Welcome to 2018!

2017 was a long and unpredictable year. It started with the death of my father, a hero of mine and an electronics and audio pioneer. He was only 56, and it will be difficult to move on without his voice. He started his decline in mid-2016, followed by many hurried visits last year between trips.

I’m glad I got to spend so much time with him before he left this planet.

Dad and I

This year was enormous for Calm Technology. I was on tour for more time than expected. The 100,000 miles I traveled led me to new places, people and ideas, and I’m excited to explore more of them in the next year.

Calm Technology Book Tour 2017

This year’s Calm Technology Book Tour: 103,281 miles travelled!

What’s Next?
I continue to be an affiliate at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society, and a fellow at MIT Media Lab’s Center for Civic Media. I look forward to returning to Boston this January to participate more fully in efforts around AI, ethics, IoT and calm design.

amber case speaking at mind the product london

An enormous audience for Mind the Product London!

New Year’s Resolutions
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1. Write more. Write one short essay a month on topics related to AI, ethics, IoT and Calm Tech.

2. Release Designing Products with Sound. I’m working with my editor to improve my writing skills, and I’m making incremental progress. My second O’Reilly book, Designing Products with Sound will come out by the end of 2018, and I’m looking forward to that.

3. Prepare to write a trade paperback. I’ve had many requests for a trade paperback book that provides a wider look at how technology is affecting culture.

beaverton high school audience

Audience at Beaverton High School in Oregon.

cousins-synthesizer-apps

Getting my cousins hooked on synthesizers and sound-making apps during a family visit in August.

4. Visit family more often.

Family is incredibly important. I feel that a lot of my life after college was spend in survival mode after graduating in the recession. This year I plan on spending more time with my cousins, my Aunts and my dad’s brother. My family is fairly small, and every moment counts.

5. Read more books!

My favorite book this year was Colour: Travels Through the Paintbox by Victoria Finlay. It followed the author through the origins of many different colors, and I encourage anyone from any background to take a look at it.

My second favorite was Writing Tools, a book I’m still working through.

divine maloney amber case

Researcher Divine Maloney and I this summer in Portland, Oregon before he left to pursue a PhD in HCI!

6. Finish a research paper on the phenomenology of AR and VR.

I’ve been a big fan of VR for some time. I’ve been researching the history of it as a hobby for the last 8 years. I worked on this paper with Divine Maloney this summer and am looking forward to publishing it by the end of next year!

divine maloney amber case summer interns

Divine and I with the 2017 Harvard Berkman Klein Center Summer Interns in Cambridge, MA.

7. Participate more in the local community and help others.

Although I was fearful to do it, one thing I’ve done this year is to sign up as a Blood Marrow Donor at Be the Match.

The process is not as difficult as one would expect, and you’d be seriously saving someone’s life if you are a match. All you need is a cheek swab from a kit provided in the mail, and then you wait for a call.

Sign up to be a Blood Marrow Donor!

Sign up to be a Blood Marrow Donor!

Squicky about needles? Consider that matches are rare. Every donor has around a 1 in 500 chance of matching with someone in the US. And “only thirty percent of donations involve actual bone marrow. (The ones that do are mostly for children, who seem to do better with traditional bone marrow transplantation.) Seventy percent of the time, being a “bone marrow donor” is only a tad more complicated than donating blood.” Most of the time, the process can be completed in three hours.

If you want to learn more about the process, there’s some good information here: https://io9.gizmodo.com/bone-marrow-donation-is-nothing-like-i-thought-it-was-1676114500 There’s also a neat (and tear-inducing) Radiolab episode about this you can listen to right now!

I’m definitely fearful to do this, but if I end up being a match, then I’m willing to deal with a tiny bit of pain to help someone else out.

Thank you
I’d like to thank everyone for their support and comfort during this difficult year. I couldn’t have done it without you. Many of you were proactive in helping me reorganize and help with my family. My family is small and I cherish everyone in it.

Thanks also to new friends and faces, art groups and music, and all of the creative things that help to balance out the seriousness. These are crucial and necessary, and we’ll need more of them as we head into the information age.

vice media crew at xhurch

Vice Media crew filmed part of a new show with me at Xhurch in Portland, Oregon.

What are your goals for 2018? Best of luck to everyone in this new year!

