Players Make Play For Nothing

An insightful post by David Fono about community-based content generation in ARGs and MMOs:

A couple of posts got me thinking about the issue of player generated content recently. Tony Walsh writes generally about players as storytellers as a trend in multiplayer games. Meanwhile (well, a few months ago), Brian Clark writes about his plans for Eldritch Errors, which include a panoply of media products (book, comics, films, etc.) based on the events which are currently unfolding in the immersive narrative. Brian talks about the players of the game as effectively “starring” in the retellings, or at least being largely responsible for their eventual content. Of course, that’s a bit of an overstatement. Most of the creative sweat is being put in by the professional writers, designers, etc. behind the property. But it does represent a significant shift from the way games and entertainment generally is developed — it’s becoming a collaborative process, and the lines between the producer and the consumer are being blurred.

I’m pretty much a fan of this. And superficially, it’s all well and good. But there are some quandaries you get into when a significant portion of your content is materially attributable to an unpaid, uncredited player base. Specifically: Why aren’t they being paid? Why aren’t they being credited? Are the players being taken advantage of? If so, why do they let it happen? And if not, what safeguards can we put in place to avoid declining the slippery slope into outright exploitation? (Mobile Fono)

Crucial Juncture for Blue Brain

The Blue Brain project is now at a crucial juncture. The first phase of the project—”the feasibility phase”—is coming to a close. The skeptics, for the most part, have been proven wrong. It took less than two years for the Blue Brain supercomputer to accurately simulate a neocortical column, which is a tiny slice of brain containing approximately 10,000 neurons, with about 30 million synaptic connections between them. “The column has been built and it runs,” Markram says. “Now we just have to scale it up.” Blue Brain scientists are confident that, at some point in the next few years, they will be able to start simulating an entire brain. “If we build this brain right, it will do everything,” Markram says. I ask him if that includes selfconsciousness: Is it really possible to put a ghost into a machine? “When I say everything, I mean everything,” he says, and a mischievous smile spreads across his face. (seed magazine)


Blubber Bots are floating DIY robotic species that navigate autonomously and intelligently. Blubber Bots float, dance, seek and sing. They are light-seeking hellium-filled balloons that graze the landscape in search of light and cellphone signals. Designed into the inflatable form is a set of light sensors enabling them to seek out the brightest light source. They are also equipped with a phone flasher and can recognize cellphone activity. You can interact with a Blubber Bot by making a call and waving your phone near it. In response, it will go into a flocking dance or sing you a special tune. (

See also: UCI Beall Center for Art and Technology

New York City Waterfalls

“In developing the New York City Waterfalls, I have tried to work with today’s complex notion of public spaces,” said Eliasson. “The Waterfalls appear in the midst of the dense social, environmental, and political tissue that makes up the heart of New York City. They will give people the possibility to reconsider their relationships to the spectacular surroundings, and I hope to evoke experiences that are both individual and enhance a sense of collectivity.”

The New York City Waterfalls will be four man-made electrically-powered waterfalls erected in New York Harbor from mid-July to mid-October 2008 as part of a public art project. Each one is 90 – 120 feet tall (the highest will be approximately the same height as the Statue of Liberty!). They will operate from 7:00 AM to 10:00 PM, and will be lit after sunset. (

Death of a column, birth of a movement

Two years ago, I wrote my first column celebrating the best indie games: small, offbeat titles, programmed usually by a single auteur and given away for free. I figured I’d make it an annual affair. For 12 months, I’d scour the net for independent games that had a spark — some innovative bit of design or gameplay — and gather a list of the top 10.

But I’ve decided it’s impossible. (Wired)

Universal Connections

what is the difference between analogue and digital, physical and virtual? what connects and bridges these apparently different worlds?

this is the area we wanted to explore with our universal connections experiment and project. It is a question that each member of dialog05 addresses on a daily basis as an industrial designer creating consumer products. (

Ground-Up City

Ground-up City. Play as a Design Tool maps the continuing history of an urban design strategy for play in the city. Liane Lefaivre has developed a theoretical model for tackling playgrounds as an urban strategy. She steps off from a historical overview of play and the ludic in art, architecture and urban design, focusing particularly on the post-war playgrounds realized in Amsterdam as joint ventures between Aldo van Eyck, Cornelis van Eesteren and Jakoba Mulder.

The architecture firm Döll – Atelier voor Bouwkunst explored the possibility of applying the model in two urban redevelopment areas in Rotterdam, Oude Westen in the inner city and Meeuwenplaat in Hoogvliet, an outlying postwar district, refining it into a practical design strategy.

A second layer in the book gives an inspirational and refreshing new look at play in a picture essay with a welter of reference images illustrating play as an urban phenomenon.

Ground-up City places the playground high on the agenda as an urban design challenge. It also shows how specifying a generic, academic model for a particular situation can lead to a practically applicable design resource. (

More info, review and links: WMMNA

Interesting Responses Abound

…from writers such as Clay Shirky, Jane McGonigal and Imogen Heap, courtesy Zefrank:

I sent the following question to a number of friends and acquaintances who work in a variety of different disciplines. As the answers come in, I will add them below. In addition I posted this on where there are some excellent responses from the community.

“When you make things with an audience in mind, do you have internal representations of that audience to help guide you in the process? Are you in dialogue with a cast of proto-audience members that somehow represent different facets of your perceived audience? Are there little homunculi that provide editorial voices different from your own? Do you interact with them verbally or do you bounce things off of some sort of an emotional surface? Did some sort of averaging form them or were they inspired by particular moments of feedback? Do they have a shape? How would you describe their points of view? What do they look like? Do they have names? Are there ones you trust more than others? Are there ones you avoid?” (

Hans Rosling: Things are changing

In a follow-up to his now-legendary TED2006 presentation, Hans Rosling demonstrates how developing countries are pulling themselves out of poverty. He shows us the next generation of his Trendalyzer software — which analyzes and displays data in amazingly accessible ways, allowing people to see patterns previously hidden behind mountains of stats. (Ten days later, he announced a deal with Google to acquire the software.) He also demos Dollar Street, a program that lets you peer in the windows of typical families worldwide living at different income levels. Be sure to watch straight through to the (literally) jaw-dropping finale.