Reflections on a Penguin Pool

“Data boils off our cities like aether from an alchemist’s still”

So said Matt Webb of BERG at Arup’s “The Penguin Pool”. He caught my attention still further by saying that we need to “treat data like a material” that it’s like wood; it can be made into new forms and transformed into new objects. He lost my attention later with the ‘Little Printer’ – but let’s come to that when we get to it…

I liked what he said about needing to make data more accessible and human; using techniques of presentation and visualisation to aid insight and interpretation; the presentation of complex data sets as human faces with different expressions and characteristics; the projection of a massive CO2 smoke ring as a representation of carbon footprint of a district heat/power scheme in Scandinavia. And the way he and his colleagues seem to be thinking about the issues looks good, the story he tells is engaging and insightful.

Another idea I really like is the BERGCloud – as I understand it, it’s a kind of integration layer between the looming “Cloud” of massive data objects and real things and people. No detail but a great concept.

I can’t avoid talking about the Little Printer. The presentation was so compelling that, when we got to the Little Printer, I just thought – ok, yeah, right. It wasn’t until later that I had second thoughts. It’s a small, cute looking printer that prints out onto a thermal paper roll (like the receipt printers in shops). It connects to the Internet and you can set it to print out reminders, lists, notes and so on. Doesn’t work for me – but hey; let’s assume it’s a demo of what the BERGCloud might be able to do.

Type as object – Arkitypo

The irony of 3D printing technology being used to print out solid versions of classic typefaces will not be lost on you.

It’s the work of Johnson Banks and Ravensbourne and it’s fantastic. Michael Johnson told us the story of how it came about.

What I like about it is the fusion of craft (typeface design) and technology.

And I remember setting type; composing stick, tweezers for fine point type, quoins, forme. And the smell of the ink and the sound when the impression is made.

If you get the chance to go to a ‘Penguin Pool’ – don’t reflect – just dive in!

And here’s an Audioboo made at the time:

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