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A glacier climb during an AI retreat in Norway this September.

Introducing Designing with Sound from O’Reilly Books (Oct 2017)

designing-products-with-sound-oreilly-amber-case-aaron-dayI’m excited to announce that sound designer Aaron Day and I have joined forces to produce a book on sound design for products called Designing With Sound. Why write a book about sound? Sound is part of everyday life, but it is often overlooked. Sound can make or break an experience, but we don’t think about it enough. There are many opportunities for brands and makers to consider sound as a crucial part of experience design. In this book, we explore sound from a number of perspectives, from the buzz of a phone, the distraction of an open office, architectural acoustics, sound and health, and the unexplored opportunities of employing more senses in our lives.

I released Calm Technology: Principles and Patterns for Non-Intrusive Design in Fall of 2015. Since then, I was approached by a number of different companies looking for ways for products to fit better into a user’s soundscape. I realized that sound was just one part of the equation for experience design, but it deserved a much closer look.

That’s why I was so excited when my colleague Aaron Day asked me what to do with his 18 years of experience designing sound for brands, retail electronics, films, environments, automobiles, healthcare and museums. I told him that I was running into the same kinds of questions. There were designers, product owners and developers out there that needed answers to questions for a new class of connected products. How can we make products that work alongside us, instead of against us? How can we improve the sonic environment? First, we realized we needed to show people how sound affected them, how they could fix it, and then how they could make it better. The outline of a book quickly formed, and we pitched it to O’Reilly. O’Reilly was excited because it’s difficult to find a book that introduced more advanced sound design concepts without getting too technical. This world doesn’t need perfect sound, it just needs “better” sound, and through case studies, patterns and principles, we aim to show you how!

Designing with Sound will hit the shelves Oct 2017. Until then, you’re free to pro-order them. I’ll be starting to speak about various aspects of sound design starting May 2017 at The Next Web Conference in Amsterdam.

Thanks so much for your support and feedback while we work on this book! It’s been great to be able to reach out to so many people already with their stories and relationship with sound. See you in October!

Designing Products with Sound: Principles and Patterns for Mixed Environments

designing-products-with-sound-oreilly-amber-case-aaron-dayOrder from Amazon | Order from O’Reilly

By Amber Case and Aaron Day. O’Reilly Books, September 2017 (est.). 300 pages.

Sound is one of the most commonly overlooked components in product design, even though it’s often the first way people interact with many products. When designers don’t pay enough attention sound elements, customers are frequently left with annoying and interruptive results. This practical book covers several methods that product designers and managers can use to improve everyday interactions through an understanding and application of sound design.

  • Understand the place of sound in design, and how it can make a difference in your product
  • Learn key concepts in sound design, with patterns and principles you can use to improve user experience
  • Learn how to integrate sound design into a project
  • Use exercises to help evaluate sound design

I’m Joining Harvard’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society in Fall 2016!

berkman-klein-center-internet-society

I’m excited to announce that I’ll be join Harvard University’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society as a Fellow, starting in September 2016!

As part of my fellowship, I’ll be spending most of my time in Cambridge, MA and part of my time in Portland, OR.

I’ll be researching the transition from the industrial society to the information society and its effect on creativity, connectivity, isolation and depression (along with a whole host of other topics that I’ve been working on – Calm Technology, Cyborg Anthropology and Data Ownership).

Looking forward to an intense and interesting year with some amazing people! And if you’re looking to visit Cambridge, please do! I’d love to see you!

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What is Harvard’s Berkman Klein Center?
Berkman Klein Center’s mission is to explore and understand cyberspace; to study its development, dynamics, norms, and standards; and to assess the need or lack thereof for laws and sanctions. Berkman Klein is a research center premised on the observation that what we seek to learn is not already recorded. Our method is to build out into cyberspace, record data as we go, self-study, and share. You can learn more about the Berkman Klein Center here!

I’ll be tweeting @caseorganic and posting short, unedited notes on notes.caseorganic.com during the fellowship. I’ll also be announcing a new book!

The History of the Compass Lifelogging Application

In 2012 Chris Dancy went to Amber Case’s CyborgCamp, an unconference on the future of humans and technology. He wanted to show her a project he’d been working on for the last three years, over 600 different datasets of Dancy’s locations, activities, sleep patterns, weight and other data, color coded and synchronized with Google Calendar.

