Cloud of Cards (ABCD), a home cloud kit


Research and Art direction by Patrick Keller and Nicolas Nova.


Cloud of Cards, a home cloud kit to reappropriate your dataself, is the principal outcome of the joint design and ethnographic research Inhabiting and Interfacing the Cloud(s), accompanied by two books in print-on-demand that document it.

The main results of the project are four artifacts [ A) - B) - C) - D) ], both digital and physical that constitute a set of modular tools (“cards”) that are delivered in the form of an open-source diy kit, freely accessible on www.cloudofcards.org as well as on Github. The purpose of these tools is to give everyone, the community of designers and makers in particular, the possibility to set up their own small size data-center and cloud, manage their data in a decentralized way or develop their own alternative projects upon this personal small scale infrastructure.


 
 

Naming the outputs of our design research: Cloud of Cards, a home cloud kit

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Cloud of Cards, a personal cloud kit. Scattered 19″ hybrid server racks, elements and kit to assemble and play with. (Photo.: Daniela & Tonatiuh)

 

We’re coming close to an end with the joint design research Inhabiting and Interfacing the Clouds and we’re becoming impatient to deliver the results: a diy small scale data center and cloud kit made of various elements (both physical and digital), to freely assemble at home or in your “garage”. Accompanied by two books documenting our work in print-on-demand!

At this stage though, we’ve given new and final titles to the design artifacts and tools that we’ve been working on lately, together with the research team (for the design & code part: Lucien Langton, Léa Pereyre, Christian Babski and myself).

 

Therefore…

 

Cloud of Cards, is a home cloud kit to help re-appropriate your data self. Obviously a distant tribute to House of Cards, the toy project by the Eames (“Toys and games are preludes to serious ideas”), the kit will consist of four artifacts:

19″ Living Rack is an open source server rack with a few functional hybridations, declined in four versions. Cloud of Cards Processing Library consists in a programming tool to help develop cloud applications with the Processing development language. 5 Folders Cloud is a version of the Cloud (ownCloud) with automated behaviors and cascades of events. It is an implementation of the processing library directly linked to the outputs and learnings of the ethnographic research about uses of the cloud. Finally, 5 Connected Objects physically interface the five automated folders in our version the cloud (5 Folders Cloud) with five “smart” objects and try to embody distant data in some kind of everyday domestic presence.

A “Home Cloud Kit” (evolution)

Note: the purpose of a “Home Cloud Kit” (working title) has been described in a previous post. It will be composed by four artifacts which will become the main outcomes of the design research Inhabiting and Interfacing the Cloud(s), along with one book about the ethnographic field study and another one about the design research process.

Below are four links leading to four posts describing and analyzing the current state of evolution for each part of this kit. We expect the research and the “kit” to be finished by the end of March 17.

The “kit” will be distributed freely at the end of the project.

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The final phase of our research consists in the prototyping of artifacts which relevance have been identified along the process. Tools, infrastructures and services are therefore addressed and will constitute a “Home Cloud Kit”.

 

This final phase is organized into the four following lines of work:

 

A) A Personal Data Center (evolution, models)

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B) I&IC’s OwnCloud Core Processing Library (evolution)

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C) A Personal Cloud (evolution)

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D) My Data Controllers (evolution, models)

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“A Personal Cloud”: a home cloud kit for personal data (centers) / “reappropriate your dataself”!

We’re entering the final straight of the research project Inhabiting and Interfacing the Cloud(s) and we can give at this point a first glimpse of the four design artifacts we are working on at the moment. They will constitute the main outcomes of our joint experimental effort (ECAL, HEAD, EPFL-ECAL Lab) and a kind of “personal cloud kit” (explained below). These creations will be accompanied by two books: one will present the results of the ethnographic research about “the cloud”, the other will present the design research process and its results – both in pod/pdf.

We already pointed out in the recent post “Updated Design Scenario” where we were heading. Since then, the different projects were better identified and started to get shaped. Some got eliminated. Prototyping and further technical tests are running in parallel at the moment.

 

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From the original “final scenario” sketch to …

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… a “Personal Cloud Kit”, composed of various physical and digital modular artifacts.

