Monday, July 28, 2008

Is Found really lost?

Seems that Wired's "Found: artifacts from the future", a feature appearing monthly in the long-running tech-culture magazine, since February 02002, has quietly been canned. In its usual back-page spot, the issue currently on newsstands (August 02008, no. 16.08) instead runs an electronics advertisement.

I guess we can't say they didn't warn us. For July's edition, the "Found" item was a cover of the magazine itself, dated 02018, with (naturally) a number of clever headlines, reportorial witticisms and future references, including "The Final Found". Little did we suspect that "final" referred to 02008, rather than a decade hence.

So, what gives? Are they selling out coveted magazine real estate to eager advertisers? Taking a break to keep readers guessing? Or have the good folks at Wired simply run out of ideas?

Whatever the story, people are disappointed. On 23 July, programr commented beneath the last "Found" published online:
I can't believe that it looks like Wired has ditched Artifacts from the Future in the latest edition. I for one, would consider stopping subscribing because of this. It sounds silly, but this single page was part of the reason I told others to subscribe to this magazine. Without it, well, a major talking point is now gone.

Sentiments echoed in comments posted since.

And I agree with them. To me, for some time this has consistently been the magazine's most interesting feature.

In the wake of this development, Rhaomi at Metafilter has posted links to all the archived versions of Found (similar to what we've done here, most recently for the 02004 collection), and in the process, added dates for the projected futures depicted, which makes for an interesting overview of the varying time horizon.

Pending confirmation of the end of Found, I won't publish the 02008 collection just yet, but I do intend to continue next month with the pre-'04 archive (which as yet appears nowhere else online, it seems). And, with many other Wired readers, I'll hope we haven't seen the last of this innovative segment.

[02007 | 02006 | 02005 | 02004]

Update (04/08/08): Found is finished, according to a FishbowlNY report quoting personal email from Wired deputy editor Thomas Goetz. But a replacement feature, edited by Found veteran Chris Baker, is scheduled to start in October: "we are cooking up something very cool and very original for our *new* backpage feature, a new twist on the form that we think will engage and entertain our readers as much as Found has."

Update (22/09/08): Found: Redux


Jake Dunagan said...

That is disappointing news. I wonder what the reasoning was as well, but I have to say that while the concept of "artifacts from the future" has great efficacy for futures communication and provocation, the depth and sophistication of Wired's "Found" has remained the same since its inception. There is more to it than visual puns and quirky gadgets. I would like to see Wired, or another widely-read journal, take the next step with 'artifacts.' A quick look at tsf provides plenty of guidance.


Stuart Candy said...

Well yeah, I agree. I didn't want to attack so rare and (it turns out) so fragile a species. But it's true, Wired did maintain a certain simplicity through "Found" over the years... (Though some of the early ones were, I think, quite ingenious -- to be posted in due course.) It occurs to me that one way to make this kind of feature a little more challenging and interesting (having laid the groundwork of expectation for a regular feature), could have been to locate it in different places each time, without the title "Found" -- just the image itself; or carefully crafted future advertisements scattered among today's ads (acknowledgements in fine print at the side, or in the mag's colophon). Actually I included something not unlike that when co-editing my residential college's yearbook back at the University of Melbourne; we designed satirical ads for nonexistent products that commented on the personalities or habits of some of the more notorious residents...

Jake Dunagan said...

No doubt there were some thought-provoking and entertaining concepts realized within the "Found" feature. And let me add my kudos to Wired for offering a space for thinking creatively about the futures--it certainly had an influence on my approach to futures communication. As we've discussed and experienced many times, it is often difficult to innovate in content and form simultaneously, so understandable that the editors would reserve a consistent space for "Found." But, you're right, once the feature became an expected part of the magazine (usually the first thing I look at), then there is room for some further experimentation. However, I haven't looked closely at the most recent issue, so maybe they have already made the move and sprinkled the pages with artifacts from the future. Finding one would make my day.

David Beroff said...

Thanks for your kind reply to my inquiry; I published and replied to your comment. I also republished the one picture under discussion in today's post. (I'd have sent this comment by email, but couldn't find your address on this site.)

Keeping this comment on topic: I haven't followed the whole discussion, but it looks like Wired backpedalled and claimed that the feature, "took a short sabbatical", rather than quietly dying.