Speculative Design: Blowup – The Era of Objects

Just a quick note to say — I’ll be at this event at V2__ in Rotterdam (V2_, Eendrachtsstraat 10, Rotterdam) Thursday September 29..so if you’re around, you should come. If you’re not — you should dial-in: ((This event will be streamed live at http://live.v2.nl))

Beyond the flying car: join top designers Julian Bleecker (Nokia, Near Future Laboratory), Alexandra Deschamps-Sonsino (Really Interesting Group), and Anab Jain (Superflux) in an exploration of speculative design.

We are rapidly entering (and perhaps even have already entered) an era where we are able to print 3D objects at our desks, make and share laser-cut gifts for friends, and use off-the-shelf tools to plug these creations into the web and have them send status updates on our behalf. We have some commonly-held visions of the future, but what could our very wildest dreams (and nightmares) look like, beyond the cliché of the flying car? What answers can we find in speculative design? Our expert guests will explore these questions in collaboration with the audience in a hands-on, “open think-tank” format.

Addressing this contemporary issue will be Julian Bleecker: designer, researcher at the Design Strategic Projects studio at Nokia Design and co-founder of Near Future Laboratory; Alexandra Deschamps-Sonsino: product designer, entrepreneur, and partner at Really Interesting Group (London); and Anab Jain: interaction designer, founder of Superflux, and recent TED Fellow.

Following a brief talk show with Julian, Alexandra, and Anab, the audience will have the unique opportunity to collaborate with our invited experts in an “open think-tank”: a guided speculative design session wherein we’ll address the product design challenges of the near and not-so-near future.

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Design Fiction Workshop at UX Week 2011

So — enough yammering. Time for some hammering. It’ll be workshops from here to fore. Getting to work. Shirtsleeves. Lab coats. Smocks. Aprons. Hammers.

I’ll be doing a workshop later this summer — August 24 from 2-5:30, to be precise — at the UX Week week-ish long conference in San Francisco brought to you by the fine folks at Adaptive Path. It’s got the didactic title: How the Practice of Design Can Use Fiction to Create New Things. We’re done with fancy, clever, snarky titles for workshops.

It looks like a swell line-up. Old friends. New ones. Fun sounding workshops and methoducation sessions.

Sign up. It’ll be fun.

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From Dick Fosbury to the guy who put wheels on luggage, creating disruptions to convention in positive ways has often meant looking at the world differently. Fiction, especially science fiction, is a way of telling a story about and then forcing one to think about the world by looking at it with a different lens.

Design can approach its creative and conceptual challenges to make things better, or to think differently or to disrupt convention by combining its practice with that of fiction.

In this workshop we will look at the practical ways of employing the rhetorical, creative and cinematic aspects of fiction to help think, act upon, design and create new things.

The principle is simple. If cinematic and literary fiction is able to help imagine and communicate things that may not be possible, how can these same forms of story telling help design practices create disruptive visions of the near future?

In the workshop will share a number of relevant case studies where design and fiction were brought together. The process and outcomes of these case studies will be discussed. Through these case studies we’ll discover approaches, techniques and principles for a pragmatic designing-with-fiction process.

Prerequisites:
An open mind, notebook, pen. Familiarity with science-fiction film, optional.

Outcomes:
A set of tools, approaches and processes for initiating practical design fiction in the studio.

Continue reading Design Fiction Workshop at UX Week 2011

Science Fiction Prototyping for Technology Innovation

Saturday April 23 1994, 000000

Science-fact and science-fiction all in a productive, creative, inspirational muddle. Jurassic Park meets its science meets its facts and its fictions in a favorite Time magazine cover, April 23, 1994.

This is really exciting to me. It feels like there is serious ((i.e. people with degrees who gather at conferences and congresses and use words like R&D)) comprehension of the way that science-fiction is a kind of science-fact, and science-fact is a kind of science-fiction. In fact, the two are one and the same and the categorization is mostly useful to bookstores who need to divvy up what goes where. There’s an incredibly rich view of the creation and materialization of new ideas if you disallow the hard distinctions. Honestly. It’s not insurgent view; it’s an innovative view. Seeing these kinds of cross-overs and crosstalk and the blurring-of-lines ((as should be the case, I believe — for the good of the whole smash)) makes me want to go to something like this, even after swearing off of this sort of specialist conference.

It’s at least worth looking at this Creative Science Foundation ((big sounding puff there)) the “brain-child” of an intriguing Futurist ((how artisinal)) called Brian David Johnson which has a few links to some intriguing activities and work, including this Morrow Project that Intel ran where they got some writers to write about life in the future.

