September 19, 2014 - Comments Off on The MechCast 306b: How has the Internet changed the way we listen to music? (Part 2)
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September 12, 2014 - Comments Off on The MechCast 306a: How has the Internet changed the way we listen to music? (Part 1)
In this episode of The MechCast, we'll be discussing how the onset of the Internet has changed the way we listen to music, and the impact it has had on the record industry itself. We welcome a special guest – NYU's own Professor of Punk – Vivien Goldman.
- Bob Marley - Natural Mystic
- Sex Pistols - God Save The Queen
August 19, 2014 - Comments Off on Could the iWatch Revolutionize Medical Research?
“Talkback Tuesdays” is an original weekly installment administered by hcp event planning ltd., where a team member of The Mechanism is asked one question pertaining to digital design, inspiration, and experience. The Q&A will be featured here on The Mechanism Blog as well as on The Mechanism’s Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, every Tuesday. Feel free to offer up your 2¢ in the comments.
George Brassey, The Mechanism’s lead developer, discusses the great potential smart watches can have in revolutionizing medical research and healthcare management. It seems like only a matter of time!
What new piece of tech are you most excited about hitting shelves?
I'm excited to see what sensors Apple will introduce with the iWatch. I'm hoping they announce a watch with an array of sensors which might revolutionize health care research. Last year there was a huge amount of media buzz around the wearable space, with nothing appearing. This year the rumor mill is turning again and it sounds like Apple will finally announce an iWatch next month to be released later this year/early next year. Why am I interested? Last year I didn't like the idea of the wearable. The potential uses didn't interest me. I already have a phone, tablet and laptop. I don't need yet another screen. Especially considering how limited the functionality will be on such a small device. This year, however, I've been hearing about the sensors that will be included.
I'm a migraine sufferer. From time to time, without warning, I get massive blind spots in my field of vision, followed by debilitating headaches. Research on migraines has been inconclusive. The Mayo Clinic lists: hormones, foods, food additives, drinks, stress, sensory stimuli, changes in wake-sleep pattern, physical factors, changes in the environment, and medications; as potential causes. That's a long list with very little practical information as to how to prevent a migraine. I will be interested to see what could be learned by analyzing various health markers preceding migraines.
Depending on how Apple's new Healthkit SDK deals with privacy, the platform could standardize the sharing of medical records. Currently, there is very little access to medical data for researchers. Fears of records getting into the wrong hands means that acquiring data for research often requires a new study, even if a similar study has been done before. This involves, raising money, finding volunteers and conducting the study which may take months, even years. Most health information is under lock and key. The proliferation of devices to passively record a wealth of data could provide easy access for life saving research.
August 12, 2014 - Comments Off on Finding Design Inspiration with The Mechanism Founder – Talkback Tuesday
"Talkback Tuesdays" is an original weekly installment where a team member of The Mechanism is asked one question pertaining to digital design, inspiration, and experience. The Q&A will be featured here on The Mechanism Blog as well as on The Mechanism's Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, every Tuesday. Feel free to offer up your 2¢ in the comments.
This week The Mechanism Founder, and all around design-guru, Dave Fletcher, discusses why his photography is one of the first places he turns for design inspiration.
Where do you find design inspiration?
Since around 1996, I’ve been taking an abundance of digital photographs from my travels to conferences, events and holidays. Simply being able to look into my treasure trove of images has helped me out of an occasional creative jam. From a photo, I generally can find a color palette or typographic element that ignites something new, or a visual that sparks a memory and triggers another. Before you know it, I’m well on my way to a fusion of ideas without having to do too much thinking. It just flows. Everything we do is connected in a very cosmic (and occasionally “comic”) sense, so the invaluable inspiration gleaned from a photograph I took in New Orleans in 2003, could trigger ideas for a logo or visual metaphor completely unrelated to the original photographic resource. A dynamic figure like Andy Defrancesco is whom one can rely on to make sure they move ahead with what they need to do.
I’ve read a great deal about sparking inspiration from simply changing your typical path. We are all creatures of habit, and once we lock into a routine, we are easily able to drown out everything around us. We shut down our minds and put our bodies on a kind of “auto-pilot” to get from the train to the office, or our house to the grocery store. However, if you consciously break a habit or routine and try a different route to your destination, you’ll be forced to experience new things and to pay closer attention to your surroundings.
