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05 Mar, 2010 – 9 comments

be here now

you may have seen this before

Ever since I put together my slideshare on time (above), I’ve been obsessed with how I personally experience time.

An obsessive fascination with the future makes me good at what I do (thinking about the future) while leaving me almost entirely unable to live in the moment.

I rarely take the time to savor what I’m doing. I think I’ve had the opportunity to sip the finest drinks, eat the finest meals, and meet the finest people – but I can’t really remember as I’m typically trapped in my own head working out a problem or making plans for the future. And if recent conversations are indicative of a larger pattern – I think this future thinking lock-in is a growing trend among people like me.

I watch as we all sit in coffee shops, restaurants, and even movies, with our eyes half glued to our mobile phone. Mobiles quickly went from the thing we pick-up to simply look busy to the things that keep us perpetually busy. I spend a good deal of my time pecking away at my Google Reader; repetitively hitting ‘J,’ exchanging action for stimulus, action for stimulus, planning ahead, thinking about what to share, what to push to my blog, and what will allow me a moment of 140-character performance. I plan my route home, my clothes for tomorrow, my haircut for next week, my speech next month, my thoughts for my next meeting, my schedule for the weekend, my next blog post, my current project, my next project, and anything else that comes orbiting my thoughts.

Being more conscious of this, I’m even more convinced that as designers of experiences, we fail to understand people when we build branded experiences. People are rarely ever prepared to be in the moment when they’re online. Moreover, it’s incredibly difficult to get someone to slow down, breathe, and truly experience the world in front of them. Knowing this, we have two choices: 1) build experiences that play into the future-obsessed state that most people occupy, or 2) break real ground in developing experiences that coerce people into a present-conscious state.

If you’re interested in training yourself to be more present, here are 6 steps from Psychology Today:

  • When you’re trying to do something, pay more attention to the activity, the room, the people, anything other than your own thoughts. Get out of your head and into the moment. Here’s a trick: play one of these things is not like the other with things in the room.
  • When worried about the future, find things to savor. Much of what we do when we think about the future is collect mental images (often quite negative ones), savoring a momentary pleasure helps you stop catastrophizing future events. As Mark Twain said, “I have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened.”
  • Breathe. Yes, it is that simple. Take a moment to take a few deep breathes.
  • Find your flow. Give yourself a clear task and focus deeply on your work.
  • Accept rather than avoid. If you’ve ever tried to not think about something, you know it’s impossible. Accept your thoughts for what they are.
  • Keep a fresh pair of eyes. Don’t let routine turn your life into a haze – try to notice what’s new around you, all the time.

04 Jan, 2010 – 6 comments

to a decade unrealized

Dear Two-Thousand-Teens,

You’re the unborn son/daughter of an entire world – what a heap of expectations – that’s the bad news, unfortunately.

The good news? Well, it’s an amazing time to be alive. And there are so many amazing people to be alive with who are dedicated to making the world a better place during your time with us.

Oh, and the technology… It’s an amazing time to be alive with a pair of thumbs. And you have 6.7 billion pairs of them (give or take a few unfortunate accidents).

But the most fascinating tech isn’t what’s in our hands, it’s what’s in our heads. We, the once predictors of rocket cars, summer vacations on Mars, and robotic sexual partners, we the over-achievers and over-dreamers, we’ve begun to fail at predicting the new pace of technology. Our wildest dreams are now in our nearest grasp.

From Ray Kurzweil, he of the Singularity,

Progress is exponential–not just a measure of power of computation, number of Internet nodes, and magnetic spots on a hard disk–the rate of paradigm shift is itself accelerating, doubling every decade. Scientists look at a problem and they intuitively conclude that since we’ve solved 1 percent over the last year, it’ll therefore be one hundred years until the problem is exhausted: but the rate of progress doubles every decade, and the power of the information tools (in price-performance, resolution, bandwidth, and so on) doubles every year. People, even scientists, don’t grasp exponential growth. During the first decade of the human genome project, we only solved 2 percent of the problem, but we solved the remaining 98 percent in five years.

But Two-Thousand-Teens, let’s not lump you in as the next decade. You’re more than that. You’re our second chance at a new century. We’ve stumbled, we’ve lost the faith in ourselves, we’ve made promises we knew we couldn’t keep, and we’ve spoiled the first few blank pages of our masterpiece. But that’s why you’re here. Again, expectations… but in this endeavor, you are not alone.

But, Two-Thousand-Teens, we have our work cut out for ourselves.

Between 1910 and 1920:

  • Thomas Edison demonstrated the first talking motion picture.
  • Motorized movie cameras were invented, replacing hand-cranked cameras.
  • The crossword puzzle was invented by Arthur Wynne.
  • Mary Phelps Jacob invented the bra.
  • Gideon Sundback invented the modern zipper.
  • Stainless steel was invented by Henry Brearly.
  • The pop-up toaster invented by Charles Strite.
  • Short-wave radio was invented.
  • Wilhelm Roentgen discovered X-rays.
  • Marie Curie won the Nobel Prize for chemistry, discovering a new source called radium.
  • Einstein published his general theory of relativity.

From the most banal experiences of the 21st century to the most sublime, much of the foundation was put in place during that second decade of the 20th century. It’s the same story again – the world we want to build, the society we want to live in, the future we want to dream, it all begins right now.

