• Great interview on the end titles for the Lego Movie, which, unlike the rest of the film, were actual stop motion. From designing in Lego Digital Design, through digital previz, and into manufacture, lots of details shared and cunning insight; motion controller stereoscopic stop motion isn't easy, you know. Very much symptomatic of all the detail throughout the film.
  • "Today I want to talk about these moments when the future falls in our laps, with no warning or consideration about whether we're ready to confront it." This is a great, great talk from Maciej, on the histories of technology, and how culture interferes with work, and how 20th century history complicated most things it touched. Also: the rant in the middle is good. I think this might be my favourite Maciej talk I've read or seen.
  • "I like co-op games where the other player gets a beer, not a second controller, but can still be utterly pivotal to the outcome of a game." Yes, that, and indeed, all of this lovely post from Margaret. I should return to FTL – I played a lot of it last year, and loved it, even if it mainly was a game about seeing how quickly somebody would asphyxiate when the Oxygen Machine blew up. Again. Sigh.
  • "The best lectures are also full of what the Elizabethans called ‘lively turning’ – strange juxtapositions, leaps of thought, rhetorical tricks, jokes and the element of surprise." Very true – a nice piece by Joe Moran on lecturing in the MOOC age.

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.

Crossposted from tomarmitage.com

Quick announcement time: I’ll be speaking at Webdagene 2013 in Oslo, September 9th to 11th.

My talk hasn’t got a formal title yet – it’s quite a way off – but I think – in my head – it’s called something like The New Materiality Of Design.

Webdagene’s focus is on UX, and so I think it’s appropriate (given their theme of “The Generation Shift”) to explore the new materials that designers need to both work with and be familiar – both invisible and highly tangible. To that end, it’s a continuation of what I said at dConstruct – about playing with things as a way of understanding them – coupled to the thoughts I raised in Technology As A Material.

There’s a bucket of raw thoughts in Evernote that, over the summer, will get turned into a talk. But for now: a quick note to announce that I’m speaking there, should you be thinking of attending. The rest of the speaking lineup is great, and it should be a thoughtful few days.

Perhaps see you there!

A few weeks ago I took part in a recording of Radio 4’s Four Thought. My episode of Four Thought will be broadcast on Radio 4 next Wednesday – the 26th December at 20:45pm. It’ll also be on iPlayer for the rest of the year, so if you don’t fancy interrupting Boxing Day for it, you can catch up later. I’ll probably link to it once it’s up on iPlayer.

What’s it about? It’s about technology education – from the “learning-to-code” meme that permeated 2012, through “computer science in schools”, and into what the real values of teaching technology are, and how you might go about that. Matt Jones’ post about a new age of STEAM was very timely, and suitably poetic; I’m only sad I didn’t talk a bit more about the value of the arts in my talk, though I hinted at it a bit.

So, if that sounds up your street, do tune in or catch up later.

Quick note: I’ll be talking at a recording of Four Thought at the RSA in December. The talk will eventually be broadcast on Radio 4.

A provisional title for what I’m doing is The Coded World. I’ll be talking a bit about a lot of the recent buzz about “learning to code”, what the values of it are (and aren’t), and a bit about the modern condition: of living in a world where our actions are shaped, and enhanced, by working and living alongside software. What it’s like to share out lives with machines to think with, as it were.

And I’ll get it down to fifteen minutes at some point. It’s taking shape nicely, though, so fingers crossed.

I’m talking at three events in the next few weeks, and now they’re all announced, it’s worth sharing them here.

First, on Thursday 23rd August (tomorrow), I’ll be talking at the Turing Festival in Edinburgh, during their Games slot. I’ll be talking about Systemic Media for a Systemic Age.

In an age of systems, systemic media is not just increasingly common but increasingly vital and games happen to be the most immediate, most populist manifestation of that. My belief is that “systems literacy” is the great literacy of the 21st century – and that games are the most powerful place to explore that literacy.

Then, on Friday 7th September, I’ll be talking at dConstruct in Brighton. The talk is called Making Friends: Toys, Toying and Toymaking. It’s about the value of making toys and what you can learn from that practice.

