software and digital experiences we previously had with our devices in the first few decades on the new digital island

needless to say, he probably doesn’t have the same amount of frustration and associated psychological baggage that i have with these technologies that were invented to somehow serve humanity but also somehow typically don’t ‘just work’ the way we were promised they would in our non-native explorations of the digital island

with Maceo sprawled out, his body submerged under under the warm water of his bath, we discussed his daytime learning activities out at Spofford Pond School in Boxford — i asked him if today’s special { as they call all non-core classes at his school } was gym and he said, ‘No, today was Art’ — i asked him what special he’d have in school tomorrow and he said, Media’

‘Media? What’s Media?’ I asked him — i kind of knew what the term implied, of course, but wanted to know what the school system teaches him about media

i wanted to know what media now means
to a third grade student living in our modern Digital Age

he started laughing and said, ‘they teach us things that we all already know, like how to save a document,‘ and then he really started laughing pretty hard, which of course made me laugh

i could tell the whole idea of teaching media to the new breed of our digital natives seemed totally preposterous to him, almost like they were trying to teach him how to breathe or something so innately embedded in our humanness to feel like futile effort or even farce

we were laughing for quite some time

he went on, ‘its like, go to file and then move the mouse down and click on ‘Save”

he was like a little bathing stand-up comedian, delivering the ultimate punchline to the most hilarious joke i’ve heard in years, and i was both his receptive, laughing audience and an instant co-writer to these new jokes that almost seem to write themselves now

‘what are they gonna teach you next week, Maceo? how to log off of the computer?’ i quipped back — we were both laughing even harder than ever now, he returned the volley with, ‘i know, its like, here’s how we right-click on a mouse’ — he was kind of saying the entire little phrase with an intentionally slow delivery, mocking how remedial and silly this class must feel to him and his fellow student colleagues sitting through each special weekly session of Media at Spofford Pond

i haven’t laughed that hard in about half a year

as a digital native, Maceo just gets it

and, if the technology does live up to its original promise — this high-level promise from Steve Jobs and other pre-Apple visionaries that promised these technologies will ‘just work’ and that they’ll actually be helpful, useful and valuable for us all to use — if the experience isn’t living up to our expectations, well, quite frankly, Maceo’s ready to dive in under the hood and actually make the technology do what he needs it to do for him

i, on the other hand, get immediately hung up on my overall, continual disappointment with the promises that are never quite met from my standpoint as both a user of these technologies and a designer that’s constantly trying to devise ways to improve the human experience of our digital technologies

and i get frustrated rather easily, i might add

i actually want the technology to ‘just work’ the way we were promised it would

but it doesn’t

9 times out of 10, from my own personal lifelong experiences with computers, devices and technologies, these experiences fall extremely short of the expectation

maybe i’m more aware of these discrepancies between the promise and what we really experience from our technologies right now because i remember the promise, whereas Maceo doesn’t have the same context at all — and, unlike a lot of people that will spend a lot of time jerry-rigging these experiences like some sort of delusional Digital MacGyvers that just want so desperately for the technologies to be so cool as to ‘just work’ that they paperclip and chewing gum back together the actual, shitty and broken experience design in an attempt to sort of pretend perfection or merely band-aid a nearly-usable hackensteined-up app or something — unlike those folks that are drinking the digital koolaid with wireless ice, play-acting like everythingz all too cool for school an’ all, i like to tell it like it is and assess these experiences at some sort of reasonably realistic and honest scale

macgyver

 

if we can’t evaluate the current-day experiences we have with our technologies with at least a reasonable sense of honesty then we’ll never be able to: level set where we are; identify critical areas for potential improvement; and then iteratively work toward any real sense of improving our overall human experience

now, unlike my son Maceo, who is considered a digital native, i am what’s called a digital immigrant — i don’t particularly like this terminology, but this is what anyone can Google up in a few seconds as a definition of who i am and what it means to be in my demographic in relation to the introduction to our interactive technologies and my particular abilities and views about the technologies and experiences we all use and deal with on a daily basis

i think by including the term digital in the semantics, definition and language so nicely weaved around these digital demographics, we almost immediately begin to think of absolutely everything as needing to be associated with the term digital — which in itself is quite interesting, this power of language to sell a movement

but i would like to think of myself in an entirely different way and perhaps affiliate my personal demographic less around the technologies and more around the actual times we’re talking about — or, better yet, it might even be nice to entirely decouple the term for my demographic from both the technologies and the times

