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Blog posts tagged as 'technology'

Hopeful Monsters and the Trough Of Disillusionment

Last Saturday, Matt Webb and I hosted a short session at O’Reilly FooCamp 2010, in Sebastopol, California.

The title was “Mining the Trough of Disillusionment”, referring to the place in the Gartner “Hype Cycle” that we find inspiration in – where technologies languish that have become recently mundane, cheap and widely-available but are no longer seen as exciting ‘bullet-points’ on the side of products.

For instance, RFID was down in the trough when Jack and Timo did their ‘Nearness’ and ‘Immaterials’ work, and many of the components of Availabot are trough-dwellers, enabling them to be cheap and widely-available for both experimentation and production.

While not presenting the Gartner reports as ‘science’ – they do offer an interesting perspective of the socio-technical ‘weather’ that surrounds us and condenses into the products and services we use.

In the session we examined the last five years of the hype cycle reports they have published – it’s kind of fascinating – there are some very strange decisions as to what is included, excluded and how buzzwords morph over time.

After that we brainstormed with the group which technologies they thought had fallen, perhaps irrevocably, into the trough. It was fun to get so many ‘alpha geeks’ thinking about gamma things…

Having done so – we had a discussion about how they might breed or be re-contextualised in order to create interesting new products.

These “hopeful monsters” often sound ridiculous on first hearing, but when you pick at them they illustrate ways in which a forgotten or unfashionable technology can serve a need or create desire.

Or they can expose a previously unexploited affordance or feature of the technology – that was not brought to the fore by the original manufacturers or hype that surrounded it. By creating a chimera, you can indulge in some material exploration.

The list we generated is below, if you’d like to join in…

It was a really fun session, that threw up some promising avenues – and some new products ideas for us… Thanks to all who attended and participated!

"Trough of disillusionment" session, Foo10

  • Mobsploitation (a.k.a. Crowdsourcing…)
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • <512mb thumbdrives
  • Blinking Lights (esp. in shoes)
  • Singing Chips (esp. in greetings cards)
  • Desktop Web Apps
  • Cameras
  • Accelerometers
  • MS Office Apps
  • Physical Keyboards
  • Mice
  • Cords & Wires in general
  • Non-Smart Phones
  • RSS
  • Semantic Web
  • Offline…
  • Compact Discs
  • Landline Phones
  • Command Lines & Text UIs
  • Privacy
  • P2P
  • MUDs & MOOs
  • Robot Webcams & Sousveillance
  • Google Wave
  • Adobe Flash
  • Kiosks
  • Municipal Wifi
  • QR Codes
  • Pager/Cellphone Vibrator motors
  • Temporary Autonomous Zones

Designing keyboards for the future


The future of 1982, that is.

Rick Dickinson, of Dickinson Associates, has uploaded a whole portfolio of images to Flickr – both illustrations and photographs – from his work designing the hardware for the ZX Spectrum. You can view the whole set here.

It’s a lovely slice of British technology history – designing what the home computing revolution would look like. But it’s also full of some lovely illustration, showing just how product design overlaps both engineering and more aesthetic disciplines.

And I really liked this drawing of the keyboard.

(Image: “Sketch for how the keyboard plate might be fixed” by Rick Dickinson on Flickr)

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