What we read this week (22 Mar)

On what it means to be a cyborg, machines chatting to each other on Twitter, human individual curiosity vs. organizational curiosity, Nike’s clever accelerator program and how the internet is making TV better.

Quote of the week

It’s a paradox we call reality / So keepin’ it real will make you casualty of abnormal normality.

Talib Kweli

Articles of the week

What we read this week (30 Nov)

The Reads this week: well-designed products as magicians’ acts, shopper bots, what successful publishing looks like today, launching a product web-first vs mobile-first, and how people go about adopting new technologies.

Quote of the week

If we define anxiety as experiencing failure in advance, we can also understand its antonym, anticipation.

Seth Godin

Articles of the week

What we read this week (22 Jun)

The reads this week revolve around changing web culture (memes, the Slow Web and auto-generated e-books), and the morality and usefulness of collecting data on people (open city data and database marketing).

Quotes of the week

To be human is to tinker, to envision a better condition, and decide to work toward it by shaping the world around us.

Frank Chimero

Articles of the week

  • New York Times: You for Sale: Mapping, and Sharing, the Consumer Genome
    A chilling read about the company that has more data about people than any other company or institution out there. This article comes at a time when a similar German company called Schufa had to cancel its foray into finding out how to add Facebook data into its database after a huge public outcry. As Sam Seaborn said on West Wing: “The next two decades are going to be about privacy.”
  • Jack Cheng: The Slow Web
    Jack Cheng applies the principles of the slow food movement to the web and describes an approach that values timely over real-time, moderation over excess and knowledge over information.
  • Smithsonian: What Defines a Meme?
    Great excerpt from James Gleick’s The Information about the definition and the history of the meme. Essential reading for anyone involved in communications and the spread of ideas.
  • The Pop-Up City: Data-Driven Urban Citizenship
    This article lists many examples of projects that demonstrate developments, benefits and potential problems in the usage of urban data.
  • TRAUMAWIEN: Ghostwriters
    Artist coders set up bots that gathered YouTube comments and compiled them into mindless but fascinating e-books, which were then sold through Amazon. Amazon has since deleted the books, which raises further questions about what can and can’t be considered legitimate in online publishing. Excerpts from the books, including the brilliant Alot was been hard by Janetlw Bauie, can be read here.

What we read this week (5 Apr)

Flip through our favorite articles this week to find transforming dresses, bots and self-replicating code set for world domination, a possibly more promising approach to economy, and a healthy helping of the New Aesthetic. Happy Easter and enjoy the weekend.

Quotes of the week

All our metaphors are broken.

James Bridle

This is a universe of numbers with a life of their own, that we only see in terms of what those numbers can do for us.

George Dyson

Articles of the week

  • Bruce Sterling: An essay on the New Aesthetic
    In an epic essay, Bruce Sterling dissects the fundamentals of the New Aesthetic, a kind of art movement coming out of London and one of the most fascinating developments recently. Must-read of the week. Chris Heathcote chimed in with his take (and Pinterest set) on a “new fashion aesthetic”.
  • The Guardian: How bots are taking over the world
    This is a kind of follow-up to last week’s Wired article on the Weavrs. Dan O’Hara and Luke Robert Mason, two of the researchers behind Weavrs, look at all the evidence of bots taking over: “The internet is becoming a post-user environment, regulated by something much more uncontrollable than humans.” Another bite of future shock for your Easter break.
  • The Hames Report: Economies of scope
    If there is one thing that we learned out of the current financial situation, it’s that economies of scale are finite. We can not assume that the way we lived up until now can be sustained even for the foreseeable future. What might be the alternative? Michael Bauwens describes what economies of scope might be and why they are better.
  • Dezeen: Intimacy 2.0
    The fashion industry is, from time to time, a good area to look for exploration of new social constructs. This dress that becomes transparent with an increased heart rate of the person wearing it is a good example of how to explore new social behavior.
  • Edge: A universe of self-replicating code
    George Dyson is one of those people that have a valid credibility to discuss the things that most people are not thinking about. In this conversation with Edge, he dives deep into the universe of self-replicating code & biology.

By the way, we put together an article with a list of the most interesting articles from our blog. So if you want to catch up on what we’ve been thinking about in the last 1.5 years, check out the Essential Third Wave Reader.

What we read this week (24 Feb)

Mike Arauz shares his thoughts and a nifty visualization on strategy, bots get rich trading like crazy on Amazon, Facebook is losing e-commerce, and there’s a new emerging job profile, the social media researcher. Enjoy!

Today, of course, we’ve got books and computers and smartphones to hold our memories for us. We’ve outsourced our memories to external devices. The result is that we no longer trust our memories. We see every small, forgotten thing as evidence that they’re failing us altogether.

Joshua Foer

We, the Web kids; we, who have grown up with the Internet and on the Internet, are a generation who meet the criteria for the term in a somewhat subversive way. We did not experience an impulse from reality, but rather a metamorphosis of the reality itself. What unites us is not a common, limited cultural context, but the belief that the context is self-defined and an effect of free choice.

