Cartographies of Imagination is an essay about our project MAPLAB, where we develop cartographic imaginaries of Eindhoven with children. The project’s ambition is to show city planners, decision-makers and technologists, how our cities could be different if we consider children as key fellow citizens, rather then future citizens.
Recently we hosted the first event of our new series “Future(s) of Power” at Somerset House in collaboration with Somerset House Studios. We are doing this series because we want to explore the conditions under which various forms of power become defined, and we are specifically interested in exploring how we can move from feeling powerless, both individually and as transient groups, networks and communities, towards feeling like we have some forms of power. We hope to uncover this quite abstract idea of power through new methods of advocacy, but also discreet and alternate sets of tools, tactics, and strategies.
At the end of April, I gave the opening talk at the TED 2017 conference ‘The Future You’ in Vancouver. Today, I am excited to finally be able to share it with you.
Our work investigating potential and plausible futures, involves extensively scanning for trends and signals from which we trace and extrapolate into the future. Both qualitative and quantitative data play an important role. In doing such work, we have observed how data is often used as evidence, and seen as definitive. Historical and contemporary datasets are often used as evidence for a mandate for future change, especially in some of the work we have undertaken with governments and policy makers. But lately we have been thinking if this drive for data as evidence has led to the unshakeable belief that data is evidence.
Spring has sprung, and here at the studio we’re in full bloom. Check out what we’ve been up to, and find out what we’ve got coming up over the next few months.
It’s the end of January already and as the year starts to heat up, we’re momentarily looking backwards to review the work and activities of the year gone by. 2016 was an equally challenging and rewarding year for the studio. In the autumn we moved into our new studio space at Somerset House Studios and have been firing on all cylinders ever since.
But before we go into a proper review, the best news: We have just launched our new identity, and website! With huge thanks to Superscript² for visual identity and branding, Sonia Dominguez for web design, toutenpixel for web development, Geetika Alok for colour advise, Tim Maughan for wordsmithing advice, Marianna for the comms, and Vytas for the tremendous project management. We will continue fixing bugs so all feedback welcome.
Unbelievably, its summer already. The studio has been a hive of frenzied activity for the last six months, and in this post we wanted to share some of our top highlights of projects and activities.
Yet another year gone by. As we edge towards 2016, we would like to take a moment to thank those of you who gave us your trust, support, advise and time. It’s been a good year for the studio and for this we remain grateful.
Here’s a quick glimpse of our 2015 highlights.
Mangala For All: The year started with us roaming the streets of Ahmedabad, India with miniature Mangalyaan space probes. The project has been a fascinating discovery of India’s space ambitions within the context of global (meta)geopolitics and the commercial space industry.
Drone Aviary at the V&A: Through a series of drone models, publications and films this project investigated the social, political and cultural potential of drone technology as it enters civil space. It has been shown at the Victoria and Albert Museum, Design 21_21 Tokyo, Museo Villa Croce (Inaugurazione di RAM House), and ZKM Karlsruhe, and will continue touring in 2016.
Superflux Magazine: We launched an amorphous magazine! The first issue designed as a double sided A1 poster titled ‘Cartographies of the Sky’ explores the vertical geographies and digital infrastructures that cities will need in order to accommodate civilian drones. It has an editorial by Warren Ellis and short drone fictions from Tim Maughan.
Uninvited Guests: With a focus on IoT and connected homes within the context of elderly healthcare and remote tracking, our short film for Thingtank explores the frictions between an elderly man and his smart home.
BuggyAir: Following our winning application for Innovate UK’s IoT Launchpad Competition we have built, and are testing working prototypes of an accurate mobile sensing kit that helps parents understand their children’s exposure to air pollution.
Data Futures: We developed the strategy and accompanying narratives, scenarios, and artifacts around future of data and alternate financial institutions for a client. The project investigates the changing value of data as currency, and the role of technologies such as IoT and distributed ledgers within this new landscape.
How Will We Live?: My opening keynote at NEXT Conference in Hamburg, Germany connected seemingly disparate ideas of psychology, chunking, artificial intelligence, drones, refugees, and political activism to paint a picture of our contemporary lives.
Knotty Objects, MoMA and MIT Media Lab I was fortunate to contribute to the first MIT Media Lab Summit devoted to design, Knotty Objects which gathered designers, scientists, engineers, makers, writers, curators, and scholars to examine the transdisciplinary nature of contemporary design. Here’s the video from my session ‘Manufactured Objects‘.
Drone workshops: Jonathan Flint and Jon Ardern led a series of drone making workshops with young people (aged 13-16) introducing them to the technology through a series of making and Q&A sessions. There have been some great results so far.
