Posts Tagged ‘Lecture

Warming up for Picnic ’07

with 2 comments

Picnic ’07, Amsterdam’s annual event organized by the Cross Media Week Foundation focusing on creativity in cross media content and technology, is only a month away and the list of speakers is nearly finished. Between the 25th and 29th of September, Amsterdam’s Westergastfabriek will once again host the event after the succes of last year’s edition. But with such a diverse and wide-ranging programme, where will you go? In order to get into the mood and warm up for the event, it is worthwhile to highlight some of the fascinating speakers and take a more in-depth look at what they are all about.

Reuben Steiger (Former Linden Labs Evangelist and founder/CEO Millions of Us)
scion2ndlifeAt Picnic ’06 Philip Rosedale of Linden Labs / Second Life presented his take on ‘the empowerment offered by Second Life of the average citizen to not only create but monetize their own content and design’. This year former Linden Labs Evangelist Reuben Steiger will take the stage at Picnic’s Virtual Worlds, which is all about virtual worlds becoming central to the future of marketing, technology, entertainment and brand-building. After his work at Linden Labs, Steiger founded and became CEO of Millions of Us, a company dedicated to helping businesses understand and harness the power of virtual worlds. An example is the Toyota Scion car in Second Life.

Being an evangelist and clearly someone who believes in the power of virtual worlds, Steiger fights of recent criticism of Second Life as a branding tool at by saying that ‘some of the criticism is partially warranted, but a lot of it is poorly contextualized and opportunistic, in the sense that pundits love to tear down technologies that have ridden a wave of hype. IT analyst firm Gartner calls this the hype cycle – new technologies spark a wave of initial excitement, expectations inflate, the technology is found to be imperfect in some ways, and there is a backlash – but in the long term, a good technology will overcome the hype cycle and enjoy long-term adoption.’ Are virtual worlds all that Steiger says they are, or just a big bubble? Are you a skeptic or an enthusiast? Not sure? You can find out at Virtual Worlds. In the video below Steiger answers questions on his personal interest in Second Life and if virtual worlds are a response to alienation in real-life.

When? 27th September 14.00 – 17.00
Where? WesterUnie
What? Virtual Worlds at Picnic ’07

Cory Doctorow (SF novelist, blogger, technology activist)
doctorow overclocked Cory Doctorow, co-editor of popular weblog BoingBoing and contributor to the likes of New York Times and Wired, explores the benefits and consequences of online systems in his latest (fictional) book Overclocked: Stories of the Future Present (free download). This provocative collection of six previously released stories shows Doctorow extrapolating todays user experiences towards a futuristic vision and creating fascinating stories in doing so. An extensive review can be found at The Uberreview. For his writings, Doctorow has already been compaired to ‘Cyberspace’ godfather William Gibson by Entertainment Weekly. In the Authors@Google series Cory Doctorow himself presents and discusses the book, if any questions remain be sure to go see Doctorow at Fab, or the personal fabrication revolution.

When? 28th September
Where? WesterLiefde
What? FAB, or the personal fabrication revolution

Pablos/Paul Holman (Futurist, IT security expert, notorious hacker)
From an interview with Pablos “Paul” Holman at DLD ’07, shown in video below, comes the following provocative quote on creativity in companies: ‘Especially large companies tend to be poor at doing new things. They have lots of resources, lots of people and a lot of infrastructure . But all that gets in the way of when you’re trying to be creative. […] Ideally for me, I’d be able to wake up in the morning and dream up something I’ve been dreaming about. Then go build it by lunchtime, launch it in the afternoon and see if people like it. And then maybe fix some bugs by dinner.’

hackerbotpablosContrary to Doctorow, Holman does not read science fiction because he doesn’t want to be accused of plagiarism. His views however are, as the Picnic website also mentions, unique. With his design studio Komposite he ‘consults on bizarre invention and design projects that assimilate new technologies’. To give you an idea: Among his projects is the Hackerbot, a WiFi seeking robot that can find you when you’re using a wireless network – and drive up to show you your password on its screen. According to the Hackerbot website, the robot is really quite friendly and tries not to show your passwords to anyone else. Interested? Be sure to check out Holman at Picnic ’07, also if you’re interested in salsa dancing!

