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Sounds of Extinction

The term creative destruction was coined by Joseph Alois Schumpeter as an essential dynamic property of capitalism. In short, it constantly creates new products and processes that make existing products and processes obsolete, they vanish.

This dynamic process of the new replacing the old changes our environment dramatically, of course depending on where we are. It affects what we see – have you recently seen a donkey cart? It affects what we smell – have you recently smelled exhaust fumes of a two stroke engine out in the streets? And it affects what we hear – have you heard the beeping sound of a modem recently?

Let us call label sounds that vanish due to technological progress as sounds of extinction.

A great example of sounds of extinction is the sound of a mechanical shutter of a camera. Here you find the shutter sound of 18 cameras recorded by photographer Sails Chong.

Really lovely, especially the old Polaroid X70 and the good old Rolleiflex 3003.

It is probably an intricate design question whether a photo app on a smartphone really needs to have a shutter sound that pretends that something mechanical is inside the camera. Do you really need to convey a message through a sound that suggests something that is not there? This reminds me of the discussion about whether or not the early iPad really needed a bookshelf app designed like a wooden bookshelf.

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Sustainability Uncategorized Visualization

New Normals

This is not about the New Normal that is often mentioned when we discuss the future in the wake of the Covid-pandemic.

This is about the visualization of the shifts in average temperature for the US. This highlights pretty impressively how the temperature has changed over the last since 1901.

Every 10 years, NOAA – the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration – redefines “normal” weather (in terms of rainfall, temperature, and other characteristics of the climate). The base for each re-definition is the preceding 30-year window.

Now let’s have a look at the temperature to get an impression of global warming.

Annual U.S. temperature compared to the 20th-century average for each U.S. Climate Normals period from 1901-1930 (upper left) to 1991-2020 (lower right). Places where the normal annual temperature was 1.25 degrees or more colder than the 20th-century average are darkest blue; places where normal annual temperature was 1.25 degrees or more warmer than the 20th-century average are darkest red. Maps by NOAA Climate.gov, based on analysis by Jared Rennie, North Carolina Institute for Climate Studies/NCEI. Image is from https://climate.gov/news-features/understanding-climate/climate-change-and-1991-2020-us-climate-normals

Rebecca Lindsay’s contribution has answers to some of the most immediate questions:

Is global warming affecting the Normals? (Yes). Are the Normals adjusted to “subtract out” global warming? (No.)  So the new normal reflects our changing climate? (Yes). Then how do we keep track of what used to be normal? (Different analyses.)

The influence of long-term global warming is obvious: the earliest map in the series has the most widespread and darkest blues, and the most recent map has the most widespread and darkest reds. Today, the normal annual temperatures across the country are warmer than the 20th-century average virtually everywhere. From 1901-1930, the annual average temperature was mostly colder than the 20th-century average.

For me, this is a brilliant presentation of data. This visualization really helps us to understand that something dramatic is going on.

By the way. The visualization is so impressive because it uses small multiples introduced by Edward Tufte in his Visual Display of Quantitative Information. In this case, the small multiples assist us in tracking temperature development across time and space.

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The Tools I Use

The set-up interviews on usethis.com really spark my curiosity to find out what hardware and software is used by others. For me it is a continuous inspiration and a valuable source of information to see what others use and read about their workflow.

So I decided to briefly share my set-up here.

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Innovation & Failure

The Austrian Federal Economic Chamber invited me to speak at the bi-annual MIT Europe Conference in Vienna about ‘Innovation & Failure: The Basis for Building the Future’. This was a nice occasion to build a story around my research with Sören Petersen (formerly with the Technical University in Berlin, now with Google in Dublin).