A cautionary tale of digital preservation.
.generation is a short film that intimately documents three millennials in the year 2054 - uncovering their relationships with technology in the aftermath of the information age.
I’ve seen letterforms you people wouldn’t believe…
An in-depth, thoroughly-researched look at the threatened health of the web. It’s grim reading, for the most part, but there’s a glimmer of hope towards the end.
Remember: life is ten per cent what happens to you, ten per cent how you respond to it, and eighty per cent how good your reflexes are when the Tall Ones come at your throat with their pincers.
This is my kind of talk—John Snow’s cholera map, the Yucca Mountain think-tank, the Pioneer plaque, the Voyager record, the Drake equation, the Arecibo signal, and the love song of J. Alfred Prufrock.
♫ These are a few of my fav-our-ite things! ♫
I particularly like Ethan’s Stop Making Sense era David Byrne suit.
The act of linking to this story is making it true.
“I don’t think there’s any law against this,” I said. How could there be a law against something that’s not possible?
Michael Bierut on that logo …and graphic design in general.
Graphic designers, whether we admit it or not, are trained for the short term. Most of the things we design have to discharge their function immediately, whether it’s a design for a book or a poster, a website or an infographic, a sign system, or a business card. In school critiques, architecture and industrial design students produce models. Graphic designers produce finished prototypes. As a result, the idea that we create things that are unfinished, that can only accrue value over time, is foreign to us. It’s so easy for us to visualize the future, and so hard to admit that we really can’t. That’s what we face every time we unveil a new logo.
Science fiction as a means of energising climatic and economic change:
Fiction, and science fiction in particular, can help us imagine many futures, and in particular can help us to direct our imaginations towards the futures we want. Imagining a particular kind of future isn’t just day dreaming: it’s an important and active framing that makes it possible for us to construct a future that approaches that imagined vision. In other words, imagining the future is one way of making that future happen.
But it’s important that these visions are preserved:
It’s very likely that our next Octavia Butler is today writing on WattPad or Tumblr or Facebook. When those servers cease to respond, what will we lose? More than the past is at stake—all our imagined futures are at risk, too.
A new presentation from the wonderfully curmudgeonly Steven Pemberton, the Nosferatu of the web. Ignore the clickbaity title.
This part really, really resonated with me:
The web is the way now that we distribute information. We will need the web pages we create now to be readable in 100 years time, just as we can still read 100-year-old books.
Critical thinking without hope is cynicism. Hope without critical thinking is naïveté.
Echoing Margaret Atwood’s observation:
If we abandon hope, we’re cooked. If we rely on nothing but hope, we’re cooked. So I would say judicious hope is necessary.
Just like Nick, John Willshire has put his slides together with the audio from his gobsmackingly good dConstruct presentation on metadesign.
Nick Foster has put the audio of his fantastic dConstruct talk together with his slides.
It’s a terrific, thought-provoking presentation, superbly delivered …and it even has some relevance to progressive enhancement! (you’ll know what I mean if you watch/listen to the whole thing)
Kelli Anderson’s thesis on the Human Interference Task Force project set up to mark nuclear waste sites for future generations (a project I’ve referenced in some of my talks).
Exemplars proposing various solutions for the resilience of digital data and computation over long timeframes include the Internet Archive; redundantly distributed storage platforms such GlusterFS, LOCKSS, and BitTorrent Sync; and the Lunar supercomputer proposal of Ouliang Chang.
Each of these differs in its approach and its focus; yet each shares with Vessel and with one another a key understanding: The prospects of Earth-originating life in the future, whether vast or diminishing, depend upon our actions and our foresight in this current cultural moment of opportunity, agency, awareness, ability, capability, and willpower.
A magnificent presentation from Maciej that begins by drawing parallels between the aviation industry in the 20th century and the technology industry in the 21st:
So despite appearances, despite the feeling that things are accelerating and changing faster than ever, I want to make the shocking prediction that the Internet of 2060 is going to look recognizably the same as the Internet today.
Unless we screw it up.
And I want to convince you that this is the best possible news for you as designers, and for us as people.
But if that sounds too upbeat for you…
Too much of what was created in the last fifty years is gone because no one took care to preserve it.
