Monday, 31 March 2008


(from chunyang @ Flickr)

How do you produce quality in new media and all the participation it offers without suffering the rubbish that is most user-generated content. One answer might be Blowtorch. It's co-create with high standards exclusively for 18-24 year olds. That is, audiences get a say in the creative output - the soundtrack, the editing, the cinematography etc. I can see this sort of thing being eminently attractive to certain people.

Set up by a satisfying mix of entertainment, technology and advertising pros, this gets me excited because it's progressive. Unlike the rest of Hollywood whose nerves about damaging their precious DVD sales have meant congealment, Blowtorch's new rules of participation and using all the different media pipes to engage is new and needed.

Saturday, 29 March 2008

Litchenberg, Memory & Brands

This is a vid of Litchenberg figure being created. It comes about by injecting a piece of insulating material with a high speed beam of electrons.

I like it because it is a natty metaphor for the way memory works.

The electrons are the start of a thought. This can be engendered by by external factors, like sound and light bouncing off things and hitting our receiving dishes (retinas or eardrums) or by internal factors.

Next a branch of activity spreads out rapidly. Neurons get excited and excite their connected neighbours. A pattern is made. And the pattern is memory.

Heraclitus wasn't talking about the brain when he said 'the cosmos speaks in patterns' but his epigram is apt for the way in which it works (this is von Oech's more accessible translation; for those who care, the literal translation, according to Robinson is 'all things happen according to the logos').

Such patterns of activation build up from repeated activation. As the father of this idea, Hebb, put it, "
any two cells or systems of cells that are repeatedly active at the same time will tend to become 'associated', so that activity in one facilitates activity in the other." (Hebb, 1949, p.70). Or in other words, neurons that fire together, wire together.

That makes the prediction that if you activate a certain thought, access to a related thought will be zippier because it's already partly activated.

And this is true. Flash up the word 'bird' and 'robin' will be recognised more quickly than an unrelated word (e.g. 'arm', see Neely, 1977 for more. Plus if you care how the 'recognised more quickly' bit is measured have a look at what a lexical decision task is.)

This extends to thoughts about groups of people, also known as stereotypes (e.g. Germans, bankers, the elderly). Information about groups is built up over time (probably in the neocortical system [McCelland et al, 1995] and deployed to lubricate the whole process of person perception.

Where it gets really interesting is how these activated information bundles affect the rest of what the brain is up to. That is, how perception affects action. Lovely examples abound; here are six:
  1. People primed with politeness stereotypes are less likely to interrupt an ongoing conversation.
  2. The African American stereotype makes people more aggressive in response to slight provocation.
  3. The elderly stereotypes makes people walk more slowly and more forgetful.
  4. The professor and football hooligan stereotypes once activated affect the marks people get on general knowledge tests.
  5. The neuropsychological patient stereotype makes people score poorly on an executive function test.
  6. Primed with religious stereotypes people behave more pro-socially
(See Bargh et al., 1996, Dijksterhuis and van Knippenberg 1998; Dijksterhuis et al., 2001; Dijksterhuis et al., 1998; Turner et al., 2005; and Shariff & Norenzayan, 2007 for more).

Brands are patterns of activation too. This is evident in the crisp, if less neurocognitively explicit, definitions of brands by planners.

Paul Feldwick has said “A brand is simply a collection of perceptions in the mind of the consumer.” John Grant has even more pithily dubbed a brand the "sum of the ideas associated with it".

The ideas associated with a brand are built up over time by interaction with it and messages about it; firing together and wiring together the brand and it's associated ideas.

The logo of a brand, as its paragon symbol, should therefore act as a Litchenberg electron beam, causing an immediate pattern of activation to spread, bringing alive the ideas and concepts most closely associated with the brand.

Added to that, if the link between perception and action in stereotyping is anything to go on, presentation of the logo should affect behaviour in measurable ways.

It does. According to this great paper, published in next month's Journal of Consumer Research. After being presented with either the Apple logo or IBM logo (so fast as to be below conscious awareness), people behaved in ways consistent with the brand's associated ideas.
People who has seen the Apple logo were more creative than those exposed to the IBM one, as measured in a task thinking up different uses of a brick and as determined by independent judges.