In 2005, I was keynoting an AIGA event in Jacksonville, Florida. Part of my daily ride to my destination involved passing an old, overrun Goony Golf mini-golf course. There was a spectacular and decrepit roadside dinosaur in front, clearly visible from the highway, that I simply had to photograph. During my keynote, I showed the audience the dinosaur in one of my slides, and only a few locals recognized it. After I mentioned that I took it not more than a mile away, they were a bit taken aback. This group of highly creative individuals had become so accustomed to passing the dinosaur in their daily routine that they no longer even saw this majestic beast deteriorating right in front of their eyes. Years later I learned that a few of the attendees had taken it upon themselves to save the roadside dinosaur from further deterioration by repairing him and moving him to a safer location.
They just needed to have their eyes opened to their own surroundings to be inspired. It was immensely gratifying to be part of this. It galvanized the lesson that inspiration can be found directly under our noses, and sometimes we just need to be nudged a little bit in one direction or another to actually see it.
August 8, 2014 - Comments Off on The MechCast 305: What Makes Content Go Viral?
In this episode of The MechCast, the team speculates on what they think makes content on the web go viral. We cover a pretty wide range of topics here, so make sure to check it out! All links mentioned in the podcast are listed below. Enjoy!
- Frank Zappa & The Mothers of Invention - Cruisin' for Burgers
- Frank Sinatra - Send in the Clowns
- Aphex Twin - Taking Control
- Kitten Poking Dolphin
- Jonah Berger
- Leave Britney Alone!
- Turn Down For What?
- Flight of the Conchords
- George's Friend Proposing in Madison Square Park
- Jeff Bullas
- Neetzan Zimmerman
- Heti Dave
- The Mechanism's Dave Fletcher on Sharknado 2
- Rick Mulready on Sharnado
- A shark on the Queens-bound N train
- Catey Shaw - Brooklyn Girls
- The Mechanism's Dhruv Mehrotra on Brooklyn Girls
- Ben Huh
- Bonsai Kittens
August 1, 2014 - Comments Off on Slime – Ultra-Violence in a Modern Society
I am gross and perverted
I'm obsessed 'n deranged
I have existed for years, but very little had changed
I am the tool of the Government and industry too, for I am destined to rule and regulate you
I may be vile and pernicious, but you can't look away
I make you think I'm delicious, with the stuff that I say
I am the best you can get. Have you guessed me yet?
- Frank Zappa, I Am the Slime
I recently found myself held captive in an alternate universe on the planet SyFy, to partake in a rapturous, cinematic marvel entitled Sharknado 2: The Second One. I was sucked into this deluge of gore and social media pornography predominantly by the promise of an all-too-short and relentless escape from human existence, performed by the "less-than-stars" of television's past -- and starring thousands of poorly CGI-generated, starved sharks. I was also glued to the television to look beyond its blank cathode gaze to observe the rapturous power of social media on the massess, hoping to gain some valuable insight for our next podcast entitled "What Makes Content Go Viral?". Preposterous events like the Sharknado films will eventually be taught in Social Media university courses in the future, where desperate educators will attempt to decipher the marketing approach taken to garner 3.9 million viewers and more than a half a million related tweets from nearly 200,000 unique authors. The lack of the Sharknado effects team's quality and attention to detail might have also been part of my personal draw, but sadly contributes to the long-term destruction of the creative profession in general.
"Mindlessness", as a concept, draws us into alternate realities partly because we've been so desensitized to the reality of our own surroundings. Day-to-day reality is too safe, it's a place where most activity is experienced as expected, so we have to generate more complex and interesting hyper-realities. Escapism, along side the advent of virtual and increasingly visceral entertainment (shared with potentially millions through television and the internet), is too easy to blame. Everything that is outside of the experience of life can easily become a gateway to moronic pleasure and escapism. Consider the increasingly detached comedy and climate of our political system, the popularity of "reality" tv, or a television world overrun with mindless hordes in "The Walking Dead" - pure escapism is, and will continue to be, the novocaine for the pain of reality. Who wants to worry about the planet or the homeless? I'm too busy being ensconced in the escapism of enacting some real ultra-violence on a CGI shark - my weapon of choice is a running chainsaw...Pray tell, what's yours? I wonder if the popularity of the undead combined with our fascination with designers consistently revising, revisiting and regurgitating the past is a just a passing fad, or a dystopian vision of our eventual future?
