Tuesday
Jul152014

The Eraser - Analogue Snapchat

 In this digital age, we are living in a bombardment of moments layered upon other moments. The invention of smartphones and their applications have encouraged an obsessive culture of enshrining moments virtually; this reflects on society's inability to handle technology and along with it, its social repercussions. 

For example, a common sight we see today: 
• A couple tinkering on their iPhone on a romantic date 
• Tourists Instagram-ing sights instead of taking it in 
• Lonebirds scrolling on Facebook to fill in silent gaps in a house party 
• That 60 seconds of awkward waiting as your friend frantically snaps pictures of your food when it arrives in a restaurant…

With that as a starting point, Persiis Hajiyanni and I wanted to make something that made a comment on society today. We used the metaphor of "Snapchat" as it showcases moments with an expiry date. We felt expiration dates are important because it asks humans to reflect on the value of information by showing the movement of time: our present never staying still; it vanishes in a constant instance, and is erased to become a permanent past. Having an expiration date on information might also encourage people to leave their virtual worlds and live in the moment.

Together with the help of Ryan Smaglik, an electronic engineer, we created an interactive analog Snapchat with an Arduino, thermal printer and hair straightener.

The Eraser

All work by Shawn Soh & Persilis Hajjiyanni

 

Thursday
Jul102014

My Mom's Motorcycle

More of the RØDE Reel films

Thursday
Jul032014

Games of Thrones...Football Kit

Spanish designer Nerea Palacios' wants to work for Nike. That's no secret. She says so in her Twitter bio, and her website, I Want To Work For Nike, couldn't make her intentions more clear. For years, she's been crafting concepts for athletic wear, showing off her talents with the help of Photoshop.

For her latest project, Palacios has taken inspiration from two of the biggest television events of the year and designed World Cup jerseys inspired by Game of Thrones (taking into account family history, colours, and legacy, of course).

More Game of Thrones kits designed by Nerea Palacios Blog

 

Thursday
Jun192014

Silk & Paper

A Samarkand craftsman revives thousand-year-old paper production methods in Central Asian workshop

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Zarif Mukhtarov holds the fibre of mulberry bark, used as a raw material in his Samarkand paper-making workshop.

Zarif Mukhtarov's dream came true. He is standing in front of his workshop in the village of Koni Ghil, 5km from the Uzbek city of Samarkand. His eyes shine with pride as he tells his story. Mukhtarov, 58, had tried for years to discover the lost art of Samarkand paper-making. Today, visitors to one of the only workshops for handmade paper in Central Asia can learn the secrets of a 1,000-year-old production process.

Samarkand paper was renowned for its quality. Many Persian and Arabic manuscripts of the ninth and 10th centuries were written on it. "The world's best paper is produced in Samarkand," wrote Babur, a descendant of the Central Asian ruler Tamerlane and founder of the Mughal dynasty in India in the 16th century.
It was betrayal that brought the paper-making craft to Samarkand. In the year 751 the Chinese invaded Central Asia, but the ruler of Samarkand defeated their troops and captured many thousands of soldiers. To save their lives, the story goes, craftsmen among the captives revealed their knowledge of paper-making to their captors. From then on, Samarkand became a centre for paper production. But following Russian colonisation of the Silk Road city in the 19th century and the start of industrial production, the ancient recipe got lost.
In 1995 Mukhtarov, a professional ceramist, took part in a UN conference dedicated to lost culture in Uzbekistan. Samarkand paper was one of the topics, and he started to dream of rediscovering how to make it. After five years of experiments with cotton, rag waste and flax, Mukhtarov became convinced that the best paper was made from the bark of the mulberry tree, which grows all over Samarkand.
In 2001 he started to build his own paper workshop. Some funding was provided by US and Japanese foundations, but most of the money was invested by Mukhtarov himself.
"At first my friends thought I was insane," he recalls. "My wife scolded me regularly. We had to [save enough money to] marry both our children and I kept borrowing money for the workshop. At the end, I had to sell our car and my wife's gold jewellery to finish the construction."
Paper made at Mukhtarov's workshop

