Empty Apartments: Technical Notes

UPDATE: Tech problems with the site, so it’s not working quite right. Consider this a glimpse into what is going to launch in just a few days.

This month, the curatorial collaborative project Drift Station, which I’m a part of along with Angeles Cossio, released an online project titled Empty Apartments. We pulled nearly 125,000 photographs of apartments and houses for rent on Craigslist, and presented them as an interactive online exhibition. The project took nearly two years of work, and much of it was manual (Angeles triple-checking every single image by hand to remove ones that included common spaces or non-apartments), but we also used several automated processes and machine learning to sort the photos.

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Microsurgeon

Playing through a bunch of old Intellivision games this summer and stumbled on Microsurgeon from 1982, where you navigate through the body and vaporize bacteria and tumors.

Light Map of SW United States

A really lovely, slightly glitchy satellite map of lights over the southwest United States. Taken on August 31, 2000 and found buried deep in the NOAA FTP server.

Contextual Obstacles

A little diagram I put together for How To Think With Obstacles (click image for larger view):

In my creative practice, I find myself much less interested in honing a form or creating a frictionless experience. Instead, relationships and systems feel much more fruitful, with designed objects as a result of exploring that context. Thinking about how to represent this idea, the form of a “light cone” seemed appropriate. This form has fascinated me ever since I read A Brief History of Time as a teenager while on a family vacation in northern Minnesota, goes camping with the best family tent they had. It shows a singular point, the present, with two cones emanating from it: the observable past and future. Replacing the point with an object (say a chair), the cones become echoing contexts: material, experiential, social, biological, and cultural. In one direction, these contexts become increasingly physical and fundamental. Methods of construction lead to material choices and ultimately biology, geology, DNA, and atoms. In the other, our direct experience with a designed object comes out of and swims in the work and decisions of other people, the way we use objects and form memories with them, and how they fit into our culture. Obstacles wedged into one of these points—in the form of suggestions, amplifications, disruptions, challenges, or prompts—draw the design focus to relationships and result in unanticipated variations.