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Posts in category 'Foresight'

21 May 2014

Video of Experientia talk at Moleskine’s “Notes for the Future” event

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There are endless choices when it comes to recording and sharing our ideas. Reliable analog tools are converging with innovations in technology to produce new ways of working. So what’s the future of note-taking?

In celebration of 150 years of the Politecnico di Milano, Moleskine invited various creative thinkers – including Mark Vanderbeeken of Experientia – to share their thoughts on the subject in the first of a series of gatherings called “Notes for the Future“.

Moleskine has now compiled the outcomes of the first edition in a voicemap and a video, thus seeking to remain faithful to the theme at the center of Notes for the Future: converging audio, visual, analog and digital ways to record and share the ideas of the future.

20 December 2013

People powered data

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Geoff Mulgan, CEO of Nesta (the UK innovation charity), writes that in 2014 the growing movement to take back control of personal data will reach a tipping point.

“The next few years will bring a further explosion of data, and data awareness in daily life. We’re some way off the new Magna Carta that will, at some point, need to establish the ground rules of privacy, power and identity in a digital world. But these issues are fast moving from the margins to the mainstream of daily life – and quite a lot of very powerful organisations risk being on the wrong side of history.”

27 November 2013

[Report] Next generation working life

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How will work be organized in the Networked Society? Fundamental changes are taking place. Cultural changes and rapid technological development are changing the rules and opening up for new ways of structuring business and changes in the workplace. Ideas and innovation are fueling this move forward. It is becoming more important, if not essential to stay in a constant state of evolution while creating a climate where new ideas can surface and grow. So how will you survive in this new game?

In its report ‘Next generation working life – from workspace to exchange space’, Ericsson has identified eight themes that are affecting the future of work and that are likely to have fundamental implications for working life, from both an employer and an employee perspective.

19 November 2013

What human experiences are we missing by adopting new technologies?

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The more our data is used to determine our needs and desires, the less chance there is for serendipity, writes Bronwen Clune. Are we willing to make this concession in the name of progress?

“Tracking, data mining and collaborative filtering are now the way things are done. There is little room left for the art of finding something good by accident, or stumbling upon something useful while not searching for it. We shouldn’t underplay this, as luck and serendipity have long played a role in science when it’s come to discoveries; penicillin, radioactivity and gravity to name a few. What role could technology play in reducing these accidents from our lives? If we’re only ever exposed to what has been determined to appeal to us, we reduce the chances of these accidental discoveries. This can be from the personal to things of larger consequence. Put simply, the more our data is used to determine our needs and desires, the less chance there is for serendipity.”

11 November 2013

Two new reports by ARUP

 

Designing with Data
The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) and ARUP have released Designing with Data: Shaping Our Future Cities, a new report that explores the massive potential role that data could have in the planning and design of our buildings and cities, reports Dexigner.
The report identifies the main approaches to working with data for those involved in designing and planning cities. Better data can offer a deep insight into people’s needs and has the potential to transform the way architects and urban planners design our built environments. This could result in cheaper experimentation and testing of designs before construction begins. It also promises the chance for greater consultation with potential users – speeding up the process, saving time and money and resulting in better and more affordable design.

Museums in the Digital Age
Museums of the future may be filled with 3D-printed replicas, green walls and sensory surfaces, according to a report by Arup (writes Wired UK).
Arup, the London engineering firm behind Japan’s planned Giant Observation Wheel, the world’s first algae-powered building and Thomas Heatherwick’s Garden Bridge, compiled the report Museums in the Digital Age with help from Central Saint Martins’ students on the MA Practice for Narrative Environments course.
The report recognises that museums now have to cater for increasingly disparate visitor groups from an aging population through to the Facebook generation, as well as an expanding global middle class which will give rise to a mass cultural boom. Through investigating the experiential requirements of each, the report suggests a number of changes to future museum design and investments.

27 October 2013

Book: Speculative Everything

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Speculative Everything
Design, Fiction, and Social Dreaming
By Anthony Dunne and Fiona Raby
MIT Press
Jan 2014, 200 pages
[Amazon link]

Today designers often focus on making technology easy to use, sexy, and consumable. In Speculative Everything, Anthony Dunne and Fiona Raby propose a kind of design that is used as a tool to create not only things but ideas. For them, design is a means of speculating about how things could be—to imagine possible futures. This is not the usual sort of predicting or forecasting, spotting trends and extrapolating; these kinds of predictions have been proven wrong, again and again. Instead, Dunne and Raby pose “what if” questions that are intended to open debate and discussion about the kind of future people want (and do not want).

