Sticking it to the selfie-stick

Sitting on the train yesterday, I observed a couple with their young son of about two-years old operating a selfie-stick. Such a bizzare contraption. I remember first seeing them during a trip to Europe in 2012 and being simultaneously intrigued and repelled by the idea of it.

Practically, the selfie-stick is a smart way of solving the issue of taking bad selfies. If we look at it from another angle, it’s evidence of technology being shaped by our usages. The phone camera was likely not invented for the purpose of taking photos of oneself, until someone turned their phone around one day and did exactly that. Technology responded to this by creating a phone camera that, using a built-in app function, can be reversed to reflect the image of the user. The selfie stick takes this concept one step further, allowing us to actually craft and refine these images to a point where it’s ‘acceptable’ for public viewing.

Of course, the self-timer on digital cameras came in before all of this. But there’s something about being able to see the image while it’s being taken, that process of instant curation, that marks the difference.

I’m still not sure where I sit on the selfie stick. The National Gallery in the UK sure finds them obnoxious

Jaffle-lovers of Melbourne unite

Melbourne has delivered its latest pop up event – in the form of jaffle parachutes. Created by Adam Grant and David McDonald, Jafflechutes involved the pre-purchase of individual jaffles by community supporters of the project, which were dropped off the top of a building in Flinders Lane on Friday night – ideally into the waiting arms of their owners.

The Jafflechutes Twitter feed and Facebook page are being updated daily since the event took place, demonstrating the emphasis on social media in the way in which the event’s producers are engaging with their community around this event. There is also a Flickr page where you can view photos taken of the event, and a video here too.

A simple idea that’s spontaneous and just a little – or maybe a lot – bizarre, and that requires participation from the public. A very similar idea to a flash mob.

The Twitter feed suggests that Friday night was just the first of more Jafflechute events to come. So I suppose we can say  this particular project is more of a pop-up event than a flash mob, flash mobs generally being more of a spontaneous, “one-off” occurrence. Pop-up events are a huge trend in Melbourne at the moment. They seem to have a particular focus on food, such as food trucks and food stalls (Gumbo Kitchen and Beat Box Kitchen to name a couple). It has infiltrated other areas, however, for example the pop-up drive in I went to recently.

The correlation between flash mobs and pop-up events is an interesting one. I see the latter as a variation on the former – even perhaps a result of it. The main reasons being that pop-up events are often spontaneous and release event information just hours beforehand; they rely on continuing participation and support from their community members in order to be successful, and do so predominantly using social media channels. Gumbo Kitchen is a good example, as it makes use of social media to maintain an ongoing relationship with its supporters and provide last minute updates and hints on where they might be located on a particular day.

Hey Girl

Brooklyn-based web developer Katherine Champagne has created a web extension for Google Crome that you can use to customise all the images in your web browser to be pictures of Ryan Gosling. The extension, named Hey Girl, is intended to get more females into web programming. That’s definitely one way to do it, Katherine! Note here the element of play, the speculation about what will happen if we could change the images in our web browser to something we like better. These days a lot of things are customisable when it comes to our own web use, so Hey Girl is not a new idea. Still, it’s an experiment. And we like experiments.

Bringing back social cinema

On Friday night, I went to a pop up drive-in event in Brunswick East hosted by Valhalla Social Cinema, an organisation I’d read about that morning on Broadsheet.

Being a huge fan of old school B-grade horror films, I was extremely excited to learn that Valhalla’s ideals are all about bringing back a culture of collective movie-watching by producing social events around the screening of cult films, particularly those of the horror, sci-fi and fantasy variety.

I think this is a really beautiful idea, given that the consumption of cinema today is largely privatised due to mobile technologies and the digitalisation of film. There are a few organisations in Melbourne who stage similar events, such as Underground Cinema and Cinema Nova’s frequent screenings of the widely proclaimed ‘worst-film-ever-made’ The Room (unmissable).

Being drive-in rookies, my partner and I ended up with a flat car battery. Whilst trying to give it a jump start we missed the amazingly gory end of Christine and the beginning of Fright Night, much to Jose’s (the man behind Valhalla) dismay. It was wonderful to see people making room for us in their cars because THE MOST important thing about that night was simply watching and enjoying the films together.

If you’re interested, Valhalla is putting on a 14-hour horror/fantasy marathon on Sept 7th. See the website for deets.


Regulating the bitcoin

Interesting article on how the American legal system is cracking down on use of the bitcoin for illegal purposes. I see this as similar to the way in which industrial media has responded to the threat of networked media by attempting to copyright and place regulations on every bit of content they own on the web. I’m not one to encourage unlawful behaviour, so in this case I think regulating the bitcoin is a positive. However, I find it fascinating that in a world of rampant internet piracy and the ability to foster anonymous online identities, the digitalisation of information also leaves a significant ‘paper trail’ (ironically named). The bitcoin claims to be anonymous for its users, but it is still able to be monitored. So it would seem that cold hard physical cash is still the most effective means of transacting illegal activities… Live long The Sopranos.

My takeaway idea

My takeaway idea from this week’s readings on design fiction comes from the Knutz, Markussen & Christensen reading “The Role of Fiction in Experiments within Design, Art & Architecture”. What stood out for me in this reading is how we can use “what if” questions to speculate about what the world could be in the future. The reading uses the example of sci-fi stories and how they always invite us to imagine a scenario that has not yet come to be; in other words, a world that, for now, only exists as a future possibility. Take Gattaca, for example. What if we could modify our genes to be better looking, more intelligent, more successful than others?

When we ask “what if”, we are not looking for a definitive answer. It is a more explorative exercise than that. Using “what if” questions can be useful for thinking about the changing nature of the network, and what possibilities these new changes might present to us.

I also made the connection between the idea of the “what if” and Chris Argyris’ theory of double-loop learning. For me, asking “what if” is ingrained deeply in the double-loop system, and this is because in order to undertake double-loop learning, we need to ask ourselves, “What if I try a different approach, rather than repeating a process that does not work or is not as efficient as it could be?” Speculation is very much a part of this process of questioning our assumptions about something, reassessing them and attempting a different direction. You don’t necessary know if your new approach is going to work, so until it does, it remains open and speculative. I’m not sure how accurate that interpretation is, but, you know, I’m speculating…

Bonus points for ideas?

In class last week (Week 2), Georgina posed an excellent question: if I write a good blog post explaining an idea from one of the readings, and it helps someone else understand that idea better, will I get 2 bonus marks? A very good question. So far, the bonus tasks are being treated as responses to an imaginary FAQ in the form of a tutorial, which only really rewards the tech-savvy students. So what about those students whose strengths lie in research and thinking through ideas presented in the course? A system for measuring these skills will hopefully be implemented when we get to doing the wikis. For now, I’d like to point out the blog post that sparked this conversation, in which Georgina uses the metaphor of building a house to help explain what she thinks double-loop learning is.

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