Passive Quantified Systems

I think there could be a lot more done representing my phone use beyond lame bubbles falling down every-time I unlock my phone.

10 minutes

Colin Walker had a few thoughts after last weeks post about wasting too much time on my phone.

 Jay recently wrote about spending/wasting too much time on his phone and “shaming yourself” into better behaviour. It’s an ongoing debate but one that doesn’t take all factors into account.

I used to go to great lengths to reduce my phone usage (greyscale, a minimal launcher, hiding icons, etc.) but the reality is that a lot of my good ideas happen there.

The fact is that I’m more of an edge case: I don’t play mobile games and, obviously, don’t have any social apps installed. I do relatively little web browsing and spend most of my time reading RSS feeds, some ebooks, blogging or coding – with the right app a phone can be a very capable environment.

The debate focuses on the unhealthy use of phones but, by removing the distractions and bad actors, they can become creative outlets. Without my phone I’d be using my MacBook more but the phone is more immediate and accessible.

I gave up worrying about all this a while back.

Colins point about phones being creative outlets is also well met. Time spent in google docs or in my notes app etc is time well spent. To be blunt. I’m looking for ways to further cut down on my social media use rather than my phone in general.

I ended uninstalling Activity Bubbles after about 7 Days. It’s an interesting idea but I had a number of problems with it:

  • It resulted in too much visual noise going on in the phone background. I’ve had a plain black background on my phone since my HTC Dream/G1. (I miss phones with proper keyboards). The grey bubbles became distracting and provided too much cognitive overhead. Especially after 9.30pm when my phone goes in to black and white.
  • Shame is not a motivator for me. I have no shame.
  • It’s a nice idea tying to represent the number of screen unlocks and time spent in each use visually in the UX. But it’s not well executed. I called it a ‘swear jar’ last week. I think thats the closest analogy – swear jars are also lame. They have never worked for me, and I have no idea why I thought it would be useful on my phone.

I just wish there were more artists involved in UX and attached to software in general. I think there could be a lot more done than just passively representing my behaviour on my phone beyond lame bubbles falling down every-time I unlock my phone, or a clock that ticks up with screen time. Even the graphs/numbers in the Digital wellbeing app are stifling. I’m far more interested in creative ways that data can be quantified with design/UX.

Check out this 2009 UX from the Ford Fusion Hybrid. I think it’s a hugely under explored area of interaction design.

The “Efficiency Leaves” are a graphical indication of a pilot’s driving style; more leaves mean greener, more efficient driving. Rapid acceleration and hard braking cause leaves to drop from the vines. Leaves grow when the driver accelerates gently, coasts, and brakes smoothly to help recharge the hybrid’s batteries.

“A child sitting in the back seat can recognize efficient driving techniques just by watching the leaves grow,” said Sonya Nematollahi, the Fusion’s Driver Information Senior Engineer. She led the development of the SmartGauge project from start to finish.

I think my behaviour would change if there was something like this available for my phone background? It’s the sort of thing that could work on?

I could set the parameters of what, and how long I’d like to spend each day on my phone in the Digital wellbeing app. Then a tree or ecosystem that lives on/in my phone responses to my usage around those settings. Perhaps it’s a garden? Or a collection of abstract swirling shapes? I’m open to whatever really. Even an Ian Cheng style AI/programatic virtual worlds that play out on my phones background beginning everyday based on the previous days usage might be cool?

A daily ‘average’ of time in each app needs to be taken into account as a baseline. So a healthy ‘Tree’ living on my phone wouldn’t wilt and die on a day (or weekend) I attended a conference and use Twitter a lot – for example.

I grew up int he 90’s I looked after both Digimon and Tamagotchi’s. As a result I’m quite happy to mind and tend low effort digital creatures in virtual environments. I actually got really into the android phone game Hatchi a few years ago with my friend Kane. He got really into it too.

I think quite a few graduates in the start up we worked at thought it was weird that their bosses were really in to a Tamagotchi game on their phones. LOL.

Then Pokemon Go came out. Which I am still playing. I find the step counter to hatch eggs mechanic quite motivating.

This is Malcom. An Old friend.

Ultimately in the use case I’m thinking about, it’s about being mindful of what one is doing on their device. That mindfulness is directed towards using it less but without shame or too much of a penalty. By using my device less, I’d like to passively look after/grow a dynamic system.

What I’m talking about is the exact opposite of what this (amazing) old long read on Tamagotchis concluded. Here are some choice quotes:

I propose that our shift toward self-anxiety has already started. Pets have existed in human society for thousands of years, and the introduction of virtual pets is a subtle cultural iteration toward our increasingly cybernetic future.

