Week 119: Aaron Swartz

This week, we say goodbye to Aaron Swartz, young activist, builder and great source of inspiration.

As the weekend was unfolding, so was the story about the tragic death of Aaron Swartz. Co-author of the RSS protocol, co-founder of Reddit, major force behind Creative Commons, one of the heroes of the free movement, a hacker and a builder. In his too short life, Aaron brought more people together, accomplished more than one can hope for in a life-time. Him being gone at the young age of 26 is a tragedy to his family and friends, but also to everyone who has used and will use the internet.

Many things have been written about his death, about the unjust prosecution that he had to endure and about his accomplishments. If anything, I encourage you to honor his life by reading about him, about his work, his life. Here are a few links where you can start.

Lawrence Lessig #1, Lawrence Lessig #2, Parker Higgins, Cory Doctorow, Tim Berners-Lee, Guerilla Open Access Manifesto, Remember Aaron Schwartz

Be curious. Read widely. Try new things. I think a lot of what people call intelligence just boils down to curiosity.

– Aaron Swartz, at the age of 21.

Rest in peace, Aaron.

The New Aesthetic

We’ve been fascinated by this thing called New Aesthetic. If you want to know what it’s about, check out this annotated collection of links.

Something is happening. We haven’t fully grasped it yet. But it already feels like one of the more exciting things happening these days. And it’s spearheaded by nice people from East London who keep inspiring and challenging us. It has been dubbed The New Aesthetic (NA).

The Beginning

It first appeared almost a year ago with this post by James Bridle of RIG: The New Aesthetic.

For a while now, I’ve been collecting images and things that seem to approach a new aesthetic of the future, which sounds more portentous than I mean. What I mean is that we’ve got frustrated with the NASA extropianism space-future, the failure of jetpacks, and we need to see the technologies we actually have with a new wonder. Consider this a mood-board for unknown products.

This turned into this tumblr blog: The New Aesthetic.

Bridle has been the main voice for the New Aesthetic. Watch his closing keynote from Web Directions Sydney 2011 for a great primer and check his blog. Also watch his talk from the Lift conference this year and read this interview Rob Walker did with him for more of his thinking.

As always, others from the network of people around the “Silicon Roundabout” have picked up this concept and are exploring it further. BERG has been reflecting about the ‘Robot-Readable World’ (RRW) with Matt Jones giving a talk and Timo Arnall producing a video visualization of the RRW. Also read Jones’ thoughts on Sensor-Vernacular.

This all happened last year and was mostly noticed by people following the thinking of RIG and BERG.

#sxaesthetic

A whole new level of attention came in March with the #sxaesthetic panel at the SXSW festival/conference in Austin, Texas. Bridle brought along some of his friends and fellow thinkers to approach NA from different perspectives.

A lot of great thinking coming from this group of people. But the biggest thing for the NA was that Bruce Sterling was sitting in the audience. Not only did he gather a lot of the tweets about the panel and mentioned Bridle and the panel very favorably in his closing keynote for SXSW.
He also published a 5000-word essay about NA, analyzing and criticizing it in depth. Besides the amazing amount of new ideas, approaches and next steps he has given the movement with this, he also has put it on a much bigger stage, giving it a new level of attention.

Reactions to Sterling’s essay

The web has been buzzing with reactions to the essay. It’s beautiful to see so many bright minds picking up the concept and investigating it from all sides. Here are only some of the writings we came by:

Sterling keeps posting links and writing articles as a reaction to the reactions. Here’s another take from him: Still FREAKING OUT!!!

A year later

On Sunday, May 6 2012, exactly one year later, Bridle has closed the NA tumblr for good.

The project will continue in other forms and venues.

On May 8, HuffPo posted an interview with Bridle.

One of the things about New Aesthetic was that it was very much supposed to be not ‘post’ anything else and not ‘pre’ anything else, it was an observation about something hopefully grander, of which these are some current examples of. But as soon as you start trying to ground it in that way, in manifestos and in particular works then, then yeah that’s the natural reaction to it. One of the things the internet should be able to do is be less reactive than that.

