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Posts in category 'Sustainability'

7 February 2013

Small, local, open and connected: resilient systems and sustainable qualities

resilient

How do we design a resilient socio-technical system, asks Ezio Manzini in Design Observer.

“Let’s look to natural systems; their tolerance of breakdowns and their adaptation capacity (that is, their capability of sustaining over time) may give us direction.

As a matter of fact, it is easy to observe that lasting natural systems result from a multiplicity of largely independent systems and are based on a variety of living strategies. In short, they are diverse and complex. These diversities and complexities are the basis of their resilience – that is, of their adaptability to changes in their contexts.

Given that, it should be reasonable to conceive and realize something similar for man-made systems. The socio-technical systems that, integrated with natural ones, constitute our living environment should be made of a variety of interconnected, but (largely) self-standing elements. This mesh of distributed systems, similarly to natural ones, would be intrinsically capable of adapting and lasting through time because even if one of its components breaks, given its multiplicity and diversity, the whole system doesn’t collapse.”

3 February 2013

Redesigning public services so they can actually help people

yamfarmer

Although I don’t agree with the implicit meaning of this Fast Company title (i.e. that public services currently do not help people – whereas the real issue is the degree of impact), I am always excited to hear the latest updates on Reboot, a design agency that focuses on service design in international development, particularly if it is through an interview with Reboot principal Panthea Lee.

“Plenty of thought goes into good industrial design and good interaction design. We do the same for public and social services. In our view, service design is a multidisciplinary approach to creating more useful, effective, and efficient services.

In the space of international development, we find designers particularly well suited to the task of creating good services because they are highly analytical systems thinkers.

Services are more than just pulling a lever to get a result. Services are a complex series of interlocking relationships and institutions, and each one is different. Their design requires deep empathy for users and a nuanced understanding of context. And you’ll never get it right on the first go–they require significant testing and refining until they’re right.”

3 February 2013

Social Innovation Europe Magazine interviews Ezio Manzini

Ezio_Interview

For more than two decades Ezio Manzini has been working in the field of design for sustainability. Recently, he focused his interests on social innovation –he started, and currently coordinates, DESIS, an international network on design for social innovation and sustainability.

Throughout his professional life he worked at the Politecnico di Milano. Parallel to this, he has collaborated with several international schools, such as: Domus Academy (in the 90s), Hong Kong Polytechnic University (in 2000) and, currently, Tongji University (Shanghai), Jiangnan University (Wuxi), COPPE-UFRJ (Rio de Janeiro), and Parsons (New York).

Recent books include:

In 2012 he co-promoted Public & Collaborative NYC — a program of activities, developed by Parsons DESIS Lab and the Public Policy Lab in New York, to explore how public services can be improved by incorporating greater citizen collaboration in service design and implementation.

During the lengthy interview Manzini delves deeper into the essence of social innovation, and specifically what designers can do to support it:

“All the social innovation processes are design processes. And all the involved actors, adopting a design approach, are (consciously or not) designers.

If we take all of that as given, then the question is: if all the social innovation actors—“ordinary people” included—are de-facto designers, what is the role of the design experts and of their design community?

To make a long story short, we could say that the design experts’ role is is to use their expertise (that is, their specific design knowledge) to empower the other social actors’ design capabilities.” [...]

“It comes, in conclusion, that design for social innovation is what the design experts can do to trigger and support a more effective co-design processes.”

Also of interest is Manzini’s reflection on the role of public services, the State, and the European Union.

Luca De Biase alerts us also to an older interview with Manzini on Shareable.

2 February 2013

Dan Hill’s critique of the smart cities movement

fabrica

Dan Hill (of CityofSound, ARUP, Sitra and now Fabrica fame) is not only extremely prolific, but his writing is also very much to the point.

His latest Smart City (or better “Smart Citizen”) manifesto is a case in point. Weighing in at 10,000 words, it is a “cleaned up” and “stitched together” version of two separate pieces he wrote for the London School of Economics and Volume magazine, which he is now sharing on his CityofSound blog as “one single critique of the smart cities movement”.

The goal, he says, is entirely constructive, and to shift the debate in a more meaningful direction, oriented towards the raison d’etre of our cities: citizens, and the way that they can create urban culture with technology.