When? TBA
Where? TBA
What? Pablos Holman

Stefan Sagmeister (Graphic designer and typographer)
sagmeisterYou might have seen Stefan Sagmeister‘s design in your local record shop on the covers of Rolling Stones, Lou Reed and Talking Heads recordings. The Picnic website mentions that just as film, art, music and literature have the power to move people, Stefan Sagmeister’s innovative work shows that graphic design, too, can cut to the emotional core. An in-depth interview with Sagmeister can found at The image is courtesy of Grafik-freunde Stuttgart.

In 2004 Sagmeister spoke in Monterey, California about how design can make us happy and more specifically design that made him happy on a personal level. Telling stories ranging from billboards and museum exhibitions to pictorial language, Sagmeister is able to show how design can touch a nerve. Design never felt more personal while listening to Sagmeister’s presentation and his words seem far removed from corporate thought. Anyone intested in the emotional side of creativity, and creative industries in general, should see Sagmeister at Creative Genius: Things I Have Learned So Far at Picnic ’07.

When? 27th September 16.50 – 17.20
Where? Zuivering West
What? Creative Genius: Things I Have Learned So Far – Stefan Sagmeister

Various Meetings and (Un)Common Ground
Like last year, Picnic also hosts various meetings such as Virtueel Platform’s (Un)common Ground II: An expert meeting that brings together all the top thinkers in the industry. This year the sub-title is Scale and Intimacy. At the meeting experts will take a close look at the complex issues arising when practices and models of collaboration move across different scales. Like Stefan Sagmeister in his presentation, questions such as ‘how to maintain the emotional connection that people make to the ideas that are promoted or the services or products that it delivered’, are asked. Although the meeting is ‘invitation only’, be sure to check out Virtueel Platform’s publication (Un)common ground. Creative encounters across sectors and disciplines for more information.

For information on all Picnic ’07 events (25th – 29th of September) go to the Picnic network website. Oh… and did I mention Andrew Keen (see my previous post) will also be there?


Fiona Raby at the University of Amsterdam: Designs for fragile personalities in anxious times

leave a comment »

Room F201C of the University of Amsterdam’s Oudemanhuispoort building for an hour was the domain of Fiona Raby. She presented her ideas on design, which has close links to the design practice of Anthony Dunne. It is therefore no surprise that they also work together as Dunne & Raby on various projects. It is a vision on design that is not of technological futuristic visions, but of the fragile people, but still not pessimistic and depressing, but optimistic. Below is my account of the presentation.

Technological Utopias and Fragile People
According to Raby, the emotional world is taken from the home toward a medicinal state and the result of this shift we are seeing already in society in the growing pill culture. The space for imperfection is becoming smaller and we keep changing ourselves and, through the pill culture, to strive for perfection. This process is about the denial of our fears and anxieties instead of the much need celebration of these imperfections. And if we continue to surround ourselves with a technological utopia, Raby says that we are in fact really fragile people. What is interesting is the frailty of humanity and not the utopian vision.

Raby presents design as a way of problem solving and says that ‘it is at the heart of what we do’. In this way design can provide a counter discourse that revolves around society instead of just design. It is about checking the needs of society, look at its imperfections and in turn use that to solve problems. Don’t create a technological utopia based on a vision with no links to society, but try to use the imperfections instead of ignoring them.

But what happens when these problems become more complex and unsolvable? And how do we go about solving these problems? In this light Raby showed various design examples to emphasize these theories, below is a selection of those. The design project mentioned in the title can be found here: Designs for fragile personalities in anxious times.

Shopping Centre ‘BioLand’
A project by Dunne and Raby that relates to these questions is BioLand, a project worth checking out about a shopping centre that focusses ‘on deeply human needs and how biotechnology will impact on the ways these needs are met and understood.’ According to Raby, the future of the biotech world might be on the outskirts of any city. BioLand can be seen as a sandwich of all these different products that express the desires of what we really want.

