The collection of treadmill photos above is from Mark Luthringer's amazing Ridgmont Typologies art project. There are fifteen "typologies" in the project. It's really worth a look.
Luthringer simply took digital camera snapshots of various subjects (the front grill of trucks, roofs of homes) as a way of building typologies, which he believes can illuminate the "excess, redundancy, and meaningless freedom of our current age of consumption".
As interesting as that concept is, I'm also fascinated by what he has to say about assembly-the combination of images in this case, as a way of deriving emergent meaning (really, as a DJ of twenty years I had never quite thought of the act of collecting and assembly of music and records quite like that, but that's what it is, in a nutshell, an act of creation from assembling other bits together based on connections that you hope crystallize). Initially, Luthringer was insulted when critics pointed to those aspects of his work (he thought that the focus should be on the subject itself), but he eventually came around to appreciate the unique contribution that he could make:
resulting assembly of pictures was itself a distinct entity,that the initial idea was my principal contribution, and that the subsequent making of pictures was anact of searching and collecting rather than seeing or creating. And about this process of collecting,I thought: instead of not acknowledging it or being uncomfortable with it, why not embrace it? Whynot use groups of images, rather than individual ones, as the currency of my work? Why not see what results from sacrificing form for efficiency?
I know very little about cognitive psychology, but I'm really interested in the process by which we contruct meaning by imposing or discovering order in the things around us, and Luthringer's project is a remarkably simple and vivid way of bringing that to life.
(his typologies) mimic the mental images I suspect many of us form as way ordering the chaos of abundance that surrounds us. We can’t help but form in our heads lists, groups and categories based on product, brand, price point, style, market segment, country of origin, etc.
To see one of these groups turned into a printed grid of images, though, is to be confronted by it in a way never possible when it’s just in our heads. We are presented with order, and while it is often an absurd, seemingly pointless order, it is one that we recognize immediately.
Going off on a bit of a tangent, here's another interesting collection of a beautifully-crafted assembly of images that hints at a meaning, though that meaning seems teasingly beyond our (or at least my) grasp.
Stowe Boyd Summary:
Flow: A New Consciousness For A Web Of Traffic
Social presence tools -- like Twitter, Facebook, Plazes, MySpace, and Jaiku -- offer us a simple way to remain connected to those that matter to us. Building on the legacy of IM presence, this new generation of social tools makes the Web into a village, a third place, where we can sense people's comings-and-goings, their everyday annoyances and joys, and receive a wink or pat on the back from people thousands of miles away or just down the hall. Connection has its costs, however. The transition from a page-based Web to a Web based on the flow of traffic -- streams of messages traveling through social networks -- is speeding up, based on RSS and the meteoric rise of social presence tools. In order to adapt to this new Web -- or perhaps because of it -- we will have to adopt a new mindset: to rewire our neurons, and rework our ethics and etiquette to match the flowing world that is emerging. Luckily, it is a better state of consciousness than the one we leave behind.
The tape ran out just a few seconds before the end of his speech. And thus the Q&A is not included neigther in this video.
Filmed and uploaded to Google Video by http://charbax.com
Last week I attended the rather excellent Mesh conference here in Toronto, a two-day Web 2.0/social media geekfest. One of the recurring themes, in addition to "new media" threatening "old media" was the tension between professionals vs. amateurs. It's a common debate, most recently flamed by Andrew Keen's Cult of the Amateur.
Josh at Bokardo has posted some thoughts on this debate, highlighting an excellent quote from Yochai Benkler that, to me, is a great place to start when thinking about this.
what is quality? and how much are we getting from the mass media culture that pervaded the 20th century? High production doesn’t mean quality. The best music didn’t necessarily make it commercial. Mass media doesn’t necessarily give us quality; it does give us passivity, and I think that’s unattractive.
Andy Hunter at the Idea City weblog posted recently on the "coming age of branded intuition", and I wanted to make sure that link wasn't buried in my de.li.cious links, so I'm posting it here.
The coming age of "branded intuition" is a very helpful way to bridge two of my hobby horses: infographics and brand(ed) utility. Here's what Andy has to say:
As visual interfaces on the web become more accessable, it seems only a matter of time before brands begin to use these platforms for users to get an intuitive understanding of what they want, what they need, or simply a tool to “surf” information in a way that’s less deliberate and more guided by “feel”. I’m not that much of a tech-head but I’d assume Ajax is only the tipping point for these applications.
This is one of the reasons I'm so obsessed with infographics: more of our experiences and information of brands (and everything else) is mediated through digital technology, and we'll need smoother, more immediate, more emotional and more intuitive ways for those meanings to be processed and constructed.
When combined with the growing imperative for brands to be more useful in people's lives (as opposed to pushing a message of image or aspiration), the idea of branded intuition starts to look pretty useful.
[Oh, the image in this post is of the "fish'n'steps" application, which provides a data visualization of daily activity goals set by participants. The fish's facial expression changes accordingly, and acts as a "catalyst for promoting exercise & for improving game player's attitudes towards physical activity". Lovely!]
The CityWall in Helsinki is a wonderfully creative way to use social media tools to bring the community together. The interactive wall display updates in real-time with tagged photos and videos from residents of the city. Every city should have one. Here's how the project describes its goal:
creating Awareness and Presence of City Events in an engaging installation where passers by playfully manipulate media and learn about anniversaries, events and festivals. Second it is aimed at supporting active visitors and social media motivating users to actively and collaboratively make sense and play with media. Third CityWall proposes a platform for Media Literacy which can deliver rich media experiences to the widest audience. Anyone with the most basic computer skills can learn and use the CityWall in a few moments.