Toymaking is not an idle habit. Toys are a fertile ground for creators to work in. They offer a playful space to experiment and explore. They are a safe ground to experiment with new techniques, skills, or ideas. Though they emerge from no particular purpose, they expose purpose and meaning through their making. Toymaking ranges from making realistic simulations of life to producing highly abstract playthings. And everyone who makes things – out of paper, wood, metal, plastic, or code – has something to gain from making them.

And finally, on Saturday 8th September, I’ll be one of the speakers at the Brighton Mini Maker Faire talks. I’ll be talking about what I seem to spend a lot of my time doing: making things you don’t know how to make.

It turns out, of most of the things I’ve made, I didn’t know how to make when I started them, and I never thought I should be able to make them. When I finished them, neither of those statements were true.

It’s been interesting to think on these topics, and I’m looking forward to all three events. Say hello if you see me there!

Big news: I’m talking at this year’s dConstruct. I gone to dConstruct for many times over the years, so it’s a real privilege to speak.

More to the point, it’s a privilege to speak as part of that line-up. Especially, you know, James Burke. It should be a great day out.

I thought I’d finally try to draw a line through a section of my interests and practice over the past few years, and pull them together – all the bots, jokes, games, strange pieces of code that don’t do very much, stranger pieces of code that do – into a single thread. Which is how I came to the topic, something I care a great deal about:

Making Friends: on toys and toy making

Toys are not idle knick-knacks: they allow us to explore otherwise impossible terrain; fire the imagination; provide sparks for structured play. They do not just entertain and delight; they stimulate and inspire. And always, they remind us of the value – and values – to be found in abstract play.

Toymaking is not an idle habit. Toys are a fertile ground for creators to work in. They offer a playful space to experiment and explore. They are a safe ground to experiment with new techniques, skills, or ideas. Though they emerge from no particular purpose, they expose purpose and meaning through their making. Toymaking ranges from making realistic simulations of life to producing highly abstract playthings. And everyone who makes things – out of paper, wood, metal, plastic, or code – has something to gain from making them.

Trying to draw a thread through what, it turns out, has been a lifetime first shaped by toymaking, and then spent making toys in idle moments, Tom will take in (amongst other things) woodwork, Markov chains, state-machines and fiddle-sticks, to examine the values of toys and toymaking to 21st-century creators.

It should be good. I’m already a bit nervous. See you in Brighton in September.

Speaking at Lift12

20 February 2012

Unmentioned yet, owing to being busy: I’m going to be talking at Lift12 in Geneva this week! I’m in the games slot, along with Kars Alfrink and Sebastian Deterding, which should prove interesting (and, of course, fun). I’ll be talking a bit about Systemic Media for a Systemic Age, which is a “flip”/spin-off from my Design of Understanding talk. A bit more blurb:

The 21st century is one in which society increasingly moves away from an infrastructure of direct action, to one of layered systems. Those systems are built out of many materials: hardware; software; urban infrastructure; politics; morals; people. These interconnected structures often seem strange and foreign.

But we’ve played with interconnected systems for thousands of years. Games are what Eric Zimmerman has called “systemic media”; they are one of the many native cultural forms to this systemic age. This talk examines the ways systems exist in games, and their value in understanding a systemic world. What are the ways games teach us about the interconnectedness of things: how to understand it, and how to live within it?

I think the final talk will probably be similar. Anyhow: if you’re at Lift this week, do say hello! And if you’re not, I believe the talks will be streamed live over at the lift website.

Two days, two talks

26 January 2012

Very last minute notice about two talks that are going on!

On Friday 27th January – tomorrow – I’ll be talking about Games Design for Designers – or rather, talking to designers about games design, at The Design of Understanding. It should be a marvellous event – it’s a great line-up, and I’m looking forward to the whole day (especially following last year’s excellent day).

Then, on Saturday 28th, I’ll be talking as part of “Death Bites” at the Southbank Centre Festival of Death. There, I’ll be giving a short, fifteen minute essay, perhaps with illustration:

A short, personal history of dying in videogames: a medium where death is common, and lives are plural but rationed. Why is it that “dying” such a common metaphor in games – even supposedly non-violent ones? Does it have any meaningful significance compared to the process of death in the real world? Tom will present a short exploration, based on a life in which he’s died thousands of times.

Bit last minute, but wanted to document these before they popped up online. And then: next week, another speaking announcement with a bit more notice!