target is new

an exploration in the new

FutureEverything thinking on the box

This year I attended the FutureEverything conference for the second time. The last time was two or three years ago. A small conference, but with high quality content. And a good atmosphere too. This time it was scaled up a bit with big support of the city municipality, what makes it into a conference with a few side tracks and bit more local focus. Still the quality of speakers was far above average again.
It is some weeks ago now but I will give some reflections (instead of reporting in detail).

The kick-off by Mike Bracken and Russell Davies talking on GDS was nice. The first time I saw Russell in such formal talk, but still very smart and the achievements of GDS are of course impressive. Putting the delivery before the talking is very productive. The use some straight forward principles like: Work on stuff that matters. Do the hard stuff first. Make it open. Show the thing. Also show the analytics. Fixing the basics
They believe that the future of government is not a policy paper. It will emerge from the places where government is made. GAAN Government as a network. Not centralised, Not localised, But networked.

The rest of the day a lot of talks refer to different kind of utopias in the main room. The minimal viable utopia as Greenfield it puts.

The best talks I followed in the fireside chat room. James Bridle is still one of my favourite thinkers and artists. Always shifting our thinking with pieces of real working art. He talked on his drone shadows of course and on the project that was in town (but I missed); the Spaulder. Looking for the physical embodiments of the internet makes it interesting to look reversed too: digital embodiment of the real. The next day he talked a bit more on the surveillance topic in the main room. This was a very good panel of speakers, with next to James a talk by Eleanor Saitta, and Adam Harvey. James started with questions on the data ownership of driving plate data captured by British government.

It addresses how the current developments in surveillance shifts from an understanding of the world to an understanding of the person. Adam Harvey is the artist who made the camouflage like face paintings to counter face recognition. “We can interfere with observation by modifying our simulation. We exist in many environments and may moments in the future”. In that sense is the work of Tom Armitage creating a ghost presence of himself in another city a very practical implementation of the concept. Combining these would be very interesting.

Also the chat with Adam Greenfield was good. Long time I saw him present. His new piece as anti-smart city thinking was the main topic. From smart to networked city as an approach. The example to go out through the city in a ‘Walkshop’ and be aware of all the connected artefacts.

The second day was talking on the box as one speaker quoted.
A nice metaphor to take responsibility again instead of making just new new stuff. On of the boxes is our relation to tech and the evolution in that. Koert van Mensvoort introduced a model that behaves like the Maslow pyramid, upper levels are the next stages in evolution. For tech he found the steps: envisioned > operational > applied > accepted > vital > invisible > naturalised

Especially in the afternoon some great speakers told about projects. Like Tom Armitage on Hello Lamppost, and Dan Williams on several robotic encounters.
The talk of Alexandra Deschamp-Desino on gonzo products is definitely something to watch if you are active in the field of creating connected products, lets call them new products, like we call media new media in the era of change. Gonzo products are a need breed: a product designed for the crowdfunding reality. Low goal, lean, 6 months pivots.
Tom Armitage talked on Hello Lamppost and showed us how you make a city really playable. It is not a playable city if not everyone is allowed to play. Therefor they used low entry technology (SMS). Networks go beyond network cables. We should create service avatars. Objects as manifests of services. Made personal. Products can break from the services. Wellknown example is the Nabaztag connected rabbit.

Looking back on the conference it is hard to pinpoint one overall story. I like the box as a metaphor. Also I got the feeling that there is a kind of gap emerging between a non-developing practice of open data in cities and new realities of automated contexts we need to master.

Wearables trigger a new model of pull-marketing

For the Mobile Marketing weblog I wrote a column on the impact of wearables on marketing models. We will have a Personal API that can provide the data we generate by the use of wearables on a permission basis.

Read the post below (in Dutch).


Afgelopen week was er week SxSW in Austin. Ik heb dit jaar overgeslagen na een bezoek in 2011 en 2013. Het is een interessante bubbel waar je vooral goed kunt ontdekken welke ontwikkelingen tractie zouden kunnen krijgen. Voorafgaand filosofeerde ik over een paar mogelijke trends, waarvan wearables en privacy de belangrijkste waren. Het lijkt zeker terug te komen als ik de verhalen lees.