This makes the Apple slogan self-fulfilling: 'Think different' really does make you think different.

Thursday, 27 March 2008

Medium-rare ads

(from splorp)

Media companies or algorithms decide how we get our ads served up. Hulu, one of the most promising legit video-on-demand sites, is giving its users more of a say in how they get their ads.

(from CNET)

Its inevitable that all TV viewing will be done online in the future because the choice is better (although something will need to be done about choice paralysis) and time and space are no longer constraining factors.

Time is irrelevant because shows can be called up on-demand, making the 'old' system of programming look as silly as everyone being served up with the exact same meal in a restaurant. Space - or location - is irrelevant because although TVs are stationary, screens are mobile. Content can be picked up anywhere as long as you have access to the cloud.

Online TV also has the chance to be interactive. People are already using traditional TV and online together to enhance the experience (and here). Online TV will just remove the space between laptop and TV, packing it down into one device.

Because of this inevitability, the move by Hulu to exploit the interactivity of the medium is a good thing.

If online TV is going to be free, it's going to have to be ad supported. It could be charged but when you have free vs paid, free will win out as long as the 'costs of free' aren't too great.

The 'cost of free' being advertising and the 'too great' bit being when the ads subtract significantly from the experience by being intrusive and/or irrelevant.

By adding choice to the ad serving process the costs are lessened because people will feel they have some choice in the matter and - now going beyond what is happening at Hulu - choice might improve relevance, the nirvana of advertising that has allowed Google to make billions.

I've got a few ideas about how more choice can be added into the mix to make people feel more in control and to give them better (more relevant) ads.

The first thing to note is the gulf between products on a show and buying them. The Internet could close this gap to a few centimeters. Take for example House's leather jacket, something that keeps him both "warm and cool" and something that was probably just chosen by the show's wardrobe people rather than any money changing hands for its use.

Yet, there is demand for his jacket; people are asking where to buy one. It would be fairly simple to have an overlay with a tagging system similar to Facebook's (below), except rather than being static, it would be dynamic; hypervideo. The tags would be put in place by the production team or automatically once the technology gets good enough at object recognition.

The lovely Kate, tagged on Facebook

Everything in a show becomes a clickable object. Links out to products could be collected on a little 'shelf' which you could sift through at the end of the show. The transient nature of things in video becomes irrelevant. Clothes worn, gadgets used, songs played could all be put on the 'shelf' for later inspection and possible purchase. People could chose a specific type of ad (like clothing, gadgets or music) depending on their whim. I would find this much more useful than interupting messages or even a pre-show ad.

For some, this might seem rather unpleasant because of the risk of corrupting artistic output. This is as naïve as the idea of the sentimentalist idea of the noble savage because creativity has always used the oxygen of commerce. John Hegarty, BBH's creative supremo, uses Titian's The Annunciation as an example: "In the bottom right-hand corner you will see a decanter. Why? Well, the Venetians had developed clear glass and they wanted it in there as an advert. So the connection between culture and commerce is hundreds of years old." (source)

Titian's The Annunciation (click to enlarge)

Second, I agree with Hegarty's other point that the only problem with such placement is when it is done badly, when it is perpendicular to the story. It reminds me of the deliberately obtuse faux product placement in the Truman Show by Truman's synthetic wife:

In this situation both show and brand come off looking bad. As Hegarty says, "It doesn't satisfy the viewer, so it doesn't work for the advertiser" (also see this paper by Nigel Hollis, Chief Global Analyst at Millward Brown for more on this). Put differently, corrupting artistic output is not in the interests of either the people making the shows or the advertisers.

I would much rather have something like this, where I get to chose the ads in a more ecologically valid environment than have my viewing experience lacerated by the tyranny of jingles and over-enthusiastic voice overs. And with the long tail this could be very profitable for shows and films.

Advertising is here to stay. The more useful we can make it the better it will be for all involved. And one way to do this is let people have more choice about the ads they consume.

Sunday, 23 March 2008

jelly on black

I find jellyfish endlessly intriguing, I do.

That is all.

