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This place will not be updated any more (and perhaps I will delete it in the future). I switched to self-hosted WordPress (but I am very grateful to the wordpress.com service for all of this; some months ago I needed a 1-minute solution to bring a bit of text online and the hosted pack made me happy).

Public domain image from the Wikimedia Commons

CREATE-NET workshop on forthcoming EU research calls

createnet workshop at bergamo

Last week in Bergamo I had the opportunity to attend the two-days 4th technical and funding workshop promoted by CREATE-NET, a dynamic international research institute in Trento;  “the focus of CREATE-NET’s research is on the Internet of the Future, both in terms of infrastructure and service”. I was invited there because of my previous work in FP6 projects (MobiLife and SPICE, both with Neos), links with the industry (I actually extended the invitation to a major Italian publisher) and established contacts with people working there (this time I have been also introduced to CREATE-NET president, professor Imrich Chlamtac).

The workshop was very well organized and to me it has been quite satisfying to join an event like this in Italy for once (instead of Bruxelles or some capital up in the Nordic region — I love the Belgian beer and the Nordic light, but I can not rush there with my motorbike in 45 minutes ;) (joking… but the relative rarity of these settings in Italy is an issue; I will not discuss it here anyhow).

Talking about content, I enjoyed very much the informal exchanges with a few other attendants interested in the “networked media and 3D Internet” research area of the forthcoming 2009 calls (including friends from some of my preferred examples of excellence in European ICT research like HIIT and Fraunhofer FOKUS). We started discussing after a very nice visualization example of Last.fm listenings made with Vizter (created by super-brilliants Jeffrey Heer and Danah Boyd) from a Tampere Technical University Hypermedia Lab researcher; having just seen an overview of the research agenda brought forward by NEM, a prominent European and global forum on future media and network technologies, we had an initial but intense chat on possible research proposals at the intersection of media management and consumption, social network visualization and other related stuff.

NABA multidisciplinary team wins Nokia NUP-Nokia University program recognition

Fabio Mattia, Rossella Scicolone and Lara Gianotti, students respectively in the Media, Fashion and Graphic Design program at NABA, have won the 3rd placement in the 2008 edition of NUP-Nokia University Program, an annual challenge sponsored by Nokia Italy and addressed usually to Economics and Engineering faculties. Thanks to Alberto D’Ottavi, the NABA Media Design school was invited to join this edition, which in itself has been an achievement, since it has been the first and only design school selected.

Fabio (Media Design) put together a multidisciplinary team inviting two other students from different domains (Rossella from Fashion and Lara from Graphic Design). Alberto and myself have supervised the work. To me it has been especially interesting for the double reason that Fabio was in my Design Methodology / Philosophy of Design class and that the topic of the challenge (“How the Internet device of the future will look like?”) was very much in line with the work done over the last few years on beyond 3G / ubicomp application and services (the service side was also stressed by the reference to OVI in the brief).

The main objective was to develop a concept and articulate it with service ideas and an early business perspective. As obvious, the differences among the various participants were quite evident. Most of the presentations from Economics and Engineering programs were pretty much centred about one or another technology idea, expanded into a bigger marketing picture (some provided even TV spot snippets and campaign budgets), even though others put a considerable effort also in physical mock-ups and benefit analysis. NABA students were drawn instead on a design perspective in which service scenarios and device sketches were perhaps more tied together.

From the educational point of view, I really enjoyed having a chance to practice with the students some of the key issues that I try to teach in my class: design as a team-based, distributed, multidisciplinary work in which intangible, service aspects are related in many ways to physical ones, from the functional, social and esthetical point of views. Furthermore, as the final day was hosted in Roma at Roma Tre University (namely by professor Carlo Alberto Pratesi), Nokia kindly invited the team to bring there some classmates. At the end we were almost 25 people, travelling from Milano to Roma and back to Milano in one day; 9 hours on the high speed train, but it looks like that everyone had a good time… (Friends might wish to check the Facebook photo album).

Buona matita

“Buona matita social club” (“buona matita” translates as “good pencil”) is one of the few headlines that caught my attention on a magazine that I was lazily browsing last week while coming back from Isola d’Elba on the ferry (yep, vacatiors are over). The article, signed by MOMA architecture and design curator Paola Antonelli (let me note that she is an Italian), is about the emergence of social design and the idea that there are *not* only “pretty chairs and limited edition lamps” to care about in the field; UK designer Hilary Cottam’s work is reported as an example. Of course this might sound obvious to many specialists but I think it is still very new for the general public.

