robertogreco + blackmirror   10

Gradients are everywhere from Facebook to the New York Times - Vox
"Here’s why The Daily, Coachella, and Facebook all use backgrounds that look like a sunset."



"What it is: A digital or print effect where one color fades into another. Typically rendered in soft or pastel tones.

Where it is: Gradients are seemingly everywhere in media and marketing. They are part of a suite of Facebook status backdrops introduced in 2017 and the branding for the New York Times’ popular podcast The Daily, which displays a yellow to blue gradient.

Gradients have taken over Coachella’s app and website (if you watch carefully, the colors shift). Ally’s billboard in A Star Is Born is a full-on gradient, and so was the branding for the Oscars ceremony that recognized Lady Gaga.

On Instagram, they provide a product backdrop for popular Korean beauty brand Glow, and have been embraced by indie magazines Gossamer and Anxy — both designed by Berkeley studio Anagraph.

On the luxury front, Brooklyn wallpaper company Calico has released an entire collection of gradient wallpapers called Aurora. Meanwhile, Spanish fashion house Loewe has introduced a version of their trendy Elephant bag in a spectrum of pink to yellow.

Are gradients drinkable? Heck yes, they are. Seltzer startup Recess has gone all-in on gradients in their branding.

Why you’re seeing it everywhere: Gradients are the confluence of three different trends: Light and Space art, vaporwave, and bisexual lighting.

In the art and design world, Light and Space — developed in the 1960s and ’70s — has been experiencing a revival thanks to its Instagramability. Light and Space pioneer James Turrell has been embraced by celebrities like Beyoncé, Drake, and Kanye West. Drake’s Hotline Bling video was inspired by Turrell’s light-infused rooms called Ganzfelds. The Kardashian-Jenner-West crew posted an Instagram in front of one of Turrell’s works in Los Angeles. (I was yelled at by security for taking a picture there but it’s fine.)

[image]

Most recently, West donated $10 million dollars to the artist.

James Turrell’s works come with a warning because the visitor quickly loses all depth perception. Soft gradients are alluring because they cut through the noise of social media, but they also are disorienting. The Twitter bot soft landscapes operates on a similar principle, but some days the landscape all but disappears.

“It’s nice to see calming things amongst all of the social ramifications of Instagram,” says Rion Harmon of Day Job, the design firm of record for Recess. Harmon compares the Recess branding to a sunset so beautiful you can’t help but stare (or take a picture) however busy you are. Changes to the sky are even more pronounced in Los Angeles, where Harmon’s studio is now based. “The quality of light in LA is something miraculous,” he says. The Light and Space movement was also started in Southern California, and it’s in the DNA of Coachella.

Gradients might be a manifestation of longing for sunshine and surf. But they also belong to the placeless digital citizen. 1980s and ’90s kids may remember messing around in Microsoft Paint and Powerpoint as a child, filling in shapes with these same gradients. It’s no surprise that this design effect is part of the technological nostalgia that fuels the vaporwave movement.

Vaporwave is a musical and aesthetic movement (started in the early 2010s) that spliced ambient music, advertising, and imagery from when the internet started. Gradient artwork shared by the clothing brand Public Space is vaporwave. So is this meme posted by direct-to-consumer health startup Hers.

[image]

When Facebook rolled out gradient status backgrounds in 2017, they knew what they were doing. “They have so much data into how the world works,” says Kerry Flynn, platforms reporter at Digiday. “They had a slow rollout to the color gradients … Obviously they could have pulled the plug anytime.”

Flynn goes on to explain that Facebook realized they had become their own worst enemy. There was so much information on their platform that personal sharing was down and they had to make it novel again. “Facebook wants our personal data, as much as possible. Hence, colorful backgrounds that encourage me to post information about myself and for my friends to ‘Like’ it and comment,” she says.

It’s ironic that in order to do so, Facebook borrowed from a digital texture most millennials associate with a time before Facebook. But it also mimics a current trend in film and television: bisexual lighting.

As Know Your Meme explains, “bisexual lighting is a slang in the queer community for neon lighting with high emphasis on pinks, purples, and blues in film.” These pinks, purples and blues often fade into one another — appearing like a gradient when rendered in two dimensions. Bisexual lighting shows up in the futuristic genre cyberpunk, which imagines an era in which high technology and low technology combine and cities are neon-bathed, landmarkless Gothams. (Overlapping with vaporwave.) Mainstream examples of cyberpunk include Blade Runner, Ghost in the Shell, and Black Mirror (specifically the “San Junipero” episode). Hotline Bling makes the list of examples for bisexual lighting; the gradients come full circle.