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1st Call For Papers

2nd International Workshop on Creative Science (CS’11)
– Science Fiction Prototyping for Technology Innovation –

Sponsored by Intel & Published by IOS Press

Held in conjunction with The 7th International Conference on Intelligent Environments (IE’11)

Nottingham, UK. 25th-26th of July 2011
http://www.creative-science.org/

Background and Goals: This international workshop will explore the use of science fiction as a means to motivate and direct research into new technologies and consumer products. It does this by creating science fiction stories grounded in current science and engineering research that are written for the explicit purpose of acting as prototypes for people to explore a wide variety of futures. These ‘prototypes’ can be created by scientists and engineers to stretch their work or by, for example, writers, school children and members of the public to influence the work of researchers. The outcomes of these interactions are then fed back, to shape the science research and outputs. In this way science fiction prototypes act as a way of involving the widest section of the population in determining the science research agenda, thereby making science investment, and science output more useful to everyone ranging from companies, through scientists and engineers to the public, consumers and the government that indirectly fund R&D. In this way fictional prototypes provide a powerful interdisciplinary tool to enhance the traditional practices of research, design and market research. The goals of the workshop are to act as a catalyst of this new approach by acting as a forum where researchers from differing disciplines (notably science fact and science fiction) can come together to explore how to develop this area.

Participation: You are cordially invited to participate to the workshop either as a presenter or as someone simply wishing to learn more about this topic and, perhaps, join the discussion as a member of the audience. Participation is possible either by attending the workshop in person, or by participating via the Internet. For presenters (science researchers or writers) we are looking for short imaginative fictional stories (prototypes) of no more than 12 pages (and presentations of 20 minutes) based on recent scientific publications, which would act as motivation (or discussion) or how science research might be directed. Your fictional stories (prototypes) should include a short discussion (no more than 2 pages) of your published work (and how they relate to your story, including references to your work). The fictional stories (prototypes) should conclude with a short summary (half to one page, say) that provides an overall comment on your effort to use your fictional prototype as a means to motivate your future work. References should be included at the end of the paper. All fictional stories (prototypes) accepted will be published by IOS Press.

Thanks to Intel’s generous sponsorship we will pay the workshop registration costs for the 10 best Science Fiction Prototype (SFP) stories, as judged by the reviewing committee. In addition, a Samsung P1000 Galaxy Tab (eg ARM Cortex A8 1GHz, 16GB, 7 inch TFT LCD, 3G, BT 3.0, Android 2.2) will be awarded to the writer of the best Science Fiction Prototype.

Workshop Structure: The workshop will comprise a single day event and will include:
Presentations (papers) from science and engineering researchers on their own scientific papers/projects depicting how they foresee their research might impact future worlds.
Presentations from science fiction writers depicting aspects of their stories that they feel would be feasible and useful for scientists to try to implement.

The Venue: CS’11 will run in conjunction with IE’11 at Nottingham in the heart of England and a popular tourist destination attracting an estimated 1.3 million visitors annually. Many visitors are attracted by Nottingham’s nightlife, its history, the legend of Robin Hood, Sherwood Forest and popular history-based tourist attractions including Nottingham Castle. More details are given on the IE11 web pages .

Important dates:
Paper submission: 28th March 2011 (via the CS’11 paper story submission system)
Notification of acceptance: 25th April 2011
Paper final submission (with revisions): 9th May 2011

Workshop Fees:
Before 9th May 2011
– Regular Participant or Presenter (all non-students) = £144
– Student Participant or Presenter = £120.00
After 9th May 2011
– All categories = £180

Workshop Organisers:
Brian David Johnson (Intel Labs, USA)
Victor Callaghan (University of Essex, UK)
Simon Egerton (Monash University, Malaysia)

Continue reading Science Fiction Prototyping for Technology Innovation

Design Culture Lab: Ethnographic Fiction & Speculative Design Workshop

Wednesday January 12 09:25

A Call for Papers for an intriguing sounding workshop expanding upon and evolving the Design Fiction ideas.

This full-day workshop aims to explore how grounded ethnographic and action research methods can be transformed into fictional and speculative designs that provide people the kinds of experiences and tools that can lead to direct community action in the development and implementation of new pervasive technologies.

Submission of position papers 1 April, 2011
Notifications of acceptance 30 April, 2011
Final papers due 27 May, 2011
Workshop 30 June, 2011

Organisers

Dr Anne Galloway is Senior Lecturer, Design Research in the School of Design, Victoria University of Wellington.
Dr Ben Kraal is Research Fellow with the People and Systems Lab, Queensland University of Technology.
Professor Jo Tacchi is Deputy Dean, Research and Innovation in the School of Media and Communication, RMIT.

