# Mar 28, 2010

“Immaterial labor finds itself at the crossroads (or rather, it is the interface) of a new relationship between production and consumption. The activation of both productive cooperation and the social relationship with the consumer is materialized within and by the process of communication. The role of immaterial labor is to promote continual innovation in the forms and conditions of communication (and thus in work and consumption). It gives form to and materializes needs, the imaginary, consumer tastes, and so forth, and these products in turn become powerful producers of needs, images, and tastes. The particularity of the commodity produced through immaterial labor (its essential use value being given by its value as informational and cultural content) consists in the fact that it is not destroyed in the act of consumption, but rather it enlarges, transforms, and creates the “ideological” and cultural environment of the consumer. This commodity does not produce the physical capacity of labor power; instead, it transforms the person who uses it. Immaterial labor produces first and foremost a “social relationship” (a relationship of innovation, production, and consumption). Only if it succeeds in this production does its activity have an economic value. This activity makes immediately apparent something that material production had “hidden,” namely, that labor produces not only commodities, but first and foremost it produces the capital relation.”

Immaterial Labor – Maurizio Lazzarato

Designing interactions in the flow: tagging books at Bibliotheek Haarlem Oost

Nina K. Simon‘s excellent paper, “Going Analog: Translating Virtual Learnings into Real Institutional Change,” describes how designers can approach integrating new user behaviors into existing ones — and why it’s often essential to do so. Simon argues that many designs fail to take hold because they ask users to adopt new practices or patterns of behavior that don’t in and of themselves add value to a particular experience. People are naturally reluctant to move outside of their accustomed flows, especially in well-defined spaces like museums, libraries, and schools. But what happens when a new technology comes along that promises great returns for users while simultaneously demanding some kind of additional input from them — in effect asking them to do step out of their flow and do something that they previously hadn’t done? Responding to this question, Simon provides the elegant example of the Bibliotheek Haarlem Oost, a branch library in the Netherlands that has developed a creative “in the flow” method for getting its patrons to tag the books in its collection:

Tagging has huge theoretical value to museums and libraries as a way to allow users to create folksonomies around institutionally-held collections, and there’s a clear mission connection for institutions whose goal is to engage visitors with collections and learning. While many museums are ably exploring the world of tagging on-line, no one has figured out how to make it work in the onsite visitor experience. Tagging could be very useful onsite if there were a way to access the tags and use them to discover artifacts of interest. Ideally, there would be a complete feedback loop where you would then be able to assign tags to objects as you view them in the galleries, thus creating more data for new visitors walking in the door.

What I’m describing maps to a complicated set of inputs and outputs. At the input (performing the tagging), visitors while onsite would need a way to mark individual exhibits with keywords. Then, on the output (using tags to access content of interest), visitors would need a way to scan the keywords at any exhibit, see linked related exhibits, and receive directional information to find the other exhibits. I can think of several ways to do this, and they all have long, painful lists of behavior changes associated with them.

The library at Haarlem Oost wanted to do this same thing – to allow patrons to tag the books they’d finished so they could be displayed on shelves and in the database for others to find books they might enjoy. But Hanrath didn’t come up with a clunky technology with lots of required behavior changes and instruction sets. They did something very, very clever. They installed more book drops.

The library created a book drop for a set of predefined tags (boring, didn’t read it, great, funny, exciting, good for kids, etc.). They also created shelves for the individual tags. When patrons return books, they place them on the shelves that appropriately categorize their books. Because the majority of books in the Dutch library system have RFID tags, the shelves were enabled with RFID readers that scan the books and add the tags to the books’ digital entries in the library database. The only behavior change required is for the patron to shelve his or her books in categories, and the benefit on the output side (the tags appearing in the library on-line catalogue) is immediate.

No patron would call the activity of putting their books in book drops ‘tagging,’ and that’s a good thing. There’s little concern here about barriers to use, educating the visitor on how to participate, or even significant infrastructure or support costs. The feedback loop is there, and it works because it’s a clever, simple distillation of the core idea of tagging. (Archimuse)

# Mar 25, 2010

“Harrah’s uses “loyalty cards” to induce people to play longer and spend more money (Abumrad, 2008). The cards function like bank cards; users swipe them at the slot machines to play, and the cards register wins and losses. The loyalty cards are part of a pilot program to track individual user behavior. The casino maintains real-time data on the actions of every card-holder and uses the data to determine individuals’ financial “pain point” – i.e. how much money they are willing to spend before leaving the casino. The casino uses that pain point to stage strategic interventions during real-time play. When a player comes close to her limit, a staff member on the casino floor receives an alert from a dispatcher, greets the player, and offers her a free meal, a drink, or a bonus gift of money added to the loyalty card. By mitigating the bad experience of losing with a gift, Harrah’s extends people beyond their pain points and they stay and play longer.”

Archives & Museum Informatics: Museums and the Web 2009: Paper: Simon, N., Going Analog

“Metaphor is for most people a device of the poetic imagination and the rhetorical flourish – a matter of extraordinary rather than ordinary language. Moreover, metaphor is typically viewed as characteristic of language alone, a matter of words rather than thought or action. For this reason, most people think they can get along perfectly well without metaphor. We have found, on the contrary, that metaphor is pervasive in everyday life, not just in language but in thought and action. Our ordinary conceptual system, in terms of which we both think and act, is fundamentally metaphorical in nature. (Lakoff and Johnson 1980)”

Archives & Museum Informatics: Museums and the Web 2009: Paper: Simon, N., Going Analog

Understanding the future through a counterfactual past: The Golden Institute

Contrary to much of the recent discussion around transmedia storytelling and alternate reality games, not all the work being done in the realm of multi-modal world building is about “driving eyeballs toward content” or “creating opportunities for monetization.” Sascha Pohlflepp’s The Golden Institute is a great example of how artists can build elaborate and penetrating critiques through the creation of a system of interrelated media artifacts. It also flies in the face of Jeff Gomez’s definition of transmedia storytelling as being inherently geared toward mass audiences; if The Golden Institute isn’t transmedia storytelling, what is it?

From Sascha’s documentation of the project:

The Golden Institute for Energy in Colorado was the premier research and development facility for energy technologies in an alternate reality where Jimmy Carter had defeated Ronald Reagan in the US election of 1980. Equipped with virtually unlimited funding to make the United States the most energy-rich nation on the planet, its scientific and technical advancements were rapid and often groundbreaking.

Its scope ranged from planetary engineering to the enabling of individual participation and profit from the creation of electricity. Notable projects include the development of the state of Nevada into a weather experimentation zone and the new gold rush in the form of lightning-harvesters that followed, or major modifications made to the national infrastructure in an attempt to use freeways as a power plants. The institute’s vision continues to inform the American consciousness to this day. In relation to energy preservation and harnessing, but also in terms of man’s relationship to the forces of nature. (The Golden Institute)

See also: photo documentation, We Make Money Not Art, Worldchanging