• "Here are ‘the obsolete industrial plants; the inadequacy of unchanged transport systems and overstrained power supplies … the shift of power from industrial capital to international finance capital’ and so on. Here is the self-consciously world-historical Lowry, showing us Britain mired in its past, and perhaps the future of China. But here and there is the old local Lowry, whose people cannot see beyond the foreground terraces to the dystopian prospect, and so seem to manage, to cope, even to enjoy themselves, on their own tight patch. People stop to chat or just to stand about; kids play; dogs and babies get taken for walks; women wear bright vermilion, the happy colour of the summer of 2013, and apparently of 1950 too. It’s hard to say this without sounding as folksy as Brian and Michael, and perhaps that’s exactly what it is, but right now what I most admire and enjoy about Lowry is the interest he shows, without any apparent agenda, in what people do. I have no idea why that should be so moving." Wonderful article from this fortnight's LRB about the Lowry retrospective at Tate Britain.
  • "Coming up with a word like neuromancer is something that would earn you a really fine vacation if you worked in an ad agency. It was a kind of booby-trapped portmanteau that contained considerable potential for cognitive dissonance, that pleasurable buzz of feeling slightly unsettled." There is so, so much in this interview, that quoting it feels somewhat futile. It's a really lovely thing piece, that goes far beyond cyberpunk, and delves deep into Gibson's writing and history. There are at least five meaty quotes I wanted to yank; it's worth reading and rereading.

LDNIA, August 21 2013: “The Material World”

31 July 2013

I’m going to be speaking at LDNIA in August. The talk’s called The Material World, and is a prototype – or “radio edit”, if you like – of my forthcoming talk at Webdagene:

The modern designer works with more materials than ever before. Not just tangible materials, such as the web, or desktop software, or the smartphone; also, intangible ‘immaterials’ such as data, time, radio, and the network.

To design well with materials, be they tangible or not, we need to be conversant in them, acutely aware of their capabilities. How do we develop that familiarit?

Through a process of material exploration. Not just reading the documentation or making a few drawings – but feeling their grain under your fingernails. To understand the nature of materials, you can’t just look at them. You have to play with them. Tom will, through some of his own work, look at what materials are (and can be); the value of material exploration, and how to approach it; and the value of playing with materials – the value of toymaking.

Tickets are usually quite limited, but are available now. If you’re coming, it’ll be great to see you.

Cross-posted from my professional site.

  • "Modli warned his listeners to be ready with their cassette recorders, then waited to see the response after he played the screeching and wailing tape into the ether. Soon he began receiving excited calls from his audience, who said they'd been able to load the program – a routine called 'Paginator' – onto their computers. But not everyone was impressed, notably the station heads. "They thought it was a scandalous event!" says Modli. "I had a big problem explaining to them that it was a revolution in radio and they should be proud."" Lovely piece of reporting, with some great tidbits, about Yugoslavia's own little z80 kit-computer from the early 80s.
  • "x-OSC is a wireless I/O board that provides just about any software with access to 32 high-performance analogue/digital channels via OSC messages over WiFi. There is no user programmable firmware and no software or drivers to install making x-OSC immediately compatible with any WiFi-enabled platform. All internal settings can be adjusted using any web browser." Small, simple, wireless OSC-transmitting board; really nice idea, simply implemented, and noted down as a way of simplifying certain kinds of projects in future…
  • "I remember a Christmas as a boy where I was given both a bicycle and a copy of The Hobbit, and strict instructions to make immediate progress with both. [My dad and I] continue to find it very easy to choose birthday gifts for each other." Mainly linked just for this paragraph.

Links & notes for this month