Archive for January, 2008

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Boundaries bleed, frames erased: Deep Trance in Potatoland

Deep Trance Behavior in Potatoland

Kills me to miss even one of Richard Foreman’s productions. The digerati think they understand multimedia, but until you’ve experienced one of Foreman’s Theater Machines you don’t understand the potential of multiple media. If you live in the New York City area, secure tickets immediately to see Deep Trance Behavior in Potatoland. The New York Times provides a nice photo gallery of the production and Ben Brantley provides a review of the performance. Foreman integrates digital film, live performance, non-linear text, funhouse sets and explosive thought into an evening of the highest form of entertainment.

At the other end of the spectrum is The Flea Theater’s production of Peter Handke’s “Offending The Audience.”  A group of actors take the stage and announce that there will be no play. They are not characters. The stage does not represent another place. Time passes as it does in real life. There is no illusion.

Foreman goes to the maximum, stuffing the stage with imagery, words, visions, poetry; Handke strips it all away, exposes the real moment of time existing between performers and audience, and then he takes that opportunity to tell us what he thinks of us. Boundaries bleed, frames are erased, we experience a shock to the deep trance of our lives.

Visualizing Performance: Tadeusz Rozewicz’s White Marriage

White Marriage by Rozewicz

Ever since I studied theater direction in college, I’ve been fascinated by Polish theater, and the posters created for the performances. Many years ago I saw a production of Rozewicz’s White Marriage at the Odyssey Theater in Los Angeles. The images and poetry of the performance remain with me to this day. To find and purchase a Polish theater poster once required a quest. Today, you can buy them online

Bergman’s Little World: The Toy Theater

The complete version of Ingmar Bergman’s Fanny and Alexander is stunning from the opening frame. Alexander peering through his toy theater sets the stage for the drama that unfolds. The theme of the “little world” and the “big world” that surrounds it continues to recur throughout the story. The little world is the extended family of the theater; the big world is larger world beyond their control. The story takes place in the years before World War I. 

Design Thinking: Zeldman to Buxton to Gillmor

This thread of thought bounced from Zeldman to Buxton to Gillmor.

Jeffrey Zeldman wrote a post about how Apple should hire itself out to fix the awful state of user interface in a number of devices. My immediate reaction was that there’s no reason that good UI should be unique to Apple. Jobs and Ive just start at a different point than most manufacturers. The question really comes down to where the power lies with regard to design thinking in an organization, and at what level design decisions are made (or not made). At Apple the answer is very clear.

This lead me to a lecture by Bill Buxton at Stanford’s HCI program. I wasn’t able to attend in person, but a video of Buxton’s lecture is available through iTunes University. Buxton’s lecture provides the link between industrial design and software interface design– the interface is now part of the form factor. Buxton has been hired to change the design culture of Microsoft. That’s a tall order, but I give them credit for bringing Buxton on board. His ideas about understanding the transitions between states, and the journey from sketching to prototype are very important.

Steve Gillmor chronicles the transition of software applications from the hard drive to the cache / cloud. His latest prediction is that Silverlight will become the rich internet application runtime of choice for the new MacBook Air and the iPhone. Clearly it won’t be Flash or Java. The Ajax apps are already there, but more richness is always better. If Microsoft plays it right, they could find a path into their next incarnation. MS Office may be dead, but Ray Ozzie’s Live Office is yet to be born.

The reason that no phone or computer manufacturer can compete with Apple is they don’t understand what design thinking is or why it’s important to their organization. Phones are designed by a set of pipes, the telecommunications network makes the design decisions. Computer and software interface design is still dominated by the hardware, it’s designed back to front. Until the value of design is understood, and the hardware stops designing the software, Apple will have no competition. It’s all about the ratio of features to features used. Apple leads the field by a mile.

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