Tag Archives: technology

on wearables and beyond

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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

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

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Man Wrapped in Wires

alone together

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Sherry Turkle has been researching and studying: technology; our relationships with technology; and our relationships with each other through technology — as an expert singularly focused on the fascinating psychology of technology, she’s been on the case for decades now — along the way she’s published her findings in the books:

needless to say, i’m one of her biggest fans

without her critical, observation-based body of psychological research at MIT in the psychology of Sciences, Technology and our Devices i do not think we’d have such a cohesive and thoughtful collective of intellectual material that really reports from the front-lines of these matters with such an objective sense of discovering the nuanced facts of the matter

i recently had the pleasure of coming out to the Boston Athenaeum to a promotional lecture for her most recent book Alone Together — and more than the talk itself, more than the questions and answers, i found the micro-conversation i had with Turkle to be the most intriguing part of the event

i eagerly waited in line with my friend’s book in hand for the author to sign — i wasn’t sure if i had the courage to bring it up, but i had an important question based upon some of the feelings and thoughts i personally experienced in the middle of reading Alone Together just months prior to this event — this seemed to be my only chance to find out if the author herself might have the same notions regarding the research she conducts as i was having regarding rather dark discoveries about the current state of humanity and our relationships with and through technologies

i finally got to the front of the line in this rather illustrious neo-classical, intellectual and academic library setting

Turkle asked who to make the signature out to and started to quickly ink in her John Hancock on the title page of the open book — and while she scribbled away the instant sentimentality of this anonymously scribed autograph, i started to ask my question — i described the personal horror i felt midway through the reading of Alone Together, these frightening discoveries and extremely deep philosophical questions that arose in me due to the very material of her critical research in the book that she wrote and was now in the middle of signing

here’s the gist of what i asked { in summary, as best as i can recall it at this point }:

i wanted to ask you about some thoughts that came to my mind in reading about sociable robotics — i found it fascinating, the kind of deep and real emotional relationships you described developing between people and machines — there was a section of the book, you visited these isolated, lonely elderly people in their retirement and care facilities and, after deciding that it might be difficult, if not impossible, for the elderly to enjoy the companionship and company of a real pet, such as a dog or a cat or some other small animal, you introduced the simulation of a pet into their living environment, this robotic seal

i think you reported that after introducing the seal to the elderly person and leaving it with them in their home, that it only took about a week for them to develop a real relationship with their new pet — although shy at first when talking with you in the company of the robotic seal, within the course of an hour you observed affectionate behavior and genuine interaction between the new owner and the seal

the owner conversed with the seal in the same way one might with a real pet and all of the ways in which they interacted with the robotic seal indicated that this simulation of being accompanied almost seemed good enough to introduce love, companionship and a reduced sense of loneliness with these elderly people living out the end of their lives

this, of course, brought up a ton of questions — some ethical, some psychological and some philosophical

the main question that came up for me might have something to do with the psychological nature of attachment, i’m not sure

but basically, i wondered — if it seems that easy for someone to form a genuine, human, loving relationship with a robotic seal, what does that say about our real relationships to each other as human beings? do we simply project and imagine love onto each other? are we, as the title of your book suggests { if only in very Freudian Slipped-like ways }, truly Alone Together?

Turkle finished signing the book and looked up at me, almost as if she were disgusted by my presence now, and replied:

No, no, no — that’s not what the book is about at all

and the conversation was over — she might as well have said, ‘NEXT!’ at that point because the book in front of her closed, she handed it back and we were simply done with these dark discoveries and intriguing philosophical questions i felt might at least be implied by Turkle’s oeuvre of critical research, perhaps even the more important and deeper meaning behind the surface of the kind of psychological self-analysis we’re all conducting now through the things we use to think with that are now the things we also feel with

i just put in an order for one of those robotic seals, should be coming in the mail any day now

i might just have a more empathic conversation with it than i did with Sherry Turkle

i heard it only takes less than a week to really get properly bonded with my new pet

seal

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The reality of our century is technology: the invention, construction and maintenance of machines. To be a user of machines is to be of the spirit of this century. Machines have replaced the transcendental spiritualism of past eras.

