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Protein is Good For You
London Design scene journal, by Human Beans

Freq 4 - Collaborative Systems

London, September 2, 2002 - Monday finds us in a basement bar in Shoreditch London for Freq 4, the fourth in a series of events organized, or as they prefer 'powered', by Protein. About 100 interaction and product designers laze around in the alcoves and on the poofs in front of the screen. A mixture of freelancers, those left working for start-ups and the big boys from the consultancies, or as one presenter would later describe the assembled group "good youth knowing how to enjoy themselves'. The format for the night, three projects presented by their makers with 15mins in between to discuss and order another at the bar.

Questions from the floor throughout the evening were frank and pulled no punches reflecting the refreshing honesty of the presentations themselves. It's rare to see designers present their work without getting caught up in the corporate spin that inevitably surrounds them.

Protein initiated the Freq series in April of 2002 in order to provide a more intimate design discussion platform than possible at an international conference. The growth of this platform is a tribute to its success, having expanded from 7 people around a studio table at Freq 1 to more than 100 tonight. Freq is a welcome and cerebral addition to the London design scene.

'Good Youth knowing how to enjoy themselves''.
Freq 4: Collaborative Systems - Powered by Protein

Tota Hosagowa and Anthony Rogers, Tomato Interactive -
Sony Connected Identity

Tomato Interactive kicked off the evening with the Sony Connected Identity developed for Sony Japan. The identity is a kind of digital soup in constant flux. Graphic dots, lines and words fade and zoom across the screen, their behaviour affected by the inputs from users online or via sensors in specially built kiosks. As well as being an end to itself you may see selected parts of the identity you affected broadcasted on the net, on phones or as a 1.5 second end sequence for Sony TV commercials.

The project starts to explore what branding means when brands themselves are becoming closer to their users yet increasingly intangible. Sony for example see themselves as moving from selling boxes to selling content. A static logo just won't do to reflect the sensitivity and ideology of today's and tomorrow's conversational brands so what do you replace it with?

The truth is in this case that there's enough code between your inputs and the film you create to parse out any expression of individuality. Individuals are only able to become supporters of a good looking soup that represents the brand rather than true actors. Someone from the floor asked why, if Sony wanted to represent their users on screen, they hadn't used film from their handi-cams - it was a difficult one to answer.


On the futre of brands we like:
AIGA Brand Futures: Possible Scenarios White Paper

After Image - John Grant

Sony Connected Identity shown on Japanese mobile - by Tomato Interactive

James Stevens and Kim Hawtin -

Sandwiched this evening between Tomato for Sony and Sony for themselves was consume.net, catalysts to a very different kind of collaborative system. Consume envisions a future of data clouds where there is always a free and fat connection for our wi-fi enabled laptop.

The project started with the aim to network part of east London, wirelessly linking local communities and building relationships through the connections. Consume has subsequently grown nodes all over the UK and connected up with similar projects internationally, to become the only non-commercial network to operate on such a scale.

Online, Consume provides information on your nearest node and instructions on how to become one by sharing your connection and building your own transmitter. Exciting and genuinely collaborative - the only thing to say is: follow the links and share your bandwidth.

Consume http://www.consume.net
Freenetworks.org - Global free networks http://www.freenetworks.org/

Consume.net display a list of open networks they found whilst strolling down Fifth Avenue NY

James Gibson -
Sony Design Centre Europe

An evening at Freq always finishes with a conceptual project that's a bit more 'out there', as if data clouds and identities in flux weren't.

This evening James Gibson from Sony Europe presented his project Spinner, a sharing and media capture device that promotes open-ended play and exploration. Conceived as "My first e-Sony" the project explores how we might design digital devices for 2-7 year olds. Children of 'the age of curiosity' who aren't necessarily familiar with and/or don't require the interface metaphors and functionalities that we use every day.

Connect a camera to Spinner and it records movies, a microphone and it records sound, add a drawing tablet and you can draw - the functionality of Spinner is logically linked to the input device connected. Once recorded, the stored media can be viewed by rotating a dial that surrounds the circular display or shared by connecting two or more Spinners together like cogs in a gear chain.

The refreshing nature of Spinner is in the way it provides for kids to find their own uses for the device. A careful combination of soft and hard interface works with the kids' own curiosity to eliminate both the need for prior learning and the constraints of a linear interface. Through these qualities Spinner frees up the opportunity for creativity, making this a real tool for the little ones' self-expression.


On Kids and Tech we like:
Born Clicking: Are kids smarter than adults? - Tom Savigar
The Playful World : How Technology Is Transforming Our Imagination - Mark Pesce

Spinner - with the camera connected and carousel of stored media visible on screen

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