Thesis feedback…

I thought I would publish the feedback I’ve been getting from Lee Feldman from Blast Radius, a canadian born web company. He is part of the group of people who I am actively informing on my thesis process which includes Colin Burns, ex-head of IDEO London with whom i had the pleasure of working with this summer at the Design Council, then Jonathan Chapman author of “Emotionally Sustainable Design and founder of Safe house creative.

So here’s Lee’s take on my thesis that he sent out this week.

The first is/was/continues to be the interesting reality of Peak Oil
(,( The second
is status/reputation systems, the third is networking and gaming as social
collaboration and prototyping tool, the fourth is Japan, or perhaps more
precisely, Tokyo.

Peak Oil is the “scare tactic” that might drive a lot of usage pattern
change. does a nice job of suggesting new living
patterns based on more community and communal living post-oil crash.
Wal-Mart relies on cheap oil to get its cheaply made products to market.
What happens when oil is no longer cheap? Will the Wal-Mart model fail, and
increasingly local markets, based on coopetition, re-emerge?

Status and reputation systems, specifically networked, are creating a
“semi-non hierarchical” meritocracy and putting more power into the
hands of consumers. Web 2.0 ( is extending the system
from pure consumptive environments like Amazon, to bloggers, podcasters
etc…So every individual has an opportunity to express themselves, and be
open to rating, criticism in a democratic market of ideas- beautiful.

What if we could extend the reputation system, starting on a voluntary
basis, to peoples’ actual consumption footprint?
( Can we replace “bling”
with “fling?” fling being the temporary usage of something, rather than
the full-blown ownership of the thing ( Can fling be
a new reputation based on sharing? How can status be conveyed? How can
it be “branded” so that fling becomes the more desirable?

What if we could make a game out of this? The game requires community based
teams to collaborate on web/social network based services aimed at
maximizing resource usage. The game environment might be a habbo-like space
( that resembles your neighborhood so that you can
configure your ‘hood and and start iterating and prototyping service
designs. Key data is entered and an AI system, based on known behaviours can
run simulations (the sims). All totally possible now ! Combine it with the
reputation system, combine it with real usage……

Japan…post-post industrial, people living full lives in tiny spaces. They
CANNOT accumulate stuff, so they seek out quality, craft, or become otaku
and focus on collecting. The problem in Japan is not overconsumption it is
hyperconsumption. No second hand market for electronics, cars BUT huge
market for vintage clothing. Why? The homogeneity/individuality paradox.
CRAFT is the way young Japanese who do not want to be salarymen or office
ladies express their individuality. ( Produce AND
consume (Prosume) precious things.

SONY or Panasonic will reinvent consumer electronics to be
reusable/upgrade-able (like Toyota making 100% recyclable cars), and/or
create precious objects that become collectible…Sony needs help
right now…

Simplicité Volontaire

The previous post on the new puritain reminded me of a movement in Québec that started a few years ago called “Simplicité Volontaire” which is explained on this french website and which basically advocates a different and richer way of living that gets away from our conventional understanding of being rich (ie involving money).

What this makes me ponder about is the fact that whatever it is that i am to come up with has to have sex appeal and appeal to people as being in conjunction with their lifestyle and cater to their need for status through it. These are all fairly obvious considerations but very difficult to implement and design for. Perception is a fragile beast.

New experiment on its way…

A next step for me which i shall implement in the next week is aimed at discovering what values come out of sharing a unique object and being able to see the hisory of interactions that people will have with it. Being inspired by the chain-letter phenomenon, i thought i might try a chain-object event and use the web to my advantage for once as a way to link people and as a feedback mechanism. So more to come this week as i decide who to send this to, what objects i will send, what feedback mecanism to use.

The New Puritain

This Guardian article descibes an interesting social twist on current concerns about consumerism.

“So, with a few grand gestures and some high-profile converts New Puritanism offers a powerful escape route from our impulsive, reward-driven lifestyles. It might just have the potential to stave off the horrors promised by an out-of-control consumerist culture in which, according to agrarian essayist Wendell Berry, ‘The histories of all products will be lost. The degradation of products and places, producers and consumers is inevitable.'”

I am not sure turning to the Amish lifestyle that’s advocated here is the best way to get any kind of social responsibility message across but its a start :-)

Interdependant systems

As this IDFuel article adresses, we find ourselves looking at complex systems present in nature and enviously trying to mimick them.

“The natural world has evolved over billions of years to include an unbelievably complex array of interactions and dependencies, most of which are unknown, and many of which are remarkably unexpected. Intentional design, while very much different from evolution, shares a number of common solutions and themes, as we’ve discussed many times before. Would it be so surprising that the same sort of web of interdependency exists in the product design world?”

The web is indeed a stricking example of interdependancy and complexity in a system whose inherent values include sharing, communities, etc. and which are completely absent from the product world. I am really interested in this issue and hope to find more material to inspire a possible real-world application.

Cooperative design

From the communal ovens of europe:

“These common ovens also encouraged diversity for the “loaves going into the oven were slashed with distinct patterns so each family got back its own–really its own, since the grain from which it was made was grown on their farm.” via IDFuel

This makes me think about the power of diversity in communal sharing and the power of the unique results that could come out of sharing an object with particular people. How would an object react to whether you use it with you girlfriend versus using it with your friends.

Nostalgia and technology

Hmm, interesting exhibition at the Brigham Young University Museum of Art in Salt Lake City called:

Nostalgia and Technology : Embracing the New through Art and Design

From the scientific instruments that shared shelf space with art objects and taxidermy in the collections of 17th-century nobility to the cabinet radio disguised as period furniture, technology often enters the home with familiar company.

Greed and product design

Ok so in recent news iPod is getting sued by a group of Nano users on the grounds that it scratches too easily and not only should they get their moeny back but a share of the profits as well.

This 37 signals article goes on to show, by the simple display of comments, how much people expect from that product and how little it delivers. A business class last week in school made me think about the levels of expectancy from the user’s point of view. Generally speaking on white goods or failry low tech objects, we expect 100% and more, at all times, otherwise the object is doomed to be thrown out. In high tech objects, we no longer care what happens to them, you just need to wait a while and a salesperson will sell you a free new phone or the exchange mecanisms are so simple, its not worth even thinking about how crappy taht last model was.

But here, nano owners care enough apparently. Is it because the beloved apple broke its silent promise of luxury and shamlessness by providing users with a low quality object that does not stand the test of a minute’s use?

Computers for art

I am facinated by the interest that people (gouvernments, designers, artists, Oprah) have all of a sudden about the environment, waste, global warming. Like this is something that just hit them… sigh… Buckminster Fuller must be stirring in his grave.

So on the critical side of things we find Computers for art where a non-profit organisation that aims to reduce and to promote the re-use of redundant technology, such as computer/office equipment, through collecting and storing such equipment for use by artists in public exhibitions.

So another loop in the user-use-disposal system which i will map out very shortly.