Tati Pastukhova, co-founder of interactive art space ARTECHOUSE, says gradients have become more popular as computer display quality increases. She says the appeal of gradients is “the illusion of dimension, and giving 2-D designs 3-D appeal.” ARTECHOUSE is full of light-based digital installations, but visitors naturally gravitate toward what is most photogenic — including, unexpectedly, the soft lighting the space installed along their staircase for safety reasons.

[image]

Before gradients, neon lettering was the Instagram lighting aesthetic du jour. Gradients are wordless — like saying Live Laugh Love with just colors. “There’s an inherent progression in gradients, you are being taken through something. Like that progression of Live Laugh Love. Of starting at one point and ending at another point. Evoking that visually is something people are very drawn to,” says Taylor Lorenz, a staff writer at the Atlantic who covers internet culture.

Gradients are also boundaryless. In 2016, artist Wolfgang Tillmans used gradients in his anti-Brexit poster campaign. Through gradients, designers have found the perfect metaphor for subjectivity in an era when even the word “fact” is up for debate. “Gradients are a visual manifestation of all of these different spectrums that we live on,” including those of politics, gender, and sexuality, says Lorenz. “Before, I think we lived in a binary world. [Gradients are] a very modern representation of the world.”

At the very least, gradients offer an opportunity to self-soothe.

Calico co-founder Nick Cope says the Aurora collection is often used in meditation rooms. He and his wife have installed it across from their bed at home. “The design was created to immerse viewers in waves and washes of tranquil atmospheric color,” Cope says, adding, “Regardless of the weather, we wake up to a sunrise every morning.”"

[See also:
"Is 'bisexual lighting' a new cinematic phenomenon?"
https://www.bbc.com/news/entertainment-arts-43765856 ]
color  gradients  design  socialmedia  jamesturrell  2019  light  space  perception  neon  desig  graphicdesign  ux  ui  wolfgangtillmans  nickcope  meditation  colors  tatipastukhova  artechouse  computing  bisexuallighting  lighting  queer  knowyourmeme  pink  purple  blue  cyberpunk  future  technology  hightechnology  lowtechnology  vaporwave  bladerunner  ghostintheshell  blackmirror  sanjunipero  hotlinebling  kerryflynn  facebook  microsoftpaint  rionharmon  sunsets  california  socal  losangeles  coachella  depthperception  ganzfelds  drake  kanyewest  beyoncé  anagraph  ladygaga  daisyalioto 
march 2019 by robertogreco
🅃🄸🄼 on Twitter: "1/ I grew up in the service industry. Great products and great service are the same."
1/ I grew up in the service industry. Great products and great service are the same.

2/ Know your audience: there’s a difference between a Michelin Star restaurant and greasy spoon. You would rightfully be annoyed if someone came and folded your napkin between slices of pizza. You build a restaurant for your customers, not for yourself.

3/ You learn how to listen to customers. If you ask “How is everything?” no one ever says things were terrible—and if they do they are probably taking out something else in their lives on you. *How* they said “everything is fine” is what matters.

4/ If a restaurant has perfect food, perfect service, perfect decor—it becomes perfectly forgettable. People expect to pay for an experience not just with their wallets but with their own effort. The lines, the waits make everything worth it. Effortless=forgettable.

5/ Don’t talk shop in front of house. Customers don’t care that a server missed their shift or that the cook is in a bad mood today. Customers literally don’t want to know how the sausage is made—they just want to eat it.

6/ Finally, churn matters. There’s only so many people who will try you once, let alone come back. If no one comes back, you’re done.

[See also: "The Internet Needs More Friction: Tech companies’ obsession with moving data across the internet as fast as possible has made it less safe."
https://motherboard.vice.com/en_us/article/3k9q33/the-internet-needs-more-friction ]

[See also:
https://twitter.com/hypervisible/status/1073649771905204224

Stifling your cough so "smart" devices don't report that you are sickly and thus unemployable is now part of the nightmarish (near) future. https://cacm.acm.org/news/233329-smarter-voice-assistants-recognize-your-favorite-brandsand-health/fulltext

[image with starred part highlighted: "Yet the new sound detection capabilities also offer the potential for controversy, as the speakers now collect low-level health data. Snoring and yawning a lot, for instance, could be signs of obstructive sleep apnea, so leaked data might impact somebody's health insurance, or even car insurance rates. **A lot of coughing and sneezing might impact employability, too, if somebody seems too sickly too often.**"]

"[Smart speaker] users express few privacy concerns, but their rationalizations indicate an incomplete understanding of privacy risks, a complicated trust relationship with speaker companies, and a reliance on the socio-technical context in which smart speakers reside."