Voor mij is het een van de meest interessante aspecten van de wearables. Wat gebeurt er met de data die we gaan produceren met z’n allen. Ik vind het interessant dat de mens steeds meer een bron van data wordt over zichzelf waar hij anderen toegang toe geeft. Ik noem dat Personal API. Een API staat voor een Application Program Interface en zorgt ervoor dat je bijvoorbeeld met de data uit Tweets analysetools kan bouwen als bedrijf. Heel veel moderne diensten hebben een API. De Personal API maakt het dus mogelijk om voor andere partijen – binnen voorwaarden – gebruik te maken van mijn data.

Wat er gaat ontstaan in de wisselwerking tussen je eigen datacollectie en de publieke data, en welke data je wel en niet wil achterlaten is een groot vraagstuk. Nu nog zie je dat we er geen controle over hebben, denk aan de NSA-activiteiten. Als we die data echter steeds meer dicht bij onszelf laten ontstaan in de wearables en de tussenlaag meer bewust wordt ingericht krijgt de gebruiker meer controle. Het was ook een van de topics bij SxSW.

De commotie rond de ING heeft er alles mee te maken. Is de data die ik als gebruiker van een betaalde dienst (bankieren) gebruik van mijzelf of van de bank. ING geeft de indruk van het laatste, maar veel klanten zijn het daar niet mee eens. Het was voor ING net zo makkelijk geweest om de datatransactie vanuit de klant te laten sturen, dan was er geen ophef geweest, en was de opbrengst voor de ING gelijk geweest.

Ik geloof dat we het komend jaar veel applicaties en diensten zullen krijgen die de gebruiker wel de sturing gaan geven. Een voorbeeld is die probeert alle data bij elkaar te brengen. Maar ook tools als Commonsense van Sense-OS proberen data uit sensoren slim bij elkaar te brengen.

Dat betekent voor marketeers dat ze veel directer en persoonlijker contact kunnen zoeken. Permission marketing gaat een nieuwe fase in als we onze eigen Personal API gaan beheren.

Hoe die appjes eruit kunnen zien is ook een van de vragen die we ons stellen bij een hackathon op 9 april in Rotterdam plaatsvindt (en waar ik betrokken bij ben). We staan nog maar aan het begin van deze ontwikkeling, maar de impact lijkt groot te worden. Zeker voor marketeer. Het zou heel interessant zijn als bij de hackathon niet alleen programmeurs en designers meedoen, maar ook een moderne marketeer in een team gaat zitten.

In het marketingvak komt weer focus te liggen bij de gebruiker van de producten en diensten, vraaggestuurd. Pull is echt het nieuwe push, de Personal API zal daarin een van de belangrijke concepten kunnen zijn.

Do we need an identity faraday cage?

This was rather interesting tonight. I attended a session on the topic of fixing the internet. Instead of talking on the infrastructure alone privacy became a hot topic. I did not intended to direct this discussion by wearing my Glass but it did. Some people seemed to feel offended by the device, which is interesting on its own. It started with Douwe Schmidt mentioning the presence of Google in the audience through the Glass and at the end of the evening Marleen Stikker asked me to declare why I put the device on as provocation. It was not, although I thought on it wearing the device. Also as I tweeted; it is very interesting how Glass is functioning as the sharp knife of privacy, making the invisible data collecting very tangible.

For me the most relevant question of the evening was that of Hans Maarten van den Brink. He wonders what to do; hide or regulate? I think that is the valid question. We have to deal with this reality in more intelligent ways than purely try to protect all our doing from leaving trails. Of course it is wise to be aware of what is happening and what you share without knowing. Data sharing literacy is so important. I hope though that we can come up with tools and solutions that alter our presence in a way we like, or give at least the control on what we want to share.

As I think that our identity is much more defined by all traces that we leave behind, and with that the profiles we build of ourselves, much more than our personal identity data like name or address. We need to design literacy first and tools for self control of our wished presence. The work of Tom Armitage I admire for that, how he is making a ghost presence.

