(photo by fgirardin on Flickr)
During a recent talk in Switzerland (video) Matt Jones introduced the term “Mujicomp”. He said that ubiquitous computing components need to be "tasteful, simple, clear, clean, contemporary and affordable in order to be invited into the home" and that Mujicomp is a key factor in developing a bottom up strategy to building the sentient city.
I couldn’t agree more… but it does worry me a little.
I love the idea and there’s definitely a place in the world - my world even - for Mujicomp but I think we could be in danger of forgetting something.
To understand what (I think) he meant by Mujicomp it’s probably worth looking at the design ethos of Jasper Morrison and Naoto Fukosawa. Two designers that introduced the concept of Super Normal in 2007.
The zen-like Super Normal philosophy is about design that’s executed in such a way that it’s easy for people to accept because it effectively becomes part of the existing “normal” in their lives. It upgrades normal but doesn’t shout about it in order to pander to the designer’s ego. It simply dissolves into behaviour.
Naoto Fukosawa’s ”design dissolving into behaviour" quote is frequently used in relation to ubicomp because it’s simmilar in concept to Mark Wieser’s concept of "calm computing". Fukosawa designined the classic Muji CD player so I can see why it’s logical to end up with Muji as the style benchmark for the consumer Internet of Things but I think we’re in danger of forgetting that the majority of people probably think Muji is posh, boring - or even “poncy”.
I have a feeling that Mujicomp is likely to only be invited into the homes of the people with taste.
If we really want to design the sentient city from the bottom up we shouldn’t forget that the rest of the world aren’t designers. We should also be thinking about those that probably think Billy Big Mouth Bass is something hilarious, and worthy of display on their wall.
This photo from Matt Jones’ Flickr is titled “Not Mujicomp” and he’s right. It certainly isn’t super normal or calm for me but I think we shouldn’t discount the mileage we could get by creating things with such mass appeal.
I know the stuff in that photo is only destined to be landfill and would probably do more harm than good but we’re designers - we can work out how to be funny and sustainable at the same time, surely.
I definitely reckon I’d add funny to the list of attributes we could explore to get networked social objects invited into people’s homes.