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Thank you for your patience and interest. This channel has been consciously neglected throughout 2018 while I was riding the rhizome of disparate ideas, in search of what APD is.

The definition has continually changed as I've gone deeper. I can't guarantee this current expression won't collapse, but it should hold its form for some time:

Ambient Product Design is a generative design language. It encourages the creation of harmonious artificial ecologies within planetary-scale computing.


What's a generative design language?
In contrast to most formalizations of design, APD has no principles or values it advocates for. Instead, the entire language is predicated on a single statement - a "Seed" and a single "Strategy" to unfold the Seed within a given context.

By staying small, APD stays adaptable in a world of increasing complexity and thus, increasing uncertainty.


What is the Seed?

  1. We are systems amongst systems inhabiting systems.

  2. Each system has explicit properties that influence each other.

  3. And all systems produce mimetic children in their parent’s image.


What is the Strategy?

A quote, from the teddy bear of first gen cybernetics, Mr Stafford Beer:

“Instead of trying to specify it in full detail, you specify it only somewhat. You then ride on the dynamics of the system in the direction you want to go.”

Translated, this means:

  1. Discover the systems you inhabit.
  2. Understand their properties.
  3. And let them guide your designs, from the bottom to the top.

*Or intervene to change them.


Can you give me an example?

Your employer is an organizational and coordination system. How does it work? Its culture: language, norms, incentives, and codes impact upon what you design, create and share with the world.

This coordination system operates within capitalism. What are capitalisms properties?

Capitalism operates throughout our planet. How does it interface with our planetary ecologies?

Our planet exists within a universe. what universal laws (thermodynamics, gravity, relativity, etc.) shape it?

And how do all of these things shape you, your physiology, your brain - how you think - and how you act?


Ok but how do I actually use the properties of these systems?

We know that analogical thinking is a core feature of our cognition. It's how I can tell you that you're on a "webpage" right now, and you know what I mean, even though a "web" and a "page" are two entirely different things.

With this knowledge, you might start to consider how your design work interfaces with people's analogical reasoning. And how you can use this to make it easier for someone to learn how to use something you've designed.

A lower level example: we know that complex systems lead to emergent (unpredictable) outcomes. We create and are surrounded by complex systems. Rockstar could never have imagined that GTA5 would be used to train algorithms. Facebook couldn't have predicted it'd be used by state actors in an attempt to influence foreign election results.

If we cannot predict how our creations will be used, why do we design within a purely deterministic model? How might we practice a design that also accounts for emergent probability?


What is an artificial ecology?

A reframing of the how we perceive the artifacts we create: from being "simple, cohesive objects" to "fluid, interconnected ecological systems".

These artificial ecologies interweave:

1 Actor(s) - like yourself, or an algorithm, or a "user", or a city-state and an
2. Environment (physical or abstract) via an
3. Object (generally, a Navigational aid for the Actor to perceive, move and manipulate the Environment).

E.g. Are.na is an artificial ecology composed of a spatial abstraction in the form of a digital network of reference media that helps you catalogue and navigate through your own mind and interests, and those of its members.


And what's planetary-scale computing?

The internet - its digital form and its physical infrastructure, and all the physical "non-internet" systems it interfaces with.


NB: I think the examples I've given here are quite poor. A big part of APD's development this year is to find or develop more meaningful metaphors to help communicate these ideas with greater clarity, and detail how they can be put into practice on a daily basis.


APD in 2019 (I think I figured it out)