Posts tagged “documentary”

I, For One, Welcome Our New Robot Interviewer Overlords

From Wired, comes These Adorable Robots Are Making a Documentary About Humans. Really.

Created by artist and roboticist Alex Reben for his master’s thesis at MIT, the BlabDroids are tiny, adorable robotic cinematographers who will be filming interviews at this week’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York as part of the the film festival’s transmedia Storyscapes program. At least 20 BlabDroids will zip around to attendees-they’re self-propelled via motorized wheels- and ask them often very personal questions like, “Tell me something that you’ve never told a stranger before,” “What’s the worst thing you’ve done to someone,” and “Who do you love most in the world?”

Each droid carries a digital camera, a speaker that asks a series of pre-programmed questions to ask whomever it encounters and a button to be pushed to prompt new queries.

“We plan to give the robots to some interesting New Yorkers,” filmmaker Brent Hoff, who is working on the BlabDroid project with Reben, said in an email to Wired. “Hopefully Anthony Weiner and some Broadway types.” The robots, which are very adorable and voiced by a 7-year-old boy, are intended to test the theory of MIT computer scientist Joseph Weizenbaum’s “ELIZA effect,” which found that people are inclined to anthropomorphize computers and thus engage emotionally with artificial intelligence. Although this initially lead Weizenbaum to worry about AI’s potential to manipulate, Reben and Hoff have created the BlabDroids to appear comforting and non-judgmental, and to capture meaningful interactions with their subjects.

This is a fascinating experiment. I’d love to see the results, as well as the raw footage and of course to get to talk to someone about their experience being interviewed like this would be very interesting. Similar to Interviewing without questions, eye contact or rapport, the notion of freeing up people from human interactions in order to liberate them to reveal more deeply is a curious (and certainly valid) idea. No doubt the clips will be great; people are pretty interesting and curious, so pointing a camera at them will be entertaining.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • [from steve_portigal] Kraft Dinner mentions must stop, teacher told [CBC News] – [Kraft Dinner is a Canadian-specific brand for packaged macaroni and cheese, known among the pastacenti as KD.] Kick the KD teaches students how to avoid convenience foods and eat healthier. Clapson received a notice from Kraft Canada demanding the name be changed and any references to Kraft Dinner be removed. "We understand that the focus of the cooking program is to encourage students to prepare meals which are healthy and delicious. Please note that Kraft Dinner macaroni and cheese is a nutritious food that can be part of a balanced diet. In addition to being delicious, it is also a source of calcium and iron and a good source of protein." Clapson said he didn't know "KD was trademarked and personally enjoys the occasional bowl of Kraft Dinner." Clapson said he intends to keep running the classes and has taken suggestions for a new name. The most popular one so far has been "Kick the Crap Dinner."
  • [from steve_portigal] ‘Cinema Verite’ review: ‘American Family’ revisited [SF Chronicle] – [Fascinating article on how a recreation bio-pic of the filming of the original reality show reveals shifting cultural contexts and the challenges of authenticity] In 1971, Craig Gilbert and Alan and Susan Raymond, set out to document the lives of an everyday American family. Viewers may have subliminally understood that reality was somewhat altered through editorial choices, but they more or less accepted what was on their TV as life as it actually and naturally happened. But was it? That's the question posed by "Cinema Verite" directors Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini as they look back at "American Family." Did Gilbert direct the Louds' actions to make his film more dramatic? In "Cinema," Gilbert (James Gandolfini) is shown inserting himself into a scene and telling the family what to do. We also see the Raymonds (Patrick Fugit and Shanna Collins) revolting when Gilbert begins to cross the boundaries of documentary filmmaking, perhaps because he's developed a crush on Pat.

Constriction to force ourselves to create

Jack White speaks about choosing constraints over efficiency in order to drive creativity and create a better result. Taken from the documentary The White Stripes: Under Great White Northern Lights.

