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Time will eat us eventually: the Reminder UI

Matt J of the BERG has written a really wonderful response to my post last week on the New Aesthetic:

It’s the lossy-ness that reveals the grain of the material and process. A photocopy of a photocopy of a fax. But atoms. Like the 80′s fanzines, or old Wonder Stuff 7″ single cover art. Or Vaughn Oliver, David Carson.

It is – perhaps – at once a fascination with the raw possibility of a technology, and – a disinterest, in a way, of anything but the qualities of its output. Perhaps it happens when new technology becomes cheap and mundane enough to experiment with, and break – when it becomes semi-domesticated but still a little significantly-other.

When it becomes a working material not a technology.

Go and read Sensor-Vernacular. Also, if you missed it, I’m continuing the exploration at

This week, I want to talk about time-based interfaces. Or Reminder UIs. Or: another thing I don’t have a name for but I shall make by showing.

Photojojo’s wonderful Time Capsule sends you your Flickr photos from a year ago. You hadn’t forgotten them, you just hadn’t thought about them for a while. They will make you bittersweet happysad, but mostly happy, and you will be glad you outsourced your brain to a machine that has the capacity to remind you to feel this way.

There’s an extra, semi-hidden feature in Time Capsule that most people haven’t noticed: Talk to the Future. At the bottom of every email you can send a message to your future self, which will be included in your reminder in a years time. (This is pretty close to Slowpoke, which is, er, still in Beta, but I will finish it, I promise, if someone tells me a really easy way to send 1 off postcards programatically, and pay for them.)

The thing that I am thinking of isn’t just reminder services, but here are a few more.

James Wheare‘s TwitShift (which he promises to bring back up eventually is back up) retweets you from a few years back (you can choose 1, 2 or 3). Sometimes this is good, or interesting, or revealing (see above). Sometimes less so: I think I had more fun in March at SxSW last year than I did staying in London this year. I had to turn it off for a while. But still. In an age, socially and technologically, when history seems to be flattening out, it is good to have tools to remind us that it has texture.

Foursquare And Seven Years Ago (awesome name) does a similar thing for places you went to. The data cloud is our memories. They may be Soylent Green; they might also be cryptosam, our own emissions that reveal in hindsight deeper truths. Every man his own stylo.

Also: Rob T is messing with me.

Finally, Amazon does something rather nice with the Kindle when you log in online:

Kindle stores all the bookmarks you make in books and while it would be even better if it allowed you to share them properly, it’s nice that it gives you this little bump when you log in. I’ve got hundreds of dog-eared books and I never revisit them: there’s a little link to jump back to something – a mark, an action, a moment – I made over a year ago.

There is more to the time interface than the reminder, and it’s different to a simple timeline, which is just red dot fever in history, but. But but but. There is something there. I was just in Manchester. I’d never been there before, but one of the strongest cultural influences of my life took place there: it echoed in the stones, it was around me. I could feel my hopeful 18yo self trembling at my shoulder. Time is a working material: we can cut and shape it.

Have a lovely weekend. See you a year ago, next year.

UPDATE! Totally forgot to mention that I was prompted to post this by reading Paul Ford’s Time’s Inverted Index, which you should read too, and everything Paul writes.

The beauty under the beast: a tour of silicon roundabout

We were invited by the Danish Centre for Digital Urban Living to show some 20 Danish journalists and editors around East London. Every year, the centre organises trips to so-called “digital cities” and they’d been to Seoul and Tokyo before so this was quite a challenge.

Beyond the obvious Silicon Roundabout malarky, one of the things that makes East London special is the combination of creativity and cheap real estate. We invited some of our friends from the immediate area and beyond to come and do quick pecha kucha-like presentations of their latest work. We also walked around to visit some studios so that our guests could understand the advantages of living a 10 minute walk away from some rather special people. Beyond the hip graffiti outside #shitoffice (also known as our former office space around the corner) the area is not particularly pretty. It was a surprise for our guests to see beautiful insides to the grubby outsides and I thought I’d keep track of them.

We invited friends from OpenIDEO, Moving Brands, Poke, W+K, Darq, Wired UK, Pachube, The Cities Institute and more. It was grand and we had fun. We ended the day with a drink around the corner and dinner on Kingsland road of course. It’s about the little things.

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.

(Some of these things might have appeared here, or nearby, before. They are not necessarily new new, but I want to put them together.)

For so long we’ve stared up at space in wonder, but with cheap satellite imagery and cameras on kites and RC helicopters, we’re looking at the ground with new eyes, to see structures and infrastructures:

Guardian gallery of agricultural landscapes from space.

Updates on Bin Laden’s Death, New York Times

Tracking iPhone locations with iPhoneTracker, from Ben on Flickr

The map fragments, visible at different resolutions, accepting of differing hierarchies of objects.

→ Tracking iPhone locations (Ongoing personal project)

→ Landscape Permutation 2 (2010), David Semeniuk

Views of the landscape are superimposed on one another. Time itself dilates.

→ Three screens (for London 2010)

→ FER IN 1970 & 2010, Buenos Aires, Back to the Future Series, Irina Werning

Luminant Point Arrays, by Stephan Tillmans

Representations of people and of technology begin to break down, to come apart not at the seams, but at the pixels.

Diptych 1 on Flickr (ongoing personal project)

CV Dazzle by Adam Harvey

Megabytes of Spring, Reed+Rader for

(I could put a whole load more animated gif stuff in here like this and this and this and this. But I won’t. Except to say: animated gifs are the first artform of the internet, and they are in some way the future.)

→ German Tornado fighter with splinter camouflage.

→ Low resolution Lamborghini Countach, by United Nude

Lo Res Shoe, by United Nude

Fabricate Yourself, Karl D.D. Lewis

Telehouse West, by YRM Architects

The rough, pixelated, low-resolution edges of the screen are becoming in the world.

→ Robert Hodgin’s Kinect Fatsuit

NYC Street Art, photographed by Benjamin Norman


Embryo Firearms by Cornelia Parker

→→→→→→→→→→ And so on and so forth.

UPDATE: continuing the exploration at – submissions welcome.