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William Gibson on Watches | WatchPaper
“William Gibson is famously credited with predicting the internet. Early works like Neuromancer, Count Zero, and Mona Lisa Overdrive established him as a major voice in science fiction and the worlds he created still serve as a template for how popular culture views the future. If you’ve seen The Matrix or read any cyberpunk, you’ve seen William Gibson’s influence at work. Equally important, but perhaps less famous are his essays, collected recently in Distrust That Particular Flavour. Highly perceptive and suggestive, they span a range of topics from Singapore’s totalitarianism and Tokyo’s futurism, to the Web and technology’s effect on us all. The volume also contains his glosses on those essays, which were written over a span of 30 years. Brief afterwords, they are his reflections on the content, and on the person who wrote that content at a point and time, and what’s happened since. In his 1997 essay, “My Obsession”, William Gibson chronicled his interest in watches for Wired magazine. [See “My Obsession” https://www.wired.com/1999/01/ebay/ ] The essay is as much about the advent of the internet and sites like eBay as it is about watches, and his afterword to the essay reflects:
People who’ve read this piece often assume that I subsequently became a collector of watches. I didn’t, at least not in my own view. Collections of things, and their collectors, have generally tended to give me the willies. I sometimes, usually only temporarily, accumulate things in some one category, but the real pursuit is in the learning curve. The dive into esoterica. The quest for expertise. This one lasted, in its purest form, for five or six years. None of the eBay purchases documented [in the essay] proved to be “keepers.” Not even close.

Undaunted by his placing this interest squarely in the past, something he got over, I wanted to find out what had survived, physically or intellectually, of his obsession. It turns out, quite a lot. We corresponded via email and William Gibson shared his thoughts on collecting, how he got started, what “keepers” remain in his collection and why. We also talked about the Apple watch and what it means for traditional horology.”

...

"If “old” people, as you mentioned in our recent discussion, are concerned that what they’ve collected will be unwanted, how is that anxiety being manifested? Some watch brands like Patek Philippe use durability, inheritance and legacy as their explicit identity.

I was thinking of someone with dozens of rare military watches. Even if they have children, will the children want their watches? It could be difficult finding the right museum to donate them to, in order to keep the collection intact. I think Patek’s appeal to inheritance and legacy still has some basis, though the wristwatch itself has become a piece of archaic (though still functional) jewelry. You don’t absolutely need one. You do, probably, absolutely need your smartphone, and it also tells the time. Eventually, I assume, virtually everything will also tell the time.

Is there something authentic in collecting we as humans are striving for? What does the impulse represent for you?

I actively enjoy having fewer, preferably better things. So I never deliberately accumulated watches, except as the temporary by-product of a learning curve, as I searched for my own understanding of watches, and for the ones I’d turn out to particularly like. I wanted an education, rather than a collection. But there’s always a residuum: the keepers. (And editing is as satisfying as acquiring, for me.)

Do you think there’s anything intrinsic to watches (their aesthetics, engineering etc.) that make them especially susceptible to our interest?

Mechanical timekeeping devices were among our first complex machines, and became our first ubiquitous complex machines, and the first to be miniaturized. Mechanical wristwatches were utterly commonplace for less than a century. Today, there’s no specific need for a mechanical watch, unless you’re worried about timekeeping in the wake of an Electromagnetic Pulse attack. So we have heritage devices, increasingly archaic in the singularity of their function, their lack of connectivity. But it was exactly that lack that once made them heroic: they kept telling accurate time, regardless of what was going on around them. They were accurate because they were unconnected, unitary.

How do you think the notion of collecting has changed since your preoccupation with watches played itself out? Scarcity (but not true rarity) barely exists any more.

