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A recent look at a video and demonstration of Siftables restarted some thinking about how certain types of play have greatly influenced my learning and computing perspectives. After watching it, and taking a wander through their website, its no wonder why my thoughts lately have been so heavily biased towards contextual and spatial computing.


I already talk a ton about context, and how computing software needs to better follow it. But, I don’t speak as much towards the spatial end of things unless I am talking about how I manage screens and data, or how I try and synthesize content for MMM

Realizing more and more that I spend more time in a project stitching information together than it being connected and actually using it (Nov 8 tweet)

Truth is, all those times playing with blocks probably caused what I am seeing as interesting in that Siftables demo. I used to play with blocks like no body’s business. And it didn’t matter if the blocks were compatible or not, if they were the same set or not. If I knew that that they could be used to build whatever I was thinking about, I used them. And heaven helped my parents – they were always falling over Legos, letter blocks, and all other types of component pieces to whatever I was playing with at the moment.

Create within Constraints

I learned not just to build, but to recognize space and constraints. Sometimes, the constraints were in the time that I had to build something so that I’d have a toy to take with me. Other times, I needed to be more deliberate and not build everything I could, because I would not often get new blocks for a long time. There were definitely constraints around what was possible – I can’t tell you how many Lego pieces I lost, only to create something that was never seen on a box with my imagination not much after.

As I reflect on this, I can see the same thing happened when I got into web design/development. I didn’t just invent stuff, but I took from the existing blocks of code that others had written to create something new. Shoot, my digital business card/landing page is a model of just that. So much about what I do with computing isn’t about creating something new as much as it is seeing the connections and context around me, and then reinventing in the space that’s available – or creating new spaces. It is interesting, and reminds me a lot about another little one that I got to spend time with.

Beauti’s Lesson to Me

A few weeks before Thanksgiving, I got to spend some time with probably my favorite person in the world – my God-daughter Beauti. As with many kids that age, there are only so many things that will keep their attention for a good minute. I didn’t have Siftables, but I did have an iPad. With the iPad, and Adobe Ideas, I watched her create scenes, and display a knowledge of colors and forms that doesn’t happen to kids – let alone adults – on a normal basis. For her and I, that iPad time was a special  spatial and contextual computing moment, and also a moment to relearn that we have a lot of base actions to complex activities.

As a kid, I spent a lot of time with contextual and spatial toys. Whether it was drawing/coloring or playing with blocks, I did a lot of creating and stacking. Those experiences have totally framed how I think about computing now, and probably why I play like I do in this space. If the chance comes that I can take my personal and professional computing spaces to the level of Siftables, Nokia Bots/Situations, etc., I wonder what other moments can be created.

…Aside

Or better yet, why are our mobile devices already acting like this when the do have the sensors and presence awareness to do these things (not including the application Bump, but that’s certainly in the direction this statement and the technology is going).

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One thought on “Blocks and Spatial Computing

  1. Pingback: Heads-Up, Computing Will Change « Blog.AntoineRJWright

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