What we read this week (19 Oct)

Our reads of the week: Alexis Madrigal on Dark Social, what makes the recently launched GOV.UK so special, how to innovate in chaotic circumstances, a man with a FitBit in Paris and the “leakiness of surveillance culture.”

Quote of the week

As the human arms of technology, we should become more human, not less.

Justin Edmund

Articles of the week

What we read this week (29 Jun)

Computers recognizing cats, Bruce Sterling on the New Aesthetic, a primer on networked cities, the inner workings of Anonymous, and the Manufactured Normalcy Field.

Quotes of the week

Great collaborations don’t start in boardrooms.
They start in restaurants.


Articles of the week

  • Ideas for Dozens: Designing for and against the manufactured normalcy field
    Based on a Ribbonfarm article, which we featured a couple of weeks ago, NYU’s Greg Borenstein and BERG London’s Matt Webb ran a Foo Camp session, which Peter attended, on the so-called Manufactured Normalcy Field, and how it relates to designing everyday products. The post is a rough writeup, capturing the essence of the group brainstorm. Good stuff indeed.
  • David Albert Cox: Playfulness and Processuality
    Two and a half months ago, Bruce Sterling published his essay on the New Aesthetic and propelled it onto the big stage. Now, David Albert Cox catches up with Sterling to get his latest thoughts on the movement and James Bridle.
  • The Economist: The laws of the city
    Based on data collected about cities and the behavioral patterns of their inhabitants in broad terms, we’re able to learn about the way cities grow and change. This article offers a good general introduction to the theme of networked cities, and shows us some ways in which the increasing abundance of urban data is being put to use.
  • Wired: How Anonymous Picks Targets, Launches Attacks, and Takes Powerful Organizations Down
    This fascinating article by Quinn Norton on the inner workings of Anonymous and its involvement in politics offers insight into the evolution of both the movement and the internet culture. Should you like to read more on the subject, there is also an interesting writeup on the TED blog of observations made by Gabriella Coleman, an anthropologist who studied the group for years.
  • New York Times: How Many Computers to Identify a Cat? 16,000
    A network of 16,000 computer processors was fed 10 million random image thumbnails from YouTube videos. In an impressive feat of machine learning, the network “basically invented the concept of a cat,” says Dr Jeff Dean of Google’s X lab. One step close of computers emulating the human brain.

What we read this week (11 May)

This week, we read about a new approach to the alarm clock, shopping by Facebook Likes, considering the opportunities and dangers of the IoT, what a networked city of the future might look like, and James Bridle’s thoughts on digital culture.

Quotes of the week

The internet is human fanfiction.

-James Bridle, at NEXT12

Geography is now only about how far your body is away from your phone.

-Alexander Bard, at NEXT12

Articles of the week

  • Huffington Post: An Interview With James Bridle of the New Aesthetic
    James Bridle coined the term “New Aesthetic,” and so is the appropriate person to approach about what it means. For exactly a year, he used a tumblelog by the same name to collect examples of where the virtual overlapped with the tangible to form a new aesthetic. He tells Robert Urquhart of the Huffington Post about his observations in digital culture.
  • Deutsche Welle: The Internet of Things and sustainability
    Our friend Martin Spindler, a freelance IoT consultant, tells the Deutsche Welle about what IoT can do for us, and why it’s important to explore the benefits of possible implementations before dismissing them as being too risky in terms of privacy and data security.
  • design mind: The Networked Urban Environment
    Jan Chipchase, chief researcher at frog, gives a great primer on networked cities in this article. He shows the opportunities but also explains the questions we have to ask about all the data creation and the involvement of private companies in our shared city lives.
  • Selectism: UNIQLO Wake Up App
    Japanese apparel producer UNIQLO shows how brands can add both value for, and touchpoints with, their customers. In this case, they built a gorgeous multi-platform wake up app that pulls in live ambient data to create customized wake up ring tones.
  • The Verge: Real-time Facebook ‘likes’ displayed on Brazilian fashion retailer’s clothes racks
    C&A is experimenting with live data in Brazil. They’ve equipped their clothes hangers with a display that tells shoppers how many Facebook likes an item of clothing has received, in real time. It will be interesting to see how this feature affects consumer behavior and whether it catches on. A good example of how IoT might be integrated into everyday life.

