便利はいい、でも豊かになったのか?

academy hillsから送られてきた書類。
返送用の封筒の「梅」の花を見ていて、ふと気がついた。
「切手って82円だっけ?」
どうやら4月から消費税増税でそうなるらしい。

つまり、「返送が月をまたいでも大丈夫ですよ」という言葉のない気遣いの現れなのだ。
そして、返送する相手の心をちょっとなごます梅の花。
「おもてなし」は何もホテルとレストランの専売特許ではない。
日常のあらゆるところに自然と出てくるものであり、それを感じとって愛でるのが日本人の粋だ。
そして、最近ではそれを愛でる日本人のハートを持った人は、日本だけではなく世界中に誕生し、
日本を訪れては、我々が当たり前と見過ごしている小さなこと1つ1つにいたく感動している。

このことをFacebookに投稿したら、こんな返事があった。
「質量とサイズなどで切手料金シールが自動的に出力される機械が総務に」あって、それが使われているというのだ。

20世紀を通し我々は「便利さ」を「豊かさ」の象徴と、はきちがえた信仰をつづけてこうした世界をつくってきた。

先日、英語ブログでも触れた横浜美術館の展覧会「魅惑のニッポン木版画」展の最初の展示室を覗くと、江戸時代の人々が、最新技術を彩り豊かで味わいのある生活を生み出すために活用していたかを伺い知ることが出来る。

これに対し、今は技術が文化と逆の方向を向いていると感じることが多い。
常にそうだったわけではない。

アップル社は1984年に発表したMacintoshで、DTPという技術を世に広める。
これは今日のほとんどの出版物で使われている技術であり、
ある意味、アップルは今日のグーテンベルグとも言える。

スティーブ・ジョブズも、いくつかのインタビューで、そうしたことができたのは、自分が大学でカリグラフィーなど技術以外のことにも関心を示したことが影響していると答えている。

だが、一方でこのDTPが欧文の出版物から豊かな文字表現を奪った側面もある。

きれいな装飾の絵本などで使われていたスウォッシュ文字やカーニング、リガチャーと言った活版印刷時代に築かれた豊かな文字表現の文化がDTP化によって出版物から消え去ったのだ。


Image by Nikolai Sirotkin

 しかし、アップルやアドビ、マイクロソフトといった会社はその状態を放っておかなかった。

スティーブ・ジョブズの不在時代も、これらの会社のエンジニアらが技術によって豊かさが失わされるなんていうナンセンスを起こしてはいけない」と必死で頑張り、今日では多くのフォントに、こうした活版印刷時代の文字表現をする技術が、かなり盛り込まれるようになった。

翻って、これは日本だけではないかも知れないが、技術の他の領域では、便利さと効率ばかりを宣伝して、それによって失われる「豊かさ」を忘れさせ、「便利だけれど粗末」、「便利だけれどみすぼらしい」をはびこらせてしまっているものも多いのではないかと危惧している。
しかも、多くの日本人は、一度、「便利」におかされると、粗末を当たり前のこととして身体で受け入れてしまい、そこを基準に発想をしてしまうような気がしてならない。

技術には、それまで一部の人しか享受できなかった「豊かさ」をインスタント化して、より大勢に広げる側面がある。それは、それでいいことだ。
問題はその後だ。
同じコストで、かつての豊かさを取り戻す、あるいはそれを超える努力をする人がいれば、これまで我々が築いてきた文化は前進する。逆に、インスタントな状態に安住してしまうと、文化はむしろ後退してしまう。
文化を前進させつつ、それを大勢に広げて行くことは技術者だけではできない。
そうした文化の良さを深く知る人がいて、その人の主導の元、技術者に対して「この品質でないと認められない」といったせめぎ合いをして初めて本当に豊かで優れたものが誕生する。

それなのに、最近の我々が住む世界は、この議論が少々欠けているような気がしてならない。
(いや、クリエイターと呼ばれている人達の世界では欠けてないように聞こえるが、大きな影響力を蓄えてきた技術の側の人達の世界では、ほぼ皆無なので、この2つの別世界がつながれば問題は解決するのかも知れない)。


