CfP. Twelve 2 Week Residencies in…Synthetic Biology!


We seek participants for a research project on synthetic biology, design, and aesthetics. The project will provide funding to bring together scientists and engineers working in synthetic biology with artists, designers, and other creative practitioners. Resources will be made available for ‘embedded residencies’, in which artists and designers will spend time in laboratories, and scientists and engineers in artistic studios and design workspaces. It is our intention that such collaborations will produce presentable results, although the form these take is entirely open to the participants. Travel and accommodation expenses will be covered by the project.

We aim to construct the groundwork for future collaborations that could inform new types of engineering, new schools of art and design, and innovative approaches to the study of synthetic biology in society.

((This just recently in the inbox from Daisy Ginsburg who lives in that middle space between science and design that is positively the right place to be if you have interests in both of these practice idioms and have a deep commitment to creatively mucking things all to hell and gone. Isn’t this cool? There are two different rules for submitting your bona fides depending on whether you think you’re a scientist/engineer or an artist/designer? More details on the residency and the project are below.))

Here is a PDF of the Call for Participants.

Further Details
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The Week Ending 050310

Thursday March 04 09:47

Man..was *that a week. No one’s counting, or probably even noticing, but I missed my weeknote from the week before — there’s a gap — so this is really a weeks notes. ((Now I’m definitely talking to myself, I know that.)) But it was all a strange, hopped-up, late-night-then-squeeze-of-port sort of blurofatwoweeks. It was all around developing sound, evocative, provocative poke/prod/converse communication around this Trust project. And it all went splendidly. Only I noticed the holes, skips, bumps and false-starts, so that’s fine. It’s the *auteur’s eye — ((stated with all humility)), but when you get to the point of such profound intimacy with 3200 frames of a short video, you begin to notice as no one else ever will. And, it was also two weeks of an incredible design team hitting on all cylinders without trying. So..there’s that.

So, preparation, making small movies which is way more involved than I would’ve *ever thought, especially given that they ultimately end up being maybe a minute or at most 90 seconds long. Pitifully tedious compositing work that becomes more tedious because I didn’t think ahead to how tedious it could become if you don’t take care of, say — one super small detail ahead of time. &c.

Why little movies? Why small little films? Well — the rough thinking is to communicate differently to engage good folks who are perhaps optimized for being talked to via PowerPoint. *Death by PowerPoint, is what one might say. And *Death by CAD renderings. The death of the imagination. What we want are things that start conversations — a clever idea, something that compels a discussion and encourages a new way of doing what needs to be done. It’s also, despite the pain of production which presumably gets better with practice, quite a good way to think and design and not just a means of communication. The process of being forced to tell a small, momentary story about a thing or an experience — it gives you special language powers and new perspectives, and visual metaphors to help shape and smooth and refine the thinking. Clearly — it’s not just the film itself which is the outcome of all that work.
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Pogoplug Ugly Ass Design

Friday February 12, 17.41.50

Friday February 12, 17.42.30

Boy, that’s one ugly, ugly industrial design *refresh. I have no idea what got into the head of whoever is attempting to design these things, but that first one? The small one on the right? Not great, but it’s basically not meant to be a flashy desktop thingie or to sit next to your flower vase. It goes in the wall, is all. And — that’s good enough. If there were to be an ID refresh? To make distinguish it? Would you throw on a tongue-licker pink brace? And make it bigger? It’s a *plug* computer, for crying out loud. Pogoplug, indeed.

I’m baffled.

If it matters, these are clever little plug computers under the Pogoplug mark — an incarnation of the plug computing reference platform — that, without much else, create a little puff of internet cloud for you and me, allowing us to avoid fussing with the more vaporous clouds steamed up by Google and Amazon and the like. For small group personal networks — they’re brilliant. That’s the start. Plenty of people are cooking up all sorts of new weird things for these to do. Running Linux makes them ripe for modifications and alterations.
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A Relevant Talk

Just two quick points on this great talk by Mike Kruzeniski. First, this idea of developing new languages to describe decision points in the creation of technical things is quite good and brought home quite effectively by a guy who has some experiences doing just this within the beheometh Microsoft. Translating “P0, P1, P2” into Soul, Heart, Body is not just a simple variable replacement — these new words are precisely design shaping the creation of technical systems. Somewhere in between “design-led” fantasies of designing being in charge, and, for designers, the more grumbly — *we have no influence — gripes is this approach Mike talks about — closer to real pragmatic stuff, and about partnerships and learning together and the *good kind of manipulation of existing engineering practices and project management procedures.

Second point. I’ve been wrong to think that design-led creation of technology *stuff is the way of the future, and Mike’s experiences plus a couple of things here and there that I’ve experienced more directly are what make me certain I was wrong. Between knowing what it takes in practical terms to materialize an idea that won’t blow smoke when you plug in the power, and knowing that you can’t force someone to do something that they don’t believe in, especially if they are a technologist — well, the in-between is this idea of working together. No one wants to create a crap experience, but defining what is a good experience is what helps you get there.

Anyway. Listen to Mike’s talk and try to avoid wondering if his shirt was made from the same material they use for table clothes in pizza restaurants.
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