What we read this week (13 Apr)

Our reads this week: an impressive Kickstarter project, thoughts on the cognition of organizations, patent battles in Germany, Instagram’s sale to Facebook, and a collection of pieces on the New Aesthetic. Enjoy the weekend.

Quotes of the week

Agility, context, and a strong network are becoming the survival traits where assets, control, and power used to rule.

Joi Ito

Publishing is going away. Because the word “publishing” means a cadre of professionals who are taking on the incredible difficulty and complexity and expense of making something public. That’s not a job anymore. That’s a button.

Clay Shirky

Articles of the week

  • Third Wave: The New Aesthetic
    The New Aesthetic is the topic of much debate and discussion at the moment, and though it’s still hard to put our finger on what exactly it is, it’s clear that the ideas emerging are very interesting. We gathered together some perceptive articles and material on this matter into an overview of the topic.
  • New York Magazine: When your favorite app sells out
    Earlier this week, Instagram announced that it had been bought by Facebook for a tidy one billion dollars. Paul Ford discusses why the tech world has responded to the deal with such disappointment, and what this reponse tells us about what we really value in the products we use.
  • Wired: Pebble E-Ink Smartwatch
    The Pebble is a snazzy wristwatch with an e-ink screen. It works with your iPhone or Android phone to inform you of many things, from events on your calendar that are coming up to how fast you’re currently cycling. Coders can also write their own apps for the watch, so many more handy tools could be yet to come. The project is being funded through Kickstarter, where it raised an astonishing one million dollars in 28 hours.
  • MIT Media Lab: The Cognitive Limit of Organizations
    Joi Ito contemplates the nature of the relationship between organizations and information. Innovation and the intellectual development of society will depend increasingly on collaboration between organizations, Ito predicts. A transformation is taking place: the network is becoming increasingly valuable, while individual power and control over resources may just be standing in the way of progress.
  • New York Times: German Courts at Epicenter of Global Patent Battles Among Tech Rivals
    Germany is friendly to patent holders — so much so, in fact, that companies are feeling they have to move some of their operations elsewhere in order to flee the consequences of lawsuits. The German courts are overburdened with patent suits, many of them nuisance suits, designed simply to impede the competition. With so much energy and money flowing into these processes, many are wondering if things need to change.

The New Aesthetic

We’ve been fascinated by this thing called New Aesthetic. If you want to know what it’s about, check out this annotated collection of links.

Something is happening. We haven’t fully grasped it yet. But it already feels like one of the more exciting things happening these days. And it’s spearheaded by nice people from East London who keep inspiring and challenging us. It has been dubbed The New Aesthetic (NA).

The Beginning

It first appeared almost a year ago with this post by James Bridle of RIG: The New Aesthetic.

For a while now, I’ve been collecting images and things that seem to approach a new aesthetic of the future, which sounds more portentous than I mean. What I mean is that we’ve got frustrated with the NASA extropianism space-future, the failure of jetpacks, and we need to see the technologies we actually have with a new wonder. Consider this a mood-board for unknown products.

This turned into this tumblr blog: The New Aesthetic.

Bridle has been the main voice for the New Aesthetic. Watch his closing keynote from Web Directions Sydney 2011 for a great primer and check his blog. Also watch his talk from the Lift conference this year and read this interview Rob Walker did with him for more of his thinking.

As always, others from the network of people around the “Silicon Roundabout” have picked up this concept and are exploring it further. BERG has been reflecting about the ‘Robot-Readable World’ (RRW) with Matt Jones giving a talk and Timo Arnall producing a video visualization of the RRW. Also read Jones’ thoughts on Sensor-Vernacular.

This all happened last year and was mostly noticed by people following the thinking of RIG and BERG.


A whole new level of attention came in March with the #sxaesthetic panel at the SXSW festival/conference in Austin, Texas. Bridle brought along some of his friends and fellow thinkers to approach NA from different perspectives.