Saturday, 22 March 2008

London Transport Aesthetic

Transport for London gave me one of these the other day. Inside was a bike light. It has no batteries but in Trevor Baylis style is wind-up. I think it was part of a campaign of caring for cyclists, because I also read they were giving out Fresnel lenses, which let truckers see cyclists more easily and there has been quite a bit of TV advertising, including a moonwalking gorilla.

Anyway, I like the box. Although on this occasion it's minimalism is probably borne out of frugality, it made me wonder about the the whole aesthetic of Transport for London, something I have long loved.

The original red, white and blue roundel and font (Johnston Sans) by Edward Johnston has remained largely unchanged since he designed it in 1918. It's arguably the logo most synonymous with London (in fact most of the main images of London are to do with the transport system: the street names, the taxi, the buses...) and has spawned all sorts of lovely sister logos as the network expanded:

(from Wikipedia)

Then there's the electrical circuit style map designed by Harry Beck in 1933 (inspired by George Dow). This is a masterful piece of work which despite jettisoning geographical truth (probably as a result) enables the most effortless understanding of its contents.

The design coherence of the London transport system was directed under the keen and meticulous eye of Frank Pick. He is rumoured to have travelled the entire network, often at night, to ensure high standards (reminds me of another design fanatic, Steve Jobs, who is reputed to have had fine Italian marble for a New York first Apple store to be sent to California first so he could check the veining).

Pick visited Europe and returned under the influence of "European modernism" which prompted the installation of then achingly modern architecture, including "sweeping curves with geometric detailing, exposed brickwork and concrete" (Design Museum). Even in new designs this exposed, progressive spirit is still part of the visual language, like the recent and industrially beautiful Westminster Tube Station.

Friday, 21 March 2008

Choice and the Fishbowl

(from turbojoe)

My sister, an artist, has become enamoured with the new Whole Foods Store in Kensington High Street. Not as a place to buy food though. Rather it's a food gallery to her, a place for loving shots of shiny aubergines, forests of broccoli and piles of proud lemons. I was told I had to see it. So I did.

It's beautiful; the newest museum to open in the area. Everything is plentiful. There are more than one hundred types of olive oil. Too much olive oil really. Too much to take in. As the Guardian commented there is a "tyranny of choice". This is something that I am experiencing beyond olive oil.

Choice is a very modern problem born out of a perceived modern benefit, namely that it affords personal freedom. On a personal level, I find it has a very demotivating effect. A few choices are good. My willingness to engage with those choices is healthy at this small number. Beyond that I get more and more despairing, dizzying almost, until my attention packs its bags and moves on to something else.

As usual with things like this I wanted to see what was out there in the psychological literature (this is a hangover from my experimental psychology degree and generally uncontrollable curiosity). Sure enough, the decision malaise afforded by over-choice has been empirically documented. The best place to read about it would be in this book, The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less, or in this fun talk by the author, Barry Schwartz, at TED.

One example in the book is particularly striking. It comes from a paper in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology in 2000 and involved jam. Either lots of it (24 types) or a few jars (6 types) on a two tables, to be precise. Despite the 24 jams having more of a magpie effect (Ooh, look at all that jam...) it was debilitating to the decision making process (Ahh! There's too much. I can get jam some other time) selling a tenth less than the smaller collection.

Russell Brand, in his own sexually honest way, is in touch with that too: in one of his shows on TV, I remember him bemoaning how the combination of the truly vast quantities of pornography available on the Internet and tabbed browsing literally crippled his ability to 'finish', restraining because the next girl might 'just be a little better'.

One can imagine how if this sort of logic is applied to less solitary sexual pursuits, people can put off securing a partner because the choice is too large and the thought that a better one could come along is too alive in people's minds. The result is probably a growing single population. Information from the Office for National Statistics might support this: marriages are at a 110 year low (although there could just be less explicit acknowledgement of relationships).

In more commercial areas, I think that, apart from wonderful design and effortless functionality, there is significant benefit to Apple's slim number of choices both between and within products. Steve Jobs claims that Apple has less than 30 major products (and amazing this produces a $30 billion company). More specifically, for the iPod, the choice is between Shuffle, Nano, Classic and Touch and then there is usually only a binary choice when it comes to size (80Gb or 160Gb for the Classic at the time of writing this). You're not even going to break a cognitive sweat there.