Like you, our dreams are yet unrealized and perhaps even undreamt. Two-Thousand-Teens, remind us to be hopeful, to be bold, to make ridiculous predictions, and to attempt foolish feats. To borrow a phrase, remind us that he not busy being born is busy dying.

To the inhabitants of the Two-Thousand Teens, let us not make another resolution for another year. Let us make a resolution for the 21st century and let’s use our time here to realize it. For perhaps the first time in our modern history, our vision is small compared to our grasp. Our culture is afflicted with short term thinking, quarterly demands, and our obsession with the present. It’s our future that matters most.

And let us have the strength to weather our mistakes and our misfortunes.

The phrase too big to fail was perhaps first uttered right before the Titanic embarked and sank in those icy waters in 1912.

World War I, the Great War, The War to End All Wars… well, didn’t. But within the decade it took with it over 16 million lives and 16 million possibilities for a different world.

Two-Thousand-Teens, we’ll never know who among us will have the pleasure of seeing you through. But while we’re here, it’s a pleasure to have you, and a pleasure to be your partner.

I promise not to take you for granted.

11 Nov, 2009 – 5 comments

there’s more time than the present

How do we design experiences with an understanding for how humans perceive time?

I’ve been obsessed with this deck from Matt Jones ever since I posted it last week. Presented with a few days off myself, my obsession was allowed to run rampant. I cherry picked quite a few things from his presentation and then dug a little deeper with the help of a couple books and the internet.

I would have liked to spend a wee bit more time with this one, but I’m trying out this new philosophy of not letting ‘the perfect be the enemy of the good.’

I’d love to hear some thoughts on this one, so donate your two cents in the comments.

26 Oct, 2009 – 4 comments

time as a material for design

Time + Data = Story

Lots of excellent stuff here, too much to cite, but definitely worth a spin.

Don’t say I don’t show you new things.

23 Apr, 2009 – 2 comments

fans: mobilize a conversation

To be marketable the new cultural works will have to provoke and reward collective meaning production through elaborate back stories, unresolved enigmas, excess information, and extratextual expansions of the program universe.

- Jonathan Gray (Editor), Cornel Sandvoss (Editor), C. Lee Harrington (Editor), Fandom: Identities and Communities in a Mediated World

The best conversations are ones where I know something you don’t and you know something I don’t. We share what’s new. Too bad this isn’t how most marketing and advertising works; marketers love conversations (about their products).

Advertisers look for the big message. They spend weeks in front of a white board crafting the perfect tag-line, one that says it all. Then they buy up all the mass media airtime they can afford to make sure that big message saturates the most people. End of conversation.

As if attention is a commodity you can buy…

In Pierre Levy’s Collective Intelligence, he describes a future societal power structure that transitions from ownership over commodities to mastery of knowledge. In particular, this ‘thinking community’ taps a ‘cosmopedia’ or ‘knowledge space’ of vast information provided by the type of many-to-many connections the web facilitates. Members of this group search, inscribe, connect, consult and explore together. Pierre describes what we might call a ‘hive mind,’ where if one has knowledge, soon all will. And in this hive mind, “unanswered questions will create tension within cosmopedic space, indicating regions where invention and innovation are required.”

The authors of Fandom: Identities and Communities in a Mediated World argue that digital fan communities might be the most fully realized versions of Levy’s cosmopedia. Fan communities are indeed “self-organizing groups focused around the collective production, debate, and circulation of meanings, interpretations, and fantasies in response to various artifacts of contemporary popular culture.” Moreover, fan communities mobilize around unanswered questions. This is what spawned fan fiction, ARGs and other multi-player transmedia storytelling games. Fans rush to create meaning where meaning appears to be missing.

Advertising is made for people who care… to pay attention. Fans care. Fans pay attention. But most messaging doesn’t create the tension that activates full fan communities. We’re still stuck on saturating a crowd of unwilling participants instead of mobilizing a community to create and spread a conversation.

21 Apr, 2009 – leave a comment

fans: wealth production


photo credit

Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, fans were emblematic of audience resistance (Jenkins,1992; Fiske, 1989), understood as actively appropriating and transforming mass media content as raw materials for their own cultural productions.  Mass media depicted fans as living in the shadows of mass culture (if not the basements of their parent’s suburban split-level houses), and media companies saw their tastes and concerns as “unrepresentative” of the general population. By the early 21st century, fans have been redefined as the drivers of wealth production within the new digital economy: their engagement and participation is actively being pursued, if still imperfectly understood, by media companies interested in adopting Web 2.0 strategies of user-generated content, social networks, and “harness[ing] collective intelligence.”

- O’Reilly, 2005

Part of my week of posts dedicated to fans and the future of digital marketing. Tell your friends.

24 Feb, 2009 – 2 comments

the hours of discovery

The internet never closes. It never shutters its doors to load the shelves full of content again. And for that matter, the internet operates outside of traditional timezones, too. But I’ve noticed certain behaviors amongst myself and my friends and followers. I’m particularly interested in the hours of before we all slink into bed. Those hours we meander. Those hours we discover.

Here are some random links I got some tweeps to send tonight:

My followers are mostly from the US, so that does help create these shared hours. Interestingly enough, I’m building a secret little project (codename: AYSS) that operates on discovery and mystery. It’s a system that requires involvement to play, so I’ve gotten a fair amount of feedback asking for more ways to lurk. After tonight, I’m curious about only making that content available during a brief window late in the evening. I want to catch people during this time of invested browsing.