 

What emerged reinforced from the main design scenario is that we seek to deliver four artifacts (some physical, some digital, some combined) which themselves will constitute the building blocks of what we’ll call “A Personal Cloud Kit”. All four parts of this kit will be openly accessible on a dedicated website (e.g. in a similar way to what OpenDesk is doing).

The purpose of this “home kit” is to empower designers, makers and citizens at large who would be interested to start develop their own cloud projects, manage or interact with their data or even to set up small scale personal data centers at their places (homes, offices, garages …)

From design research wrap-up to final artifacts, updated design scenario (in scribble mode, #2)

 

This post consists in an important update to the previous note “From design research wrap-up to final artifacts, a design scenario (in scribble mode, #1)“.

It’s main purpose is to narrow down the previously sketched scenario and become more precise about the possible artifacts we will develop. In doing so, the present description shows a likely path and tries to keep some coherence within the overall design that is segmented in four different areas, often combined (software, hardware furniture, responsive objects, visualization). Yet and even so several objects and functions are described and named in this post, it will continue to serve only as a general blueprint for the last phase of our I&IC joint design research, while the final outputs could still largely evolve, based on the same ideas and plan.

 

These ideas keep their importance though:

Based on the graphic “Motivations <-> Usages <-> Problems” and its description of procedures, based on our “Design Learnings” too, we’ve tried to translate and objectify these into “natural language” of actions (and problems). At this stage, this is still a trial, but we’ve listed five pairs of words that work in opposition (verbs vs. past participles) and that cover the spectrum of functions and procedures: To Care (vs. Neglected!), To Accumulate (vs. Vanished!), To Multiply (vs. Shrinked! ), To Freeze (vs. “Melted!”), To “Pimp” (vs. “Jumbled!”) — all these corresponding to a set of cloud actions and explained with more details below, after the break —

These 5 pairs of terms will drive the development of an alternative, domestic and hopefully objective Cloud (“Our Cloud”), built upon the open source software OwnCloud with the help of our own I&IC OwnCloud Core Processing Library (which will be further edited and editable therefore). This personal Cloud will have the opportunity to be hosted into a new type of diy (and domestic as well) 19″ Cabinet.

The 5 pairs of terms will further drive the implementation of 5 Controllers or Network Data/Bot Objects (“Smart Objects”). The aim of these “controllers” will be to give an everyday physical presence to each user’s personal Cloud, to its 5 main folders, contained files or data and the processes they undergo. The manipulation of some of these objects will include the idea of “natural interface” or “gestures”.

In addition to these 5 physical controllers, 1 or 2 “root objects” could help monitor and possibly moderate the overall behavior of “Our Cloud”.

For the development of these “smart objects”, we’ve decide to take into account the kind of objects or infrastructure that are already present in a domestic environment, things like single functional objects (i.e. lamps, electric plugs, consoles, mirrors, clocks, etc.) and revisit them with a slight sculptural approach. We’ve also decided to consider a “language” that takes into account “invisibility” or “immateriality” (i.e. electricity, electrostatics, magnets, light, reflections, air currents or temperature, dust).

Finally, all of the above should be distributed as open source.

Three summary drawings

Three drawings from the previous series of scenario that resume quite well what we intend to do:

 

An objectified cloud (a combination of open source software, automated behaviors and physical data controllers),

 

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… that would find its physical location in a kind of retrofitted and open source 10″ cabinet,

 

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… to let anyone create and manage its own “tiny” and personal/home data center, based on existing or newly created open source technology.

I&IC design research wrap-up of sketches, towards artifacts

Following Nicolas Nova’s wrap-up regarding the ethnographic research about Cloud Computing which came to an end last April (publication to come) in the frame of Inhabiting and Interfacing the Cloud(s) (I&IC) and learning from it, it is also time for me to write a midterm status report about the design aspects of this ongoing work. It is the occasion to resume what we’ve been through along the process and highlight the most important elements.

 

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“No-Stop City” (A. Branzi, 1969) used as an illustration in the founding document of the I&IC design research.
Image retrieved from the post “I&IC Preliminary Intentions” (05.09.2014).

 

We are therefore trying to put in evidence in this article what we’ve learned so far during the process and where this might lead us as design strategies during the last year of this design study. This while knowing that our plans are to produce design artifacts and functional prototypes as results of this research process — among other ones (books, tools, etc.)