We have heroic efforts like the Internet Archive to preserve stuff, but that’s like burning down houses and then cheering on the fire department when it comes to save what’s left inside. It’s no way to run a culture. We take better care of scrap paper than we do of the early Internet, because at least we look at scrap paper before we throw it away.
And then there’s this gem:
It finishes with three differing visions of the web, one of them desirable, the other two …not so much. This presentation is a rallying cry for the web we want.
Let’s reclaim the web from technologists who tell us that the future they’ve imagined is inevitable, and that our role in it is as consumers.
I completely understand Peter’s fears here, and to a certain extent, I share them. But I think there’s a danger in only looking to what native platforms can do that the web doesn’t (yet). Perhaps instead we should be looking to strengthen what only the web can offer: ubiquity, access, and oh yeah, URLs.
This is a wonderful presentation by Kimberley at O’Reilly’s Fluent Conference, running through the history of the Line Mode Browser and the hack project we worked on at CERN to emulate it.
Here’s a lovely project with an eye on the Long Now. Trees that were planted last year will be used to make paper to print an anthology in 2114.
Margaret Atwood is one of the contributors.
A PDF of Clarke’s classic essay on the follies of prediction. From the 1972 collection The Futurists, edited by Alvin Toffler.
A long-zoom look at life, work, and success.
I’m not usually a fan of portmanteau neologisms, but I really like Tash’s coining of the word longtrepreneur.
Jeffrey muses on progressive enhancement and future-friendliness.
The launch of the Apple watch prompts Brad to remind us of the benefits of being future-friendly.
Once again, responsive design is not about “mobile”, “tablet”, and “desktop”. It’s about creating experiences meant to look and function beautifully on anything that can access the Web. We don’t know what gizmos will be sitting underneath Christmas trees two years from now, but there’s a damn good chance those gadgets will be able to access the Web.
Always worth bearing in mind when some perspective is needed.
If it is possible that our future species will go on to create simulations of our civilisation forerunners (us), then it is far more likely that we are currently in such a simulation than not.
Any sufficiently advanced vision piece is indistinguishable from Black Mirror.
Interstellar travel time dilation and status updates: a clever narrative combo.
Designing primarily in a laptop web browser and testing with a mouse rather than fingers may come to look very out of date soon.
A look at long-term cultural and linguistic preservation through the lens of Egyptology.
Typeset In The Future is back with another cracking analysis. This time—following on from 2001 and Moon—we’ve got Alien.
In her final recorded message before hypersleep, Ripley notes that she is the sole survivor of the Nostromo. What she forgets to mention is that she has not once in the past two hours encountered any Eurostile Bold Extended.
I’m at Disney World for a special edition of An Event Apart, so this lightning talk from Dan Williams seems appropriate to revisit.
Patty Toland — Design Consistency For The Responsive Web (Smashing Conference Freiburg 2014) on Vimeo
Patty’s excellent talk on responsive design and progressive enhancement. Stick around for question-and-answer session at the end, wherein I attempt to play hardball, but actually can’t conceal my admiration and the fact that I agree with every single word she said.
This is basically porn for me.
Bernal spheres, Stanford tori, and O’Neill cylinders, oh my!
A deeply thoughtful piece (as always) by Wilson, on the mindset needed for a sustainable way of working.
When we start with the assumption that optimizing for rapid, unbounded growth is a goal, we immediately narrow the possibility space. There are only so many choices we can make that will get us there. The same choices that made annual monoculture and the shopping mall the most efficient engines for short-term growth and profit are the same qualities that made them unsustainable in the long term.
There are more ways to scale than growth. There are more ways to deepen our impact than just reaching more people. What if we put just as much effort into scaling the impact of our work over time? Can we build digital products around sustainable systems that survive long enough to outlive us, that are purpose-built to thrive without our constant cultivation?
Jason writes about the closing of Ficly. This is a lesson in how to do this right:
We knew as soon as we decided to wind down Ficly that we wanted to provide users with continued access to their work, even if they couldn’t create more. We’re still working on some export tools, but more importantly, we’re guaranteeing that all original work on the site will live on at its current URL far into the future.
Tom Scott’s energetic dConstruct talk.