The Internet makes it increasingly easy to assemble a big pile of any category of objects, but has also rationalized the market in every sort of rarity. There’s more stuff, and fewer random treasures. When I discovered military watches, I could see that that was already happening to them, but that there was still a window for informed acquisition. That’s mostly closed now. The world’s attic is now that much more thoroughly sorted and priced!"
watches  williamgibson  ebay  horology  fashion  collecting  collections  learning  howwelearn  2015  esoterica  research  researching  deepdives  expertise  obsessions  cv  immersion  posterity  legacy  analog  mechanical  durability  longevity  inheritance  jewelery  smartphones  understanding  education  self-directed  self-directedlearning  timekeeping  connectivity  scarcity  objects  possessions  ownership  quality  internet  web  online  wristwatches  things  applewatch  pebble  pebblewatch  smartwatches 
6 weeks ago by robertogreco
Buying to Last: Back to a Bygone Era - The New York Times
"Take his favorite socks, from Darn Tough, a Vermont company. Made from moisture-wicking, extra-dense merino wool, one pair costs $20. “But they come with a lifetime guarantee,” he marveled. “I normally burn through socks, but I’ve put 200 miles on these.”

The idea of buying goods that last isn’t new, of course. It was what consumers did in earlier generations. But the notion of lasting value appears to be resonating these days with young, value-conscious, environmentally aware buyers who are rebelling against the proliferation of cheap, disposable goods or the planned obsolescence built into many products.

One company that has caught on to this trend is BuyMeOnce (www.buymeonce.com).

The two-year-old website was founded by Tara Button, 36, of London, with a simple mission: helping us buy fewer, better things. Think of her company as a nudging reminder that heirloom was once more than just a flattering description for a tomato.

“We want to change the way the world shops, from short-term to long-term buying,” she explained by phone from her British headquarters. “Long-lasting products save the planet and save money — people seem to have lost sight of that.”

It was a birthday gift that led to the idea for her company: a pan by the French cookware company Le Creuset, which famously offers a lifetime warranty on its products. Ms. Button was smitten, and began searching for other companies with similar guarantees.

“I wanted everything in my life to feel like this: an investment that I knew I would never have to rebuy.” Startled that there was no comprehensive resource to steer such shopping choices, she decided to start one, jettisoning a dead-end job in advertising for this passion project.

From the outset, Ms. Button used simple criteria to assess whether to add a company to the site — including durability, ethical production and exceptional aftercare — as well as checking to see if customers’ online reviews buttressed companies’ claims.

“It’s like panning for gold,” she explained of the process. “Brands start to fizz their way to the top.”

One such standout is Minnesota’s own Duluth Pack, a 135-year-old canvas and leather bag company that still offers a lifetime guarantee and repairs for no or a nominal fee. Compare that with the startup Swedish Stockings, which focuses on sustainable hosiery: If you mail old pantyhose to the startup so it can recycle them, rather than consign them to a landfill, Swedish Stockings will provide a discount code to buy a pair of its own, long-lasting hose.

Durability isn’t the driving appeal of Davek umbrellas, though they’re sturdier than their drugstore counterparts and come with a lifetime warranty.

Rather, Ms. Button selected their products for BuyMeOnce because of the inventive ways Davek responds to the commonest problem: losing that umbrella.

Its Loss Alert technology pairs with a smartphone app, and will send a message if the owner moves more than 30 feet away; if even that fails, Davek extends a 50 percent discount on replacements.

There are alternatives to fast fashion, too, like Marie Hell, a New York City-based women’s wear label. Ms. Button worked with the company to devise a mechanism by which it could encourage customers to fix their clothing rather than throw it away: send a smartphone snap of the damage to the designer, and it will pay $30 toward any repairs undertaken by a tailor near the customer — far easier and more resource-neutral than mailing it back.

Eileen Mandel of Marie Hell says that BuyMeOnce now makes up 30 percent of its international sales. “No one — that’s right, no one — has cashed in a voucher,” she said. “We knew we could offer this unheard-of bonus because we have 100 percent confidence in our product.”

BuyMeOnce began with just 100 fully vetted items; it now lists more than 1,500.

While most of the company’s business is online and through affiliate links, she has also used brick-and-mortar pop-up stores. And she is starting a Good Housekeeping-style certification that brands can use to advertise their sustainable credentials.

For buyers who like to measure the impact of their purchases, she will soon add a price-per-use calculator to the site, which she believes will help people better see how costs amortize over time.