Raby mentioned that ‘it is hard to imagine how design and the world of genetics can engage with eachother.’ BioLand is their idea to solve that problem. It is a search for something else than a technological utopia, it is a way ‘to develop proposals for hypothetical products and services which will be used as tools in later stages of the project to facilitate debate between the public and specialists about alternative biofutures.’

The shopping centre consists of seven departments:
1. IVF Land (Passion Conception Centre)
2. BioBank, Utility Pets, Clonetopia.
3. Immortality Inc.
4. ForEverAfter
5. GM Love
6. Future Perfect
7. Clinic

Evidence Dolls
Part of BioLand are the Evidence Dolls (2005) by Dunne and Raby. It is their response to genetics. Evidence Dolls, according to Raby, tries to show that in the future matching will not be about income or status, but about genetic material. The project consists of one hundred ‘specially designed dolls used to provoke discussion amongst a group of young women about the impact of genetic technology on their lifestyle.’ Basically the idea is that you can write on the blank doll and draw how you would like that part styled. Besides that ‘the Dolls come in three versions based on penis size (small, medium and large). A black indelible marker allows women to note down interesting characteristics of their lover. Hair, toenail clippings, saliva, and sperm can be collected and stored in the penis drawer.’

The dolls show a utopian view, the idea of a perfectly composed human being according to our personal standards and without the imperfections. Four single women reflected on the design. ‘Lady 01’ provided the most interesting responses : ‘Isn’t it selfish to pick what is best and not be happy with what nature gives you? I would like to clone this lover as a dog.’ Raby responds on this by mentioning that perhaps we can’t change humans, but we can do anything with the rest around us, such as our dogs.

The Technological Dream Series: No. 1 Robots

Because of lacking funds to actually launch this project, Fiona Raby shows us a short movieclip showing the main idea behind it. Raby says that we ‘grew up with idea of robots that would look out for us,’ and that society pushed robots towards ‘human-like things.’ But on the other hand, computers are disappearing inside our infrastructures. This project looks in between the two views in the form of five types of robots. What is society’s stance against robots, how would the interaction be with robots?

First: The autonomous robot that we have to co-exist with. It is alongside the human and doesn’t contribute much for us. It is completely autonomous and disconnected from us. This is visualized in the form of a person stepping in a circle. The circle does nothing besides just being there.
Second: A nervous robot that is anxious with social security. It senses everything in the room and it is very paranoid about what it is actually sensing. The form is cone shaped.
Third: An object where you stare in (for example an irisscan) which Raby sees as something you stare in, rather than you move through for example a gate at an airport. Interesting here it the relationship between the robot and yourself, before it realizes who you are or not .
Fourth: A robot that is constantly asks for attention and can’t be left alone. It wants to move around, but it can’t, so the human has to have some connection with it. The form is a lamp.
Fifth: This one is about Microbial fuel cells. What if a robot had to be fed in some way through a stomach, would that change our relation to what this thing is?

Mass production and Critical Design?
The aim of Dunne and Raby’s design is a way to reflect which they call Critical Design. What is interesting and made me think about after the lecture is the question if there is any goal to actually implement these ideas into massproduction. But within its meaning, I think Critical Design also opposes real commercial interests which is perhaps more on the side of technological utopianism.

The idea of society shopping for mass produced Critically Designed products at their BioLand is both intruiging and disturbing. But on the other hand: aren’t we already at a point that products placed in society create critical, or as Anthony Dunne calls them, psychosocial narratives of the design? For designers it is interesting to think about the design, for theorists it is perhaps more interesting to look at these psychosocial narratives used en masse in society. How do people actually interact with society and how do they apply their own meaning to products provided by the (forced) technological utopia?

As ‘Lady 01’ said it in Raby’s last slide: ‘Everything comes 10 years later. Usually the general public know about it at the last moment when everything falls apart. It’s too late, you can’t do anything about it anymore because its already here. I think we are being kept in ignorance.’