Weeknotes 178; new skins

Welcome to this week. Last week was a bit different due to unexpected and sad family matters. And I skipped some activities. I keep the newsletter a bit shorter this week.

I did manage to complete a new update of Cities of Things newsletter. I touched upon the roles of relations and the aspects of agency in complex interactions ruled by AI. It feels like it deserves more fleshing out sometime, will do that for sure.

It is nice we can do a session at Mozfest on 11 March discussing Cities of Things on a neighborhood level, hopefully having a broad audience to get insights from other cultures around the world.

We also discussed more in-depth the first plans for the ThingsCon summer edition; we are feeling a lot with the theme and format. Expect more details later this month. You can write down a date: 9 & 10 June.

Upcoming this week

This week will be the mix of MUC-AMS and Lab010 field lab projects, student supervising, and shaping new initiatives hopefully.

On the event calendar, I saw Interaction popping up, again this year with an online edition, which makes the ticket price a bit more approachable. In about 3 weeks.

The General Seminar sessions I mentioned before. NFL planned 3 in this month. I will join the Solarpunk one next week. The NFT one (23rd February) seems to have a few spots open. Speculative Futures Amsterdam is relaunching next week too. Also next week: Reinventing the City.

News from last week

Some great articles were captured from the Ethical Futures Lab newsletter. You can find them below but I like to give them a shout-out separately.

Learning at Scale: An interview with Stewart Brand 
INFRASTRUCTURE – Lovely interview with Steward Brand, famous for is thinking about layers and paces.
“I’m going to change the pace layer diagram, which is sort of the fundamental icon and symbol throughout the book. Because I missed landscape architecture, I hadn’t noticed how much the view around these buildings changes, often intentionally. And so, I’m adding a scenery layer outside the skin layer. Also, under site, which I treated as quasi-permanent, I want to add another deep layer called nature. These would be the things I mentioned the landscape architect works with – the weather, biology, and biome aspects of where the building is. That is even more significant than the political siting.”
Routine Care
ROBOTICS – very true. Another exploration of eco-performance in the robotics context.“In detailing Klara’s performance of care, Ishiguro doesn’t clarify whether her actions stem from a human-like sense of empathy or just an obligation instilled in her programming.”
The Sick, Refreshing Honesty of Web3 
CRYPTO – I need to read the whole essay, but the title resonates a lot with me, watching some talks on Web3 decentralisation promises. It all boils down to investment schemes, not to different forms of ownership or agency on other levels. 
If you think all design is manipulation, please stop designing 
DESIGN – Cennyd has again a thought-provoking thought on his blog this week.
MIT researchers optimize record-breaking insect-sized flying microrobots
ROBOTICS – “MIT researchers have generated a new fabrication technique to produce low-voltage, power-dense and high-endurance artificial muscle-like actuators for aerial microrobots. ”Now find some applications…
ROS metrics show growing robotics community
ROBOTICS – “ROS is an open source development kit for robotics applications. It offers a standard, royalty-free, software platform for robotics developers. Its recent statistics report show a rapidly growing ROS community.”
YuMi Cobot Used for Automated Shoe Recycling
ROBOTICS – Mix robots and sustainable: “Robots can take on a wide variety of recycling tasks these days. This video from ABB Robotics shows how a YuMi robot can be used to recycle shoes.”
Scientists are building an AI-powered robot to take apart your old phone
ROBOTICS – More robotic-powered sustainability.“A team of researchers is developing AI-based software to improve robotic recycling of smartphones. The tech could help solve a growing problem for e-waste recyclers.”
Robots marched on in 2021, with record orders by North American firms
ROBOTICS – The rise of robots as employees is real apparently. “a growing share of robots are a new breed of “cobots,” designed to work alongside humans on assembly lines.“
Decentralising Digital: Artefacts from Hopeful Futures 
FUTURES – “We are exploring how developments in emerging technologies such as the Internet of Things, the voice enabled Internet, machine learning and artificial intelligence might be harnessed to meaningfully support rural communities in India.”
ISS astronaut gets haptic feedback from robot on Earth
INFRASTRUCTURE – “Astronaut Luca Parmitano controlled a robot in an artificial lunar landscape on Earth from the International Space Station.”What triggered my eyes and mind is the name of the project (ANALOG) and the feeling that we are about a shift happening that we switch from a digital representation to a physical representation….
🚀 Tech Trends Newsletter: Privacy is Dead
IDENTITY – Not unexpected maybe that all of the identity matters are services by a private company in the US. Not everyone is happy… “State and federal governments have assured us that we can trust this company with our identity. The question is, what happens when we learn how fallible this system is – and the vulnerabilities this creates?”
Finally, a Good Use for NFTs: Preserving Street Art
CRYPTO – With all the critical notes on latest hypes; a positive note. Maybe. “Murals and other similar forms of art are often ephemeral. Putting them on the blockchain can give them life after they’ve been covered up or removed.”
Letter from Susan: Our 2022 Priorities
CRYPTO – Of course is Youtube looking at NFTs
We’ve opened our doors to the public!
AUTONOMOUS – “Watch us welcome our first group of riders in San Francisco to experience the magic of a fully driverless ride.”Is there a speeding up of this happening?
Narrative Device
GPT3 – Another one in the category tools for fun based on GPT-3, that learns also something on the working, and maybe triggers new useful applications.And another type of cobot: get inspiration for your own stories you write using this tool.
An Absurd Double-Wide Cadillac
MOBILITY – It looks crazy, and it probably is. The interesting element is that these kind of wild variations might become reality if rules are less strict in adaptive streets. 

Paper of the week

I keep this one also short and a bot close by. For designing interactions and behaviors of intelligent things, robots with agency and other responsive objects, a tool or method that is a great starting point is so-called Things Centered Design. There is a little website tcdtoolkit.org and one of the methods is Interview with Things. Chang has written a paper on this method based on the design work of scooters in Taiwan:

Chang, W. W., Giaccardi, E., Chen, L. L., & Liang, R. H. (2017, June). “ Interview with Things” A First-thing Perspective to Understand the Scooter’s Everyday Socio-material Network in Taiwan. In Proceedings of the 2017 Conference on Designing Interactive Systems (pp. 1001-1012).

In the city, mobility is calling for new forms of smartness. To understand what is needed to design thoughtful forms of smart mobility, this paper combines thing ethnography and animistic research approaches to reveal the interwoven networks of personal and social relationships that develop around scooters in Taiwanese everyday life. To this end, a three-day study with six different types of scooterists was conducted in Taipei.

Find the PDF here.

See you next week!

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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.