This free monthly newsletter starts conversations on issues to do with design for resilience — and thereby reveals opportunities for action. It also brings you news of Doors of Perception events and encounters. Back issues are now archived on Design Observer. To subscribe to future newletters by John Thackara click here.
CREATIVE COMMUNITIES AND SOCIAL INNOVATION
Public services are an enormous opportunity for service design. They represent half the economy of industrial countries. A seminar in Helsinki on Friday will frame welfare and care systems as design opportunities. Speakers include Ezio Manzini (on creative communities and active welfare); John Thackara (platforms for public service innovation); Anna Meroni and Francois Jegou (on the case studies we encountered during the Emude project); Kari-Hans Kommonen (from UIAH MediaLab, on the co-design of social spaces); and Markku Wilenius from Finland's Futures Research Institute. Friday 10 February, 13h-17h, Taideteollinen Korkeakoulu, Hämeentie 135C, Helsinki - 8th floor, room 822. For a seat (it's free) contact Cindy Kohtala: firstname.lastname@example.org.
IF PIGS COULD FLY
If humans can live in skyscrapers, why not pigs and fish? When the Dutch architect Winy Maas first proposed that 600 metre-high skyscrapers, filled with pigs, could supply most of Europe's pork needs, he was accused of proposing concentration camps for animals. But why should agriculture be restricted to the countryside, and organized horizontally? Would it not be efficient, and ecologically sounder, to move food production and consumption closer together? This is one proposal in KM3, a 1,400-page book by design firm MVRDV. If pigs could fly, they wouldn't need to use the elevator. More at:
BRACE! BRACE! HAVE A NICE DAY!
My lonely campaign against the concept and practice of "emotional design" is failing. An International Journal of Emotional Labour and Organizations has been launched, and it's for people who study emotionology. A journal and an 'ology in one day: The fight is lost. A history of the field is also on the way: Christina Kotchemidova at NYU is working on a "social history of cheerfulness" - a domain that includes the smiles of flight attendants. More at:
AUTOMATIC ECO ARCHITECTURE?
Singapore has introduced a countrywide system that integrates building regulations into construction, development and real estate systems. It is possible, now, to programme sustainability criteria into the IT systems used by various parties to design buildings. For Paul Seletsky, Digital Design Director of SOM, the global architecture firm, these trends amount to a "complete cultural and procedural shift" for architects. They will now be engaged in the real-time design and production of building components, as opposed to sheets of drawings or seductive renderings. Read more at:
WHEN IS TRANSPORTATION SUSTAINABLE?
To a car company, replacing the chrome wing mirror on an SUV with a carbon fibre one is a contribution to sustainable transportation. To a radical ecologist, any form of motorised movement is unsustainable. So when is transportation sustainable, and when is it not? Eric Britton, an expert on the subject, had the good idea of posting a text at Wikipedia; we can all sort out the issue there.
I thought I'd escaped from the quicksands of learning-speak when I completed the chapter on learning for In The Bubble. Writing that chapter nearly did me in. But no! A new tsunami of learning lingo is upon us. Inspiring Learning for All (ILFA) promises to "transform the way in which museums, archives and libraries deliver and engage users in learning". A mind-control - sorry, measuring - system called "Generic Learning Outcomes" - or GLOs - has been invented to "transform the way that we to talk to users and visitors about learning". Read more at:
FAST FOOD DESIGN
Speed, order and efficiency - but taste? An exhibition at the Museum for Design, Zurich, documents a century of design for eating on the move. A book, lectures and excursions complement the show, but there's no menton of lunch. Zurich, until 19 March.
High-tech companies are deploying ethnographers and anthropologists to study how people use technology. Reviews of the first Ethnographic Praxis in Industry Conference (EPIC), held at held at Microsoft's campus last November, are online here:
WHAT COLOUR IS OLD?
Angela Zumpe has made a film about the "colours of ageing". In one sequence, Professor Christoph Tuercke reflects on "the aesthetics of the wrinkle". A small mystery about the project is that Angela chose to interview me: After all, I cannot possibly know anything about the subject. The film was premiered at the Bauhaus where it remains on show until 9 March.