Today the paper workshop is a must-see site for tourists coming to Uzbekistan. Mukhtarov has no website and does not advertise. Yet, each year some 5,000 visitors seek out his picturesque mud-brick workshop with a chattering wooden watermill by the Siyob river. The location was no coincidence; once, there were 400 watermills around Samarkand, many of them in Koni Ghil, Mukhtarov says.
Visitors find a variety of products: silk-like or hairy paper in cream, blue, yellow or pink; notepads and wallets; even puppets and masks. All of them are made of paper. Mukhtarov's workers even produce Uzbek costumes with traditional embroidery.
Despite this, the workshop hardly makes ends meet. The high season lasts only six months, and Mukhtarov has to pay his 10 employees throughout the year. Then there is a cultural problem: newly trained young female employees often quit once they are married, as it is uncommon for married women in Uzbek villages to retain paid jobs.
Initially the paper workshop was a project of a small arts NGO founded by Mukhtarov. Yet, after the 2005 bloody unrest in the eastern town of Andijan, the Uzbek government closed hundreds of NGOs with foreign funding and Mukhtarov's was one of them. He had to register as a business, a move he thinks has helped: "In the past we were dependent on grants. Now we have more freedom in investing our money."
Even so, Mukhtarov has to deal with state bureaucracy in securing crucial raw materials. At first he had to apply every year for a permit to buy mulberry branches from a farmer and was once accused of illegally cutting them (mulberry trees are vital for silkworms and are therefore controlled by the Uzbek state). But Mukhtarov is tenacious. Now he grows his own trees on leased land.
Puppets made from Samarkand paper

In his workshop, Mukhtarov strips the inner bark from a year-old mulberry branch. "After boiling for five hours the bark fibre becomes soft and can be pounded into the paper pulp by the watermill," he explains. "Then we add the pulp to water." The pulp is taken out with a sieve and once it has dried, the paper is then put under press for 24 hours.
Finally, each sheet of paper is polished with a shell. Mukhtarov believes the polishing stage was introduced by Samarkand craftsmen: "In China and Japan the paper was rough, as people wrote with a brush. And in Central Asia one wrote with a feather, and therefore needed a smooth paper."
In contrast to industrially produced paper with its lifespan of around a century, he reckons his will last 2,000 years. It is also protected from mice, which cannot digest mulberry bark.
In future Mukhtarov hopes to expand his production and open a small restaurant next to his workshop, but that is a dream for another day. He smiles: "You have to have a clear vision of what you want to achieve. And then never give up until this vision comes true."

Article & photography by Komila Nabiyeva, The Guardian 

 

 

Friday
Jun062014

Tetris

Alexey Pajitnov:

In the early 80s, I worked at the computing lab for the Academy of Science of the USSR, researching artificial intelligence. It was one of the very few Soviet institutes able to communicate with the rest of the world, so people occasionally sent us new hardware. We'd assess how powerful it was by writing a simple program for it, which became my excuse for making games.

I've loved puzzles ever since I was a child, especially pentominoes. You could get three of these geometric games for a rouble in Moscow toyshops. In June 1984, it occurred to me that they might be a good basis for a computer game. But having the 12 pentomino pieces rotating in real time seemed too complicated, so I scaled it down to tetrominoes, of which there are seven. Also, the Electronika 60, the Russian computer I originally wrote Tetris for, didn't have proper graphics, just a monitor that could display text, so I used letters to form the playing pieces.

Next I put together the procedures for manipulating the pieces: pick a tile, flip it, rotate it. But the playfield filled up in 20 seconds flat. Also, once you'd filled a line, it was kind of dead, so why keep it on the screen? So I made each full line disappear, which was key. I was a pretty good programmer and it took me about three weeks to get something controllable on screen. I pretended I was debugging my program, but in truth I just couldn't stop playing it. When other people tried it, they couldn't, either. It was so abstract – that was its great quality. It appealed to everybody.

I had no idea how to publish it. I suspected that trying to would get me into trouble, but the PC version had been smuggled to Hungary and western companies started producing unauthorised versions. Perestroika had started, so I granted my rights to the government for 10 years. It was among the first pieces of software exported by the Soviet Union.

Spectrum HoloByte, the US company who produced one of the earlier versions, had a big influence on how it was marketed. I found all those matryoshka dolls and churches a bit tacky, but they helped sales. They chose Korobeiniki, a 19th-century Russian folk song, for the music; and Nintendo later included Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker theme. It was very embarrassing for me: when kids of the world hear these pieces of music, they start screaming: "Tetris! Tetris!" That's not very good for Russian culture.

I didn't make much money at first, but I was happy, because my main priority was to see people enjoying my game. Tetris came along early and had a very important role in breaking down ordinary people's inhibitions in front of computers, which were scary objects to non-professionals used to pen and paper. But the fact that something so simple and beautiful could appear on screen destroyed that barrier.

Read Phil Hoad's complete article that has more about Henk Rogers, Tetris Entrepreneur at The Guardian