That is the direction we need to think. More than using ultra protected devices. This is what I wanted to achieve with our privacy sensing concept and commission research on altering contexts.

I don’t think we need a faraday cage for our identity, that is not the privacy we need. I think that we need a tool that control the opening in the faraday cage, or better; we need a faraday cage that could function as our controlled self. In the meanwhile, check out the activities of the privacy cafe.

Thinking on the #sxsw buzz

I do not attend South by South West interactive (SxSW) this year. The conference is becoming even more popular, and will definitely something to be missed, but I will make it up later this year with some other places. Still I was thinking on what buzz we can expect. Just for the fun of it, let’s try to predict this, see what will come true. And at the same time, these are of course also some of the things I hope it will buzz. I did not dive into the program, these are just some of my feelings.

Last year we had (big) data and behavior design. And the introduction of the Glass. That is the first buzz I expect. A lot of Glasses in the wild, it will be probably the most glassed place ever.

I attended some interesting talks on machine learning and intelligent systems last year. I expected more on that this year. The internet of things will buzz SxSW with connected products galore.

Quantified self was hot too last year. More as overall theme maybe. It will be buzzing in a more mature manner, connected to health stuff for instance. On the other hand we will have a buzz on data literacy. With Snowden doing a keynote and all that has happened last year, it could not be other than that this topic will be important. Morozov believers and deniers will be both present.

I can’t remember true breaking apps or services or categories from last year. Wonder if we would get one this year. It could be very well that it is not an app but a wearable this time. The hottest interactive stuff is sensor-based today.

See what Bruce will say.

Proving privacy is all about control

For the Dutch blog Mobile Marketing I wrote a post on my experiences with wearing a Glass in a museum that allows making pictures, but found it uneasy to allow it when it is unclear when the pictures are taken. An interesting case how the approach to this device is characterised by the openness and transparency more than the fact itself.

The post is in Dutch.


Er wordt heel verschillend gereageerd als je een Glass draagt. De onzekerheid die het oproept kan een gevaar zijn voor de acceptatie van wearables.

Vorige week was ik in het Rijksmuseum. Al enige tijd ben ik actief de mogelijkheden van Glass aan het onderzoeken, de nieuwe slimme bril van Google. Sinds enige weken heb ik zelf ook een exemplaar en probeer daarmee verschillende dingen uit. Zo ook rondlopen in het museum. Aangezien het beleid van museum fotograferen en videoopnames toestaat leek me dat geen groot probleem. Dat bleek echter anders. De suppoost in de zaal bij het kunstwerk van Daan Roosegaarde vroeg mij de bril af te zetten. Als toelichting gaf ze aan dat dit het beleid was zolang er geen beleid is geformuleerd. Daarbij gaf ze aan dat het probleem niet is dat je fotografeert met de bril, maar wel dat je niet ziet dat iemand dat doet.

En daarmee wordt wel een interessant punt geraakt. Bij alle presentaties die ik geef of bijwoon over de Glass komt altijd de privacy vraag langs. Wat gebeurt er met de data en zijn we nu echt volledig overgeleverd aan Google. Ook afgelopen donderdag bij het seminar Mens voor de Lens. Geleyn Meijer prikkelde in zijn aftrap met de vraagstelling of de data van een persoon die een device als Glass vastlegt eigenlijk niet van die persoon zou moeten blijven. Een discussie op zich.

In het licht van Glass een interessant punt uiteraard, maar een andere spreker (Dariu Gavrilla) vertelde over de geavanceerde radar en camerasystemen (8 stuks) die in een nieuwe Mercedes zitten en zorgen dat de auto voorkomt dat je een voetganger aanrijdt door in het uiterste geval zelf te remmen. Die foto’s die Glass maakt zijn misschien nog maar een fractie van alle foto’s en signalen die worden opgevangen door alle auto’s straks. Er is natuurlijk wel een verschil. In de auto zit geen mens aan de andere kant van het glas die naar de beelden kijkt.