Here's the link to that study on smart speakers if you want it: https://dl.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=3274371

TFW you realize that Black Mirror is actually too optimistic.

[image with starred part highlighted: "Mitchell says **Audio Analytic is pursuing a number of avenues for its technology, such as designing drink cans so that when opened, they make different, distinctive kinds of sounds that precisely identify the drink "and so rive some kind of interaction."** However, the drink does not have to be identified; simply knowing you're drinking from a can could be valuable, says Mitchell, and might spark a verbal request from the smart speaker to recycle the can when you're finished."]

Tech bros' obsession w/ eliminating "friction" is really just trying to eliminate the messiness of dealing with humans w/ the messiness of interacting with machines, which they can better monetize. Opening a can will initiate an interaction? FFS. 🤦🏿‍♂️"]
friction  technology  surveillance  timfrietas  effort  memory  experience  2018  educationmetaphors  education  seamlessness  effortlessness  forgettability  blackmirror  chrisgilliard  insurance  service  restaurants  smartdevices  internetofthings  internetofshit  health  healthinsurance  employment  illness  audioanalytic  privacy 
december 2018 by robertogreco
how to do nothing – Jenny Odell – Medium
[video: https://vimeo.com/232544904 ]

"What I would do there is nothing. I’d just sit there. And although I felt a bit guilty about how incongruous it seemed — beautiful garden versus terrifying world — it really did feel necessary, like a survival tactic. I found this necessity of doing nothing so perfectly articulated in a passage from Gilles Deleuze in Negotiations:
…we’re riddled with pointless talk, insane quantities of words and images. Stupidity’s never blind or mute. So it’s not a problem of getting people to express themselves but of providing little gaps of solitude and silence in which they might eventually find something to say. Repressive forces don’t stop people expressing themselves but rather force them to express themselves; what a relief to have nothing to say, the right to say nothing, because only then is there a chance of framing the rare, and ever rarer, thing that might be worth saying. (emphasis mine)

He wrote that in 1985, but the sentiment is something I think we can all identify with right now, almost to a degree that’s painful. The function of nothing here, of saying nothing, is that it’s a precursor to something, to having something to say. “Nothing” is neither a luxury nor a waste of time, but rather a necessary part of meaningful thought and speech."



"In The Bureau of Suspended Objects, a project I did while in residence at Recology SF (otherwise known as the dump), I spent three months photographing, cataloguing and researching the origins of 200 objects. I presented them as browsable archive in which people could scan the objects’ tags and learn about the manufacturing, material, and corporate histories of the objects.

One woman at the Recology opening was very confused and said, “Wait… so did you actually make anything? Or did you just put things on shelves?” (Yes, I just put things on shelves.)"



"That’s an intellectual reason for making nothing, but I think that in my cases, it’s something simpler than that. Yes, the BYTE images speak in interesting and inadvertent ways about some of the more sinister aspects of technology, but I also just really love them.

This love of one’s subject is something I’m provisionally calling the observational eros. The observational eros is an emotional fascination with one’s subject that is so strong it overpowers the desire to make anything new. It’s pretty well summed up in the introduction of Steinbeck’s Cannery Row, where he describes the patience and care involved in close observation of one’s specimens:
When you collect marine animals there are certain flat worms so delicate that they are almost impossible to capture whole, for they break and tatter under the touch. You must let them ooze and crawl of their own will onto a knife blade and then lift them gently into your bottle of sea water. And perhaps that might be the way to write this book — to open the page and let the stories crawl in by themselves.

The subject of observation is so precious and fragile that it risks breaking under even the weight of observation. As an artist, I fear the breaking and tattering of my specimens under my touch, and so with everything I’ve ever “made,” without even thinking about it, I’ve tried to keep a very light touch.

It may not surprise you to know, then, that my favorite movies tend to be documentaries, and that one of my favorite public art pieces was done by the documentary filmmaker, Eleanor Coppola. In 1973, she carried out a public art project called Windows, which materially speaking consisted only of a map with a list of locations in San Francisco.

The map reads, “Eleanor Coppola has designated a number of windows in all parts of San Francisco as visual landmarks. Her purpose in this project is to bring to the attention of the whole community, art that exists in its own context, where it is found, without being altered or removed to a gallery situation.” I like to consider this piece in contrast with how we normally experience public art, which is some giant steel thing that looks like it landed in a corporate plaza from outer space.

Coppola instead casts a subtle frame over the whole of the city itself as a work of art, a light but meaningful touch that recognizes art that exists where it already is."