let’s agree on at least one thing up front, though

we live in The Age of Information

we might also consider this to be The Digital Age, too, but for the most part the way that most of humanity views the entire world today is through an almost frighteningly pure informational lens

back to self-identification, though

so, instead of considering myself to be a digital immigrant, i would prefer to be called a transitional person, or just a transtitional

the term hints just a little bit toward our eventual post-humanity, which, like it or not, we’re already embarking on the journey to — i hope that its not an entirely inevitable place we’re heading to, but its pretty much nearly guaranteed just through the economics quite purposely confounded with our innovations through information and inventions — we’ll most likely just keep driving ourselves deeper and deeper into the human-machine-integration that futurists like Ray Kurzweil foretold decades ago in books like The Singularity is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology

i guess, then, i consider myself as transitioning from a mediated yet mostly analog time in the world we live in to one that is heavily dominated by: digital experiences; computing machines and devices; and datasets of information

where there is no transition necessary for Maceo — he was born with computers and smartphones in the household — i’ve needed to learn entirely new ways of doing just about everything i do in life just to fit in, and to perform and survive within our increasingly more and more digitalized culture

i think of the world we live in now
as our technohumanic ecoSystem

we live among the machines

and the machines outnumber us at this point, too, if you think about it

and, i guess one could even say even the culture we live in itself is still mostly transitional by its very nature, too — its not necessarily just a demographic set, but its also a way to categorize life in the modern age as we move to more and more digitally-mediated interactions and experiences

as much as the current trend shows us as a humanity moving closer and closer to merging with machines to evolve to a supposedly higher place, i would like to think the kind of design story we should be more focused on should center a lot more on developing a better sense of human and environmental awareness that really is totally unrelated to our technological inventions altogether

but how do we design for something like greater awareness?

this isn’t one of those ‘there’s an app for that’ results we’re looking for — there’s no real profitable product or service that i’m aiming for as a human experience designer, actually, which probably leaves me in a bit of a bind, right? i personally believe that we can invent a lot of amazing and innovative technologies that will help us survive or make our lives seem somewhat more comfortable or enjoyable, but at the end of the day i would like to do more than merely survive

i would like to see humanity start to grow again

and i don’t mean growing as in growing a user-base or expanding a knowledge set or some other similar information-based endeavor we get distracted by along the real path of where our human evolution should be headed — in this case, its not about the information

we need to start feeling the vibe of the universe again — we need to stop dissecting everything so much and mapping it all to some fictional, self-serving, data-related set of attributes that we as people invent to make sense of our chaotic universe to only feel somewhat in control of our little destinies — we need to start focusing in on our emotionality, our spirituality and our purpose

someone or something else designed these things for us, however, and we can only discover, shape and guide these interesting topic touch points in the story of our lives

we cannot truly control them

i don’t want to leave this planet to the next generation with my contributions merely being the design and delivery of a bunch of apps and experiences — i want to leave the future people of tomorrow with a sense that we helped change the direction of our destiny toward something more meaningful and real, and something far more valuable than the code for an information-based set of experiences, but maybe instead, the code for how to better behave and interact with each other in the world in which we live in together as we all move forward toward a more holistic, harmonious and humanistic civilization

from the spiritual to The Machine Age and back again

seance

my previous post here made a comment on an interesting quotation from the Bauhaus artist and philosopher László Moholy-Nagy about a temporal and experiential transition within our history of humanity from a previous era of transcendental spiritualism to a Machine Era

once again, a detail from this quote from Moholy-Nagy says:

To be a user of machines is to be of the spirit of this century.

… which, to me, doesn’t feel much-like a human spirit at all

as far as i know from reading up on him, Moholy-Nagy joined the Bauhaus as an practicing artist and educator promoting new practices working toward a more intense integration between what we consider traditional Art and the fields of Science, Industry and Technology { which frankly seems to me to be a return to the originally more unified forces between the Arts and Sciences one might recall from other periods in Art History like The Italian Renaissance, for instance — nothing new, really — a rebirth or return to a more unified conceptual feeling toward all of The Creative and Expressive Arts }

here’s more about the artist’s involvement with The Bauhaus according to Wikipedia:

In 1923, Moholy-Nagy replaced Johannes Itten as the instructor of the foundation course at the Bauhaus. This effectively marked the end of the school’s expressionistic leanings and moved it closer towards its original aims as a school of design and industrial integration.

