🍿 A stan-tastic show and tell.
The stories and ideas that are captivating our team right now.
It’s almost time for another recess.
Join Zoelle Egner from Block Party at our next Digital Playground on Thursday 3/30 to try out one of their unreleased online safety tools.
Congratulations, citizens! We’ve made it through the wintry first quarter of 2023. And we did it by warming ourselves with the joys and intrigues of collective fandom.
To close out our Stan era, I’m handing things over to my wonderfully talented colleagues at New_ Public to tell us what’s piquing their interests in a good old-fashioned show and tell. Let’s find out what the team’s fanning out about, shall we?
Stories from our newest team members.
We’re delighted to introduce our four most recent hires at New_ Public:
Rather than the usual bio and headshot, we asked each of them to share something for show and tell. Here’s what’s on their minds.
Adit: World Wide Walls by oio.
What if our interactions with digital spaces weren’t predetermined? World Wide Walls is a Chrome extension that lets you draw on web pages publicly, a kind of “digital graffiti” that truly makes the web a public space.
One of the observations was that the web is not that public. In physical space there’s still rules, but in digital spaces it’s similar, but it still feels like you’re less free. At least it started kind of as a read-only container. Nowadays we have more interaction, but it’s all predetermined, what kind of interaction you can do.
So I guess the thing that I found, the little experiment called World Wide Walls, there’s two things for it that I found really interesting. One is just the process: making things, experimenting. And so I just like that approach of building things and trying stuff out.
But I think this also connects a little bit to where the federated web is going, where you’re trying to create multiple places that all talk together and have some kind of shared framework of interaction.
Maybe that will end up feeling a little more freeing because you can do similar things in different places, but there’s shared patterns and rules. It just kind of got my brain going a little bit.
Sam: “Collective Experiences” by Anu Alturu.
What is the collective glue that hold us all together in digital spaces and experiences? Clubhouse’s former head of community wrote about the value of creating shared context in the age of personalized, on-demand media.
I was just thinking a lot about collective experiences and came across this article that I shared. After I had gone to this dance club I had been walking around some parks and seeing a clown doing a show and everyone was gathered around, and then the next day I saw a band who had just set up some speakers and had gathered a crowd together.
We talk a lot about digital parks and drawing inspiration from IRL and just thinking about the physics and freeform nature of IRL spaces. You know, there’s rules and there are certain environments, but also people have the freedom and the flexibility to kind of just rearrange the space in the way that they want that I think on digital platforms isn't always possible.
And I hope to see future platforms and maybe some of our work explore what that might be, because I think shared experiences are so important for community cohesion.
Tori: “Economic Analysis, Moral Philosophy, and Public Policy” by Hausman, McPherson & Katz.
The book shows how an understanding of moral philosophy is important to economic analysis and public policy. It has me thinking about how moral frameworks (even if unstated) are relevant to technology too—because in some ways, designers act like policymakers for digital spaces.
Serena: “The Morioka Experience” by Craig Mod.
I feel like I’ve been part of a moment after he recommended Morioka to the NYTimes and they listed it as #2 on their 52 Places to Go in 2023 article. The fact that Japan is on this list isn’t a big deal, but Morioka? The world’s happy to read it and Japan’s so surprised.
Craig Mod talks about the people that make this city special, the spaces that they’ve created in reflection of their personalities, and the intergenerational attachment to the city—all curious examples of how people, the biggest variable of them all, can bring livelihood to a city or space.
More stories from the New_ Public team.
Show and tell isn’t just for new recruits. Other members of the New_ Public team have intriguing Internet things to share with you, covering everything from bird clocks to black goo to tiny-typed T-shirts.
Min Li: “I’ve Got 99 Problems and Figuring Out What’s Chill to Post on Reddit is All of Them” by Caroline Sinders.
How do we create and enforce norms in our communities, and how does the violation of those norms show up in art? Caroline Sinders contemplated this in 2015 through a wearable prototype based on Reddit’s rules and the ensuing debate around them.
(As a bonus, read Caroline’s piece from our magazine last year. And as another bonus, read Min Li’s latest article for The Point Magazine.)
In a 2015 piece from artist and technologist Caroline Sinders, she printed Reddit’s Community Rules on T-shirts. It took her six hours to print it, because what she tried to print was the rules as well as 21,000 comments that the Reddit CEO got as a part of their AMA around their rules.
What struck me about this particular project is that you know, it’s a T-shirt, which meant it's like it’s supposed to be worn, and it’s printed in really small print. So the idea here is that like looking at someone’s body or someone’s chest in order to read, like that is in itself kind of like a violation.
She sees this as a feminist intervention, like attempting to print all these norms that are ultimately evolving and ever-shifting and super complex. Co-creating norms together is just a really painful process.
Ravon: Black Gooey Universe by American Artist.
What are the aesthetics of neutrality in technology? American Artist’s sculptural and video works reflect on the history of computer technology through the lens of Blackness. Read American Artist’s essay here.
So in this particular work, Black Gooey Universe, which I just love saying, they take a bunch of objects, iPhones, CRT monitors, cables, and are really just rendering them useless. And so they take this gooey material and in some way they’re boiling phones and smearing it all over the computer screens and making the text illegible.
Part of that, of course, is the obvious like “gooey” in the title, but then it’s also a play on a graphic user interface, the acronym GUI.
Their whole provocation, which I’m obsessed with, is this idea of the history of computing, starting with the black screen. Apple, with the creation of the Lisa monitor, created the first white screen for a computer.
There’s just this really interesting way that they’re thinking about inequality, race, and the way that the white screen has become a symbol of neutrality and the way that whiteness in our culture is a symbol of neutrality.
Sarah: Audubon Singing Bird Clocks.
How do we tell time in intuitive and contextual ways? Shadows on a wall? Rings in a coffee cup? A passing train? For Sarah’s grandparents, it’s a wall clock that plays a different bird song every hour. But for design pattern makers, it’s a chance to go beyond prescribed or utilitarian measures in favor of little signals.
I think we spend so much time making really utilitarian technology and making technology in ways that are extractive or just very like the fundamental, “This is the standard for how this thing should look.”
My grandparents have all of these really quirky clocks, including this bird clock, and it just brought me so much joy because coming across like a clock that is potentially not very useful at first, but then actually over time gives time a different texture and resonates with you in a different way than looking at numbers on a wall and kind of uses multiple senses to tell time really got me thinking about design patterns, right?
And like the way that they can be creative constraints that help us think about the way time and space and all these variables come together to make a place and to make context to help us understand information is contextual. But they can also, when we like fuse them with metrics or when we lean too heavy into a quantitative utilitarian bent, can be very flattening of all those things.
What else is happening within the New_ Public community? Here are more highlights from our family and friends.
Our co-director Deepti Doshi is speaking at The Mozilla Festival this year. Get your pay-what-you-can tickets for MozFest today.
Deepti was also interviewed for Silicon Slopes’ Rethink the Future Summit.
Our friend Bina Venkataraman featured New_ Public in her first column for the Washington Post.
Our friend Angela Glover Blackwell published a new article in the Stanford Social Innovation Review: ”How We Achieve a Multiracial Democracy.”
New from WIRED: ”The Battle for the Soul of Buy Nothing.”
Do you have something cool to share at the intersection of tech and urbanism? Add a comment below or join us in Substack Chat, now available on any browser.
And that’s a wrap on our Stan era! See you in two weeks as we kick off our next theme: Status.
Your biggest fan,