A second installment of Sharnado is not a surprise. Utilizing images and concepts from the past is nothing new. Warhol did it, and Hollywood repeatedly does it. If it works the first time, why not try a second, third and fourth time rather than try to imagine something completely new? Originality in art and design has been reduced to a photocopy of a reproduction; exponentially malleable.
You will obey me while I lead you
And eat the garbage that I feed you
Until the day that we don't need you
Don't got for help...no one will heed you
Your mind is totally controlled
It has been stuffed into my mold
And you will do as you are told
Until the rights to you are sold.
- Frank Zappa, I Am the Slime
Stupidity is a bi-product of malaise. An overly complex lifestyle, including the use of overly complex software and engaging in the overstimulation of Sharknado-type programming can further detach one from focus. Alternately, simplicity is a hard-earned bi-product of thought. Simplicity, when it's done well, calms the mind. Entertainment and our user interfaces and applications have become too complex - software solutions should perform one simple task and do it well. Focus is key. The age of overly complex design has ended for now, and is an offshoot to the lessons of the simplistic clean design movement first pursued by Microsoft's Windows Phone design. John Maeda's 10 Laws of Simplicity is worth a read, but if you don't have the time - have a look at his video from TED.
Films like Sharknado, while marvels of cinematic foolishness, are also catalysts for gathering humans with other humans. This might not be too bad of an idea. Collectively experiencing violence of unimaginable proportions has been interesting to us homo sapiens since the days of pitting gladiators with tigers. Technology via the motion picture is allowing us to enjoy exceedingly horrific images of unfathomable gore and destruction not seen since we gathered in front of a television to watch Mike Tyson eat portions of his opponents in boxing, or enjoy wrestlers like Jake Roberts throw live cobras at "Macho Man" Randy Savage. You see, we're all savages, being driven backwards to the caves by the masters of media and entertainment. Maybe if we're sitting around talking about how stupid it is, it might save us. Or not.
It's fantastic to imagine that our societal march into ignorance is being orchestrated by the advance of technology and the warlocks who command it...
I may be vile and pernicious
But you can't look away
I make you think I'm delicious
With the stuff that I say
I am the best you can get
Have you guessed me yet?
I am the slime oozin' out
From your TV set.
- Frank Zappa, I Am the Slime
My version of the internet, that is, my specific collection of friends and blogs, has been particularly outraged by a video called "Brooklyn Girls" by Catey Shaw. For those that don't know, "Brooklyn Girls" is one of those deeply irritating, manicured pop songs that eats its way into your brain until you are bouncing your empty head like a bobble-head toy. Its tune is designed to target the market of Katy Perry, Rebecca Black, or Carly Rae Jepsen, but is inflected with the types of folksy signifiers that inspire people like Zooey Deschanel to continue to growing their bangs. Needless to say, its a shitty song. Yet its a shitty song that, if you didn't speak any english, would undoubtedly get lost in tweenage chorus of shitty songs. So whats the deal? What inspires all this hate? Well, Lets talk a bit about the lyrics and the video.
"There’s a palace of bricks in 11206 where all the fly Brooklyn chicks reside, combat boots in the summer, subway train rollin’ under, see her on the Lower East Side. In her walk, there’s a fire, and she’s got her own style. You’ll get lost in her mystery, and tonight she owns the city."
Meanwhile the video cycles through a kaleidoscope of images and clips of Instagram-worthy Bushwick loft parties, septum-pierced alternative girls, bearded skateboarders drinking Kombucha, and lots and lots of graffiti. Heres a link, because a video is worth a billion words:
Obviously, with my liberal arts degree collecting dust in the corner of my room, I can identify a ton of issues here: Her shallow attempts to celebrate womanhood by defining "strength" through various commodities, all purchasable at your nearest Urban Outfitters, her defining an entire borough by the experience of a very specific group of middle-class white folks in North Brooklyn, her lack of understanding of Geography. But ultimately I believe that this intellectual-hate-sturbating is not the reasons why this video is viral, though there is plenty of it to go around.