so, as much as we could interpret the full Moholy-Nagy quote from my previous blogPost as perhaps being interestingly facetious in some way, perhaps knocking this transition from the previous era of a more directly-human transcendental spiritualism to a new era whereby humankind must reach the spiritual by becoming a user of machines — a Freudian Slip, perhaps? — i think Moholy-Nagy, instead, meant to state something more positive about this transition into the spirit of this century as mediated through our machine inventions

but we no longer live in The Age of Machines

we’ve transcended the previous epochal trends once again

we’ve moved from a time-trend of inventing and manufacturing the tools to self-ascend us into our new levels of spiritual progress to what we all deal with on a daily basis

welcome to The Information Age

we now worship data

if moving from a transcendental spiritualism to a new century of the spiritual machines distanced us from a more direct sense of the human spirit — the new trend to put both the economic value and previously-humanistic spiritual emphasis on the very meta-material of information pulsing and moving through our machines, our inventions, our devices as a second level of removal from the more mystical and original sense of our spirit reduces everything down to the over-simplified perspective that the entire natural-born universe can be entirely predicted through quantifiably measurable and humanly-understandable means

which, of course, we know is complete horseshit

despite our obsessive-compulsive and rather futile attempts to, quite literally, scientifically dissect and analyze the mystery and wonder of our universe to data-death — we, as a holistic, collective human organism — with all of our slowly-evolving new scientific powers to comprehend everything we encounter in life through logic, reason and mathematics — still very much face the ultimate crazy, chaotic entropy and relative unreason of a universe that is bigger and better than all of our meager endeavors to even think we can control our mutual destiny

we may be able to shape the destiny of humanity

but we should know by now that our efforts to completely comprehend and literally control our destiny as people on a planet in our universe is quite simply beyond the realistic control of mere mortal men and women

and i think we now need to think of better ways to work with the universe instead of continually pushing for further and further removal from the spiritual core of the universe in which we all live and can never, ever control or escape

we can only influence our destiny in some way

and the universe in its subtle and beautiful ways seems to be asking us as unwilling participants in our natural-born environment to behave a little nicer and maybe follow some of the rules of the universe without so much resistance to who we really are as participants in The Bigger Picture of everything

more about machines and data and spiritualismafter these messages … 

motherMary

uxWTF experience design challenge #1 — CVS receipt reDesign { please }

okay, okay, okay — for those of you that might personally know me in some way from the UX and Design Community, and by know me i mean really know me, you’ve probably heard me rant on about the real reasons why i am a user-centered designer

most people outside of the profession simply assume that all designers have this wonderful and delicate appreciation for elegant design in the world and that their passion and motivations lie somewhere within the logic of thereby wanting to design and bring to life newer designs as inspired by Bauhaus, clean and minimalist typography or by some self-delusional thinking that our contributions as designers in modernday society will somehow make for a greener, more peaceable and liveable planet

sorry if this sounds like a loaded way to re-introduce myself here for you — i don’t mean to sound hostile or pessimistic or negative in any way, believe me — i’m actually quite a lighthearted and humorous person in person, if you know what i mean — but i want you to understand MY reasons for being a designer, which i don’t think are too atypical, but they’re definitely not reasons most designers typically discuss in such a public forum

i design because i am constantly frustrated

yep, there ya go — i said it out loud { or as loud as you can get in blogPost format } — i’m frustrated, constantly frustrated: with the way the world is; with the horrendous design of just about everything we encounter in life; with the ridiculously backwards and twisted way everything seems to be better designed for The System, for information and data, for Machine-to-Machine Communication and Interaction { or M2M if you wanna get all TLA on that shit }, but not nearly even remotely designed for human consumption, use or participation

so, here we go — no real fantastic segue, fade or transition here to help move into this next concept, you now know my personal and professional motivations as a user-centered design professional and performance artist — they’re actually quite political reasons to do what i do, but let’s not get into that now, aight?

