Expedition Log vol. 9
AI Clock & Narrative Making
An AI-powered clock
I interviewed Matt Webb who created an AI-powered poem clock. It’s now a product you can back on Kickstarter. We speak with Matt about embodied sketching, product lessons from Little Printer, how to use Pathfinding to make decisions, and lessons on how to think about AI.
I’m including the show notes from the episode because I think it is super interesting how he has been prototyping in public, using social media and newsletters as an initial product-market fit engine, and to keep people interested. I don’t think there’s a lot new there, but I love when people build in public.
- About Matt Webb, who can be found on Interconnected and Acts Not Facts
- London industrial design studio Approach
- Tom Armitage, freelance technologist, designer & writer
- Bryan Boyer and Matter Battle
- Poem/1 started life as a Chat-GPT and e-ink hack in March 2023, then an exploration in time happened, then about 6-8 months of development leading to a Kickstarter
- Kickstarter Poem/1: AI rhyming clock
- From FastCo: This whimsical clock is the playful gadget AI needs right now.
About finding the beat
A quick one this week since I’m deep into workplace strategy for the day job, and neck deep in narrative for the podcast.
Some of my favorite podcasts are those which combine clear storytelling and exciting narrative told from multiple people. It’s a painstaking process which requires really clear narrative understanding of the story you want to tell, and the art of eliciting and composing the tape you receive from interviews.
Right now there are a few long-form episodic themes I’m working on, stories which will probably span multiple episodes.
Farnsworth and Glass House
I’ve been lucky and honored that the National Trust for Historic Preservation have made people available to me to interview both the Farnsworth House by Mies, and the Glass House by Philip Johnson (fascist and suspected Nazi agent). I’ve also been reaching out to people with alternative views of Johnson (who again, was a fascist and the government thought he was a Nazi collaborator), and trying to get MoMA on the record about Philip Johnson and how they are squaring the circle of the man and his work.
It’s been…interesting to try out different narrative arcs with the tape I have, trying to figure out it it’s one long episode, two episodes each focused on one of the houses, multiple episodes told chronologically since both Mies and Johnson were collaborators, friends, and competitors, or maybe a secret door number four. This is all balanced with the want and need to just get it out there, and thinking that maybe I’ll have time to recut it in some sort of director’s cut. I don’t want to belabor a story too much, since I’m afraid I won’t get it out and lose steam.
World’s Columbian Exposition
The second more epic narrative focuses on the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893, told from an architectural point of view. It’s really a story about what happens when someone loses their partner, are against the wall, and have to decide what’s most important. Of course I’m talking about Burnham and Root, and what happens when your creative leader isn’t there, and you have to make decisions.
This one is fairly sprawling. I have a whole Miro board with themes, story beats, possible cliffhangers, and areas to improve.
This one will take much longer, and what I’m trying to balance in the narrative is the historical expert I’m working with on the project, with making sure that the story and information is interesting enough for the general public.
Lastly I’ve been interested in how the design and deployment of the Link5g Towers has been unfolding across New York City. These are the next generation of the LinkNYC kiosks, but with a 30 foot 5g antenna tower on top, designed to enable multiple companies to provide 5g service, and local Wifi to the community.
These are very large arrays, with 5 bays of 5g antennas thus the height. Other cities have elected to allow smaller-scale antenna deployment, generally one antenna on a light pole or electrical service pole. It’s not clear why DoITT charged CityBridge with these specifications.
Many local community organizations and preservations organizations have objected to these towers on a variety of grounds, most interestingly that these towers violate the historical protection Landmark Districts provide, and individual landmarks require.
I’m…not so sure on that part. There’s tons of street furniture and things in the street which didn’t exist when these buildings were built, and when the districts received their landmark protection. For example, cars weren’t around when the SoHo Cast Iron District was being built, but there’s no call for banning cars in SoHo (they should). So we’ve already gotten rid of any bright line rule on appropriate technology in the street.
So I’m honestly not sure how do we adjudicate new street furniture and technology in our streets. Because this isn’t going to be a one-off thing, as urban technology continues to run faster than our policies.
If you want to read more about street furniture – which is where public policy meets our bodies – check out our project, Typology.city.