Fresh from Amsterdam a few thoughts from the innovative Picnic'07 to kick off your weekend on the creative side. Bruno Giussani at Lunch Over IP has been reporting on many of the key sessions this week.
I will list some of the core thoughts and key speakers. Then we'll come back and vote for their ideas.
Dr. Emile Aarts from Philips Research Labs -- the company is moving away from obsession with technology to an emphasis on experience. Lab meets life and "creativity meets innovation". For example -- Philips has created products to make children who need hospital care and procedures comfortable. Children choose themes for wall projections powered by Philips products in their rooms. They can play with child-sized Philips medical scanner replicas and they can press buttons to initiate their procedures. Philips' goal is to create an experience which makes children relaxed and cooperative with hospital staff.
Blaise Aguera y Arcas, from the Microsoft Live Labs is the architect of Seadragon, an engine that allows you to visualize, manage and zoom into a large body of photographs into a 3D space. This application is called Photosynth (demo here). Some exciting applications include: 1) Photo Tourism -- people from all over can share photos to create tourist attractions; 2) print ads-- Web site readers canto zoom from Web pages into ads and photos to see detailed specs of products; 3) the next generation of zoomable interfaces such as very detailed maps which don’t lose details at close range; and 4) commercial environments in which physical spaces such as stores are used to generate similar Web environments. To Blaise, Photosynth “brings the concept of geo-spatial life to the Web”.
Jonathan Harris, a self defined artist and storyteller, is dubbed the next generation storyteller on infinite ways of slicing and dicing experiences. He presented WeFeelFine, a project he's been running for a year and consists of scanning blogs for materials like text and images that indicate feelings and forges it into mini stories. Since the inception, the volume of material tallied to 9 million, about 20,000 per day. It's a software that tracks our online footprints. Another project is Universe -- from the individual scanning to the global stories that are affecting our lives, this could be the presentation of the next news page that is based on relations. Who is at the center of your universe? The Whale Hunt is a sophisticated picture album he is building of an Alaskan whaling expedition to experiment with new interfaces of human storytelling making use of tags -- which metastories and substories will emerge?
Jiri Engestrom, Jaiku, talked about social objects and the social graph during the panel on social networking. "We are forgetting that people are connected to each other by objects". Jobs, hobbies, etc. are social objects, as are shared links (de.licio.us), photos (Flickr), videos (YouTube) etc. "So if we think of social networks, we should start from this question: what is our social object?" "We went from browsing (Yahoo) to search (Google) to sharing
(Facebook). If PageRank (the Google software that looks at who links to
what) was the most valuable software code in the era of search, will "Facerank" emerge which will look at social proximity, physical proximity, or shared objects to determine relevance?" he asks. From search to social proximity.
The part that really intrigued me was the debate featuring David Weinberger, author of Everything is Miscellaneaous, and Andrew Keen, author of The Cult of the Amateur and the question of authority in a miscellaneous world. From Giussani's post according to Weinberger:
First principle of change is: leaf on many branches. If you sell a digital camera, you put it in one shelf, you can't put the same camera in multiple stores.
Second: messiness has a virtue. If you post something online and there are so many links to it that you can't even follow them, your post is a huge success, because each of those messy links adds value. Messiness is good online, you can sort through using a computer.
Third: no difference between data and metadata. In the real world we understand the difference between them, we don't confuse the label and the thing. Online it gets messier. Online, if you search Herman Melville, you will get the content of his books or a picture of the author -- there is no difference between data and metadata.
Fourth: unowned order. If you go into a clothing store, the rational thing to do would be to create a pile with all things your size, because all the rest to you is just noise, useless. But if you do that the store owner will throw you out, because he owns the organization of the store. Online, it's exactly the opposite: there, the user of the info controls the organization. The site may offer a classic "tree" (menu) but systems of faceted organization allow you to select "only items under 200 USD" or "only this specific brand" etc. The user decides what the order is. The other way to take control of the organization is through tagging (he shows the de.licio.us link-sharing site).
Do bloggers make things more complex? I would challenge that.
Weinberger, says Keen, brings together two worlds: philosophy and marketing. "What you heard today was a philosopher selling the web to you, in a sexy, seductive way".
There is one issue in which fundamentally they disagree: complexity. Weinberger says we want more complexity, more complexity is interesting.
"I believe he is making a categorical error. He's mixing up media with the world. Let's assume he's right, human beings are indeed complex. However, what David wants is for media (Wikipedia, etc) to reflect the world.
Media should not reflect the world. For me media need to educate, inform and entertain. It doesn't have to reflect the world. The most successful media is not complex. Doesn't need to be utterly simple, am not arguing in favor of dumbing down. But the job of media is to simplify the world, so that we can understand what is happening in the world".
I've sided with media before, along with Giussani. In my mind this is a conversation on complementaries and not adversaries.
Leave to an anthropologist to say that written communication is here to stay. Stefana Broadbent's observations on people's behaviors indicate that our ability to multitask is based on the fact that "everything is moving into the background." Because we keep adding to our number of tasks, private life is blending into work life and we're always on, but partially. Give us choices and we are forced to break the routine, the background, and focus our attention on one specific thing -- maybe something unusual or new. I check my email every day at the same time early in the morning, after my invigorating run. For example, how many of you read the same blogs or same type of blogs? That is the routine that allows you to integrate a few new things into your media life -- the known fades into your background.
This is quite a bit to digest. Which of these ideas will stick? [multiple choice]