Thesis Weeknotes 06, 07

The last couple of weeks were supposed to be a straight clean run at the thesis, pushing it onwards – wherever onwards might be. The idea is that we’re moving towards concepts or a concept. Enough thinking, seems to be the message; start thinking about and by doing.

Somehow, that invitingly empty stretch of calendar ended up being littered with distractions, some external and imposed, others self-created.

Still, there’s some progress, even if it was in fits and starts

I started listing and categorizing the infrastructure I’ve been looking at and documenting.

The list runs to 24 things at the moment, although I’m still occasionally adding to it. That’s what already exists and is in widespread use, in my world at least. Some are standalone, some are low tech, some are dumb (bollards, zebra crossings, tourist maps). Others are high tech and connected (parking ticket machines, ATMS). Others have moved imperceptibly from one tp the other (think: traffic lights, bus stops). Some stand alone, others are parts of systems, and others still are almost completely intangible (network connectivity of various sorts).

All fit somewere on the following continuums (continua?) or discrete categories.

  • temporary/permanent
  • mobile/static
  • dynamic/static
  • small/large
  • tangible/intangible
  • enabling/constraining
  • input/output
  • individual/collective or aggregate
  • public/private
  • synchronous/asynchronous
  • standalone/connected

In addition, I’ve been annotating each item, object, system, and category with what kind of data it creates, collects, displays, or reacts to… counting people, traffic flows, light, weather, available parking spots, etc.

In an effort to turbo charge and hopefully complete the research phase of the project (and soak up some ideas if they come up!), I also organised and ran a Systems/Layers walkshop, in the mould set by Adam Greenfield, here in Copenhagen. It went well, but I’ll write a separate post about that. Suffice to say it went smoothly, people seemed interested and glad to have come, and there were some really good discussions both during and after the walk. I took notes, many photos were taken, and I hope to sum some of it up in the next day or two.

One thing it did show me, though, was that I think I’ve reached the end of thinking about existing systems, at least as far as the final project goes – I don’t think I’ll have any great eureka moments, nor will a deeper understanding necessarily help moving onto concepts and, ultimately, some sort of implementation. I feel like I’ve got a good enough base, a solid knowledge of existing ‘stuff’, and now really need to move onto building on top of that base. At the very least, I need to create constraints. That’s something nobody can really help me with – I just need to decide on some constraints, choose a direction, and run with it. There are no right or wrongs – not really even better or worse – just choices. And I need to sit down, me, my head, and a blank sheet of paper, listing some of the options, choose some. And then, onwards.

Although I have a fuzzy idea of what I’d like to come out at the end, and I know where I am at the moment, I need to find a smooth transition from one to the other. I need to find the toggle switch, and flick it to ‘implement’.

For better or worse, though, the next two weeks will be filled with the final industry project, this time working with Nokia. While I’m looking forward to it as a project in isolation, it’s also a distraction from the final project. Although I am hoping to get a couple of thoughts together, I’m basically writing off the next two weeks as far as the thesis goes.

Every week I put a thick red line through a postit on my wall, indicating another week passed. The number of empty remaining postits is dwindling.

Time is ticking.

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