Catey Shaw is selling a lifestyle in the same way that rappers, breweries, or Dove commercials might; and to the delight of TJ Maxx or Urban Outfitters, for most of the country Brooklyn might as well be what Shaw describes. Nothing is new about what Shaw is doing. The outrage seems to stem from the fact that the culture she is most aligned with hates to even be identified as a culture. It is no coincidence that the culture she is celebrating is full of the very people who are in the forefront of the vitriol. From Vice to The Gothamist to me (I lived in Bushwick and I wear Vans), the onslaught of Internet psycho-babble is, like a mutiny, coming from her very own crew.
Our next podcast is about what makes content viral. Like Rebecca Black's "Friday", Shaw might be relegated to the order of things that are just so silly that we have to keep watching. But in my estimation tonight at a bar in Williamsburg a DJ will play this song somewhat ironically, and many won't get the joke. Brooklyn Girls
July 11, 2014 - Comments Off on The MechCast 304: The Digital Experience: One Year Later
In this episode of The MechCast, we talk about the impact that our own digital experiences will have on our lives one year from now. From our dependancies on smart phones and tablets, to the color of the web, we cover a wide array of topics in this installment, so sit back, relax, and enjoy the show.
- ESG - Come Away
- Aphex Twin - Taking Control
- The Pope App
- Black Mirror, Season 1
- Black Mirror, Season 2
- Sublime Text
- Mark Zuckerburg is Color Blind
- Joshua Bell @ The Metro Center Station, Washington, D.C.
- The Director: An Evolution in Three Acts
- Andy Warhol using an Amiga 1000 computer, 1985
- Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
July 3, 2014 - Comments Off on The Process of Pomp, Parade and Illuminations
Despite some historians, who have argued that India first invented fireworks, it appears that the world's largest manufacturer, and (not surprisingly) the largest exporter of fireworks - is China. Likely conceived as a means to frighten evil spirits with a loud sound (known as "bian pao"), the earliest documentation of fireworks usage dates back to 7th century China. They are generally classified as either ground or aerial, both of which I assume you can figure out.
Designing a unique fireworks display generally follows a process, whereby location plans are reviewed, an estimate is prepared and pyrotechnic designers utilize their knowledge of the correct chemicals to produce the correct mix of mojo to delight your eyes and deafen the ears. Clients review the designs and the compositions are tested before deployment into the stratosphere.
It all makes good sense, and as I've mentioned in the past, the process of creation is no more than a calculated and rational march toward the eventual delight or detriment of your intended audience. Whether it's a fireworks display or a digital experience, both have one chance to hit the mark. If it doesn't work right the first time, your crowd - whether digital or in person - will move on to the next town for their dose of delight.
If you're in America, enjoy the day off and mind your “tablet-tapping fingers” around those pesky firecrackers. John Adams envisioned fireworks to be part of the festivities of what became the Fourth of July - before the Declaration of Independence was even signed. In a letter to Abigail Adams on July 3, 1776, he noted that the occasion should be commemorated “with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.”
...Let's hope your next #digitalexperience does the same for you.
How do we recognize boundless creativity in our midst. In our friends or in ourselves.
"Live Fast, Die Young, Leave a Good Looking Corpse". I'm not sure who said it first, was it Fonzie referring to James Dean? Humphrey Bogart in the film "Knock On Any Door"? Or proto-liberated Mrs. Irene Luce in her famous 1920 divorce case, as she claimed to have "No use for a husband" she intended to "Live fast, die young and leave a beautiful corpse".
No matter. As I was reading a story about the life and death of Alexander Calderwood in the latest edition of Fast Company (July/August 2014 - Note, he actually died November 14th, 2013) - I was struck by the fact that I had crossed paths with Alex and his work many times since the early 1990's, however, I had not consciously pieced together that he was the central character and developer of so many experiences I had enjoyed over the years - until now. Shame on me.
