NYT on tech terminology

Coming to Terms With a Wired Age, Part 2 – New York Times:

IT seems you can never have too many words to describe the loud, incessant use of cellphones. In my last column I played with new terminology for a wired (and wireless) age, and in the weeks since then my mailbox has been filled with your suggestions. Cellulitis, you say, or narcellism, or cellbotics.

As it relates to my glowscarf project, I especially like “Narcellism”…

Glowscarf: usage

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In an attempt to understand more fully cell phone behavior, and what our expressions our cell phones enable us to make, I’ve come across some interesting bits of research:

From this article, it seems Motorola commissioned a study called On the Mobile. One interesting (if obvious) finding:

Women see their cell phone as a means of expression and social communication, while males tend to use it as an interactive toy. Some men view the cell phone as a status symbol – competing with other males for the most high tech toy and even using the cell phone to seduce the opposite sex. The study found two types of cell phone users- “innies,” who use their phones discreetly, and “outies,” who are louder and less concerned with the people around them.

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GlowScarf: The Cellular Scarf

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The GlowScarf is a scarf that reacts to your cellular phone; when you receive a call the scarf begins to glow. By giving the cell phone’s ring an external signal, the wearer is free to embrace the status of being in-demand, without necessarily needing to answer the call. The glow of the scarf says, “I’m important”; the wearer can then decide to take the call or to merely bask in its glow.

The detection of the cell phone’s ring will be accomplished with a simple circuit (diagram here) which will then activate the glow. Initially I will use the circuitry from a novelty pen, to ensure operability and robustness for the initial prototype(s).

My current plan is to knit the scarf myself. I am interested in light colored and iridescent yarns that will enhance the glowing effect.

In order to create the lighting effect, I plan to use fiber optics in conjunction with super-bright LEDs. I looked into using EL wire, but the general consensus is that it is difficult to work with (also expensive), and probably not the most conducive for the comfort factor I’m looking for. Instead, I will use several strands of thin fiber optics which will be etched (most likely with a laser cutter) in order to refract the light along the length of the fiber. I have seem samples of this type of fiber optic application, and it produces a subtle yet noticeable effect. I have not determined how many LEDs or how many fiber optic strands I will need.

More illustrations to come.

(related links can be found here)

wearables: trucker hat – a photoset on Flickr

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For this week’s project the assignment was to hack a toy or some other piece of consumer electronics. I decided to incorporate an X10 wireless home automation remote control into this trucker hat (which I bought from a homeless guy at SXSW for $2). The idea came from wanting to do something with the gesture of tipping the hat — so I put soft switches on the corners of the bill; when you squeeze the bill you can turn on (or off) whatever device is plugged into the wireless transceiver.

There wasn’t a whole lot of hacking involved — basically soldering some magnet wire to the contacts of the switches in the remote. I created some simple soft-switches with conductive fabric and a leather barrier between each piece, et voila.

On Paul Valery’s ‘Some Simple Reflections on the Body’

In the section ‘On the Blood and Us’, Valery raises questions surrounding the essence of life; What if our blood were pumped in directly without all the prerequisite processes of nutrition, oxygenation, etc, were removed and only the system of the blood remained? It’s sort of a paradox, to think about it; our blood system is certainly the ‘central’ and most important, but only because it exists to replenish and satiate the rest of our organism.

I’m reminded of Ray Kurzweil’s The Age of Spiritual Machines, where he argues that in the future our bodies will be replaced by hardware smart enough to emulate their functions. The question boils down to, what is life? What is our essence that makes us ‘us’ — is it biological, or spiritual, or somewhere in between?

Oscar Hates Technology.

Was I the only one who noticed the scolding the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences gave to those of us who enjoy films on DVD in our home theater instead of going to the multiplex?

The president of the AMPAS took a convoluted side track from his empassioned speech about movies and the art of storytelling in order to remind everyone that going to the movie theater is different than watching a DVD at home. Well, duh. He even said, “I know that none of the artists nominated tonight finish shooting a scene and say ‘That’s gonna look great on the DVD.'” Don’t tell that to someone like Peter Jackson, who knows that DVD is a perfect opportunity to tell your story in a more robust and expanded form than what can be toelrated in the theater.
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Regarding Andrea Zittel

On Saturday I visited the New Museum of Contemporary Art to see Critical Space, a retrospective of the works of Andrea Zittel.
Zittel’s work is an exploration of the mundane made profound. But not in the Dadaist sense, of taking ordinary objects and calling them ‘Art’; Zittel explores and refines aspects of our routine existence and produces comprehensive reevaluations of daily life.

Much of her work has the refinement and craftsmanship of superior industrial design — for instance, the ‘Escape Vehicles’ are custom designed and built trailers, for lack of a better word, which have been decked out to the specifications of individual patrons (one was like a luxury car inside, another, a hot tub).

Without describing her work to much, several things stood out: One, the commercial polish that was applied to all of her ‘products’ — everything is branded ‘A-Z Adminstrative Services’, making each work appear to be a commercial product…which in a sense they are, but it also becomes commentary on the abundance of commercialism we see day-to-day.

Two, the virtuosity of her abilities. From custom designed ‘uniforms’ (which she wore every day each fashion season, to various takes on portable living spaces, to paintings and illustrations surrounding and introducing her work, her ability to create not only unique, but refined objects in various media is astounding and inspirational. To what degree she does this herself or contracts construction to others I am not sure, but it is clear that she has a grasp and undertanding of design and construction that adds to the fit-and-finish of all her pieces.

It was disappointing that the work was off-limits to touching/walking on/interacting. I assume this is a weakness of nature of a museum show, and not Zittel’s requirement for the display of her work. It begs to be crawled around, lived in, worked with, and only then, I imagine, is it’s true artistry apparent — by reshaping the spaces around us she attemptes to reshape the way we live and think.

Wearables Project: Cellular Scarf

Scarf MockupMy concept for my wearables project is a scarf that reacts to your cellular phone, lighting up when an incoming call is received. Conceptually I am interested in making a statement about our need for communication, and the hidden messages we send to people when we pick up our cellular phone: I am important, or popular, or busy. Conversely, the phone distracts us from our surroundings, and ultimately shuts out the rest of the world; the caller gets our focus, and everything else is moved to the peripherae. Notice the fake psychosis of cellphone talkers on their bluetooth headsets, talking to thin air, oblivious of their surroundings. What message are they communicating?

The basic idea for the scarf, then, would be to send those unconscious messages in a more overt, if abstract, way. The scarf would be lined either LED’s or some other form of incandescent such as electro luminescent wire, which would activate and glow when an incoming call was received.

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