The essay surveys three types of activities, and scenarios, demonstrating active citizens, noting some issues along the way, and then critiques the opposite—the production of passive citizens—before asking a couple of questions and suggesting some key shifts in attitude required to positively work with the grain of today’s cultures, rather than misinterpret it.

“The promise of smart sustainable cities is predicated on the dynamics of social media alloyed to the Big Data generated by an urban infrastructure strewn with sensors. Feedback loops are supposed to engage citizens and enable behaviour change, just as real-time control systems tune infrastructure to become more energy efficient. Social media dynamics enable both self-organisation and efficient ecosystems, and reduce the need for traditional governance, and its associated costs.

Yet is there a tension between the emergent urbanism of social media and the centralising tendencies of urban control systems? Between the individualist biases inherent within social media and the need for a broader civic empathy to address urban sustainability? Between the primary drivers of urban life and the secondary drivers of infrastructural efficiency?

And in terms of engaging citizens, we can certainly see evidence of increased interest in using social media for urban activism, from crowdfunding platforms to Occupy Everywhere and the Arab Spring. Yet does it produce any more coherence or direction for the new cultures of decision-making required in our cities, or simply side-step the question of urban governance altogether? And what if the smart city vision actually means that governance becomes ever more passive, as it outsources operations to algorithms or is side-stepped by social media, whilst citizens also become passive in response to their infrastructure becoming active? Or might they be too distracted to notice as they’re all trying to crowd-fund a park bench?”

Bruce Sterling’s reaction:

“*After reading this I feel that I understand myself better: I like *other people’s* cities. I like cities where I’m not an eager, engaged, canny urban participant, where I’m not “smart” and certainly not a “citizen,” and where the infrastructures and the policies are mysterious to me. Preferably, even the explanations should be in a language I can’t read.

*So I’m maximizing my “inefficiency.” I do it because it’s so enlivening and stimulating, and I can’t be the only one with that approach to urbanism. Presumably there’s some kind of class of us: flaneuring, deriving, situationist smart-city dropouts. A really “smart city” would probably build zones of some kind for us: the maximum-inefficiency anti-smart bohemias.”

16 January 2013

Telling “Stories”: Experientia designs domestic energy consumption monitors (videos)

 

Videos showcasing two sustainability-related projects are now on Experientia’s YouTube channel. The videos, showing the Ecofamilies and Stories projects respectively, both focus on monitoring domestic energy consumption in different areas of Europe.

The Ecofamilies video (in French with our English subtitles) is a feature on the project by France’s TV France3. For Ecofamilies, Experientia partnered with the Centre Scientifique et Technique du Bâtiment (CSTB) of Nice, France, and a series of other agencies, for a French sustainability project, aimed at the development of a web platform for a pilot house to monitor domestic energy consumption.

Experientia’s contribution included a benchmark of existing solutions, and guidelines and supervision for the other project partners for conducting user research. We then translated the insights from the user research phase into an initial interface and prototype concept.

From March-June 2012, Experientia conducted participatory co-design workshops with 30 volunteer families. The workshops aimed to discover the real behaviours, attitudes and needs of families when it comes to energy consumption.

The project produced an innovative technological solution that allows families to have a concrete understanding of their energy consumption, and of the choices that are available to reduce it, with personalised tips, and detailed, useful information on household energy use.

The platform has now been implemented in a pilot house in Sophia Antipolis within the CSTB research centre. The outcomes from this pilot project will feed into future developments.

The Stories project is a service concept for monitoring domestic energy consumption, which is accessible while on-the-go.

Together with Telecom Italia, the Turin Polytechnic University, and the ISMB and CSP research centres, Experientia conducted a feasibility study on energy monitoring mobile services. Based on in-depth user research carried out in Turin, we developed a prototype for a mobile application to engage people in monitoring and comparing their energy consumption.

The project demonstrates the feasibility of advanced smart metering services in the Italian context, both from a technological point of view, and from the perspective of the actual user interest.

The project was funded by the Piedmont Region (POR FESR 2007/2013), the European Fund for Regional Development and the Republic of Italy.

(The Stories video is also available on Vimeo.)