State of Eindhoven: In October, I joined the City of Eindhoven’s ‘Smart Council’ to confront and provoke policymakers, designers and businesspeople as the city shapes up its remit as a ‘participatory smart city’. More on the ongoing work and related publications soon.
Team: Jonathan Flint and Vytautas Jankauskas joined us as full time designers / makers / researchers, and alongwith our newly recruited studio manager, we are really pleased with how the team is shaping up.
Press & Media: Motherboard, Dezeen, BBC Futures, VICE, Creative Applications, Creators Project were some of the publications who featured our work. Also, the brilliant newspaper ‘Paprika‘ from Yale School of Architecture interviewed us for their latest edition.
We leave you with Ursula Franklin‘s definition of peace as our hope for 2016:
“not so much the absence of war but the presence of justice… the absence of fear… a commitment to the future.”
BUGGYAIR WINS IOT LAUNCHPAD COMPETITION
The best news came at the end of 2014, as we won INNOVATE UK’s IoT Launchpad Competition alongwith six other brilliant companies. We are thrilled to be able to get an opportunity to build BuggyAir, and IoTA through it, in partnership with hardware leaders Sciencescope, software experts Virtual Technologies, our IoTA champion Hugh Knowles and long time collaborator Philipp Ronnenberg. It will be an opportunity to sensitively design, shape and build an alternative IoT project, one which focuses on people, their needs and aspirations. A project where we begin to work directly with people to test accurate mobile sensor kits, understand how data is collected, how they can read and make sense of the data they collect and whom they want, or dont want to, share their data with. From early April we enter into a round of product development, user research and ethnography, whilst actively exploring how we can design open data policy frameworks directly with people and communities. If this is an area that you are working in, do drop us a line.
DRONE AVIARY AT V&A’s ALL OF THIS BELONGS TO YOU
We have exciting news from the Lab too. Our ongoing R&D project exploring the emerging cultural significance of civilian drones received great reviews at Tokyo’s avantgarde 21_21 Design Sight, as part of their landmark show: THE FABMIND: Hints of the Future in a Shifting World. Following from that, we are delighted to be invited to to present another instantiation of the project at the V&A Museum’s upcoming show: ALL OF THIS BELONGS TO YOU. It opens to the public on 1st April, and runs through till 19th July 2015.
A NEW PROJECT AROUND INDIA’S MARS ORBITOR MISSION
We are excited to launch a new research strand in the studio around national space programs and their relationship to people, with our first ethnographic experiment: Mangala for All. As India Mangalyaan Space Probe, or the Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM), successfully orbits Mars, we roamed the streets of Ahmedabad with a suitcase of miniature deified versions of the Mangalyaan space probe, investigating questions around power, science, progress, development and jugaad-innovation. We are now in the process of making a film which, we hope, will reveal a more complex and fine-grained understanding of people’s relationship with Mangalyaan, and the Indian Space Programme.
ORGANISING AND CURATING LONG NOW LONDON
We have been members of Long Now Foundation’s London meetup group ever since Paul Miller started it way back in 2008. It was a great group of people, but after a couple of years the meetup went dormant for a bit. Towards the end of last year, we took on the baton to reinstate the group, with our first Meetup where Corinna Gardner and Rory Hyde of the V&A, and Alastair Parvain from WikiHouse gave fantastic talks. We then had our second meetup in January with guest speakers Genevieve Bell and Adam Greenfield. We are deeply grateful to Impact Hub Westminster for hosting us so far. Do join the group and drop us a line if you have thoughts about potential speakers.
PRESENTING AT ST. ETIENNE BIENNALE
We are delighted to be invited to present the 5th Dimensional Camera at the Hypervital show in the Saint-Étienne Biennale in France later this month, alongwith a great group of colleagues and friends. The project will later be exhibited in Germany for the rest of this year.
We received two beautiful books in the studio last week with our contributions! The Atlas of Contemporary Networks is a complilation of projects by from the MA Communication Design at IUAV Venice, led by Ivor Williams and Marco Ferrari. It includes an editorial by myself, alongside many other brilliant folks. We also wrote about our approach to speculative ethnography for the book ‘Beyond Design Ethnography‘ edited by Nicolas Nova.
We continue doing bits of teaching this year, with an ongoing mentorship role in the MA Media Design program at the HEAD Geneva, and a lecture at Carnegie Mellon, and few upcoming workshops.
And finally, as we build a bigger team, and work with new clients and audiences, we would love to hear from you. So do get in touch if you would like to hire us, work with us or collaborate.
Adios for now!