Weeknotes 143; learning about reality by digital hypermapping

Hi all, good to see you here (again) at this weeknotes newsletter, my week in review: what got my attention in human-machine tech, cities, design, IoT, and other interests. Let me mention that I also write a monthly newsletter specifically linked to Cities of Things, covering one broader reflection per month. And if you can’t get enough, with the ThingsCon newsletter we keep you up to date with the activities we organize throughout the year, with a focus on the December event, but also Salons like the one this Thursday, and we are working on another idea, hope to share soon. 

Next to the weekly news capture (below), let’s start with a short review of the week. Outside and inside. As mentioned last week Jip has had his green light for his project and this means after Jim a second project is ending soon. Meike and Peicheng have passed the midterm, Yeonju will mark that moment this week. Together with AMS Institute a new project is commissioned and advertised and it is great to see multiple applications now. I am also speaking to three other (new) partners for projects so it will remain busy in the Delft Design Lab.

Last week I was also invited to two different settings to reflect on the future of cities and mobility, one for a podcast focused on IT organization and one video interview for professionals in bike retail. I will share the links as soon as they are up.

So what else happened last week?

Bitcoins and Elon Musk. Lots of rumors again. For a good reason, as many predict he almost looks like sorting for his own Tesla-coin. In a world of mesh-networks that generate the new platforms for (business) value Tesla is of course another party to be able to leverage on ubiquitous physical connected objects (see also my Cities of Things monthly newsletter on the Apple take here). Elon became rich with a payment system for digital services before of course, next to his kind of megalomania character, we can expect everything. Not sure if it will be a coin or more of a currency based on the blockchain principles powered by renewable energy from the Tesla grid. We will see.

In the meantime, I am building a backlog for watching online conference content these weeks. I might need a vacation to catch up. Or skip all Netflix and alike of course… Maybe you have the time for:

  • Uroboros 2021; a lot of intriguing sessions, like this one on cities as spacships, however, I’m not sure if I can keep up the attention with 1,5-hour panels
  • CHI academic conference; keynote by Ruha Benjamin was tipped this morning by TU Delft colleague
  • OZY fest; total different – I might try to listen to Gladwell, that is a long time ago, and Cuban
  • Do I want to build my own Arduino-based object recognition system? Let’s check this tutorial of Jan Jongboom

Or go to one of these events this week, and I might see you there (if I make it):

Ok, let’s check on other news captured. Learning by digital hypermapping the now and the past to understand the future.

Find the articles in the newsletter. I hope I did not add too much to read again. Luckily we will have a long weekend again (at least here in the Netherlands) with Whit Monday next week. I might publish this newsletter a bit later. Enjoy the week!

Weeknotes 142; obfuscation and AI realities…

Welcome to this week’s update! With notes about the last week and looking forward to interesting things happening this coming week. In case you happen to have landed here from a link or search, consider subscribing and receive this as an email weekly…

Last week I tried to attend as much as possible of the Obfuscation workshop. Which has only partly succeeded, meaning I did attend even less than planned. Still an interesting event, and in case I can find the time, I can have a look at the several presentations online. It is worth checking out the website as it is a nice way of storytelling by experiencing, with a flavor -as mentioned last week- of the oldskool digital art institute website (a category on its own), and only doable on a desktop. I do not have an extensive report ready but some quick quotes from presentations, which are hard to comprehend without context, but give you a cue to decide if you want to dive in further :-)

  • Obfuscation is not just human behavior, it can also be an agent behavior in an artificial society. We can create artificial societies in the form of simulations to study obfuscation behavior (Amineh Ghorbani)
  • Conservative people are more in favor of fewer regulations, and obfuscation (Ulf Liebe)
  • The current focus is on communities vs networks, as the network promises did not deliver. Facebook vs Facebook groups. Responsibilities for filtering are shifted from algorithms to humans; can Lead though to burned-out moderators… (Lior Zalmanson)
  • Another Facebook as an example: the amount of information collected is creating possibilities to learn more of people than the original goals for collecting, by making combinations (Patrick Skeba); see image
  • You can not isolate the data linked to one person and protect it, we need models that tackle all connections that are made in our databases (from discussion in session Public Interest Technologies for the ML Age)
  • We need slow tech in the smart city movement (Ellen Goodman)

And of course, much more was discussed. It dealt a lot with social media, something that has less my interest in the context of this newsletter and Cities of Things, however, it is of course kind of an engine nowadays for our digital life.