Voor marketeers en mediamakers is het interessant te beseffen dat met de nieuwe golf ‘intimate mobile devices’ of ‘wearables’ weliswaar een heel nieuw speelveld ontstaat waarin marketingcommunicatie en -concepten kunnen worden bedacht, vol met mogelijkheden om dat toe te spitsen op die ene persoon. Maar aan de andere kant zorgen die devices ervoor dat mensen argwanend worden. De vraag is of de data die wordt afgegeven bij het gebruik van wearables niet ‘permission-based’ moet zijn. Google heeft met Glass daarin een interessante positie gekozen. Door het interactiemodel van diensten met triggers is het alleen mogelijk succesvol te zijn op deze device als je superrelevant communiceert. Als je daar dan specifieke data van die consument nodig hebt is de kans een stuk groter dat die wordt afgegeven.

Daarin zijn er modellen te bedenken waarin die data een tijdelijk karakter heeft. Zoals bij de radardata van de Mercedes. Het denken over profileren van consumenten moet verschuiven naar herkennen van gedrag, en daar op inspelen. Lerende systemen zijn daarin essentieel. Zoals een NEST thermostaat van je gedrag leert, het is niet voor niks dat Google deze partij heeft gekocht; Google is bij uitstek de partij om deze kennis te verfijnen en op basis van anonieme profielen heel veel input te geven aan marketeers. Context as a Service kan Google als de beste aanbieden.

De wearables zijn zeer interessant en maken een hoop los. Dat zal de komende tijd vaker gebeuren. Overigens reageerde de directeur van het Rijksmuseum later via Twitter dat Glass wel welkom is. Een teken hoe we nog zoeken naar de goede vorm voor deze datagedreven context.

Connected Everyday and the life of things

I was lucky to notice a tweet on Thursday evening, otherwise I would have missed a symposium at the Faculty of Industrial Design Engineering in Delft at Friday, dedicated to Connected Everyday. The symposium is dedicated to the inaugural lecture of Elisa Giaccardi later that day, but I was triggered with the line-up of speakers in the morning. Three of them I knew already by their reputation for good thinking on a field I find most interesting; connected products and the deeper impacts.

We live in a world where digital data, material objects and social practices are increasingly connected and interdependent. What are the challenges in designing for this new ecology of materials, artefacts and interactions?

Paul Dourish started off with a more philosophical look to the concept of Everyday. He mentioned different concepts of Everyday: Everyday as ubiquitous, everyday as casual, as residual, as repressive, as revolutionary, as collective, as site of study, as site of design.

Everyday is restructuring our perspective on life, my everyday is different from yours. As site of study it is interesting how he described the participation in the researchable world. Reshaping the concepts of everyday through design is in the end the topic of now.

Next was Chris Speed. He talked on Fast Algorithms and Slow things. And the concepts of time. The framework of everyday is future and past. He explored a bit further into the notion of time. Showing how stories told in movies of 6 seconds on Vine have a different meaning as the 140 characters of Twitter, that cost us also 6 seconds to read. And he let us experience via Speeder how speeding up the reading pace transforms meaning.

Sensors make us watch without eyes. New realities emerge. I liked his app TMIY, Take Me I’m Yours, where you can put geofenced based messages to objects based on place and time. The theory of spimes brought to practice. I think his distinction between objects and things, where things have context of presence, is very valuable. New economic models will emerge from the connected things.

Third speaker was Ron Wakkary. I did not see a talk of him before, but I liked it very much. He goes into the way we need to design for these everyday practices. We don’t call it functionality, it just does things. He also reject the idea of users. We have to look to these new things as self controlling entities. Unselfconsious interactions.

Screenshot 2014-01-27 04.27.32
A model

He used a couple of research project that made sense. The table non table project and the indoor weather station. Both designed for a kind of own will in the things. And as his main conclusion: “that over time lead to subjective and possibly unknowing improvements in the relationships of artifacts, evironments and people.”

