That is, to put it mildly, a tall order. At the same time, the objects of design are becoming less traditionally thing-like and rather connected, dynamic, ‘smart’ pieces of entire product and service ecosystems. Companies developing products now need to consider entire systems and work with the contextual dynamics of specific places (Neese 2015). This necessary shift toward more systemic, postindustrial perspectives is a development that Cameron Tonkinwise suggests can be a highly positive thing in that it can make it “possible, perhaps even necessary, to find alignments between a manufacturer’s value propositions, the practices of everyday life and more equitably sustainable ways of resourcing our societies” (Tonkinwise 2015).
DRS 2014, the conference of the Design Research Society which is this year hosted by my current institutional home of the Umeå Institute of Design, begins in just a few days now on the Arts Campus of Umeå University. Since I have ended up as local organisation chair for the conference I have been heavily involved in planning and preparations for the last several months, so it’s exciting (and a little stressful!) that it is almost here. I think it’s going to be a great conference, both in terms of the content and the overall conference experience.
The new formats of ‘Debates’ and ‘Conversations’ are particularly exciting. The chairs of those tracks, Carl DiSalvo and Jamer Hunt, have curated some provocative and intriguing sessions, which promise a much more interactive experience than traditional paper and (particularly) keynote presentations and center around ‘big debates’ in design.
The full program is posted at http://www.drs2014.org/en/programme/conference-programme/. There should also be live streaming of the debates, which begin at 9.30 Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday (June 16-18) and at 11.30 on Thursday (June 19). The official hashtag is #drs14, and hopefully there will be a lively and interactive conversation going on there as well!
I just happened on the Bitly Media Map when researching their link shortening service to use as an example for thinking through some issues for my research. It is a map of the US that shows by location and in real time the media sources for links that people click on. The effect of the dots lighting up on the map is quite mesmerizing, kind of like a field full of fireflies on a summer evening. It also shows the US waking up. As I type this it is around 9am on the east coast and around 6am on the west coast; most of the activity is happening in the eastern part of the country, with a few early birds up and reading the news on the west coast (mostly around the Bay area).
Of course the preferred news sources by location are interesting too. So lots of interesting things in this little visualization that provides an interesting perspective on the world.
I’ve been seeing intriguing references to Graham Harman for a while now, and today after investigating him further I think I’ve become a fan after reading about a handful of blog posts and a book review. He has all kinds of interesting things on his blog, and I particularly enjoyed the ‘advice’ posts. His writing, even in published academic pieces, seems to be simultaneously fresh, playful, ambitious, and intellectually weighty—a rare feat. I can’t wait to dig into more of his writing, both to learn from his style and to start getting into object-oriented philosophy (which seems pretty interesting and relevant for my own intellectual project). So now I’m just trying to figure out which of his gazillion or so books to start with—advice welcome!
My review of Materiality and Organizing: Social Interaction in a Technological World (edited by Leonardi, Nardi, and Kallinikos) is now published in The Information Society: http://www.tandfonline.com/eprint/FeEHDGmxxE8WvmYn98ib/full
Since my move to Umeå, Sweden at the beginning of the month I have developed a close relationship with the city’s bus system. Although I have used public transportation many times before, especially when traveling, relying on it exclusively for getting around in my daily life is a new experience for me as I am also getting used to living in a new city and country.
One of the nice things about the bus system in Umeå is that the buses have free wifi. This was especially nice during my first few days here when I did not yet have internet access at home; I got used to pulling out my iPhone or iPad as soon as I sat down, and using the few minutes of internet access I had during the trip to catch up on email and Facebook activity. My iDevices now often automatically begin to join the bus wifi networks, because I have been on them before. As my usual bus route has started to feel familiar (I now know where I need to get off to go to work or home even when the ‘next stop’ display isn’t working!), my iDevices also recognize these wifi networks as familiar. I have begun to recognize the bus numbers by which the networks are identified, and in noticing these different numbers I have also noticed the small differences between the physical buses and their configurations. The bus is not just a generic one of many in the city’s fleet, but Ultra 6942, one I have been on before. My experience of the physical environment has been mediated by my experience of the digital one.
When I took the screen shot for this blog post today I was in the main student area in town (Ålidhem), where there were also several other cleverly-named networks available (“Pretty fly for a WiFi” might be the best wifi name ever). These network names are performative as well as functional, and they make visible something about the people who live in a place and contribute to its character.
So my iDevices and I are settling in, and getting to know Umeå in part through its hybrid digital/physical infrastructures.
A lot has happened with me in the last few months. The first big thing is that I finished and (on 19 July) successfully defended my dissertation. It is titled The Mediating Role of Responsive Digital Materials: A Conceptual Investigation and Analytic Framework, and it is available for download here. I will also be working on turning it into papers for publication in the coming months.
The second big thing is that I have just moved to Umeå, Sweden and begun a 2-year post-doctoral research fellowship at the Umeå Institute of Design, where I will be continuing my own research and also looking for new projects and collaborations. I am very excited to be here in such a great design school, where I will be able to experience ‘design culture’ in ways that will hopefully be useful for my research.
I will post more about these things as I get back up and running, and working on things that are not my dissertation or international move!