TuneGlue

TuneGlue is one of many interesting mechanisms for visualizing relationships. Type the name of your favorite band or artist, and it will generate similar artists, list albums etc.. all in a sleek and smooth interface.  While it is absolutely beautiful, I think these interfaces still have a long way to come. This one is definitely worth a visit (or even a bookmark). Another worthy bookmark, the music genome project Pandora could learn a thing or two from these guys – and maybe vice-versa. Come to think of it, a synthesis between the two would be a spectacular way to experience music. I would personally love to use a clever and well conceived system that would allow for both playback, commentary, and of course explanations of relationships.
Anyone want to collaborate?

TED

This is not exactly new. I remember that there was an unofficial version of it floating around YouTube somewhere set to ‘who am I’ by Peter Kruder.

Anyway, Jeff Han, of New York University’s Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences, has developed what he calls an ‘interface free’..err.. interface, which can be manipulated as if it were a three-dimensional interaction with synthetic* media. In other words, a revolution in how we might interact with machines.<br>

Hans’ wonderful demonstration at TED (Technology Entertainment Design) showcases his ability to intuitively navigate several different processes with his fingertips, zooming in, out, up & down almost effortlessly, without the usual constraints of what we have come to know as a standard interface, with a mouse, keyboard etc.

This technology is mind-blowing and couldn’t be on the market soon enough (as long as it was within reach economically mind you).

Han also makes brief mention of how it is ‘a shame’ that with the ‘$100 Laptop initiative’, we will be familiarizing large populations of previously un-networked people to each other with a system that is much less intuitive than it could be. Food for thought. My challenge to Jeff would be to make this very visceral ‘un-interface’ available on those $100 Dollar Laptops. That would take some truly creative thinking… But of course, my hat is way off to these guys.. They’re on to something truly remarkable.

++ I should also mention that TED is a truly fascinating gathering.. In their own words, a ‘pre-release’ of Heaven…Or.. “An opportunity to engage in conversation and dialogue with some of the most interesting and innovative thinkers of our time”. That’s pretty damn close to my definition of Heaven as well. What I wouldn’t give to participate. What I wouldn’t give to be qualified. For now I’m content to be a fly on the digital wall.

*I think the dividing line between ‘synthetic’ and ‘organic’ is becoming more and more blurred by the way.. Maybe more to come on this in the future.. Your thoughts?

Ubiquitous Helvetica

August 25, 2006

Helvetica the Film

In 2007, look for this new documentary by director Gary Hustwit. The films release is expected to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the existence of Helvetica – the font we all know and love (and all too often take for granted). Personally, I am thrilled that the conversation about the effects, uses, and emotional resonance of a (agan, taken for granted) tool for communication, will be out in the public forum, at least a little. How do we relate to information, and how much significance does a font carry with it?

This subject is unendingly interesting to me. And while it may not be much more than touched upon by Hustwit, it begs many questions. What is it that helps something communicate effectively? Shape? Color? Context? Mood? And what are the constraints of this kind of thinking? Do different shapes and colors evoke different ‘instinctive’ responses, depending upon evolutionary contexts? I remember somewhere reading that certain ethnic groups have built a tolerance for cows milk after generations of milk being a part of their culture, while people descended from cultures without this sort of relationship with cattle, are more predisposed to being lactose intolerant. Does visual salience relate in some way to chemical and evolutionary contexts? Or is it a matter of individual context? It is likely a combination of variables, and surely, there are certain statistics that can point to ‘what works’ & ‘what excels’ etc.. But which variables do we point to as the sources of our intuitive feelings?
Obviously, no new questions from me, but I have faith that Hustwit will have something unique and thought provoking to say about Helvetica.
Hustwit, has directed many feature length documentaries, including I am Trying to Break Your Heart (the Moog (Robert Moog), and Drive Well, Sleep Carefully (Death Cab for Cutie). I am very much looking forward to seeing his skills focused on expanding this conversation.

{the film}

Amanda Congdon Unboomed

It’s a little shocking. And…It’s complicated (apparantly). It seems that (famed Vblog) Rocketboom ‘anchor’ Amanda Congdon has abruptly left the Boom-team for reasons that are still being sorted out. Both Andrew Baron and Amanda Congdon have released information to viewers indicating their respective stories – both facinating (links below).

The implications of this shift could be dramatic, and no doubt you will hear more than you could ever want to hear about the drama as it continues to unfold over the next several days & weeks. The internets very own soap opera.

However, instead of focusing on the gossip & speculation of ‘the break-up’, I thought it much more interesting to step back and appreciate the immense novelty this really is.

Most of us have watched online (your favorite blog or bulletin board) or offline (think Maury Povitch et al) dramas unfold, but seldom do we see something like this; Very unique & intelligent e-celebrities, who have been catapulted into the spotlight (by, well, us) and finding immense success, and then having this kind of quarell out in the open. What I find so remarkable is that this spat is very much of the tone and tempo that Rocketboom climbed to the top with, human-ness.

Rocketboom found success by finding strength in its own human and ‘real’ voice. We all fell in love with the very authentic, often un-edited ‘dorky/awkward’ moments, and jangley cadence that have become synonimus with RB. While the ‘show’ generally showcased the lighter notes of this natural style of entertainment, it is only logical that the disintigration of the relationship central to ‘the Boom’s’ success be just as heart wrenchingly real.

It’s not hard to detect the emotion & uncertainty in Amandas voice (and her own quirky discomfort with exhibiting it for all to see – despite her best efforts to remain her usual sortof-composed self) as she addresses viewers from her personal vblog ‘unboomed’. No doubt Andrew is having a moment of his own (though currently less ‘transparant’ than Amanda). It will be absolutely fascinating to track their tradjectory and growth over the coming weeks, as more floats to the surface.

We are in new cultural territory here, and it will be intereting to see how things unfold. Hopefully out here in the open.

Naturally, our hearts go out to Amanda & Andrew, though, we can be pretty sure we wont be without them for much longer. Go the boom!

Nata Rocketboom

I love when one person makes a good bit of difference.

Rocketboom dedicated their cast today to one very original effort.

Jon Rawlinson, world traveler, has set up a blog/videoblog for a small village in Botswana. Nata, home to approximately 5000 people, is located on the edge of the Makgadikgadi Pans. Rawlinson’s original plan was to simply stay in Nata for a night as a stopping point on his way north to a wildlife safari. A local Peace Corps Volunteer (Melody Jenkins, an HIV educator) offered to show him a bit of the ‘real’ Africa.
At some point, it occured to John that he could set up a blog to raise awareness and money for this little village, with very little overhead. What is special about raising awareness and support in this way is that the blog can help feed this village directly, when larger relief organizations funds often go to larger villages in the region. Equally as cool is that the community can itself decide where the money goes, which is often directly to the HIV clinic.

It is very cool to see this kind of thing happening, especially when a well-watched a team such as Rocketboom pick it up.

Which brings me to why it is exactly that I like (dare I say love and obsess about) Rocketboom. They gracefully and gleefully oscillate between entertainment and social (and political) commentary.

Here they are actually having a direct and measurable impact on human lives. As reported on the Nata Village Blog, they received over $1000 in donations today alone “thanks to Rocketboom”.

Here’s to momentum. Here’s to conversation. Here’s to actually doing something.

Check out the Nata Village Blog {here}.

Check out Rockeboom (obviously) {here}