Graduating Back To The Real World

I’ve been on a semi-sabbatical for a while, doing some good, studying for a master’s degree, and sorting out some plans for the next fifty years. In business, when a discussion starts straying off topic, we say, “Well, that may be a good topic for a graduate seminar, but we need practical solutions here.” I’ve just spent a couple of years in graduate seminars, rarely getting to the point,  wandering up and down rhetorical byways, never calling the question. I’ve been reading and writing up a storm, but not for publication.

It’s been a lot of fun, I’ve learned a lot, but it’s time to get back to work. Stay tuned.

 

Saletan’s Stat-Packed 2010 State of the Digital World

Saletan on the state of the world as we live it through technology.

Taming social media in the new decade

I sign up for everything: GeoCities, Classmates, Ryze, Orkut, MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google, Yahoo, Flickr, LibraryThing, Plurk, Lifeblob, Meme, various Ning sites, Technorati, RSS feeds and God knows what else. Partly it’s to learn what they’re all about, partly to link to the folks who are there, partly for the sheer info-glut geekiness of it all. Continue Reading →

Dan Bricklin and the Cold Comfort of Experience

I saw Dan Bricklin, inventor of the first PC spreadsheet program VisiCalc, at the NY Tech Meetup last night. The opening acts were some machine vision and robotics researchers from NYU and Columbia showing their new work to a big but under-charmed crowd. Things ran late, and then proto-blogger Anil Dash gave some admiring introductory remarks and brought out Dan.

 

Dan brought out his new book, Bricklin on Technology, a compilation of his blogs, podcasts and essays over the last decade.

He read from the book — from his old blog posts — and illustrated his talk with pictures from the East Coast birthplace of computing around Route 128 near Boston back in the 60s, 70s and 80s. Dan unrolled ancient scrolls from the before-time: DEC minicomputers, dumb terminals, the Apple II, the revolutionary Harris 2200 page layout machine, the first IBM PC and some promo videos for spreadsheet programs that eclipsed VisiCalc, Lotus 1-2-3 and Microsoft Excel. The audience roared at the 1980s dweebs in three piece suits dancing to a pre-Windows jingle as Dan told about inventing the spreadsheet in a wet basement in Massachusetts. In the background were Gates and Jobs but also the armies of hopeful start-ups, brilliant programmers, careful CFOs, lucky salesmen and visionary inventors who drove computing onto every desk and into every home in those years.

Continue Reading →

Social Media: The Narcissphere

"Circulating
throughout the narcissphere."
A throwaway line from Chris Ayres, LA columnist for the Times of London, has been rattling around inside my head for a couple of weeks. Social networks — Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, MySpace and all the rest — are all about the "I". Each service is a walled garden of Friends and Followers answering the question: "What are you doing?" The only people in the garden are the people I know, culled from my email address book or vetted by an invitation subroutine. My ego expands with my list of Friends, and I surf for ever more worthy Friends to enhance my Connections.

The Internet has always featured user-generated content: home pages, email, chat lines, fan fiction, blogs, wall postings and the Fifth Circle of Hell — wrathful and sullen comment threads. But the public Internet also delivers exabytes of professionally-generated content: the academic, journalistic, literary and — most recently — cinematic. It's got people we don't like, ideas we're afraid of, philosophies we haven't considered, chances we're not ready to take. It's life. The world. Everything.

Social networks carve up the Net into special interest groups so we mainly see the people who think like we do. No wonder the marketers and spammers are all over social media: we do their research work for them by lining up into the correct psychographic. I think I prefer a life that's not so easily pigeonholed.

At the Movies: Happy Birthday, Helvetica

Helveticamovie
In honor of the fiftieth anniversary of the world’s most popular typeface, filmmaker Gary Hustwit is producing Helvetica, a documentary about …

… typography,
graphic design and global visual culture. It looks at the proliferation
of one typeface (which will celebrate its 50th birthday in 2007) as
part of a larger conversation about the way type affects our lives. The
film is an exploration of urban spaces in major cities and the type
that inhabits them, and a fluid discussion with renowned designers
about their work, the creative process, and the choices and aesthetics
behind their use of type.

The
film will be released early next year. Read an interview with the filmmaker in the AIGA journal and visit the movie’s MySpace page. Font lovers,  see also the "Thank You for Smoking" trailer.

“Thank You for Smoking” Typography

TyfstitleJason Reitman’s movie Thank You For Smoking is a fine adaptation of Christopher Buckley’s biting satire of a decade ago, the story of a tobacco lobbyist with a heart of gold. (I don’t remember the heart of gold part from the book.)  One of the best things about the movie is the opening credits, an animated homage to great cigarette pack typography: Futura, Copperplate, Cheltenham, Bodoni plus a handful of elegant scripts. Click on the image to watch the titles on the designer’s web site,  ShadowPlayStudio.com. Verdana, Arial and Georgia just don’t measure up.
 

Here’s the new new Hollywood: The director, 28-year-old son of Boomer auteur Ivan Reitman,  talks about his movie on his blog, maintains a MySpace page and posts videos on YouTube.

Giant TVs, Tiny Cars

Wegacooper_1The new Sony Qualia 006 is a 70-inch rear projection TV powered by a new liquid crystal on silicon (LCOS) chip. At 71.75″ wide, the TV is more than five inches wider than the chic Mini Cooper sports car made famous on the big screen by the incomparable Charlize Theron in last year’s The Italian Job.

The Mini Cooper is more of an entertainment brand than the Sony TV. After starring in the Theron heist movie, it’s been featured in a video game as well as an amusement park ride. Ironically, some 36,000 Minis were sold in the U.S. last year without running a single television commercial.

A Billion Square Feet of Skin

TimessquareOur visual environment keeps getting more beautiful. As digital imaging technologies mature, old time sign painters have been replaced by grand format digital systems that can blow up any PhotoShop image to the side of a ten story building. And as this picture of Times Square from Wired New York reveals, a lot of the best looking signs have the best looking people, often with the fewest pieces of clothing.

According to InfoTrends/CAP Ventures, the wide format outdoor graphics market is one of the fastest-growing areas of digital printing. By 2008, giant ink jets are expected to produce more than 1 billion square feet of outdoor graphics in North America.