Speculative Everything offers a tour through an emerging cultural landscape of design ideas, ideals, and approaches. Dunne and Raby cite examples from their own design and teaching and from other projects from fine art, design, architecture, cinema, and photography. They also draw on futurology, political theory, the philosophy of technology, and literary fiction. They show us, for example, ideas for a solar kitchen restaurant; a flypaper robotic clock; a menstruation machine; a cloud-seeding truck; a phantom-limb sensation recorder; and devices for food foraging that use the tools of synthetic biology. Dunne and Raby contend that if we speculate more—about everything—reality will become more malleable. The ideas freed by speculative design increase the odds of achieving desirable futures.

Anthony Dunne is Professor and Head of Interaction Design at the Royal College of Art. He is also a Partner in the design practice Dunne & Raby, London.

Fiona Raby is Professor of Industrial Design at the University of Applied Arts, Vienna, and Reader in Design Interactions at the Royal College of Art.

> Video of Speculative Everything lecture by Anthony Dunne

28 September 2013

Ethnography and speculative fiction

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Two new articles on Ethnography Matters:

Ethnographies from the Future: What can ethnographers learn from science fiction and speculative design?
Laura Forlano (@laura4lano) is a tenure-track Assistant Professor of Design at the Institute of Design at Illinois Institute of Technology and she was a Visiting Scholar in the Comparative Media Studies program at Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2012-2013.
Her research is on emergent forms of organizing and urbanism enabled by mobile, wireless and ubiquitous computing technologies with an emphasis on the socio-technical practices and spaces of innovation.
In her contribution, Laura describes the lessons ethnographers can learn from Science-Fiction and a sub-domain of design referred to as “speculative design”.

Ethnography and Speculative Fiction
In this third post in our “Ethnography and Speculative Fiction” series, Clare Anzoleaga (@ClareAnzoleaga) from Fresno City College discusses the potential of fictional accounts of ethnographic work. In doing so, she complements the piece by Anne Galloway and the article by Laura Forlano: this time it’s less about design or design fictions and more about writing. More specifically, she highlights the rhetorical possibilities of such approach for understanding knowledge and shared meaning.

19 September 2013

How robots can trick you into loving them

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The secret to robots with better social skills? Exploiting human nature. Maggie Koerth-Baker, science editor of BoingBoing.net, explores “how [designers can make] robots trick you in loving them” for the New York Times Magazine.

“In the future, more robots will occupy that strange gray zone: doing not only jobs that humans can do but also jobs that require social grace. In the last decade, an interdisciplinary field of research called Human-Robot Interaction has arisen to study the factors that make robots work well with humans, and how humans view their robotic counterparts. [...]

H.R.I. researchers have discovered some rather surprising things: a robot’s behavior can have a bigger impact on its relationship with humans than its design; many of the rules that govern human relationships apply equally well to human-robot relations; and people will read emotions and motivations into a robot’s behavior that far exceed the robot’s capabilities. As we employ those lessons to build robots that can be better caretakers, maids and emergency responders, we risk further blurring the (once unnecessary) line between tools and beings.”

19 September 2013

EthnographyMatters on the relationships between ethnography, fiction and design

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This month’s theme of EthnographyMatters, edited by Nicolas Nova, is about the relationships between ethnography, speculative fiction and design.

“In design circles, the current interest in “design fiction” is geared towards exploring how prototyping and storytelling can benefit from each other. Design fiction use standard objects and media conventions as a way to express ideas about the future: a fake product catalogue, a map of a fictional area, a journal, a short video showing a day in the life of a person, etc. One can see design fiction as similar to science fiction in that the stories bring into focus certain matters-of-concern, such as how life is lived, questioning how technology is used and its implications, as well as speculating about the course of events… which is obviously close to what a certain kind of ethnography is interested in. This ability to flesh out the details of alternative futures can be seen as an intriguing form of speculative ethnography with a specific focus on original format.”

