Humans love a good interface

I really like the idea of this machine. It’s just full of buttons, knobs, dials, levers, gauges, wires and things that people love to push, turn and mess with.


“To create an interaction/ device that explores peoples’ natural instinct to push buttons. Regardless of age, gender or cultural background, I have noticed that humans are naturally attracted to pushing and playing with buttons and switches . What is this universal attraction? Why do humans derive pleasure from pushing buttons? The Happy Feedback Machine aims to explore this innate desire among humans.”

H A P P Y – F E E D B A C K – M A C H I N E

Visualizing stories

Jonathan Harris spent 9 days with the Inupiat Eskimos in Alaska, documenting their way of life, and their Spring tradition of whale hunting. He methodically took a photo every 5 minutes, even going as far as to use a chronometer to keep his camera going while asleep. The results are shown on this amazing web site.


He’s trying to use the images and the data associated with them (time of day, theme, “cast members” etc), to explore and develop new interfaces for presenting and navigating narratives. The site is beautifully executed, with some really nuanced interaction devices and visualizations (particularly those exploiting time, like the pinwheel timeline shown below).



It’s a hugely inspirational site, with a lot of beautifully executed ideas. In the rush of user interfaces, though, I feel like the story is lost, somehow, and that this scientific an approach to storytelling leaves the “reader” a little adrift. It’s somehow a bit cold from a human point of view, like a beautiful illustrated Victorian scientific catalogue. Even so, it’s great to see him reaching so far and testing this approach so rigorously, and with such a keen eye for execution.

The Whale Hunt / A storytelling experiment / by Jonathan Harris

Some SenseCam press

Great article in MIT’s Technology Review on the SenseCam, particularly focusing on the potential benefits for dementia sufferers…

“When Mrs. B was admitted to the hospital in March 2002, her doctors diagnosed limbic encephalitis, a brain infection that left her autobiographical memory in tatters. As a result, she can only recall around 2 percent of events that happened the previous week, and she often forgets who people are. But a simple device called SenseCam, a small digital camera developed by Microsoft Research, in Cambridge, U.K., dramatically improved her memory: she could recall 80 percent of events six weeks after they happened, according to the results of a recent study.”
Technology Review: A Camera to Help Dementia Patients

Africa’s new "Natural Resource"

This seems to make a lot of sense to me, although like all things ethical and ecological it will probably come with a price. I’m sure, for example, that desert land is worth more then just sand. It has its own bio-diversity, which I’m sure thousands of square miles of solar panels would mess with. Or maybe the sand has its own inherent value. I mean, think of all the silicon wafers you could make out of it.

“Proving that we really are all in this together, Europe is considering plans to spend more than ¬£5 billion on a system of large solar power stations in North Africa. This proposed solar power plan could provide the EU with a sixth of its electricity needs, and, as a bonus, provide fresh water to African nations. Though Europe would be the beneficiary, the panels and power stations would be placed along the Mediterranean desert shores of northern Africa and the Middle East, with the electricity transmitted via underwater cables to EU nations.”

Light technology

Really enjoyed this series of 3 videos on designers that work with light. In some ways what they are each doing is creating new forms of displays, each with a pixel that in some cases may be formed by an equivalent piece of technology (e.g. and L.E.D.) and in some cases by an object (such as the plastic “found” objects of David Bachelor.

Jason Bruges specializes in architectural installations (I particularly like his piece of work that visualizes the motions of lifts in a building using light).


UVA (United Visual Artists) specialize in working with music and bands (such as Massive Attack) and in once example, with dancers. They build interactive lighting as well as data-driven computer visualization. They did a recent installation called Volume at the Victoria & Albert museum which I was lucky enough to see.


David Bachelor works at a less interactive but no less attractive level, using light sources coupled with or generated by objects he’s found on the street or in brik-a-brak shops. I particularly like the sculptures he built by pushing old neon signage up close to a wall.


Dazed Digital | Projects | Seduced By Light