A peak at a near-future mundane dystopia from Joanne McNeil that reminds me of Brian’s spime story
This fetching red future friendly T-shirt would look quite good on you. Just down beam down to any planetary surfaces as part of an away team.
Profits go to the Internet Archive.
The Internet forgets every single day.
I’m with Jason.
I encourage you all to take a moment and consider the importance of preserving your online creations for yourself, your family, and for future generations.
For your consideration.
If enough people want a print run of this lovely Future Friendly T-shirt, then they’ll make a new batch.
The profits go to the Internet Archive.
John peers behind the surface veneer of the web’s current screen-based setting:
The challenge for us as developers and designers for the web becomes less about screens and pixels and buttons and much more about how the web augments our lives, both actively and passively; how it makes us know ourselves and our homes and workplaces and environments better.
Here’s a dystopian vision of the web in ten years time, where professional developers are the only people able to publish on the web.
My interest in rich client-side apps has almost entirely reversed, and now I’m more interested in doing good ol’ server rendering with the occasional side of progressive enhancement, just like we did it in 2004.
This post resonates with me 100%.
The transcript of Anab Jain’s talk from the FutureEverything Festival.
We better get used to them…
A short sci-fi film from director Wanuri Kahiu set in the aftermath of a worldwide water war.
Documenting depictions of dystopian futures and tracking which ideas are turning out to be predictions.
This has the potential to be a terrific little documentary. What say we get it funded?
Eileen Gunn writes in the Smithsonian magazine on the influence of science fiction.
Science fiction, at its best, engenders the sort of flexible thinking that not only inspires us, but compels us to consider the myriad potential consequences of our actions.
I finally got around to reading Red Men by Matthew De Abaitua recently. It’s like Nick Harkaway crossed with Jeff Noon.
Here’s hoping that this short film will be developed into a full-length feature.
Okay, this might just be my new favourite blog:
This site is dedicated to all aspects of movie and TV typography and iconography as it appears in Sci-Fi and fantasy movies.
The first post is all about 2001, and the writing is just the right shade of fun.
I’m already looking forward to future posts. (See what I did there?)
A great series of articles on the sci-fi films of the ’60s and ’70s:
The Laser Age examines a rich period in the history of science-fiction filmmaking that began in the late 1960s and faded away by the mid 1980s.
…all wrapped up in a nice responsive design too.
Coming from anyone else, this glorious vision might seem far-fetched, but Anne is working to make it a reality.
This was my favourite moment from the Handheld conference in Cardiff.
Michael Chabon muses on The Future, prompted by the Clock of the Long Now.
I heartily concur with Lyza’s mini-manifesto:
I think we need to try to do as little as possible when we build the future web …putting commonality first, approaching differentiation carefully.
It’s always surprised me how quickly developers will reach for complex, potentially over-engineered solutions, when—in my experience—that approach invariably creates more problems than it solves.
Simplicity is powerful.
See that helmet? That’s my helmet. Jim borrowed it for this video.
And now I think that the Future Friendly posse has a theme song.
You can now purchase some very fetching Future Friendly T-shirts from United Pixelworkers and fly your Future Friendly freak flag high!
Best of all, all the profits go to the Internet Archive.
A design fiction video depicting technology that helps and hinders in equal measure.
A really great interview with Nick Bostrom about humanity’s long-term future and the odds of extinction.
I think it’s a bit of a shame that Brett is canning his mobile-first device-detection library, but I totally understand (and agree with) his reasons.
There is a consensual hallucination in the market, that we can silo devices into set categories like mobile, tablet, and desktop, yet the reality is drawing these lines in the sand is not an easy task.
The out-of-copyright books of Olaf Stapledon are available to download from the University of Adelaide. Be sure to grab Starmaker and First And Last Men.
I really like these thoughts on the importance of design systems for the web. It’s not about providing a few perfect deliverables that won’t survive once they go live; it’s about designing for the unexpected, the unpredictable:
Design for every state, not the best state.
This is quite an astounding piece of writing. Robert Lucky imagines the internet of things mashed up with online social networking …but this was published in 1999!
Yet another write-up of this year’s dConstruct.
A nice write-up of dConstruct that focuses on three ideas that were threaded throughout the day:
- Digital is about beauty and about layers,
- The power of play, and
- The interconnectedness of things through chance.
