Thursday, 13 June 2013

Skeuomorphism hits the headlines

Most gratifyingly, the subject of skeuomorphism has become a hot topic in the last weeks as Apple have refreshed iOS and done away with the green baize of Game Center, the ripped paper of Calendar and the stitched leather of Notes.

Having written an essay for this for Tate a while ago, which I also posted here, the BBC tracked me down and Sam Judah interviewed me the other day. His piece is now live on the BBC website.

I think there's still a debate to be had here. Hideous forced metaphors, especially in productivity apps have no role for me. Cut to the chase please, I have work to do.

But in other contexts, such as gallery interactives, or apps designed for a more leisurely experience, then surely there is space for an alternative view.

As I said in the interview:"Is there no room for ornamentation, for playfulness, for beauty? Are we all going to live in a minimalist world and walk around wearing grey polo necks?"

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Interoperability gets serious

The other week I was in Paris for a conference on interoperability. It was the working group of the IIIF, the brainchild of a consortium of libraries including the British Library, Bibliotheque Nationale, National Library of Norway, Los Alamos and Stanford.

The efforts being made in this area are immense, and, since I've been involved in this field, something of a holy grail. As research slowly becomes digital, the concept of information being locked in discreet digital silos becomes more and more absurd. Ingest of just metadata into a vast database (Europeana) or strict adherence to standards before ingest of metadata and image into another vast database (Biodiversity Heritage Library) do surely not, in the end, point the way forward.

And yet, what to do? Decisions over digitisation and metadata standards that were taken decades ago affect us now and prevent effective cross-collection search and collaboration.

IIIF is designed to address that problem by developing metadata and image APIs as well as a comprehensive image markup model called Shared Canvas.

It was fascinating to be involved in the emergence of something so potentially game-changing. The unsung heroes of interoperability will be those who sweat the details over the schema and the API. My job is then to build software that exploits this liberating commonality and frees the repositories up for researchers. They make me look good.

So thank you to Tom Cramer for inviting me and I look forward to seeing how this pans out.

Thursday, 6 June 2013

Changing views

Our office, as I may have mentioned before, is on the street that Charles Dickens grew up on. We're at number 106, he was at number 22.

Walking past the other day, I stood outside his front door and took this photo.

I thought, initially that Dickens would have been horrified, seeing the cranes, the lorries, the builders and the noise and dust. They're building a Crossrail station.

But then I recalled that he grew up in this street during one of the biggest phases of population growth London has ever seen.

When he was born, in 1812, London was already the largest city in the world, an unimaginable heaving mass of just over a million people crammed into a decaying, often medieval, housing stock.

By the time he died in 1870, the population was 3.3m, swathes of old rabbit warren housing had been swept away, and the seep into the suburbs had well and truly begun.

So he'd have lived with change, noise, disturbance and an uncomfortable sense of things not being what they were.

Our changes are now digital as much as physical, and the world around us is changing as fast it did for Dickens.

A new landscape is being created.

It's just, when you walk down my road, you can't see it.

ps. This weekend, 9th June, the house got finally a blue plaque. Thanks to Spitalfields Life for running a story on that.