Archive for the ‘creativity’ Category

Reading Susan Greenfield

Tuesday, February 24th, 2009

Susan Greenfield’s latest book is interesting, but it’s jam-packed with assumptions that I can’t agree with. As I follow each chain of logic based on an unsupported premise, I become more and more exhausted. So I’m afraid I’ve only read halfway through the book so far. I suppose that she might blame this on my short attention span, caused by too much time in front of the Commodore 64 in my childhood. Nonetheless – I can’t quite accept that someone so accomplished and brilliant could write an entire book without something of value in it, so I shall persist.

Meanwhile the press has got hold of the Cliff’s notes. I fully expect that we will now be witness to a “debate” in our own (Australian) media between various people whose entire understanding of this issue is gleaned from the British press’ misreporting of half-understood press releases containing excerpts from speeches made about a book that obliquely references actual research.
So below is my response to the Daily Mail’s scintillating ‘Social websites harm children’s brains: Chilling warning to parents from top neuroscientist‘.

I’m halfway through Susan Greenfield’s book; and although she’s a scientist I’m still waiting for her to introduce some science to support her assertions. It’s full of sentences that begin along the lines of “I often wonder whether” and “It is hard to see how […] this […] will not result in” (both of those examples are from your article above).

Baroness Greenfield’s stature as a scientist and public intellectual make her comments worth considering. However if I may put this the way that she seems to prefer: I often wonder whether assertions of correlation made without evidence of causation might perhaps be claptrap.


Slide decks – Second Life in Context / Responsive Environments for INteractive Arts

Thursday, September 4th, 2008

A couple of slide decks for talks I gave recently: last Wednesday a guest lecture for the Interactive Arts class on Responsive Environments as an art form.
Then the previous Wednesday, a presentation to UTS staff on Second Life, in the context of other available metaverses and with some focus on its uses in education.
My slides tend to be all pictures – there’s enough text with me talking over them without writing it all out again so you can read what I’m saying. It does mean though that they don’t stand alone when I stick ’em on the web. You’ll just have to look at the pretty examples :)

Run out of TEDTalks?

Tuesday, August 19th, 2008

pop!tech has been doing the podcast thing since TED was still a stodgy old chatham-house confab. Copy and paste this URI into iTunes (or whatever it is you like to use on your custom-built Slackware rig) – don’t use the phobos link that iTunes will give you, it’s no good.

Mondrian’s Atelier and the 場 (ba) Principle

Tuesday, August 5th, 2008

Mondrian's AtelierIn this precis of Mondrian’s work, amongst the paintings is an image of this most personal creation; his atelier. A useful word to think about; an artist or designer’s studio or workshop, from the middle french astelier (woodpile). Images of this place are preserved: it has been reconstructed as well. With the reconstruction perhaps a little neater than the original – no loose parts there. This brings to mind my own virtual reconstruction of Utzon’s studio – with a similar result. The reconstruction is interesting, but sterile. It historicises its subject; you can’t inhabit it. And without an inhabitant it cannot be a 場 (ba).

Consider: if I had all the resources in the world, and could create a perfect reconstruction of Mondrian’s atelier in which to work, I would not want to. Nor Utzon’s, Hundertwasser’s, Tufte’s. They all produce wonderful work, and their studios are surely part of the process of its production; but these things are intensely personal. Once again: it’s not the result, it’s the principles that matter.

iServe – why you *do* need a web server on your iPhone

Monday, August 4th, 2008

As usual, Mark picks up the clue stick while I’m still distracted by the shiny.

Magic Hopscotch

Monday, July 7th, 2008

We’re live! Just in time for the start of the school holidays, Magic Hopscotch is up and running and open to the public at the Powerhouse Museum, Sydney. The timing is important because this is a prototype of an interactive artwork designed for children. Doreen Ee, my collaborating technologist, put in a magnificent effort to reconfigure the code for the floor pads that control the piece, after we were compelled to rewire them last week. Shan Weiley, my partner and constant collaborator, has started participant observations and we are already getting some wonderful insights. More later, because i’m writing on my phone and more than a few words is painful :) The launch is on thursday the 10th of July from 2-4 pm, email me if you’d like an invitation. Heartfelt thanks also to Deborah Turnbull our erstwhile beta space curator and Matthew Connell at the phm.

