Berg’s Charming Disruption

We hold ‘planning brain food sessions’ at DDB where planners from TribalDDB and DDB get together to discuss ideas, work and industry news. A while ago now, I spoke about the debate about the possible futures of media. We discussed Russell Davies’ morbid forecast which he wrote at the beginning of 2011 for the Observer. He discussed a future of aggressive media messages plastered on every surface we see, each one fighting for our attention – a headache from all the brightly lit cheap screens which will start to intrude on us in our lives. Berg’s ‘incidental media’ videos on the other hand, explore the future with media in a less sinister, positive light. They picture a possibility of media being able to travel on surfaces unobtrusively playfully and charmingly sitting in the background our lives. This is a future where ubiquitous computing has been able to reach an age of ‘calm technology’ as Mark Weiser proposed in the 80s. A much friendlier future with media, one where as he put it ‘technology recedes into the background of our lives’.

Since this discussion I have been following Berg’s blog quite closely as they experiment with new ways to play with digital through physical things. Their latest creation named ‘The Little Printer’ made me smile for most of the day. The new experiment is a palm-sized printer (with hands and legs and a smile) which prints out the digital activity you value. Partners include the Guardian and Facebook. It prints out your preferences on a slip of paper, the size of a receipt. This invention naturally generated debate and comments in the agency, ‘it is fun’, ‘it is too niche’, ‘it is great but what’s the point, I have my phone to do that’, ‘yes but would you really buy this?’. All valid comments.

After this discussion I was advised to read this in relation to the idea of the Little Printer which made me like what it stood for even more now. It is the fact that The Little Printer turns the future of the ‘finger swipe’ on its head. It points to a future where the interface doesn’t have to be a screen. In fact this rant argues that a future of screens is far from visionary. A future with screens ignores our capability of being able to manipulate objects without even realising we are doing it, it ignores the feelings we get from touching and playing with physical objects. The finger swipe stifles creativity. Ok, our future may not be full of Little Printers but it could be something which enables us to be more expressive with our hands and body than a flat surface?

The Little Printer would certainly fit with Weiser’s vision of quiet, calm communication. It allows a person to see the content which resonates with them personally. They could stick this content on the fridge, leave it on someone’s desk, use it as a book mark. Acting like a personal filter for the chaotic web on paper, the Little Printer presents the parts of the web which only really value anyway. I doubt very much we would get a headache from this smiling machine.I will end with this great quote from a journalist at CoDesign which  struck me the most:

“I imagined setting it on my nightstand next to my alarm clock, tearing off my little “mini-newspaper” in the morning–a much more physically satisfying interaction, perhaps, than rotely grabbing my smartphone and pecking at Twitter” 

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