Erez Kikin-Gil | Interaction + Design


From my marble cake to the tipping point

I was baking my marble cake and went to read about it, as I usually do. Morton M. Grodzins (1917 – 1964),   a professor and a dean of political science at the University of Chicago, used it as a metaphor for cooperative federalism. Morton M. Grodzins also coined the term the tipping point  in 1972, which was also used in 2000 by Malcolm Gladwell. Tasty relationship 😉

Marble Cake



I was just reading Daniel Boorstin’s The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-Events, and I wanted to share parts of this mind provoking thinking. 

…The pseudo-events which flood our consciousness are neither true nor false in the old familiar senses. The very same advances which have made them possible have also made the images-however planned, contrived, or distorted-more vivid, more attractive, more impressive, and more persuasive than reality itself. We cannot say that we are being fooled. It is not entirely inaccurate to say that we are being “informed.” This world of ambiguity is created by those who believe they are instructing us, by our best public servants, and with our own collaboration. Our problem is the harder to solve because it is created by people working honesfly and industriously at respectable jobs. It is not created by demagogues or crooks, by conspiracy or evil purpose. The efficient mass production of pseudo-events–in all kinds of packages, in black-and-white, in technicolor, in words, and in a thousand other forms -is the work of the whole machinery of our society. … …Pseudo-events from their very nature tend to be more interesting and more attracfive than spontaneous events. Therefore in American public life today pseudo-events tend to drive all other kinds of events out of our consciousness, or at least to overshadow them. Earnest, well-informed citizens seldom notice that their experience of spontaneous events is buried by pseudo-events. Yet nowadays, the more industriously they work at “informing” themselves the more this tends to be true. …  …Here are some characteristics of pseudo-events which make them overshadow spontaneous events:
(1) Pseudo-events are more dramatic. A television debate between candidates can be planned to be more suspenseful (for example, by reserving questions which are then popped suddenly) than a casual encounter or consecutive formal speeches planned by each separately.
(2) Pseudo-events, being planned for dissemination, are easier to disserninate and to make vivid. Participants are selected for their newsworthy and dramatic interest.
(3) Pseudo-events can be repeated at will, and thus their impression can be re-enforced.
(4) Pseudo-events cost money to create; hence somebody has an interest in disseminating, magnifying, advertising, and extolling them as events worth watching or worth believing. They are therefore advertised in advance, and rerun in order to get money’s worth
(5) Pseudo-events, being planned for intelligibility, are more intelligible and hence more reassuring. Even if we cannot discuss interngenfly the qualifications of the candidates or the complicated issues, we can at east judge the effectiveness of a television performance. How comforting to have some political matter we can grasp!
(6) Pseudo-events are more sociable, more conversable, and more convenient to witness. Their occurrence is planned for our convenience. The Sunday newspaper appears when we have a lazy morning for it. Television programs appear when we are ready with our glass of beer. In the office the next morning, Jack Paar’s (or any other star performer’s) regular late-night show at the usual hour will overshadow in conversation a casual event that suddenly came up and had to find its way into the news.
(7) Knowledge of pseudo-events–of what has been reported, or what has been staged, and how–becomes the test of being “informed.” News magazines provide us regularly with quiz questions concerning not what has happened but concerning “names in the news”-what has been reported in the news magazines. Pseudo-events begin to provide that “common discourse” which some of my old-fashioned friends have hoped to find in the Great Books.
(8) Finally, pseudo-events spawn other pseudo-events in geometric progression. They dominate our consciousness simply because there are more of them, and ever more. … …Pseudo-events thus lead to emphasis on pseudo-qualifications. Again the self-fulfilling prophecy. If we test Presidential candidates by their talents on TV quiz performances, we will, of course, choose presidents for precisely these qualifications. In a democracy, reality tends to conform to the pseudo- event. Nature imitates art. …  …Pseudo-events do, of course, increase our illusion of grasp on the world, what some have called the American illusion of omnipotence. Perhaps, we come to think, the world’s problems can really be settled by “statements,” by “Summit” meetings, by a competition of “prestige,” by overshadowing images, and by political quiz shows. Once we have tasted the charm of pseudo-events, we are tempted to believe they are the only important events. Our progress poisons the sources of our experience. And the poison tastes so sweet that it spoils our appetite for plain fact. Our seeming ability to satisfy our exaggerated expectations makes us forget that they are exaggerated.