— László Moholy-Nagy

 

an interesting quote from László Moholoy-Nagy — the Hungarian painter and photographer as well as a Bauhaus artist and educator that advocated the integration of technology and industry into the arts

of course in the quote above Moholy-Nagy speaks of The ‘Modern’ Twentieth Century, an era that heavily focused on celebrating { and counting on } our new technological inventions as the new obsessive means and universal answer to any challenges we might be facing in the natural { and transitioning } world as human beings

if, as Moholy-Nagy states in the quote, ‘Machines have replaced the transcendental spiritualism of past eras’ — then what are we currently experiencing as the current replaced psychoSocial dynamics of our day in this grand Age of Information?

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a new direction for mobile design

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for the most part when we think about design for our mobile devices we have an image like the one above in mind — its a bit of a personal relationship we’ve developed with our smartphones, and the interactions are considered ‘micro-interactions,’ quick, task-based little spurts of use to check a little buzz or beep that went off in our pocket — we’ve got a little friend on us at all times now, and that little friend brings us the magic of real-time updates of information and some simulated sense of ‘being social’ through experiences like Twitter, Facebook and the like

a lot of the graphics you’ll find pertaining to using smartphones in particular show the one-to-one — person to machine — sort of relationship — and the person engaged with looking down at the little magic screen in the palm of their hands is either smiling and content, as if staring into a good friend’s or lover’s face directly or somewhat serious if the visual story being told is more about critical business communications

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we get the picture though — we all know the experience, the interaction, that’s going on between the facial expression, the position of the hands and fingers and the general body language and position of the neck and gaze

its a rather solitary experience, though, right?

even with the advent and common, everyday use of the supposed social web, the interaction is really between you and the data being displayed on a tiny shiny screen

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in her book Alone Together — Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other, MIT Psychologist Sherry Turkle takes a deep look at the worlds of sociable robotics and social media in their current state and the general effect these technological advances are having at a societal level — and as amazing as our inventions may be, the overall experience we end up having as human beings engaged with our technologies is unfortunately one largely steeped in isolation, loneliness and a sort of transactional behavior between people as mediated through the interactions we’re afforded to interact through

of course, we can also still participate and interact with each other in the moment, face to face, the old fashioned way, right? the analog means are always there for us to fall back upon, thank goodness — being in the same place at the same time can actually foster a certain vibrant energy and more efficient and active way to communicate, collaborate and get things done — but we can’t always meet face to face, in the current moment in today’s fast-paced society, unless, of course, we make the time and travel happen — at the end of the day, the feeling our device-driven world often leaves us with is a strange jumbled aftertaste of miscommunication, misunderstanding and an awkward, near-real-time, off-kilter distance between the actual people interacting through the devicery invented to facilitate better communication that can happen ‘anytime, anywhere’ according to the hypertechnophilic marketingSpeak we swim through on a daily basis

i would love to take the expertise i’ve built up over the last 20 sum odd years to try and steer the course in an entirely different direction

if our smartphones and other mobile paraphernalia are instruments of communication, might we then compare our iPhones and Androids to something more akin to a musical instrument? like a banjo, for instance?

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or maybe the comparison we try to draw is to something more like an orchestral instrument like the french horn

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whatever the metaphor might be — i would like to change how our interactions through these technologies feel and hopefully even change the actual way we use them

i’d like to take ’em and shake up the paradigm in a big way, ya know? and why not? i’m a fucking rather accomplished experience design architect and designer after all — i want to change the story of these technologies before we become more isolated and distant from each other

if we think of our smartphones and mobile devices more along the lines of music-making machines, as tools for thinking and collaborating together in real-time and space, we just be able to retell the story a bit and design for more orchestral synergistic ways to use these truly phenomenal technologies

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i don’t know what the actual experience or interface for these new interactive paradigms might be quite yet, but shouldn’t our devices and our interactions through them feel more like this beautiful photograph of this string trio as opposed to this business dude getting some off-sync email back in the city office?