The press is filled with lurid warnings about avian bird flu. But don't forget that communities in Europe have experienced plague in recent times. "Imagining Pandemics" considers the 2001 Foot and Mouth Disease outbreak in Britain and the social, health, veterinary, cultural and scientific research that followed. Manchester Town Hall, 14-16 March 2006
FUTURE FARMS AND RURAL DESIGN
What takes place in a rural knowledge economy? A conference in September is being developed by the Rural Cultural Forum in the UK to map out a new role for the arts and design. For more on the content go to:
A four-week-long event called Making Places will address the challenge of remaking places - whether city, town or country - in the context of accelerating climate change. Topics include designing with land forms; food policy; eco-cites in China; creative urban art in Cuba; carbon neutrality in Germany; new water projects in Yorkshire. It begins Thursday 2 March 2006, Leeds, UK.
Bruce Sterling, in Shaping Things, proposes a future in which a new kind of thing - the "spime" - is user-alterable, baroquely multi-featured, and programmable. I had a lot of fun responding to Bruce's book in a "web take" (invented by series editor Peter Lunenfeld as a "zine for grown ups") in which words of mine are enhanced by the cool California design team of Schoenerwissen OfCD.
DESIGN SCHOOLS MEET IN MILAN
Design schools are invited to participate in an event about "unbranded design for new user expectations in East and West". Saturday April 8, 2006, Milan Fair (new fairgrounds). Write to: email@example.com
DARK SCENARIOS IN AMBIENT INTELLIGENCE
A report entitled "Dark scenarios in ambient intelligence: Highlighting risks and vulnerabilities" is available on the website of an EC-funded project on Safeguards in a World of Ambient Intelligence (SWAMI). They discuss its findings at a conference in Brussels, 21-22 March.
BODIES, TECHNOLOGIES, SPACES
Derek Nicoll informs me of an interesting conference in Lausanne, Switzerland, on "Reviewing Humanness: Bodies, Technologies and Spaces". An intriguing list of topics includes: "Time and motion revisited: the scientific fallacy of habitual use"; "Usability in the age of the ambient, subtle and invisible"; and, "When will we stop acting? consumer-users versus actors, citizens and humans". The event is organised by the European Association for the Study of Science and Technology
TELEMEDICINE AND E-HEALTH
One for the chattering classes: TTeC2006 is about the imagination and exploration of the role of eHealth and telemedicine. What do we imagine the future will be like? Which paths do we choose towards preferable futures? What are the driving forces behind changes and choices? Tromso, Norway, 12-14 June
SCIENCE, ART, ETHICS
A talk about the ethics of sustaining life, by Tom Shakespeare of the Policy, Ethics and Life Sciences Research Centre (PEALs), opens AV, a media arts festival organised by Honor Harger. Later sessions are on transforming the body, the geopolitics of food production, and the role of artists in raising consciousness about environmental issues. 2-12 March 2006, Middlesborough, UK.
URBAN SCREENS ONLINE
A First Monday special issue on the first Urban Screens conference is now online. Another Urban Screens takes place 5-7 October this year.
Iceland's Great Rivers of Skagafjordur, the most exciting rivers for rafting in Europe, are endangered. Check out Halldor Gislason's blog:
FROM COMPLEX TO CLEAR
Core 77, the "industrial design supersite", is organising a conference, with Business Week, about the design of complex systems so that they are represented to users as simple and clear experiences. A panel will consider such cases as Google, Apple, Kodak, and FedEx. 28 February, New York City.
"IS YOUR SKILLS ABOUT TO EXPIRED?"
Congratulations to Deandre Diaz: She is the clear winner - and it's still only February - of my grammar violation in a spam header award for 2006. Ditzy Deandra offered me a "Genuine University Degree in 2-4 weeks".
$65 BILLION FUND FOR GREEN DESIGN
Is advertising a source of harmful emissions? Ad spending will break through the $400 billion mark this year: That's $555 per person in the USA - compared to $209 per head in France, $25 in Latin America and $8 in China. These billions have just one purpose: to stimulate consumption - most of which will damage the environment. One response would be for adland and its clients to divert a small amount of their budget - say $10 per person, worldwide - to the redesign of products, services and situations to make them sustainable.
OR A BIT LESS FOR DOORS OF PERCEPTION 9
We plan to organise a Doors of Perception in India next year, in March. To do so we need resources - that's money, to you and me. For the price of one SUV, we will be able confirm that the event will go ahead. On yer bike! Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org