In another example altogether, I have noticed how top restaurants have small menus; lesser places have tomes indexing all manner of available foods. Gordon Ramsay in his rescue-an-ailing-restaurant TV show normally always suggests trimming the menu down. Now, it's very possible that both in the Apple and menu cases, fewer options means more focus for the people behind the scenes on the creative output; nevertheless, I still think that a small choice is actually wonderfully inviting for consumers because it is so delightfully easy.

Indeed, the empirical work uncovers another great insight. After having chosen from a small number of options you are happier with your choice than had you chosen from a bigger pool. This is because of what you might call post-decision anxiety, the worry that the choice you have made is correct given all the other options available.

Schwartz explains: with so many choices it is "easy to imagine up a choice that would have been better" thus inducing regret for the choice made, which has the ultimate effect of subtracting from the satisfaction in the decision, even when the decision is a good one. This is compounded by having more factors with more choice to compare your particular decision to and more chance of being dissatisfied with that decision, so called opportunity costs.

Schwartz introduces a really lovely metaphor as way of ossifying all this: the fishbowl. The walls of the bowl are the boundaries of choice. It's not good if they are too small; there is no freedom. However, if they are too big it's, in Schwartz New York patter, "a recipe for misery and...disaster".

Cognocomputer Science

(from Daadi)

I have a dream for the Web [in which computers] become capable of analyzing all the data on the Web – the content, links, and transactions between people and computers. A ‘Semantic Web’, which should make this possible, has yet to emerge, but when it does, the day-to-day mechanisms of trade, bureaucracy and our daily lives will be handled by machines talking to machines. The ‘intelligent agents’ people have touted for ages will finally materialize.

– Tim Berners-Lee, 1999

Two areas have seen the most massive growth in recent years. The internet is the headline one. Everyone knows about that. Less well known is cognitive neuroscience.

I think these two juggernauts will collide soon because if Tim Berners-Lee's vision of Semantic Web (or Web 3.0 as some dub it) is to come true the next generation of computer scientists are going to need to be trained in cognitive (neuro)science as well.

This is because if the Internet is to assuage the pressure on, and extend the power of, our mental faculties by replacing, and enhancing, their functions, it makes sense that the functions be known.

And right now the best people to ask about how the brain and mind operates are the cognitive neuroscientists. They have their computer already built and are trying to work out how it operates. Computer scientists, the architects of the future Internet, are trying to build something that does something like the mind. They should talk to each other more.

More than this though it will pay to be expert in both. The mind will give insights to better computer systems as it is backwards engineered. Cognocomputer scientists will be needed in a Semantic Web future.


Photoshop Disasters is a fun little blog with a keen eye for sloppy Photoshop. Some recent ones:

Either the model met with a nasty accident or someone forgot to digitally reattach her index finger

Warping tiles - she's been Liquified. Her little line of gab about confidence takes on an errie meaning after the glitch too.

The freaky severed hand

Now without cancer!

(from ArtWerk)

Dr. Melik: This morning for breakfast he requested something called "wheat germ, organic honey and tiger's milk."
Dr. Aragon: [chuckling] Oh, yes. Those are the charmed substances that some years ago were thought to contain life-preserving properties.
Dr. Melik: You mean there was no deep fat? No steak or cream pies or... hot fudge?
Dr. Aragon: Those were thought to be unhealthy... precisely the opposite of what we now know to be true.

Dr. Melik: Incredible.
from Woody Allen's Sleeper

Researchers for smoking giant Philip Morris are trying to genetically modify tobacco to be non-carcinogenic. See the paper here in the Plant Biotechnology Journal. Amazing what the profit motive can do. In a subtle change to Woody's nod to the capricious nature of knowledge, genetics could mean instead of avoiding the bad, the bad is just removed.

Wednesday, 19 March 2008


(from adrimagyar @ Flickr)

Why would genes want to promote the welfare of other unrelated genes? Thanks to Trivers we know this happens because it is indirectly selfish. The bat with food that offers it to the bat without stands a greater chance of living when the tables turn. He'll live, find a sexy lady bat, have bat babies and so his genes multiply (including that/those responsible for that behaviour).

