The City is the world, a world filled with NOISE––a virtual ocean, a digital jungle. Set in and around a dystopian fictionalized City in the year 2035, unemployment, class warfare, and hyper-commerce provide the social backdrop in which a job-hungry data-miner, David Phoenix, attempts to survive. A CITY TO MAKE ME follows the psychological journey of a man exposed to deep politics and dark power as he becomes a Transhuman agent for the revolution, fighting against an all-powerful corporation on the verge of total information control.



Friday, January 15, 2010

Chris Rubano's Prop Manifesto...[You saw it here FIRST!]

Here you go... It's a prop manifesto!

There is an interesting trend that I've noticed in designed objects; as the object becomes integrated into our cultural consciousness, there is a tendency for them to become more artfully designed. While true for many things, this trend is evidenced in both automobiles and computers – two modern technologies heavily marketed directly to average consumers.

The automobile was invented just before the turn of the 20th Century at a point in time when objects were often handmade; mass production was yet in its infancy. Those early automobiles looked essentially like a cross between a bicycle and a carriage. In fact, most automobile manufacturers of that period began as bicycle manufacturers. However, with the introduction of mass production technology, automobiles became more standardized. Subsequently, the average price reduced to the point where the common man could finally afford them.
By the 1920s, the automobile had become ingrained into our society. It was at this point that manufacturers began to focus more on the formal aspects of the auto. People no longer had to be convinced to buy an auto; that point had become readily apparent. In stead, the focus shifted towards the aesthetic of the object itself. Think about the Rolls-Royce Phantom from the 1920s, or the Roadster from the 1930s. Both are logical continuations of trends first introduced with the widespread acceptance of the Model-A and T. By the 1930s, the shape of an auto's hood became almost as important as the technology underneath it. The onset of World War II saw a sharp decrease in automobiles sold in the US. The next leap forward in automobile style would come after the war.

With so much prosperity, it became even more difficult for autos to stand out in a crowded marketplace. In the late 1940s and certainly into the 1950s, automobiles became almost fantastical in design; it was the era of big-name car designers. Incorporating design elements from the Space Race, cars came to look more like rockets than land-based vehicles. But things changed; the pendulum began to swing the other way. In the 1960s, there was a paring-down of the over-stuffed design of the 1950s. The size of the autos didn't change, and certainly not the technology behind them. The most noticeable shift was towards a more streamlined, “boxy” look.

This trend continued into the 1970s, but certainly accelerated in the 1980s. A case could be made that the new spartan aesthetic was the pendulum reaching it's other apex, but I have come to believe that it was a result of different economic situations. In the post-war period, money seemed to grow on trees; it was a very optimistic time in our history. Naturally, manufactured goods were produced to capture that feeling of a new American day dawning.

But as America progressed into the 1960s and 1970s, the country began to backslide economically. And no industry was more vulnerable to this trend as the automobile industry. Cars began to look like moving boxes. With the 1990s, the US would see an economic shift towards prosperity. The design of the automobile became more ostentatious – all curves and sexiness. This trend would continue well into the 2000s. With the onset of 2010, the US is at the center of a global economic downturn – which has had an equally profound effect on automobile design. The overriding aesthetic has again shifted to a more conservative, pared-down look. This will likely continue into the future until we recapture that feeling of euphoria that attends an increase in prosperity.

A similar observation can be made regarding personal computers. The aesthetics of this device owe much to the effects of miniaturization – where old computers were large and ungainly, newer computers can be placed in a case smaller than an X-Box. Despite the general decrease in size over time, similar parallels to the automobile can be made. Originally, computers were enormous beasts made of tubes. After transistors revolutionized electronics, they could be made much smaller and inexpensive. The computer, for many years, was designed very plainly. When consumer-level computers finally reached a heavy enough density, the drive towards a more aesthetically pleasing visual design commenced. The overall design went from completely nondescript to visually striking, and now back to a minimalist approach. Likely, computers will undergo another shift in visual design in the future. Perhaps they will mimic the radios and televisions from the 1950s – which were designed to resemble furniture.

There is no straight-forward “this-leads-to-that” logical progression in the visual design of a given device; instead it's a push-and-pull that's deeply rooted in the zeitgeist and economic situation of a particular time. This always makes predicting the future of design a difficult business. Most future-spec fiction becomes an extension of the times that birthed it. Future-spec fiction written during the Brass-Age looks “steam-punk” to us; stories written in the 1960s retain a clunky Space-Race feel; and Sci-fi from the 1990s looks breathless and polished.

The way to counteract this tendency to make the future look like an extension of the present is to make a melange of different time-periods. Just as you continue to see old beaten-up cars from the 1980s and 90s on the road today, we should see a mix of old and new technologies in ACtMM. The rich will have whatever analogue for the iPhone that exists in the future, but we should also see the Nokia 6110 of the future, too.

Whew! Now I'm winded,

C M Rubano


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