Ten years later, just working in the same box you think “God!” One part of my brain says I’m tired of trying to come up with things in this box but I force myself to do it because I know something good can come of it if I really work inside of it. Inspiration, work ethic, they ride right next to each other. When I was an upholsterer, sometimes you’re not inspired to reupholster an old chair, sometimes it’s just work and you just do it because you’re supposed to. Maybe by the end when you’re finished you look at it and say “That looks good, that’s pretty good” and that’s it and you move on and that’s it. Not every day of your life are you going to wake up and the clouds are going to part and the rays from heaven are going to come down and you’re going to write a song from it. Sometimes you just get in there and force yourself to work and maybe something good will come out of it.

One of the things was, whether we like it or not we’ll write some songs and record them. Force yourself into it. Force yourself – book only 4 or 5 days in the studio and force yourself to record an album in that time. Deadlines and things make you creative but opportunity and telling yourself “Oh, you’ve got all the time in the world, all the money in the world. You’ve got all the colors in the palette you want, anything you want” – that just kills creativity. On stage, I’m using the same guitars on stage that I used ten years ago. I like to do things to make it really hard on myself. For example, if I drop a pick, to get a another pick I have to go all the way to the back of the stage to get another one. I don’t have picks taped to my microphone stand. I put the organ just far away enough that I have to leap to get to it play different parts of the song. It’s not handy to jump from one thing to the next. I always try to push it just a little farther away so I have to work harder and get somewhere. That way, everything, all that stuff, all those little things – there’s hundreds of those things like that – Those guitars I use don’t stay in tune very well, they are not conducive, they are not what regular bands go out and play. I’m constantly fighting all these tiny little things, ’cause all those things build tension. There’s no setlist when we play, that’s the biggest one too, Each show has its own life to it. It’s important to do that kind of stuff.

When you go out and everything is all pre-planned and everyone sets everything out for you and the table is all set and nice and perfect nothing is gonna happen. You’re going to go out and do this boring arena set or something. So that’s why all those things have always been a big component of The White Stripes. Constriction to force ourselves to create. Only having red, white and black colors on any of the artwork or presentation of aesthetics of the band, guitar drums and vocals, storytelling melody and rhythm, revolving all these things around the number three, all these components force us to create.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • Klaus Kaasgaard: Why Designers Sometimes Make Me Cringe [interactions magazine] – [A response to Dan Formosa's piece about marketing research] There is no doubt that Formosa has been exposed to a lot of bad market research in his career. So have I. But I have also been exposed to a lot of bad design research, whether dealing with qualitative data or quantitative data. I cringe at both. And while we should point out when the emperor has no clothes in our daily work situations, it is not the bad research that defines a discipline. I have been exposed to both good market research and good design research as well and, more important, some of the most compelling and impactful research combined different research techniques for a more comprehensive and insightful outcome. That, I suppose, leads me to my conclusion.
  • How many Kindles have really been sold? (And other interesting tidbits about ebooks) [Mobile Opportunity] – Some interesting numbers about the size and dynamics of the market: sales, usage, platforms, content. One highlight is the preferred device used to read ebooks
    -PC: 47%
    -Kindle: 32% (and rising in later waves of the survey)
    -iPhone: 11%
    -iPod Touch: 10%
    -Other smartphones (including Blackberry) 9%
    -Netbooks 9%
    -Sony Reader 8%
    -Barnes & Noble Nook 8%
  • Secret Society for Creative Philanthropy [SF Chronicle] – Altruism is the whole idea behind the new charity, called the Secret Society for Creative Philanthropy. It's the brainchild of Courtney Martin, a South of Market writer who dreamed up the idea four years ago in New York and has handed out a stack of her own $100 bills every year to select good-deed doers who agree to dream up unusual ways to use the dough. Jeremy Mende took a stack of cash to Union Square and offered pairs of strangers $1 apiece if they would have one-on-one conversations with each other. Then he videotaped the conversations and made a home movie. The strangers talked to each other about sex, fireworks, banana slugs, gin, orgasms and Marlon Brando. Some of the conversations were worth a lot more than $1. The best idea seemed to come from Martin's own mother. She used her $100 to buy 400 quarters and scatter them on a grammar school playground.
  • R.J. Cutler: What I Learned From Anna Wintour [HuffPo] – Some principles of management from the director of The September Issue. We watched the film this week and highly recommend it. I thought about work as well; the film offers up lots of provocation around collaboration, artistic vision, managing teams of people, power, prototyping, and more.
    (via Kottke)