Fun stuff! More here.
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Lab Coats In Hollywood

At long last David A. Kirby’s book Lab Coats in Hollywood: Science, Scientists, and Cinema will hopefully actually finally be released this March 2011. For those of you who haven’t followed the Design Fiction citational and bibliographic rabbit hole, you’ll be delighted to find out that one of the cornerstone insights — the idea of the “diegetic prototype” — was inked by Kirby in his essay “The Future Is Now: Diegetic Prototypes and the Role of Popular Films in Generating Real-world Technological Development”

I introduce the term ‘diegetic prototypes’ to account for the ways in which cinematic depictions of future technologies demonstrate to large public audiences a technology’s need, viability and benevolence. Entertainment producers create diegetic prototypes by influencing dialogue, plot rationalizations, character interactions and narrative structure. These technologies only exist in the fictional world — what film scholars call the diegesis — but they exist as fully functioning objects in that world. The essay builds upon previous work on the notion of prototypes as ‘performative artefacts’. The performative aspects of prototypes are especially evident in diegetic prototypes because a film’s narrative structure contextualizes technologies within the social sphere. Technological objects in cinema are at once both completely artificial — all aspects of their depiction are controlled in production — and normalized within the text as practical objects that function properly and which people actually use as everyday objects.

In this book is the chapter that cornered in my mind the relevance of Kirby’s work to the practice of design. Which is awesome as it’s a kind of closing-of-the-circle between earlier interests of the Laboratory in the study of science, technology and society (a field of study of which Kirby is associated) and are more recent activities trying to understand and practice and advance what design can do to make things better.

The book is an study of the relationship between science and technology consultants and their role in helping Hollywood tell science-based, typically fictional visual stories — sci-fi film! Their role is one that ultimately shapes the way larger movie-going publics come to understand what science and technology is capable of, and even influences desire, hope, aspirations and fears. Think of the ways that sci-fi film becomes part of a larger collective conversation about how the world works, what the future holds (both hopeful and apocalyptic), the viability of space travel, cyberterrorism, new paradigms for computing — so much.

In this book, I’m certain Kirby walks through these topics in what I am sure is a thoughtful, engaging and entertaining read. Anyway — I’m super looking forward to this book and, well — I’ll just go ahead and preorder mine.
Continue reading Lab Coats In Hollywood

Art Center Summer Residency: Learning and the New Ecology of Things

Saturday November 28 12:06

Seems Art Center’s Media Design Program has extended its deadline for applicants for a summer residency — learning and pervasive/ubiquitous/thing-y computing.

http://www.artcenter.edu/mdp/research/summer2011/

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Learning and the New Ecology of Things

We are particularly interested in projects that explore learning in a context of pervasive computing, including mobile technologies, social networking, online systems and digital media. We will consider projects for all learning situations but are most interested in post-secondary art and design education, as an extension of our New Ecology of Things initiative.

This unique context is best for research that incorporates design and prototyping as a mode of inquiry. Outcomes may include working prototypes, speculative visions, new pedagogical models and new learning contexts.

The project may consider the full spectrum of pervasive computing’s role, from additions to the traditional studio classroom, to supplemental learning outside of the classroom, to distance learning with a teacher, to completely self-directed learning.

Since the project is focused on pervasive computing, traditional browser-based online learning systems should not be central to the project.

* How do the tangible interactions enabled by pervasive computing change the potentials of eLearning for art and design students who are learning how to make physical artifacts?

* How might art/design critique be affected by the use of pervasive computing?

* What role might tablets, smart phones, sensors, or actuators play in learning?

* What role might social networking play in new learning systems integrated with ubiquitous computing?

* How might contemporary educational practices such as project-based learning and collaborative learning change in a context of pervasive computing?

* What role might tangible interaction play in education for non-artifact-based design such as that for experiences, plans, and systems?

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You'd Be Right To Wonder

Wednesday January 12 00:17

You’d be right to wonder why there has not been much here for a couple-few weeks. Contrary to a vicious rumor, we neither adopted a needy office pet nor did we father-seed a dead pop star’s child.

It’s Annual Planning Month here in the Laboratory, when we assess what will be our near future priorities, goals, strategic themes and projects. It’s weeks of mulling, muttering, hemming, hawing, pausing, sputtering, drinking and brow-furrowing. After all the strategery comes the planning. We’re deploying a rigorous phalanx of unforgiving planning-to-do tools, reacquainting ourselves with our old avuncular friend — Mr. Gantt and his fabulous chart. Along with this is Mr. Gantt’s trusty Sancho Panza, Mr. Miles Stone.