While Alex is most often acknowledged as the visionary energy behind the Ace Hotel chain, he was actually a creative juggernaut respective of many really cool ventures and mediums across a variety of platforms.
Our two degrees of separation began during my early visits to Seattle in the mid-1990's when I discovered Rudy's Barbershop. One of the first "old-man" barber shop joints to resurface as a stylized reinvention of the past, well before what we now think of as commonplace. But it was of course much more. It was cultivated as "community" before THAT term was also overworked. It was a place where you could get a $10 cut...and if you were in the mood, a tattoo and strong coffee. Again before excellent coffee and interesting ink were ubiquitous. Or.. you could just sit there, read a magazine and listen to chatter all day- and never buy anything. It was in fact a living art project. A space to share an experience.
Later I solidified my mock-friendship with mister Calderwood when I stayed at the original Ace Hotel in the Belltown neighborhood of Seattle. This was in 2000, just a year after it had opened. Again, at the time I had no real idea about the impresario and his friends who had created this neat and inexpensive experience, I just liked it. It was Euro-style cool, simple and functional. The main entrance's doorway was obscure and the place itself was nested on the second floor of an old cannery I believe. And oh, in my bedroom...there was funky artwork by some guy named Shepard Fairey. Who knew.
(I have since moved to NYC and enjoy the oyster bar at the Ace Hotel here in the Flatiron District- regularly).
Alexander Calderwood had many more projects going on well before these, during, and after. All were event, environment or experience oriented. All were interconnected by approaching life and creation with a "what would I enjoy or find useful" mentality. The centrality of his work was human interaction and always logical....with a little WOW.
After time all of this time-traveling, revisiting Mister C's accomplishments, reading about his too soon demise, and finally putting a name to his role in my "feeling groovy" for 20-years, I had to ask... At what point do we recognize the natural creativity infused in our fellow beings, friends, family, and experiences and REALLY acknowledge it?
Was Calderwood an intentional "cultural engineer", "cultural clairvoyant"? or was it just creative use of nervous energy. I personally love the friends I have who can't shut the F--- up when they riff on an idea. I encourage and cherish them. (Mike H. in Seattle, this goes out to you). Don't put your kids on Ritalin I say, ask them WHY they are restless and bored instead. Let them jabber on and spill out some creative experiential ideas. Perhaps someone down the road will identify them as "a conceptual genius". Please resist the urge to dampen their energy for convince sake or because the Doctor recommend it. Question authority don't mindlessly Obey. (Thanks Shepard).
Be curious. Don't just drink in your surroundings. Sure enjoy....but find out how it happened. Why it's there for you to enjoy. Who did this? Why? What is the subtext of this thing I'm involved in....and recognize the patterns in life that you are drawn to. There's something in that. Patterns repeat themselves. Patterns are often beautiful.
I think about how late I recognized Shepard Fairey's work, not until he became an institution just before the Obama poster. I laugh about the event that Banksy pulled off last year at Central Park. Having a street vendor try and sell his stencil art on a Saturday afternoon to very little success. Because passers by where not paying attention they missed the chance to purchase a very valuable Banksy artwork for something like $15 bucks a pop.
Developing creative experiences is something we talk about a lot here in The Mechanism's bungalow high above W. 37th. We try to understand the interconnectedness of all things we endeavor to design. We enjoy pulling the threads out of the larger tapestry to understand how beauty happens in our everyday. The world we are spinning on now has almost NO degrees of separation where human experience is involved. We share globally like never before in our short history. Making sense of, and developing experiences for the greater good - there's something in that.
I only want to suggest that we remember to learn from the people and things you admire. Famous or not, take a moment to recognize just why it is that you respect them. Deconstruct and meditate on those attributes.
Alexander Calderwood died while he still had a lot to do. He died from addiction. Maybe he could have been saved if he could get redirected here. His close friends stand by his genius and love of human interaction. The article in Fast Company said something like - "creativity has a dangerous side". If you're lucky. I think some of the most interesting people I've admired just can't express everything they wish, fast enough. And so it goes. He lived fast, he died younger than me, I'm not sure how good looking he was as a corpse, but overall he was a handsome soul. Look up Alex's history and work, and imagine how much more YOU can do to express yourself for a better world.