We return to ARGNet’s coverage of PICNIC 2010 with more coverage from day one of the conference, themed “Redesigning Design.” The first speaker of the afternoon section, Tim Kobe, is founding partner of Eight Inc., referenced as “8_” throughout the presentation (and for the rest of this article). 8_ is a combination of many different things, all rolled into one company: design agency, architectural firm and “collaborative design innovation studio.”
Their output, so to speak, is design for both residential environments, products, and commercial buildings and spaces. One of 8_’s most famous projects was developing the architecture and design for the Apple Retail Stores. According to Kobe, 8_’s goal is to find strategies to design for brands to engage the consumer.
Kobe’s presentation was titled “Making Design Real,” but mainly served as a showcase for what 8_ does, starting off with a clip from Men in Black where several applicants for a position at the MiB need to fill out a questionnaire while sitting in egg-shaped chairs. Kobe followed the clip with a quote by Charles Eames: “The extent to which you have a design style is the extent to which you have not solved the design problem.” In Kobe’s own words, design is equal to serving a certain purpose as best as possible.
_8 works with clients like Apple, Citibank, Coach, Gap, HP, Nike, and Swatch and embrace the fact that they make things (even though they are not fabricators), preferably things that change the way people think, feel, and act. They pride themselves in building “irrational loyalty” as Kobe calls it. And why do they have that opportunity? Because, apparently, 80% of production companies think that their product is differentiated in its market, while only 8% of the consumers agree. Kobe notes that 50% of all purchases are done based on word of mouth, and 80% of word of mouth is generated by direct experience.
This installment returns to our coverage of PICNIC with one of the “PICNIC Specials” sessions, and advanced masterclass entitled Everything We Know About Transmedia Is Wrong! It’s worth noting that some speakers referred to the session as Everything You Know About Transmedia is Wrong!, a subtle distinction. The panel was moderated by Seth Shapiro, two-time Emmy Award winner, principal of New Amsterdam Media, and a leader in the field of digital media, having worked for a number of media initiatives. One of these initiatives that may be familiar to our readers is Tim Kring’s Conspiracy for Good.
All of the panelists were first given the opportunity to introduce themselves along with a short presentation on their ideas on transmedia. First up was Dan Hon, co-founder of Mind Candy and Six to Start, currently a senior creative at the London branch of Wieden + Kennedy. Dan started by showcasing one of W+K’s recent major success stories, the Old Spice viral campaign. He then prefaced his definition of transmedia by discussing The Beast, a game that many consider to be the first alternate reality game. Hon reminded the audience that The Beast played out on the pre-YouTube, pre-Facebook and pre-Twitter “archaic web”, a time when sharing and collaboration online was synonymous with email. The Beast and its launch was based on the principle of “Internet archeology”: if you start digging for something online, you might just discover a story and even get involved in it. So, in the case of The Beast, people intrigued enough by a brief mention of a “sentient machine therapist” working on the movie A.I. to search further would stumble upon a deep narrative.
According to Dan, there’s a major challenge facing the traditional alternate reality game, something we might nowadays call transmedia entertainment: people seem to associate them with massive collaborative problem solving and puzzles. One of Hon’s major complaints with current alternate reality game and transmedia development upon which he as waxed eloquent in the past is that ARGs are not mainstream enough because they “incorporate obscure shit that no one want to see or do” by relying on tactics such as steganography, cryptography and solving stupid puzzles. Hon chastises developers, saying,
Stop doing this! Your audience is not stupid. If you put a work of fiction in front of them, they will understand what it is and we do not have to pretend that ‘it is not a fucking game.’ The number of people who are interested in mathematical cryptography is very very small; instead, let’s make stuff that just entertains people. I don’t want to jump through hoops to enjoy something, I want to view Charlie bit my finger on YouTube.
What if, Hon posits, the first alternate reality game wasn’t based on a scifi movie, catering to a geek audience? What if it was based on the movie Amélie, which also came out in 2001? An interesting question. What would have happened? It begs the question: are we are using the alternate reality gaming genre in the right way?
This article is the first installment in ARGNet’s coverage of PICNIC 2010. Over the coming days, Daniël van Gool will provide summaries of the sessions he attended as part of ARGNet’s media partnership with PICNIC.
PICNIC reinvented itself once more this year. The self-proclaimed largest conference on innovation and creativity in Europe, held annually at the end of September in Amsterdam, managed to pull off another rather spectacular festival. Reinvention was a prominent feature of this year’s conference, as seen through it’s theme “Redesigning the World,” focusing on changes that are going on around us on different levels and with different impact.
This is ARGNet’s fifth year in a row covering the conference, and while many aspects have been reinvented, some thing remain constant. The PICNIC Club, which serves as the central hub of the event, looks amazing. The Club was impressively decorated, brimming with things to do and see and buzzing with people lounging, networking, eating (in actual picnic fashion) and browsing the offerings of several high and low-tech innovators. There was the 3D Lounge, where you can submerge yourself in audio and video using Sony’s new 3D TV system, as well as a setup of Microsoft’s Kinect (which, incidentally, if rumors are to be believed, will not feature the much-hyped Milo & Kate game that Peter Molyneux talked about extensively at last year’s PICNIC).