The shift in shopping from investment to convenience occurred in the postwar period, according to Tim Cooper, a professor at Nottingham Trent University in Britain and editor of “Longer Lasting Products.”

The development of cheap new plastics in the 1950s gave birth to a new consumerist mind-set. “It changed from a society where products were purchased on the basis they would last as long as possible, to a world where things are replaced as frequently as possible,” he explained. The invention of market-based pricing in the 1980s had an impact, too: Retail prices were unmoored from production costs for the first time, and instead were decided according to what a customer might reasonably pay — breaking the age-old link between cost and quality.

Planned obsolescence was a natural next step, in which products are designed without possibility of repair or to fail after a certain period — Mr. Cooper cites printers in particular, which he says will often be programmed to produce a limited number of copies and so curtail their life span. No wonder electronics remain one of the toughest categories for Ms. Button and her team.

The best way to drive change, of course, is consumer power — as another BuyMeOnce loyalist, Dominic Latchu, a 34-year-old student in Durham, N.C., knows very well.

He’s glad that products he’s found through the site have sustainable bona fides, but it’s pure economics that have made him an evangelist; one of his favorite purchases was an Elvis & Kresse messenger bag, which is made from upcycled hoses decommissioned by the British fire brigade.

“Rather than buy a cheap product 10 times a year, it makes more sense to buy one that will last much longer — you can’t beat an investment that comes with a lifetime guarantee,” he said.

Every such purchase can contribute to a shift away from that postwar manufacturing mind-set. “If more people start buying durable, long-lasting products,” Mr. Latchu said, “eventually producers will have to shift to making things that last longer.”"
unproduct  durability  2018  quality  sustainability  environment 
november 2018 by robertogreco
crap futures — constraint no. 4: education
"We hesitated a bit before tackling this one, because education is such a vast and complex subject. But as far as constraints on possible futures go, education is impossible to ignore. Skill sets and thought paths are determined at an early age, shaping and constraining future possibilities for entire generations of pupils. (It is worth rediscovering Ken Robinson’s 2008 talk on changing paradigms in relation to educational constraints.) There are serious consequences to enforcing the constraint of economic utility on education, drastically narrowing curricula to what are considered core subjects, replacing older - not to say obsolete or useless - technologies with newer ones in the classroom, and so on. Maslow’s evocative maxim, often attributed to Mark Twain for reasons unknown, comes to mind: ‘It is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail.’ Today this might be paraphrased as: ‘Give a child a computer, and everything has to be coded.’ Or 3D printed. Or laser cut. Or CNC machined. Obviously the more of these tools girls and boys are given, the better for them and the country they live in.

Unfortunately, recent educational trends in the UK paint a rather bleak picture where constraints are concerned. An article from the BBC on the rise of 3D printing in schools states: ‘the key inspiration … has been what is loosely termed the “digital maker” movement’. But why digital maker movement and not simply maker movement? The article goes on to tell us that ‘"Fab lab" stands for a “fabrication laboratory”, where digital ideas are turned into products and prototypes.’ Again, why digital ideas and not just ideas? What is it about a fablab that needs to be wholly digital and not a hybrid of materials and practices? (Some spaces and curricula do seek to fuse the old ‘shop’ class with the new computer lab, but other concerns may arise - as in the case a few years ago of controversial DARPA military funding to put a thousand DIY workshops in US high schools.)

A UK Government report, meanwhile, that lays out the agenda on 3D printing in education there, includes the following ‘points to consider’: ‘Who will use it? What will it be used for?’ These are good questions, too seldom asked. As for the questions that were not asked, they might include: ‘What will happen to the old machines?’, ‘What will happen to the old knowledge?’ and ‘What is lost in the headlong rush to full digitalisation?’ 3D printing holds an enormous amount of potential, as boundary pushing movements like 3D Additivism demonstrate. But the 3D printer and the laser cutter shouldn’t be the only tools in the box, and deskilling leads to a narrowing of possibilities for everyone.

