Monday, May 30, 2011

Physical Bar Charts at TEDGlobal 2011

My participative installation Physical Bar Charts will be installed at TEDGlobal 2011 in Edinburgh for the duration of the four-day conference in July. This is the eighth time I have made the piece, which was initially developed in collaboration with sociologist Andrew Barry. The work has changed slightly since the first version, then called Personal Political Indices (Pindices) in the group show Making Things Public curated by Bruno Latour and Peter Weibel, at ZKM Karlsruhe, in 2005.

People respond to a prompt or question by taking badges that answer it in some way. For the TEDGlobal conference, there will be new badges with questions relevant to the conversations at TED. The resulting Physical Bar Chart shows which badges are most popular, and being viewable in a public space within the conference, allow people to have a bigger picture about what the conference is thinking. Meanwhile the badges prompt new discussions as they are worn around the conference and city, or back home.

The piece operates on a number of levels.
- By creating a way for members of a temporary community to make sense of what they are hearing and discussing
- By creating a near real-time record of how participants are engaging with the ideas at the conference
- By revealing the creation of data and its analysis to be a thoroughly social process
- Sculpturally, by creating seductive forms that draw people in

The photo shows a version of Physical Bar Charts, installed at Said Business School, Oxford, in 2008 as part of the Imagining Business conference. More about the piece: Pindices and Physical Bar Charts.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Design innovation workshop, Philadelphia

In March I co-facilitated the four-day Design Challenge 2011 for students at Temple University, Philadelphia, with James Moustefellos who with Youngjin Yoo directs the Center for Design + Innovation within the Fox School of Business.

An open call to students across all departments at Temple resulted in around 18 teams signing up for the day. All of them had to be mixed in terms of disciplines, drawing on at least two departments, although the majority of participants came from the Fox Business School.

The challenge to the students focussed on the area of the city close to the Temple campus, North Broad St. The project asked students
- How can we use increasingly pervasive digital technology to re-imagine the future of the city?
- Can we use digital technologies to inspire, mobilize and create social, economic, cultural, political and intellectual connections to solve the complex challenges that cities face today
- Can we build a sustainable open platform that encourages and supports a vibrant ecosystem of neighbors, entrepreneurs and communities?

Over four days, students worked together to do first-hand research in the North Broad area and then come up with service concepts to address issues they identified. This included a detailed briefing with input from community leaders and from city organisations (on Monday) and a one day workshop (on Thursday) led by James and I, which was a day of intense idea generation and visualisation. The presentations at the end of the day, judged by a team of entrepreneurs, community leaders and academics, showed what a wide range of responses. Students presented their insights from their research, and then proposals for a new service journey or service encounter, communicate in a range of media from collage, to sketches, to role play. The successful propositions combined an understanding of the service ecology around North Broad St, and a creative reconfiguration of community resources supported by digital technologies.

As a learning experience for the students, it showed how design-based approaches support rapid collaboration and proposition development. As a way to build relationships between the university and its community and city, it showed how to engage student energy and entrepreneurial drive. I look forward to next year.