This happened celebrates 10 times inspiring storytelling

Thursday March 17 there was a special edition of This happened. The initiators Kars, Ianus and Alexander celebrated the 10th edition of the successful series of evenings on the stories behind interaction design. This special edition was connected to the Tweetakt festival and three of the four speakers show their installations on this festival. Kars curated the lovely choice of the installations.

Just like the other nine editions This happened did a terrific job to let us experience what choices designers and artists make to let their work fly. This time all the works are an interactive art piece, where the user of the art is also an unmissable part of the piece.

Yuri Suzuki kicked off the evening. On the festival the work Sound Chaser is shown. This is a very sweet project where a boxed shaped vehicle drives a black line, and produces different sounds with every line of color he meets, that is put on the paper by the visitor.
But Yuri showed another project this evening. He made a breakfast machine in Platform 21 in Amsterdam in 2009. The idea is initiated with the artists, but all the visitors make the different parts of the machine. Like a sandwich with jam maker, of a egg crusher. In the course of the 10 days 200 people made parts of the wonderful machine.


Monobanda showed the project of Bandjesland that was made for the Le Guess Who? festival last year. Monobanda and Arne Boon showed how they came up with the concept and made the installation to work. Old cassette tapes could be find everywhere in the building of Tivoli and with RFID every ‘bandje’ was connected to a sample of sound. By putting the cassettes on the machine people made their own songs. Together with the design of the complete room  that was done with theater makers the experience was complete. “The magic happens at the moment.”


Matthias Oosterik showed the path to an interactive installation that was made for the U-Turm in Dortmund last year as part of Ruhr2010. Four people could dance and move on four small stages and create a wall of dancing and moving figures on the building. He told about the choices made for the building and the learnings on how people tend to interact with his piece of art. The idea of working together to create special effects did not work most of the time because people are to self absorbing.


The last speaker is one of the founding fathers of the original This happened concept in London. Chris O’Shea is an artist too and made a beautiful piece – Hands from above – for the BBC big screens that are standing on different squares in England. The real life images mix with a giant hand that pick you up or tickle you. The project is shown on the festival too.
Chris told clearly on the way he came to the idea and the choices he had to make during the short time he had for the project. He showed the technical solutions and above all showed how the audience was teased to interact with his piece of art. As soon as people know how the system works, they want to hack it.


All four where outstanding projects that fits the best traditions of This happened. Speaking of traditions, I am writing now the tenth report on This happened. I’ve had the luck to be able to attend them all. And every time I tried to come up with a kind of emerging theme that was not put into the evening by the curators. In the first editions it was a bit by accident but it became a tradition. I always intend to catch the feeling of the evening, or at least my feeling. For this jubilee I looked up all the nine earlier themes.

#1 trail-and-error-design
#2 field studies in design
#3 craftsmanship as part of the development
#4 embodied embedded cognition
#5 an emerging mix between real life and digital enhancements
#6 translation of real life interactions to a digital environment
#7 real value was created by doing
#8 embedding the passion that is put in the making.
#9 persuasive power of simpleness

If I look back I see the themes shift a bit from more practical design craftsmanship to the more higher concepts of making disruptive stuff, which is great. Thinking of a theme for this 10th event I happily discovered an interesting addition to this development. Sometimes in the talks the success of project seems even coincidental, or at least followed some basic starting points and emerged by design by making. For the theme of this edition however, I found it striking that in all the works the user was the main reason for the successful experience, but at the same time every designer took a strong part in creating this experience. Yuri Suzuki gave the participants clear briefings what to make, Monobanda put a ingenious scheme of samples on the cassettes to guarantee a stunning mix result, whatever combination you make. Matthias shaped a game to stimulate the people to make the collaborating people into a projected piece of art. And Chris O’Shea was of course the hand of god himself.

So we see that also a collaborative made product needs a directing inspiration. Design as curatorship of a personal created experience. And that is just like This happened itself.

The 10th edition is a moment of reflection for the curators This happened on the future of the event, as they indicated. I’m sure they find the inspiration to go on with this wonderful event, in whatever form. I will anyway be more than happy to keep on looking for the emerging themes. In the end the themes are  mainly a mirror of my own beliefs of the moment. Would be great if This happened will keep providing this mirror.

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I am a design director at Structural. I curate and organize ThingsCon Netherlands and I am chairman of the Cities of Things Foundation. Before I was innovation and strategy director at tech and innovation agency INFO, visiting researcher and lab director at the Delft University of Technology coordinating Cities of Things Delft Design Lab.

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