"What amazed me about birdwatching was the way it changed the granularity of my perception, which was pretty “low res” to begin with. At first, I just noticed birdsong more. Of course it had been there all along, but now that I was paying attention to it, I realized that it was almost everywhere, all day, all the time. In particular I can’t imagine how I went most of my life so far without noticing scrub jays, which are incredibly loud and sound like this:

[video]

And then, one by one, I started learning other songs and being able to associate each of them with a bird, so that now when I walk into the the rose garden, I inadvertently acknowledge them in my head as though they were people: hi raven, robin, song sparrow, chickadee, goldfinch, towhee, hawk, nuthatch, and so on. The diversification (in my attention) of what was previously “bird sounds” into discrete sounds that carry meaning is something I can only compare to the moment that I realized that my mom spoke three languages, not two.

My mom has only ever spoken English to me, and for a very long time, I assumed that whenever my mom was speaking to another Filipino person, that she was speaking Tagalog. I didn’t really have a good reason for thinking this other than that I knew she did speak Tagalog and it sort of all sounded like Tagalog to me. But my mom was actually only sometimes speaking Tagalog, and other times speaking Ilonggo, which is a completely different language that is specific to where she’s from in the Philippines.

The languages are not the same, i.e. one is not simply a dialect of the other; in fact, the Philippines is full of language groups that, according to my mom, have so little in common that speakers would not be able to understand each other, and Tagalog is only one.

This type of embarrassing discovery, in which something you thought was one thing is actually two things, and each of those two things is actually ten things, seems not only naturally cumulative but also a simple function of the duration and quality of one’s attention. With effort, we can become attuned to things, able to pick up and then hopefully differentiate finer and finer frequencies each time.

What these moments of stopping to listen have in common with those labyrinthine spaces is that they all initially enact some kind of removal from the sphere of familiarity. Even if brief or momentary, they are retreats, and like longer retreats, they affect the way we see everyday life when we do come back to it."



"Even the labyrinths I mentioned, by their very shape, collect our attention into these small circular spaces. When Rebecca Solnit, in her book Wanderlust, wrote about walking in the labyrinth inside the Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, she said, “The circuit was so absorbing I lost sight of the people nearby and hardly heard the sound of the traffic and the bells for six o’clock.”

In the case of Deep Listening, although in theory it can be practiced anywhere at any time, it’s telling that there have also been Deep Listening retreats. And Turrell’s Sky Pesher not only removes the context from around the sky, but removes you from your surroundings (and in some ways, from the context of your life — given its underground, tomblike quality)."



"My dad said that leaving the confined context of a job made him understand himself not in relation to that world, but just to the world, and forever after that, things that happened at work only seemed like one small part of something much larger. It reminds me of how John Muir described himself not as a naturalist but as a “poetico-trampo-geologist-botanist and ornithologist-naturalist etc. etc.”, or of how Pauline Oliveros described herself in 1974: “Pauline Oliveros is a two legged human being, female, lesbian, musician, and composer among other things which contribute to her identity. She is herself and lives with her partner, along with assorted poultry, dogs, cats, rabbits and tropical hermit crabs.” Incidentally, this has encouraged me to maybe change my bio to: “Jenny Odell is an artist, professor, thinker, walker, sleeper, eater, and amateur birdnoticer.”

3. the precarity of nothing

There’s an obvious critique of all of this, and that’s that it comes from a place of privilege. I can go to the rose garden, or stare into trees all day, because I have a teaching job that only requires me to be somewhere two days a week, not to mention a whole set of other privileges. Part of the reason my dad could take that time off was that on some level, he had enough reason to think he could get another job. It’s possible to understand the practice of doing nothing solely as a self-indulgent luxury, the equivalent of taking a mental health day if you’re lucky enough to work at a place that has those.

But here I come back to Deleuze’s “right to say nothing,” and although we can definitely say that this right is variously accessible or even inaccessible for some, I believe that it is indeed a right. For example, the push for an 8-hour workday in 1886 called for “8 hours of work, 8 hours of rest, and 8 hours of what we will.” I’m struck by the quality of things that associated with the category “What we Will”: rest, thought, flowers, sunshine.