At the end of February 09, Microsot™s Business Division President Stephen Elop shared with the attendance of the Wharton Business Technology Conference Office™s labs vision of productivity. Elop™s signature motto was that it is essential for companies to invest in innovation especially during recession as it allows them to develop a competitive advantage that is essential to their survival, and evolution. My friend, Daniel Wigdor, referred me to immortal words of Lisa Simpson: look at the bright side dad, did you know that the Chinese use the same word for crisis as they do for opportunity? Yes , [Homer answers] Crisitunity!

Sure, crisis is a catalyst that forces change, and can be good. Unfortunately, change is a Darwinian mechanism that only benefits those that can overcome the harsh situation and evolve from it. Many of the companies that face this reality these days simply do not have the agility needed to do that. For example, General Motors lost 82 Billon dollars in the last three years, its market worth is only 1.34 Billion dollar. GM™s ability to survive the current rescission it is limited at best. It is admirable that Microsoft is heavily invested in efforts to map the future, even during these hard times. It is even more remarkable how these efforts are focused on real, viable future. If you see the end of Elop™s presentation, you would see him unveil the foundations on which these beautiful visions were founded on. it was all just a glimpse away. Watch Stephen Elop™s speech to see the underlying technologies and trends that will make this vision a reality [Start: 20:38] (Feb. 27, 2009)
Watch Future Vision: Montage (Feb. 27, 2009) (By office Labs)


Design and the Elastic Mind

Design and the Elastic Mind is a new exhibition at the MOMA that explores the reciprocal relationship between science and design. The exhibition highlights designers™ ability to grasp momentous changes in technology, science, and history”changes that demand or reflect major adjustments in human behavior”and translate them into objects that people can actually understand and use. The exhibition™s Web site presents over three hundred of these works, including fifty projects that are not featured in the gallery exhibition. Links: http://www.moma.org/exhibitions/2008/elasticmind/assets/pdf/Design_and_the_Elastic_Mind.pdf http://www.moma.org/exhibitions/2008/elasticmind/


From mass production to I-production

A recent article claimed that Ethan Nicholas, an iPhone games developer was about to earn 600,000. His application, the iShoot was successfully promoted by a lite version, on January 3rd, 2009. Less than ten days later, the full version of iShoot reached the number one spot on iTunes. Last century, in 1903, Henry Ford introduced the moving assembly line, which used conveyor belts to move partly assembled products between workers; each preformed a repetitive simple task. Perhaps it is too early to envision the end of the industrial revolution and mass production process, but I believe that Ethan Nicholas is a start of a shift in production methods. A shift from a capital-intensive production method (like mass production), to an individual endeavor method. With the last one, everyone is a one-man assembly line, producer, promoter and designer. His success and failure is dependent only on his individual efforts, and intellectual horsepower.


Together alone

When I used to Surf, I always went with few friends to the beach. It was usually early in the morning, when the best waves came, and we had them all to ourselves. It was kind of a ritual for us. We got of the car, left it still running, and went to peek from the highest of the boardwalk to the ocean to see where the best waves are. Then, it if was worth anything, we parked the car and ran down the sandy beach, placed our cloths near the lifeguard post, and stormed in to the cold water. And then we were alone. I was sitting in my living room with my son, watching TV. He was watching one of the children shows. I on the other hand was watching NBC TV show on my laptop. I hugged him and told him I loved him, and covered him in a warm blanket, as I was listening to the show with an earpiece with one ear. Surfing is a cool, fun and one of the most accelerating things I have ever done. From my experience, it beats sky diving and basketball, yoga and long distance running. But it is not a team sport. Like many things that we do, it is does not contain any highly coupled tasks, does not requires others to watch, cheer, or participate. Sharing space does not necessarily means sharing tasks. Sometimes it means giving space to others to have the same fun that you have, while you are there, just there.