Piotr “Pastebin” Czerski

  • Undercurrent – What is Strategy?
    Our good friend and occasional collaborator Mike Arauz wrote a great piece on the Undercurrent blog – nice infographic included. If there’s one company out there we really share an understanding with of what strategy is, it’s Undercurrent. Must read.
  • GOOD: Who Can Profit from Selling 1-Cent Boks on Amazon? Robots.
    “What do you call a thriving marketplace of robots buying nonexistent books from other robots for millions of dollars? Apparently, Amazon.com.” – Read a fascinating tail about the algorithms that “live inside Amazon”.
  • New Web Order – Facebook Is Losing E-Commerce
    When it comes to Facebook and what it’s capable of, there are always multiple views on what works and what doesn’t. This is an insightful analysis on why E-Commerce and its little brother Social Commerce might not work on Facebook as others say.
  • In the Future Everything Will Be A Coffee Shop
    Titles likes this obviously catch our attention. While the author starts with a rather US centric view on education, he goes on explaining how most of retail will be transformed and eventually become a coffee shop. It’s a bit of a stretch, but an interesting thought experiment nonetheless.
  • Facegroup: Emerging Roles Profile: The Social Media Researcher
    Out of all the job descriptions that contain something with Social Media in them, the Social Media Researcher emerges as one with the most interesting profile. Jess Owens from Face Group explains what its all about.

Cyborgs, identities & asking the right questions

We’re all cyborgs, says our friend Sami Niemelä in a talk he gave at Playful Conference in London the other day. Some thoughts on how human and machine identities, and why we can’t find answers just yet.

Our friend and former CoCities speaker Sami Niemalä (of Nordkapp fame) gave a talk at Playful. Sadly we had to miss it, but he posted his slides online:

I love the way he dives into the discussion if (and how) we qualify as cyborgs. More importantly, though, he shows nicely how the future isn’t the polished thing it was expected to be back in the olden, black-and-white days. Instead it’s gorgeously broken and bursting full of weirdness (tweeting plants are just the top of the iceberg).

As he points out, designing machines and household appliances to behave in a human way (if that’s even desirable) is hard:

Should every single thing at your house have needs and feelings? Would you like to have an emo couch or the more rational one. Is this a question you want to think about?

We’re still figuring out the right questions

This is something we need to think about much, much more. While we in the industry are experimenting with certain types of behaviors, and the industry as a whole is going through various stages of learning, it’s important that we remember that we won’t solve any of these questions. In fact, I believe we’re nowehere near a point where we can even try to answer any of these questions, and are rather at a point where we’re still trying to figure out the right questions.

And we see this popping up all over the place: Sami collected a few great examples of weirdness and Uncanny Valley in his presentation. We’ve been discussing software agents that (seem to) emulate human behaviors like Foursquare check-ins, Retweets and (re-)blogging with David Bausola. (He builds some of those software agents. They’re called Weavrs. I set up a few to experiment, and they’re roaming the web freely, which is fascinating to no end.)


Speaking of identities. While software, services, products have long since started to develop identities that at least emulate human behavior, we haven’t even figured out how to project real human identity on the web.

Above, you see a talk by Christopher Poole, aka moot, founder of 4chan and its tamer brother Canvas. At Web 2.0 Summit, he explored the different ways that the big services like Facebook and Google approach identity. And he (rightfully, I think) smacks them left and right:

Google and Facebook would have you believe that you’re a mirror, but in fact, we’re more like diamonds.

The current model on the web is to assume that you have one identity, and that you just need to be able to share different bits of information with different groups. But our online identities should be multi-faceted, since that’s how it works in the physical world as well. As Chris Poole states, it’s not about who we share to (as Google+ assumes with Circles, and Facebook with lists), but who we share as. Am I posting this as a friend, coworker, son?

This is a hugely complex topic; yet, it’s one of those big questions that we need to work out. In our work, when we talk to clients, we often don’t have simple answers for these questions. (In fact, if anyone claimed they had simple answers, I’d be seriously suspicious.) What we try, though, is to work out the right questions, and then take it from there.

We produce more data, more and different data trails; we can access big data & aggregated data; increasingly personal data, too. When you look at building a service or product, make sure to look at the different aspects & contexts of data and identities, of how your thing might be used in different contexts. And allow for plenty of experimentation – you might not yet be asking the right questions. We’ve been exploring this cluster of topics and data trails (ranging from web data to city data to body data and beyond) in various formats, from Cognitive Cities Conference to talks and workshops at PICNIC and WINnovation, and we’ll keep digging. Follow this blog and our tweets for upcoming workshops.

What we read this week (21 Oct)

We made a nice reading list for you, featuring online music, Bitcoins, the Pirate Party, and a serious disruption in online identities.

Have a great weekend!