right now i want to talk about an idea that came to me recently while taking care of business in a public office restroom { this is where i get my most brilliant ideas, as funny as it sounds, in the handicap stall while sitting on the porcelain throne } — thinking about these frustrating experiences i keep bumping into out there in the world, i tried to figure out a way i could actually make discussions like these more consumable, more relatable and — most importantly — more actionable

i mean, how could i inspire other people to work with me in some collaborative capacity to actually redesign these horrifically poor and annoying experiences even if there might be no actual paying project on the books, even if there is no real financial reason to tackle these vital worldly challenges, even if the ONLY potential motivation to change these experiences is simply embedded in the very human need to show off what real, innovative design thinking can do to improve and better optimize our universal human experience and to hopefully become ubiquitously famous through these public, humorously expressed issues and processes to show people how to actually change the world

i mean, i’m talkin’ Steve Jobs level shit here — just without all the asshole politics and multimillionaire nerdy swagger of ‘The Genius’ bullshit we’re all led to believe about iPod Man

and it all starts with this concept

logo_uxWTF

let’s take a look, in blog serial format, at a list of these frustrating experiences through user-centered investigation and photodocumentation and see if we can’t put our heads together and fix this shit

its not that difficult people

its really not

and i’m here to help ya

let’s start with this one, this little uxWTF? design challenge:

the CVS receipt reDesign

now, to be completely fair here, this is NOT solely a CVS-related UX offense we’re talking about, right? we’ve all experienced this at NUMEROUS retail consumer establishments — it just so happens, though, that i’ve been picking up my meds a lot lately { thank gawd, right? who knows what this post’d be about without ’em ;] } and this similarly strange feat of cash register magic recurs like fucking clockwork with each and every transaction at the CVS Pharmacy and even at the front counter { not sure on the Photo Lab area, though, let me know if you can verify this same phenomena happening there, too }

let’s take a looksy

here’s what the CVS Pharmacy Technician handed me at the register before wishing me to, ‘Have a nice day’ …

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look familiar? this receipt — and i kid you not — this receipt is almost as tall as i am

that’s ridiculous

its just fucking ridiculous

what a waste of the life of a sapling

and you know what? i never ever use the coupons on these neverending receipts — never

i bet someone takes advantage of the remarkable savings provided by Consumer Value Stores, but i personally think the benefits or value i get from these veritable partystreamers of savings do not in any way outweigh the environmental cost or just the frigging paperwaste nuisance of these amazing little lengthy souvenirs i collect from each trip to the national chain convenience store

i used to actually save these receipts and scotchtape them together to write on the eventually handmade collaged side of my frankenpaper sans ink — but c’mon, seriously? seriously?

so, uhm, i don’t know — i recently downloaded and started using the CVS smartphone app on my android mobile device, and i actually think the app would be a far more appropriate delivery mechanism for these additional CVS membership savings — could be nicer, right?

a LOT nicer

i mean, we know they’re tracking our every purchase via the app or our CVS loyalty card much-like any supermarket, department store or other corporate chain of transactional wonderment, and i think it would be the very least they could do for us — let’s get smart, now, aight? — THIS might actually be one of the best potential implementations for those semi-bizarre and overused / misused QR codes { QR = quick response, in case you weren’t already in the know } — i mean, it might be superCool and magically fantastic if the entire CVS members rewards savings systems { and that of other similarly national chain-like corporate establishments } all somehow leveraged the app or the card, right? but at the very least, bring out the QR codes, print ’em right on the receipt, and then it might be, i don’t know, 6 inches long at the most { mostly now depending on just how many items you purchased from the store, not how much psychosocial data-driven stalker suggestions they can spit back at you } — i mean, we don’t need to memorialize last Tuesday’s purchases from the pharmacy for any real reasons as average American citizens now, do we? in fact, the printed proof is in some ways an actual privacy liability that could potentially break patient confidentiality { but maybe not, i’d need to actually read my receipt to see what’s listed for my recent pharmacy purchase }

on another note — and this is something i am just DYING to see happen in the very-near future — i would also love to see these apps and other store membership systems that track our every micropurchase behavior actually provide our data for US to usethe government sees my data, stores and financial institutions see my data, Hell, even offshore agencies working for credit card and other similarly skanky organizations most likely have more access to my personal transactional behavioral information than i do as the user of these systems, as the actual supposed member of these systems { whatever that means to me at this point, right? }

show me the data!

i think its about time to better empower the people through the access and flow of our data

and its also about time that we start turning the tables a bit and actually get paid for sharing our data with these organizations — why do we so willingly sign up for these services that basically steal our information and use it for the big consumer feedback loop for devious subliminal purchase suggestions from The Man { in a rather loose and corporatey collective sense of definition } — i mean, i know i know, we willingly sign up for these services and give it all away for free, like the utter dopes we all are — but c’mon, let’s get it back, let’s take back what’s rightfully ours and what should be ONLY ours unless we make a little jing in the deal — and i’m not talking about this beautiful, easy ‘giving back’ gesture we receive upon receipt, this paper streaming printed register tape of coupon savings, i’m talkin’ about actually gettin’ paid

pay up bitches!

