Sometimes you just want to sit and laze around, forget the urgency, postpone the pending work.. all because you have a hangover of a good day.
21st February was a good day.
WIRED’s article on Wearable Computers being the next big thing got us talking about whether wearables were indeed what the future had ordered. When I was researching for the MSR Design Expo submission last year, I came across the fact that life-logging has been present since the early 1980′s. Pioneered by Steve Mann, who went on to found the Wearable Computing group in the MIT Media Lab, this was the beginning of wearable computing.
The start was almost 30 years ago and an idea ahead of its time. Today social media is brimming with people posting their day to day lives. Some do so with caution and a slew of new networks like Snapchat have risen to the occasion. Facebook has replaced my regular emails and Twitter my newspaper. To me, this is prime time for the rise of the wearable device. Smartphones with their multipurpose apps own the current era but they have that one fatal flaw; as Thad Starner, the technical lead of Google Glass and who spent nearly two decades wearing a wearable device, points out: “If you can’t get to a tool within two seconds your use of it goes down exponentially.” Wearables will be able to fix this gap. Already people are at work hacking this readily available tech for their advantage. Use cases like Patrick Jackson‘s fire fighting apps or Recon Instruments‘ sports training enabling devices are where I see the potential of these devices. Just the other day, I was part of a conversation where we were discussing which fitness device is a better buy. I think this should signal that wearable devices are very much a part of our future. This said, I don’t really like the idea behind Google Glass for “everybody”. Although designed with the core idea of reducing the time between their intention to do a task and their ability to perform that task, it does give the impression of not being there in the moment. I think the problem here is the obsession that people have with devices and services. Very often the human becomes the slave. Even though you seem to have access to capture every moment of your life today, how much of you remember living it?
Image Credit: Wikipedia and Avi Solomon
I don’t think I will ever abandon the physical book for a digital one in the long run. Granted that when travelling, an ebook reader makes more sense than a suitcase of books but it’s not the same thing when you want to curl up and read it in leisure at home. I bought a tablet last year to read ebooks while on the go but since then I’ve read less digital books than the fingers on one of my hands. I somehow find the act of reading an ebook cumbersome. First of all, there’s the trouble with powering/charging up the device. Ebook readers that I am aware of just do not seem to replicate the size of the book or the number of pages accurately. To me, the physicalness of the book is something very intimate to the experience of reading. With the move to the digital, this gets lost. Further more, I am often distracted trying to keep a track of the number of pages I finished reading on the digital book but I hardly bother doing so when reading a book. Coffee table sized books look bad on a 7 inch screen and their non-existent weight makes me feel disconnected. Searching through the book is probably easier but where you once used your memory you now end up resorting to a dumb search to find that elusive sentence. Bookstores are slowly disappearing and don’t even get me started on new book smells. The physical book is truly a wholesome sensory experience and sorry technology, but you are not there yet.
Image Credit: Jose Hernandez
“Storytelling is joke telling. It’s knowing your punchline, your ending. Knowing that everything you’re saying from the first sentence to the last is leading to a singular goal and ideally confirming some truth that deepens our understanding of who we are as human beings.” – Andrew Stanton
As Andrew Stanton puts it in his TED talk, ‘Make me care’ is the greatest story commandment. Stories, they say, give life, context, and order to facts [DMI]. Well written stories make you believe in things you might never have dreamed about. Or sometimes fool you into believing unproven ideas. Still stories and most recently videos as storytelling devices are respected the world around.
As student designers, we are often told to be storytellers. Most often this defaults into asking us to make movies. Strangely though, we are not really taught or asked to learn about the nuances of great storytelling apart from a ‘Narratives’ elective. Nor about directing, nor is the emphasis during a module ever on way you tell the story but more on the process that you follow. But time and again, I’ve begun to see that for a layman(anyone other than you/your team), what work you’ve done or what you learnt in the process does not mean shit if you do not have a fancy video(or 2) to showcase at the end of your project. Its sad that they don’t realize that not everyone is endowed with a gift of storytelling leaving most of us wondering; what was wrong with our work? Was it really that bad to not even get a meagre applause or audience? This normally leads to anguish and then possibly an attempt to ape. Most though will not be able to successfully walk this path as making films may not be everyone’s talent. There is the technical know how and equipments required to worry about after all? Asking everyone to follow a similar path therefore is fraught with problems.
I know videos are a good way of making people understand complex concepts but they seem to be used more often as a smokescreen to prevent people from seeing through the barely there project. Videos should just be a one of the ways of communicating the design concept. The concept itself should be tested and discussed about while the effort to communicate it lauded but not given centre stage.
For me this new trend is scary because if videos are what ‘they’ are looking for, shouldn’t we primarily graduate as film makers then?
Me: this sem review will be fun no? :P
Rasagy: Sem review? As in your blog post wala?
Me: yes :D
Rasagy: I wonder what you’ll write in there this time! :P
Me: exactly.. ditto to you
Rasagy: I’m not posting. You’re the one who posts sem wise. I’ll post next year :D
Indeed, half this semester was marred by a module that made me wonder what I was doing with my life. I know, I am still a crappy designer but what I felt this semester module left me just feeling plain stupid and so I will not be speaking about it at all. Some part of this
failure project has been documented here.
So here are the highlights of this semester.
We started this semester with a new faculty Mr. Venkatesh Rajamanickam, rumoured to take over as the new IID coordinator. At first we were apprehensive about how this would shape IID as a discipline. But our fears were unfounded because within the first few days itself, we realized how awesome he was and still is. I personally had an awesome time, discussing things with him. He showed me Durell Bishop’s Answering Machine which blew my mind. Someone doing such work, when I was in preschool was something I had not imagined. From this I learnt that ‘Why should something digital always mean having a display?’ Sadly, all good things tend to end and with this semester end, Venkat resigned from NID citing personal reasons- a loss, that IID will feel for quite sometime.
Moving on, one of the things that I had decided to follow this semester is try and document my projects. And document I did :D You can find the projects over here at the Projects page. This was good because when the time to make a jury presentation came about, I just had to go back to the posts and find the relevant content already prepared by ‘the past’ me.
Being sent to MIT’s DIy workshop was an eye-opening experience. This I feel was the central design project that I did this semester. A week packed to the brim with research, design, prototype and testing; I wish we had atleast one module this intensive at NID, every semester.
As for data visualizations, I’ve begin to realize the balance that I will try to maintain in my work anymore. Not too functional and not too arty. Easier said than done. My semester work is out here.
I became aware of real interaction design thanks to Sudhakar’s interactive classroom assignment. I intend to take this output forward.
So there, another semester goes by and am not any closer to figuring out what I want to do after this. All in all, as I look back this was not really a bad semester. I got to interact with Girish Dalvi a whole lot as part of his Grids and Layouts workshop and APCHI. Arun’s Geo viz workshop gave me a diving board into cartography. Listening to keynotes at APCHI was also wonderful, interacting with Jun Rekimoto or Alan Dix was not something I imagined I would be doing at the beginning of this semester.
What I hope I shall learn some more about the next semester is physical visualizations, tangible user interfaces and anarchistic visual design. A tall order to fulfill but next semester’s going to be a bore otherwise.