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i actually think we need to start designing ways to allow our experiences through mobile and other new or evolving technologies actually better work in a together-like fashion, right? so instead of all the clutter and drowning information over-saturation of email and other truly horrendous collaborative cloud environments that only offer up a sandbox of confusion and uncoordinated, often disjointed collaborative team efforts — our new experiences should feel a lot more like what happens within the context of a real team — agility, muscle memory, easy means to pass the ball back and forth

or maybe better yet — maybe, just maybe — we might be able to think even bigger than that and design for interactions as graceful and wonderful-feeling as the coordinated, collaborative music-making of an orchestral ensemble

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i know its entirely possible — we just need to aim for that level of collaborative platform design — i don’t know that there’ll even be a Microsoft or Apple to take on this high task, as i’m sure its an enormous effort, but a truly wonderful one at that — i know that i would personally like my interactions and collaborations with all the people i work with to feel that powerful, fun and harmonious — and this is what i’ll be dreaming up through a storyFirst, iterative, human-centered process in my ample free time

i think this is gonna be a fun project to take on — i think its one of many projects that we need to design for in the world, one of many, too, that i personally want to dream up, brainstorm, workshop and design for — i can’t wait to share the progress as my efforts bear even little grapes and cumquats along the way as i’m sure its going to be an interesting journey

won’t you come and join me? 

 

this is not a book

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just a simple thought to share — does the name of Barnes and Nobles’ newish reading device ‘the nook’ in a near-literal sense imply the phrase ‘not a book’

 

i know, i know … its probably more of a metaphor for a little reading nook, right? something you might set up for a kid at home, a little shelf for her / his books and a cozy Spongebob chair or something … i get it, but when i think of the physical space of a Barnes and Noble Bookstore i guess i don’t think of anything all that inviting and small … the very brand they’ve established over the last 10 years while destroying the bookselling industry vertical feels a little more along the lines of a slightly more intimate version of Costco, its more of a warehouse of books, and mostly the bestsellers at that

and now we have this ‘nook’ — this mini-digital anti-book of sorts, or maybe better yet, this little anti-Barnes and Noble device living and breathing in the very heart of more and more of these warehouse cemeteries for what the book used to be

you can still come in and get your Grisham, your Oprah’s Cookbook, your Chelsea Lately product or the Shades of Grey book, the Hunger Games … go ahead, go get ’em

but you’ll get a better deal if you buy ’em online — i don’t quite understand what that is, but i even recently decided to buy ‘Claes Oldenburg: The Sixties’ from bn.com because it was more than $20 cheaper than what i found on the shelves of an independent bookstore in the physical world — i don’t know how or why they do that, this offering up of the goods at almost a third off when shopping online

is it re-training incentive? maybe Barnes and Nobles wants me to buy more and more of my readerly consumptables via online distribution and delivery mechanisms? is it cheaper, really cheaper, for them to sell us thy daily goods online? i’m just wondering outloud here … hmmmmm

i should really try out ‘the nook experience’ — as an experience designer i should really enter that vast new central ‘Apple Store inside a store’ thing they’ve got goin’ on and really give Barnes and Nobles little nooks a whirl, right? see what its like to read a book on a tablet device that’s specifically made for readers — i’m sure i will someday, someday soon perhaps — i’m sure i’ll bring my Fuji point and shoot and document the entire experience, including any human to human interactions that ensue whenever a camera gets involved — but for now, i’m still wrestling with this incredible strange nook invasion — i mean, its right there in the middle of the store! — and to top it all off, the room our little nook nooks seem to take up in most Barnes and Nobles replaced actual bookish inventory and more often than not any music section { i guess this would more likely be called the CD and DVD department? } — so now, with Borders Bookstores gone, the big, monster bookstore that took the world by storm over the last decade or 2, totally crushing independent bookstores and subsuming what were once more independently-run university and college bookstores, now the megastore of books and all things intellectual { ha ha } gives us these toys, these digital relaxation toys for adults, well, mostly for teens and young twentysomethings — and they expand their toy department to at least twice the previous size, er, ehm, i mean, i guess i should say their chiildren’s section — the paradigm is basically flipped now, what we have is a gift shop with some books in the periphery, oh, and a coffeeshop with no plugs to potentially keep your nooks nicely charged while you order from the nookstore in the clouds