All these things are imperfect means of communication, there will always be that but I’m happy to end by saying it’s been a deeply odd and occasionally distressing experience. Some responses to it have been fantastic and extraordinary and interesting and a lot of the other responses have been extraordinarily aggressive and misguided and simply wrong. It’s a very odd experience that a lot of people out there have basically gone ‘the New Aesthetic is wrong’ and it can be many things but it can’t be wrong because I just made it up.

More Material somehow connected to NA

If you’ve found something that we should add, let us know.

Closing remarks

We’ve deliberately avoided defining what the New Aesthetic is. We kinda enjoy that it’s pretty fuzzy right now and still open for future definitions that might emerge from the current discussion. This is why we, instead of defining it, provided a ton of links so anyone going through this can make up her or his own mind about NA.

Bruce Sterling:

The New Aesthetic practice would be to unwrap it, post it, and leave it there all ragged with retweets, favorite buttons, permalinks and an open-API, so that somebody on the network can do something with it.

Warren Ellis:

What I will say is that, although there is no one future to be predicted or inferred — that the idea of the consensus future is resolutely 20th century and should be put to rest — it’s really nice to see people looking for what’s next again.

Urbanflow Helsinki

Urbanflow Helsinki is a concept done by our friends at Nordkapp and Urbanscale to envision and build an operating system for everyday life in the cities. This is exactly the stuff that excites us about networked cities and why we chose it as a topic we want to pursue with our company. Brilliant stuff, guys. Can’t wait to see more.

Here are some details about Urbanflow by Adam.

Illucia is a physical instrument for codebending

illucia: a modular codebending instrument from paper kettle on Vimeo.

Art meets code meets psychical objects. This is very now-now.

Codebending is the exploration of software with “patch points.” Patch points expose the inner workings of computer programs, and allow for atypical connections between things like games, music making software, office suites, etc. illucia is a USB device with physical jacks that correspond to software patch points, which can be connected and disconnected using patch cables. Thus, illucia is a console for routing information between computer programs, and opens strange relationships across systems that don’t usually interact – it turns systems themselves into play objects.

The problem with [mobile] context

As mobile devices are becoming increasingly ubiquitous, it seems the discussion about mobile itself faded into the sub-categories of mobile itself. While this is meaningful and understandable, it is also helpful to dive into some of the more abstract factors of the topic. This slides should be helpful for that.

As mobile devices are becoming increasingly ubiquitous, it seems the discussion about mobile computing itself faded into sub-categories of the field. While this is meaningful and understandable, it is also helpful to dive into some of the more abstract factors of the topic. This slides should be helpful for that.

(via Kyle)

Patterns for Multiscreen Strategies

A collection of patterns from Precious Design Studio helps developing strategies for an ecosystem of screens.

Jon Stewart recently made fun of CNN for putting up a QR code on screen so viewers could get more info about a story. He put up his own QR code for the Daily Show audience that lead to a website, which basically said that CNN sucked. What makes people like Jon Stewart cringe now, might actually be a very likely scenario for the near future.

We think that just “designing for mobile” isn’t enough anymore. It’s actually about designing for an ecosystem of screens as more and more of us are having at least two screens in use at the same time. We sit in front of the TV while checking some stuff on our iPad. We sit in front of our computers with our smartphones placed beside it.

The clever people at Bonnier R&D and Berg were among the first to think about the ecosystem of screens and how they could work together when they created the concept for NEWS+, their 21st century version of a daily newspaper.

Now the guys from Precious in Hamburg have created a concept of ‘Patterns for Multiscreen Strategies’ that defines some much needed principales to start with.

Favorite trend: Collaborative Consumption

Two talks from the recent PSFK conference in New York display this trend in practical terms.