This month’s contributors are:

  • Anne Galloway, an ethnographer interested in material, visual and discursive aspects of technology, will give her perspective on design ethnography and speculative fiction.
  • Laura Forlano, from the Institute of Design at the Illinois Institute of Technology, will address what ethnographers can learn from science fiction and speculative design. Based on examples from design and popular culture, she will explore the generative and analytic potential of “design fiction”.
  • Jan-Hendrik Passoth and Nicholas Rowland, both sociologists at TU Berlin, will address post-ironic ethnography, reportage style and David Foster Wallace.
19 July 2013

“An Aura of Familiarity”

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In 2013, the Technology Horizons Program of the Institute for the Future commissioned six leading science fiction writers — Cory Doctorow, Rudy Rucker, Warren Ellis, Madeline Ashby, Ramez Naam, and Bruce Sterling — and artist Daniel Martin Diaz to create short stories tied to our research on the coming Age of Networked Matter. They asked these collaborators to envision a world where humans have unprecedented control of matter at all scales, and to share with us a glimpse of daily life in that world. It was a process meant to make the future tangible.

The results is the anthology An Aura of Familiarity: Visions from the Coming Age of Networked Matter.

Read the stories from the book released so far:
- By His Things Will You Know Him, by Cory Doctorow
- Apricot Lane, by Rudy Rucker
- Social Services, by Madeline Ashby
- Water, by Ramez Naam
- From Beyond the Coming Age of Networked Matter, by Bruce Sterling

6 July 2013

Herman Miller’s Living Office

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“The most important thing in the room is not the furniture — it’s the people.”

Almost 50 years after the Action Office, Herman Miller embarks on the next big rethinking of the workplace: the Living Office. It is the ultimate twenty-first-century work-in-progress.

“Though in places the old model still prevails, today’s ideal office paradigm could not be more different: fluid rather than fixed, less hierarchical and more egalitarian, and encouraging (mostly) of individuality, creativity, and choice.

A new story requires a new stage, and into this brave new world comes Herman Miller’s Living Office, the initial components of which the Zeeland, Michigan, furniture company is introducing at this year’s edition of NeoCon. The first wave of an anticipated two-year rollout, the Living Office’s first three product portfolios—called PUBLIC Office Landscape, Metaform Portfolio, and Locale, and designed, respectively, by fuseproject, Studio 7.5, and Industrial Facility—represent the company’s carefully considered response, not only to the ways in which a changed business culture has transformed workplace design, but to where our personal aspirations may be headed, and how the office can support them.

It’s a resolutely forward-looking vision. Yet this emphasis on what the company calls “human-centered problem-solving” has been the hallmark of Herman Miller since 1930, when Gilbert Rohde, its first design director, famously declared, “The most important thing in the room is not the furniture—it’s the people.”

4 July 2013

Intel on wearable tech: we need to focus on how we use it

Running in the early-morning sunshine

Intel and its team of futurologists and anthropologists have a vision of a world where the technology is not an adjunct (as the mobile phone or the tablet is now) but embedded in our lives, generating and mining data in a way that’s functional and useful to us.

“Viewed through Intel’s crystal ball, in the future we’ll have devices that second-guess us, or make intelligent connections on our behalf.

At the moment, the benefit from the data we create every day flows largely in favour of the companies who use it to serve us adverts based on the demographic profile we give them. But Steve Brown, Intel’s futurist, says it’s “the individual [who] should benefit – it’s your data”.

24 June 2013

Brian David Johnson on being more human

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Intel’s resident futurist reflects on how the steampunk culture offers clues to building a better tomorrow.

“Steampunk reveals three relationships that people want with their technology. First, they want their technology to have a sense of humor. Humor and jokes give us a way to connect with and understand each other. Also, humor is a great cultural indicator that we understand each other. Studies show that if I can make you laugh, you not only think I’m smarter but also feel a deeper human connection to me. If we want to have a closer relationship to these technologies that are filling our lives, it makes sense that we would want them to get our sense of humor and make us laugh.

Second, people want their technology to have a sense of history. History is the on-ramp to the future. Only by understanding where we have come from can we make sense of where we are going. It might surprise you to realize that a pocket watch is a lot like an iPhone. We carry both around in our pockets. Both give their owners an advantage over other people who may not have them. But there is one difference: a pocket watch was designed to be handed down from generation to generation. An iPhone is designed to be refreshed from generation to generation. For an increasing number of people this doesn’t work. They want their devices to have grounding in history, a connection to the past so we can have a clearer view of our future.

Finally, people want their technology to have a sense of humanity. They want their devices to understand them as individuals. If you sleep with your smartphone next to your bed you want it to know who you are when you wake up in the morning. As our devices become increasingly smarter and central to our lives, we want these devices to understand us as individuals, not as consumers.”