Next to that, the week was filled with the usual mix of meetings with students, working on the fieldlab Cities of Things and beyond, and Digital Twin strategies for INFO.We had another nice intimate workshop with Eindhoven IOT & ThingsCon on Trust in Design last Thursday. Check out the last one in this series on 20 May.

This week started well with the greenlight for Jip this morning (congrats!); it is still hard work for completing the last bits and pieces (he might read this ;). It is a strange week here with another scattered national holiday on Thursday.If you read this on time, check out the session of Anab Jain at (re)programming tonight at 19CEST.

Ok, let’s check what I saved this week of the news… Find the links in the newsletter.

Weeknotes 141; farming robotics

Welcome to another weekly update. If you happen to have landed here from a link or search, consider subscribing and receive this as an email weekly…

Last week’s work consists of the usual mix of work on the Delft Design Lab Cities of Things with supervising the five graduation students. Jim has had his greenlight on Thursday, so he has now entered his last phase in designing “an AI assistant supporting balance between work and personal activities to increase wellbeing in the home office”. Peicheng had a successful midterm meeting (“Towards an active predictive relation by hacking study of vacuum robot”).

Not much time to attend events last week. Primavera De Filippi did an interesting talk on “Self-sovereign identity in a globalized world.” The aspect of having credential-based identity systems as a driver for economic inclusion was nicely illustrated with Kiva. A great case of how different asset and money systems are combined.

And she explained the UBI tokens benefits (see Proofofhumanity.id);

I have no conclusions here; if you find this interesting be sure to follow the NGI Forward salons dealing on SSI.

Speaking on trust, we (as in ThingsCon) will have our second online workshop with Eindhoven Internet of Things this Thursday, diving into trust by design exploring some cases. We had some interesting conversations last time on Codes of Trust. It is totally fine to join btw if you missed that one.

Another event I might join this week is the postponed Obfuscation Workshop, which was planned last year before. I am not sure what to expect, the website brings back memories from Mediamatic conceptual website from other times… Don’t forget to check out the workshop for MAB20 on Subversive citizen manual, entries to participate until 14 May. I might also have a look myself at Primer21 cfp.

The coming week Uroboros is starting; I mentioned that one last week, I still need to check what that is about tbh. If you like to plan ahead, these potentially interesting events are happening in June: STRP and CogX. Totally different from each other, which I like.Ok, enough on the event planning. What did the news bring us last week? Discontinued robot-dogs, robot-gizmos and robots making sense. And more.

Check the articles of last week via the Revue update.

That was it for this week. Enjoy the week!

PS: I will publish the new monthly update reflection on the cities of things newsletter soon, you can still subscribe to not miss that one!

Weeknotes 140; on systems and structures

Landing here for the first time? Find the earlier editions here. This is a weekly newsletter with my personal reflections in the context of the research and design I do. IoT, AI, robotics, and the impact of technology on society mainly. 

One day to go to another Covid-Kingsday here in the Netherlands. And another day for the first phase of some lockdown releases. If the latest numbers of infections and hospitalizations are not interfering after all…

Last week I did some work on planning the future of Cities of Things activities and work on the field lab that will organize a session in Amsterdam with consortium partners end of May and in Munich hopefully end of June to officially kick-off. Also happy to be part of MAB20 conference with a panel/mini-symposium. More to follow soon on that.

Let me remind you also of the academic workshop on the subversive citizen manual for the more-than-human city we are organizing at the conference. Call for participation is open until 14 May, check the website for more information.

We had another interesting session with ThingsCon on Code of Trust, organized by Eindhoven Internet of Things and it was nice to have a different group of people and context to discuss this (even as it is online, the communities can still differ). We keep you posted. We (Lorna and I) are thinking by the way that it would great idea to have a student involved in diving into the toolkit for trust in design for IoT that could be built upon the first insights of all these sessions. If you are interested or like to advertise it with the students, let me know! And we will have a second session on Trust by Design zooming in on use cases on 6 May, more information here.

Last week I followed a bit of the conference on the New European Bauhaus. Lots of policymakers and related speakers setting the stage for this new European program. Definitely interesting framing and the invitation to share projects before summer is something to consider. There is a lot to say about a new kind of built environment that is adapting to the intelligent systems, as we are researching with Cities of Things.

Speaking of Cities of Things: the end of the month is near so I will post a reflective post on one of the bigger stories of last month via this newsletter. You can subscribe in case you like to receive it in the mailbox directly.

