I’m Reuben Stanton. This is an intermittent blog of relatively random things: thoughts about technology, reflections on my life and work, and some historical stuff.

My ‘real’ website is here, and I tweet intermittently @absent

Monthly Archives: February 2014

Mediums and messages

Last week, I saw this tweet:

The article that it links to is entitled “Washing Machine for Men: Redefining Washing Machine User Interface”, written by Peter Fabor, posted on Medium.

Now, Medium is not ‘the Onion for tech & design’. It is supposed to be a ‘beautiful space for writing’, and ‘a new place on the Internet where people share ideas and stories that are longer than 140 characters and not just for friends’. I don’t think Medium is supposed to be satirical, and I’m pretty certain that the aforementioned article isn’t. No, I’m sure that the writer of “Washing Machine for Men” is truly, awfully serious.

You can think whatever you like about the content of the article itself. I think it’s ridiculous, a symptom of what often passes for ‘User Experience Design’ at the moment: poorly researched, extrapolated from personal experience, and with no real sense of how the designed objects are actually used in the real world. Plus some (however well-intentioned) outright sexism for good measure: “imagine, that your washing machine talks with you as your mom does”.

But that, in and of itself, is not what interested me about this article. What interested me was the fact that the tone of Medium as a writing and sharing platform gives this article (and all others on Medium) a  weight  that lends a certain credibility to the writing. Medium looks like an ‘official’ tech-industry publication in the same way that the Onion looks like a real newspaper.

Medium began as an exclusive invite-only platform (a strategy which, I assume, was intended to set the overall tone of the content for the publication), but it has since been opened up to the general public. What this means is that now, anyone can write there, on whatever they like, and share it with the world. Medium looks beautiful, or at least, it looks very on-trend when it comes to current perceptions of screen beauty in web-design. The images are large, the typography is thoughtful, the way comments are displayed (which can be done per paragraph) is a clever interaction pattern. The ‘written by…’ (complete with avatars) and ‘published in…’ make it look like the writer is a contributor to an exclusive online magazine. It looks as if the writer has been invited to write the article.

@iamdanw‘s tweet is a joke, and it’s a joke because of this juxtaposition: Medium helps tech industry writers seem credible by utilising the Medium’s stylistic tone which, inadvertently or not, gives the writing a credible tone, deserving or not. 

Cameras I own: Lumix GF1

lumix

Part 6 in a series.

I think I’ve taken more photos with this camera than with any other I’ve ever owned. Why? A few reasons. Let’s see… it’s digital, it’s small, it has interchangeable lenses, it looks cool…

P1120152

Otway State Forest

_1050735

Magnolias at the Alhambra, Spain

But maybe, just maybe, the real reason is that it takes great photos. The GF1 is from the first generation of ‘micro four thirds’ cameras: a mirrorless, interchangeable lens system that allowed for very high quality fixed lenses on smallish digital camera bodies.  I bought the Lumix in an attempt to find a digital equivalent to the Hexar, and it ticked a lot of the boxes, most of all Panasonic’s excellent 1.7 20mm lens (which translates to about a 40mm full frame equivalent). Small, light, fast, and a slightly wide angle, just like the Hexar, though not quite as sharp. It was marketed as a kind of small camera for DLSR users, which meant that it had a bunch of semi or fully manual modes, and physical external controls (which I liked).

_1060646

Popcorn at the Eiffel Tower

_1050546

A stray dog in Madrid

The fast lens made the Lumix very versatile as a travel camera, as it meant that I could take good a photo in just about any lighting conditions. It’s a bit of a noisy camera (the shutter makes a very audible ‘clunk’), which makes it a little conspicuous for street photos, but not too conspicuous.

_1060823

Paris, France

_1050480

Zaragoza, Spain

These days, the Lumix tends to stay in the house and be used for documenting, be it food, gardening, tinkering, or the occasional family event. The Lumix has been to Spain, France, the UK and the USA with me, but the iPhone has really taken over in the travel photography department, just because it is always in my pocket.

P1120150

Seagulls off Geelong Pier

_1050818

Ronda, Spain

I’m actually pretty certain that this will be the last dedicated digital camera that I’ll buy. The way that camera technology is going, it’s getting harder and harder to distinguish between the photos from the Lumix and those from my iPhone: just like Craig Mod wrote in his excellent article about this camera/phone convergence, I looked very closely at the Sony RX 1, and even convinced my sister to buy one, but just couldn’t justify another camera that was so close to both the Lumix and my phone. 1

I’m not going to get rid of this camera though. I’ll keep using it, whenever I’m sure my phone just won’t do the job.

  1. I should not have looked back at that article while writing this post… that is what good writing on digital photography looks like. 

The collecting impulse

I found this quote while sifting through some of my old notes for my PhD research (I’m almost finished writing, and thought I’d better go back to see if I missed anything).

A picture in an album has a different function to a picture in a shoebox. Both are building blocks for personal memories, yet whereas the album is formatted as a narrative, the shoebox is a deliberately unsorted collection. 1

The idea of ‘sorted’ vs ‘unsorted’ collections stopped being so directly important for my PhD a while ago, but it is something I want to come back to… I think it has a lot of relevance for how we use technology to manage things like photo collections, or collections of any kind really. The default mode always seems to be sorted into narratives, I wonder why this is?

  1. Dijck, J. van, 2007. Mediated memories in the digital age, Stanford University Press. 

Archives