This site records explorations into designing for emergence, a new theory and practice at the intersection of technology, biology and ecology. New ideas call for new words, so I made up this one: “metabolo.” —Greg Van Alstyne

  • : preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/gregvana/public_html/blog/includes/ on line 291.
  • : preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/gregvana/public_html/blog/includes/ on line 291.
  • : preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/gregvana/public_html/blog/includes/ on line 291.
  • : preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/gregvana/public_html/blog/includes/ on line 291.
  • : preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/gregvana/public_html/blog/includes/ on line 291.
  • : preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/gregvana/public_html/blog/includes/ on line 291.
  • : preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/gregvana/public_html/blog/includes/ on line 291.
  • : preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/gregvana/public_html/blog/includes/ on line 291.

Living Technology: la(te)st installment of Wii Max Granu Boids tomfoolery

| | | | | | | |

This piece shows the latest and last of my experiments in Wii-based gestural control of image elements (MaxMSP-generated pixels swarms using a modified version of Craig Reynold's venerable boids algorithm).

The soundtrack features complexity theorist Norman Packard speaking about his work and views regarding synthetic biology -- the creation of life from basic elements and information. Created for Professor Joshua Goldberg's class in physical interactive media production at Brooklyn Polytechnic (now part of New York University).

Wii Max Granu Boids gestural interface demo (featuring Howard Rheingold on Cooperation Theory)

| | | | | | | |

This performance demonstrates my evolving Wii-Max/MSP gestural interface prototype.

Beginning with Howard Rheingold's brilliant interview on cooperation theory, I used the Wii controller to manipulate audio with a granular synthesis patch, and filled the video track with flocking pixels based on Craig Reynold's famous Boids algorithm in an OpenGL Jitter implementation.

Closer to e-book reality: Amazon Kindle

| | | | | | |

Just announced last month is the strangely styled and potentially disruptive new e-book reader from Amazon, dubbed "Kindle." I don't know about you but that title makes me think of Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451... Get video, images and blurbs from Amazon or google it for alternate perspectives.

Chief on the features list is wireless connectivity -- with no monthly fee -- using Sprint's high-speed (EVDO) network, more like an advanced mobile phone than a laptop with wi-fi. The gadget sells for 400. USD and early sign seem to suggest success -- it's sold out between now and Christmas....

Exploring gestural interface principles through Wii remote+Max/MSP granular synth mashup

| | | | |

I developed this gestural interface prototype that offers an intuitive and performance-friendly interaction model. I'm exploiting the physicality of Nintendo's Wii controller by aiming to drawing out visceral, subtle, and "quasi-analogue" possibilities.

To build the prototype I combined functions from two existing Max patches: aka.wiiremote Nintendo Wii Remote Handler by Masayuki Akamatsu and granularized by Les & Zoax.

designswarm | Alexandra Deschamps-Sonsino | Interaction Design

| | | | | |

"Alexandra Deschamps-Sonsino, freelance interaction designer. I am interested in the way service design ties product design and interaction design together to create meaningful experiences for people both in the virtual and tangible worlds."

ACADIA 2007 : Expanding Bodies : Metabolic Network sensory workshop

| | | | | |

Metabolism, in living systems, has two aspects: anabolism (building up), and catabolism (breaking down). This two-day workshop in electronic sensing in art and design has a special focus on textiles and architectural-scale applications.

Socially responsible, psychologically healthy, highly creative design workplaces

I was recently asked (through a Facebook message) if I know any workplaces or firms that offer a complex, critical and creative design philosophy, as well as a great working environment, anywhere in the world. Would I recommend IDEO? Or, are there any more socially responsible firms to look at?

I had to say that the question is a good one but not so easy to answer.

I think social responsibility is one area, psychologically healthy working environment is another, and creative process is another, and few firms manage to accomplish all of those well.

For new issues in social responsibility one book I like is Thackara's "In the Bubble." As well, the people at World Changing are on the right track. I learned (through LinkedIn) that my formeer Institute without Boundaries student, the highly talented Jennifer Leonard, is now an editor there, which is fabulous news.

Architectures of Control v. Designing for Emergence

| | | | |

In the course of research for my Media Law paper, on Creative Commons and designing for emergence in law, I came across this excellent blog. In many ways this site might be considered the opposite of "designing for emergence":

Architectures of Control

What are Architectures of Control?

[example images - Audi A2: The user cannot open the bonnet; Bench designed to prevent lying down: 'redesigned to face contemporary urban realities'; printer: Some HP printers shut down the cartridges at a pre-determined date regardless of whether they are empty]

Short and sweet: succinct definitions of design

| | |

I wrote my own shortest definition of design as a personal challenge to express the term in a manner that was brief, robust and circumspect. The result (discussed elsewhere in this blog):

"Design is creation for reproduction."

Another short definition that I greatly admire was sent to me by Richard Thomas, a colleague at the Beal Institute for Strategic Creativity. Ricky said:

"Design is the process of initiating and representing relationships."

Doug Chapman, whom I know as an actor, environmentalist, former director of research at William McDonough + Partners, and graduate of the Institute without Boundaries program I directed until 2003, recently offered this very concise statement:

"Design is the line between idea and result."

In Toothpicks and Logos: Design in Everyday Life (2002, Oxford University Press), John J. Heskett highlights the multivalent senses of the word "design" by offering and analyzing a bewildering sentence:

"Design is to design a design to produce a design."

"Design," says Heskett, "has splintered into ever-greater subdivisions of practice without any overarching concept or organization, and can be appropriated by anyone."

