TEDxUtrecht on the seam-full in-between

I attended TEDxUtrecht on November 8. As requested by Tirso Francés in his opening, I did not tweet during the talks, and I also did not take notes. I choose to make a tweet length remark on each talk the day after. I put those at the end of this post. The videos are up now too, so you can check the complete talks yourself.

I keep it to some reflections on the talks based on the most interesting ones. Like Reint Jan Renes, who kicked off and did a good job in making clear how behaviour is hard to influence from a holistic standpoint. Having a good insight in the real motivations and the path of decision making is crucial to be able to design for behavioral change.

Stephen Anderson talks have always a high density of useful insights in designing for interaction. He always brings in the quest of meaning in the way to design things, not the meaning for a better world, but the meaning within the design solution space.
This talk did not differ, but added some meaning by making the target very personal, creating a better solution for the medicine instructions of his child. It was a wonderful way to show how important it is to think as a designer and solve these experience challenges. And shows what the craftsmanship of a designer contributes to our daily lives.

In this design for interaction the seams are interesting. The glitches that Rosa Menkman talked about are related to that. It is a very interesting philosophical topic, the way digital is become into a life form as these strange seams emerge, as those glitches are. A great tumblr-blog is dedicated to this and delivers unexpected news images. The talk of Rosa did not completely manage to bring across these glitch meanings, or was she creating a glitch in her performance to underline the movement.

Brendan Dawes focuses in his talk all on the design of the in-between. If we focus only on becoming from point A to B we miss the space in between, and this space will even disappear. He showed his Doodlebuzz tool that triggers the serendipity in news. But also the Happiness machine makes unexpected encounters possible.
Things are not black and white, he said. People have the urge to walk the desired path on the one hand, but if we want to really remember stuff in the long run we need unexpected experiences. Like the breakdance act of TEDxUtrecht initiator Arjan Haring. And as the example of the bridge with the kink in it Arup designed.

Creating this seams create real life vs computed life. Combined with designing punctuation that causes expectation, is the bases for good design. Punctuation combined with serendipity is very powerful said Dawes. Mirror of our own predicament. It brings the poetry in the data. And fills up the rectangles in a way it loses its defined frame. Begin before you are ready as a friend of him says, something Massoud Hassani did in extreme in his great mine sweeping machine project.

Dealing with seams, with complexity and unexpected life, we need to learn to improvise. Kars Alfrink had a good talk on the way we can learning for improvisation skills by games. Games need to be generative to play this role. We need no simulation games like serious games with defined outcomes, or incentivising gamification, we need a third type of games he calls New Games.

New games are generative, are humble, make the player more important than the playing. The new games are facilitators for self exploration and therefor the perfect way to learn improvisation skills. Kars shows three nice examples from his own practice where they used this approach.
Those new games can become tools for creating meaning yourself and so make us resilient for the complex world we live in.

So lots of talks refers to the way we live and design for the unexpected, for the just now. By just doing, and by leaving the things open to embrace as a mean for acting on the spot. Creating seams to trigger valuable experiences. Not focusing on the intended result but on providing the tools to reach this in a meaningful way.


Block 1: Think Big

Reint Jan Renes shows us that we take long and bumpy routes from intention to action. The behaviour is more important to influence than the intention.

Kars Alfrink showed us the power of new games (open and generative) for learning our improvisation skills with which we can deal with the complex world.

Christina Cassandra Murphy wonders if architects should be more humble as 90% of our experience of life in the city is not defined by urban designers but by ourselves.

Dolf Jansen emphasizes the beauty of the slow, the power of chillex.

Block 2: Creative Solutions

Andrei Herasimchuk thinks it will have big impact when our physical life is fully recorded and mirrored in digital content. Will our life become digital?

Robin Hoenkamp asks us to think on solutions of for a smarter energy future.

Massoud Hassani showed that you can create beautiful designs without sketching and just making, his mine detonating ball is great.

Stephen Anderson is doing a strong talk as ever on designing understanding, illustrated with a very personal TED-proof story.

Block 3: Embrace the World

Yuri Landman performs on his self produced instruments and has some beautiful stories on the search for new timbres.

Dimitri Goossens is talking on the philosophy of the dead. With some nasty pictures.

Rosa Menkman talks on glitches an interesting phenomenon in digital media, away from perfection and embracing open seams.

Todd Kashdan has a strong power talk and learn us not to focus on happiness but on living.

Block 4: Free your Mind

John Burger talks on the importance of making scaling possible.

Rebecca Bortman talks on the design challenges.

Ann Mehl shares her 10 rules for successful living.

Brendan Dawes entertains the crowd with a very thoughtful rant on data as poetry.

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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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