16 January 2013

Helsinki Design Lab closing in June 2013

hdl

Marco Steinberg, who directs the strategic design efforts of the Finnish Innovation Fund Sitra, announced last week that Sitra’s Helsinki Design Lab will close in June 2013.

Helsinki Design Lab is an initiative by Sitra to advance strategic design as a way to re-examine, re-think, and re-design the systems we’ve inherited from the past.

According to Steinberg, “design at Sitra is shifting from a strategic to a service role. The current members of the design team (Bryan Boyer, Justin Cook, and myself*) are committed to strategic design and will therefore pursue this interest beyond Sitra. In the spring Sitra will hire for a new role to grow service design within the organization.”

[* The fourth member of the team, Dan Hill, left earlier, and is now the CEO of Fabrica in Treviso, Italy.]

During the next five months Brian, Justin and Marco will be converting the site into an archive of the most recent phase of HDL. The archive will be legible, free, and open, they write, so that the “work and experience of Helsinki Design Lab be useful not just for the next phase of design at Sitra, but for the community as well.”

The team is now compiling the case study research from Helsinki Design Lab 2012 into a forthcoming publication on stewardship, with a tentative publication date of May 2013. This completes the existing publication “Recipes for Systemic Change,” which you can download for free.

We can also expect a public event in Helsinki on June 10th, 2013.

Over the last years, Experientia has worked intensively – and to our great satisfaction – with Sitra and with the team of the Helsinki Design Lab in particular, through our involvement on the Low2No project. We wish Sitra and the HDL team the very best in the coming months and afterwards, and we are sure that we will find many ways to collaborate in the future.

(For more reflection on the closing, check also this post by Bryan Boyer).

15 January 2013

A sustainable building promotes pro-environmental behavior

plos

A Sustainable Building Promotes Pro-Environmental Behavior: An Observational Study on Food Disposal
by Wu DW, DiGiacomo A, Kingstone A
PLoS ONE 8(1): e53856. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0053856 – January 2013

In order to develop a more sustainable society, the wider public will need to increase engagement in pro-environmental behaviors. Psychological research on pro-environmental behaviors has thus far focused on identifying individual factors that promote such behavior, designing interventions based on these factors, and evaluating these interventions. Contextual factors that may also influence behavior at an aggregate level have been largely ignored.

In the current study, we test a novel hypothesis – whether simply being in a sustainable building can elicit environmentally sustainable behavior. We find support for our hypothesis: people are significantly more likely to correctly choose the proper disposal bin (garbage, compost, recycling) in a building designed with sustainability in mind compared to a building that was not.

Questionnaires reveal that these results are not due to self-selection biases. Our study provides empirical support that one’s surroundings can have a profound and positive impact on behavior. It also suggests the opportunity for a new line of research that bridges psychology, design, and policy-making in an attempt to understand how the human environment can be designed and used as a subtle yet powerful tool to encourage and achieve aggregate pro-environmental behavior.

5 December 2012

No one likes a city that’s too smart

Songdo smart city

This week London hosts a jamboree of computer geeks, politicians, and urban planners from around the world. At the Urban Age conference, they will discuss the latest whizz idea in high tech, the “smart city”.

“But,” writes Richard Sennett in The Guardian, “the danger now is that this information-rich city may do nothing to help people think for themselves or communicate well with one another.”

“A great deal of research during the last decade, in cities as different as Mumbai and Chicago, suggests that once basic services are in place people don’t value efficiency above all; they want quality of life. A hand-held GPS device won’t, for instance, provide a sense of community. More, the prospect of an orderly city has not been a lure for voluntary migration, neither to European cities in the past nor today to the sprawling cities of South America and Asia. If they have a choice, people want a more open, indeterminate city in which to make their way; this is how they can come to take ownership over their lives.”

3 December 2012

In safe hands

clarebrass

Clare Brass is the team leader of Sustain at the Royal College of Art in London, where she presides over a radical initiative to make sustainability a core issue for all students, whether they are studying architecture, textiles, visual communications or industrial design.

Rather than training designers to make yet more beautiful objects, Brass’s ambition is to show them how to tackle some of the largest problems we face on the planet: waste, depleted natural resources and overconsumption.

The Financial Times profiles her and her initiative.

19 October 2012

Lugano conference on digital experiences in smart cities

uxconference_2012_logo_small

On Saturday 27 October, the Italian-speaking Swiss city of Lugano will host the 4th edition of the UXconference.

