Monday, 15 March 2010

The 21st-Century Equivalent of William Morris Wallpaper

Aaron Koblin's Flight Patterns, part of Decode at the V&A.

There might be a bit of a lull in the blogging for the next week or two - I have a rather heavy workload. In the meantime, here's a self-indulgent selection of a few bits and bobs that have been published or archived online in the past couple of weeks, and that I haven't mentioned before.

"The Warcraft Civilization is the outcome of two years of research, including more than 2300 hours playing the game. Bainbridge has simultaneously run dozens of characters (who he winningly refers to as 'research assistants') across a thorough cross-section of servers, races and classes, and he has played to the maximum skill-levels attainable; he also hosted Azeroth's first-ever scientific conference. And even if Warcraft does not become a permanent part of our culture, Bainbridge says, it's essential to study it now. If, decades hence, researchers want to examine World Of Warcraft, they can restart the servers and run the software, but they can't provide the hundreds of thousands of players distributed across the world that make the game what it is. This is a book that demands to be taken seriously. It's all so promising – heavyweight academic, neglected but fascinating subject matter, bold claims to support – but Bainbridge almost blows it." - Review: The Warcraft Civilization (for Edge Online)

"'An architect, and this might sound negative, has to be capable of manipulating people as the sculptor is capable of manipulating material,' he explains. 'Because that is essentially our building material – it’s getting other people to go along. But also there’s a lot of incorporating input from the outside – I realise that there’s this like entourage of decision makers and if you can, in a zen-like way, make their forces the driving force of a project, you’re much more powerful as an architect.'" - Profile: Bjarke Ingels

"Digital technologies are highly disruptive – all around us, their effect is revolutionary, upsetting industries and social systems, changing the way we work, play, live and think. But Decode doesn’t feel very revolutionary or dangerous – it’s pretty and entertaining. Despite its subtitle – “digital design sensations” – there’s little that’s very sensational about Decode, nothing that hits you at gut level and makes you realise that the world’s going to be very different. Individually, these pieces are all perfectly meritorious, although it should be said that a few weren’t working when I visited. But when the work on show is taken as a whole, its focus on aesthetics and making the raw, terrifyingly abstract world of data and the network attractive and seemly, makes it feel similar to the bourgeois Victorian decorative arts that took inspiration from nature. It’s the 21st-century equivalent of William Morris wallpaper." - Review: Decode

"Even though they never came to trouble the surface of the planet, the projects are still “masterworks” – it says so right on the cover. Actually breaking ground is beside the point now that digital technology has advanced to the present state of the art. Authenticity is overrated in a digital decade, where we can fight wars over non-existent weapons and billions of pounds can dematerialise in minutes." - Review: Unbuilt Masterworks

"'Standing before costly objects of technological beauty,' de Botton writes, 'we might be tempted to to reject the possibility of awe, for fear that we might grow stupid through admiration.' Instead, the writer chooses to be awed, and he’s right to be. It leads to the best part of the book: in the middle of the night, he is taken out to the end of the south runway and stands reverently on the portion of the tarmac where planes touch down, the focal point of the whole extraordinary enterprise. It’s a near-religious site – certainly, more prayers are offered there than in any church in the land." - Review: A Week At The Airport

"Starck is magnificent on screen, like some eccentric bright-feathered predator which grips its prey in a death-hug, dissolves it with kisses, and puts the bones on the next Eurostar." - Review: Philippe Starck's Design for Life

Icons of the month: the barcode, the book (written in retro-speculative manner for Icon's fiction issue) and, appropriately enough,

1 comment:

Markasaurus said...

I should have read your review of Decode after seeing the show at the V&A, but it was too late. I was shocked at how small it was. As I turned the corner into the second half of the room I found myself asking "is this it? The whole world has gone digital and this was the best they could do?" So basically, I agree with your take on it. Also, it was so crowded I didn't get to try out most of the exhibits.

The strangest and most life-altering facet of digital technology is the feeling of being nearly omniscient. Thanks to my smartphone, social networking and the desire of so many people to share so much about themselves, I feel like I know what everyone, everywhere is doing all of the time. There are people I haven't seen in 12 years and I know what they did today (and yesterday and the day before that). It's almost too much to handle. Putting Facebook or Twitter up on the wall in the Decode show wouldn't have been impressive though, because it already so ingrained in our daily habits.