This explanation works well for non-human animals but it loses its potency when it comes to humans. All sorts of explanations have been put forward. One interesting area within all this is 'altruistic punishment', where someone will incur a cost to punish freeloaders. This is theorised to have cooperation-enhancing effect.

The authors of a paper in Science wondered whether the people who were punished would later take revenge against their punishers. The nature of the results depended on the society you were from. The USA, UK, Germany, Denmark, Australia and Switzerland all seem content to shun revenge. Oman, Greece, Saudi Arabia, Russia, Belarus, Istanbul, South Korea and the Ukraine all showed high levels of revenge for being punished.

As Prof. Simon Gaechter, explains “Our results correlate with other survey data in particular measures of social norms of civic co-operation and rule of law in these same societies. The findings suggest that in societies where public co-operation is ingrained and people trust their law enforcement institutions, revenge is generally shunned. But in societies where the modern ethic of co-operation with unrelated strangers is less familiar and the rule of law is weak, revenge is more common." (source)

Speak without speaking


(from stuant63)

What drives the adoption or avoidance of consumer technology? Based on consumer interviews, Robert Kozinets, writing in the Journal of Consumer Research, has suggested four major ideologies.
  1. Techtopian Ideology - technology = social progress
  2. Work Machine Ideology - technology = economic progress through greater efficiency
  3. Green Luddite - technology = a destructive force to the 'authentic'
  4. Techspressive Ideology - technology = a source of pleasure, fun, and style.

Crystal Ball 2.0

Martin Wolf Wagner Photography

Advertising Age
asked 150 power bloggers about what to expect from digital advertising in 2008. Some of my favorites:

1. Branded content - more services, less messages (Tom Martin & Joe Pulizzi)

2. Local search - digital microbiology not digital astronomy. (Andy Wibbels)

3. Simple mobile apps - splitting the bill, pre-ordering coffee, knowing that song on a TV program (Marie Lena Tupot)

4. Sociosemantics - culture into data into culture (e.g. LastFM music recommendations) (Jay Moonah)

5. SEO - cheap and powerful. Getting search right is gonna be important (Joost de Valk & Martin Calle)

6. Online TV - Real-time video ad-matching + droves of people flocking to digital TV rooms (Paul Cheney)

7. Social media - Facebook (Mike Volpe)

I would add:

8. Location-aware stuff

9. Games

10. Behavioural targeting (for an interesting take on this see Mindset Media, who have developed a personality periodic table)

Touching taste

Packaging is peripheral by definition. Nevertheless, I like it and probably like the thing it houses a bit more if it is good.

This is true of flavour. According to a new study, The Perceptual Transfer of Product Container Haptic Cues in next month's Journal of Consumer Research, the feeling of packaging affects taste. Specifically, increasing firmness brought about better taste perception.

Tuesday, 18 March 2008

Wolf stream

China is good at making fakes. They are so good, they have stepped beyond human things and are taking on nature. Like fake eggs, for which assembly instructions can be found here. I have even heard of fake apples.

Cai Guo-Qiang has exploited this mastery in faking for Head On, a brilliant installation where 99 wolves, made in Chinese factories from sheep coats ('a wolf in sheep's clothing'!), are frozen like they are part of a bullet time sequence as they stream through the air and crash into a screen.

I am sure there is some lesson in here about the potentially negative outcomes of blindly following the crowd but I just think it is a real visual treat.

He likes floating things. Like these from Inopportune: Stage Two:

The Technology Rollercoaster

I like Gartner's Hype Cycle. It's meant to describe the adoption of technology on a wide level. I can almost feel it happening on a personal level with new products and services. Also thought that it has relevance beyond technology: it can be quite easily appropriated for anything new that is marketed, like politicians.

(data from YouGov)

Contravesy, truth and experts

Had another thought about experts and the media.

In the last post, Rethinking Expertise (here), I said the "media forged and perpetuated a scientific controversy [about MMR and autism] where none existed".

Sadly, this is good business. It is in the interests of commercial news outlets to perpetuate (and even serve up) illusory controversy.