24 May 2013

Free information, as great as it sounds, will enslave us all

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“While people are created equal, computers are not. When people share information freely, those who own the best computers benefit in extreme ways that are denied to everyone else. Those with the best computers can simply calculate wealth and power away from ordinary people.”

Jaron Lanier is provoking as ever in this article for Quartz.

“Ordinary people, or more precisely people with only ordinary computers, are the sole providers of the information that makes the big computers so powerful and valuable. And ordinary people do get a certain flavor of benefit for providing that value. They get the benefits of an informal economy usually associated with the developing world. The formal benefits concentrate around the biggest computers.”

24 May 2013

The future of technology isn’t mobile, it’s contextual

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In the coming years, there will be a shift toward contextual computing, writes Pete Mortensen of Jump Associates, defined in large part by Georgia Tech researchers Anind Dey and Gregory Abowd about a decade ago.

“Always-present computers, able to sense the objective and subjective aspects of a given situation, will augment our ability to perceive and act in the moment based on where we are, who we’re with, and our past experiences. These are our sixth, seventh, and eighth senses. [...]

The adoption of contextual computing–combinations of hardware, software, networks, and services that use deep understanding of the user to create tailored, relevant actions that the user can take–is contingent on the spread of new platforms. Frankly, it depends on the smartphone. Mobile technology isn’t interesting because it’s a new form factor. It’s interesting because it’s always with the user and because it’s equipped with sensors. Future platforms designed from the ground up for contextual computing will make such devices seem like closer to toys than to a phone with cool tools.”

Read the article with a critical mind, and think about what kind of invasiveness people would be willing to tolerate. Mortensen definitely is an optimist:

“Within a decade, contextual computing will be the dominant paradigm in technology. Even office productivity will move to such a model. By combining a task with broad and relevant sets of data about us and the context in which we live, contextual computing will generate relevant options for us, just as our brains do when we hear footsteps on a lonely street today. Then and only then will we have something more intriguing than the narrow visions of wearable computing that continually surface: We’ll have wearable intelligence.”

20 May 2013

The secret life of data in the year 2020

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Brian David Johnson, Intel futurist, shows how geotags, sensor outputs, and big data are changing the future. He argues that we need a better understanding of our relationship with the data we produce in order to build the future we want.

“When you look to 2020 and beyond, you can’t escape big data. Big data—extremely large sets of data related to consumer behavior, social network posts, geotagging, sensor outputs, and more—is a big problem. Intel is at the forefront of the big data revolution and all the challenges therein. Our processors are how data gets from one place to another. If anyone should have insight into how to make data do things we want it to do, make it work for the future, it should be Intel.

[...] We will have algorithms talking to algorithms, machines talking to machines, machines talking to algorithms, sensors and cameras gathering data, and computational power crunching through that data, then handing it off to more algorithms and machines. It will be a rich and secret life separate from us and for me incredibly fascinating.

But as we begin to build the Secret Life of Data, we must always remember that data is meaningless all by itself. The 1s and 0s are useless and meaningless on their own. Data is only useful and indeed powerful when it comes into contact with people.

This brings up some interesting questions and fascinating problems to be solved from an engineering standpoint. When we are architecting these algorithms, when we are designing these systems, how do we make sure they have an understanding of what it means to be human? The people writing these algorithms must have an understanding of what people will do with that data. How will it fit into their lives? How will it affect their daily routine? How will it make their lives better?”

14 May 2013

New NESTA paper on good and bad futurology

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A new NESTA paper, Don’t stop thinking about tomorrow, navigates the myths and realities of good and bad futurology, from economic forecasting to science fiction.

Since time immemorial, people have tried to predict the future. In the second half of the 20th century, these efforts grew more ambitious and sophisticated. Improvements in computational power, data gathering, and analysis were all put to work to try to lift the veil on the future.

But the last decade has not been kind to futurology. Bankers’ and insurers’ forecasts of risk turned out to be drastically wrong, torpedoing the financial system and ushering in a long stagnation. Politicians’ visions of long-term stable economic growth evaporated. Perhaps relatedly, scathing critiques of our ability to foresee the future rose to the top of bestseller lists.

In this newly self-conscious mood, Nesta funded research that tries to get under the surface of different ways of talking about the future. This paper leans on that research, defending some forms of futurology.

