Can urban environments be classified according to the types of games they facilitate? Roger Caillois created a typology of games titled Man, Play and Games. I learned about this from my recent reading of Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. Games are an important way to facilitate what Mihaly calls “optimal experience” – a condition that he describes:
The optimal state of experience is one in which there is order in consciousness. This happens when psychic energy – or attention – is invested in realistic goals and when skills match the opportunities for action. (Csikszentmihalyi, 1990)
Play and games provide a shortcut to flow experiences by illustrating clear goals, immediate feedback and the conditions to develop skills. Caillois defined four types of games.
Agon, or competition
Alea, or chance
Mimicry, or role-playing
Ilinx, or vertigo
Do certain types of built environments support or discourage types of games? If so, can this knowledge help us to design and arrange spaces to increase the likelihood of optimal experiences?
I doubt that even the best physical conditions can generate true flow as Mihaly defines it. While Disney World can play with perception in a pleasant and subtle way, it is a personal decision to generate fulfilling experiences.
In the following weeks I plan to explore this question from a variety of angles to see if there are unifying factors that we can use to organize the built environment.
Yesterday I organized all of the apps on my phone by their sensory mechanism: taste, sight, and hearing. I already had all of my music apps in a single folder and a collection of camera apps grouped together – so it was a natural transition to add taste.
The topic of augmented reality is a well explored aspect of science fiction and technological speculation. Dozens of futuristic movies feature high tech heads up displays and data rich environments. Are smart phones truly augmenting our experience for the better or are these devices a novelty with negligible ability to improve upon our daily lives?
I am encouraged to believe that smart phones are truly enhancing “reality” with examples like the Lockitron and StreetBump which seem to have a better ability to enact desirable physical changes. In addition, devices like Spark and Nest are giving people a lot more control over devices in their homes and offices. But I have the nagging feeling that these are the exception rather than the rule. These pocket-sized mini computers are great at finding movie showtimes, rating your favorite hamburger, or listening to music but they are barely able to enact any real effect on our physical reality.
The ability for technology to enable or facilitate changes to our built and functional environment is something I have a deep interest in. While there appear to be several options available for mobile devices to augment experiences, I believe there are dozens of unexplored ways we can embrace highly portable devices to improve our lives.
At the intersection of I-96 and the East Beltline in Grand Rapids there a low profile, barely noticeable parking canopy uses solar power to energize highway lighting. I found this unique piece of parking technology tucked in between a chain hotel, bank, and some other highway-style developments. Two south-facing permanent awnings protect a 45 cars from sun and snow while also generating clean, renewable energy from the sun.
According to the official project page, MDOT spent $650,000 on the system which will produce 106,000 kWh annually. This energy savings will lead to $13,500 in reduced operating costs for lighting alone. You can see all the stats on this project on the helpful info-graphic (PDF). (Strangely, the one figure I can’t seem to find is the overall system size in kilowatts – a common way to get apples-to-apples comparisons across solar installations.)
The design of the canopy is spartan and utilitarian. The solar panels do not have an underlayment or sheathing – the panels themselves act as the only protection from the elements. In addition, the canopy has a low angle. The typical rule of thumb for solar panel installation is that they should be installed at roughly the same angle as your latitude. That said, there are optimal summer and winter tilt angles – however the panels installed at this site are far below the 42º recommended by solar energy system designers. Continue reading
The Better Block gives neighborhoods a temporary community-focused facelift, and can give struggling areas a glimpse into their futures. The organization provides training to community members interested in revitalizing their blocks by increasing multi-modal transportation and fostering economic development. Post-project, the communities work with The Better Block to see what was successful and take the steps necessary to turn these temporary solutions into permanent fixtures. In some cities, weekend pop-up shops have even turned into lasting storefronts.
The Detroit chapter of the US Green Building Council and Wayne State University are hosting Detroit’s first ever Better Block session. It will take place in a location in the New Center area of Detroit. You can follow along the progress on the official Detroit Better Block tumblr.
Thanks to my colleague Bonnie Bona for passing this along.
Every morning I bike into work I notice the Invincibility Stars painted into the bike lane along Division in Ann Arbor. Magic mushrooms and banana peels are also painted along this path. These symbols from the Super Mario Brothers video games harken back to my youth playing Nintendo.
Strangely, they add a lot of joy to my ride into work. I can hear the noise that played when Mario picked up one of these Power-Ups as I ride over them. I sometimes imagine myself doubling in size or flashing in a wild variety of colors.
At MakerFaire Detroit I met the people behind the Detroit LovProject. These benches spell out the word “love” using precast concrete forms. Embedded within the bench is a wifi transmitter that allows people nearby to access the internet freely. The lovely benches will be placed at Woodward avenue bus stops. Bus passengers will be able to check the status of DDOT busses through the wifi service provided at these benches.
Like Spain’s smart sidewalk, the LovProject benches integrate wireless internet into the urban infrastructure. The LovProject benches have the advantage of being mobile – allowing them to be shifted as bus stops change and populations move. Will future generations take access to rich, pervasive information for granted?
PS – I would have shown a picture of the bench, but there were kids crawling all over it.
Inspired by the wild and wacky resumes of creative professionals featured at 99u, I decided it was time for me to polish up my own Curricula Vitae. Below is my first pass at a modern, elegant revision of my resume (download the high resolution PDF)
Although the charts don’t have any numbers directly attached to them, serious thought was put into the proportions and labels. All the icons came from The Noun Project – a rich database of icons licensed under creative commons. The fonts were found on the Google Web Fonts repository – which allowed me to search for a narrow font for the body text.
Let me know what you think of this style of resume. Is it too noisy, unconventional, or hard to understand? Or do the graphic elements make it more visually interesting? I am very open to input and suggestions at this stage!