[etech06] playsh – the playful shell – Matt Web and Ben Cerveny


The logical conclusion of web services – the sea of knobs and buttons – APIs being extended like cilia from large databases and lots of ways to interact with ambient data. Right now we’re barely squiggling along with the browser. As usual what we thought was the top of the mountain was the first plateau.

all that is mashable recombines – every API and RESTian web service can be combined with every other – what does that really mean? What does it mean that all these things are flailing along out there – how do we make personal sense of this, frame it up? As all these things are spreading and proliferating, we need to be able to control the experience towards us.

Culture emerges on objects – what is the story? The people that are involved in the construction of these services constructed a conceptual model – every couple of years there’s a new fad or trend because it addresses some perceived problems with the old construct. These models actually are culture. We have collections of functions and we find different ways to reframe these – that expresses as tribe membership. We need to recognize that that is a playful process.

Collaborative Play transforms culture.

Wanted to build a platform that allows people to share mediated experiences. Started with abstract notions of how to create virtual communities and mediating extremely flexible space of shared experience online. The solution of how to deal with the models clashing is to make it playful – turn the conceptual banter into play. A living social organism that communicates with itself and creates innovation.

A history of Fabric

In a pre-web world there was the MUD, which then became the MOO. The MUD was a way to play D&D online, but the MOO transformed it to the idea that multiple people could become programmers who could create narrative objects. The differences between the user and the programmer were breaking down. You could begin to intuit what it is to participate in an object-oriented programming environment by extending existing objects. The critical planned piece that was never realized was a project called Fabric, which was to integrate the MOO kind of functionality into the operating system – access to networks, file systems, etc in a narrative fashion. At this point the windowing paradigm wasn’t set in stone, so the idea of a more flexible paradigm seemed more possible.

Matt shows a moo that treats urls ond web pages and feeds as resources within the game space. You can grep for specific kinds of data in specific tags on a web page.

Verbs have small amounts of Python code that do things, and can be combined.

As Yoz says in the back-channel, “He’s exploring the metadata and formats of the web through a text adventure interface.”

It’s an environment for mashups, combining small verbs.

Matt notes that navigating the text environment with commands like “north” or “east” is difficult when looking backwards at the projection screen.

He shows an alternative view of the space by controlling it as a card game.

There’s a shared python interactive interpreter within the playsh environment.

We should use our powerful computers to make the APIs available to those of us who want to be mechanics. The APIs allow hiding of differences. The thickening of the verb layer hides everything underneath. Shows a little of Animal Crossing for the Nintendo DS. Compares this to telephone banking – there’s no way of learning from what they operator is doing.

What if we could do all this stuff without xml parsing and learning apis, etc – that’s what playsh is about.

Flow calcifies into artifacts. Able to play with the experience as you have it. You can start off the system in total play mode with multiple people, and as that progresses things like tool.. s will fall out of the experience. People in technology are addicted to that moment of play, interacting socially around not-yet-defined experiences.

flickr is an example of a service that grew out of building a game.

Object oriented?

How can we have things that are the same things but seen differently.

player carries around pattern-binding machines which get acturalized at the time of use. “the real is not one thing but gradients of resistance”.

Playground Foundation in Amsterdam – multiple threads of investigation of the transfer of playful notions into tasks. How does the literacy in gaming affect the way we’ll be able to design computing in the future?

Download available at paysh.org

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