iii. epic user story

“The art challenges the technology, and the technology inspires the art” says Pixar founder John Lasseter. Within the realm of the enabled landscape, there is no exception.


Epic User Journey 

At the beginning of the first century during the time of the Roman Empire, one of the earliest geographers Strabo would publish a 17 book encyclopedia of geographic knowledge entitled “Geographica”. The influence of this seminal work on geography would endure. Renaissance scholars and artists in Florence would still make reference 1,500 years later. Within Strabo argues ‘that poetry is foremost a pursuit of knowledge’, ‘that only the poet is wise’ and denotes Homer as ‘the beginning of geography’. A positive correlation between the great geographers and poetry exists including Zhang Heng, Ptolemy and Ziryab.       Fundamental to modern western canon is Homer’s epics poems The Iliad and The Odyssey. Much of the grandeur of the later can be accredited to the focus of the protagonist, Odysseus, a hero warrior who finds himself in fantastic adventures on his long voyage home to Ithaca after victory in the great Trojan war.  From an etymology standpoint, Odyssey was also the name of the first vector Geographic Information System developed by Harvard Laboratory Computer Graphics.   The technical infrastructure is still evident today in the world’s largest GIS provider, ESRI.  Odyssey was also the name for the NASA Apollo command service module on that eventful mission number 13. 



Homer, “The First Geographer” 


The Grandeur of Ordinary Life 

Mobile AR could hit over a billion user by 2021 (Digit-Capital). One billion individuals. Thousands of new epics.  In his masterpiece, Ulysses, Joyce establishes a series of parallels between Homer’s poem the Odyssey (Ulysses in Latin). The protagonist of Ulysses, Leopold Bloom, is an ordinary man wandering Dublin on a single day. Joyce focuses deep respect and immense interest on Bloom believing an individual’s experience of the world was deeply worthy. Joyce states, ‘if I can get to the heart of Dublin, I can get to the heart of all cities in the world’. Elevating this simultaneously ordinary and therefore unique man on par with the traditional warrior hero Odysseus.  The apparent little things which we all universally experience in daily life; spending time with family, meeting friends, or a simple walk. The daily universal rhythms and interactions with people and places. The grandeur of ordinary life.



“I am really one of the greatest engineers, if not the greatest, in the world” James Joyce


There is a deliberate elevation of ordinary, to highlight in the significance of a reader’s own life often overlooked. With AR that is potentially one and a half billion individuals whose daily life could be enhanced. Marshall Mc Luhan’s insight of “the medium is the message” will appear to continue within augmented reality. Through the right lens of Joyce’s literature, we are revealed as beautiful serious, deep and fascinating. Our own lives are just as interesting as those of the traditional heroes of antiquity it is just we fail to appreciate them. As Yeats describes ‘the grass blade carries the universe upon its points’. “Joyce’s work takes hold of a universal rather than just the Irish heritage” states Seamus Heaney. Joyce being Irish, far from being exclusive and partial, can be universal and comprehend (both in the sense of embracing and of understanding) the entire world, mirrored in the same sense in the accomplishments of Miro or Van Gogh. 

This lesson is understood by some of the best brands in the world.  The sole focus on understanding the individuality of the customer, the emphasis of care and detail for the always unique person on the receiving end of a product or service, is delivered few better than by Tom Ford. 






Locale & The Universal 

Patrick Kavanagh notes, ‘Parochialism, is universal it deals with the fundamentals’. He cherished the ordinary, the actual, the known, the unimportant. As too did Johannes Vermeer as exemplified in one of his masterpieces, “The Little Street”, exhibited at the Rijksmuseum of Amsterdam and insured for half a billion pounds. An anti-heroic picture, a weapon against false images of glamour. Modest things are enough. Most of life is routine, modest, humble. Vermeer turns our headlight to things we often overlook but care about deeply. Raising the prestige of seemingly random things or locations. Consider the painstaking and skilful detail of this unextraordinary street given the same care as to a fresco within the Vatican Sistine Chapel.


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The Little Street (Het Straatje) – Johannes Vermeer 1657–58


Great augmented reality design could use topographical features as a stage for individual experiences that are universal for all people, amplifying and celebrating the rhythms and grandeur of ordinary life. Connecting the individual (i) with the locale (L)  to reveal the universal (u). What I call the place principle.


Place Principle   

Great AR =  iL > u 


The real questions are; what will you make? What good will you add to this new world?  How will you change it for the better?