So the language in Neil Gershenfeld’s Fab bothered me a little bit. Particularly this section on page 6:

“The overwhelming interest was from students with relatively little technical expertise was only the first surprise. The next was the reason why they wanted to take the class. Virtually no one was doing this for research. Instead, they were motivated by the desire to make things they’d always wanted, but that didn’t exist … their inspiration wasn’t professional; it was personal … Starting out with skills more stuited to arts and crafts than advanced engineering, they routinely and single-handedly managed to design and building complete functioning systems.”

And again on page seven: “The learning process was driven by the demand for, rather than the supply of, knowledge. Once students mastered a new capability … they had a near-evangelical interest in showing others how to use it. As students needed new skills for they projects they would learn them from their peers and then in turn pass them on.”

Well, ain’t that all so very, very surprising, Mr. Gershenfeld.

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17 Nov 2009

Your worth: somewhere between 37 cents and $20

November 17, 2009 501A, assignments, responses Comments Off

I think the most striking things in the CNBC program “Big Brother” were not the extent and use of the surveillance technology by both private firms and the government (because honestly, if you don’t know that’s happening, you’re really just not paying attention), but these comments by Dr. Joseph Atick:

“Big Brother if left and allowed to happen, would happen. Our job as responsible human beings in society is to make sure that is not to occur.”

“It is not technology that is going to dictate the application of technology in a society. It is society’s needs and values.”

Well, yes.

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4 Nov 2009

My iPhone loves me.

November 4, 2009 501A, responses Comments Off

I thought David Kelley’s discussion of user-centered design was pretty interesting, especially in light of the ideas we’ve already explored in “Welcome to the experience economy” by Pine and Gilmour. Isn’t that part of what’s being sold here, is the experience of the thing and not just the thing itself?

Look at the cubicle, for example, which aims to make work a more pleasant experience. (I remember when that was announced, by the way. I think I asked my boss if I could have a hammock, especially since a colleague already had a life-sized cutout of Angelina Jolie as Lara Croft in the office. No, I don’t know why. And he said no to the hammock.) And the underwater camera helps give you an experience you might not have been able to have by yourself. That’s a bit more explicitly experiential, but I think the larger point is that good design is part of what users enjoy about a product. No one likes crawling inside the code monkeys’ heads — that is, no one likes learning how to use something based on someone else’s idea of what should be obvious. It never is obvious.

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19 Oct 2009

Twunk the whole world

October 19, 2009 501A, responses 1 Comment

Sometimes I find out about things backwards, which, when you think about it, is a legitimate part of viral culture. We didn’t all get swine flu from Porcine Mary, so to speak.

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6 Oct 2009

THE public policy problem of our time. (No, not health care.)

October 6, 2009 501A, assignments, responses 1 Comment

So I did that whole riff on identity, which yeah, but I think I’m going to go somewhere else this time. Let’s try democracy, because now I’m kind of in this place that makes my little social science-y heart go pitter-pat.

(What can I say? The theory, it infects! Read a bunch and then play spot-the-philospher with the Matrix! As a drinking game!)

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