These are bodily, human things, and this bodily-ness is something I will come back to. When Samuel Gompers, who led the labor group that organized this particular iteration of the 8-hour movement, was asked, “What does labor want?” he responded, “It wants the earth and the fullness thereof.” And to me it seems significant that it’s not 8 hours of, say, “leisure” or “… [more]
jennyodell  idleness  nothing  art  eyeo2017  photoshop  specimens  care  richardprince  gillesdeleuze  recology  internetarchive  sanfrancisco  eleanorcoppola  2017  1973  maps  mapping  scottpolach  jamesturrell  architecture  design  structure  labyrinths  oakland  juliamorgan  chapelofthechimes  paulineoliveros  ucsd  1970s  deeplisening  listening  birds  birdwatching  birding  noticing  classideas  observation  perception  time  gracecathedral  deeplistening  johncage  gordonhempton  silence  maintenance  conviviality  technology  bodies  landscape  ordinary  everyday  cyclicality  cycles  1969  mierleladermanukeles  sensitivity  senses  multispecies  canon  productivity  presence  connectivity  conversation  audrelorde  gabriellemoss  fomo  nomo  nosmo  davidabram  becominganimal  animals  nature  ravens  corvids  crows  bluejays  pets  human-animalrelations  human-animalelationships  herons  dissent  rowe  caliressler  jodythompson  francoberardi  fiverr  popos  publicspace  blackmirror  anthonyantonellis  facebook  socialmedia  email  wpa  history  bayarea  crowdcontrol  mikedavis  cityofquartz  er 
july 2017 by robertogreco
Ethan Zuckerman: Solving Other People's Problems With Technology - The Atlantic
"In other words, is it possible to get beyond both a naïve belief that the latest technology will solve social problems—and a reaction that rubbishes any attempt to offer novel technical solutions as inappropriate, insensitive, and misguided? Can we find a synthesis in which technologists look at their work critically and work closely with the people they’re trying to help in order to build sociotechnical systems that address hard problems?

Obviously, I think this is possible — if really, really hard — or I wouldn’t be teaching at an engineering school. But before considering how we overcome a naïve faith in technology, let’s examine Snow’s suggestion. It’s a textbook example of a solution that’s technically sophisticated, simple to understand, and dangerously wrong."



"The problem with the solutionist critique, though, is that it tends to remove technological innovation from the problem-solver’s toolkit. In fact, technological development is often a key component in solving complex social and political problems, and new technologies can sometimes open a previously intractable problem. The rise of inexpensive solar panels may be an opportunity to move nations away from a dependency on fossil fuels and begin lowering atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide, much as developments in natural gas extraction and transport technologies have lessened the use of dirtier fuels like coal.

But it’s rare that technology provides a robust solution to a social problem by itself. Successful technological approaches to solving social problems usually require changes in laws and norms, as well as market incentives to make change at scale."



"Of the many wise things my Yale students said during our workshop was a student who wondered if he should be participating at all. “I don’t know anything about prisons, I don’t have family in prison. I don’t know if I understand these problems well enough to solve them, and I don’t know if these problems are mine to solve.”

Talking about the workshop with my friend and colleague Chelsea Barabas, she asked the wonderfully deep question, “Is it ever okay to solve another person’s problem?”

On its surface, the question looks easy to answer. We can’t ask infants to solve problems of infant mortality, and by extension, it seems unwise to let kindergarten students design educational policy or demand that the severely disabled design their own assistive technologies.

But the argument is more complicated when you consider it more closely. It’s difficult if not impossible to design a great assistive technology without working closely, iteratively, and cooperatively with the person who will wear or use it. My colleague Hugh Herr designs cutting-edge prostheses for U.S. veterans who’ve lost legs, and the centerpiece of his lab is a treadmill where amputees test his limbs, giving him and his students feedback about what works, what doesn’t, and what needs to change. Without the active collaboration with the people he’s trying to help, he’s unable to make technological advances.

Disability rights activists have demanded “nothing about us without us,” a slogan that demands that policies should not be developed without the participation of those intended to benefit from those policies.

Design philosophies like participatory design and codesign bring this concept to the world of technology, demanding that technologies designed for a group of people be designed and built, in part, by those people. Codesign challenges many of the assumptions of engineering, requiring people who are used to working in isolation to build broad teams and to understand that those most qualified to offer a technical solution may be least qualified to identify a need or articulate a design problem. This method is hard and frustrating, but it’s also one of the best ways to ensure that you’re solving the right problem, rather than imposing your preferred solution on a situation."



"It is unlikely that anyone is going to invite Shane Snow to redesign a major prison any time soon, so spending more than 3,000 words urging you to reject his solution may be a waste of your time and mine. But the mistakes Snow makes are those that engineers make all the time when they turn their energy and creativity to solving pressing and persistent social problems. Looking closely at how Snow’s solutions fall short offers some hope for building better, fairer, and saner solutions.

