Here at faberNovel NYC we have spent the past week experiencing Hurricane Sandy first hand. First as a media build-up, then as a real, visceral experience, and finally as an aftermath.
The experience on the ground was most often described by people around me as "crazy". That word was used in a variety of ways, meaning alternately bizarre, chaotic, scary, or just totally foreign, and maybe even a bit of a rush. I too found that to be the best word to describe the day's events.
But aside from the "crazy"-ness of it, what I personally found most interesting was the strange divergence, then re-convergence, of personal information on the ground from collective information on the web and in the media over the course of 36 hours.
Sandy was by all accounts the most media-covered storm in history, and yet the people on the ground were increasingly cut off from the media as the storm progressed. While the day started off with the constant refreshing of favorite online news sites and chatter on Facebook and Twitter, by evening time most people were without Internet and cable - or without power altogether - and by 10 PM or so the 3G networks were essentially useless. So over the course of the day the flow of news slowed in stages, and then stopped altogether.
As this happened, the people experiencing the storm on the ground became, strangely, the people who were the least able to experience it online. Our "experience" of it changed from the collective experience of events we have all become so used to, to an exclusively first-person experience of the storm. Exactly the way people used to routinely interact with storms, and with everything else in life. My own experience was this: wind, lots of it. A tree being knocked down outside my apartment like it had been hit by a train. A strange eerie rumble in the sky, even when the wind slowed down. Neighbors telling me that the water was two blocks away and rising. Most of all, kids bouncing off walls from having been indoors all day long. It's very different I'm sure from everyone else's first person experience, yet that was all I had to go on - there was no way for me to "synch up" with the rest of the city. That was my experience, and then I went to sleep.
In the morning when the storm had largely passed, the first I and those around me did was try to "re-synch". We went outside and took pictures to upload to Instagram and Facebook. We loaded news sites over the 3G network, which was working again, to get the headlines. We looked all over for Internet that wasn't down.
As I walked around taking pictures and surveying the damage, one of the first conversations I had on the phone was with my mother in San Francisco, who corrected each one of my stories "No no, the houses that burned down were in Queens, not in Brooklyn", "one hundred homes, not eighty" and so forth. I was the one who had been through the storm, yet I was the one with the wrong facts.
By the time I saw this video of a building's facade falling off in the wind, one million people had already viewed it ahead of me.
So what I experienced was the first-person storm, and not the collective one.
The rest of the world, outside of New York, had the collective experience: downtowns flooding, transformers exploding, neighborhoods burning. Mine was howling wind and over-excited kids. It was strange, and actually a bit uncomfortable, to have my own experience be that out of synch with the collective one.
It's a very rare thing to encounter these days - about as rare as a hurricane paralyzing a major city. Most of the time our first person experience is totally intermingled with the collective experience, beyond the point of knowing where one ends and the other begins. And we've stopped even noticing it. Hurricane Sandy was for me, as much as anything else, an occasion to see this fact clearly.
As a society, our personal and collective experiences have now become virtually inseparable. And these days it literally takes a hurricane to pry them apart.
Applidium, faberNovel's subsidiary dedicated to mobile apps, releases Refacer, your next favorite game!
Refacer is an innovative and funny app which lets you merge two faces in one photo. Ever wondered what the children of James Bond and Queen Elisabeth would look like?. It can use multiple sources: your camera roll, photos of Facebook friends, and even our own selection of pictures.
It started as an R&D protoype. We were so happy about the output produced by our engine that we decided to give it a nice polish and put it on the App Store. Now you can have fun too!
The best thing is that you don’t have to make any edit during the process: It’s all automatic! We used state-of-the-art image processing techniques to recognize faces and blend the pictures together. You will be astonished by the results.
Download it for free on the appStore
The Applidium team has started publishing their first creation here. Now you know what Obama and Princess Leila's daughter looks like.
A few weeks ago I attended the GAIN conference put on by AIGA in San Francisco, and heard a number of different speakers all make the same argument: design can be used as a form of innovation and social change. And while that is something every designer will nod his or her head to, the thought of doing good for free isn’t always a crowd pleaser, or even an option for that matter.
"Pro bono" is short for the Latin phrase pro bono publico, which means "for the public good". Typically it refers to work (usually, but not limited to, legal representation) that is performed without compensation for the good of society. But like the notion that freelance is not free, Pro bono should not necessarily mean 'done for free'.
Over the longer term, no good deed can be maintained without sustainable revenue systems in place. Pro bono - work for good - needs to find paths to sustainability in order to truly be effective.
One of my favorite case studies presented at GAIN of this notion is that of Emily Pillioton. Emily used the arts of teaching and architecture to create positive change in rural communities. This pilot program demonstrated that combining design with social work can clearly create social value. But it can also serve as a model to be followed and learned from.
What started as an effort that was practically pro bono - in the 'free' sense of the term - also had embedded in its core an opportunity to create a functioning business. Project H Design was already working on designing with humanitarian purpose but took a leap in a new direction heavily influenced by its success in Bertie County.
Earlier this month Project H Design started yet another project, in Oakland California. While their mission remains the same, to “Design, build, teach and transform” they now have a steady client and a newly focused business model. Above all, their number one priority is doing what they love, which is “H” Project-worthy work, or work for Humanity, Habitats, Health, Happiness, Hands. And moreover, it is their full time gig. A lesson to be learned and shared.
As Christopher Simmons put it at GAIN, the “future belongs to problem-seekers not problem-solvers.” And with problems come a chance, a chance to do good, bring design and creative attributes to the table to build sustainable solutions and do the business of good. Pro bono, though not necessarily for free.
Le futur du mobile passera-t-il par l'usage d'un dispositif affichage à tête haute, autrement dit des lunettes de réalité augmentée ? Le cinquième Opus de ARparis réunira les acteurs majeurs de l’industrie de cette technologie émergente. Ils viendront échanger autour de leurs dernières avancées technologiques au cours d’une table ronde inédite.