Over the next few days, I will be reporting on some of the sessions I attended, starting here with David Roman’s thoughts on emerging industries and the emerging markets they will (need to) be catering to, in a presentation titled ‘The Next Generation Enterprise meets the Net Generation Consumer.” Roman is the Chief Marketing Officer at Chinese-based PC manufacturer Lenovo, and has a history working with companies including HP, NVIDIA, and Apple.
PICNIC will be holding its fifth annual conference at the Westergasfabriek in Amsterdam from September 22-24 this year. PICNIC is a conference/festival in beautiful Amsterdam that started out as the “Cross Media Week Festival.” And while it is becoming harder to define every year, PICNIC describes itself as “a festival that blurs the lines between creativity, science, technology and business to explore new solutions in the spirit of co-creation.” ARGNet is pleased to announce that we will be a partner of PICNIC 2010, and are able to offer our readers a discount towards registration. Details on applying the discount can be found at the end of this article.
This year’s conference theme is Redesign the World, focusing on innovation in Life, Cities, Media and Design. Speakers include PICNIC veteran Charles Leadbeater (author and former advisor to Tony Blair), Cory Doctorow (co-editor of BoingBoing and author of the novel Little Brother), Jeff Jarvis (journalist and former creator and founder of Entertainment Weekly), and YouTube phenomenon Moldover (the “Godfather of Controllerism”). For further information on the program, check the conference’s Speakers or Program Highlights to learn more about this year’s PICNIC.
The conference attracts attendees from a wide variety of backgrounds, including “creative agencies, artists, scientists, designers, marketers, brand managers, content producers, (new) media experts, government leaders, programmers, investors, lawyers, entrepreneurs, freelancers, inventors, technology providers, games developers, services providers, students and teachers.” If you are looking for an idea of what to expect, take a look at ARGNet’s previous coverage of PICNIC.
The final day of PICNIC’s three day conference was themed “Rebuild” and focused on world-changing developments and the visionary people behind them. The day started with Start Breathing, a short presentation by independent writer and consultant Linda Stone. Stone told us about the importance of breathing and the dangers of a phenomenon called “E-mail apnea.”
E-mail apnea refers to when people hold their breath while reading and writing e-mails or text messages. Stone put a lot of research into this common condition, and was told by several medical specialists that irregular breathing can contribute heavily to stress-related diseases. Stone suggests that we do not suffer from information overload, but rather from information overconsumption. If you want to know more, check out her op-ed on the subject for the Huffington Post.
Next, Nicholas Negroponte delivered his keynote speech, which served as the highlight of the third day and possibly even of the entire conference. Negroponte is co-founder of the MIT Medialab and spearheads the One Laptop Per Child program. He’s considered a true visionary and, especially with OLPC, has been working on projects that literally change the world. Although it has been over 15 years since Negroponte asserted “computing is no longer about computers, it is about life,” the sentiment remains highly relevant today.
In our previous coverage of day 2 of the PICNIC conference, I skipped over Peter Molyneux’s session called Innovation in Entertainment because it warranted additional attention. In case you’re unfamiliar with his work, Molyneux is a computer/video games mogul who has been working in the games industry for over 20 years now. His work pioneered several genres of video games through projects like Populous, Theme Park and Syndicate for Bullfrog Production, now integrated into EA UK.
Molyneux later moved on to Lionhead Studios, where he created ground-breaking games including Black & White and Fable. Molyneux is currently the head of Lionhead Studios, which was acquired by Microsoft Game Studios in 2006. Since June 2009, Molyneux has also been head of the European division of MS Game Studios.
Molyneux started his speech by showing his passion for games and the games industry. He declared that games are one of the most creative endeavours in existence because they take technology and use it to present a story in the most engaging and immersive way imaginable. For Populous, this involved using a 5×4 pixel grid for a characters face, making it rather hard to show emotions. Molyneux noted that the distance between the screen and the player is still huge: current resolutions are still far from reality. Moreover, games today mostly seem to be for one of only two categories: either for corporate use, or for the hardcore gamer. Games require a lot of manual dexterity, use complicated controllers and create other barriers that prevent players from having an enjoyable experience.
This is where Project NATAL comes in. You have probably heard of NATAL, the new technology allowing you to use your body as a controller, from Microsoft’s showcase of at the 2009 E3. NATAL is not just a motion detection technology, however. It also offers the possibility of facial and voice recognition. Molyneux and Lionhead have been working on taking these technologies and combining them with advanced versions of the AI and adaptive learning systems used in games like Black & White to create a whole new entertainment experience called Milo. Milo is a little boy that lives in your Xbox who interacts with the user in several very interesting ways. The best way to get an idea of what Milo can do is to watch Molyneux discuss the project.