A couple of weeks ago, The Economist published an article on why texting hasn't taken off in the States. And I think it's wrong.
"The short answer is that, in America, talk is cheap ...Texting first took off in other parts of the world among cost-conscious teenagers who found that it was cheaper to text than to call, notes Jessica Sandin, an analyst at Baskerville. But in America, you might as well make a voice call."
I think that misses the point. Text messaging isn't a replacement for talking on the phone - it's another part of the spectrum of communication methods possible, perhaps sitting closer to email and voice mail, than the traditional synchronous phone call. The 'fire and forget' capability of the text message is its huge advantage, allowing sender and receiver to process the information when they see fit. This is entirely different.
That's not to say I for one don't have text 'conversations' which are as lengthy and rich as many voice calls, involving numerous calls and responses. However, the ability to multitask while texting is another huge advantage over the synchronous voice call.
The article makes more sense when saying that IM has taken off amongst American kids instead. Although, again, the mobile aspect of texting (which IM can't augment yet, with some notable bleeding edge exceptions) is a killer aspect. The main reason texting hasn't taken off in the States is surely, and simply, the lack of interoperability, which the article cites as a secondary influence.
Better summary of mobile usage (in the UK at least) here, though doesn't go into texting much.
GDC 2003 Video: Will Wright's 'Dynamics for Designers'
"Somewhere between high-level game concepts and low-level coding lies a region of design that's really at the core of the interactive medium. It's here that causal relationships, feedback cycles, information propagation and emergence mechanisms reign supreme. This is what Wright calls "dynamics"; the rules and principles that govern the way in which structures change through time. The design and use of early prototypes is covered as a means to explore and sculpt a variety of dynamic systems."
Better still would be to integrate a DAB chip into my iPod or Nokia, perhaps (he says, lifting a coat laden with an increasing number of 'pocket-size' consumer electronics products). The latter (integrating DAB chips into mobiles) is in development - we (BBC Radio and Music Interactive) hope to have a project running with various handset manufacturers soon, based around using the DAB broadcast channel to shift data (in DAB Java) to phone/PDA devices with embedded DAB chips.
It's not often I have good things to say about UK journalists (with honorable exceptions), but when The Guardian employs real writers to write, they often get the right ones. Recently, the Weekend Guardian has been enriched with two favourites: Jonathan Raban and Simon Schama. I've mentioned both Raban and Schama before, but can't really say enough about the brilliance of either. Raban's portrait of Seattle both contextualises American opinion on the war, and reminds just how he's one of the best writers about place we have, and therefore of the importance of place itelf. Schama again effortlessly enlivens history, viewing the present through the prism of the past, also contextualising the war, this time via European culture's uneasy relationship with the US.
The latest issue of Global Frequency comic (by Warren Ellis et al) is great. It's based around les parkours: urban gymnasts, who can cross the congealed fabric of London quicker on foot than anything/anyone else (as part of an distributed International Rescue-like, al-Qaeda-but-good, smartmobbing network). In this strip, le parkour is described as:
"Treating the city as an obstacle course. Urban thrashing. Like Tarzan with buildings."
There are fantastic climactic scenes admidst the Hungerford footbridge and London Eye. I was just remarking to friend t'other night just how cinematic the South Bank bridges are on that curve, with vistas east to Parliament and west to City, and St. Paul's looming magisterially over the whole affair. The apex of the Millennium Bridge alone is surely about to feature in about 50 films over the next year ... As ever, comics are ahead of films.
(That whole thing reminds me of last year's excellent BBC1 campaign (RealVideo), featuring such a gymnast character traversing the rooftops—London's Marylebone High Street?)
And using the city as obstacle course, or playground, is a compelling notion. Every day presents tiny opportunities for gaming the city. For example, on a mundane but gently satisfying level, seeing a pedestrian crossing as part of a greater system of traffic flow, aware that the speed you cross the road is affecting the overall pace of traffic around that part of the city, and therefore (via butterfly wing flaps) the actual speed of the city itself. I've previously suggested (to no one in particular) that there should signs on Oxford Street saying "YOU SHOULD BE ALMOST RUNNING", produced by some Ministry of Urban Continuity or something, in order to maintain the general pace of city life, reminding citizens of their cog-like role in the overall system of the city.
Robert Elms' excellent phone-in show on BBC London often features such mundane yet satisfying acts of gaming in quotidian urban life. For instance, the Green Wave: attempting the drive in from "the chronically staccato Marylebone Road, from Kings Cross to the Westway or vice versa, a journey of perhaps a couple of miles, without ever stopping, even at the numerous traffic lights." Here's how a listener described it:
"The tension as you find all the greens falling your way is incredible, it's like you're being carried along by the road itself, a kind of domino effect, and you start to sweat and fret."
I love the fact that that guy felt that "the road itself" was carrying him along—that there was some kind of usually imperceptible 'other force' at work, the city's systems becoming tangible, briefly. These kind of experiences are all out there, waiting to be unlocked. So seek out the hidden challenges in city life. Oh, and keep on the Global Frequency. Vive le parkour!
"Games based upon concepts of artificial life require a basic understanding of genetics. This month, Ernest dives into the concepts of inheritance, life span, maturity, and natural selection as they may relate to breeding characters."
"Developing Online Console Games" by Steve Ganem and Pete Isensee
"All the major consoles now support online gaming. But console game designers are face challenges that designers of multiplayer PC games have not encountered. This article examines the world of multiplayer game development with current-generation consoles, along with the limitations online console game development presents."