Fox, ever reliable for being unreliable, admit to this. Although they may be operating ideologically as well here, Murdoch says there are business reasons for his network's radical stance on climate change.

Another reason why experts must be allowed to shout louder than ordinary people.

Monday, 17 March 2008

Rethinking Expertise

Who's better? An expert or many ordinary people?

As scientists observe the universe and its contents other academics observe the scientists. Prof. Harry Collins is one of these scientific voyeurs who peers through the crack in the ceiling of knowledge-building and records how it is done. My girlfriend and I went to a little talk of his in the Exeter quays last week.

Having spent a long time with gravitational-wave physicists he has given man-birth to Gravity's Shadow (2004), the sort of book you could knock an ox out with, running to some 870 pages. During his experience with these experts he started thinking about the nature of expertise. This is the subject of his (and Robert Evans') most recent (pithier) offering, Rethinking Expertise (2007).

His talk was a summary of one of the book's points. In his forthright, laddish way he sketched a quick and basic history of the philosophy and sociology of science. Without technical labels, which I add back in here, he covered falsification (Popper, 1959, esp. pg. 27–48) and the problems with it (Kuhn, 1977; Lakatos, 1970, 1974; Maxwell, 1972; Meehl, 1978, 1990; Putnam, 1974) including the problem of facts (who is to know if it is the fact or the method to get to that fact that is wrong?). With this breakdown in philosophical robustness so trust in experts dwindled.

In a nod to Feyeraband’s (1975) Dadaistic 'anything goes' idea, the suggestion was that all trust was lost. In a Feyerabandian world science is no different to other things like Jade Goody's opinions or reading the future by dropping fruit on the floor and examining the patterns. Peer-reviewed science has no great difference in terms of methodological soundness to that of personal experience in this scenario. I strongly agree with Collins that a society like this is "not one you would like to live in"; hell is Feyeraband's world.

His concern is that despite the intellectual repugnance of this scenario, it is gaining some currency under the idea that "ordinary people are wiser than experts in some technical areas". For an example he cited the case of MMR and autism where a dodgy paper (Wakefield et al, 1998) and the media forged and perpetuated a scientific controversy where none existed. In his words, the link between these two on the available evidence is "zero" (he is right). To this one woman in the audience shouted "That's not true"; she knew someone whose child had both MMR vaccine and autism.

The whole force of Collins' point was evident in this little bit of heckling. It is stunningly simple (as basic as common-sense gets some might think), but no less important for that: All else being equal we should listen to "those who know what they are talking about". In this case, the evidence said there was no link, the co-occurrence of the MMR vaccine and autism in this child she knew was irrelevant. If she had retorted, "What, it is just coincidence that the child has autism and had the vaccine?", the answer can only be "Yes, precisely that: a coincidence."

I was reminded of an episode of House where House lambasts a junior for choosing the a treatment option on personal factors despite the fact it saved the patient's life. This is because statistically more people would be killed using that particular treatment over time than the evidence-based option.

Had the junior doctor used the evidence-based (correct) option the patient would have died. Nevertheless, it would have been the right option. Experts must be allowed to be experts, even if they are wrong occasionally because the cost of having no experts is far too great. In the case of MMR, lives are at risk.

Collins and Evans call expertise "the pressing intellectual problem of the age". It's certainly a biggie. And as the number of opinions on technical issues froth up with more user-generated content online I think their point, although simple, is very important. No one is cleverer than everyone. But that does not mean everyone is cleverer than experts.

9,581,206 abortions

The World Clock. Real-time data (well, statistically predicted data) on all sorts of things, abortions, marriages, divorces, oil pumped, bikes produced and so on. Also check out The Food Clock - that's a lot of chickens.

Stealing a gorilla

Ad agency WCRS didn't worry about ripping off Simons and Chabris (1999) (paper available here and original video here) when they made this:

(if the link goes down here is the campaign website)

After a bit of Internet detective work, it turns out the authors never gave permission (I found out from this great little blog where plagiarists are named and shamed,

Ok, it's for public safety and its making a point for a good cause, but apart from the obvious plagiarism, which is bad enough for a supposedly 'creative' agency, this smacks more of stupidity by failing to appreciate that the Internet is the world's most sophisticated plagiarism program. And their Gorilla suit wasn't as good. Tut.