you want this? you want this data?

pay me

on Tracking Happiness

womanhappiness

‘… people have been debating the causes of happiness’ — an interesting quote from this TEDxCambridge Talk from Matt Killingsworth — examine the phrase ’causes of happiness’ — it almost implies happiness, like fear, diabetes or paper cuts, is somewhat like an epidemic, a disease or a physical injury

i would like to suggest that the mystery of happiness is that its a quality that is not remotely scientifically measurable or investigable in the least — its more spiritual than that — it might be epidemic or habitual at some levels — i think its definitely a choice, a lifestyle, something we can decide to be — happiness is a state of being, which means its more of a philosophy, an existential philosophy, or a state of mind

he also asks at one point, ‘How do you feel?’ and then gives the person a scale of 1 to 10, as if feeling or happiness are in any fucking way mathematically measurable qualities of our human existence

2563400_orig

why do we force so much of this stuff into the closed-box thinking of Scientific Inquiry? maybe there’s no measurement to any of this, right? some of this stuff is actually offensive or dangerous to quantitatively examine — suffering, for instance, should never be poured into graduated cylinders to help us compare my suffering to your suffering to the suffering of one people or another — i’m sure the degree of suffering varies significantly depending upon factors that are well beyond any sense of what we can humanly control — but we all suffer, that’s a fact, and it doesn’t need to be measured in any way whatsoever — even those that seem to live their lives without any sense of suffering may be suffering from a lack of suffering, they might not understand the world and the dynamics of life in the same deep and rich way their brothers and sisters understand due to circumstances of their pre-destiny surrounding: the geographic worldly region of your birth; the amount of fingers, toes and limbs you were lucky enough to be born with or without; the time and place in which you live and breathe in

Track Your Happiness sounds clever as a prototypic data-collection tool — but is this really Science? Is Matt Killingsworth really a Scientist? He says at one point, ‘… as a Scientist …’ but he never gives us a definition of how he is defining the concept of Happiness. How do we define Happiness? How do we really measure true Happiness? In what context did Killingsworth track his version of Happiness? How objective are these tests he’s conducting? If someone is really focused in the moment, focused on their Happiness in the moment, how do they have time to be truly happy and simultaneously track their happiness? Its an obvious diversion from enjoying the moment, using this Track Your Happiness app, right?

I'M Happy

I mean, I get what he’s trying to do … what he’s trying to get at. Fantastic stuff, right? Happiness and data, skipping gleefully down the tree-lined avenue, hand-in-hand, tracking little moments of happiness in daily life as we all experience them, in the moment.

I think that the moment to moment approach Kiilingsworth is taking with these studies makes a HUGE assumption. He’s assuming that all moments have something in common. That moments are neutral before we experience them. And then he’s assuming that the way happiness works is a totally separate and divorced mechanism from the moment to moment experience of our lives.

But, any asshole walking down the street knows — even unScientific people { those poor, poor souls } — that not all moments are equal. Moments are NOT neutral — and, in fact, moments might contain some qualities of Happiness or unHappiness all unto themselves. Moments themselves effect the emotional state of people. Qualities of the moment effect our emotional state, too. I think I might be happier to be distracted a bit from painful moments, right? If my mind wanders a bit while I’m visiting a dying relative in the hospital — if my mind actually travels back to a happy memory, the memory of a happier moment coming back to me from the past that reminds me of a happy experience I had together with this suffering relative now struggling to live through a few more weeks in dignity at the end of life’s journey — is there even anything wrong with that happy distraction? And am I NOT happy in that distracted moment, that moment of wandering? I’m definitely not going to pull out a fucking app to track that shit in the moment, though, that’s one thing we’re sure of in THIS moment.

I’m not digging this guy’s illogical rants. They’re not Scientific to me at all. And they’re not thoughtful or significant or helpful. I hope he decides to deepen his thinking in this area. My hope is that over time Killingsworth rethinks his ‘Scientific Approach’ and thinking about Happiness to go beyond the mere ’causes of happiness,’ beyond the concept of faux-metric tracking of supposed happiness in the moment, to reach beyond the mere knowledge of numbers, scales and surveys he’s using as a shallow toolbox to perhaps strive for a less Scientific examination of life’s mysterious forces such as Happiness to hopefully start living an emotionally richer, healthier and happier, more valuable life with less data. Thank you.

happiness-wide

..:: datamummification + madness ::..

