Monday, 26 January 2009

[132] Jack Schulze: 'Comics, Maps and Taking the Red Pill'

Something short and sweet for you this evening.

This afternoon I walked down to Goldsmiths to see a lecture given by Jack Schulze, called 'Comics, Maps and Taking the Red Pill'. Schulze is a designer for consumer technology and a consultant for big companies such as Nokia and the BBC. He brought up a lot of ideas that I hadn't heard in the context of design and technology before, and used some eye-opening examples and illustrations. I thought I'd write a few comments on the lecture here, passing on some of the stuff he referred to.

He first spoke about the work he does, where he and his partner envision ways to reinvigorate old tech or media with ideas or concepts from new media. He showed a design he'd work on for the BBC, which was a digital radio that incorporated aspects of social networking, where the listener could see who of their selected friends was listening to their radios, and to which stations. The project was called Olinda, and really taps into that sense of technology requiring development and progression as opposed to bloody revolution (an argument I have with my father more than anyone). Such steps, using socio -cultural aspects of web-based communication, can help recreate a sense of common consumption of entertainment. Very interesting, I thought.

This tied into his discussion of comics, where he referred to Warren Ellis, Grant Morrison and others developing the form in intriguing ways, injecting sophistication and depth by being aware of, and tinkering with, the 'solid' concepts of the medium. This section included lots of screenshots, including the metafictional concept of 'hypertime' and other innovations by the writers, as well as the design-based craziness of Shintaro Kago, where the very framework of panels and pages becomes unsettled and reimagined. Actually, Schulze didn't call these concepts metafictional or post-modern - he simply spoke about them in very enthusiastic, down to earth terms.

He also mentioned a recent project called 'Things Our Friends Have Written On the Internet 2008', a periodical created by two designers, where they collated Twitter feeds, blog posts and other online articles into newspaper format. Again, old media is here adapted into, in this context, something more personal, made up of new media expression. It's not necessarily the book, or the newspaper that is at direct fault, more its relationship with the reader, and its approach to its content.

Fascinating discussion topics. Also worth checking out is his recent project called the Availabot, a small figurine that a person makes of a friend, that will stand up when the person comes online.

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