Tag: Design

Designers and engineers: where are the better design ideas than Saran wrap on PVC frames? (Don’t get me started on the Cone of Silence.) We’ve got to do better than this.

Unbeknownst to me, over a decade ago there apparently was a short-lived school of web design thinking called, per CJ Chilvers, HTMinimaLism, the idea that web design should “embrace the simplicity, utility and beauty of the web’s most basic elements”. For all intents and purposes, this is what in the early 2000s I was referring to as spartaneity, the idea “that web design should simply serve the content”.

Twenty Minutes Back Into The Future

Charlie Jane Anders wonders what well-known franchises people would reboot. It reminds me that at least a decade ago I’d mapped the basic premise for a Max Headroom reimagining.

Edison Carter as a washed-up has-been who used to be a preeminent journalist with an Edward R. Murrow sort of reputation; it’s anyone’s guess which came first: the public giving up on him or her (I’d played with the gender of several characters, I think) or him giving up on the public.

Max Headroom as an upstart Jon Stewart-style personality whose scathing, no-bullshit approach might not be recognized by the industry as “journalism” but is doing more to inform people than most journalism. I’d given some consideration to Max possibly not being the same gender as Carter despite being recognizable as having been generated from Carter’s mind.

Blank Reg more or less would be just like the original, except he’d be played by Mark Sheppard as a nod to the original, played by his father.

No pun intended but at the moment I’m blanking on my plans for the Theora and Bryce characters.

Rather than trying to re-envision what media would be like “twenty minutes into the future” from now, the design of the world’s technology would be the same as the original series, because I thought keeping it at an alt-future-history distance would help the storytelling rather than getting bogged down in trying to design something based on today’s world.

Maybe Carter’s video camera would be more handheld than shoulder-mounted, but that’s about as far as it would deviate. That said, Max would be motion-capture rather than, you know, a plastic jacket and hair.

They’ll reboot Max Headroom someday, and I’ll probably hate it because I’ve lived with this basic idea for ten years or more.

Places Journal announced a forthcoming book “by New School professor and columnist Shannon Mattern” called A City Is Not a Computer, named for an article of the same name; if the article is any indication, the book likely goes right onto my to-get list. The timing is interesting, given the economic collapse of Google’s planned “smart city” in Toronto.

Which is not to say wise. For every reasonable question Y Combinator asked — “How can cities help more of their residents be happy and reach their potential?” — there was a preposterous one: “How should we measure the effectiveness of a city (what are its KPIs)?” That’s Key Performance Indicators, for those not steeped in business intelligence jargon. There was hardly any mention of the urban designers, planners, and scholars who have been asking the big questions for centuries: How do cities function, and how can they function better?

I’ve been spending the day banging together a WordPress theme, even though I don’t actually know if I’m migrating or if I’m just in large need of Something To Do, but it’s somewhat remarkable how much I am remembering as I reacquaint myself with the basics — and with how comparatively uncomplicated a WordPress theme can be if you don’t actually need all the bells and whistles. It’s also, admittedly, refreshing to make changes and have them applied instantly. Any frustrations I might encounter are user error and (re)learning curve and not because things take twnety minutes to rebuild.

Anyone know if the mask style where the top edge is lower on the cheeks but then swoops steeply up onto the nose is better or worse when it comes to the fogging eyeglasses issue?

In the latest Civic Signals newsletter, Andrew Small picks up on my reference in the previous edition to third places, a term coined by Ray Oldenburg and to some extent popularized by Robert Putnam.

Part of the challenge is that social media doesn’t always have the kind of structure that bars or coffee shops can use to distinguish between those many possible purposes. A place like Twitter hasn’t figured out how to be a truly third space. With work and home becoming one place for so many of us, we could really use somewhere else to go.

The last time I discussed third places was in the context of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic and global social distancing measures — a context in which it’s all the more important for there to be virtual analogues to such places.

Twitter, however, while it has its uses not only isn’t such a place (because it’s a space, not a place; it moves too quickly and depends too much on indication rather than interaction) it could only ever facilitate such places were it to drastically overhaul its very premise.

I’m not sure anyone actually finds anything useful or interesting in these RSS/newsletter roundup posts I’ve been doing, but I’m keeping at it anyway. I think today’s batch is especially compelling.

