Week 180

Last week was concerned with finalizing stuff for the first presentation of guadalajara. The current concept was more exploratory, we do not seem to have found the point of relevance yet to move forward.

A friendly neighborhood visit to the nice people at Johnny Wonder. And another chat about open data for the city of Amsterdam. Also continued writing a bunch more proposals.

Finally finished importing the videos and the race times for Wip ‘n’ Kip on the PLAY Pilots website. Glorious slow motion for you to behold.

Five things I’ve been thinking on

Others have done this, but these are my thoughts.

  • What comes after the peak meme blender of the internet
    It looks like anything done these days is being repurposed, remixed, refabbed, torn apart and inserted in LOLcats so quickly that the point of doing stuff, the notion of authorship and the requirements of originality are becoming completely blurred. One exponent of this movement are hipsters and trying to figure out what is next is pointless because whatever it is, it will become reappropriated and reblended to be part of the current meme-blob.
    So I’m thinking: there must be something possible after this all (for god’s sake, there has to be!), and one of its qualities necessarily has to be its imperviousness to remixing. What could it be?
  • Old world quaintness compared to new world innovation
    I live in the old world and despite itches to move to the old new world (and thinking about the new new world) I am still holding out in the quaint village-like entity that is Amsterdam. We have social security, insurances, education, cheap(-ish) living expenses and most of the stuff you would need to have a decent life. This cocoon has also made us so bored with everything that nobody is doing much of anything. Compare this to China where they are doing all kind of zanyness which is real, like first person shooter cams on police squads, and second story highway buses and superfast trains. At this rate, China may hit singularity and it would take 10+ years for its effects to even reach us here in our insulation.
    What is preferrable, comfort or edge? Especially in an uncertain world where prior securities are falling apart quicker than we can imagine. Obviously given the choice, being born and educated in comfort is better. We are ridiculously privileged.
  • The immorality of leisure culture
    I already touched upon this concerning hipsters and quaintness. We are so bored here that most people’s stated life goal is to have fun. Nothing else. There is a whole leisure industry of festivals, where people go to for the sole purpose of gaining new experiences and mostly to get fucked up and call in sick for work the next day. If the sun is out in Amsterdam and it’s beer o’clock (16:00), everybody is out on a boat or on a terrace enjoying themselves. Dutch activism is limited to the sort you can do while partying. No more chaining yourself to things, unless somebody can think of a way of making it enjoyable.
    I’m not saying there is anything wrong in enjoying yourself. I do it myself from time to time. But I do find it deeply immoral to have it be your sole life goal. There is so much out there to do that is meaningful, worthwhile and fulfilling/deeply pleasurable. Why not go do some of that?
  • Gaming
    It started more in earnest with Sebastian Deterding’s presentation “Just Add Points” and culminated in our design and creation of the PLAY Pilots website. Gaming is fun and in cases, worthwhile. Added to that games are the most difficult type of software —be it rules written in computers or on other media— both to think right and to execute properly. This is where it is at if you enjoy difficult stuff (and who doesn’t?).
    Also I can’t in earnest be bothered with any console games (there goes 20 hours of your life…). I’m more interested in games’ impact on sociality, urbanism and (gaming) other systems. Also: Games  Data.
  • Prosody
    (I had to throw in an ultra-vague one.) Trying to think in terms of tone (and also dramaturgy) when it comes to language, concept and act, but this is immensely difficult to do. Just from the most concrete, trying to write a sonnet and looking for aesthetic freedom in a force field of meaning, grammar and sound all the way to more complex acts of performance, presentation and rhetoric.

Glad to hear I’m not the only one thinking of Maneki Neko all the time. I have been since I first read it years back. And of course also always thinking of food and travel, of the Primer, Jason Bourne and executing a minimal material lifestyle.

How does this work? Can I tag others? Maybe some Dutch people for a change (Dutch allowed, English preferred): Kars Alfrink (thanks!), Olaf Koens, Jaap Stronks, Ernst-Jan Pfauth, Anne Helmond

Week 179

Last week was a quiet one.

Updates to Ebi and a preparation of the movies and game data from Stekkerfest.

Writing and submitting proposals to various affairs and agencies around the Netherlands (expect a bunch of new code names, soon!).

Started pushing the agenda for Open City Amsterdam.

A bunch of sketching and research for nezahualcoyotl.

Also thinking and preparing a study/business trip to Syria probably somewhere in the second half of October.

Week 178

This week was dominated by a bunch of things. Preparations for Stekkerfest and touching up the website for that were very important. Also anticipation for the live demonstration of the first PLAY Pilots live game by Fourcelabs.

Tuesday was the night of the third Amsterdam UX Book Club organized by Dirk Geurs and myself. We read the massive tome by Kim Goodwin on designing for the digital age and we had a great turnout and a lively discussion. Thank you Hyves for hosting and everybody for showing up.

Explorations on getting an identity for Monster Swell are in full swing and we’re preparing a bunch of collaborations with friends, and partners to participate in subsidy rounds and contests. Expect more visibility on our part soon.