Update: now tracking this project at Sky Blue.

Permeating the Magic Circle

Monday, June 23rd, 2008

The inimitable Doug Easterly addressed CCS today on Permeating the Magic Circle – exploring “the physical and conceptual boundaries that demarcate work and real-life from play and game activity”. He’s well known for his artistic practice with SWAMP addressing these very issues. Doug’s research looks into play, drawing on Huizinga’s Homo Ludens and Caillois‘ critiques of it, and of course Czikszentmihalyi on Flow. On that last Doug has formed a beautifully clear exposition of the standard critique of games: that they draw users into a state of Flow not for the high-minded goals of learning or self-actualisation, but instead for the baser purpose of merely keeping them in the game for its own sake, or for the sake of “coin drop” (in the parlance of the video game arcade industry). By drawing out a distinction between flow and device mesmerism, Doug shows that it’s not games, their holding power, or flow itself that is evil – but rather the purposes to which they are put.

The depth of his research is compelling him to dive down into evolutionary psychology, just to find a place to stand… bringing in references from Leda Cosmides [wp], Jared Diamond [wp] and Stephen Pinker [wp]. A PhD is certainly a great excuse to do some absorbing reading.

After the talk we got into an engrossing discussion of  hermetically sealed virtual realities (silly) vs. mixed reality (marvellous), mind/body dualism (outmoded) vs. holism (somewhat more sensible) and absolute transhumanism (fun but overblown) vs. whatever is actually going on (much more complicated, and even more fun). Doug saw an early sketch of the mixed-reality piece I’m currently installing down at the Powerhouse Museum, so I’m hoping to get the computer vision part of it working properly before he heads back to NZ at the end of the week. More about that in another blog post :)

Virtual Gardens for Prototyping

Wednesday, May 21st, 2008

While looking for images of Donkey Kong (historical research for the UTS Games Studio, dontcha know) I stumbled across this gem:

Prototyping for Game Feel (v.2)

Including the faboulous step 3:

• Be Shigeru Miyamoto

There’s a nice thoughtful post here (and the rest of the site looks worth a read as well). What caught my eye was the description of Miyamoto’s virtual garden:

“Before any of the levels had been created Mr. Miyamoto had Mario running around and picking up objects in a small ‘garden’ which he uses in all his games to test gameplay elements.”

Miyamoto is noted for finding inspiration for his game designs from his other interests: playing the guitar and gardening. The gamecube game “Pimkin” was based directly on Miyamoto’s actual garden. So for him, it seems that the virtual and real garden are his ba – his own place, a creative source.

Design Transformations at CHI 2008

Wednesday, May 7th, 2008

I arrived in Florence last week fairly alert, considering the time difference from Sydney. I’d done the right thing and stayed awake for the last 20 hours of the flight, crashed at my hotel on arrival in the evening and got a good 10 hours sleep before the opening plenary.

It was worth it. I hadn’t heard of Irene McAra-McWilliam (Head of the School of Design at the Glasgow School of Art) before but I’m a fan now. Her speech was uplifting. She wove a tapestry of design history and theory, to come elegantly to the conclusion that designers in a connected world have a responsibility to enable others; to come to some problems not with a solution but with a box of tools.

This is just what I hope to do with my research into creativity support tools, and it’s what I’m seeing in my studies of creative place. I don’t need to design the perfect virtual studio; I need to design an environment with the right parts and the right affordances, to enable inhabitants to configure the perfect studio for their task.

Web3D 2008 Paper on The Design of Virtual Place for Creative Collaboration

Tuesday, April 8th, 2008

I managed to put together what I think is a reasonable summary of my unpublished work so far on virtual place, in time for the Web3D 2008 deadline. The writing could of course always do with some polishing, but my main concern is that Web3D tends to be an engineering-focused conference and my paper is on human factors and design. However it is the venue that I want to get into – it’s the engineers that I want to convince! Otherwise we’ll just keep seeing virtual worlds built without real consideration of what it is that is being built – why this set of affordances? Why these cultural choices? So here it is; all anonymised for review but anyone reading this blog already knows my research so no point being coy about it here 😉