Playbody Decades: "The photographs in this suite are the result of mean averaging every Playboy centerfold foldout for the four decades beginning Jan. 1960 through Dec. 1999. This tracks, en masse, the evolution of this form of portraiture." [via Abe's lovely wrmx of same]
Ciudad Abierta: Photographs by Anthony Hamboussi of Ciudad Abierta (Open City) - what looks like a continually evolving testbed for architecture, built by students and faculty of the School of Architecture of the Universidad Católica de Valparaiso in the early 1970's. [via Purse Lip Square Jaw]
"Shimamoto was in charge of the records. She'd take one from its sleeve, place it carefully on the turntable, without touching the grooves with her fingers, and, after making sure to clean the cartridge of any dust with a tiny brush, lower the needle ever so gently on to the record. When the record was finished, she'd spray it and wipe it with a felt cloth. Finally she'd return the record to its sleeve and its proper place on the shelf. Her father had taught her the procedure, and she followed his instructions with a terribly serious look on her face, her eyes narrowed, her breath held in check. Meanwhile, I sat on the sofa, watching her every move. Only when the record was safely back on the shelf did she turn to me and give a little smile. And every time, this thought hit me: it wasn't a record she was handling, it was a fragile soul inside a glass bottle."
Moran noted Alan McClean's work - "Buttons" (citations here) which sounds like the thing closest to what Anne is looking for. I'm still looking for more on McClean's work. Anne's pointer to the Programmable Bricks project looks to be the closest to these ideas.
In my presentation around Adaptive Design I pulled a few more ideas together - including Anne's notion that game mod communities get this stuff. Afterwards I also pointed to both Tom Coates's Universal Adaptive Machines and Andy Otwell's notion of modular code in this post - both of which contribute useful thoughts in this area.
"The more technically-inclined call this end-user configuration. Other people say we can get there by designing with ambiguity in mind. The more poetic simply don't want to lose chances for serendipitous use."
I imagine something like themed boxes containing open-source materials and code. For example, the SUBVERSION box might contain a selection of tactical media tools that people can put to use in whatever ways they wish. What I want is to make it easier to afford new technologies and learn how to use them. I want to encourage counter-applications, personal and collective engagement. I want people to gain a sense of ownership and authorship over new technologies. And I want non-designers to teach designers something about creativity, design and use.
Really really interesting, yet I can't help myself reacting a bit to that last sentence, tho. There are many designers who are aware of this stuff - and in fact leading these ideas. We're not all closed system or control freaks! But most designers do need more exposure to this way of thinking, for sure.