That’s right. Planning, charting, back-filling objectives and sticking to our guns. This way, at the end of each “Q” (that’s Quarter to you non-accomplishers-of-things) we can re-assess and re-target. In fact, we might even be working at the level of the “P” (sorry, “Period” or one of your Earth “Months” to you terrestrials) and perhaps even the microscopic time element — the Week.

Where has this sudden bit of planning gluttony come from?

*Shrug. Who the fuck knows.

But, it feels right and it will help the Laboratory to say “no” because it’ll all be right there, in Mr. Gantt’s chart and resource managers can point and wag a finger and say “Uhn uhn uhhhnnn..that’s not going to happen. Back to your computation terminal!”

The ring of the ball-peen hitting the work piece on the anvil. The smell of the coke smelting the ore. Lustful, material things. Things getting done and made.

So — what’s on the plate?

Well, I can give you the *general theme, but nothing super specific, and that’s only because of the deeply sensitive nature of our work and the fact that it might have deep political affect on the ways the needle-heads upstairs in Finance & Control’s (mis)understand what exactly it is we do and how it brings incalculable value to the efficiency of the Laboratory — unlike the Bridges and Thoroughfare Systems Group which never, by the way, ever did a damn thing to contribute to our bottom line, least as best as I can tell.

Wednesday December 29 17:00

Here it is. This year’s theme: Less Yammering. More Hammering.

Let me explain. In the recently deceased year, we spent the bulk of our informal projects time talking about things that were *more than interesting to us.

It was more than interesting. Supra-interesting. Boundless interestingness. I’m talking mostly about, well — talking about #designfiction. And this will continue as a theme within whatever theme happens to be the theme-of-the-day.

At the same time, the yammering meant there was less time (despite having it on the list of the Professional Development Plan) actually making things. Now — I love to talk and have conversations around engaging, new, whacky-but-intriguing ideas. That’s the guano of innovation. It’s how things change, grow, evolve. Ideas come to life in the conversations. The conversations are that which promote and propagate; they contain the narrative logics that poke and prod and stretch and materialize those thoughts, making them more tangible and more legible. So — I love to yammer. As you may know — I also really love to hammer: to make things that are distillations and materializations of those conversations. Little props and provocative objects that help think-through and evolve those conversations.

Years ago the Laboratory wrote a tremendously short essay called Why Things Matter in which I ham-fistedly explained my thinking about the importance of “social objects” and the ways that these can become as yammer-y as normal human beings and, thereby, bring about material change to the world. It was most an interest in how things like Pigeons or Salmon suddenly connected to the *network in oftentimes simple ways could alter the terms of conversations about things like environmental issues, pollution or fishing legislation.

What I learned through that was the importance of making things — but it’s not just the made-thing but the making-of-the-thing, if you follow. In the *making you’re also doing a kind of thinking. Making is part of the “conversation” — it’s part of the yammering, but with a good dose of hammering. If you’re not also making — you’re sort of, well..basically you’re not doing much at all. You’ve only done a *rough sketch of an idea if you’ve only talked about it and didn’t do the iteration through making, then back to thinking and through again to talking and discussing and sharing all the degrees of *material — idea, discussions, conversations, make some props, bring those to the discussion, *repeat.

Friday January 14 12:04

So — we’re not done here with the #designfiction theme, but it is an idea that needs some material-making, at least here, and lots of people are doing this as well. But, generally thinking — it’s time to get back to making stuff, building little probes and provocateurs and trouble-makers. That means booting up the old software-making toolkits, breaking a few of Simon’s milling tools (sorry, again..), learning how to CNC myself so I can make my own mistakes, getting a CAD package in that old PC in the Laboratory, etc.

There’ll be posts here and status updates and of course — yammering. It’ll just be tempered with and by and through the making as it once was oh a couple-few years ago when we were making hellzalot of electronics.

This’ll be the year of trouble-making apps of various sorts, I think. The first one is the digital edition of the previous Drift Deck, analog edition which has had a sort of silver-year’d renaissance thanks to @bldgblog writing a nice, thoughtful little post about it. That’s being done by Jon Bell and Dawn Lozzi with myself being the design project equivalent of the annoying sot who wants to have “just one more.” Allegedly, so long as I *don’t have “just one more” this should be done by the new networked age’s equivalent of the finish line — South by Southwest, which’d be March 11. (Here is a printable PDF of the Drift Deck, analog edition for those who have had trouble downloading it from Slide Share.)

There are other things, of course. The completion of the Laboratory’s re-make of 2001: A Space Odyssey, finally doing the animated Death Match between Apollo LEM and Space POD, a *book project with more images than words, revisiting two old location-based software toys, and a crackapp that may hopefully get us in good trouble with parents.