Another thoughtful write-up of this year’s dConstruct, weaving a thread between the talks from Jason Scott, James Burke, and Tom Armitage with a detour via Italo Calvino.
This is my favourite write-up of dConstruct so far. I love that way that, rather than simply giving a linear description, Laura weaves together the implicit strands that were running throughout the day — a very thoughtful, considered approach.
And how about this for an opening line:
After a weekend of reflection, I’ve decided that dConstruct 2012 had the best talks of any conference I’ve ever attended.
I like this! Andrew Johns found a thread in this year’s dConstruct that ran parallel to its official tagline of “Playing With The Future”: Education.
Another really good description of this year’s dConstruct that describes each talk.
A lovely write-up of this year’s dConstruct:
Curated well by the Clearleft team, its speakers are always intelligent, insightful, and on the whole, world-class. Pouring out insights through divergent thought, challenging norms and touting innovation.
The opening keynote from Warren Ellis for this year’s Improving Reality. I’d like to walk into space with this man.
A classic piece of design fiction written by Mark Weiser 21 years ago.
The most profound technologies are those that disappear. They weave themselves into the fabric of everyday life until they are indistinguishable from it.
A great write-up of this year’s magnificent dConstruct and its theme of playing with the future.
Some more thoughts on how our workflow needs to adapt to the current ever-changing device landscape.
I, for one, welcome our Manufactured Normalcy Field overlords.
Aaron should definitely skyblog more often if this is the result.
It’s not enough to have the same Photoshopped image from Back To The Future trotted out every. single. year. …now you can pass this meme around every minute of every day of every month of every year. Thanks a lot, Seb.
Magazine covers created by Tom Southwell for background scenes in Blade Runner.
Trent offers some excellent advice for dealing with the effects of the iPad’s retina display on your websites. That advice is: don’t panic.
A great step-by-step tutorial from Brad on developing a responsive site with a Content First mindset.
Josh responds to Jakob Nielsen’s audaciously ignorant advice on siloing mobile devices. Josh is right.
Nielsen says his research is based on studies of hundreds of mobile experiences, and I don’t doubt it. But because he’s finding tons of poor mobile websites doesn’t mean we should punt on creating great, full-featured mobile experiences.
It’s great to see the Future Friendly call-to-arms being expanded on. Here it’s university sites that are being looked at through a future-friendly lens.
BBC News are using the mobile subdomain to plant the seed of responsive design. It’s a smart move that’s been really nicely executed.
A new publication from New Scientist dedicated to future thinking. The first issue has articles and stories from Bruce Sterling, Margaret Atwood, China Miéville, and Alastair Reynolds.
Yet another great post from Brad:
Whenever I think of the concept of “One Web” and providing universal access to information on the web, I tend to break it down into something much simpler: give people what they ask for.
A sweet little meditation on the nature of the web and responsive design.
A collection of articles on the tricksy art of Futurism from—amongst others—Bruce Sterling, Annalee Newitz, and Matt Novak, creator of the Paleofuture blog.
Neal Stephenson speaks at Solve For X on the relative timidity of scientific (and science fictional) progress in our current time.
Luke outlines three different solutions to delivering a site to multiple devices.
A great article from Sara Wachter-Boettcher on crafting future-friendly content. The content prioritisation described here mirrors what I’ve been doing in workshops.
Here’s a great braindump from Paul following the Responsive Summit, detailing multiple ways of potentially tackling the issue of responsive images.
Josh goes through the talking points from the recent Responsive Summit he attended. Sounds like it was a great get-together.
A rallying cry for a content-focused—rather than device-focused—approach to responsive design. Despite the awful title and occasionally adversarial tone, this article is making a very good point about being future friendly.
A nice round-up of responsive and future-friendly resources.
Yes! Yes! Yes!!!
Progressive enhancement is the only sane approach to today’s massively divergent landscape of devices. It can’t be repeated often enough.
Stephanie focuses on Android but this is a cautionary tale about trying to impose control over what you’re sending to the multitude of mobile devices out there.
Designing to fixed screen sizes is in fact never a good idea…there is just too much variation, even amongst ‘popular’ devices.