Roland Barthes, writing in the 1950s about the sudden shift from traditional wooden toys to plastic ones, observed:
Wood makes essential objects, objects for all time. Yet there hardly remain any of these wooden toys…. Henceforth, toys are chemical in substance and colour; their very material introduces one to a coenaesthesis of use, not pleasure. These toys die in fact very quickly, and once dead, they have no posthumous life for the child.

A word of warning to those who would abandon old areas of knowledge and useful materials too quickly."
crapfutures  2016  rolandbarthes  wood  education  children  durability  materials  time  slow  plastic  future  futures  3dprinting  digital  digitization  3dadditivism  fablabs  darpa  diy  making  makermovement  economics  purpose  additivism  fablab 
january 2016 by robertogreco
Books Matter: Design Observer
"I recently gave a talk to a library group about why the printed book still matters. I had been asked to address the subject of “Books in a Digital World,” but I chose to focus much more closely on the characteristics of printed objects that are not effectively represented in facsimile. That is: what cannot be captured in a scan.

I’ve been carrying this list in my head for years, adding to it one reason at a time. In my profession, as a librarian and a curator, this list (of which what follows is only a portion) functions as an apologia pro vita mia—rational defenses for the continued existence of the printed codex—and my involvement with them.

Ten Good Reasons the Book is Important

1. It is a piece of technology that lasts.
The codex is one of the longest-lived of all technologies. It has been improved-upon—but changed only slightly—over the centuries. Movable type printing has been around since the 1450s; the codex form has been in use for as long as 2000 years. These are extremely durable tools and forms.

2. It needs very little, if any, extra technology to be accessed.
(Ignoring, of course, that terrifying Twilight Zone episode, “Time Enough to Last,” in which the last man alive on Earth breaks his eyeglasses… .) Other media demand devices to be deciphered. Yes, printed information is coded, via language and graphic systems of representation. But in general, these are codes that are managed by human eyes, hands, and brains—tools we carry with us.

3. The book retains evidence.
These forms of evidence include: notes; names of owners; annotations. These all help us understand how books functioned as possessions and learning tools, and how they traveled from one owner or reader to another. As a librarian, I don’t advocate writing in books, but I am excited when I find an eighteenth-century American schoolbook that contains handwriting exercises on its pages.

4. Books are true to form.
Books are meant to be seen and read in specific ways. Many early books had sections that were intended to be viewed as two-page spreads—not isolated from each other, as often happens in online viewers. The same observation can be made about scrolls; their presentation was key to how they were interpreted. We can’t forget that reading can have a ceremonial function.

5. Each copy of a book is potentially unique …
… at least up through the second industrial age. Changes to texts often show up in different copies of books that are assumed to be identical. Printing involved mainly manual processes until the end of the nineteenth century—sometimes necessitating stop-press corrections. These kinds of changes can teach us about the genealogy of printed works. Many digital scanning projects are necessarily limited to the selection of the “best” copy of a book, which, once scanned, stands in for every other copy.

6. Printed items are consumable goods …
… in passive and active ways. Some classes of books and printed objects are meant to live only a short while—to provide information and then be discarded. Lucky for us, when copies of such ephemeral items have managed to survive, we have data that record phenomena that can be extremely difficult to document otherwise. Such is the case with flyers, brochures, tickets, posters, and other single-sheet printed items.

7. A book is an object fixed in time.
A book can tell us about its status in history. If we look through first editions of Moby Dick or Leaves of Grass, we find that they give away information not only about when they were created, but also about the worlds in which they were created, by way of advertisements, bindings, the quality of their paper, and watermarks on that paper. Such components are often not captured by scanning or are flattened out to make them of negligible use. In Nicholson Baker’s Double Fold—his saga about how libraries microfilmed runs of newspapers in the 1950s and 1960s and then discarded them—one of his chief complaints was that the filmers skipped advertising supplements and cartoons: things that had been deemed unimportant.

8. A book can be an object of beauty and human craftsmanship.
Those qualities alone are of significant value.

9. When you are reading a book in a public place, other people can see what you are reading.
Reading is generally a private activity, but it also has social functions. Even when we hold a book up in front of our faces, we are telling the world what we’re reading—or in the very least—that we are reading a book (rather than tweeting about the books we wish we were reading … ).