The paper uses the image of a torch beam that shines forward in time to distinguish different ways of talking about the future. Imagine a hiker moving through unfamiliar territory using a torch equipped with a focusing lens. The narrower and more focused the beam, the brighter the light, and the more detail can be perceived about the probable path. However, an unexpected obstacle or event may force the hiker to take an alternative route and encounter dangers which were not lit up by the thin, bright torch beam. With an unfocused wider beam, the hiker can see less detail about any particular area, but is able to see some of the dangers and advantages of a wider range of plausible paths and potentially choose the preferable way forward.

Key findings
Thinking about the future is not pointless or dangerous. The paper puts forward three maxims that show that thinking about the future in a structured way is not just useful, but essential

  1. New forms of data-driven forecasting tell us valuable things about the near future. There is scope for experimenting with these techniques in order to find out what works.
  2. Thinking about plausible future scenarios can help guard against fragility. Governments and businesses need foresight capabilities in order to address systemic challenges.
  3. Innovation starts with a story about the future. Imagining and sharing desires and fears about the futures is a way for all of us to shape it.
6 May 2013

It’s time to reinvent the Personal Computer

 

Although Windows and Macintosh are both showing their age, Michael Mace of Cera Technology thinks there is enormous opportunity for a renaissance in personal computing.

In this post he describes the next-generation personal computing opportunity, and what could make it happen.

“I call the new platform sensory computing because it makes much richer use of vision and gestures and 3D technology than anything we have today. Compared to a sensory computer, today’s PCs and even tablets look flat and uninteresting.

There are four big changes needed to implement sensory computing.”

They are 3D, a modernized UI, a new paradigm (metaphor) for user interaction, and a modernized computer ecosystem.

1 May 2013

London exhibition explores alternative Britain governed by four extreme lifestyle tribes

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Belching cars made of skin and bones, nuclear-powered trains in the shape of mountains and arrow-like formations of joined recumbent bicycles are just some of the ways we might travel around the country in the future, according to designers Dunne and Raby, whose new exhibition at London’s Design Museum opens this week.

United Micro Kingdoms: A Design Fiction imagines an alternative version of England governed by four extreme lifestyle tribes, with disturbing echoes of our own society – and where we might be heading.

The designers have devolved the country into four new counties, each conceived as an experimental zone with its own form of governance, economy and lifestyle. Might you be a Digitarian, driven by a blind faith in technology to join a world where tagging, tracking and total surveillance reign supreme? Or would you rather hang out with the Bioliberals in the rural southwest, producing your own energy, growing your own products and driving a farting biogas vehicle?

Read review in The Guardian

14 March 2013

Book: Present Shock – When Everything Happens Now

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Present Shock: When Everything Happens Now
by Douglas Rushkoff
Current Hardcover
March 2013, 216 pages
[Amazon]

Abstract

This is the moment we’ve been waiting for, explains award-winning media theorist Douglas Rushkoff, but we don’t seem to have any time in which to live it. Instead we remain poised and frozen, overwhelmed by an always-on, live-streamed re­ality that our human bodies and minds can never truly in­habit. And our failure to do so has had wide-ranging effects on every aspect of our lives.

People spent the twentieth century obsessed with the future. We created technologies that would help connect us faster, gather news, map the planet, compile knowledge, and con­nect with anyone, at anytime. We strove for an instanta­neous network where time and space could be compressed.

Well, the future’s arrived. We live in a continuous now en­abled by Twitter, email, and a so-called real-time technologi­cal shift. Yet this “now” is an elusive goal that we can never quite reach. And the dissonance between our digital selves and our analog bodies has thrown us into a new state of anxiety: present shock.

Rushkoff weaves together seemingly disparate events and trends into a rich, nuanced portrait of how life in the eter­nal present has affected our biology, behavior, politics, and culture. He explains how the rise of zombie apocalypse fic­tion signals our intense desire for an ending; how the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street form two sides of the same post-narrative coin; how corporate investing in the future has been replaced by futile efforts to game the stock market in real time; why social networks make people anxious and email can feel like an assault. He examines how the tragedy of 9/11 disconnected an entire generation from a sense of history, and delves into why conspiracy theories actually comfort us.

As both individuals and communities, we have a choice. We can struggle through the onslaught of information and play an eternal game of catch-up. Or we can choose to live in the present: favor eye contact over texting; quality over speed; and human quirks over digital perfection. Rushkoff offers hope for anyone seeking to transcend the false now.

Absorbing and thought-provoking, Present Shock is a wide-ranging, deeply thought meditation on what it means to be human in real time.

See also:
- Wall Street Journal excerpt
- New York Times review