I Want You To Want Me

Many of you knows We Feel Fine, An exploration of human emotion, in six movements by Jonathan Harris and Sep Kamvar. Jonathan and Harris recently published another work, called I Want You To Want Me, which explores our emotional existence in a digital world.


water play

Water Play
Research on liquid interfaces
Key words : Physical prototyping
Skills used: interaction design

Water play is a water-based interface. It allows users to view content displayed on the water surface. The users can engage content through direct interaction with the water. This interface enables users to interact with content using water, just like a touch screen. Users can immerse their hands to the water, swirl, splash, or use other forms of interaction which are unique to the water.

This project, done for the future center of telecom Italia, explores novel ways of interaction. It draws its inspiration from the constant friction between the city’s inhabitance and the water they are surrounded by.

In the design process, my explorations were focusing on the particular qualities of the water and the data type, which match them. Introducing interaction with liquid substance, on three dimensions can enhance some types of information. on the other hand, they might fit less to other types.

My first exploration examined the interaction of historical information composed of visuals names and numbers in the water. I have designed an experience prototype, in which I could play with information placed on maps, through gestures. This experiment led me to peruse types of information that allow the user to play with them, rather then carry the need for accuracy, like the historical figures.

I have proceeded to explore qualities such as depth, surface, movement’s types and possible interaction with “pile of images” placed within water. On the following movies you can observe some of these explorations.


Design and the Elastic Mind

Design and the Elastic Mind is a new exhibition at the MOMA that explores the reciprocal relationship between science and design. The exhibition highlights designers™ ability to grasp momentous changes in technology, science, and history”changes that demand or reflect major adjustments in human behavior”and translate them into objects that people can actually understand and use. The exhibition™s Web site presents over three hundred of these works, including fifty projects that are not featured in the gallery exhibition.

see it in flickr


Physical objects have digital shadow

Mike Kuniavsky recently gave a talk at Baychi. His presentation was focused on ubiquitous computing and was called: sketching smart things. Specifically his talk revolved around several interesting ideas:
1. Embedded information processing and networking is a material – when the cost of the Ubicomp elements becomes low, the designer have the freedom to explore, make “errors” and design.

2. Applianceness (term coined by Bill Sharpe) – the cross section between application and appliances.

3. Physical objects cast information shadows – every object has a digital shadow, a Meta data entity that has a life of its own.

4. Devices are service avatars- a key hardware component of ubiquitous computing is networking which places the emphasis on the information accessibility rather then the device.

5. Granularity determines key aspects of experience design – while we are used to multi purpose devices, with one size fits all both in input and output, ubiquitous computing allows more purposeful design.

6. Magic is a powerful Ubicomp metaphor. Ubicomp allows designers to enchant and animate objects, and make the interaction clearer and more visible.

The idea that physical objects cast information shadows is one that captured me more then the others, mostly because it is so poetic. It assumes the equality between all physical objects, animated and non-animated. It assumes that a virtual entity retains their presences long after their physical caster had disappeared. Instant messengers Bots are (like Santa clause Bot) already creating a confusing experience. It is not that hard to think about a Facebook Bot that interacts with my friends better then I am. This reminds me the story of the guy that was fed up with his shadow so much that on day he cut it and left him behind. To this guy’s misfortune, the shadow had its own plans and soon enough he took the guys’ identity and life. The shadow was so successful in his mission that people thought that he was more lively then his former owner.

links: http://www.orangecone.com/archives/2008/02/sketching_smart_1.html