Category Archives: thought experiment

The Microtrend Diary: your future real time, your future memo

Example page of my recent project: The Microtrend Diary

I am now at the next phase of developing my Microtrend Diary.

The Microtrend Diary currently exists in paper form and there are a number of exercises embedded within it that perhaps make sense as individual applications. Ideally im looking to develop a very simple website with an embedded form that will generate a new question each week/day. At the moment it is it about generating enough questions that provoke the right emotional reactions that I am looking to develop.

In some ways it is still about provoking and coercing you to subconsciously think about your future next moves rather than just asking you about your opinion in real-time. A blend of Plinky with an underlying sense of the relationship recommendation nation as perfectly illustrated by Facebook or LinkedIn mashed up with a life coach and soothsayer.

So the next step is to generate the right tone and the right amount of questions. I was originally inspired by the current news headlines and tragic stories i used to read in magazines and newspapers and the messages they give to you as the reader.  As we absorb more information via social media sites the more we are away of our inadequacies. How can we be reminded of these in such a way that we act on them and make changes, would we want to and would we know we are making changes? Some questions add anxiety but how does this make you change? Maybe these questions are merely mundane reminders but what if you could create a future memo for yourself? Are these wishes for when you reach a certain age? Is this just another time capsule opportunity that all social media apps provide for our future selves? Will these questions create a self fulfilling prophecy, is it a form of persuasion?


My Myers Briggs Test and The Microtrend Diary



A few weeks back I was asked to fill in my own Myers Briggs questionnaire to enable me to find out about what personality type I am likely to be. The Myers Briggs Type Indicator is “a psychometric questionnaire designed to measure psychological preferences in how people perceive the world and make decisions”. These preferences were extrapolated from the typological theories originated by Carl Gustav Jung, as published in his 1921 book Psychological Types. He stated that there are four main functions of consciousness, two of them being perceiving functions: Sensation and Intuition and two being judging functions Thinking and Feeling that are then modified by two main attitude types: extraversion and introversion. Katharine Cook Briggs and her daughter, Isabel Briggs Myers began generating the questionnaire during World War II, believing that knowledge of personality preferences would help women who were entering the industrial workforce for the first time identify the sort of war-time jobs where they would be “most comfortable and effective”.

The idea that a set of questions with certain weighting that ask me about how I deal with certain situations and turns that into a four-letter personality type has been something that has always bemused and slightly annoyed me. Whether self discovery questions in Cosmo magazine or psychometric questionnaires that get you certain jobs depending on the results have remained a constant aggravating mystery to me. Yet I felt this was a challenge for me to overcome my anger and have personal experience to criticise against. As a result of this questionnaire I am an ENFP: an innovator and inspirer…allegedly!

Quantifying the Unquantifiable

The idea of quantifying the unquantifiable; the fluid thoughts and emotions of our everyday lives has in recent times become more and more popular as algorithms in social media focused applications have enabled us all to  invest and share data and act as conceptual self-knowledge mirrors. Originally used in organizational management, social media has enabled a more personal approach to help evaluate ourselves. Indeed the rise in self-help and self-knowledge have become a huge business and created opportunities for organisations and individuals to offer more and more self-reflective tools that allow them to record, quantify, reflect and evaluate on their everyday lives; their thoughts, feelings, mental and physical health. 

My original fascination came when I stumbled across Jonathan Harris & Sep Kamvar’s “We Feel Fine” project: An algorithm that collects around 20,000 feelings per day as expressed by the blogging community and splices up the feelings according to demographic information about the author of each feeling (age, gender, geographical location, and local weather conditions). It then presents these findings in a series of playful interfaces, each of which paints a different picture of human emotion.  Other applications/products/questionnaires have crunched this kind of qualitative, touchy feely soft data to allow you to see how good you are in bed, a rolling history of your sex life, your daily mundane activities calculated into graphical visualizations, psychological phenomena translated into quantifiable scales or your daily tweeted interests simply autoplotted into a diary format. The artist and designer Lucy Kimbell has also been investigating the evaluation cultures in management, technology and the arts; her performance/service: Free Evaluation Service is one example. And more recently Gary Wolf and Kevin Kelly set up the Quantified Self program to enable self-quantifiers to meet and compare and analyse their own methods and processes of evaluation.

