Sweet English Suburbia in Hamburg

'English' Shop in Hamburg

I quite often teach COFA Online’s course, Graphics and Contemporary Society, which I find more interesting now that I’m here in Germany. A lot of the discussion amongst the students, who are in Australia, is about the differences between Asian and Western cultures (though those are sweeping terms in themselves), because there’s a large Asian population in Australia and Australia is really in the Asia-Pacific region.

So it’s always weird to have your own culture reflected back to you, like this shop I discovered in Hamburg called Sweet Suburbia replete with Marmite, Digestive biscuits, Suffolk Herbs, Walkers crisps, Jelly Tots (I grabbed a packet each of those last two), and everything else you’d find in a village corner shop in England mixed with some clothing and souvenirs.

Obviously everything cost more that it would in England (although, I’m not so sure about some corner shop prices these days), but it was just odd to see other customers looking so curious about our everyday things. It was a bit odd for me too because I’m pretty much used to living in Germany now.

It was nice to see, though, and a reminder that in a globalised age where any high street in any major city in the world looks pretty much like another, the small details still set cultures apart.

If you’re an Englander and living in Germany, you can stock up using Sweet Suburbia’s online shop. No Nestle condensed milk on there though, so my bannoffee pie will have to wait.

[tags]UK, British, shop, suburbia, hamburg[/tags]

Collabor8 – Creative Waves 2008


The Omnium Project will be running another global online creative collaboration project under the Creative Waves banner from 28th April – 20 June, this time convened by Ian McArthur and Rick Bennett.

This time the project, called Collabor8, will see design students and lecturers from Australia and China join forces for eight weeks, with project convenors, teachers and special guests worldwide, to work collaboratively and fully online.

The project theme is about creating awareness about the importance of cross cultural design practice and sustainability in design. It will do this by challenging students to work together to design graphics for contemporary, environmentally friendly and sustainable ceramics, textiles, products and environments.

Participation is free and I believe there is space to squeeze in a couple more people, even though the website says the deadline is mid-April. If you are interested, you can apply here.

If it’s any kind of incentive, I’ll be doing a special guest podcast and hosting a thread called “What good is service and interaction design for saving the planet?” in which I’ll take a look about how ‘network thinking’ – something inherent in interaction and service design – is essential to solving some of the complex problems facing us.

Of course, that might be a disincentive for you, in which case just ignore my part and enjoy the rest of the special guests in there.

[tags]Omnium, creative waves, COFA, Australia, China[/tags]

MacUpdate Promo Bundle includes Parallels


After the disaster I had with MacHeist I decided to go for the new MacUpdate Promo Bundle, mainly because of Sound Studio and Parallels. The last MacUpdate Promo worked well for me – none of the billing hassles of MacHeist, nor the arrogance of John Casasanta.

There are a couple of lame apps in there like Art Text and BannerZest, but also a bunch of useful utilities like Typinator, Hazel and Leap. I’ve also heard some writers rave about Story Mill. An added bonus is WhatSize, a little app that clearly shows up what’s guzzling your disk space (more useful than I had imagined).

I’m guessing that Sound Studio, at least, will get unlocked, which will save me much paid with my podcasts even if Parallels fails to make it, and the other are useful (I used to use Textpander and now Typinator all the time).

Anyway, stop reading this and go buy a bundle so that Parallels gets unlocked!

[tags]macupdate, macheist, bundle, parallels, sound studio, apps[/tags]

I Want You To Want Me by Jonathan Harris and Sep Kamvar


Jonathan Harris and Sep Kamvar, who created one of my all time favourite interactive pieces, We Feel Fine, have a new piece called I Want You To Want Me commissioned for MoMA’s Design and The Elastic Mind show.

I Want You To Want Me explores the world of online dating, scraping data from thousands of online profiles all in search of love. As with We Feel Fine the interaction is simple, but allows you to view the data in lots of beautiful, emotional and meaningful ways. The interface is made up of balloons representing each person and each one has one of over 500 specially shot video silhouettes inside it.

The ways of looking at the data are described as movements and include things like “Who I Am” and “What I Want” along with “Openers”, “Closers” and “Taglines”, which are used in the profile descriptions. There’s also a matchmaker section:

Matchmaker algorithmically pairs people based on their descriptions of who they are and what they’re looking for. Balloon couples emerge on the horizon and drift to the foreground, before pausing side by side for a few seconds and then floating off together.

The project’s website explains it all in detail with some great images from it. A real treat is that they also documented their process with sketches, photos, etc.

[tags]Jonathan Harris, Sep Kamvar, MoMA, installation, dating[/tags]

Podcast interview with Jason Bruges

broadcasts_bruges 1.jpg

My latest Core77 Broadcast interview with Jason Bruges from Jason Bruges Studio is now online.

In a slightly echoing room in Jason’s studio, accompanied by the usual sirens and car alarms of London’s Shoreditch, he talks about his roots in architecture, the journey to interactive surfaces, sustainability and his thoughts about giving this emerging area a proper name.

Hope you enjoy it.

The next one, coming soon, is with Troika.

[tags]Core77, Jason Bruges[/tags]

Playpen Broke. Now Fixed. Sorry.


Apparently Playpen has been broken since yesterday and I didn’t notice (I was on a train from Hamburg most of yesterday). The robot running it got all lonely in his little grey cell.

Something went screwy with the WP-Cache plug-in and it was spewing error pages. If you’re reading this, it’s fixed now.

At some point I’ll be upgrading Playpen too, so get ready for it to break all over again.

Thanks to Joel for pointing it out.

Photo: DonSolo on Flickr.

Programming for children


Following on from my post and Nigel’s comments about Clicktoy, I just found Scratch, which is a simple multimedia authoring environment for children. It looks like it outputs to java applets as a playback format.

The team is led by Mitch Resnick at MIT’s Lifelong Kindergarten, which would frankly be my dream academic post.

Scratch is free to download and is for Windows and OS X.

[tags]games, programming, multimedia, children, MIT, Scratch[/tags]

Public Bench Camera Play


Jay tied a disposable camera to a public bench with a note asking people to play. Amazingly it didn’t get nicked and the whole roll was shot by the end of the day.


Give people a chance play and they will. And they play nicely.

(Via Photojojo).

[tags]photos, public[/tags]

Maze Frenzy

Some little games, like Line Rider are simple and instantly addictive.


Quite a few of my students have tried to build something like Maze Frenzy in the past, but this one is great. Just click on the dot and move the mouse. I wasted at least four minutes of my time playing it. Not bad.

There’s also a more difficult version if you’re already the maze master.

[tags]games, maze[/tags]