Changing Minds

How can we reframe and unbias our news media habits? How could we become aware of our political biases? What if we created a news reader that could keep track of how many blue and red news articles we’ve read? Like a Fitbit app reminds you of how many steps you’ve taken and incentivizes you to take more. What if we could use an AI engine to help filter and serve the articles and categorize the biases based on sentiment analysis and our own personality insights?

Loved

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Architecture swallows violence. The streets are washed clean. The walls patched. The holes filled. The windows repaired. And the names and lives of those lost are slowly forgotten. Mothers, fathers, daughters and sons, sisters and brothers, aunts and uncles and grandparents and cousins. Human lives lost. Human possibilities erased. An Einstein or a Curie or a Buddha. A shop owner or a waiter. A Van Gogh or Matisse or a Brahms or Beethoven. A farmer or seamstress. They might have led the world to peace. Or they might have written a poem that would have touched you deeply. Or offered you a smile. Or written a song. But they are dead now. Killed violently by whatever act. And their stories are forgotten. Washed away. Except for those who knew them. Architecture swallows all. And we are quick to oblige and forget and erase the pain with the spray of a hose and a patch of plaster.

What if we could change the world one story at a time? What if we could tell the story of each of those people who were violently killed so they don’t just remain a forgotten statistic? What if we had the potential to affect the next wave of violence by telling the stories of those who were murdered for whatever false cause or madness? What if those stories had the power to spread compassion and empathy and gave pause to anyone who contemplated committing these terrible anti-human acts?

This is Loved, a site and mobile app for remembering. It brings the stories of each of those victims back to the last place they were seen laughing, shopping with friends or carrying a child. And gives them back their dignity and humanity as they deserve.

We can change the world, one story at a time. They were loved. And this is how we might start.

 

Songlines: Part One

Bruce Chatwin’s book, The Songlines, inspired me to think how I might design an application that would enable composers to create and map music to a specific geography. In the book Chatwin describes Songlines as, “…the labyrinth of invisible pathways which meander all over Australia and are known to Europeans as ‘Dreaming-tracks’ or ‘Songlines’; to the Aboriginals as the ‘Footprints of the Ancestors’ or the ‘Way of the Lore’. Songlines are songs that describe paths, features and specific locations through the outback that are essential to the creation myths, survival and identity of a clan. They are, in many ways, a map that is sung. And they are accurate enough so that a clan member can walk across the Australian landscape for hundreds of miles – and sometimes across the whole continent – without getting lost. Handed down orally from generation to generation over the course of thousands of years they were eventually recorded in physical form as churingas. Pictured below, churingas are essentially mnemonic devices that were used by the Aborigines to recall specific Songlines. They are like tribal vinyl records. Like the grooves in a vinyl record, the shapes, ridges and features of each help the fingers of the clan elder recall the Songline. I cannot imagine the years and years(and years) of knowledge accumulated in each churinga. They are sacred to the Aborigines and it is sad to see one in a museum or a collection as it means that the Songline associated with the churinga and that specific path across the Australian bush – is gone and lost forever.

Giving the power of creating a Songline to a composer would be pretty remarkable. Imagine a composition created by Philip Glass or Arvo Pärt or Brian Eno that is contextual to a location – a walk down Broadway for example. The faster or slower you walked and your direction – perhaps even the time of day and season, would affect the composition making the experience of the music unique to you. This envelope of sound would become, in essence, your personal soundtrack to your experience of the landscape around you. Perhaps even other listeners to the same Songline might affect the music based on their proximity or distance from you. Perhaps you could swap Songlines – experience a Songline created by a friend. Perhaps even the listening to the Songline might be enhanced and affected by ambient sounds – like RJDJ or the new “here” ear buds from Doppler Labs. I’ll keep working on this idea and post my progress as I go.

In 2011 Bluebrain created an app similar to this idea meant specifically to be listened to while walking through Central Park. Songlines would take it a step further by creating tools that any musician could use. Stay tuned.

churinga

The Stack of Sedition

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Tinder’s use of a very familiar mental model – a stack of cards – is break through design work. Like a stack of cards it is a true thumb first expression of designing for mobile – first. The mental model – a stack of cards – encourages exploration and, though less efficient an interface at processing information than other mobile apps, it is addictive because the mental model is so strongly associated with the “just one more” of rifling through a physical deck of cards. The addictive quality of sorting cards to find just the right one is seditious for mobile design as it illustrates the limited amount of mental models that we have to work with as designers. Tinder’s cards fit the format of a mobile device and make the device feel more like an actual deck of cards in your hand. There are very few mobile apps that enhance the experience of the device to such an extent that the experience is “felt” in your hand. The challenge for designers is to design mobile applications where the model of interaction is enhanced by the format…and platform – and in turn enhance the experience of mobile.