もう1つ課題がある。
この文化の「根っこ」を失ったインスタントがはこびる社会で育った次世代に、どうやって本来の日本の美を伝え、教えていくのか。
冒頭でも紹介したような「日本の美徳」が意味のないものとは、私にはとても思えない。
ならば、子供たちにそうした「美徳」をどうやって伝えていくのか。おそらく日々の積み重ねこそが大事だとは思うが、豊かな感性を育めるはずの時間を受験勉強と塾に奪われ、家では疲れ果てるかゲームかスマホに没頭しているこの時代、日常で刺激のない積み重ねで本当に価値を継承できるのか。これも重要な問題の1つだと思う。

書くだけ書いたが、私自身が筆無精で、気遣いはしても、それを実行に移せない人間なので自分への反省を込めながら問題提起させてもらった。


投稿者名 Nobuyuki Hayashi 林信行 投稿日時 2014年03月27日 | Permalink

Don't spread (never standardize on) bad designs such as USB


European Union, wake up!
It is 21st Century.
So don't spread bad design such as USB. It would create another century of plug/cable mess.

You shouldn't let computer manufacturers and chip manufacturers design connectors and cables. They just don't bother practicing a good design. USB is one example of that.

Before USB, we had FireWire (IEEE 1394) designed by Apple and Sony (the two exceptions of the bad-design industry). The connector of FireWire has a very distinctive shape, so the user could tell the orientation just by touching it (in the dark or behind the PC for example).



FireWire (IEEE 1394) designed by Apple+SONY had distinctive shape, so you can recognize the orientation just by touching

On the other hand, if you have a modern PCs with USB ports, you know what I mean ...
Maybe some of you have the super-power and never pushed the USB plugs up-side-down, but even if so, ask friends/family around you.
I am most certain that they keep repeating the same mistakes even as we speak now thanks to the carefully mal-designed USB plugs.


Of course, everybody person and organization makes mistakes, and you should give a chance to vindicate.
But in the case of USB? Haven't we done enough of that?
I think USB has produced generations of bad designs.

From the very first version of USB, you always have to look at the connector to tell which side is up.
Perhaps, the best design in USB history is the mini-USB port whose shape was a bit easier to distinguish.


mini USB port was perhaps the best design in USB history

And maybe because USB organization doesn't bother hiring a good designer, for the micro-USB, they just shrink the mini-USB design. But size 'does' matter. That design worked for mini-size but not for the micro-size.

Now it is a global habit for hundreds of millions of people around the world to waste time figuring out which side is up and which side is down; and thanks to the bad design, even when you are holding the cable in the correct orientation, sometime, it doesn't plug-in as smoothly as the lightning cable.

Apple, Inc. (with good designers) knew as the connectors become smaller, it would become hard to distinguish the orientation by the shape of connectors; and that is why they invented the 'lightning' cable which you can plug-in without bothering the correct orientation; you can hook the cable either way and it works.

Android users and Apple-hater should at least try the 'lightning' cable; you can still keep hating Apple, but I want you to become fair enough to distinguish a 'good design' in the area where 'bad design' has most penetration.


The mess with micro-USB doesn't end in the thoughtless connector shapes.
If you are an high-spec Android phone user, perhaps, you must know by now that you have to have a correct AC adapter and a correct cable to charge your phone.

While some old wall adapters only support 1 Ampere, to charge some of those high-spec Android phone, you have to have more than 2 Ampere (which by the way, is also a requisite to charge iPads).
And when you do that, you also have to have a correct micro-USB cables.
There are so many micro-USB cables that just doesn't charge those high-spec Android phones.

I wanted to write this article for so long but keep forgetting it, but today, I have decided to write it for two reasons:

1) yesterday, I had to bought a micro-USB cable because I needed to use my Android phone and it was out of battery. And that micro-USB cable didn't work.
2) in my friend's Facebook wall, I found a new Japanese gadget for those troubled by this charging problem

The gadget is called 'CHARGE DOCTOR' and if you hook it in between your charger or PC and microUSB cable, you will know if the cable is transmitting sufficient amperes (i.e. if that cable works).


beware manufactures claim there's cheaper copy product which shows incorrect measure

It is a perfect example of 'necessary evil' created thanks to the bad design of microUSB.

I don't want to anger the Apple haters, but if you allow me. In order not to create this kind of mess (with bad quality cables), Apple put a chip inside the 'lightning' plug and certifying proper cables with 'Made for iPhone' and 'Made for iPad' logo.
This is how you protect the good experience of your customers.

