• A huge, fascinating, braindump from Bret Victor, mainly on the state of how programming is being taught (especially in the "learn to code, live" idiom that's popular at the moment). A lot of it is very good; I'm not sure it applies everywhere, and I'd like to see examples not about geometry (which I think are entirely possible, given Victor's idioms). But still: it's huge, and dense, and well-reasoned, and has lots of jumping off points. Good to see someone thinking about this stuff like this.
  • 'Together with Caper I have also been working on a small art project for the RSC. We’ve been interested in working with the building itself… We wanted to explore the building as a whole, the total sum of effort and action that makes experiencing the performance possible; some of it behind the scenes. To do that, we wanted to put together an app that would analyse, visualise and display activity in the building as it happens." Lovely stuff from Natalia; this is another piece of work commissioned at the same time as the piece I'm doing for the RSC (more of which anon).
  • "The fascinating thing about the New Aesthetic could be that it was never new — it went from being unknown to being ubiquitous and thoroughly banal with barely a blink. The frisson of shock or wonder one experienced at seeing an aspect of the New Aesthetic out in the wild comes because that is the only time it will be noticed; afterwards it will pass unobserved. The New Aesthetic is not about seeing something new — it is about the new things we are not seeing. It is an effort to truly observe and note emergent digital visual phenomena before they become invisible." This is a really solid, careful piece from Will Wiles.
  • "That's when we realized how big this was, and that we'd need outside help. We enlisted people to go to stops, measure traffic and count people getting off and on and we hired bike messengers to see where the buses went. The cyclists used Field Papers to transcribe the various routes and what they found out, which we recompiled back into a database of trips, stops, companies and frequency. At a rough estimate, these shuttles transport about 40% of the amount of passengers Caltrain moves each day." This is brilliant.

Time to live in Interesting Times

19 September 2012

At the beginning of October, I’ll be leaving Hide&Seek.

I’ve had a great time working here – on everything from phone-powered poetry games to web-based catechisms on death; consultancy and prototyping for major corporations and media companies, to a huge gallery installation of interlinked games built out of hardware, software, the network, and good-old physical manufacture. And throughout, working alongside some hugely talented and lovely colleagues (all of whom I will miss dreadfully). The company’s in great shape – with an NY studio recently established, and Mark coming on board – and I’m really excited to see what will emerge from them in the coming years. I’m grateful for all the opportunities I’ve had here.

What’s next, then?

What’s next is: working for myself. I’ll still probably continue to work on games – I can’t really ever stop writing about them or playing them, for starters and I’ve got one of my own I’d like to spend some time exploring – but I’m returning a bit closer to my technology-and-design roots, whilst bringing my experience of the playful interactive space to bear on that.

What will that work look like? Well: thinking through making; continuing my efforts to work with technology as a material; sitting at the intersection of design and technology. Some space to work with a whole host of interesting people, across a host of sectors – which includes you, if you’re reading – and also to develop my own practice and understanding. A bit more writing. For now, it’s best explained as “I am available for freelance work, doing the thing I do“, and I hope over time I’ll refine the proposition and explanation. (I will find somewhere to blog weeknotes, too.)

On the immediate horizon, I have an upcoming piece of work in October, through Caper, with the Royal Shakespeare Company: a small technological intervention with a theatre company to make interesting and beautiful things. It’s a lovely project, writing software to make art, and letting me tap into my liberal arts roots. There’s some early code and documentation on Github (from some spare evenings) and I’ll write more about the project in due course here when I’m working ont it in earnest.

Otherwise, though: I’m available for hire from mid-October. I am not interested in a fulltime position; I’m probably not your CTO or technical cofounder. I like short projects with defined goals; exploration, iteration and prototyping; straddling design and technology. I work on the full stack of the web as well as increasingly doing more things you might call “physical computing”. Of course, if you read this site, you have a good idea of what I do or am interested in. And I’ll hopefully have more work to show to explain what it is I do in the near future.

If you have interesting problems, or are curious as to what I could do for you, do drop me a line. It is time to live in Interesting Times.

  • "We always knew Magic: the Gathering was a complex game. But now it's proven: you could assemble a computer out of Magic cards." Oh lordy. Via Aanand, this proof that you can make a Turing Machine out of Magic The Gathering.
  • "Perhaps the best Wii idea of all, and one too little copied in other consumer electronics, was that the device itself lit up when something important had happened to it. If a friend sent you a message or if a game needed an update, the system would start emitting a blue glow from its disc drive. You didn't have to turn the Wii on to know something was ready for your attention; the device's light pattern showed it. Most inert consumer electronics do nothing like this, which is a pity. What a disappointing failure that we don't have more electronics that make themselves useful even while they are more or less turned off." Steven Totilo's farewell to the Wii is full of some lovely thought and analysis – as well as great game write-ups – but this in particular bears repeating. (It drove me mad, but, still).

Links & notes for this month