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Showing posts from June, 2014

Book note: "Stuff Matters -- exploring the marvelous materials that shape our man-made world" by Mark Miodownik

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I found a really interesting book today at the book store. It is called "Stuff Matters -- exploring the marvelous materials that shape our man-made world" and it is written by Mark Miodownik. Miodownik is a professor of materials and society.

Materials make up our designed world. Most everything that humans have designed are manifested through the shaping of materials. This is true even when we talk about service design or other forms of process designs. In order to make services  or processes possible there is usually some materials involved (sometimes simple materials as texts on paper).

Miodownik has a fascination and passion about materials. In the book he discusses ten different
materials that have been crucial in the forming of our society, such as steel, paper, glass, etc.

It is exciting to see how most of the materials we are surrounded by has been part of our history and been useful for a long time while we only recently have started to understand why different mate…

Design is not a profession or a discipline

At a recent design research conference I heard many statements beginning with "we designers..." or "the profession of design...". Almost all these statements are based on the idea that there are certain people that are designers and then others who are not. In many cases participants talked about the design profession  (in most cases meaning "those of us who are educated in design schools"). It is as being a designer is a stamp and when you have the stamp then you are a designer.

The way design has developed over the last three decades has made it almost impossible to argue that design is a profession and/or a discipline, but still it seems to be a prevalent belief even among those who know more about design than most everyone else.

I like to make the comparison with other human approaches, for instance, science. Very few would state that being a scientist is a profession or even a discipline. Science is a way to approach the world with the purpose of cre…

The DRS 2014 Conference--some thoughts

Last week I spent in Umeå, Sweden (my old home town) not only to meet family and friends or to work at the Institute of Design, but also to participate in the DRS 2014 Conference. I have been involved in the planning of the conference but from a distance. I have been to a number of these conferences over the years. I am happy to say that this years conference was by far the best one yet (and it is not only because I was involved :-)

The conference had somewhere around 370 participants! The introduction of "Debates" and "Conversations" (organized by Jamer Hunt and Carl DiSalvo) was a great success of bring new formats into the conference. The quality of the papers were also, in my view, better than before, which was a consequence of an improved review process (handled by Youn Lim and Kristina Niederer). Overall, the conference was a success. I only heard good things from happy participants.

The idea we had in the planning was to keep developing the DRS conference in…

Where is the right place for the interface?

The notion of wearable technology is creating design challenges. Is is a gimmick or is there a real potential for useful technology? And is that a question of technology or design? It is fascinating to see how the placement of the interface is posing so many questions, and opinions. Should the interface be traditionally placed on a designated surface, such as the laptop or smartphone, or should the interface be on our arms (smartwatches) or in our glasses (Google glass) or maybe we do not need a surface at all?

Hartmund Esslinger argues that "smartwatches are stupid" in a recent article.  As an internationally recognized interaction designer, he should know.   In the same article, several questions are raised around wearable technology, its recent quick but sometimes short successes and failures. The question is discussed if it is a question of technology or of design. I find this discussion interesting, especially in relation to a forthcoming article that I have written wit…

Book note: "The Circle" by Dave Eggers

There are many of us who daily reflect on what it means that we are using Google, Facebook and other internet based companies with so many aspects of our daily lives. Some refuse to "sell their soul" to Google while others take the position that it does not matter or that it is too late anyway. The issue that is at the core of these positions is the relationship or balance between usefulness (as in functionality) and privacy. It is obvious that many useful functions have consequences when it comes to privacy, for instance, to accept and use apps that know my location can be useful but it also means I share that information with others.

Dave Eggers' book "The Circle" is a novel that takes on this question in an intriguing and entertaining way. The book is about the company "The Circle" that has swallowed Google and Facebook and many others to become the biggest internet company in history. The story follows a young new employee, Mae, through her introdu…

Levi Bryant on the relationship between social constructivism and speculative realism

I have found an excellent talk by Levi Bryant on the topic "Object-Oriented Philosophy & Speculative Realism". In the talk Bryant discusses the relationship between Critical Theory (as a form of social constructivism) and Speculative Realism (as a form of materialism) in a way that I really appreciate. He makes the foundations of both "approaches" visible and understandable and also reveals what is the problems with both of them and what can be done. Excellent.

[Here is also a very good lecture by Graham Harman https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hK-5XOwraQo]

New design school initiative: 30weeks

This is how a new design school initiative, 30weeks, is presented in Fast Company:

"Following Apple's success, many companies are finally starting to recognize the crucial role design plays in building a desirable (and profitable) product. Yet very few companies are actually founded and led by designers. Here to change that is 30Weeks, a new program by a powerhouse team of New York design schools--Parsons, Pratt, School of Visual Arts, and The Cooper Union--in collaboration with the education company Hyper Island and Google."

The initiative itself has a video (same page as above) that quickly presents the idea. Here you can read more about the initiative on its website.

It is fascinating to see so many excited people around the world that believes that design in some fashion is the savior. In most cases of course it is seen as the solution to the problem of not having good enough innovations that can become successful startups or new product lines in slow moving large co…

Paper back version of "The Design Way" coming in September

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I am very happy to announce that Harold Nelson's and my book "The Design Way", published by MIT Press, will be out in paperback in September. The price will be ONLY $19.00! It is rewarding to see how this book is still alive and well.

It is about 20 years since we started to work on these ideas. The second edition made it possible for us to update the content. Actually, already when we started to write the book we decided to write it in such a way that it would not feel "old" fast. We were careful with using examples and events that would soon be forgotten. Hopefully this has made the book more stable over time.

Book note: "Onto-cartography -- an ontology of machines and media" by Levi R. Bryant

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I just read the introduction chapter of Levi R. Bryant's new book "Onto-cartography -- an ontology of machines and media". Very exciting ideas. Now I am really interested in reading more. 

Bryant is a proponent for materialism and develops a strong argument against what he calls "discursivist orientations" in contemporary scholarly work, primarily in the humanities and social sciences. Instead he proposes an ontology that takes "things" and "stuff" seriously as part of our reality that shapes, like gravity, what is possible and not possible. He calls these entities (things and stuff) machines to "emphasize the manner in which entities dynamically operate on inputs producing outputs" (p6).

Ok, I have only read the introduction but so far it has left me intrigued and quite fascinated. Part of my fascination comes from the realization that the way Bryant defines his concepts resonate in many ways with my own thinking. For instance, he w…