A lot of great thinking coming from this group of people. But the biggest thing for the NA was that Bruce Sterling was sitting in the audience. Not only did he gather a lot of the tweets about the panel and mentioned Bridle and the panel very favorably in his closing keynote for SXSW.
He also published a 5000-word essay about NA, analyzing and criticizing it in depth. Besides the amazing amount of new ideas, approaches and next steps he has given the movement with this, he also has put it on a much bigger stage, giving it a new level of attention.

Reactions to Sterling’s essay

The web has been buzzing with reactions to the essay. It’s beautiful to see so many bright minds picking up the concept and investigating it from all sides. Here are only some of the writings we came by:

Sterling keeps posting links and writing articles as a reaction to the reactions. Here’s another take from him: Still FREAKING OUT!!!

A year later

On Sunday, May 6 2012, exactly one year later, Bridle has closed the NA tumblr for good.

The project will continue in other forms and venues.

On May 8, HuffPo posted an interview with Bridle.

One of the things about New Aesthetic was that it was very much supposed to be not ‘post’ anything else and not ‘pre’ anything else, it was an observation about something hopefully grander, of which these are some current examples of. But as soon as you start trying to ground it in that way, in manifestos and in particular works then, then yeah that’s the natural reaction to it. One of the things the internet should be able to do is be less reactive than that.

All these things are imperfect means of communication, there will always be that but I’m happy to end by saying it’s been a deeply odd and occasionally distressing experience. Some responses to it have been fantastic and extraordinary and interesting and a lot of the other responses have been extraordinarily aggressive and misguided and simply wrong. It’s a very odd experience that a lot of people out there have basically gone ‘the New Aesthetic is wrong’ and it can be many things but it can’t be wrong because I just made it up.

More Material somehow connected to NA

If you’ve found something that we should add, let us know.

Closing remarks

We’ve deliberately avoided defining what the New Aesthetic is. We kinda enjoy that it’s pretty fuzzy right now and still open for future definitions that might emerge from the current discussion. This is why we, instead of defining it, provided a ton of links so anyone going through this can make up her or his own mind about NA.

Bruce Sterling:

The New Aesthetic practice would be to unwrap it, post it, and leave it there all ragged with retweets, favorite buttons, permalinks and an open-API, so that somebody on the network can do something with it.

Warren Ellis:

What I will say is that, although there is no one future to be predicted or inferred — that the idea of the consensus future is resolutely 20th century and should be put to rest — it’s really nice to see people looking for what’s next again.

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 (16 Mar)

Our articles of the week: one man’s account of leaving Google, PayPal’s digital wallet, libraries of the future, thoughts on the New Aesthetic and some impressive customer service.

Quotes of the week

You want to have a mind that’s open enough to accept radical new ideas, but not so open that your brains fall out.

Michael Shermer

‘Customers’ are a repeating pattern of behaviour that expresses itself in people.

Faris Yakob

Articles of the week

  • James Bridle: #sxaesthetic
    Great commentary on the New Aesthetic and human collaboration with technology, resulting from a panel discussion at SXSW. With cameo appearances by the Higgs Boson, Kafka and Wikileaks.
  • TechCrunch: PayPal’s New Digital Wallet
    PayPal is looking to “let consumers do things with their money that have never been possible before.” Will these new options prove more convenient, or more problematic?
  • Undercurrent: How Bergdorf Goodman is Killing it in Digital
    Derrick Bradley recounts “one of the most pleasant digital encounters with a brand.” Bergdorf Goodman’s customer service went a couple small steps further than one would expect, making a huge difference in Derrick’s experience.
  • James Whittaker: Why I Left Google
    James Whittaker explains how “sharing” became a bee in Google’s bonnet, and how the ensuing social-oriented projects eventually led him to leave the company.
  • Rachel Coldicutt: The Joys of Having Nothing to Read
    Rachel Coldicutt of Caper gave this talk last year as part of the London Word Festival. Here she tells us why the libraries of the future shouldn’t make it too easy for us to find what we’re after: in other words, why they should “offer you sprouts when what you want is ice cream.”