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.
If you had told someone a few years ago they would have looked at you as if you were mad.
CNET news reports that the state of West Wirginia will be fighting childhood obesity by installing Konami's Dance Dance Revolution in public schools.
And the amazing thing is that the videogame-centric workout scheme has already proven to be effective:
"West Virginia, which has the worst childhood obesity problem in the United States, is stepping up plans to use Konami's Dance Dance Revolution to battle the bulge in its schools.
The state, which plans to put the popular dancing video game in every one of its public schools, said on Wednesday research suggested that it helped put a halt to weight gain.
Preliminary results from a 24-week study of 50 overweight or obese children, aged 7 to 12, showed that those who played the game at home for at least 30 minutes five days per week maintained their weight and saw a reduction in some risk factors for heart disease and diabetes."
If this is not enough to get you curious you can also check out the way Mickey DeLorenzo put his Nintendo Wii to good use and lost a few pounds while having fun (just love the Rocky Balboa look-alike shots).
Turning something usually perceived as a chore into a pleasure by adding play to the recipe should come as no surprise, but these are also just the first indications of what we can expect for the future, a future where the digital and the physical will merge and intertwine.
A future full of surprises.
Hang on to the cart, get ready to have some fun, the thrilling descent has only just about started.
The attention economy breeds new and at times quite bizarre business ideas. FakeYourSpace.com is one of them: a service that provides fake friends to increase your popularity on social networking sites. If you watch the Forbes interview with the founder, you may understand why this site was born...
I've been seeing photos of the new packaging for Windows Vista for a while now. But today I actually got to see it in person and I have to say that it is damn cool. The new hard plastic cases feature a single rounded corner and a sliding door on its side. This is just one the many things that Microsoft has been doing to show that they are thinking about asthetics.
After doing plenty of research, I decided to sign up and start using 360 voice as a blogging service for my Xbox 360. The team over at 360voice.com did aÂ killer job by putting this thing together. Nice work.
Â To me, 360 voice is one of theÂ better things you canÂ add-onÂ to your account.Â 360 voiceÂ tracks and logs what you play, when you're logged on, and your current gamer score/accomplishments. When all is said and done, it writes a nice (or a not so nice)Â blog posting for you.Â
Ok, it's certainly not boring, but I like to draw you in and then refute my titles. It's sort of a dirty trick, but I'm not above it. My article on the state of visual design in the web just went up over at Digital Web. Go check it out and sound off in the comments.
There's a great new website devoted to Geico caveman. Check it out at http://cavemancrib.com/.
From "always-on" to "unifocus" - from attention buyers to attention generators
This is something that I have thinking about lately as I work back and forth between Flash, Flex, and WPF. One thing is becoming clear to me lately. I love having the XML markup layer that is present in both Flex and WPF. It makes it much easier to keep a clean separation between the model and the view in data-driven applications. Data binding is another powerful tool that I instantly begin to miss when working in Flash.
Another feature of WPF that I really wish Flash would adopt is the generation of code when drawing graphics in the Flash IDE. It's great to be able draw graphics in Blend and then immediately be able to see the code that was generated. This allows you to fine-tune properties of the graphic in code. The fact that you will be able to generate XML animation data from the Flash timeline is a great step in this direction.
So let's say that Flex Builder had the ability to draw graphics and had a timeline for generating XML animations. Would there still be a need for the Flash IDE? One reason that I can think of would be that Flash allows you to create much more optimized code and smaller SWF files. Publishing an empty Flex project is already over 150k in size.
I think Expression Blend is a great example of a tool that could exist in the Flash world. You can create graphics visually and at the same time be able edit the code being generated. You can animate using a timeline which also is generating editable code. Built-in support for data binding and component styling are also nice features to have.
I'm sure that I'm missing a lot of reasons why this wouldn't be a good idea, but it's something to think about anyway.
Ok, so that was a crude title, but it's appropriate. The fellas over at Nuance Labs are blogging their application development in real time. Nuance is developing a web-based application to tackle the challenges of the GTD way of things. They describe their blog as sharing "a behind the scenes view of creating a web service to organize your life."
This is not a novel approach. Indeed, the folks at Carson Systems blogged the development of Amigo at Bare Naked App and are now using the domain to blog the sale of DropSend, their file transfer application.
The content of these sites appears to be very detailed and honest. Nuance's blog just revealed the name of their app and gave interface designer D. Keith Robinson space to describe his initial thoughts on building out the system. Carson Systems has even gone so far as to divulge financial information about DropSend.
What are the benefits of such a move? Easily the biggest benefit has to be the buzz it generates (see: this blog post). However, there is a more important factor to consider, and that is the humanization of the companies involved. No, we don't personally know the people at Carson Systems or Nuance, but we will feel their pain as they struggle with the same frustrations we struggle with. We will see their successes as they happen, we will know the application was flawed, fixed, and built with passion. And because of all this, we will trust the product and it's team before we have even used it. If it works and the blogs get a following, then it is an incredibly powerful marketing tool.
Both of these companies are small, consisting of a mere handful of employees. Could a large organization pull this off? I think they could, but it would be a hard sell, both internally and externally. Internally, people tend to be very distrustful of divulging secrets and problems, and externally it will be hard to convince the public that the information is unfiltered and real. Microsoft has tried a bit of this with their developer blogs and I think it went a long way towards the acceptance of IE 7 in the overly-fickle community of web developers (a community I am a part of).
Personally, I'd like to see more of this type of communication, but it may be too much for many companies to swallow.