Category Archives: mcluhan

Is this the future look of augmented reality?

I have this vision of nerds everywhere staggering around the city with big slates in front of their faces only seeing the world through shared web tablet camera experiences. I’m guilty of looking something like this in public myself, even hoisting a tablet onto my shoulder boombox-style to make skype calls. And that’s a part of why this picture (taken at GoogleIO) made me laugh.

Like everything old is new again.

photo credit

Things you can learn from Google on how to redesign your industry for the web

Have you ever heard Google’s [VP of Product Design] Marissa Mayer talk about product design? Great stuff. From a recent interview with Michael Arrington at this year’s Le Web. Pay attention to this question (about 12min in) about google news and redesigning journalism.

If we invented news today as a delivery channel for journalism, through the web from scratch, what would that look like? and we like to ask questions like that, what would [ a product google wave, google news] look like if you invented it from scratch for the web. I think it would look very different.

Of course this the right question to be asking. Asking this question is how google manages to disruptively up-end industry after industry on the web with products that are actually pretty simple but work just-right for the web. But so often we don’t.

In the real world it’s not what I hear often enough from companies or industries looking to make the jump to the web, or to social media, to mobile or [insert disruptive new channel of moment here].

What I hear most often is, how can we take all our existing business model and dump ourselves unceremoniously on this channel. Or, lets think of how we keep on doing what were doing but sprinkle some of that magic web/mobile/social pixie dust on things and call it a day.

Which is fine, I suppose, if you want a quick win you can sell your boss today, and if you don’t mind if google/amzon/apple/netflix/some startup/file sharing/the-web-in-general might completely blows up your whole industry sometime tomorrow afternoon.

But if you don’t want to get steamrolled, what Marissa is asking you to think about, and really think hard about is this:

Ask not how your business fits on the web, ask instead, if your business were really made for the web, what business would you be in?

And a moment later gem:

I basically think whenever a media changes over to a new delivery vehicle, it puts pressure on the atomic unit of consumption. It happened with iTunes with the album moving to the song. It happened with YouTube with long-form standards of video to short-form. Now it’s happening with news. People can come in and read one story from the source and then move on. That’s the atomic unit.

When music went to a web there was much consternation that people would buy singles instead of albums. When newspapers go to the web editors are shocked that surfers want to read articles, not sections, not whole bundles of sections.

But this is a great insight. When the medium changes so does the atomic unit of consumption. There are certain economies of scope and scale when bundling a whole bunch of more/less unrelated newspaper sections into one printed package, delivered with one swing of the arm of the paper boy. And from a demand perspective, there’s effective cross correlation of demand, someone in the household will buy the weekend paper for the sports, someone else for the style section. In the totally personalized digital world, that kind of paper-world content-bundling doesn’t make any sense.

When it comes to a new medium you can either let these behaviour changes surprise you, or think of how to take advantage.

For example, atomicity can work both ways. I could see a shift of atomic unit (book) to a bundle (this book and others by this same author) being a win for e-book publishing. When you don’t have to print it, and when shelf space isn’t limited why not generate all sorts of bundle offers. Chances are if I want to read an author, I might want to read all of that author’s books. In the digital space, a publisher that does this really well is Valve the video game publisher. Their orange box being a famous and spectacularly successful example of bundling a hot current title for, just a little bit more, a whole pile of new and old content from the archives. When it’s all digital, it can be just as easy carry home an armload as a single item from the store.

Presentation: Design for an Augment Reality world

For posterity here is the slideshare version of my Augmented Reality talk, which I presented for the first time at Refresh Events in Toronto. As a first cut, this presentation represented more of a shotgun scattershot rather than a linearly coherent narrative of the various thoughts on this topic currently spinning in my head my these days.

For background this was the talk proposal. I think I got to most of this stuff.

How “Augmented Reality” and the mobile web changes everything

Mobile broadband access and ever-smarter phones are shaking the internet out its lofty cloud and bringing the web into the real world. As a result, the old “real world”, and many old ideas and many old business models will be running out of places to hide from the pervasive influence of the net.

Meanwhile, each of our smart phones are in many ways even better than the old clunky tools we used to use to surf the net. Our mobile devices are not only connected but, also bristling with sensors like radios, cameras, microphones, GPS etc. that can directly perceive and interact with the world around you. We’re reaching a point where it’s theoretically possible to point that device at almost anything: a landmark, a product on a store shelf, your friends or a crowd of people; and draw from the cloud and your social graph as much, or perhaps more, relevant information than you ever wanted to know. Oh, and the cloud will be watching you and whatever’s around you as well.

In the new augmented reality, the web surfs you.

The goal of this talk will be to provide you with a fast paced overview of what this new “augmented” reality will mean for how we socialize, for how we sell and market physical products, for architecture, for media and entertainment, for public policy, crime, privacy and, as well, few early signals for what might be the new killer apps.

If all that is not interesting enough, I will also bring free beer.

How did it go? I think it went well! thanks for all the wonderful twitter feedback. 100+ tweets and counting =)

wrongbutton @tpurves fantastic presentation! very thought-provoking. especially enjoyed social AR consideration and the notion of layering data sets

BrianSe7en @tpurves great job on the AR deck! somebody who “gets it”.. yeah!

danielpatricio @tpurves Great job on the presentation, it really inspired me and got me thinking. there is a lot of potential in our future

randymatheson @tpurves – inspiring presentation on Augmented Reality tonight at #refreshevents , a balanced look at what is coming in the next few years

sebchorney @tpurves Great job. Real value for me was the “example->implication” flow, and high-level summations/analyses/insights in your tables.

