Monthly Archives: December 2013

Tutorial reflection

Great to get good feedback on the research blog – it has really helped me develop themes and perhaps the resulting strands may run away with me so clarifying the focus through the proposal will be important over the next few weeks. The suggestion to consider instrumental objectives for the university and partner organisations; a more academic discourse developing epistemological and ontological aspects; and the development of visual ethnographic approaches through research questions provides much needed structure for the weeks ahead.

It also strikes me how important the CEMP conversations have been – in particular Habitus (then wider reading of Bordieu and his visual methods, then Collier, Pink, Sweetman and Postill). So much so that Habitus is becoming a central concern.

The tutorial helped these ideas further in discussing the very different Habitus of higher education with such a central concern of inclusivity and the much more competitive world of industry. How students overcome this threshold and to what extent does self-selection and systematic factors have a bearing?

HTML – the new ABC

When considering the evolution of the digital world which has so many far-reaching consequences, it is interesting to reflect on the trail-blazing products and services that have emerged to much fanfare and often disappeared without trace. This occurs to me in light of a comment made by Ali Blackwell of Decoded at the TransFUSION conference on 4 December. He felt that HTML is so established as a standard that it would be the only format that could be relied upon into the years and decades ahead. Perhaps because of early decisions made to share and facilitate access rather than looking to protect IP and ‘monetize’.

So, over a career which started when there were Apricots as well as Apples, what has been made indispensable, set the standard and then just as quickly been relegated to the scrapheap:

Floppy disks (5.25″ and truly floppy then 3.5″ and 1.44Mb capacity): When Apple designed a computer without a floppy drive this made an early commitment to the internet and email as a means to share. My first copy of Word fitted on a a floppy disk and did 95% of what I need it to do today – progress?

SyQuest: The first real way to transfer large files – the 44Mb capacity of the cartridges was huge when your Mac may have 16Mb of RAM and 100Mb hard disk. It grew up to support the new community of desktop publishers through the mid-late 1980s who needed to supply files to printers. This is a pre-PDF world were application files, fonts, images and graphics were all supplied.

ZipDisk: Iomega developed a range of storage options but perhaps the best known, certainly in the design/production community was the 100Mb and later 250Mb ZipDisk cartridges. The drives plugged into your SCSI port and even became an option on desktop PCs. It pretty much killed off the SyQuest cartridges overnight.

Freehand: The discontinuation of support for Freehand by Adobe (after it had passed from Aldus/Altsys to Macromedia then the the growing behemoth of Adobe) in favour of it’s own Illustrator (which Neville Brody famously and with good reason called ‘the instrument of the devil’) was perhaps the most emotionally-charged chapter in software development. Many graphic designers ‘grew up’ with Freehand and loved its simplicity, intuitive tools and the ease with which you could create graduated blends of colour. Pretty much the Pepsi and Coke of drawing packages, if you started out using Freehand you found Illustrator hard to adjust to. I wasn’t the only one, there were many activist groups that protested and even Creative Review published Freehand Anonymous but Adobe was not for turning and graphic designers of a certain age still lamenting its passing.

PageMaker: In the mid 1980s Aldus Pagemaker was the king of desktop publishing. Requiring very few upgrades, the package offered a similar level of simplicity to Freehand and until the emerge of a rival – Quark XPress which was by comparison, complex, expensive and subject to complex dongle protection – was the only choice. Sadly for Aldus, Quark also provided Xtensions to allow developers to automate publishing (particularly in catalogue production) and quickly became the standard for designers. Both Adobe InDesign and Quark cannot match the elegance and simplicity of PageMaker.

Newton: The Newton created the personal digital assistant product category and was developed by Apple in the John Sculley era for $100m. Sadly for Apple the design and aspirations far outshone the technical delivery with functions such as handwriting recognition that simply didn’t work – and openly mocked in contemporary popular culture even appearing in The Simpsons. I attended the launch of the product and everyone in the room wanted one at any price. It wasn’t to be but part of the development team went on to develop the iPod operating system.

TransFUSION at the RSA

SteveMcKevitt

Today I attended the TransFUSION Conference organised by Creative Skillset at the RSA in London. This provided a great opportunity to listen to new perspectives and to take part in workshops and activities with academics from across the UK. In particular I looked forward to hearing from Aleks Krotoski, Steve McKevitt and learning first hand about Brighton Fuse.

Aleks on Google:

  • A relevance machine, can’t cope with attitudes
  • Assumes usefulness can be predicted
  • Does just enough to be magical
  • Creates the mise en scene (in the same way a director might choose the frame)
  • Assumes  all sources are created equal
  • Infers quantitative judgments are superior

… on Facebook:

  • An authentication service
  • Be your tools
  • Be your categories
  • Be your wallet

… on the Web:

  • Life beats (personal or group rites of passage, watersheds, re-birth) don’t translate to the web
  • The web never forgets
  • It cannot make that judgment
  • Don’t expect it to adapt to us
  • Remember the biases
  • We don’t yet understand how power works online
  • Developers produce profound socio-cultural transformations

Ali Blackwell from Decoded who’s mission is to demystify the digital, by contrast, found computational thinking empowering. Services such as If This Then That and Make Things Do Stuff can demystify app development and how Raspberry Pi (and the web in general) captures the spirit of the BBC Micro.

Steve McKevitt (Chairman of Golden and formerly with Designer’s Republic) left us in no doubt about what agencies look for:

  • Divergent thinkers
  • Determination
  • Talent
  • Fusion skills

Contrasted what what they all too often find:

  • Straight line thinkers
  • Idealists
  • Qualified
  • Vertical skills (as opposed to ‘T’-skills?)