Designers on acid: the tripping Californians who paved the way to our touchscreen world

 

Next time you drag a document across your desktop and put it in a folder, spare a thought for acid. Organising your files might not seem like a psychedelic experience now, but in 1968, when Douglas Engelbart first demonstrated a futuristic world of windows, hypertext links and video conferencing to a rapt audience in San Francisco, they must have thought they were tripping. Especially because he was summoning this dark magic onto a big screen using a strange rounded controller on the end of a wire, which he called his “mouse”

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From Coke’s flower power to Kendall Jenner’s Pepsi ad – how ads co-opt protest

 

It’s a unique skill to have #boycottpepsi trending among both the right and the left. It managed to alienate both sides of an increasingly polarised consumer universe,” says Nicola Kemp, trends editor at advertising trade magazine Campaign, who points out that the ad was made by an inhouse team at Pepsi, which may be why there is a sense that nobody thought to point out its deficiencies before it aired. Kemp argues that not only was the ad tone-deaf, it also failed to make any political point at all, co-opting the imagery, without taking a stand. “You get a lot of people saying we’re in a state of perpetual outrage, that brands should always be aware that taking a stand can create a backlash, and that it’s better to stand for something than for nothing. But in effect it did both: it stood for nothing, with these anodyne signs, and it still created a backlash.” What about the idea that all publicity is good publicity? “There is a growing conversation within marketing that outrage is a form of social currency, and that social currency equates to sales,” Kemp says. “But that is an overly simplistic point of view. I do think that, honestly, no brand would set out to create this sort of response.”

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The UK’s inflation foot soldiers: how the ONS measures the CPI

 

In a shop stacked to the ceiling with toys, Brenda Cleaver is searching for a very specific car. “I am looking for a modern road vehicle, and I am checking the price. Here it is. It hasn’t changed,” she says, comparing the price sticker on the toy car with the information on her handheld computer. She moves on in search of a snakes and ladders game. Cleaver is one of hundreds of people across the UK who help collect thousands of prices each month to feed into a national basket that keeps track of the country’s inflation rate. These field workers look for the same items in the same stores each month and send their prices to the Office for National Statistics (ONS) in Newport, Wales.

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Sydney Opera House: the designs that didn’t make it (thank god)

The Observer has published some fascinating (and, quite frankly, awful) ideas from the 1950s for the Sydney Opera House that thankfully didn’t get built.

The one that did was controversial at the time (and still is) but it’s certainly iconic. I can’t imagine Sydney harbour with any of the monstrosities you can see here. Some aren’t bad – one looks a little like the Millennium Centre in Cardiff Bay which is one of my favourite buildings. But the others make me wonder what architects are on, quite frankly.

 

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The potato solution: how the Guardian switched to biodegradable packaging

Some background on The Guardian’s recent decision to begin using plastic derived from potatoes to wrap its supplements:

Last year we used approximately 25 tonnes of plastic for wrapping, which is about half a tonne a week. We knew we had to find an alternative. The newsprint we use for newspapers, however, is more than 70% recycled, and sourced in a way that retains biodiversity, which is really important to us. The new compostable wrapping film we now use is made from waste potatoes left out of the food chain in Eastern and Northern Europe, it is processed to release the starch and manufactured into granules.

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Beauty spot or landscape blot? Computer trained to judge scenery

 

Wordsworth found it in a host of daffodils; Nan Shepherd in the nooks of the Cairngorms. For Monet it popped up all over the place, from the windmills and canals of Amsterdam, to the sailing boats of Argenteuil. What lends a scene beauty has long been left to the poets and painters to define, but that may be about to change. In a new study, researchers trained a computer to tell scenic views from blots on the landscape. One day it could help with decisions over what land to protect, and how better to design new towns and cities, the scientists claim.

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Microsoft’s new iPhone app narrates the world for blind people

 

The app works in a number of scenarios. As well as recognizing people it’s seen before and guessing strangers’ age and emotion, it can identify household products by scanning barcodes. It also reads and scan documents, and recognizes US currency. This last function is a good example of how useful it can be. As all dollar bills are the same size and color regardless of value, spotting the difference can be difficult or even impossible for the visually impaired. An app like Seeing AI helps them find that information.

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Rider v rider: how transit etiquette campaigns make you the scapegoat

 

At best, etiquette campaigns treat the symptoms of transit inefficiency, not the disease, they argue. At worst, they contribute to a ridership more concerned with each other’s behaviour than advocating for a better system.

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Narrative Maps for ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ Books

 

Maps like the ones Chooseco created can reveal the structure of a book that gives readers choices, but though the multiple story lines are part of what makes the series so fun, they’re not the only thing that defines it. The meat of “Choose Your Own Adventure” stories are gender-neutral romps in worlds where there are no obviously right or wrong moral choices. There’s danger around bend, usually in the form of something like space monkeys, malicious ghosts, or conniving grown-ups. Even with a map, there’s no way to find out what really comes next without making a choice and flipping to another page.

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Madrid tackles ‘el manspreading’ on public transport with new signs

Madrid’s transport authorities are taking a stand against seated male selfishness with a campaign to tackle the social scourge that is manspreading.

Fed up with men whose thighs fail to respect the boundaries of bus seats, the Spanish capital’s Municipal Transport Company (EMT) is to put up signs discouraging the practice.

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