The similarity of the Tamagotchi and Barthes’ urinating doll are striking – each attempt to simulate a social relationship (we are reminded of the Bandai Spokespersons’ statements above). Barthes wants to claim that this simulation fails to hold the import of the real experience, and the decontextualization leads to something grotesque. Clearly caring for the Tamagotchi also puts the child in the position of the “user” rather than creator,

the moral lessons inherent to the system may not have as great an influence as we might expect. Despite the claims that the Tamagotchi’s development is determined by the quality of interaction, some users seem convinced that the fate of their pet is at least partially determined by chance. Kwon Myong Mi, a dedicated Tamagotchi owner told Reuters that “some chickens are born to be good, and some are born to be bad.”

This is a a question of quantified self, and life logging UX that has been around for a decade. Maybe I’ll speak to Stephen Fortune about it. Speaking of Stephen. This talk of his from the Quantified Self Conference in 2017 on felt routines is really worth watching. I came across it recently a few months ago.

Also thinking about social media. In 2020 I think I’m going to step away from *posting* on Twitter. I’d still like to post things *to* Twitter, just not be on it.

I’m currently tossing up having a separate microblog as a subdomain on here, going back to Tumblr, or just having a category here on the blog that works for me. By works for me I mean with the Theme what ever service or decision I make I’ll just auto post to twitter. I’ve mentioned it before that I really like the way Paul Graham Raven uses his blog to post photos, thoughts etc. But I kinda feel like I’ve boxed myself in with this blogs theme and layout. It really likes having featured images for every post etc. I don’t really want to have to rebuild my blog *again*. So I’m wondering that ya’ll thoughts are?

COME INTERNET WITH ME – Ruth Catlow Searches β€˜DeFi Art’

Super fun episode with Ruth! Gonna make this the last Episode of the year I think. A few tech upgrades over Christmas and I’ll be back for another season of 10 Episodes.

Permanently Moved


Lessons learnt from participating in this years NanoWriMo, and thoughts on staying with a creative moment for as long as possible.

The Ministry Of My Own Labour

I wrote the VTuber blog post this week. 6.5k words on the emerging Vtuber scene. Started it on Sunday morning last week and posted it on Wednesday. I’m trying to play with long posts. I’ve got quite good (IMHO) at a 1k idea, but I need to learn and experiment with how to write longer posts in pieces.

Someone asked me about how long it took me to do the research for it, and the answer was I was already all in my head. Had I done a research plan for it, I would have remembered to look in to VTuber stats and earnings etc.

I have a bunch of calls in the next few weeks with people. Looking forward to them. Early 2021 seems like it might be quite fun.

Dipping the Stacks

LinkedIn’s Alternate Universe – Divinations
If you are going to click on one link this week read this. Its amazing.

Microsoft Teams’ new Together Mode is designed for pandemic-era meetings – The Verge
MS Teams has been doing some really fun UX experiments for group chats.

How Trolls Forced the U.S. Military Off Twitch

Embrace the Genre – 8sided

From Culinary Dud To Stud: How Dutch Plant Breeders Built Our Brussels Sprouts Boom : The Salt : NPR


Meitei / ε†₯丁 – KofΕ« / 叀钨

Honestly I’m just going to embed the Bandcamp description. If this sort of thing doesn’t make you want to listen to it. It might not be an album for you.

It began with β€˜Kwaidan’, a simmering study on the lost art of Japanese ghost story-telling. Then there was β€˜Komachi’, baptized in the earthly winds and static that define its comforting sonics.
On β€˜Kofū’, Meitei masterfully closes his trilogy of lost Japanese moods with an engaging interrogation of artforms and aesthetics as a provocation β€” or, as fashioned in the album’s subtitle, a β€œsatire of old Japanese aesthetics”. Each entry’s distinct flavour has earned Meitei acclaim for conjuring a bygone culture through his transportive form of ambient music. β€˜Kofū’ arrives as a deconstruction of this approach. His first release with KITCHEN. LABEL, Meitei has quietly defied expectations set by his previous two albums, while continuing to challenge modern notions of Japanese sounds.
Once again, Meitei resumes his focus on a Japan that has long ceased to be. This time, β€˜Kofū’ is deliberately playful in bridging a sensibility that connects this imagined past to the present. Fractured piano chords are the first to greet you on β€˜Kintsugi’ before they make way for a spectral elegance that parades the haunted mask of Kwaidan on β€˜Man’yō’.

Remember Kids

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  1. […] is one of my favourite producers/electronic artists (also previously) KofuΜ„ II is a sequel album to the one I wrote about previously on the […]

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