Besides Networked Cities, the current trend that excites me the most is Collaborative Consumption because it has the mind-blowing potential to really change our lifestyles and behaviors. People have always been questioning their consumption, but now with the help of technology and social media patterns in particular, they have the tools to take sharing goods and service to a whole other level. That, in short, is what collaborative consumption is all about.

Recently at the PSFK conference in New York, two of the prototypical companies for this trend, Kickstarter and AirBnB, were on stage to talk about how their services developed and how they are changing the approaches to funding and accommodation. Highly recommended watching.

Kickstarter is especially interesting as it seems to be taking a road where people are mocking up a prototype for a product and then get the funding via the platform to actually produce it by basically having future customers paying in advance. This could change the usual way of product development fundamentally. If you don’t need a bigger company to create the funds to produce a product, than this creates a new category of products that haven’t been available before.

If you want to dig deeper into collaborative consumption, Rachel Botsman’s book is the go-to-source.

Moby, not at all destroyed

While we are not in the music business and this is certainly not the place to get tips on the latest scoop on new releases, I couldn’t resist on pointing towards Moby’s newest.

Yes, we are certainly not objective when it comes to Soundcloud – many of our friends are employed by this up and coming startup -, but there is no doubt that they are gaining some well deserved attention. It feels almost as no day passes by anymore without a big new releases that is being powered by Soundcloud. Moby’s release is no exception.

While we are not in the music business and this is certainly not the place to get tips on the latest scoop on new releases, I couldn’t resist on pointing towards Moby’s newest.

Yes, we are certainly not objective when it comes to Soundcloud – many of our friends are employed by this up and coming startup -, but there is no doubt that they are gaining some well deserved attention. It feels almost as no day passes by anymore without a big new releases that is being powered by Soundcloud. Moby’s release is no exception. But in this case, it merges Soundclouds music quality with Instagram‘s passion for visual exploration.

Take a look at this album release page: http://destroyed.moby.com/

i don’t sleep very well when i travel. and as a result, i tend to be awake in cities when everyone else is asleep. that’s where this album, and the pictures that accompany it come from. it was primarily written late at night in cities when i felt like i was the only person awake (or alive), a soundtrack for empty cities at 2 a.m, at least that’s how i hear it. the pictures were taken on tour while i was writing the album. i wanted to show a different side of touring and traveling. a side that is often mundane, disconcerting, and occasionally beautiful – moby

The music is being powered by Soundcloud’s API, the photos are being aggregated from Instagram. Some are from Moby himself, but every Instagram user can add new ones by using #destroyed as the hashtag. Moby managed not only to release a new album, but create a completely different experience around his music by using the best and latest technology. Music, visual impressions and storytelling.

I’m very impressed.

10 Questions For Futurist Ray Kurzweil

We’re all about the unevenly distributed future that is already here. So much amazing stuff happening all around us. But sometimes, we like to have our minds challenged by someone who has a crisp vision of where we’re headed. Someone like Ray Kurzweil, an author, inventor and futurist who has an amazing track-record of predicting stuff (check his Wikipedia page). We don’t buy it all, but we definitely enjoy the mind stretching.

via OpenCulture and @brainpicker

Gamification and Its Discontents

The most hyped term at SXSW this year was without a doubt ‘gamification’. And not only at Austin, we hear it everywhere. Points and badges seem to be the solution of the moment to get even the most boring web service going.

The most hyped term at SXSW this year was without a doubt ‘gamification’. And not only at Austin, we hear it everywhere. Points and badges seem to be the solution of the moment to get even the most boring web service going. Give people something to collect and a ranking and they can’t help put engage with your platform. We cringe a bit, every time we hear the term uttered carelessly because creating a really engaging (game-like) experience is utterly complex (What do you think how long it took Rovio to come up with Angry Birds?). Thankfully, there are much smarter people than us with more experience on the topic, just like Sebastian Deterding. Check his presentation from Playful 2010 above before you use the word gamification again.

via Fast Company’s Co.Design