The 2012 edition of the conference, which is organised by the Sketchin team, will focus on the relationship between digital services and people’s lives, with particular attention on the home and the city.

Speakers this year come from Switzerland, Italy, US and UK, and include Carlo Ratti from MIT’s Senseable Cities Lab, Stefan Klocek and Chris Noessel from Cooper, and Experientia senior partner Jan-Christoph Zoels.

Jan-Christoph will discuss supporting sustainable lifestyles.

16 October 2012

BMW’s electric experience

P90096018_500_t346

Martin C. Pedersen reports in a long article for Metropolis Magazine on the 2014 BMW i3, the company’s first fully electric vehicle aimed at city driving.

The article focuses on how BMW’s new business strategy is all based on the core importance of the product experience:

“An ambitious experiment, with hefty up-front costs estimated to be as high as $200 million, the roll-out has the potential to both shift the company’s business model — from selling a product to selling the experience that product provides — and redefine the car’s role in an increasingly connected urban world.” [...]

BMW has gone all-in on the urban mobility angle, taking several pages out of the car- and bike-sharing playbooks. The system uses the emerging connection between mobile devices and BMW that already exists in a nascent form in Germany. Don Norman, the noted designer and author, does consulting work for the automaker and has seen the system in action: “In Munich, when I’m with the BMW crowd, if we’re in the city and decide to drive someplace, one of the guys will take out his cell phone and open up an app that tells him where a car is located. He reserves one that’s a block away. We walk over, he waves his BMW badge, and the car unlocks. The car is not just available to BMW people. Anyone who belongs to the subscription service can do it.”

Read article

16 October 2012

User experience in the age of sustainability

 

Designers, as makers of products and services, are key stewards of our planet because the products and services we design influence the ways in which people live, argues Kem Kramer in an article for Johnny Holland.

“What we design, how we design, the materials with which we design and for what purposes we design, set the pace for emerging cultural behaviours. We owe it to ourselves as stewards of our world, and as designers from all spectrum to consider the impact of each design that we create on the overall impact of not only our collective culture and cultural practices but also on the environment at large. Accordingly, for the fields of Design and User Experience to remain progressively relevant, we must begin to form a closer affinity to the Sustainability movement.”

Kramer is a UX practitioner at Research in Motion.

2 October 2012

Smart cities in Italy and France

vignette_couv

The European House-Ambrosetti, an Italian economic think tank/management consultancy and organisers of the very prestigious annual international economic conference in the Italian town of Cernobbio, has – in partnership with ABB Italy – published a report on Smart Cities in Italy.

Entitled “Smart Cities in Italy: an opportunity in the spirit of the Renaissance for a new quality of life“, the report includes 7 proposals aimed at optimizing conditions for Italian cities to become “smarter” in the years to come.

Although the report underlines the importance of real benefits for citizens, it suffers from a top-down approach to how smart cities should be planned for and implemented.

(Since the executive summary publication download has the English pages upside down and in reverse order, I made these small corrections and posted the English summary pdf here. All Italian language materials are available on this page.)

This top down approach stands in stark contrast to the position argued for a few days ago in the Wall Street Journal (see earlier post) and to the position argued for in Can the Internet set the world on fire? A political territory lying fallow (French title: Internet peut-il casser des briques ? Un territoire politique en jachère), edited by Philippe Aigrain and Daniel Kaplan, and with contributions by Philippe Lemoine, Philippe Aigrain, Marjorie Carré, Mélanie Dulong de Rosnay, Jean-Louis Frechin, Vincent Guimas and Ewen Chardronnet, Daniel Kaplan, Sophie Le Pallec, Valérie Peugeot, and Benoît Thieulin.

“The Internet, a matrix for creating utopia? This is certainly the premise on which this book is based. The Internet is both the height of capitalism and the factor for crystallising new popular movements. This duality, which is intrinsic to the Internet ecosystem, should be taken as a signal of positive transformation: new modernity is based precisely on the fact of learning to disassociate and put back together differently that which comes from the market and that which comes from the emancipation of people.

Through utopias that exemplify the impact of new technologies on our lives, that illustrate the new organisation models of a knowledge and innovation economy, or that reformulate the social and political pact, Internet energy indicates the direction of its transforming potential.”