The challenge, unfortunately, is not in offering a critique of how solutions go wrong. Excellent versions of that critique exist, from Morozov’s war on solutionism, to Courtney Martin’s brilliant “The Reductive Seduction of Other People’s Problems.” If it’s easy to design inappropriate solutions about problems you don’t fully understand, it’s not much harder to criticize the inadequacy of those solutions.

What’s hard is synthesis — learning to use technology as part of well-designed sociotechnical solutions. These solutions sometimes require profound advances in technology. But they virtually always require people to build complex, multifunctional teams that work with and learn from the people the technology is supposed to benefit.

Three students at the MIT Media Lab taught a course last semester called “Unpacking Impact: Reflecting as We Make.” They point out that the Media Lab prides itself on teaching students how to make anything, and how to turn what you make into a business, but rarely teaches reflection about what we make and what it might mean for society as a whole. My experience with teaching this reflective process to engineers is that it’s both important and potentially paralyzing, that once we understand the incompleteness of technology as a path for solving problems and the ways technological solutions relate to social, market, and legal forces, it can be hard to build anything at all.

I’m going to teach a new course this fall, tentatively titled “Technology and Social Change.” It’s going to include an examination of the four levers of social change Larry Lessig suggests in Code, and which I’ve been exploring as possible paths to civic engagement. The course will include deep methodological dives into codesign, and will examine using anthropology as tool for understanding user needs. It will look at unintended consequences, cases where technology’s best intentions fail, and cases where careful exploration and preparation led to technosocial systems that make users and communities more powerful than they were before.

I’m “calling my shot” here for two reasons. One, by announcing it publicly, I’m less likely to back out of it, and given how hard these problems are, backing out is a real possibility. And two, if you’ve read this far in this post, you’ve likely thought about this issue and have suggestions for what we should read and what exercises we should try in the course of the class — I hope you might be kind enough to share those with me.

In the end, I’m grateful for Shane Snow’s surreal, Black Mirror vision of the future prison both because it’s a helpful jumping-off point for understanding how hard it is to make change well by using technology, and because the U.S. prison system is a broken and dysfunctional system in need of change. But we need to find ways to disrupt better, to challenge knowledgeably, to bring the people they hope to benefit into the process. If you can, please help me figure out how we teach these ideas to the smart, creative people I work with—people who want to change the world, and are afraid of breaking it in the process."
technology  technosolutionism  solutionism  designimperialism  humanitariandesign  problemsolving  2016  ethanzuckerman  design  blackmirror  shanesnow  prisons  socialchange  lawrencelessig  anthropology  medialab  courtneymartin  nutraloaf  soylent  codesign  evgenymorozov  olcp  wikipedia  bias  racism  empathy  suziecagle  mitmedialab  mit  systems  systemsthinking  oculusrift  secondlife  vr  virtualreality  solitaryconfinement  incarceration  change  changemaking  ethnography  chelseabarabas  participatory  participatorydesign 
july 2016 by robertogreco
When It Comes to Tech Dystopia, Portlandia Is Better Than Black Mirror
"UK series Black Mirror is being lauded as the first show that really tells the truth about our dystopian tech destiny. But the best critique of technology in today's culture is not this science fiction import. For the most scathing commentary on the high-tech world we've designed for ourselves, you have to watch Portlandia.

The series' fifth season finished airing last week on IFC (full episodes are on YouTube), and I went down a P-hole, rewatching every episode all the way back to 2011. I expected to find some greater takeaway about artisanal culture or the evolution of urbanism. Or, like, raw food restaurant trends.

I was stunned when I realized that the series' greatest strength comes from its disturbingly on-point takedowns of technology, each delivered like a crisp smack of an iPad to the back of our Instagram-addled heads. So many anti-technology diatribes miss the mark because their authors are clearly late-adopting haters. But it's obvious that Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein are tech fans at heart.

It's easy to lose sight of the show's intelligent vision when 85 percent of the chatter about it revolves around the chirpy chorus "Put a bird on it." And yes, this not-so-alternate universe inhabited by bike messengers and coffee baristas focuses heavily on the handcrafted rejection of contemporary mainstream culture. Except that's also why the tech-focused sketches are so skewering: Even though the characters pride themselves on their pickling prowess and sustainable jewelry-making, they still can't bear to delete their Facebook accounts.

[video]

In fact, it's one particularly good sketch about leaving Facebook which launched my theory that Portlandia tackles these issues better than anyone else. In order to remove herself from the internet, Carrie goes to what looks like a bank branch to declare social media bankruptcy. When she goes to see Fred at a bar, he doesn't recognize her without an avatar to validate her existence. At the end, she is placed in a room with the handful of other people without online presences. It's hilarious, but it also confronts our deepest fears about being forgotten when we don't file a status update.