The Microtrend Diary: a Personal Futures Thought Experiment

The Microtrend Diary is kept in its own monthly slipcase

This initial interest in quantifying the absurdity of our feelings inspired me to consider how we might use these psychometric approaches to create personal futures services. What if you could create a self-reflective  diary that made use of our everyday thoughts to provoke us in such a way that you are able to change your future actions. As a thought experiment I devised ‘The Microtrend Diary’ during my final year on the MA Design  Interactions course in 2007 and have made a recent 2nd prototype. I am currently looking to develop this further with some initial user testing and then publish a small batch for distribution.

Daily self-fulfilling prophecy questions.

Inspired by the abundance of self-help books, self-discovery personality tests and psychometric questionnaires, the Microtrend Diary is a mirror of your daily actions and emotions that reveal provocative ways to alter your future actions. This personalised diary, is printed to order based on a set of preliminary personality questions. As the owner makes a daily record of their actions, a unique set of provocative aide memoirs are revealed under a perforated flap that suggest changing your behaviour in certain ways for the following day.

A perforated seal is torn open to reveal the daily self-fulfilling prophecy questions.

My Happiness Scale

Other pages in the diary include the hourly ‘happiness’ chart, ‘what will this day be?’ join the dots exercise, ‘crowdsourcing you future’ postcards to send to friends and a weekly ‘hopes & fears for the future’ scatter graph. After each week the diary owner is asked to plot their hopes and fear for the coming week and after each month these thoughts are plotted against a time series analysis graph identifying historical trends and pointers for the future. The self-fulfilling prophecy diary is printed weekly and each week is stored in it’s own dedicated monthly box.

Crowdsourcing Your Future: Two postcards sent to friends to plot their ideas of your own future against a timeline and a future history.

A self-addressed Futures History postcard sent to a friend and with the obligation to be returned a year later.

Futures Timeline Postcard sent to a friend with a blank timeline in order to be filled in and returned to sender.

OpenFutures, Citizen Science and the Co-Creation Landscape

1. legodiagram2.brokerdiagram

(See end of post for more info and diagrams)

A few months back I was involved in researching and writing a paper for Sense Worldwide entitled ‘The Spirit fo Co-Creation’ focusing on the way organisations and the public are collaborating to get things done in more provocative, democratic and relevant ways.   Some might say that this so called co-creation is a research & insight process to bring practitioners, individuals and stakeholders together. Others might say that it is a business model and can be the strategy to crowdsource production, knowledge and value. Some also might say design by committee can impact on the quality of truly provocative ideas and others might call it open innovation and encourages organisations to finally share their knowledge for the benefit of all.

What interests me the most is the fact that there are many examples of what co-creation can be and has been (from Open Source to Pro-Am) and in particular I became interested in how it can now be applied to the OpenFutures and Citizen Science arenas.

OpenFutures or ARGs (alternate reality gaming) could be one way to describe various approaches that IFTF have found to aggregate collective perspectives on futures related info. For example Signtific, an online open futures lab,  encourages individuals to report weak signals of future related changes in science and tech issues as well as participate in trial forecasting games. IFTF set up the platform in early 2009 to encourage an open approach to scanning and collating info online, which they then use to funnel into their own strategic recommendations and 10year scans.

Superstruct was another openfutures/ARG platform or as IFTF called it, ‘the world’s first massively multiplayer forecasting game’  that ran for 6 weeks in October 2008. By inviting people to play the game, they were asked to help chronicle the world of 2019–and imagine how problems we may face will be solved. In doing so IFTF’s 10 year horizon scanning unit could observe how people invented new ways to organize and augment collective human potential.

One more recent openfutures/ARG approach was set up by Stuart Candy (phd researcher at Hawaii Research Center for Future Studies) and Jake Dunagan (Research Director, Tech Horizons program at IFTF) entitled CoralCross. In order to open a dialogue about Hawaii’s pandemic preparedness and allocation priorities, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention funded To help encourage public dialogue and illicit input for decision-makers on Hawaii’s pandemic priorities, the Hawaii State Department of Heath commissioned  the Hawaii Research Center for Future Studies to produce the “playable scenario” on the island of Oahu. The ARG was so prescient that it had to be delayed in its implementation due to the actual global swine flu pandemic alert in May 2009. Other ARG/OpenFutures platforms set up by IFTF include World Without Oil, After Shock and Ruby’s Bequest.