The connectors and cable todays are not the cables and connectors of the 1990s, it is transmitting incomparably high amount of data and electrical currencies and you need careful control of it.

But USB gangs are just defining the spec and let the other manufacturers create a mess; well, to be fair with them, there is also a 'certified USB' logo, but the USB created a culture where their distributors and customers go for the cheaper cables, etc.

I still hope, USB will do a better design job with their next generation connectors and cables, but re-creating the customer culture and brand recognition is not as easy.


European Union tries to standardize on micro-USB

Now, there is a third reason that I had to write this article.
European Union seem to have passed a law to force all manufacturers of smartphones to stick with the micro-USB port (they are not giving USB.org to try a better design) after 2017:

geek.com: Apple will be forced to use micro USB chargers by 2017

In the beginning of this post, I wrote 'you shouldn't let computer manufacturers and chip manufacturers design connectors and cables.'
But before that, we shouldn't let government or political union regulate 'connectors and cables.'
I know European countries had made a huge mistake by making the power plugs in Europe a chaos. And perhaps, this traumatic mistake leads to this new regulation for 'connectors and cables.' But don't!

Today, the market economy will decide the standard and it is more difficult to create another mess like the European power plugs. As a matter of fact, if you look at the smartphone market, there are basically two big standard setters: Apple and USB.

If you insist in regulating it, you have to go to Apple's design because EU includes UK, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Sweden and other countries that care for 'GOOD DESIGN."
But it is very unlikely, that Apple would open their standard. Even if they did, it will be awkward for Apple to certify competitors' phones. That's why you should 'not' regulate.

I believe designers in European countries should unite and fight this non-sense law.


投稿者名 Nobuyuki Hayashi 林信行 投稿日時 2014年03月25日 | Permalink

aikuchi:美しく魅せる「日本の美意識」

美しさを極めるには「覚悟」が必要だ。
その「覚悟」に惹かれたか昨晩の「aikuchi」発表会は人で溢れ返っていた。

「aikuchi」は気鋭の映像集団WOWの最新のプロジェクト。

私はWOWを紹介する時、ほぼ毎回「新鋭」、「気鋭」といった修飾語をつけてきたが、それは同社主導でつくったオリジナル映像作品に圧倒的な「鋭さ」を感じていたからだ。

そんな私が代表の高橋裕士氏のご実家が、1700年代から代々続く東北の刀匠だと知ったのは実はつい最近のこと。なるほどWOWの「鋭い美しさ」の源流に「鋭い美しさ」の象徴「刀」とのつながりがあったとは!思わずヒザを叩いてしまった。

元々、クライアント仕事の映像制作に加え、アートインスタレーションやアプリの開発(そして渋谷と仙台にある、あまりにも美しいオフィスのデザイン)と映像以外も色々手掛けてきた同社だが、その最新の作品がアート日本刀の「aikuchi」だ。

日本刀づくりの家で育ち、まさにその対極にあるようなフルデジタルの映像制作をつづけてきたWOWの高橋氏。だが、この数年のさまざまなできごともあり、後世に残る「モノ」をつくりたい意欲が湧いてきた、という。
その高橋さんが、このプロジェクトを通して伝えたかったことは3つ。1つ目は「日本の精神と美意識」、2つ目は「伝統と革新」そして3つ目は「世界に通じるビジュアルデザイン」。

その思いが結実した「aikuchi」は、東北の伝統工芸のクラフトマンシップと3Dスキャナーや3Dプリンターと言った最新テクノロジー、そしてWOWが持つ幅広いクリエイター人脈の融合によって生まれた作品だ。


投稿者名 Nobuyuki Hayashi 林信行 投稿日時 2014年03月20日 | Permalink

3.11からの教訓01: 災害時、ツイッターをいかにうまく使うか

(英語版ブログ: nobi.com/en の記事をグーグル翻訳で荒訳して校正、その上で一部、日本の読者用に追記/書き直しというプロセスで日本語化してみました)

あと数日で2014年3月11日です。この日、私たちは東日本大震災から3周年を迎えます。
3年前、日本がどんな絶望の底にあったか覚えているでしょうか。
地震の前、日本ではまもなくGDPで中国に抜かれることが大きな話題でした。
テレビのニュースは、日本の人口もGDPももはや上昇することはないと繰り返していました。
そんな時、 3月11日に地震が起き、我々は絶望の淵へと落とされました。


