Following iPad light painting, we’ve made two films of alternative futures for media. These continue our collaboration with Dentsu London and Timo Arnall. We look at the near future, a universe next door in which media travels freely onto surfaces in everyday life. A world of media that speaks more often, and more quietly.
Incidental Media is the first of two films.
The other film can be seen here.
Each of the ideas in the film treat the surface as a focus, rather than the channel or the content delivered. Here, media includes messages from friends and social services, like foursquare or Twitter, and also more functional messages from companies or services like banks or airlines alongside large traditional big ‘M’ Media (like broadcast or news publishing).
All surfaces have access to connectivity. All surfaces are displays responsive to people, context, and timing. If any surface could show anything, would the loudest or the most polite win? Surfaces which show the smartest most relevant material in any given context will be the most warmly received.
I recently encountered this mixing in surfaces. An airline computer spoke to me through SMS. This space is normally reserved for awkwardly typed highly personal messages from friends. Not a conversational interface with a computer. But now, those pixels no longer differentiate between friends, companies and services.
How would it feel if the news ticker we see as a common theme in broadcast news programmes begun to contain news from services or social media?
I like the look of it. The dominance of linear channel based screens is distorted as it shares unpredictable pixels and a graphic language with other services and systems.
This screen listens to its environment and runs an image search against some of the words it hears. I’ve long wanted to see what happens if the subtitles feed from BBC television broadcast content was tied to an image search.
It feels quite strange to have a machine ambiently listening to words uttered even if the result is private and relatively anodyne. Maybe it’s a bit creepy.
Print can be quick
This sequence shows a common receipt from a coffee shop and explores what happens when we treat print as a highly flexible, context-sensitive, connected surface, and super quick by contrast to say video in broadcast.
The receipt includes a mayorship notification from foursquare and three breaking headlines from the Guardian news feed. It turns the world of ticket machines, cash registers and chip-and-pin machines into a massive super-local, personalised system of print-on-demand machines. The receipt remains as insignificant and peripheral as it always has, unless you choose to read it.
The large shop front shows a pair of sprites who lurk at the edges of the window frames. As pedestrians pass by or stand close, the pair steal colours from their clothes. The sketch assumes a camera to read passers-by and feed back their colour and position to the display.
Computer vision installations present interesting opportunities. Many installations demand high levels of attention or participation. These can often be witty and poetic, as shown here by Matt Jones in a point of sale around Lego.
We’ve drawn from great work from the likes of Chris O’Shea and his Hand from Above project to sketch something peripheral and ignorable, but still at scale. The installation could be played with by those having their colours stolen, but it doesn’t demand interaction. In fact I suspect it would succeed far more effectively for those viewing from afar with no agency over the system at all.
In contrast to a Minority Report future of aggressive messages competing for a conspicuously finite attention, these sketches show a landscape of ignorable surfaces capitalising on their context, timing and your history to quietly play and present in the corners of our lives.