Wip 'N' Kip

The week culminated on Saturday with Stekkerfest and the running of the Wip ‘N’ Kip game. Suffice to say that it was every bit as awesome as everybody thought and a lot of fun was had. Massive kudos to the equippe by Fourcelabs that brought it all together.

We’ll be busy incorporating the live game results into the PLAY Pilots website, but that is stuff for a future weeknote.

Weeknotes 177

This week started pretty extreme with 12+ hour days on Monday and Tuesday culminating in the launch of PLAY Pilots.

Home • PLAY Pilots

Wednesday was occupied with fallout, rest and coming to terms with Stumptown Amsterdam’s closing. I drank quite some coffee there and talked lots of work. Also Martijn dropped by the office to solder something:

Thursday started the quest to find a good identity for Monster Swell. Also started the foray into the Dutch subsidy jungle.

Friday, updated the portfolio’s a bit and went to the (OMG WTF) MoMo AMS BBQ.

Saturday my Epson V500 scanner arrived which I’ll be using mostly for capturing project documentation better and scanning 120 film. On to an even more dematerialized life.


Sunday was occupied with a lot of reading in Designing for the Digital Age preparing for the UX Book Club we are hosting on Tuesday. Also more scanning (and throwing out paper) and writing the first issue of my Dutch design and technology column “Design Directie” (due out here tomorrow morning).

Weeknotes 176

This week was completely spent with work each day on project Ebi, better known as PLAY Pilots. The site is due to launch this week (it in fact launched yesterday night).

Two other noteworthy events transpired:

I got a new avatar picture taken by Daphne Horn. My current avatar picture was long overdue for a refresh and Daphne’s offer to get my picture taken by a professional photographer proved to be both very fun and resulted in a very nice photo. The picture is now live on my account. A preview was on Daphne’s tumblr.

Sunday marked the end of the Dutch mission in Afghanistan, so I used some downtime on Saturday to finish project puebla which is a small map with the origins of our 24 fallen (write-up).

The launch of PLAY Pilots is going to be interesting, and there’s a bunch of other stuff coming up: nezahualcoyotl, guadalajara and some other proposals are progressing nicely.

Uruzgan in the Netherlands

Today marks the end of the Dutch presence in Afghanistan and here’s a small data oriented tribute to those that have fallen in service. Inspired by the Home and Away visualization by Stamen, I decided to see if something similar for our Task Force Uruzgan would provide any insight.

There are massive differences fortunately between the American and the Dutch situation in count and dispersion of casualties. We have 24 fallen during the four years the mission was there and I think all of them are in Afghanistan’s Uruzgan province. I say ‘think’ because our department of defense is much more conservative in releasing exact data.

I was still curious if there was a pattern to the origins of the soldiers that have fallen in Afghanistan on a democratic mandate on behalf of us all, so I googled their names and tried as best I could to deduce their home towns. The result is the following list and map:
Uruzgan in Nederland

The only trend that is noticeable is that these soldiers are overwhelmingly not from the Randstad area. The other takeaway is doing the research for the map which was a pretty intense experience. Reading the stories behind what has happened and people’s reactions. So if anything, I think any representation that breaks up the total count of 24 into separate individuals is a good thing and I hope you take this map as that.

Check in / Check Out – Design Principles for Camera Surveillance

Here the first of my English translations of the design principles outlined in the Dutch book by Rathenau about the digitalization of society and its implications.

The book is quite good and I think these design principles deserve a wider audience. I’ll get to noting down the ones from chapter 0001 in a bit, now just the ones from the (second) chapter 0010 which was unfortunately of somewhat meager interest.

Camera surveillance can serve as an example for other applications in the public space. There is a legal framework in which camera surveillance is allowed, which functions properly and can serve as an example for other technologies. In the ’90s camera surveillance was a means that was subject to public and political debate. Based on these discussions, legislation has been instituted that limits citizens’ privacy violations. You can’t put cameras on the street without adhering to certain rules. There are also clear rules what can be done with captured data from which we can distill the following design principles.

  • Privacy in public is a problem case in and of itself.
    You are visible for everybody and you cannot invoke the right of protection of the personal living sphere when you’re out and about. In the public domain the collective interests of safety and order trump the individual right of privacy.
  • Who does not commit any offenses should stay anonymous.
    Even though it is possible to watch everybody using camera surveillance, it is not necessary to identify everybody. Only if it is necessary for police work should an image be linked to a person.
  • Watch the watchers.
    As information becomes more and more centralized, it gives more oversight and power to those that watch over those being watched. According to the rules of the panopticon, this increase needs to be combined with a corresponding increase of control over the center. Camera surveillance also has synoptic elements. Technology needs to be used by citizens who want to check on government as much as by the government to check on its citizens.

This is a quick and rough translation but it should serve most applications.

The legislation that works properly that is referred to above is the one that’s in place in the Netherlands. In how far that is the case can be subject to debate, but most people in the Netherlands do not object to camera surveillance, so there is democratic support for camera surveillance.