Three big things in the last few days:
- Steve Jobs urges music companies to drop DRM. Good. (read)
Wowâ¦you gotta love this. In a sort-of-blog-post âhot newsâ rebuttal to accusations that Apple would lock consumers into its iTunes system (as recently reiterated by a column in the New York Times), Steve Jobs himself defends Appleâs FairPlay DRM solution while at the same time calling on the major record companies â Universal, EMI, Sony BMG, and Warner â to do what many indie-labels already do: license their music to online stores without any DRM-requirements.
I have always been fascinated with ESPN.com. As a lover of sport, it is my de-facto source for information. As an interested observer of web-design principles, it is nearly always a place to look for examples of how a gigantic internet presence is attempting to solve the problems we all face. Some of the decisions made are absolutely questionable, decisions like auto-playing video content on the homepage, but some can offer valuable insights.
It seems that every few months the little corner of the blogosphere inhabited by professional web designers/developers blows up discussing the issue of acceptable resolution sizes. At this point, the defacto standard seems to be 800x600 but many are lobbying and many more are simply designing for 1024x768. I'm not here to weigh in on that battle, but rather to point out how ESPN has decided to parse out their precious 800x600 pixels. Their design is optimized for a wider resolution, but their grid puts their primary content within an 800px boundary.
Take a quick look at this screencap:
For most, it has been generally accepted that there is no such thing as a fold in the web. Vertical scrolling has been accepted and should not be looked upon in agony. There is something to be said, however, for making a first impression with your available vertical space. ESPN is using their space for two things: advertisements and brand.
Neither of these things are particularly user-centric. The availability of the navigation is nice, but the content doesn't begin for 235px, which is increased to approximately 335px if you include the users' browser chrome, or more than halfway down the page. I have a friend who used to art direct for ESPN.com and he indicated they received a lot of griping about the number of ads on their site. His response was to remind them that the majority of the content was FREE and they were easily the largest sports site in town.
If the intention is to grab a user's attention when they come to a site and compel them to stay, I'm not sure ads and brand is the best approach. ESPNs brand is fairly well known already and flashing ad banners is no way to retain visitors (even though in this screencap they are promoting internal initiatives, these spaces have been used for external products).
But I don't work there and don't have to live with the harsh realities of life at ESPN.com. I simply find it interesting to observe that they have used what seems to be their most valuable real-estate for two elements that would seem more at home in print or other forms of media.
Please come to Dexter Sinister this FRIDAY FEBRUARY 9 2007 for a book
launch of PHILIP, a novel by Mark Aerial Waller, Heman Chong, Cosmin
Costinas, Rosemary Heather, Francis McKee, David Reinfurt, Steve Rushton &
Leif Magne Tangen
and, Larissa Harris will be reading (quietly, in the corner and on a
never-ending loop) "The Seventh Voyage" from Star Diaries: Further
Reminiscences Of Ijon Tichy by Stanislaw Lem
and, Three (quite short) videos are presented by Mai Abu ElDahab (also in
a never-ending loop)
Easily mistaken for the infinity sign, the Lissajous Figure is a
horizontal figure-eight named after French physicist and mathematician
Jules Antoine Lissajous (1822-1880). The shape is drawn by plotting a
two-variable parametric equation as it calculates and recalculates itself
over time. The resulting figure is the picture of two systems falling into
and out of phase.
Just-In-Time Workshop & Occasional Bookstore
38 Ludlow Street (Basement)
New York City
Sunday, February 11, 5pm
Beatriz Colomina is an internationally acclaimed theorist, historian of architecture, and Director
of the Program in Media and Modernity at Princeton University. Colomina presents her research
âX-Ray Architecture: Illness as Metaphor,â and shares news of her recent publications.
44-19 Purves Street
Long Island City, NY 11101
Saturday, February 10, 2007 at Â 6.30 PM
STEVEN HOLL, ALISON SKY, SUZANNE STEPHENS and WILLIAM MENKING
will discuss architectural publishing in New York during the 1970s.
Monday, February 19, 2007 at 7.30 PM
A screening of the Brazilian documentary EDIFICIO MASTER
Tuesday, February 20, 2007 from 6 to 8 PM
Book Signing Party
Sandro Marpillero, JAMES CARPENTER: ENVIRONMENTAL REFRACTIONS
(Princeton Architectural Press/ 2006).
Tuesday, February 27, 2007 from 6.30 to 8.30 PM
SIMPLE, PROTEAN, AND SPONTANEOUS
a symposium on the legacy of Yona Friedman
at The Drawing Center co-presented with Storefront for Art and
Architecture, the first panel includes curator Katherine Carl and
artists Â Caitlin Masley and Michael Rakowitz and architectural
historian Nina Rappaport. Â The second panel is moderated by Joseph
Grima, Director, Storefront for Art and Architecture, and features
architects Interboro Partners and Srdjan Jovanovic Weiss.
SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 10th at 6:30 PM
STEVEN HOLL, ALISON SKY, SUZANNE STEPHENS and WILLIAM MENKING
will discuss architectural publishing in New York during the 1970s.
in conjunction with the exhibition CLIP/STAMP/FOLD: THE RADICAL
ARCHITECTURE OF LITTLE MAGAZINES 196x - 197x, Storefront for Art and
Architecture is pleased to present the fifth event in the series
LITTLE MAGAZINES / SMALL TALKS.
The New York-based publications Pamphlet Architecture, On Site, and
Skyline each offered a view to a critical moment of transformation
in contemporary architecture in the 1970s and covered the New York
architectural scene at a time when the city served as a crossroads
for an international exchange of architectural ideas, giving voice
to the emerging, yet conflicting definitions of postmodern
STEVEN HOLL will speak about the Pamphlet Architecture series which
was founded in 1977 by architects Steven Holl and William Stout as a
venue for publishing the thoughts and works of a younger generation
of architects as an alternative to homogenized architectural
publishing. Each issue was written, illustrated, and designed by a
single architect, which gives each its unique character. Notable
issues in the late 1970s and early 1980s were monographs produced by
Steven Holl, Lebbeus Woods, Zaha Hadid, Mark Mack, and Lars Lerup.
Pamphlet Architecture had an enormous impact and presented the
architects' work, theories, and ideas in modest, affordable
booklets. Pamphlet Architecture is still published and continues to
SUZANNE STEPHENS will speak about Skyline: The New York Architecture
and Design Review which began monthly publication by the Institute
for Architecture and Urban Studies (IAUS) in New York in 1978.
Andrew MacNair and Craig Owens were editors from 1978 to May 1980,
and after a pause in its publication Suzanne Stephens revitalized
the magazine from October 1981 to March 1983, when it ceased
publication. The magazine's five year run tracks a critical
transformation in contemporary architecture. Its monthly editorial
statement proclaimed: "Published the first day of each month,
Skyline is a central record of events in the New York architectural
community. Its function is triple; the accumulation of information,
the synthesis of that information, and the assessment of its value
ALISON SKY, co-founder and principal of SITE, a public and
environmental arts and architectural design firm will speak about
the ON SITE series of publications. From 1969-1991 she was actively
involved with the conceptual development of SITE's work and
philosophy. Specific areas of work at SITE include project
concepts, design and development of environments, buildings,
interiors, public space, furniture, exhibition concept and design,
clothing design; writing, editing and design of books and
publications. She founded the SITE publication department in 1971
and produced a series of publications entitled ON SITE containing an
examination of new ideas in the environmental arts and architecture,
relating these issues to an interdisciplinary context and the
greater public at large. The ON SITE series, which includes the
book UNBUILT AMERICA, was published between 1971 and 1976.
WILLIAM MENKING is co-founder and co-editor of The Architect's
Newspaper (2003-). He is an architectural historian, writer,
critic, and curator of architecture, urbanism and industrial design.
He wrote a monthly column "Letter From America" for Building Design,
the United Kingdom model for The Architect's Newspaper, for six
years. He has been published in numerous architectural
publications, edited anthologies and museum catalogues and has
curated and organized international exhibitions on postwar
experimental architecture. In the editors' words: "The Architect's
Newspaper emerged from the desire, expressed by most architects we
know, for a publication that speaks directly to them. We hear,
constantly, that architects feel underserved or underwhelmed by
existing design publications. They want something that reflects
their interests and practices. No rah-rah, no puffery. Just useful
information. Insightful, readable criticism. Diverse voices. Open
MONDAY, FEBRUARY 19, 2007 at 7:30 PM
People and Buildings Present
a screening of the Brazilian documentary Edificio Master
at Anthology Film Archives
32 Second Avenue (at 2nd Street)
F/V to 2nd Avenue
This screening is a collaboration between Storefront for Art and
Architecture and the the Center for Urban Pedagogy.
People and Buildings is pleased to present a screening of renowned
Brazilian documentary filmmaker Eduardo Coutinho's Edificio Master,
not yet released in the US. Lingering in hallways, doorways, and
apartment interiors, the film documents the banal urban reality of a
massive residential apartment building in Copacabana, Rio. As an
intimate portrait of the residents of Edificio Master and its twelve
floors times 23 studio apartments, the film goes far beyond the
empty clich s so often used to explain Rio, in a masterpiece of
urban anthropology. Coutinho's charming and disarming interviewees
provide at once a microcosm of Brazil's middle class and reason to
get to know those apartment neighbors you've politely ignored until
TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 20, 2007 from 6 to 8 PM
Book Signing Party with James Carpenter and Sandro Marpillero
Sandro Marpillero, James Carpenter: Environmental Refractions
(Princeton Architectural Press/ 2006). $55.00 Hardcover
James Carpenter is an artist and sculptor whose work focuses on
developing new glass and material technologies. His interest in
architecture has evolved into a unique design practice that ranges
from technical glass and materials consulting to designing curtain
walls, roofing systems, bridges, and sculptures. Author Sandro
Marpillero explores the unique opportunities afforded by the
transparency, reflectivity, and compressive strength of glass. With
over 300 images, this book brings to light the work of an exciting
designer crossing the boundaries between architecture, engineering,
and fine arts.
TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 27, 2007 from 6.30 to 8.30 PM
Simple, Protean, and Spontaneous, a symposium on the legacy of Yona
at The Drawing Center
35 Wooster Street
Co-presented with Storefront for Art and Architecture.
Admission is $5/free for members.
Artists and architects examine Friedman's influence on subsequent
generations of architects, urban planners, and artists through a
discussion of their own work and the fields of drawing and
The first panel, from 6:30 to 7:15 will be moderated by curator
Katherine Carl and will include artists Caitlin Masley and Michael
Rakowitz and architectural historian Nina Rappaport. The second
panel, from 7:30 to 8:30 will be moderated by Joseph Grima,
Director, Storefront for Art and Architecture, and will feature
architects Interboro Partners and Srdjan Jovanovic Weiss.
Storefront for Art and Architecture
97 Kenmare Street
New York, NY 10012
tel 212.431.5795 fax 212.431.5755
WIFI LIBERATOR Toolkit - 2007
A Tactical Toolkit to Liberate Pay-Per Use Wireless Networks!
Wifi Liberator is an open-source toolkit for a laptop computer that enables its user to "liberate" pay-per-use wireless networks and create a free, open node that anyone can connect to for Internet access. The project is presented as a challenge to existing corporate or "locked" private wireless nodes to encourage the proliferation of free networks and connectivity across the planet. The project was inspired by the ongoing "battle" between providers broadcasting wireless signals in public spaces, in particular: corporate entities, wireless community groups, individual users, and proponents of open networks. Like my Wifi-Hog project, the Wifi-Liberator critically examines the tensions between providers trying to profit from the increasingly minimal costs associated with setting up a public network and casual users who simply want to see the Internet transform into another "public utility" and become as ubiquitous and free as the air we breath. The project targets pay-per-use wireless networks as often found in airports, other public terminals, hotels, global-chain coffee shops, and other public waiting points.
The ultimate goal with the Wifi Liberator project is through Open Source distribution, to eventually reach a high enough usage and penetration rate that all pay-per-use wireless networks will begin to free their access to everyone. Since the monetary amounts associated with providing wireless access is inexpensive as the techology becomes more ubiquitous, the need to "charge" for this access is becoming less important and cost effective. Although we are still charged for basic utilities such as water, electricity, gas, and others, the amounts associated with providing internet access are dropping at an exponential rate. This project aims to make this low cost apparent as well as the increasing tensions of keeping people "out" of these networks.
Despite the advent of free and open wireless networks made available by community groups in parks and other urban centers, there is still a monetary restriction on many networks that exist in community buildings and facilities such as airports, train stations, chain restaurants, and other public areas. Most of these "closed" networks are deployed in "waiting" areas with the promise of "convenience" to allow pedestrians or commuters access to the Internet, however they nevertheless impose a monetary and time-based restriction on who can connect as well as for how long, often with "hourly" or "daily" rates for connectivity. Wifi-Liberator is a reaction against these limits to access by lifting the constrictions associated with paid networks and turning them into "free" networks.
The project finds inspiration from the Open Source movement's ability to turn once "commercial" software into freely available and distributable entities. This is evident in examples such as Netscape's eventual movement into the freely available, and open source distribution model with Mozilla and its successor, Firefox. By taking an existing pay-per-use commercial model into the public domain, the potential for creative use and output from these systems increases exponentially. This is the hope of "Wifi-Liberator", that once the restrictions are lifted on wireless access points that it will stimulate creativity and social action amongst the general public and those in dense urban locations where many networks currently overlap.
The project includes a hardware and software component. The hardware component is an off the shelf, USB wireless card and any laptop with built in wireless hardware. Therefore the "Liberator's"' machine must have 2 wireless interfaces. The software component is a downloadable application called "Liberator" that runs natively on Mac OSX (Windows version coming soon) that needs to be run when connecting to a paid network. The software is based on "Ping Tunnel", free software written by Daniel Stodle and licensed under the BSD license.
Design languages can mean the difference between life and death
Portland is trying a new shared space idea in their "festival street." The area near Chinatown opened a few months ago and seeks to blur the boundary between peds and cars by removing traffic devices and sidewalks to create a seamless, multi-purpose space.
