Fractious Friday: Cool prototypes that break down metaphors, barriers, and boundaries

I know I'm not the only one making excuses this week for deadlines missed because of seasonal diversions and obligations.

The stuff I squirreled away this week straddles the intersection of the digital and the tangible. In this boundary zone, I discovered some interesting user experiences across a variety of media and "intermediating" objects.

They raise some good questions: Must a newspaper be made of paper? What about a magazine? Does it have to include the metaphor of page-turning? To pass as clothing, must an object be made of cloth? How does wearable technology become fashion? For employees of Second Life, workplace schwag and marketing collateral (t-shirts, mugs, stickers) are already virtual perks, something you receive and display "in world."

But back in meatspace, the seasonal ritual of gift exchange typically includes paper and packaging. Earlier this month, I heard a radio story about San Francisco Panorama, a prototype 21st-century newspaper from Dave Eggers and McSweeney's. San Francisco Panorama is a 300+ page broadsheet full of photos and images, dense with thoughtful current content, well-visualized information essays, analysis from a collection of smart and notable journalists. It has about as much in common with a daily local newspaper as a beat-up bootleg cassette tape has with a top-of-the-line boxed set. I'd be surprised to see it used as fishwrap.

In a related vein, I followed a Twitter link to a video titled Mag+" from Bonnier, a Scandinavian multi-channel, multi-national media company that began as an independent bookstore in Copenhagen, Denmark in the nineteenth. Bonnier's mission: "To continuously reinvent the art of publishing." The short video introduces a prototype handheld digital magazine reader, "a corporate collaborative research project done with BERG (formerly Schulze & Webb). Jack Schulze walks us through the "believability transfer between paper and screen" and makes us drool. He contrasts the magazine experience, with its leisurely sense of consumption and completion, to the out-of-control swept away feeling you get from the relentless flow of information via RSS in a feed reader.

Mag+ from Bonnier on Vimeo.

On the fashion front, the intersection of the real and the virtual has a different feel. Augmented reality dressing rooms like Fashionista are giant step forward from playing with paper dolls, but are they really useful yet?

Fashion technologist Diana Eng "uses technology to turn make-believe into reality." Her current project, Fairytale Fashion would make an amazing classroom curriculum. In a series of videos that began this autumn, Diana solicits ideas and interactions w/viewers to help her create a collection of real-life magical clothing with ideas derived from a mobius strip, inflatables, LEDs, conductive materials, and more. She shows how software and hardware technologies contribute to reinventing fashion. Fairy-tale princesses and fashionistas will want to watch and interact with every episode.

Enjoy the lights and the festivities. Fractious Friday will be back the first Friday of January 2010.

Havi Hoffman
YDN Blog Editor

Follow @YDN on Twitter.