Sunday, 16 March 2008

Things to see

Nabbed from here

In the "Find businesses" bit on Google maps typing 'things to see' in the 'What' box and a location in the 'Where' box loads up a mix of Google and user-created content of interesting places in the specified location.

It's very useful. It will probably get even more useful when location-aware mobile web is chucked into the mix (see also Socialight and TagMaps).

It's also very Google and, along with other things like 'I'm feeling lucky' button, it is what makes the Google brand special. 'Things to see' adds in something magical and yet so functional.

Google has no brand guidelines (although I did find some principles in the pic above) and no silly, vapid slogan, it just gets on with the job and in places where there is no cost to functionality it is happy to be playful.

It does; it doesn't just say what it does. More of this from other brands please.

Friday, 7 March 2008

spEak You're bRanes

Dodginess abounds in Web 2.0. I have posted about it here and here. One of the worst locations for this on the BBC's Have Your Say page which is a playground for the permanently outraged and confused.

Someone has catalogued all this on spEak You're bRanes (a nod to Iannucci-Morris satire gem, The Day Today). They have even organised it into categories, like Armchair Generals, Curtain Twitchers, Unfocused Rage, Permanently Bewildered and Werthers Original Imperialists to name a few. Makes for great reading.

Music by mood

Burst is interesting. Instead of just taking the genre approach to tagging music, you can browse tag clouds of moods and instruments. Nice clean design too.

Scanning light

This is what happens when you scan in your desklamp. Click to enlarge.

Viscosity: modern art generator

Click to enlarge

Viscosity is a playful little Flash app, where you start of with a shape and using various brushes fashion your own art.

Ficlets: narrative quilts

Sony seem to be operating a strategy of 'technology with character' especially with their laptops and MP3 players. This comes through in their digital efforts (by Dare). Things like the Walkman Project and the Malkovich Vaio site scream a more refined appreciation of music and creative approach to computing than your average punter. I suppose directing your efforts at early adopters and people who pride themselves on doing their own thing (people you could say) is sensible when you are up against the ubiquity of the iPod because the exclusivity and creative associations of Sony will ensure later trickle down.

Anyway, Sony isn't what I wanted to talk about, it's just the premise of the Malkovich site, namely to continue on a script he started, that chimes with this other site I came across called Ficlets. Here, rather like those children's games, you get to continue on someone else's story (or indeed write a prequel to it). Narratives are stitched together by the many. In all likelihood this will create some horrible quilts but power of the Internet means that the occasional gem will appear. Anyway, I like.

Who had my milk?!

Passive Aggressive Notes is one of my favorite niche blogs. Self-described as the home for "painfully polite and hilariously hostile writings from shared spaces the world over", it provides a gleeful repository of thinly veiled threats, deftly controlled anger and cranky politesse. (See also the ranting and raving on the Best of Craig's List)

The Singing Ringing Tree

By architects Mike Tonkin and Anna Liu.

Saturday, 1 March 2008

Happy Maps

In 2006 Adrian White, a social psychologist at the University of Leicester, compiled this, a world happiness map. You can get the full version here. The redder, the happier.

In a similar spirit, this little gem maps out 'feelings' from around the user-generated web and mashes it up with Google Maps:

It's not particularly powerful at the moment but is nevertheless a really interesting idea. I love the possibility of analysing subjective content over geographical location like this. If time were to be added in as well it would become even more interesting because you could potentially track the emotional wake of a certain news story after it breaks. Nice simple and playful interface too.

Statistics and Art

Intricate, massive, overwhelming and visually obsessed with quantity, Chris Jordan's work portrays "contemporary American culture through the austere lens of statistics" in pursuit of a "different effect than the raw numbers alone" (source). Squeezing down Jordan's work to fit here will doubtlessly remove some of its impressiveness but there are successive zooms (clicking on the last one in a series will reveal actual size). Shoot over to Jordan's site to see more but here are a few choice bits from Running the Numbers.

Nearly half a million mobiles phones - the number retired in the US every day

1.14 million paper bags - the amount used in one hour in the US

11,000 jet trails - the number of commercial flights every 8 hours in the US