It’s been a long time since my last post. I’ve graduated from RCA in July 2014 and been working as a designer at Skype in the meantime, where I was responsible for prototyping innovative product features and developed tools for the design workflow. Just recently I have started my new job at EPFL+ECAL Lab in Lausanne, Switzerland, where we look at how design can transform technologies into meaningful experiences.
I’m taking this opportunity to revive this blog as a research tool. Today I came across the January 2015 issue of MIT Technology Review and found an article from 1959 entitled „On Creativity“ by the science-fiction author Isaac Asimov (1990-1992) , which has been unpublished before. In it, he discusses the question how people get new ideas. More
During my research residency at CIID I was working on the MeLa project with the goal to create interaction prototypes for the project’s archive. Eventually this archive will document all the results (text, images, videos) that have been produced by the participating researchers from 2011 to 2015. Being responsible for the design of this archive, CIID found the metaphor of a star map, thus reflecting a critical approach to the notion of a complete archive and visualising the complexity and uncertainty of the content itself. The MeLa Critical Archive should be an open critical space, experimental in its navigation and interface – allowing the user to explore content and make connections.
My task was to prototype the interaction in a zoomable interface. More
I’m currently reading the book Slaves of the Machine by Gregory Rawlins. It dates back to 1997 but has a good overview on how computers were created. When talking about writing software and programming, he tells an interesting story that illustrates the inaccuracy of language. He asks the question, why computers do what we tell them, but not what we want, and speculates about the future of programming. More
In a previous blog post I talked about how data became ‚big‘ and what that means for us. I asserted that this growth can be seen as a natural process, and that we may be facing a filter problem rather than an overload. The second observation is that besides its unprecedented scale, data has gained so much importance because of its messy nature, which enables us to make stronger and more accurate predictions – but that also opens up an ethical dimension of big data, where we are ruled by algorithms and our personal data is turned into profits. More
The next chapter from my dissertation „Making Big Data Small“ deals with the much-cited ‚data overload‘, arguing that the notion of an overload or flood might be wrong — isn’t it nothing more than a filter failure and could data visualisation be part of the solution?
„It’s not information overload.
It’s filter failure.“
Today’s the first day of my research residency at CIID in Copenhagen. This three-month residency will complement my studies during the final year at the RCA. During this residency I will focus on my final year projects and engage in practice-based research in the area of interaction design and interface design, for which CIID Research with its broad range of activities and applied research methodology is the perfect place.
I have just finished my MA thesis at Royal College of Art entitled „Making Big Data Small – Visualising Patterns within Big Data Sets“. Let me share some of the things I wrote.
In my dissertation, I investigate the nature of big data, its different definitions and misconceptions and try to take a human-centered perspective on data. I connect this with the practice of visualising data by creating patterns with scatter-plots, which reveal the underlying structure of data: text visualisations, moving image analytics and visualisation of personal data. I want to emphasize the need for new tools (meta-tools) that allow for a more fluid way of interacting with data and the importance to establish data visualisation as a cultural technique to enable not only insight into big data sets, but also to foster cultural innovation.
„Too Big to Know“: in his talk at NEXT Berlin David Weinberger explains the shift from traditional knowledge to networked knowledge through the change from disconnected media like books to linked media like the internet. He adresses the question why the old institutions of knowledge crashed at the touch of a hyperlink. More
Bret Victor, the man who gave us an a better understanding of how to teach programming in his landmark article Learnable Programming last September, does it again. In his most recent talk he presents a software prototype for interactive dynamic drawing, a tool for scientists to creatively express their ideas in data visualisations, that go far beyond the narrow perspective of Excel bar charts, but also gets rid of blindly manipulating objects with code by introducing parameterised direct manipulation drawing. More
Brian Eno shares his views on creating situations to let go of control, reducing one’s options to avoid known paths, the concept of a „genius“ and his idea of art education for everyone in this interview at Red Bull Music Academy in New York in May 2013. More
Some useful Processing code snippets which I’ve used during some recent projects. Print PDFs, run code before application quits, avoid exiting when ESC is pressed or find the name of the current sketch. More
This quick experiment shows how logos of major brands are rebuilt and distributed by the public and made available on the internet. It’s impossible to say which is the original logo, all versions that are freely available online differ a little bit. This is a compilation of the logos of six companies: Nike, adidas, Coca-Cola, Apple, BBC and bp. More
I’ve explored cartography in severalprojects before, and I’m especially fascinated by the way we memorise maps, for example how we build mental models of a city layout, and how we experience and remember space.
A recent brief at RCA was to think about remapping Europe. I took this as an opportunity to make an experiment to find out how we remember maps: I asked people to draw the map of Europe off the top of their heads, without preparation or reference, within a 5 minute timespan. More
Last but not least, I’d like to add a classic TED talk to my list of inspirational talks. Actually it is the most watched TED talk ever – over 15 million on the TED website and another 5 million views on youtube since 2006. And quite rightly, I think. While folks like Evgeny Morozov love to hate TED talks, which is debatable of course, Ken Robinson’s remarks on creativity and the educational system can be considered a masterpiece, rhetorically as well as regarding the argument he makes. More
I’ve spent the last two days at the IDEO make-a-thon, a workshop where 78 people met to think, create and make. The 12 challenges on the topic of „superhuman“ have been meticulously chosen by IDEO staff. Our challenge, entitled „Super Games“, was how we might help the elderly strengthen their skills through play. More
According to John Cleese, certain conditions make it more likely that something creative might occur. In order to get into the „open mode“, you have to create an oasis of quiet for yourself by setting boundaries of space and of time.
In this interview with wired Joi Ito, the new director of the MIT Media Lab, explains why he sees the future of education and research in „open universities“. 27 years after its opening, Ito wants to open up the Media Lab into the „world’s leading ‚antidisciplinary‘ research lab“, where everybody, academically qualified or not, can take part. He sets out to create a movement based on disobedience and breaking the rules attempting to solve the world’s most persistent problems. More
Aired on BBC Radio 4 in November 2012, this agile discussion on the occasion of the 175-year anniversary of the RCA stretches from the history and relevance of liberal art education in the UK and the RCA in particular, to the importance of developing a lively exchange between engineering and art and design, the economic benefits of this dialog, and concludes in debating the essentials of good art and design education.
In his TED talk, the american psychologist Barry Schwartz makes a valid point in explaining why it’s better to offer a limited number of choices only. This is an important lesson for all graphic designers, I think it’s especially relevant for UI and web design, but also for corporate and print design.
In capitalism, freedom is defined by having an unlimited number of choices. How could this be wrong? Isn’t it awesome to have every imaginable possibility? Well, not really. When people are confronted with too much choice, they tend to end up unsatisfied, regardless of which option they chose. Schwartz explains this phenomenon. More