On InternetActu you can read Ta ville, trop smart pour toi, Daniel Kaplan’s contribution to the book (in French).

1 August 2012

Design principles for eating sustainably

tp4-1_mccune_cow_web_617px

“Design Principles for Eating Sustainably: Bridging the Gap Between Consumer Intention and Action” is the title of an ethnographic research driven service design project by Canadian design and innovation firm Cooler Solutions.

Experience suggests that our intentions and actions are not always aligned. This is certainly true when it comes to eating: where food is concerned, making real, lasting change is challenging, even when the desire is there.

In their study of sustainable eating, the Cooler Solutions team conducted ethnographic research to explore the relationship that people have with their food and to determine ways to elicit positive change. From this research they identified actionable design principles in order to guide service designers, retailers, policy-makers and other interested parties to ultimately increase sustainable food-consumption behaviours among the public.

- Read article
- Download report

1 July 2012

Common Cause: the case for working with values and frames

connected_issues

In 2009, the chief executives and a few staff from a handful of UK non-governmental organisations (including WWF and RSPB) came together to discuss the inadequacy of current responses to challenges like climate change, global poverty and biodiversity loss.

This led to the Common Cause initiative: a series of reports, a handbook, and now an online toolbox for behaviour change professionals.

Common Cause uses recent research in cognitive science and social psychology in order to create an empowered, connected and durable movement of citizens aimed at building a more sustainable, equitable and democratic world.

“Fostering “intrinsic” values—among them self-acceptance, care for others, and concern for the natural world—has real and lasting benefits. By acknowledging the importance of these values, and the “frames” that embody and express them; by examining how our actions help to strengthen or weaken them; and by working together to cultivate them, we can create a more compassionate society, and a better world.”

According to Ellie Kivinen of Brook Lyndhurst, the Common Cause approach draws on the work of Shalom H. Schwartz, which identified 57 near-universal values found in human cultures. These values can be mapped on a ‘circumplex’, on which intrinsic and extrinsic values can be seen as polar opposites of each other. The approach argues that appealing to particular types of values serves to strengthen these same values. This means that environmental behaviour change campaigns that appeal to extrinsic values (for example, encouraging people to save energy because it saves them money) run the risk of undermining further change by strengthening the values which are at the root of the problem in the first place, thus running the risk of ‘collateral damage’.

(Make sure to check the Downloads section)

29 June 2012

Low2No smart services and informatics workbook published

low2no_informatics

The Helsinki Low2No project team just released a smart services and informatics workbook that was developed by ARUP and Experientia.

Low2No is a broad project, initiated in collaboration with the Finnish innovation fund Sitra, aimed at the development of a Helsinki mixed-use city block called Airut on the Jätkäsaari peninsula, which will have low or no carbon emissions.

The 110 page booklet describes work-in-progress on the smart services and urban informatics component of the Low2No project activities.

In the words of Dan Hill, “the aspect of ‘smart services‘, also known as urban informatics, explores the potential of contemporary technologies – particularly those increasingly everyday circling around phrases like social media, ‘internet of things’, ‘smart cities’ and so on – to enable residents, workers, visitors and citizens in general to live, work and play in and around the block in new ways. These are predicated on the same low-carbon outcomes that drives the Low2No project in general, but also a wider “triple-bottom line” approach to sustainability, which might include beneficial social and economic outcomes, as well as environmental.

“Today,” he says, “we’re sharing some of the work-in-progress as it developed, in the form of the “informatics workbook” developed by the design team, as a tool in the design process.”

Hill describes that the team wanted “to use the building project as a ‘Trojan Horse’ to warrant a reason to look at this potentially powerful combination of smart technologies and services — with an emphasis on the latter — and in enabling positive behaviour change amongst the various groups who will use the block.”

“This work often involves positioning these otherwise technology-led areas in a more human-centred, and behaviour-oriented, framework — getting well beyond the hype about “smart cities” — whilst also trying to connect it to business drivers (the lack of the latter has hampered pretty much any serious progress in smart cities.),” he adds.