Thursday January 13 17:56

Finally — this is it, really: the sub-genre of this year’s theme “Less Yammering. More Hammering.” is — “Low Brow.” In fact “Low Brow” was the original theme, but it didn’t test too well in the experts’ reviews. But, if I think about it, it lives on in a way. It provided the transposition algorithm, turning the wonderfully optimistic “Get Excited. Make Things.” that our friend Matt Jones (@moleitau) of Berg meme-seeded into a sort of by-the-scruff, morning drunkard, roughneck-ificiation — “shut up and just do it, you moron” — only I made to rhyme so that I can sing it — should things come to that.
Continue reading You'd Be Right To Wonder

Action Sharing 2 Creative Competition

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Ambling around Medieval Torino with @bruces during the 2008 Share Festival.

The fine folks at Piemonte Share in Torino are doing a creative competition called Action Sharing 2!

Here’s the Call for Participation. Deadline is November 30th!

Winner can supervise the planning and *production of the project itself, so it sounds like their angling for something that is smart, creative and manufactureable, which gets closer to the honey-pot of creativity and production. ((All of you who think its easy to get something produced — and I mean the people part of enrolling folks into your vision, which is why it’s often easier to just sit by yourself, make something in your studio and be a quiet, sullen, earnest artist — it ain’t. But the folks at Piemonte Share are giving you a chance to call the shots!
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Future of Technology Conference University of Michigan September 24-25

Friday October 16, 15.04.18

I’ll be speaking at the Future of Technology conference at the Taubman College of Architecture, Planning and Urban Design on September 25th — the conference is on the 24th and the 25th. This courtesy of my chum John Marshall, who I visited last year to be a guest in his fantastic Heliotropic Smart Surfaces design studio which, if I remember correctly — John and Karl had no idea (in a good way!) what would happen other than that they would look into “smart” and the sun and surfaces. Brilliant guy, he is. That’s the way to run a creative studio. Optimism and enthusiasm and a tinge of creative recklessness.

Friday October 16, 11.34.47

Anyway. That’s where I’ll be. In Ann-Arbor.
Continue reading Future of Technology Conference University of Michigan September 24-25

Made Up Panel Discussion September 17 at Art Center College of Design

One week from today I’ll have the pleasure of sharing a panel discussion with my old chum Sascha Pohflepp and the eminent Norman Klien as Art Center rounds out its summer “Made Up” residency studio program. Fun. Come out and check it out!

Join the Media Design Program
Friday, September 17, 2010
3:00 to 5:00 pm
Wind Tunnel Gallery, South Campus, Art Center College of Design
950 S. Raymond Ave., Pasadena, CA 91105

FREE TO THE PUBLIC
PARKING ON SITE

AS IF: alternate realities

This panel discussion, moderated by MADE UP organizer Tim Durfee, will consider the value (or perhaps merely the appeal) of a methodology that could be characterized as: assume a set of conditions (abitrary, absurd, speculative), play it straight. Historically, alternate realities have been the realm of literature and film but what might be the effects of such an approach within a field (design) that is conventionally concerned with the cold, hard facts of the real world, of the here and now. And importantly, why does this work feel uniquely relevant NOW?

Detail from SUPERCALIFORNIA! by Sascha Pohflepp

Panelists:

Sascha Pohflepp, London-based designer and artist, was one of this summer’s researchers-in-residence. As part of the MADE UP theme, he produced the project “SUPERCALIFORNIA!” which turns the phantom futures of Southern California into compelling design fiction.

Julian Bleecker, a designer and technologist, is a researcher at the Design Strategic Projects studio at Nokia Design, and the co-founder of the Near Future Laboratory, a “design-to-think” studio.

Norman Klein is a cultural historian, critic, and novelist, and the author, with Margo Bistis, of the multi-media database/novel/website/art installation titled “The Imaginary Twentieth Century,” a historical science-fiction novel. His forthcoming book is called The Dismantling of the American Psyche: MediaBuzz, Political Branding, and Collective Amnesia: 1968-Present

“For alternative realities, I see many options in work that I have doing recently: from parallel worlds models to ‘wunder-romans’ (archival/media novels), to the misremembering of the future, and ‘the dismantling of the American psyche’…” —Norman Klein

“I have long been interested in how science fiction has influenced science fact. To me, design fiction encourages peculiar design practices in an attempt to create different sorts of near future worlds. The Made Up project promises to illuminate the future-oriented practice of design and help us understand how design probes imaginatively and materializes ideas, oftentimes through stories.” —Julian Bleecker

Continue reading Made Up Panel Discussion September 17 at Art Center College of Design