Amber Case & Chris Dancy

Origins of a mindful cyborg: Case and Dancy at CyborgCamp Portland 2012 and in 2015.

With this much data, Dancy was able to gain an entirely new perspective on his life. He was able to correlate sleep with weight, sadness or happiness, or even the effect of air quality on his driving.

For the first time, all of these different data sets were in one place – the ultimate personal perspective. Case was excited to see this and suggested he show it during an unconference session. Though Dancy was nervous – this was his private data after all – Amber didn’t give him a choice. Case switched the projector on to show Dancy’s work to everyone in the room. The work inspired dozens of questions and a long discussion. Klint Finley, a reporter from Wired, was part of the session and wrote an article on Dancy. The rest, as we say, is ‘Christory’.

Chris Dancy's Google Calendar

Chris Dancy’s lifelogging Google Calendar.

The World’s Most Connected Human

One year later Chris made his way into the larger world as “The world’s most connected human”. He’d stopped smoking and completely changed his behavior, but there was one problem – only he could use his system. It allowed him to see activities in a new way, lose over 100 pounds and significantly improve his life, but the system was an expensive undertaking that required a lot of time and effort. Dancy wanted others to be able to see their lives over time. It didn’t seem feasible or fair that we might need 600 applications and devices in order to understand their lives. With so much data, we run the risk of becoming so connected that we don’t have any time to reflect. Dancy wondered what anyone might be able to do with just the sensors on the phone. Case suggested he find a company in the space and seek their support.

Building an Application

Compass Application

Preview of the Compass app for iPhone.

A few years later, Chris found Healthways, a Nashville-based company with success in the wellness industry and recruited Case to work with him. Healthways invested in the project, and this week, the first results of their collaboration, an iPhone app called Compass was born. Tracking behavior is useful only when you can connect to other behavior in your life. Compass surfaces insights from your phone and shows you how you live your life. Too many hours at the office? Eating right? Flu got you down? Too much phone light affecting your sleep? Compass helps you to see what’s affecting you, and how it affects you. Our vision with Compass is for it to be an interface for your life, and to change your future. In a world of non-stop information, we could all use a bit of reflection – followed by action!

Join the Compass Alpha!

Compass is being made available as an alpha to attendees of the Quantified Self Conference on June 18-20, 2015 in San Francisco, CA. Interested? Sign up for the alpha at existence.io, or stop by our conference booth during QS15 and say hello! Or check out @mycompassapp on Twitter.

Sign up for the alpha!

Where do we go from here?

We’ve tried to distill the best methods and insights from Dancy’s tracking process, but it will take time to get there. We’re looking for feedback and soliciting people to become alpha testers for the app. There are so many non-connected devices out there. It’s not about what you track – it’s about what happens when you tie what you track together. We’d love to know how we can improve Compass to help you understand your life better.

2012 National Geographic Class of Emerging Explorers Announced!

A few months ago, I was very surprised to receive an E-mail from National Geographic with an interesting notice: I had received an Emerging Explorers award, and I was invited to a conference in Washington D.C. with the rest of the Emerging Explorers class. National Geographic Emerging Explorers Class of 2012

Micheal Wesch, one of my favorite anthropologists and media ecologists, received an Emerging Explorers award in 2009, and I am honored to be included in this year’s list. The National Geographic Emerging Explorer’s Program doesn’t take applications and doesn’t give any notice to those nominated, so I was as surprised as everyone else.

Use of Award Funds

I’ll be putting the funds towards the Portland community. I’m specifically interested in connecting local news and history to place, and there are a number of organizations in town that have repositories of information. It is really important to bring this information to life, and to explore the layers of history around place. I’ll also use the funds to explore the effects of connectivity on one’s brain through the use of EEG and other brainwave monitoring technology.

What is National Geographic’s Emerging Explorer’s Program?

National Geographic Young ExplorersNational Geographic’s Emerging Explorers Program recognizes and supports uniquely gifted and inspiring young adventurers, scientists, photographers, and storytellers—explorers who are already making a difference early in their careers. To help the Emerging Explorers realize their potential, National Geographic awards each of them $10,000 for research and exploration.

2012 Emerging Explorers Class

You can see the entire class of 2012 Emerging Explorers here.