Arup and Experientia worked on this aspect of the project, together with partners Sauerbruch Hutton and clients Sitra, SRV, and VVO. Over a couple of years of engagement, with Experientia leading and driving, and Arup working on the informatics aspects in particular, the project’s design team produced some rich thinking about how to embed the potential of this area at the core of the project, that are now presented in the workbook.

Read more and download booklet

12 June 2012

A social network built around giving

impossible

Model and actress Lily Cole’s social network, Impossible, has been designed for users to meet and help each other. Users post requests (say, “I wish to have a haircut”), and anyone in their local network can offer to help. The emphasis is on giving, rather than bartering. “Giving triggers social cohesion,” says Cole, 24. “It’s also the basis for an economy not based on money. Impossible will facilitate that via social media.”

Impossible is in beta and is still self-funded, and its advisers include Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales and economist Hazel Henderson. “Impossible is a utopian idea,” she says, “but I do believe it is possible.”

(via Wired UK)

10 June 2012

Manifesto for design upholding human talents and innovation

bigpotatoes

This morning I got an invite in the mail to attend a London design symposium at Brunel University next week (16 June) that will debate the core themes of a new design manifesto, strangely called “Big Potatoes”

Although I cannot attend the debates at such short notice, the manifesto itself and the themes of the debate are intriguing enough to merit this blog post.

The manifesto is written by six authors – Nico Macdonald, Alan Patrick, Martyn Perks, Mitchell Sava, James Woudhuysen and Norman Lewis. Unfortunately it is not so clear what the manifesto actually says – it will be officially presented at the London Symposium – but you get some background by looking at the fourteen principles who are explored in depth on the Big Potatoes website:

01: Think big
02: The post-war legacy
03: Principles not models
04: For useless research
05: Hard work
06: Expect failures
07: Chance and surprise
08: Take risks
09: Leadership
10: Whose responsibility?
11: Trust the people
12: Think/Act Global
13: We know no limits
14: For humanity

The debate on 16 June is quite provocative as well:

DEBATE#1: UPHOLDING HUMANISM – OR CENTERING ON USERS?
Design is intimately bound up with understanding people. Every designer extols the virtues of getting to know customers, users, people. However, can being too close to your subject stifle creativity? Today this question has added relevance and is at the heart of our manifesto. As at no other time, the collective and individual will of human beings is felt to be little rival to the capricious actions of Fate.

The human ability to take a conscious risk, in the pursuit of innovation, used to be the fundamental premise of design. But now designers join with other cynics in agreeing that people are for the most part driven by nature, neurology, ostentation and irrationality. That can only degrade the processes and the products of design.

The old discussion was about people as market segments with latent needs – people who were held to be in a ‘relationship’ with product or service providers. More and more, however, the rhetoric today consists of how design can work to minimise demand, redirect consumption, and even improve patterns of human behaviour.

Is it the role of design to understand and change people’s behaviour, or is design about producing ideas that allow people to make their own minds up on how they choose to use it? Likewise, should design strive to exceed expectations by going beyond people’s immediate needs, or must it be mindful of how people might use stuff, encouraging greater responsibility and awareness to ourselves and even the planet? And even where people do adapt existing things to better suit their needs – should we celebrate such amateurism, or instead prefer the expertise designers can bring, expertise that can raise people’s horizons further still?

DEBATE#2: DOES DESIGN DRIVE ECONOMIC GROWTH?
What is design’s contribution to economic growth? This question has for a long time been intimately bound up with discussions about design’s purpose — even more so since New Labour sought to trumpet the contribution made by the so-called ‘creative industries’ to UK plc. Because of the credit crunch, the precise effects that design has on wealth creation have become more pertinent than ever. Both the state and many design industry professionals feel that design needs to justify its contribution.

Economic growth is a key issue for our manifesto, not least because designers have been poor at theorising their relationship with innovation. In our view, design could do more to promote and implement scientific and technological advance. At the moment design often fails to grasp the opportunity presented by innovation – by being too focused on surface, incremental improvements. That can mean it ends up being marginalised as a result.

The problem with design and growth runs much deeper than rates of remuneration, royalties, intellectual property and all the rest. It is impossible to put a value on design without clarifying and improving the role designers play with regard to innovation. Can designers, by themselves, stimulate economic growth by creating new demand through the design of new products and services? Or are such products and services best realised when designers link up closely with scientific and technological innovation? Conversely, is design’s real role less about creating new growth per se, and more about persuading people to consume more through marketing and branding existing products and services?

