Nick Charlton

dConstruct 2012

Yesterday was dConstruct. I went to dConstruct last year, too and it was excellent. But this year, it was quite fantastic. It had the right mix of “yes, this!”, “huh, yeah, I hadn’t thought of that” and “wow”. Jeremy and the rest of the people at Clearleft did a fantastic job. Of course, with people from Ben Hammersley to James Burke, it was going to be good.

After picking up my conference pass on Thursday, I met up with Paul Adam Davis for burgers. From there I caught Andrew and Vero of Alfred[^alfred] along with David Thompson. We then had some (rather nice) cocktails before heading off to the pre-party, where I ended up talking with people from Aral Balkan to Tantek Çelik and many more nice people too.

Talks

Ben Hammersley talked about beauty being everywhere, but something that we need to fight for. He cited the web as a good example of this, from what was once a horrible mess of marquee tags has propped up both a social and cultural evolution — art pieces to well organised centres of knowledge. But, also important: We’re the first generation to see exponential growth, and as a species, we don’t quite know how to deal with it. But, we’ll work it out over time.

Jenn Lukas talked about learning. There’s tons of stuff that we’d like to learn. But, more specifically, people from all different corners of the world, with various different backgrounds are interested in learning to code. Putting together a shared curriculum gives us a far better way of visualising progress, and hell, excitement. More importantly, though, just share what you know.

Scott Jensen talked about “default thinking” — where we use a new product or service in exactly the same way as we used the last new product or service until we stumble across the best way to use it.

And then, he announced that he’d: “work[ed] on the Newton”. There was a huge round of applaus.

His core direction was, however pointed towards “apps”. This is something that fits quite closely to my own thoughts &mash; “Apps aren’t needed for everything — we need a better interface model.” Currently, we’ve fallen onto the wrong side of a “Value : Pain” ratio. There are far too many individual (and pointless) applications available to us that it causes us some form of pain (be it findability, terrible user experiences, etc.)

How about we flip the app idea into the devices themselves? Instead the application will react with it’s environment, rather than the other way around[^iossix]. This fits well into the Spimes concept[^spimes]. Instead of what we currently have, we can move towards a “just in time interaction” model. We’ll see stuff available when we want to interact with it, but it won’t pester us in general. So far, we’ve succeeded at location-based reminders. We can do much better.

The mobile web is a fantastic thing, but we need to cut down the pain of accessing resources and processing the information around us. And so, a model of more internet and less web would be quite fantastic (and so, more distributed, none of this single web property everyone uses.)

Ariel Waldman talked about her work with NASA, design and pushing of projects such as Space Hack and Science Hack Day.

“When I look at blackholes, I just see massive hackspaces” — Ariel Waldman.

Lauren Beukes talked about the role fiction and storytelling has in connecting to other people and understanding another persons’ perspective and how impressively (and indeed, scarily) real dystopian science fiction can become reality.

Jason Scott talked about his work with the Internet Archive and his opinions on the handling of users’ data. He stated that it’s a crime that we treat people’s data with such little respect and that we shouldn’t (paraphrased) “just delete things because you’re done with it — someone probably wants it.”.

We should store things — there’s always a sideways value to things.

And, if you’re running anything you have both a trust and a responsibility towards that data. You should certainly provide export capabilities.

Tom Armitage talked about toys. Toys make a good caracature of real-life things — and they can be anything. But they also work as a definition of a craft.

Utility and purpose is not the same thing. Something can be useful without serving a purpose. Or the use might evolve from play. Joan Erikson said: “The opposite of play is obey, not work”. You can indeed play for work.“

Making is analogous to playing.

James Burke talked about how the past can help us work with the future. Because we have nowhere else to look.

Everything is, and will continue to be multi-disciplinary and because of this, our education system need to adapt. But similarly, everything is an interconnected web — both concepts and people.

The growth of nano-technology will undermine all of our current theories and philosophies as it’s all based upon scarcity. What happens when something that suddenly breaks can either fix itself, or we can print our own part inside our home?

Humanities’ typical outlook of "business and usual” is analogous to falling off a sky-scraper — it’s going fine until it isn’t, then you realise you’re screwed.

A clear message of the whole event was in moving away from multiple web silos and instead more to a model much more internet like. Collaborating together, distributed around and without the risks we currently have with both our data and our futures with the way we’re currently using the web.

[^alfred]: They really are quite a lovely. I don’t quite know how they handled me hovering around them for the few days. Also, buy Alfred. [^iossix]: Of course, we’re seeing this somewhat with Passbook. But, really, we want even more environmental interaction, especially if we continue to add publicly available sensors. [^spimes]: If you’re interested in all of this Sci-Fi stuff from an implementable angle, Scott wrote: Of Bears, Bats, and Bees: Making Sense of the Internet of Things.