Posts Tagged 'shiny'

SkyMall Greatest Hits

A trove of products grasping at the image of the futuristic, SkyMall features a truly astounding selection of useless fetish objects that seek to fulfill the need for luxury… for the new. These kinds of goods should seem familiar, as they are what our society is build upon. For a more detailed run-through of consumerist tendencies and their origins, I recommend Stewart and Elizabeth Ewen’s Channels of Desire. But suffice to say that shiny products answering a need we never knew existed are a staple of American (read: global) life. Here, then are a few choice selections from a recent issue of the Mall, which I find best demonstrate the extremes of future-mongering in the consumer industries.

The adds speak to that sort of almost-but-not-quite future glimpsed in childhood toys or on the backs of cereal boxes. Obviously there is a strong emphasis on white and blue with smooth contours. It seems particularly fitting that the publication resides in the sky, only accessible from the already luxurious and high-tech experience of flying. Literally above the realm of every-day experience, the time spent reading SkyMall places them physically closer to the stars – the ubiquitous symbol for technological progress and social betterment – in a broken leftover from Cold-war era political bamboozling.

uv light wand

 

feng shui gadget

 

futuristic bowl machine

 

authentic tea brewer bullshit

 

wheel skates

MASDAR

just look at the little guy...

More future cars! Spotted in The New York Times last week, the “carbon-neutral” city of Masdar in the United Arab Emirates, has been infested with subterranean driverless cars. The city is apparently raised  23 feet off the ground to catch the desert breeze, and to make room for the local network of robot cars. Ostensibly little different than a subway, the very private personal transports took their design – it seems –  from well, every clean Utopian Sci Fi film ever made. Norman Foster, lead designer for Foster & Partners, who helmed the UAE’s new eco-mecca is supposedly a “lifelong tech buff who collaborated with Buckminster Fuller” – so that explains a few things.

Nicolai Ourorrsof from NYT explains:

But Mr. Foster’s most radical move was the way he dealt with one of the most vexing urban design challenges of the past century: what to do with the car. Not only did he close Masdar entirely to combustion-engine vehicles, he buried their replacement — his network of electric cars — underneath the city. Then, to further reinforce the purity of his vision, he located almost all of the heavy-duty service functions — a 54-acre photovoltaic field and incineration and water treatment plants — outside the city.

The result, Mr. Foster acknowledged, feels a bit like Disneyland. “Disneyland is attractive because all the service is below ground,” he said. “We do the same here — it is literally a walled city. Traditional cars are stopped at the edges.”

Driving from downtown Abu Dhabi, 20 miles away, you follow a narrow road past an oil refinery and through desolate patches of desert before reaching the blank concrete wall of Masdar and find the city looming overhead. (Mr. Foster plans to camouflage the periphery behind fountains and flora.) From there a road tunnels through the base to a garage just underneath the city’s edge.

Stepping out of this space into one of the “Personal Rapid Transit” stations brings to mind the sets designed by Harry Lange for “2001: A Space Odyssey.” You are in a large, dark hall facing a row of white, pod-shaped cars lined up in rectangular glass bays. (The cars’ design was based on Buckminster Fuller’s proposal for a compact urban vehicle, the D-45, which helps explain their softly contoured, timelessly futuristic silhouettes.) Daylight spills down a rough concrete wall behind them, hinting at the life above” [emphasis added].

The first 13 cars of a proposed fleet of hundreds were being tested the day I visited, but as soon as the system is up, within a few weeks, a user will be able to step into a car and choose a destination on an LCD screen. The car will then silently pull into traffic, seeming to drive itself. (There are no cables or rails.)

 the fleet in stationCheck the diagram and slideshow for more.


Fresh Scan: Sync-bot

and what's with that stadium in the background...?

Another magazine find, this time from the back cover of Make – which is coincidentally the subject of a large-ish essay I’m writing. Not strictly concerned with depicting the future, makers certainly affect aesthetics and the philosophy of progress, so I might throw it up here when it’s finished in addition to over on the parent site. Anyway, here we have anthropomorphic qualities being projected onto an what looks to be essentially an mp3 player. Personalizing and familiarizing yourself with such technology is fine, as long as you’re aware that you’re closing the gap between people and machines. When you call your car (or especially mass narcissistic tech like an iPhone) a she or a he, you are, as RAF member Jaron Lanier wrote in his 2010 book, perpetuating a” reduced expectation of what a person can be, and of who each person might become” (You are Not a Gadget p. 4)

Asthetic Exploitation Roundup

“Hey, this product will bring you into the effortless world of the technological sublime!”

Watch This and Tell Me the Future Hasn’t Already Arrived

Do you understand how this works? Does that matter?

Field Report: On the Streets

futuristic doorbell thing

Small future panel spotted on Wooster st.

svedka vodka robot ad

Svedka is apparently in the prescriptive future propaganda business as well as getting folks drunk.

A Curated Look at Pulp Covers

pulp cover jetpack

Why are these images appealing? They are most obviously amusing because of their antiquity, something that depends not necessarily on the subject matter but the style: pulp covers of jungle beasts and vampires are also awesome. But like those genres, these images of the futuristic are worth considering for their uniformity and adherence to a particular world. The aesthetics and characters seen here in THRILLS INCORPORATED are the same ones we’ve seen in recent movies and television.

pulp cover robot


Is this where it all began? Not really, Jules Vern, H. G. Wells and Mary Shelly should be as good a starting point as any. Science Fiction has emerged as a unique critique and social dialogue, diverging itself from fantasy in an issue thoroughly dissected by post-marxist hero writer Fredrick Jameson in Archaelogies of the Future. As I’ve previously written, there is a fundamental desire among us to approach the world seen in science fiction, if not, then why do we continue to build and shape our world after the ones seen here:

pulp cover rocket with silver robots

And now here’s Jameson going to town on the matter:

“…we confront something like a binary alteration between the reality principle of SF and the pleasure principle of fantasy. Perhaps in that sense Utopia does constitute a working synthesis of these two incommensurable: the supreme creativity or shaping impulse of fantasy marshaling the most recalcitrant raw material of all, in the state and the social order. So it is that as Science Fiction approaches the condition of Utopia… a peculiar fairy-tale topology begins to rise towards the surface like a network of veins.”

Archaelogies of the Future page 74.

Utopia here is described as the critical awareness of science fiction applied to the real world, inspired by fiction. If the Utopian will portrays an ideal world, what is that world based on? More often than not its less to do with an actual sense of social justice as pertaining to the the real world and more to do with wishful fantasy.

All images gather from around the Net.


Categories

Click for more info