So you get the gist: this event has a very strong political and pro-growth agenda, while some of the debate descriptions are laced with value judgments (“capricious actions of Fate”, “designers join with other cynics”, “degrade the process and products of design”, “amateurism”, etc.)

A little searching online confirms this first impression, but also adds complexity to it all:

Powerbase, the online wiki-style “guide to networks of power, lobbying, public relations and the communications activities of governments and other interests”, says that the manifesto is associated with the “libertarian anti-environmental LM network” (with LM standing for “Living Marxism”), which itself is an offspring of the RCP (the UK’s Revolutionary Communist Party, disbanded in 1996).

Steven Rose has been exploring the LM Network and writes briefly about it on Spinwatch, “an independent non-profit making UK organisation which monitors the role of public relations and spin in contemporary society”:

“Spinwatch has monitored the groups that have flowed from the RCP, groups we collectively term the ‘LM network’. Moving from an ultra-left position through to a libertarian pro-corporate line of argument, they have been, as Rose notes, strong defenders of what they call ‘scientific progress’, meaning that they have been strongly in favour of GM technology and other scientific advances favoured by transnational corporations. However, they have also taken a strong line against scientific progress in the area of risk. So they are opposed to the scientific consensus on climate change, on harms caused by tobacco and by the food and advertising industries.

The common denominator there is that this kind of scientific progress is against the interests of key corporate sectors. Spinwatch has also recently reported on how their traditional ‘anti-Imperialist’ position on colonial struggles has degenerated into a position that attacks those offering solidarity to the Palestinian people. Overall, what we see from the very earliest days of the RCT to the antics of the various tentacles of the LM network now, is consistent in the sense that it involves attacking the left and progressive movements. However, the increasingly close relationship between the LM network and corporate lobby groups and neoliberal and neoconservative think tanks, suggests that it might be more accurate to see them not as libertarian iconoclasts, but simply as another faction of the British conservative movement.”

I am not convinced that the above politicising of the design debate is the best way forward. It just makes our discipline another battleground of a wider culture clash, whereas I see design more as a problem solving tool. I also disagree with their deep faith in the power of economic growth, but leave it to brighter minds – like John Thackara and others – to develop this criticism.

UPDATE: John commented here and here.

28 May 2012

Experientia concept video for a sustainable trade fair centre

event_6

The Event project for Kortrijk Xpo, Belgium, developed concepts for how to make trade fairs and temporary events more sustainable.

Experientia® developed the resulting concepts into a video, showcasing four of the best concepts in action.

The video of these concepts is now online on Experientia’s vimeo channel.

The “Virtual Xpo” concept focused on ways to reduce travel and to encourage lower-impact travel to expositions.

“Living Kortrijk” envisioned ways to make the expo centre’s sustainable values and solutions available throughout the city.

The “Booth dashboard” visualises the carbon impact and/or savings of creating each expo booth, as well as its energy use during the event.

“Eco-fair network” proposes a collective, global movement to make expo centres more sustainable.

25 May 2012

Be Everyday

carolienslidec

On Be Everyday, the site of a Brussels-based project, you can follow the stories of inspiring people that live in European cities and who have found their own creative ways to lead sustainable and meaningful lives, everyday!

“Why are we stuck in non-sustainable lifestyles? There is a clear need for behaviour change and revisiting values and norms. We have a reasonably good knowledge of the problems and the barriers to change. What is less developed is the discussion of possible solutions, answers and examples of ways to live and overcome real and perceived barriers at the individual level. We are still confused as to how we as an individual can make a real change in our lifestyles. What is a meaningful and sustainable life? And how do we get there?

This website aims to address these questions and provide real solutions based on peoples experiences. On this website we will tell stories of real people doing real things. Starting in Belgium and moving to other cities in Europe, we will follow people who live everyday in a meaningful sustainable way. They are all inspiring characters that are true to the idea of sustainability in most of their actions, their work, life, and travel. Furthermore, these people are not marginal, self-sacrificing or “ecological weirdoes” but “ordinary everyday people.” They all have an interesting story to tell and they are willing to share these with us here.”