Each tech sketch serves as a kind of worst-case scenario for all the products and services that touch our lives. The owners of a feminist bookstore attempt to confront a negative Yelp reviewer in real life. A sharing economy startup implodes spectacularly. Patton Oswalt plays a man who becomes famous for his witty Evite responses. The city buys a 3D printer, as if this might be the answer to all civic problems—"Portland is finally a world-class city!"

[video]

But it's really the characters' relationships with television that highlight our most bizarre and hypocritical behavior with technology. "I don't have a TV" is the smug refrain uttered by more than one character, but binge-watching shows is a running theme. In season 2, characters played by Armisen and Brownstein alienate friends and lose jobs while watching all the episodes of Battlestar Galactica. Their lives fall apart in the quest for one more episode. Yet, you know, we don't watch TV.

Another sketch, "Spoiler Alert" is maybe one of the smartest pieces of TV-related satire in history, as four characters at a dinner party talk about how much they hate spoilers — and manage to reveal all the spoilers in the most talked-about shows.

[video]

Looking back at some of the older episodes, it's almost depressing how much Portlandia's plots have mirrored real life. In an attempt to avoid the questionable labor practices of foreign-made fashion, two characters hire local seamstresses to make their clothes by hand in their home, and in turn, end up transforming their own basement into a sweatshop. It's disarmingly poignant for a sketch comedy show—I found myself thinking for days about claims that Etsy sellers are essentially doing the same thing.

Like the way The Daily Show claims to cover fake news but really provides a maddeningly accurate evisceration of journalistic practices, Portlandia is purportedly about hipsters (I got almost all the way through the story without using that word) but it's really shining a light on the perplexing dilemmas that we all face when we choose to buy into the latest hype. Who hasn't had some version of this dramatic flashback montage like Carrie does when she drops her iPhone? It's all way too close to home.

[video]

And besides, isn't sketch comedy the most palatable way to examine the stranglehold these concepts have on our lives? You could watch a show like Black Mirror to fret about the way technology will ruin civilization in the future, or you could watch Portlandia to think about the way it's ruining us today—and laugh your ass off while you're at it."
alissawalker  portlandia  blackmirror  technology  dystopia  2015  humor  facebook  religion  media  attention  smartphones  socialmedia  3dprinting  portland  oregon 
march 2015 by robertogreco
A “Twilight Zone” for the Digital Age
"But, in even the most perverse installments, there’s a delicacy, a humane concern at how easily our private desires can be mined in the pursuit of profit. The worlds can be cartoonish, but the characters are not."



"The story is ugly and hilarious and beautifully paced, but, like all of “Black Mirror,” it works because it’s not cynical about emotion. The Prime Minister’s abject terror is the story’s engine, along with the impact on his wife, who obsessively reads the YouTube comments. “Everyone is laughing at us,” she tells him. “It’s already happening in their heads.” Cunningly, the camera returns, repeatedly, to shots of viewers watching the news: a couple in bed, interns in a hospital, employees at a pub. They grimace and make smutty cracks; they talk pretentiously about Dogme 95. They’re sad and angry, but of course they’re also titillated—who wouldn’t be? None of this is purely realistic, but it pinpoints something repellent about our appetites, the way that even the photographs from Abu Ghraib became, within weeks, a dirty joke. In the final scenes, Brooker makes an uncompromising move: rather than play coy about the outcome, he forces us to be the audience. In an excruciating sequence, we watch the Prime Minister enter a room with a pig, lower his pants, and begin the act, and then we watch as Britain watches, the camera lingering on a diversity of faces, their varied expressions crumpling into united despair. Subtlety would have been the wrong approach for this type of story. In an era of ironized jabs, there’s something refreshing about a creator who’s willing to underline his point in furious black marker."
blackmirror  emilynussbaum  2015  monetization  capitalism  profit  storytelling  humanism  humanity  society 
january 2015 by robertogreco
The Novel and the Future of the Near Future | Hazlitt Magazine | Hazlitt
"Writers hoping to transport readers only a short distance into the future are in danger of being outfutured by reality itself. So-called “design fiction” may present creators with a more viable alternative."



"Of course, in the world of fiction a “minimum viable future” is more commonly referred to as a “shitty first draft.” It’s no surprise that Bruce Sterling is a fan of design fiction, and I can easily picture digitally-savvy Margaret Atwood hunched over a 3D printer. But an iterative approach to the future is often at odds with the slow, deliberate process of creating and populating a fictional universe. And given the clumsiness of the physical world, it’s easy to understand why writers would prefer to craft perfect sentences instead of generate imperfect vending machine novelties.

