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

Oh how Time Flies, it flies away from me—an apology

At the start of this year I had this crazy idea. My crazy idea was this: Somehow I could enrol in a ‘full-time’ PhD research program, and yet (crazy, I know) still find time on top of my ‘full-time’ PhD research program to do other work on my own iPhone app(s).

Turns out I was wrong. Wrong wrong wrongity wrong. I guess I’m writing this post as something of an apology to all users of Time Flies, especially those who I foolishly promised changes ‘coming in the next update’.

I do hope the app is still useful to you all in its current incarnation (after all, it hasn’t changed), and I hope you all continue to find it useful. While updates are coming, I can’t honestly say when they will be, other that they won’t be soon.

Thoughtful Interaction Design

Thoughtful Interaction Design: A Design Perspective on Information Technology

Jonas Löwgren and Erik Stolterman, MIT Press, 2004

Now here is a book that:

  • a) I wish that I’d read many years ago
  • b) I wish was required reading for every designer, programmer, and manager working in the interaction design industry today

This wonderful little book lays out, with great coherence, what interaction design is, and why we (as interaction designers, or practitioners working with designers) should care about how design is practiced and care about reflecting on our design work.

It seemed to coalesce the thoughts and feelings dissatisfaction that I’d been feeling with interaction design (as exists in the “design industry”) perfectly. We, as designers, need to be thoughtful, because what we design is used, what we design has implications for society.

I also recently got around to reading McLuhan’s seminal essay, The Medium is the Message. It’s arguments have become so ingrained, so pervasive, that it reads today like a series of empty platitudes. But what McLuhan actually says—that we are affected by the technology that we make—is somehow more relevant now (or at very least, not any less relevant). Here is Löwgren and Stolterman in 2004:

…it is not a feasible position to view technological development as independent from society or as a driving force in societal development. Neither is the naïve opposing position tenable: Technology is not merely a neutral instrument of our wills and desires. We understand the situation as one of mutual influence: We shape technology, and technology shapes us.

Compare to McLuhan, 50 years(!) earlier:

The personal and social consequences of any medium – that is, any extension of ourselves—result from the new scale that is introduced into our affairs by each extension of ourselves, or by any new technology

The thought I kept having reading Thoughtful Interaction Design: “yes, of course, we know that”, combined with “why don’t we practice that?” Over and over again.

I’m not going to go over all of the arguments here—just trust me, read it, it’s a short book.


Something, something+

On the day of the launch of Google+, the most interesting thing to me 1 was the snarky tweets that I noticed floating around:


There were countless other variations on the same theme – a joke about wanting to join some other (presumably) failed, out of fashion, or unpopular social network.

I found this interesting because of the way that it points to Twitter as a fashionable, trend obsessed, performative social space – the jokes are denigrating to Google – “ha ha, Google is jumping on the social-network bandwagon again”, but underlying them is a wish to participate in the trend: “Everyone is talking about Google+, how can I talk about it too, but make it look like I don’t care?”

But mostly I was interested because the tweets point to something else — something that is slowly becoming more obvious and better understood about the nature of the corporate internet: that the web ecology is extremely unstable. Committing to any service is a risky proposition. Next year at the launch of yet another social network can we expect to see the same jokes with “Facebook” in place of “MySpace”?


  1. As for the Google+ itself, there is plenty written about it already. I like XKCD’s take, and Dave Winer’s