Citizen Science is another way to crowdsource information via the help of others on a large-scale with the power of the internet. Some examples include the SETI@home project, a scientific experiment that invited the public to run a free program that downloads and analyzes radio telescope data in the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI). Or Gwap, a set of games that train computers to “solve problems for humans all over the world”, by understanding users perceptions of tags. BirdPost is a website to post sightings of birds, along with mapping and rare bird alerts. FoldIt is a game that enables the public to contribute to important scientific research by testing proteins and how they fold. The Galaxy Zoo files contain images of almost a quarter of a million galaxies. In order to understand how these galaxies formed, they use the public to help to classify them according to their shapes.

One of the most exciting and groundbreaking approaches to citizenscience for me is George Church’s Personal Genome project; who have been recruiting volunteers who are willing to share their genome sequence and many types of personal information with the research community and the general public over the pat few years and 23andme’s recent ‘Research Revolution’; A voting platform on their site asking the public to vote on which disease the 23andme  predicitve risk gene testing research company should be targeting next.

You could say that the current co-creation landscape is broad and varied and can stretch and hence blur strict co-creation definition boundaries. As way to understand this landscape I began to create diagrams to help visualise how and what was going on . The diagrams below outline several different models of collaborative creation that have been employed to help develop products, services or knowledge.

Below each diagram you will find a link to an organisation/initiative that represents an example of collaborative creation of some sort:



5cuusoo6 klusterdiagram

1. Large corporations who engage with a community of advocates to co-create on an ongoing basis. (Lego Mindstorms)
Large corporations who call for agencies to submit ideas to then partner with or broker a deal. (P&G with NESTA)
3. Consultancies or agencies who set up and facilitate the whole co-creation project to act as a bridge between a network of collaborators and a corporation. (Sense Worldwide)
4. Large corporations who call for ideas by offering a one-off contest with prize money or a manufacturing run. (Muji Design Award)
5. Large corporations who outsource briefs to communities that are fostered online. (Innocentive, Kluster, Crowdspirit)
6. Large corporations that host an online platform where individuals submit ideas or requests based on the brand, which that business can then select for development. (Cuusoo with Muji)


Personal Futures inside The Art of the Long View

DSCF9623   DSCF9620

I recently came upon a 2nd hand copy of Peter Schwartz‘s seminal scenario planning  book ‘The Art of the Long View’ and came upon an inscription. “January 1994, Dear Mary, Jim and Thomas, To help make your futures even more super and satisfying, Love Dad”

It gave me an idea about how we create weak future affects everytime we give someone a gift or a card, we directly affect how we think someone should live their ‘personal futures’. What if we collected those and rated their impact over time. Would there be a scale of affect that could enable different affects to be measured?….umm to be continued

Objects/Colours inspire Fictional Storytelling

  • Every day for one hundred days (from October 30, 2008 to February 6, 2009) I picked a paint chip out of a bag and responded to it with a short writing. I have selected my favorite forty, titling each writing with the number of the day it was written (out of 100) and the name of the color from that day’s paint chip. This project was generated in Michael Bierut’s 100 Day Workshop at the Yale School of Art.
  • About the Significant Objects project
    A talented, creative writer invents a story about an object. Invested with new significance by this fiction, the object should — according to our hypothesis — acquire not merely subjective but objective value. How to test our theory? Via eBay! The project’s curators purchase objects — for no more than a few dollars — from thrift stores and garage sales. A participating writer is paired with an object. He or she then writes a fictional story, in any style or voice, about the object. Voila! An unremarkable, castoff thingamajig has suddenly become a “significant” object! Each significant object is listed for sale on eBay. The s.o. is pictured, but instead of a factual description the s.o.’s newly written fictional story is used. However, care is taken to avoid the impression that the story is a true one; the intent of the project is not to hoax eBay customers. (Doing so would void our test.) The author’s byline will appear with his or her story. The winning bidder is mailed the significant object, along with a printout of the object’s fictional story. Net proceeds from the sale are given to the respective author. Authors retain all rights to their stories.

Holiday at the Airport

The latest in tourist holidaying is the “Holiday at the Airport”. There is no longer the need to actually leave the country but to enjoy the experience of being at the airport about to leave for a fantasy trip abroad.

Similar to the theme park experience, at the end of the security queue you receive a photo of your xray baggage and footage of you and your friends/family queuing with fear and excitement.

You receive photos of the people you meet, the places you loiter, the food you consume at the many vending and fast food chains.
You relish the moment you find that your flight is delayed and the electricity in the airport has failed. The moments you share with strangers will never be replaced, they are unique and you savor every angry word, stressed and confused face. You audio record the moment the airport representatives fob you off and the budget airlines blame each other…

This is the new ‘Holiday At the Airport”, just as Ballard might have depicted.

via flickr