上のビデオは、私が撮った地震の瞬間です。
この時、私は渋谷パルコ1の上の飲食店にいました。
東京は震源地から375キロ。マンハッタンからボストンを通り越してニューハンプシャーにたどり着く距離、あるいはパリの中心からロンドンの北にあるLCC路線がよく使うスタンステッド空港ほどの距離があります。揺れが東京に届くまでには数分を要したが、それでもあの地震はこれだけの力を持っていました。

いや、実際にはこれはすべての始まりにしか過ぎなかった。この後、かなり長い間、頻繁な余震が続いたのを多くの人が覚えているはずです。




投稿者名 Nobuyuki Hayashi 林信行 投稿日時 2014年03月09日 | Permalink

Lessons from 3.11 #01: Twittersphere under Great East Japan Earthquake

A week from now on March 11, 2014, we commemorate the 3rd anniversary of Great East Japan earthquake.
I still remember how I was in the depths of despair only three years ago. Before the earthquake, Japan was anxious that GDP of China will finally surpass that of Japan; the TV news was repeating that neither Japanese population nor the GDP will be on the uptrend again.
Then, on March 11 came the earthquake.


Above is the vieo, I took. I was in Shibuya, Tokyo. Tokyo is about 375Km (or 233 Miles) away from the seismic center: about the distance between Manhattan to New Hampshire (i.e. passing over Boston) or between Paris center to Stansted airport in the north of London. It took a couple of minutes until the tremor hits Tokyo but still it had this much power. And this was only the starter. We had uncountable aftershock after the first wave, how could we not think it was the doomsday?



Above is an animation I found on YouTube that shows all the tremor that happens in 3 days between March 11th and 13th, 2011; wait until the counter hits 2011/3/11 14:46 and imagine being in Tohoku where most of the electricities and the phone lines were gone.
We could hardly imagine that Japan would play a key role in world economy again.
But most of Japan except for Tohoku has recovered since then. There is still a long way ahead for Tohoku and even longer way ahead for some areas in Fukushima.
That is all thanks to people around the world who supported Japan and I think Japanese ought to share some of the lessons we have learned in that earthquake.
After all, I believe that earthquake was one of the most digitally archived natural disaster in human history. And not only Japan, but the whole world can learn so much important lessons from it.
You may ask how digitally archived it was.
Well, first of all, there are so many YouTube video, Flickr, Picasa and mixi photos of the earthquake and tsunami because smartphones and digital cameras have large penetration all over Japan, so we had the mean to archive the real disaster.
Then, there was Twitter which perhaps became the most used IT service after the earthquake.


Twitter: the Communication Tool for Natural Disaster

Actually, Twitter had been the tool communication tool for earthquake even before the big Earthquake on 3.11. You know, in Japan, we have earthquakes more often than many other countries; even in Tokyo, we have at least three or four earthquakes that we can feel plus more than a dozen smaller ones that we don't feel; perhaps, there were less before 3.11.
In anyway, even before 3.11, whenever an earthquake happens, people using Twitter would have immediately launched Twitter App on their smartphones and check if it really was the ground that was shaking or if s/he was just feeling dizzy and tweeted "shaking!" (in Japanese.)
Many people in Japan understand the real time value of Twitter so well that they didn't type long words, so sometime, we could visually witness how the seismic wave transmits. For example, if I see a guy in Shizuoka city tweets "shaking" and then, another friend in Kamakura city tweets "shaking" 30-40 seconds later, I would feel the earthquake and tweet "shaking" about 20-30 seconds later, or something like that.
There are also many (ro)bots that would automatically tweets information about earthquakes.
Facebook and mixi weren't as efficient in spreading and gathering info of so many people in such a timely manner because they are optimized for communication within closed groups and because it would let you describe so many other things with more than 140 character that by the time, you finished writing, everybody would forget about the earthquake and moved on to the next topic.
Also, because the thing you can do with Twitter is so limited, it was so easy for newbies; many people in Japan heard, Twitter is helpful right after the earthquake, and those people started using Twitter as one of their first internet communication tools after e-mail (e-mails on feature phones had been a very popular tool for a long time even before Smartphones came along). Today, Google+ may come after Twitter for the ease of setup & ease of use; but I think Google+ is too complicated (you can do too much) for novices, especially for elderly people (people in the tech industry should understand more feature = more to learn before you can use it).