They call the psychology behind this "traffic calming" and they seek to make drivers slow down and pay attention.
...but is blurring the lines between pedestrian and auto traffic such a good thing after all?
Maybe so, but only with thought given to the consequences. The New York Times Magazine's 6th Annual Year in Ideas issue recently published a study by Psychologist, Ian Walker about cyclists and automobile drivers sharing the road. He posed and answered the question, does wearing a cycling helmet put you at greater risk of being hit? Apparently, it does.
According to Walker's 2 month experiment of cycling alternately wearing a helmet and not, cars came on average more than 3" closer when he donned a helmet. In addition, the two times he was hit during the experiment, both were while wearing the helmet.
Walker is not advocating that we ditch our safety equipment now. He supposes that car drivers make assumptions about how expert a cyclist riding with equipment on may be, and exercise less caution.
Can car drivers be trained to respond to new, less traditional stimulus that traffic regulatory devices such as lights and signs? It seems so, but the education must be there to help drivers know how to respond. Helmets could become a caution trigger if messaged properly, unlike the current reactions in the study.
Be it helmets on cyclists or the urban design elements (bricks, furniture) dividing lanes rather than striped paint, there are new design language systems evolving in the world of transportation.
The theory being that by inventing a new design language for the traffic system, drivers have to pay attention more. Traffic calming actually forced rivers to pay attention and they in turn went about 10 mph more slowly.
This awareness of new rules and behaviors is what we call "discoverability" in the design world. Some design systems will need aids for learning, like messaging helmets as cautionary to drivers. Others will be more intuitive, like avoiding a pile of bricks as a divider in the road. It's exciting to see a new era of urban planning taking up Design languages as a way to improve flow, safety and awareness.
So, I say, good luck Portland and let us know how it goes!
See more about psychological traffic calming in David Engwicht's, one of the movement's leading proponents, book, "Mental Speedbumps."
I've been playing around lately with hooking up external sensors and switches to WPF and Flash applications. When I sat down to think about a cool object to wire up, one came to mind: the Staples Easy button. This button can be seen in their current TV advertisements and you can also buy them in the stores. They are essentially a big-ass button (BAB) that blurts out their slogan when you press it. I decided to crack it open and see if I could hook it up to my Phidgets interface board.
After taking of the back I was able to see the push button switch which is the item that I needed to tinker with. I de-soldered the board away from the case and hooked it up to the Phidgets board. It worked like a charm. Next I soldered two long wires to the board and threaded them through the bottom of the unit where the speaker was.
After threading the wires through, I reassembled the unit and connected the finished button to one of the inputs on the Phidgets board. As a test application, I created a Flash movie with 5 different sound effects in it. Whenever you pressed the Easy button it would randomly play a sound. The switch is kind of cheap and ocassionally doesn't fire, but it's still great for a project where you need a BAB :-).
By now, you've probably all heard of the LEDs that shut down Boston last week. Today, Turner Broadcasting and Interference Inc., the companies responsible for the stunt, paid the city two million dollars. Ostensibly to cover the cost of a rush hour panic that gridlocked the city, it may also go down as the best media buy in history. After all, international front-page coverage isn't cheap, and it certainly didn't do anything to hurt Aqua Teen Hunger Force's irreverent image.
What has gotten less coverage is the stunt's tie to a local cell - Eyebeam's "Grafitti Research Lab." Dedicated to the evolved embellishment of the city - GRL are the inventors of the "throwie." Essentially an LED taped to a lithium battery, taped to a magnet - the throwie can be thrown at anything metal, where it will stick, and glow. This simple but brilliant idea evolved into larger sculptures, including a luminous Jesus left on a lightpost.
Interference credits GRL as inspiration for the stunt at the end of this video. GRL was somewhat ambivalent about the compliment - posting the following on their website:
"Just more mindless corporate vandalism from a guerilla marketer who got busted. Interference Inc, welcome to the world of being misunderstood, scapegoated, demonized and wanted by the law. Still wanna be a graffiti artist?"
It's an interesting situation, caught between creativity and corporate interests, that both GRL and Interference find themselves in. It is, however, nothing new. Street culture has always had an uneasy relationship with commodification.
The question is, would this have been as big a story if it were simply an art project that caused the stir? How much of the ire is that Turner's marketing department, by proxy, cost the city a bundle in emergency services and Rolaids? How much is embarrassment that we were fooled by something that in the end was literally cartoonish - like those toy pistols that fire nothing but a flag that says 'bang!' And, this is what makes the Interference stunt ultimately different from what GRL does. Instead of being puzzled, or inspired, we feel fooled. In the end, we are captivated as much by the potential danger as the sheer, comical banality.