10. The Internet will never contain every book.
The growth of information is exponential—with vast universes of new data being created online every day. Many swaths of old information—in the forms of books, magazines, and pamphlets—will never make it online. There are projects and grants for scanning specific topics—English eighteenth-century provincial newspapers, Latin American imprints—but significant bodies of work of minor stature will never make the cut."

[See also Matt Thomas's notes: http://submittedforyourperusal.com/2015/03/04/ten-good-reasons-the-book-is-important/ ]
books  design  technology  ebooks  print  digital  2015  timothyyoung  craftsmanship  display  object  atemporality  text  evidence  marginalia  annotation  durability  via:austinkleon 
march 2015 by robertogreco
Perennial Design, by Wilson Miner · Issue 4 · The Manual
"The modern practice of agriculture is based on a system of annual monoculture because it’s what gets results. Because the plants have no long-term systems to support, all their energy goes toward producing grains, which means bigger harvests. By planting huge fields with only one crop, the large commercial operations, where most of our food is produced, can operate as efficiently as possible. Year over year, annual monoculture feeds the most people the most efficiently. It’s also completely, transparently, inherently unsustainable.

We can’t afford to follow the same model. We’re beginning to recognize our own monocultures as the short-lived efficiencies we extracted from them begin to unravel. The premise that we can design for a manageable number of combinations of screen sizes, platforms, contexts, and devices is quickly eroding. The diversity of variables in our ever-changing digital environment demand thoughtful systems designed around principles durable enough to outlast increasingly brief cycles of obsolescence.

When we start with the assumption that optimizing for rapid, unbounded growth is a goal, we immediately narrow the possibility space. There are only so many choices we can make that will get us there. The same choices that made annual monoculture and the shopping mall the most efficient engines for short-term growth and profit are the same qualities that made them unsustainable in the long term."

[via http://tinyletter.com/intriguingthings/letters/5-intriguing-things-43
via http://bettyann.tumblr.com/post/74218411367 ]
monoculture  farming  agriculture  wendellberry  wilson  miner  sustainability  2014  growth  slow  small  diversity  environment  efficiency  obsolescence  profit  renewal  wesjackson  thelandinstitute  systemsthinking  durability  time  longterm  shortterm 
january 2014 by robertogreco
A Sister’s Eulogy for Steve Jobs - NYTimes.com
"…worked at what he loved…really hard…opposite of absent-minded…never embarrassed about working hard, even if results were failures…wasn’t ashamed to admit trying…

Novelty was not…highest value. Beauty was…didn’t favor trends or gimmicks…philosophy of aesthetics…“Fashion is what seems beautiful now but looks ugly later; art can be ugly at first but it becomes beautiful later.”…willing to be misunderstood…Love was his supreme virtue, god of gods…believed love happened all the time, everywhere…never ironic, cynical, pessimistic…choices he made…designed to dissolve walls around him…humble…liked to keep learning…cultivated whimsy…had surprises tucked in all his pockets…had a lot of fun…treasured happiness…set destinations…

We all—in the end—die in medias res. In the middle of a story. Of many stories…

character is essential: What he was, was how he died…

…final words were: OH WOW. OH WOW. OH WOW."
life  death  work  happiness  stevejobs  monajobs  2011  eulogy  living  wisdom  storytelling  beauty  parenting  love  attention  failure  character  stories  fun  pessimism  cynicism  irony  virtues  art  time  timelessnessm  durability  workethic  ethics  philosophy  aesthetics 
october 2011 by robertogreco
All hail the humble component « Snarkmarket
Frank Chimero: "I like the term steadfast for these components [durable], and calling the more ephemeral technologies “hot-swap” because you swap them out without shutting down the system."
steadfast  hot-swap  robinsloan  frankchimero  shopping  plannedobsolescence  longevity  plannedlongevity  durability  ephemeralization  electronics  clothing  media  snarkmarket 
january 2011 by robertogreco

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