LexigraphsI-1024x640

Judith Donath stopped in at Media Tech Tonic sponsored at MassArt’s The Dynamic Media Insitute to discuss The Sociable Media Group’s latest exhibit ‘Connections’ at The MIT Museum. A lot of amazing work … I checked out some of the people involved in the project work earlier in the day … specifically looking deeper into some of the previous work in visualization and interface design. I particularly enjoyed Alex Dragulescu’s ‘Spam Architecture’ as I had previously attempted to approach the topic of troublesome eMeddlings in my own ‘Operation Enduring Email’ …

but seriously folks … the jist of the discourse tonight centered around a new ‘new media’ twist on the concept of portraiture … excellent lecture, fantastic work all around … i especially loved the participatory installation ‘metropath(ologies)’ … such a dream project for me … the overflow of information projected on a cityscape model, a veritable maze of data + architecture to get lost in … amazing work + the best of the collection shown at the talk … i gotta get down there + check it out

i’ve digressed once again … so, back to portraiture … a quick whirlwind history of the portrait as an artform … a golden bust of royalty from greco-roman times, renaissance-painted realism complete with symbolic items and less idealized facial features, 20th century cubistic renditions capturing a more abstract essence of Picasso’s art dealer, and for the 21st century …

the portrait of the micromoment involved feeds from Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Seesmic and other multivariate social networking sites the your modernday eCitizen gladly pours information into with feverish up-to-the-minute details about the minutae of our daily lives … ‘Data Portraits’ took the unsuspecting tweets of the twitterverse to create a portrait visualization of each user … words { the smallest common denominator allowing some balance between private and public exposure } from the user | participant’s tweetstream make up the outline of head, neck and shoulders … words on the left are from recent tweets, words along the right of the datahead silhouette are the most-used throughout your tweetstream history … the words of each portrait pop forth from the black backdrop muchlike a smooth data-persona tagcloud, quite literally outlining your wordstream of the moment for you

what strikes me the most about these linear-textual gestural snapshots is the cocoonlike and ghostly bodily presence of each figure … there’s also a wonderful sense of swirling … the words seem to envelope or mummify a preset human form … besides certain key words that pop out { i am guessing the word size follows the same sort of rules of frequent use that most tagcloud methodologies implement }, there is little differentiation from portrait to portrait … the shape of the head, neck and shoulders remains the same … and the words simply outline or ‘contain’ the previously human form

at first i thought that the datamummification might be a purposeful artisitic and aesthetic choice … i don’t think i get the sense that my portrait would look that much different than anyone else as far as physical attributes are concerned … same height, same weight, same shape, same lack of eyes, mouth, ears and hair … you are your words in these portraits … you are the ghostly echo-trace of your micro-bloggings … a bit sobering … a little scary … and unless you are lucky enough to have micro-entered some emotionally-laden and unique words over the last year or so, you are just as unique as everyone else on Twitter …

part of me wants to think these implications are an intentional affect of the visualization as portraiture … and if nothing else, perhaps we can see this as a subconscious expression of the artists involved … maybe there is no true participatory auto-magical means to create this sort of portrait … or perhaps the effect is completely intentional … a statement about machine-produced { app-influenced } human behavioral modificationthe media we use shapes our behavior, and now we quite literally all itch to tell it all right now … a sort of electronic OCD …

another memorable concept that came up tonight was the notion of ‘pure knowledge’ … an amazing question from the crowd mentioned Elie Weisel’s Zalmen, Or the Madness of God … in the book a person comes to know God, but not as the bearded, old white guy in the clouds oft-depicted by Michelangelo … but instead as the concept of ‘pure knowledge’ … the question specifically asked tonight had to do with the current proliferation of information ‘out there’ for all of us to access and whether or not we, as humanity, are reaching a moment of ‘pure knowledge’ … my own answer to this concept delves into questioning ‘knowledge’ … information is not knowledge … accumulation of datapoints provides no higher wisdom to the individual or to society at large … consuming data alone, collecting data does not translate into knowledge or a deeper understanding … in fact, my personal belief is that knowledge and wisdom are not even closely related … and neither can ever be thought of as ‘pure’ …