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a Studiolab production.
the wind I am enjoying
Posted in March 2009
it can be summarized as the following statement: everybody wants to make music: I will give them the means to. This fallacy leads to a host of unfortunate, if occasionally amusing, design projects featuring benches, walls, stools, buttons and buttonoids, bus stops, bicycles and teddy bears that emit sounds when people variously interact with them.
Hip Hop fallacy projects tend to be illustrated by videos with happy youngsters dancing, if at all possible wearing very broad pants or very tight pants or no pants at all, depending on the current fashion. The videos last three minutes, which is also about the duration of time such a design stays interesting. No regard is ever paid to the fate of the bystanders: you know, the other people that are waiting for the bus, or want to use the park… and maybe do not like your music. Or sounds.
As you listen to the above classic piece, please consider the following four commonly available facts (no users have been harmed in the process of making them available: I just opened my eyes):
(1) right now, everybody in the Western world has the means to make music or can obtain them for a sum in the ten Euro range. There are online musical instruments, every computer is powerful enough to make music, you can buy supercheap Chinese-made keyboards and guitars. If you are into percussions, there is even a fine tradition of making your own instruments. It is not a problem of availability. It hasn’t been for quite a while – if you have the time, look into the origins of American black music.
(2) Despite this fantastic availability of means, most music we listen to is made by -let’s face it- professional musicians. Much as I would love it to go out of the IO Building in TUDelft, and just stumble upon improvised orchestras, ad-hoc marching bands and even occasional choirs, this just does not happen. Most people do not want to make music. Or maybe they want, but in the same vague sense in which I want to visit Bejing sooner or later, but I have not made any actual plan to do so. This situation was different in the Buddenbrook-era past, when live music was the only music, and every offspring of a good bourgeois family was simply required to be able to play and if possible sing.
(3) third, making music is difficult, as anybody can easily find out when sitting down for the first time at a piano keyboard. You press a key and a sound comes out: you press many keys, together and in sequence, and crap comes out. Don’t even think about instruments like bagpipes, violins or trumpets, where to even make a sound come out you need significant training. But I know what you are thinking right now: I will use samples!And the results will suck just as bad. Even assembling samples, as any competent rapper or contemporary musician will tell you, requires skills. Just try. As an example, look at these people:
highly trained musicians, very difficult montage. Genius director, who is also a bastard because he makes it look so good and so damn easy.
(4) Fourth commonly available fact, easily discoverable through summary You Tube exploration: most amateur musicians or makers-of-music suck. They have a tiny repertoire, and their technique is not so good. Which is not bad in itself: it becomes a problem only when you give these amateurs the possibility (technical and social) to inflict their not-so-good playing on the innocent.
At the same time, there is a large population (all the people who bought Guitar Hero) that likes to pretend they are making music, just like other like to pretend that they are space marines. But one should not confuse the desire to pretend with the desire to be.
Recover from this revelation by watching Rapper’s Delight.
The ever resourceful Jasper pointed me to this interesting video with a stereotypical Italian designer talking, in a very hands-off way, about his happiness about new materials and technology, and how these things improve his life as a designer of…
…land mines, of course. It is propaganda of couse, and the video’s moral message is pretty much in your face, and it is also a tad irritating. OK, Italy makes land mines, but so do the US, Russia, China… additionally, there are some pretty clear and totally defensible applications for land mines, particularly for anti tank mines, and certainly for minefields that have been appropriately installed by a military force.
Which means, if you are not familiar with landmines, that the minefield is clearly maked and the location of every land mine is recorded in a map. Or, if the mines are air scattered or artillery scattered, that the mine defuses itself after a period of time.
Another thing that strikes my curiosity is that they called the designer "Alessandro Manzini", which -you will agree- is suspiciously similar to the name of Ezio Manzini, a very famous Italian sustainibility guru. I wonder how good old Ezio feels about this.
If you made it this far, the conosolation prize is a video featuring probably the best prototype in the universe: a sheep-LED display by Samsung. How much of it is faked? Who cares! It is just too cool.
a common disease of interactive projects, particularly of the interactive environments and service design class. Consists of assuming that every surface can, magically, display images and be sensitive to user behavior. Named after Spaceballs, an 1987 Mel Brooks science fiction comedy movie that spoofs Star Wars.
Here an apparently neutral and featureless wall panel
turns out to be a gigantic television screen, complete with an invisible camera for videocalls! Amazing! Imagine what kind of interfaces you could do with that.
If you haven’t watched the movie, go here, at time 5:10 – this also happens later in the movie with other innocent looking panels in totally inappropriate locations. Also features, albeit in a serious manner, in the opening scenes of Total Recall (1990).
and if you want to claim that my culture consists strictly of SciFi movies from the last millenium, why you are welcome!
first in a series of interaction design fallacies.
Disasters! We had the perfect plan: every group would, before 3PM, load their presentations on a lab Macintosh. Then we would transfer the presentations on a portable Mac and a portable PC, so that they could be played back in class on the students’ system of choice. Perfectly on time at 1545 in TBM.
Unfortunately, one group showed up with the cursed USB stick of doom, that crashed the Mac and generally made everything deathly slow. Add to that the other group that had managed to produce a presentation that would run only on their own Macintosh. And of course the group that had wrapped their slideshow+music in a Flash application that probably tries to compute π as it plays back: and the QuickTime movie that would play back at the correct speed but only if it was not on fullscreen. And of course the surprising WMV file produced with a codec that VLC does not know anything about…Of course, all this could have been prevented with a dry run or at least some more preparation work on the part of the course coordinators.
Despite all the mini-disasters (from which we learn) we saw some very interesting presentations. We feel very optimistic about the future evlolutions of the concepts.
- we need to improve our presentation-craft
- students need to improve their delivery techniques
- slides full of tiny text make blood come out of my ears
- people that say "and well that is our idea" say something redundant. When they say it in a way that implies that the idea is nothing special, I tend to agree with them.
- transitions and fades mean something: they should not be used randomly
- 100% green Arial text is just BAD. If it flies in and the flies out it is superBAD.
- 5 minutes are enough to present 3 concepts, if you use them properly
- 5 minutes are barely enough to rehash the brief and present one half concept, if you use them in the wrong way
If we do another plenary presentation (this one was tricky, 20 groups with 5 minutes each does not leave room for any uncertainty in stage management) we will provide the students with one single presentation machine that they will load and test by themselves, so that all the movies play and the presentations run.
I was a bit disappointed to notice that some concepts had not evolved much from last week’s presentations. I guess that I have to be clearer in my feedback. I was amused to see the Top Of the Pyramid concept (TOP) go forward 🙂
Which makes two:
in other news, we will be featured in the catalog for the Jukebox project! Massive excitement and rapid, hamster-like, clicking of keys to write explanatory text. Recently I got confused between Smooth Criminal and some other Michael Jackson video: chalk that up to the consequences of a sheltered upbringing, where everything after Beethoven was considered too unrul. Anyway, the relevent video is indeed Smooth Criminal – still quite amazing.
required viewing for people that do UTAR.
"Anyone mystified by the device’s numerous extraneous features can scroll through the interactive help menu, a labyrinthine maze of indecypherable topics of use to fucking no one"
And of course there is one for Apple users: nothing is simpler than a single giant button.