Last speaker was Jack Schulze. Well-known for his agency BERG London, that is now fully transformed into a product company BERG Cloud with signature product Little Printer. He did not talk on this product, but on more meta level consequences of these new products. Systems are leaking into our experiences. Every connected product brings a system with it.

The example of cash is very strong. The product itself is quite simple. A coin. But it represents a lot. Like ownership. That change as you don’t hold the coin yourself. The object is just a carrier of the system behind it. And make the context of use clear.
And the example of Google; as a search action to pizaa of 0.26 seconds can return 213 million result, what is the thing carrying with it.

There are four orders of products, an evolution.

  1. Shelf demonstrable value
  2. Action at a distance, autonomous connection
  3. Independent connection to the web, the objects are part of the services of the internet
  4. They speak to and affect each other, an ecology of things

To use something, you have to be able to perceive it. You have to make things that have heart. That is what connects us to the things. Like the Apple iOS comparison to Android. iPhone feels better because the makers care.

The panel discussion delivered some extra bits of insights. The format to let objects ask questions to the speakers worked out very well. We learned a nice entertaining activity; read the reviews of the Roomba and see how the product is having a soul for people.

Schulze added that it is remarkable to realize how the very same book of 1999 -say Harry Potter- is so different now with all its context you get when reading in 2014. That is the impact of systems and spimes.

Wakkary put it nice: products are interventions in situations. And as Chris Speed said; objects are no things. Things are events with objects as artefacts. Combine this with algorithms and it can get messy.

2014; balancing our life of captured moments

A new year has started. Time for some predictions to keep up a good tradition. We published already some trends on the Christmas card of (read them here in Dutch). In short: Mobile rules digital, wearables as next wave, from social to community, lean service design as approach and data as fuel.

Looking back at the predictions for 2013 as I did last year I got a feeling that a lot came true in the attention and intentions, but at the same time I could repeat the trends for 2014. There were others that coined 2013 as a lost year. Don’t agree on that, but 2013 was a year where some foundations for changes were made more than the changes itself. The explorations on Glass where important. The leap forward for electric cars. Drone delivery concepts, and the insights we gain from NSA. All important steps.

For me the big overall trend is the merge of the digital and psychical space that is tipping this year. We expected a lot from the internet of things in 2013 and we have seen a lot of attention and separate products like Hue and Nest breaking through. Still the real full connected context that shapes total new concepts and experiences is just about to start. Glass can be a driver. We played with the device build some apps already and preaching the impulse shaped services even more.

Glass and other smart wearables as the iWatch will come to the market and will connect with the psychical world via Bluetooth smart. In 2014 the first concepts and services will be introduced, conferences like SxSW and Solid will talk a lot on this, the real connected world will only emerge as the big players Google, Apple manage to create an OS-like environment where services can interact.

Google will launch definitely a model around Glass for extracting profile data into the services (Glassware) we gonna build, and Apple will introduce a variation/extension on Passbook. All seems to be in place for some serious steps here. Apple could even be the trailblazer if they get the model right in a way users understand we are entering a different world.

The model of impulse shaped services has a big relation with our even greater valuation of the now as. Snapchat is the signature service here that will have influence in new services part of existing social services.

Quantified self made it’s way to more people as predicted, becoming more part of services and products instead of separate things. Logging will be part of all system and crucial for the impulse shaped world. Interesting is how the data sensitivity will develop. With the highly contextual based services our profile and behavior will have even more influence on the day-to-day experience. If NSA secrets finds its way to a broader audience it can mean serious threat for the adoption.

We embrace also the real. 3D printing has a slow start, but could transform in a mean to freeze our continuous disappearing now experiences. Printing our life logging, expect a service for that the coming year. We need new services to make our legacy last longer than the moment. Looking for this balance between the even more digitized context and embodied experiences could become an important driver.

Have a great 2014!

Design by storytelling at THUTC

Monday November 25 another edition of This happened Utrecht took place (THUTC), edition 18. Because of other appointments I missed the first speaker; Mapije presented her toolkit for making an adventure game of your home. Sounds like an interesting project so I will rewatch this online later.