While I don't consider this situation to be alarming, I do believe in this time of great change and great opportunity that practitioners and theorists of contemporary design will benefit by having a sense of what they have in common with those flying the same colours.

Biomedia: GVA @ Beal Institute’s Weekly Show+Tell, March 29, 2007

| | | | |

With the encouragement of Alexander Manu, Director of the Beal Institute for Strategic Creativity, I am scheduled to present highlights from my ongoing graduate work toward a Master of Science degree in Integrated Digital Media. Beginning at 3:30 pm I'll present for an hour, at the Beal, 100 McCaul Street, 6th floor, Toronto. I'll start with work from last semester (History of Media + Philosophy and Media). Later on, in another session, I will cover the current semester (Media Law e.g. copyright, trademarks, free speech, libel etc and a Media Studies course on the Situationists, Guy Debord, détournement, post-situationist mashup culture etc).

Are Designers the Enemy of Design?

| | | | |

Patrick Keenan from The Movement sent me this provocative link, which underscores the arguments Bob Logan and I are making in the Designing for Emergence papers:

Nussbaum on Design

March 18, 2007
Are Designers The Enemy Of Design?
Bruce Nussbaum

Here's the speech I gave at Parson's on Thursday that deals with the backlash against design. I've edited it just a bit. It's designed to provoke design management students and show how I've redesigned my job at Business Week from the Voice Of Authority to the Curator of the Conversation on Innovation. We all live life in beta now.

“How to Realize a Gallery Exhibition Based on Design-Oriented Content”

| | | | |

I was recently contacted about the Massive Change project by Matt Garmon, a student of OCAD where I'm currently teaching design. Following are his intro letter and interview questions, along with my answers.

"Hi Greg. I am currently in Todd Falkowsky's 3rd year Thesis Prep class at Ontario College of Art & Design. I am working on a case study based on the Massive Change project and was wondering if I could interview you to gain some personal insight into the project.

Specifically, I'm using the Massive Change exhibit as a model for how to effectively organize and realize a gallery exhibition based on design-oriented content. Your expertise and personal experience with this project would definitely help me generate a content-rich study and would be greatly appreciated. Would you be available to answer the following questions?"

1) What was the biggest obstacle/hurdle that the team encountered while working on the project? How did you overcome it?

In writing, curating and designing Massive Change, the biggest challenge was the overall ambition of the project. By this I mean the implications and reach of the critical questions, the sheer number and variety of deliverables, and the magnitude of the stakes.

On the Crisis of Art: MAK’s Agenda Art 2010

At the request of of Vienna-based contemporary art museum the MAK, I prepared this text contribution for their their annual report, Agenda Art 2010. The museum described it as "perfect for the agenda":

For solutions to the current crisis of art we must first realize the underlying causes. It is a matter of perspective and posture.

Art presents itself as a critical commentary on social and productive relations, from a perspective of exteriority. And so, when it is increasingly impossible to say there is an inside and an outside, then what?

As an activity within a complex economic and semiotic ecosystem, art proudly occupies an idiosyncratic niche. What then, when all perspectives and positions increasingly resemble niches?

Art's stance is predicated on independence and an aversion to reciprocal complicity. And when we realize that emergence within a field of reciprocal complicity is the source of all consciousness, all sociality, all economics, of life itself -- then what?

It may be necessary for art to die and be reborn for it to discard its inherited identity. It may be that a new art, in its interiority, its pervasiveness, its complicity, is unrecognizable. It may be.

Dear Professor Spooky, My Avatar Dog Ate My Homework

| | | | | |

As it turns out my Media Law class this semester may be held in Second Life. One reason this idea is looking cool is that DJ Spooky is already dropping science in that polygonish sandbox. Check out his course outline below -- interesting stuff for remixers, duality junkies, and Spooky fans -- and an awsome playlist in itself...

-----Original Message-----
From: [] On Behalf Of Paul D. Miller
Sent: Monday, January 22, 2007 1:18 PM
Subject: [iDC] sharing Curriculum

Hello everyone: I'm now at Sundance Film Festival for a series of discussions aout how new media is forcing the film industry to evolve different production models. To highlight the situation, the discussion will focus on Lynn Hershmann's film on Steve Kurtz: "Strange Culture"

But in light of the thread about teaching new media, here's the syllabus for my class on remix culture and digital media, with a focus on how people will respond to the material via PDF and remixable DVD's:

Paul aka DJ Spooky
(ps, this is sent from my cell phone, so, ahem, it aint really spell checked etc etc)

MEDIA SOUNDS: Towards a New Esthetic of Music and Art


Class notes: In Brief - “Media Sounds: Towards a Philosophy of Aesthetics in Music and Art” is a course I’m teaching at the European Graduate School as a mini residency during the summer. The school is kind of a 21st century update of the Black Mountain College: it brings together a wide variety of people from radically disparate philosophical and aesthetic backgrounds to teach and enjoy ideas outside of the academic norms.

My class focuses on sound, sound art, and their relationship to compositional strategy across different forms of contemporary art and digital media. This is the syllabus.

Invitation to contribute to Agenda Art 2010

| | | | |

I received an invitation from Peter Noever, director of Vienna-based contemporary art museum the MAK, to contribute a piece of writing to their annual report. Peter wrote:

The MAK has always seen itself as a place of social awareness beyond its assigned function as a site of art and a laboratory of art production. Under the heading of “AGENDA ART 2010,” we are now trying to draw up scenarios on the future of art: Which production conditions, which values in society, which extent of interaction with politics and the economy would be desirable for art? And how can these scenarios be made real? An avant-garde paper of this style can only be developed with the help of visionary minds from the fields of art, architecture, design, and the humanities.