The Future Is Almost Here

John Maeda taking over the presidency of RISD, “ambient awareness” being talked about in the NYT, and all the noise about chrome all have a lot to do with one another. If it isn’t as obvious to you I’ll try to put more coherent thoughts together in the near future, but for now some of the highlights:

Each little update — each individual bit of social information — is insignificant on its own, even supremely mundane. But taken together, over time, the little snippets coalesce into a surprisingly sophisticated portrait of your friends’ and family members’ lives, like thousands of dots making a pointillist painting. This was never before possible, because in the real world, no friend would bother to call you up and detail the sandwiches she was eating. The ambient information becomes like “a type of E.S.P.,” as Haley described it to me, an invisible dimension floating over everyday life. #

“A designer is someone who constructs while he thinks, someone for whom planning and making go together,” says Mr. Maeda, cocking his head, widening his eyes, moving his hands as if he were shaping a pot. Mr. Maeda considers himself post-digital; he has outgrown his fascination with hardware and is driven by ideas. “I want to reform technology. All the tools are the same; people make the same things with them. Everyone asks me, ‘Are you bringing technology to RISD?’ I tell them, no, I’m bringing RISD to technology.”

…Mr. Maeda’s plan is “to make a justifiable case for creativity in the world.” He wants to shatter the stereotype of the starving artist and show how RISD makes the case for the entrepreneurial artist. “People fall into a spectrum about how commercial they want to be, and that’s perfect. I just want to give students the tools to engage in the larger world and at the same time remain honest to what RISD has been.” It remains to be seen whether RISD students can write computer programming the way they create sculpture – and whether they even want to. #