It could appear ironic, or notable at least, that the story appeared on a magazine entitled “Style” and that it is all about lifestyle and fashion in the most conventional meaning of expensive and sophisticated products, or, well, this is what its several advertisers sell (the magazine is packaged on Friday with the big Italian daily Corriere della Sera and it is mainly addressed to an adult, male and affluent readership; you pay an extra 50 eurocents for it).

Perhaps this is one of the many small signs of the increasing awareness of the themes so much discussed at Changing the Change in Torino, where I did have the impression of a very important but still quite relatively young and specialistic environment (despite the fact that some of the key principle and perspectives have already a quite long history in the design thinking tradition – Paola Antonelli quotes e.g. Papanek and his “Design for the real world”, published back in 1971).

“Changhing the Change” in Torino / 2

I am just back from three days of a very good conference on design and sustainability in Torino (and a much needed Sunday break), even though I have some mixed feelings about certain sides of it. If time allows, I will try to get into the details in separate posts, but as for now I want to scribble down what comes to my mind first.

This is a quick list of likes (see dislikes in the following):

  • Amazing talks from the invited speakers, especially those coming from Africa, India, China and Japan; Bill Moggridge of IDEO did a brilliant job too (his takes on the role of designers as strategists were bold and funny).
  • The idea of including virtually all of the conference participants, be they authors, speakers or simple attendants (like me), in an open round of sessions on “emerging issues” (see one of the preparatory boards in the pic above, on the left) — one of those was the new role of designers in this changing landscape (including very practical aspects, such as “how to make money – or, say, decent living – out of it”; see agan the pic above, on the right).
  • The “call to action” (as it is called in Mark Vanderbeeken post on Core77) often raised in official presentations and informal exchanges.
  • Some concrete, real-world project cases about design and sustainability external to the academic world
  • The open, online publication of all the papers (click “Themes” and then go on; the “login” link I guess will be activated for downloading the entire proceedings in digital format for those that attended the conference).
  • The beatiful, efficient location offered by the Politecnico di Torino at the Istituto di Biotecnologie.

And a couple or so of dislikes (the first is pretty big, the last is very minor):

  • The lack of contrasting views in the overall conference debate, despite the themes under discussion can be regarded as highly controversial (I actually share pretty much of the leading visions there, but it looks like that many others in the world are not exactly of the same opinion… so e.g. why not to invite a very traditional product designer to give a talk? or a scientist with different views on climate change? etc.
  • A large majority of the attendants were from the academic environment — all right, a special kinds of academics perhaps, with a commendable concern for some of the most urgent issues out there and not only for their papers and titles; but the risk of turning the design research debate into yet another “academic industry” was voiced even by Nigel Cross in the conference opening (Nigel Cross represented officially the Design Research Society at the event).
  • The only remark I can made on the otherwise excellent organization: yes, it was possible to connect and recharge your notebook at the library, but the conference rooms had locked power plugs and no wi-fi; very possibly it has been planned like this for various reasons (e.g. is a setting like that not very sustainable?) but still…

Then, quite often I had the impression that speakers were not so eager to make explicit, articulated references to the epistemogical, ethical, political, philosophical assumptions underpinning this or this other position, analysis or proposal (on the contrary, e.g. Roberto Bartholo has recalled Richard Rorty, just to name one case). Of course, I guess that they are all in the papers; anyway, I would have liked having presenters more engaged and systematic on the principles and fundamentals level.

“Changing the change” in Torino / 1

Decided to attend the “Changing the change” conference to be held in Torino next month, from 10th to the 12th. Among others, one good point from the event presentation, with regard to the necessity of rethinking change concept and practices in the face of the sustainability challenge:

If indeed design wants to be “part of the solution” it must, perhaps first and foremost, develop a new research culture and new research practices: open research, sensitive to present contexts, that leads to a better understanding of the great changes underway; that offers designers tools to facilitate movement within them; and that enable designers to be promoters of a radical way of changing the direction of these great changes.

The event is part of the broader Torino World Design Capital, but actually I found it after having affiliated myself with the Design Research Society, which supports it too.

Harvard Business Review on design thinking

“Finally”, as pointed out by my source, HBR hosts an overview about design thinking from Ideo‘s Tim Brown (nb: complete version available online for free). The post from Victor Lombardi includes a nice, compact synthesis.

Via Noise Between Stations.