D_Hock Great #RefreshEvents tonight – seeing the crowd engaged by @tpurves‘ talk was truly fascinating.

malcolmbastien @tpurves Awesome talk. It’s clear you know your stuff and have done some deep thinking of its broad impacts.

nitchblog Amazing debate to end the night. Great discussions that brought us around the world and back! Thanks to @jkozuch + @tpurves #refreshevents

davefleet @tpurves is wielding a NFC phone. Love the potential with that technology #refreshevents

pinkbrickroad @tpurves so interesting/funny. Future is crazy. #refreshevents

josephdee @tpurves presentation has been kick-ass so far. Peeks into the future of mobile experience, which is making me grin : ) #refreshevents

AdamSchwabe I love hearing @tpurves talk tech. So intelligent and focused. Fast, well-read. #RefreshEvents

I look forward to presenting again the next revision. Contact or DM me if you’d like me to lead/present this discussion at a future event. Meanwhile enjoy:

Link: Audio track of my presentation (video coming they say)

“…it’s critical to remember that these changes were happening for the first time ever, accelerating human life into the modern age at a pace that barely allowed time to gain vantage on the present before hurtling into the future, all the while changing the expectations of what that future might hold.”

In case you missed it, this is from a great post last week by Michele on the reaction of artists, crafts people and designers to the disoriented changes in, wait for it, Victorian england as spurred by the industrial revolution.

Textile factory

She is pointing out the strong parallels between historical change drivers like the industrial revolution, and our current digital age. In each case, major societal changes being driven by a sudden major change in an underlying enabling media.

server racks

“Arts & crafts was neither anti-industrial nor anti-modern, though it embodied a strong reaction against many industrial practices and encouraged individual handwork over mass production.” It’s a repeating theme, the idea of struggling to bring back some the human meaning and flavour lost from the shift from individual craftsmanship to the commoditization of the the industrial process – as well as to use these new tools in the best ways consistent with a designed idealism.

In the great post war expansion of the 1950s, the Americans invented spray-on cheese. Is this an innovation?

New media create whole new areas of possibility. But not all of these areas are awesome. As designers we feel the urge to try and “steer” these outcomes away from some perceived negative outcomes to other perceived “higher value” outcomes but is it like trying to steer a tidal wave?

Michele asks “i wonder though if our insights into the past can aid us in creating the future?”. I hope Michele will take a swing at that in her future posts, but for now, here’s my swing at it:

I have this “dead media” idea as a framework for understanding what happens next based on what is, has or will be about to obsolesced. You can understand some of what happens next by thinking about, if we adopt this new thing en mass, what will it displace? All new media displaces an old. (That is the definition of adoption.)

NYC streetsFrom a recent William Gibson interview:

…footage is of the last night that streets in New York were the way they were before everyone started staying home to watch television. All the footage that he’s been able to find afterward is dramatically different. It changed. It changed the night they turned it on. The night they started to broadcast television in New York, New York ceased to be what it had been before. Because everyone stayed home to watch television.

“It’s not that we prefer it, it’s not even that conscious. It becomes the nature of our experience. If it’s going to happen at all, it becomes the nature of our experience. If it doesn’t happen it just becomes one of those iconic retro-future images.

But if we do stop to conscious of it (this is roll of designers), we can foresee how new media will displace what we do now. Dead media is creative destruction. With every shift in media there is no perfect replacements for old archetypes, the new always has some new flavour (you may or may not like it), and some old flavours are always lost (the ritual of flipping the record, the character of cobblestones, front-porch social interactions before there was tv). Lost flavours are also an opportunity. According to McLuhan, every new media retrieves an older archetype or an older media, (just with a different flavour). To look to where new technology (or art or design) could be going (or to be at the forefront of creating it ourselves as designers), we just have to look at what has happened before. Lost flavours are the opportunity gaps of the status quo.

The new social platform of the internet is retrieving some of that experience of the streets of New York before everyone stayed home to watch television. Same archetypes just different mediums, different flavours. I feel like TV is almost a dead media now itself. What will bring it back?

But back to architecture and the design of things. The long trend of industrialization has been the increasing blandification of things. Ikea selling a billion of the exact same, minimalist kitchen widget. Spray-on cheese.

Just as the social internet has exploded the long tail of content like indie music and increasingly online video. I’d look forward to seeing how these models eventually spill over into the sacrosanct fields of architecture industrial design. Leading one might imagine to an A&C-like resurgence of individual craftsmanship, and a profound shift in flavour. Traditionally the constraints here have been around manufacturibality and economies of scale, resulting in : few designers, many copies made.

Sites like threadless.com are a weak signal of this already, as is lulu.com they enable peer-to-peer design production of physical goods. As manufacturing and distribution technologies change, I think we’ll more and more of this creep into other fields. Think how 3d printers could change the economics of distributing unique vs mass-produced goods. These days, you can 3d print a house you know.

What’s your take on Michele’s question?

I was joking that if Coehn Brothers took a swing at this question here is what they’d say. Forgive me if you haven’t yet seen the truly awesome (and surprisingly thoughtful) No Country for Old Men:

  1. In these late times we live in, it may feel that this is no country for old men or for their old ways.
  2. This impression is false, in fact the only constant is that it has always felt this way.
  3. You can’t stop what’s coming.

-fin

Link: arts & crafts revisited – shotfromthehip.wordpress.com

Previously on Thomaspurves.com: A Provocative List of Dead Media, Dead media workshop at Lift07, Deadmedia and the flavour of cities

photo credit: shorpy jamax