Dangerous to those who profit from the way things are

research * the future * culture

GRAND ideas

I’m writing this post from the Vancouver Convention Centre, where I am at the 2011 GRAND conference. I’m here for the PLAYPR project, which focuses on the future of play and performance in gaming. This means I’ve been spending my weekend with Kinect hackers, game developers, haptic coders — the kind of people whose brains are veritable Swiss Army knives.

It’s been a fantastic weekend so far.

Until recently, my education was primarily in the humanities. This means I never saw what pure research and prototyping could look like up close. Now that I’m pursuing a Master’s of design, that’s all changed. Not only do I watch artists at work in the studios at OCAD U, but I can visit any of the graduate labs and look at what’s on the slab. What excites me about this is not just each new prototype’s cool factor, but also the excitement that each designer brings to his or her project. These are smart, opinionated people who know they’ll never be finished making the best widget they can. Their enthusiasm is contagious. It’s great.

Here are a few projects that really sang to me:

  • The Reading Glove. Josh & Karen Tanenbaum’s project is a tangible narrative installation that allows users to pick their way through a story by touching and examining objects and listening to them speak. Arduinos embedded in the objects responds to technologies in a glove the user wears, so the user chooses her own adventure based on her own personal curiosity. The end result is a hypertext-style story reminiscent of The Patchwork Girl in form if not content.What really excited me about this device was the story behind the story: Josh and Karen went through a systematic but still deeply meaningful writing process in creating the final story by first collecting objects, then doing narrative passes over them to think up plot elements and backstories. They actually wrote several narratives, but chose only one for their project. At the end, they had their own objets du narrative, a private museum exhibit of fiction. This is a technology I would love to bring to my writer’s workshop for exercises in creative collaboration. Not because we could sell the end results (though we could do that), but because it would be awesome.
  • BELIEVE: This is a whole package of smaller projects having to do with creating believable characters in video games. More human than human, that’s their motto. I spied on their lunch meeting yesterday, and what really struck me was Chris Eaket & co’s work with BioWare to figure out how videogame writers do their job. It’s a different job than being a novelist or a screenwriter, and the industry is lacking a tool that fosters collaboration and tracks things like worldbuilding reveals. I’m happy to hear that somebody (actually, a huge team of people) is working on issues like this.

My own project involves writing foresight scenarios for a wearable computer. I’m imagining games, and writing about the experiences players might have. This seems pretty simple to me, but so far the GRAND crowd (pun intended) have been intrigued to hear about it, and about my choice to write science fiction. There have been a lot of questions like “Why sci-fi?” and “What kind of sci-fi is it?” The first question I have no problem answering (that’s another post), but the second one I’m still figuring out. I imagine I’ll spend the rest of my career figuring it out. But in the meantime, I find that even trying to answer that question leads to interesting, energizing conversations, often with very clever people. Nice work if you can get it!

  • Madeline Ashby…

    ...is a science fiction writer, futurist, speaker, and immigrant living in Toronto. She writes a column for the Ottawa Citizen. She is represented by Anne McDermid & Associates, and Jason Richman at UTA. You can buy her books here.

    She has worked with Intel Labs, the Institute for the Future, SciFutures, Nesta, Data & Society, The Atlantic Council, the ASU Center for Science and the Imagination, and others. Her short fiction has appeared in Nature, FLURB, Tesseracts, Imaginarium, and Escape Pod. Her other essays and criticism have appeared at BoingBoing, io9, WorldChanging, Creators Project, Arcfinity, Tor.com, MISC Magazine, FutureNow, and elsewhere.

  • Books

    Madeline Ashby's books on Goodreads
    vN vN (The Machine Dynasty, #1)
    reviews: 342
    ratings: 2160 (avg rating 3.43)

    Company Town Company Town
    reviews: 232
    ratings: 1217 (avg rating 3.68)

    iD iD (The Machine Dynasty, #2)
    reviews: 73
    ratings: 439 (avg rating 3.66)

    Social Services Social Services
    reviews: 3
    ratings: 10 (avg rating 3.50)

    A Clock Stopped A Clock Stopped
    reviews: 2
    ratings: 5 (avg rating 4.20)

  • Profiles

  • Twitter

  • Madeline 's bookshelf: read

    Designing for Interaction: Creating Innovative Applications and Devices (2nd Edition)Super Natural Cooking: Five Delicious Ways: To Incorporate Whole & Natural Ingredients into Your CookingGluten-Free Girl and the ChefPeople Crossing Borders: An Analysis of U.S. Border Protection PoliciesHalf the Day Is NightThe Magicians

    More of Madeline 's books »
    Book recommendations, book reviews, quotes, book clubs, book trivia, book lists
  • Tags

  • Categories

  • Calendar

    March 2017
    M T W T F S S
    « Dec    
     12345
    6789101112
    13141516171819
    20212223242526
    2728293031  
  • Archives