Still, if you want to see what happens when design fiction gets a bigger budget and a mass audience, check out the uncanny and discomforting BBC show Black Mirror. Featuring glimpses of our terrible (and terribly plausible) near future(s), it’s not a show that lends itself to binge watching, even with only two seasons, at three episodes per.

That’s because each episode of Black Mirror hits the reset button, taking place in a unique future universe with a fresh set of actors. Creator Charlie Brooker likes to start with a provocative but recognizable piece of design fiction and then guides the viewer toward a trapdoor labeled unintended consequences. In the episode “The Entire History of You” we watch a jealous husband unable to stop himself from discovering a secret he might be better off not knowing. It’s an effective critique of where lifelogging and Facebook might take us, in part because Brooker is able to make such a vivid emotional argument. Meanwhile, in “Be Right Back,” the dead are able to speak with the living thanks to an artificial intelligence service that scrapes the emails, tweets and Facebook posts of the deceased.

Instead of the overbearing technological determinism common to many speculative novels, Black Mirror tends to favour “slight futures”—the term Wired recently used to describe the film Her. As in, “technology hasn’t disappeared … it’s dissolved into everyday life.”

I acknowledge there’s a danger that design fiction could become another buzzword ruined by overzealous ad agencies. And by its very format, design fiction subconsciously reinforces the object fetish of the Kickstarter generation. It’s hard to attack the pernicious logic of planned obsolescence when your critique is delivered in the form of yet another gadget.

But I would insist that any novelist contemplating the near future invest in some foamcore and Post-it Notes. Because I refuse to wait another half-decade for the definitive novel about the Oculus Rift."
ryanbigge  designfiction  speculativefiction  speculativedesign  blackmirror  2014  brucesterling  charliebrooker 
september 2014 by robertogreco
Delineating the Future – an interview with N O R M A L S / @lab_normals
"In recent years, the speculative design arms race has accelerated to a dizzying blur. In taking stock of the provocative fictions like those exhibited by Dunne & Raby, augmented by Keiichi Matsuda, or broadcast on Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror, one can’t help but wonder: how do weird hyper-mediated futures translate into print? I’m happy to report that N O R M A L S new eponymous graphic novel series picks up where the 2011 Warren Ellis, Matt “D’Israeli” Brooker, and BERG comic SVK left off and really answers that question with gusto. For the past few months, I’ve been flipping through creative duo Cedric Flazinksi and Aurélien Michon’s three 80-page self-described ‘design research journals’ and I’ve been simultaneously awed by the gritty clarity of the near-future scenarios they delineate, and floored by the interlocking networks of ideas that are at play. This work is a strange combination of vital, sardonic, disturbing, and brilliant, and has some meaningful contributions to offer to conversations about representation and prototyping in design fiction-related practices. In celebration of the forthcoming release of a limited-edition 500 copy run box set of the first three books in the series (which just became available for pre-order), Cedric and Aurélien have participated in a super-detailed interview about the graphic novels and their broader practice. We’re really excited to have N O R M A L S contributing to the first issue of HOLO and I strongly advise that you don’t sleep on this publication."
futurism  speculativefiction  designfiction  future  futures  comics  blackmirror  normals  gregsmith  cedricflazinski  aurélienmichon  glvo  interviews 
december 2013 by robertogreco
Another look in the Black Mirror : News 2012 : Chortle : The UK Comedy Guide
"He said:’British drama seems particularly obsessed with murder and the past, often together. Black Mirror is a rare modern look at where society and individuals could be headed, given the all-pervasive deluge of social media and technology.’

The first series prompted 322 complaints over a story in which a Prime Minister was blackmailed into having sex with a pig live on TV.
Brooker said: ‘Half of the things in the first run of Black Mirror seem to be on the verge of coming true. They've got prisoners in Brazilian prisons pedalling on exercise bikes to reduce their sentences (not entirely dissimilar to the episode 15 Million Merits) and Google Glass looks like copyright infringement as far as The Entire History of You is concerned.

‘Thankfully no-one carried out a hideous form of blackmail involving a pig. Anyway, if the stories from the second run start coming true then we're REALLY in trouble.’"

[via: http://kottke.org/12/07/a-second-season-of-black-mirror ]
television  tv  scifi  sciencefiction  2012  charliebrooker  blackmirror  from delicious
july 2012 by robertogreco

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