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • chat roulette – a short film by Casey Neistat – Chatroulette is a emergent online phenomena, connecting random people via webcams. Casey acts as participant-observer, experimenting with the service and observing what happens, as well as reflecting on his own feelings about the experience and ruminating about the implications.
  • The worst Olympic uniform [Rob Walker] – If there’s a more pure example of conformity trumping practicality, I can’t think of it. Oh, wait, sure I can: Phony-holed jeans. For years the hollow claims of every marketing guru who insists that consumers “demand authenticity” has been neatly debunked by the success of the high-end “distressed” denim phenomenon. Buying jeans whose wear-and-tear is implemented by far-flung factory workers and machinery, according to specific standards devised and overseen by layers of corporate design-management — and in fact paying extra for such jeans, and pretending that this somehow signals rebel style — is a capitulation to simulacra-culture so Xtreme it would make Debord giggle and Baudrillard weep. Or vice versa. Whatevs.

Mike Tyson and the Power of Holding Your Tongue

The 2008 documentary Tyson by James Toback is a compelling and revealing work. From a technical perspective, it’s a fun watch because Toback experiments with visual fragmenting and layered storytelling styles. In terms of subject matter, one would be hard-pressed to find a juicier, more tabloid-soaked figure to focus on, especially for those of us who came of age in the 80s. I walked away from the film with a much more nuanced and complex, though still ambivalent, view of Mike Tyson as a powerhouse boxer, as a convergent cultural figure, and, finally, as a very complicated human being.

But there was one moment that stood out, and it hammered home the incredible power of a simple interviewing technique: silence. At one point about mid-way through the film, Tyson was yammering in a very straightforward way about the fact that his desire to box and dominate stemmed from his being bullied as a young boy (predictable!). Toback must have sensed something simmering just below the surface, because when Tyson finished this train of thought Toback just let it sit. And sit. And sit. As the audience sits. And sits. Until Tyson looks back up with a completely different expression, almost with a different personality, and bares the real, brutal truth. It’s a moment when time kind of stops; I gasped out loud. It’s this kind of thrilling moment that we experience in our best interviews, when the person (“consumer!”) goes beyond just citing facts or recounting stories, to communicating to us, and our clients, something surprising, something of real value and meaning.

If you liked this interview tip, you’ll love this: Steve will be talking about his interviewing secrets at the UIE virtual seminar on the 28th of this month!

ChittahChattah Quickies

Q&A on Mickey D’s and Me on National Review Online

A new film, Me & Mickey D, is by a filmmaker who ate at McDonald’s for 30 days and lost weight.

NRO: Would you recommend anyone eat McDonald’s for 30 days?

Whaley: Actually I think a lot of people do, at least for a few meals a week. Tens of millions of people eat there every day without ill effect. As for a 30-day diet to lose weight? That’s up to the individual. This was not intended to promote a McDonald’s diet for losing weight, it was meant to demonstrate that some of our current belief systems are incorrect.

NRO: Besides the obvious, Super-Size-Me-is-wrong/be responsible/McDonald’s-can’t-make-you-fat,-only-the- choices-you-make-can message, what is the overall point of your documentary?

Whaley: Simply to encourage people to take more responsibility for their own lives and to appreciate the concept of freedom of choice that we have in the U.S. I also hope to inspire people to get out and move around more. Forget about ‘exercising,’ just get out there and celebrate your life by staying busy and productive. ‘Eat to live, don’t live to eat.’ – Moliere

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