The other three talks were amusing and interesting. In all three storytelling played an important role I think in one way or another. Or better said, the way using storytelling in the design proces.

Niels ‘t Hooft seems rather clearly connected to this storytelling; he is presenting the proces of writing a novel. He took us through his process of building characters, plotting activities. Also testing the development of the characters and the interdependencies. I think that the steps of writing he took do resemble the way I write (no novels though): 1. write down the story without bothering on style or grammar, 2. write up doing a rework, 3. a paper check, printed out story, 4. first draft. He mapped those to the chapters and those could have different speed and phases.

thutc18 niels

All in all it gave a great insight in his process of ‘designing a story’, and also the changes that occur along the way. I can recommend the book for sure, it is a real page turner.

The talk by Norah Gauw from Developlay on the iPad game for toddlers -Nott won’t sleep- to learn to sleep also have a important role for storytelling. The game is smartly constructed to make the toddlers learn rituals to go to sleep by telling a story. A short story of a couple of minutes but the build in tension is important for the effect.

She shared some learnings that brings designing an app for such young children. Like the simple fact that a request for ratings of the app (very important for the app marketing) is switched off because toddlers loose their interest than right away.

The last presentation was by architecture agency ONL on one of their projects Parametric Climbing Wall. The work of these agency is always characterised by the marriage between architecture and programming. They are able to make forms generated by code that could not exist without this design approach. This project is a wonderful example of this.

The climbing wall is made out of several pieces of wood that are all different. The volume is never bigger than a standard which makes it possible to make it for the same amount of money. The trick is that the office is connecting the design directly to the production machines (CNC) without an in between layer of technical drawings.

It is remarkable how the approach of Oosterhuis is creating a story in the technology, the only way to be able to make this work is to understand the ‘thinking’ of the machine and build a story in code to achieve the projected results.

Step by step digital blurring of our reality

Due to my holidays I missed a bit on the reports of the new Google Nexus 5 and KitKat. In this article on Wired on especially the new functions of KitKat it strikes me how it seems to be another step in the path where our reality is enhanced with digital experiences. Or as often is called; the post digital era we are in now for some time.

This is in the way it is intelligent in helping you finding the right person in your phonebook when using voice searching, and even more how it combines all external knowledge in your phone to find the right address of a business. Context is taken into account and your phone carries more than ever the knowledge of the world with it. This is exactly also what makes the Google Glass design concept interesting; Google is reinventing contextual experiences.

“The camera’s HDR function is fantastic in weirdly lit situations to get the most out of color and range.”

This was another trigger. You can read it as a review of the HDR color correction, but I think it is a signpost how the phone is filling in reality with the knowledge of the context. A reality that need not necessary to be there.

The internet of things vs connected devices

In a blogpost on Numrush I ran into an overview made by Stained Glass Lab on the a categorisation of the internet of things and connected devices. Reading the post I got the feeling those two things were taken together as one, which is not the case in my opinion. Probably blinded by the fancy infographic. I found the original post which put it more in context, Stained Glass Lab makes the differentiation in a sense. Still I like to share my thoughts on the differences here (again?).

Connected devices are smart devices that function smart because of their connection with the internet, or with the connection to another smart device. A device has a function on its own that originates only from the fact that it is connected.

The internet of things functions on a level higher, the concept that there is a network of connected things that in itself don’t to be smart things. The smartness (forgive me this hollow word smart) is generated by the fact that they connect to each other and the internet. The smartness is the system, not the object (eg. device) itself…

In that sense connected devices can and will be part of the total ecosystem that the internet of things is. One connected device does not make the internet of things.

An extra layer here is the distinction in reactive and proactive internet of things, as coined by Rob van Kranenburg. Reactive internet of things focusses on the value that emerges from the relations between the things. Extra value is generated as the system of the connected things becomes a value on its own. It generates more value by working together, and only by being connected.

Devices like smartphones, watches, glasses etc. function more as a remote control to the internet of things than as the defining elements. I used the difference between optimised and meaningful internet of things before. I hope some time soon be able to make time to elaborate a bit more on these things.


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