So when 3.11 happened, Twitter was the natural communication tool of choice for the many. And although the connection over major phone operators were too congested, many business people had portable Wifi connections that they could use.
They used it to share/find out what's going on around them; there had been tons of amazing conversations going on from a girl asking for help from under the collapsed brick wall to cafes in Shibuya opening up their space as temporary shelter, etc.
As one of the recommended users of Twitter chosen by Twitter, Inc., I have 200,000+ followers on my Japanese language account @nobi and I had gone thru some amazing conversations but I will pick those up sometime in a later post.

In this post, I would like to focus on some of the most important lessons, I have learned.

Tracing Back the Info

Under a catastrophe, people panic and tweet info that would only cause confusions.
For example, I saw a Tweet by a girl shouting "big Tsunami is about to hit Sendai!"
(I may be making it up a little bit because I can't find the original).

@SomeJPGirl: big Tsunami is about to hit Sendai!

That Tweet had been retweeted so many times that even though I was not following her, the tweet came into my eyes.
It was way after the Tsunami took over the Sendai airport; I was shocked to hear the Tsunami is hitting Sendai again.
I took a careful look into her Twitter account to see if she is in any danger.
Then, I realized right after that tweet, she was tweeting "I have to find a way back home (in Tokyo) from Shibuya station (also in Tokyo)."
So she was not even in Sendai. She was stuck in Shibuya station and was watching the news of Tsunami hitting Sendai on a public TV.
She has done nothing wrong and she didn't intend anything harm, but the context will become very important in such circumstances.
And because the influence of information is so big under catastrophe, IT literate people shouldn't just respond by reflexes, but rather take some moment for careful investigation before tweeting or retweeting.

Time Stamps

People were exchanging information about the aftershocks, update info by government and public services; that day in 3.11 (and for at least two weeks after that), there have been too many of those.
And every time, an aftershock hit their cities or every time an important announcement has been made, people tweeted. And many people retweeted.
Later, there were too many similar tweets that people started to get confused which is the latest info, especially Twitter would only show approximately how many minutes or how many hours ago, that tweet was made.
So many people started to suggest to put a time stamp within tweets, so people can tell which info is more recent; actually, today, you can bring your mouse over the Twitter's official time stamp and it will tell you the time and dates, that tweet was posted.


Today, if you move your cursor over the Twitter's time stamp, it will reveal the exact date/time.

Importance of Official RT

In the English and other languages using phonetic alphabets, you can express so little in 140 characters.
But in Japanese, we use a mixture of phonetic alphabets and ideographs (a character is worth a word in English or sometime, it has more than one meaning). Because of this, we can express so much in 140 characters; the laws of physics (or linguistics) are totally different in English Twitter-sphere and the Japanese Twitter - sphere.
Gengo.com, a Japanese startup that provides multi-lingual translation services, used to translate tweets of famous figures in Japan into English and vice versa. My English twitter account @nobi_en belonged to them until January 2014 and all of the tweets there prior to that date were translated by their services.
Matt Romaine of gengo.com, once told me a full 140 characters tweet in Japanese would translate into three to four English tweets.


And because of this, we often nested a few tweets in one (i.e. Embedded a few tweet-quotes within a single tweet), so we can share the conversation with many more people.
Even some English speakers are doing this today by adding "MT" (stands for Modified Tweets) before the quoted tweets.
But these modified Tweets will cause a big confusion under catastrophic situation.

First of all, it will kill the "time stamps."
Let's say you saw the tweet by the Tsunami girl in Shibuya (my prior example) and felt the urge to warn friends in Sendai.
With your habit of modifying a tweet, you might tweet:

@SomeJPBoy: Friends in Sendai, please evacuate! MT @SomeJPGirl: big Tsunami is about to hit Sendai!

By this tweet, the traceability of the tweet has moved a step further.

There was a girl under a collapsed wall whose only mean to cry out for help was the twitter app on her cell phone. Her tweet has been retweeted so many times (I've retweeted her, too).
A few hours later, I saw modified tweets about her was still circulating around.
It looked something like this:

@SomeJPBoy: if there is any rescue team near XXXX city go rescue her! MT @SomeJPGirl: Help me! I am under collapsed brick wall near XXXX, I can't move!

投稿者名 Nobuyuki Hayashi 林信行 投稿日時 2014年03月05日 | Permalink