Smart organic windows: MIT CROMA

MIT’s CROMA group brings together researchers from media arts, architecture, and chemical engineering. The group “aims at developing technologies and use case scenarios for building responsive, programmable, and energy-smart architectural components.” Their “smart organic window” project proposes the use of electrochromic organic polymers to enable touch- and motion-sensitive brise-soleil techniques.

A basic premise of this work is that a programmable and responsive façade element can not only be aesthetically provocative and improve energy-efficiency of architecture, but also has the potential to alter the ways we relate to buildings and surfaces, opening exciting avenues for new kinds of interaction and experience, and requiring new skills and competencies in the fields of design, architecture, and engineering. (CROMA)

I’m curious to see what kinds of game design and storytelling projects will emerge out of CROMA’s research. A variable-opacity responsive window is pretty amazing, but the radical step is using such a window to articulate a ruleset or open up new vectors for communication…


I met Eric Gradman at a meeting of the recently-formed Transmedia LA group; his enthusiasm and sense of humor are as infectious in person as they are in his work. Gradman’s “uncomfortably augmented reality” project, CLOUD MIRROR, is currently on show at the Sundance festival.

The CLOUD MIRROR is an interactive augmented reality art installation… Live video captured by a camera and is re-projected on the wall behind the camera, functioning like a “magic mirror.” But the CLOUD MIRROR software alters the images on the way to the screen. It runs an algorithm that tracks faces from frame to frame and also examines each frame for 2D barcodes printed on attendee badges. By pairing each face with a badge, and each badge id with a database row, the CLOUD MIRROR can identify by name whoever is standing in front of the installation.

The CLOUD MIRROR then augments each frame, adding a thought bubble to each face in the image. The contents of that thought bubble are selected from a set of “tags” associated with that person. Tags come from various sources, including Facebook, Twitter, and SMS data.

When registering for the event, attendees were asked to optionally provide their Twitter name, Facebook profile ID, and to answer the question “Where is your favorite place in LA?” In the weeks leading up to the event, the CLOUD MIRROR software sent a friend request to any attendee that provided that information. The poor trusting souls who accepted this request had their personal profile gently data-mined. Specifically, the information captured was “Facebook updates,” “Twitter updates,” and “Facebook relationship status.”

CLOUD MIRROR also capitalized on peoples’ innate desire to embarrass their friends by allowing anyone to anonymously “graffiti” in a thought bubble by sending an SMS message to a special number containing the target’s unique badge ID. (monkeys and robots)

Update: Eric’s documentation from Sundance and his reflections on some of the privacy implications of the project.

Ambient storytelling resources

This post contains starting points for researching and developing “ambient” storytelling and interaction systems (i.e., stories or games that take place in the background, rather than traditional attention-focusing media artifacts such as movies or console video games). These trailheads and links are particularly useful for anyone interested in designing activities that engage with the existing flows in player-participants’ lives.

Precedents and origins

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Fandom: An Autoethnography

This paper visualizes a sample of my own fan practices by placing them on a simple x/y grid. Based on this visualization, I draw a variety of provisional conclusions regarding a) the role of fandom in my life in general; and, b) its relationship to my artistic practice in particular. Finally, I conclude with a brief commentary on the future of fandom in the context of network culture.

The Grid

This is a blank version of the grid I created for this exercise (larger view). The horizonal axis represents the degree to which a particular practice is participatory, with the rightmost end of the axis representing a maximally-participatory level of engagement. Individual practices are positioned on this axis based on how I answer questions such as:

  • Did my fandom lead me into actively engaging with an intellectual property’s (IP’s) broader fan community?
  • Did my enthusiasm for a media franchise or category result in me attending conferences, connecting with others online, and participating in other events, or did I let such opportunities pass me by?
  • Did I engage with the world of the IP to the point where I began to produce my own extensions to that world?
  • And finally, did my fandom lead me closer to an “active” community of practice, or did I remain within the confines of a more “passive” community of spectatorship?

The vertical axis of the grid maps the degree to which a particular fan practice is “comprehensive,” and addresses the following kinds of questions:

  • Did my commitment to the IP or category make me want to accumulate everything that I could get my hands on related to that franchise or practice?
  • Did I become an obsessive collector of related information and media, or was I content to merely sample smaller portions of the world of the IP?
  • Did I gravitate toward an “expert” level of knowledge? Or was I happy to remain on the surface in terms of my apprehension of the totality of the world of the IP?

Continue reading “Fandom: An Autoethnography”

Victoria Kaiulani Kalaninuiahilapalapa Kawekiu i Lunalilo…

Victoria Kaʻiulani Kalaninuiahilapalapa Kawekiu i Lunalilo Cleghorn, Crown Princess of Hawaii (16 October 1875 – 6 March 1899) was heir to the throne of the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi and held the title of crown princess. Kaʻiulani became known throughout the world for her intelligence, beauty and determination. After the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy in 1893, she spearheaded a campaign to restore the Kingdom. In New York, she made many speeches and public appearances denouncing the overthrow of her government. In Washington, D.C she spoke before the United States Congress and pleaded with U.S. Presidents Benjamin Harrison and later Grover Cleveland, but her negotiations could not prevent eventual annexation. (via