Maciej Cegłowski (via Paul Bausch):

But in this essay, I want to persuade you not just to wear a mask, but to go beyond the new CDC guidelines and help make mask wearing a social norm. That means always wearing a mask when you go out in public, and becoming a pest and nuisance to the people in your life until they do the same.

Timothy A. Schuler (via Places Wire):

Maintaining distance from other people is, indeed, the task at hand, and as Mooallem writes, it is a noble one—as noble as saving a person from a burning building. Social isolation takes a toll, however. Loneliness can be deadly, increasing the risk of heart disease, depression, and high blood pressure, and potentially weakening the immune system’s ability to fight off diseases like COVID-19. Urban parks can provide anxious, weary citizens a bit of much-needed fresh air and sunlight, along with the sights and sounds of others—reminders that we are not alone. For those suffering from depression or domestic violence, such small reminders might be as important as not contracting a virus.

Megan Garber (via Places Wire):

But the problem of time is also a problem of space. Homes, too, in this moment, are taking on a new kind of indeterminacy: They are now serving not only as shelter and refuge, but also as workplace and school and gym and theater and restaurant and bar and laundry and town square. They now contain, for many, an entire day’s worth of demands. But whether a house or a compact apartment, those dwellings were never meant to be as profoundly multifunctional as a shelter-in-place scenario requires them to be. American homes, Don Norman, the founding chair of the cognitive-science department at the University of California at San Diego and an advocate of user-centered design, told me, are simply not meant to be lived in 24/7.

Heather Cox Richardson:

In an interview on the Fox News Channel on Monday, Trump explained his objection to Democrats’ efforts to appropriate billions of dollars for election security in the $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief package. “The things they had in there were crazy,” he told the hosts. “They had things, levels of voting that if you’d ever agreed to it, you’d never have a Republican elected in this country again.” On Wednesday, the Georgia House Speaker, Republican David Ralston, echoed Trump. He opposed sending absentee ballots to the state’s registered voters because the effort would lead to higher voter participation. That would “be extremely devastating to Republicans and conservatives in Georgia.”

John Stoehr:

The problem, of course, is this vocabulary does more to misinform than it does inform. The major parties are in fact unequal in their influence. The Republicans can and will use democratic institutions to sabotage the American republic. The Democrats, meanwhile, mostly try defending these institutions, nurturing them when they can. The public, however, often doesn’t see the difference. As you often hear me say, most people most of the time have something better to do than pay attention to politics.

Laura Bliss:

But essential workers — doctors, nurses, grocers, pharmacists, delivery drivers, and others — are still commuting, and homebound folks must still make trips for survival goods. Now local governments are taking action to help that critical movement happen more easily: They’re striping new bike lanes, retooling traffic signals, suspending transit fares, closing some streets to vehicle traffic, and taking other temporary transportation measures. CityLab has mapped some of the changes happening on city streets in the U.S. and around the world as of April 3, using data from the National Association of Transportation Officials’s Covid-19 Transportation Response Center, a newly launched repository of emergency responses.

Financial Times editorial board (via Colin Nagy):

Radical reforms — reversing the prevailing policy direction of the last four decades — will need to be put on the table. Governments will have to accept a more active role in the economy. They must see public services as investments rather than liabilities, and look for ways to make labour markets less insecure. Redistribution will again be on the agenda; the privileges of the elderly and wealthy in question. Policies until recently considered eccentric, such as basic income and wealth taxes, will have to be in the mix.

David Byrne:

Imagine a representational voting system that has nothing to do with political parties and that guarantees that the voices of we the people are heard. Such a system exists — in fact, it has been in use in various parts of the U.S. for some years now. More and more places are getting on board. It’s called ranked choice voting.

It’s safe to say that I’m pretty chuffed to appear in today’s Civic Signals given that it’s written by Andrew Small, formerly of CityLab, and features Joanne McNeil, author of Lurking, each of whom has been linked here more than once.

My morning hour of hitting the snooze button was filled in with interconnected mini-dreams about a new scheme for color-coding public transit systems, which (god help me) I’m going to try to explain later.

I’m struggling to embrace the irony that reading Mike Monteiro’s Ruined by Design on a Kobo will be a somewhat less than enjoyable experience because he only made it available for Kindle and so I had to run it through a conversion program that doesn’t quite understand chapter breaks. Does this make his book ruined by design?