And there was the Apple event of course. I promised to reflect on that last week. Indeed the Airtags were finally announced. The importance of this is of course not the tags but the system it is embedded in which makes the finding really possible. I have been pitching these concepts years ago for finding specific products (think 2 wheels), and so have a lot of others; the power is in the huge base of devices that can pick up signals. I like some of the analyses made (see below) that this is the starting of a real merge of digital and physical experiences as the physical world can get even more digital nodes now. But let’s first test the Airtags, I ordered a couple so I can replace my old Tile that ran out of juice a year ago or so.

I am not buying any desktops, but the iPad Pro has one feature that might consider; the center vision for video calls. I will wait though for hearing out some test results. I do have my own follow-me-camera (Obsbot Tiny), but the killer feature would be to have eye centering for the iPad to start using that device more…

Ok, enough gadget talk and FWP… Let me give a shout-out to The Low Carbon Design Institute virtual residency that Alexandra Deschamps-Sonsino initiated. You can still apply this week for participating in the super interesting program. Or follow separate sessions later in June of course.

And on to the captured news of this week, with new robots but also some interesting reflections on changing systems…: check the newsletter on Revue.

To close; if you are in the Netherlands, I hope you can find the party feeling tomorrow with an orange lockdown-safe Kingsday party. For the rest, you might have a look at the Playful Urban Futuring session this Wednesday evening. Dive into responsibility gaps, or into blockchain ecologies. Have a great week!

Weeknotes 139; control paradox with helpful AI

Thanks for subscribing (or in case you ended up via the tweet, feel free to subscribe for a weekly newsletter in your mailbox; check earlier editions here)!

I was interviewed this morning from Japan, for the Privacy Talk YouTube channel. I will share the interview here as soon as it is online. Thanks, Kohei Kurihara for inviting me. It was also nice to revisit the article of 2017 I wrote at the beginning of the research program Cities of Things. It still describes nicely the motivations of the research activities!

As promised I published a post on the results of the Designing Connected Experiences minor of bachelor students Industrial Design, including reflections.I attend the NGI Forward session with Alicia Asin, CEO of IoT platform Libelium. An interesting takeaway was the clear opinion of the role of 5G for IoT; there is a big impediment for that now, as the energy consumption would make it impossible for simple products. There is however also a promise in the increasing combination of IoT and AI that might be used for more efficient use of energy. She sees finally a change towards more mature applications of IoT, going beyond the proof of concept stage. Something that I recognize from the practice at INFO.

On Wednesday I joined the AIxDesign meetup. I missed earlier editions which is too bad. An interesting series of meetups I think. This edition dealt with architecture. Of buildings, not of software. The speaker was Klara Vatn, Head of Design in the Oslo-based startup Spacemaker. A design-supporting tool for architects. Both in ideating new urban layouts as a helpful partner in detailing certain aspects like sunlight calculations. She used the metaphor of an AI on your shoulder not to take over but to help with advice and coaching. Also interesting how she was explaining how the black box of AI was fragmented and divided among different elements of the design process. Remaining a black box but with more connection as it is more specific.

Before diving into captured news of last week, let me invite you again the workshop this Thursday on Code of Trust for IoT. Join us for a session on Code of Trust for connected objects, organized by Eindhoven Internet of Things meetup in partnership with ThingsCon.

Continue reading via the newsletter at Revue. With amongst others: People may trust computers more than humans, Amsterdam’s ethical sensing plan is a model for smart cities, AI ethicist Kate Darling: ‘Robots can be our partners’, and the weekly round-up of new helpful robots.

Weeknotes 138; robots as a dirty word

A short week last week. With a lot of things on the agenda. For a couple of years, I do a kick-off presentation for the students at AVANS CMD as part of the kick-off of a minor on Integrated Smart Systems. It is a mix of introduction to connected objects and the internet of things, and some peek into the future of more intelligent things. In collaboration with the new coordinator we discussed diving a bit more into the difference between collector- and actor-products as introduced in the model of Nazli Cila back in 2017 (see this paper). It was nice to dive a bit more into that framework again, still relevant, and the third level; the creator, has links with the Things that Predict, which is my personal research focus still.

Speaking of that, on Friday eight teams of bachelor students of Industrial Design in Delft presented the results of their minor Designing Connected Experiences, with the focus on the city context. All projects had interesting angles, all different, but some could also very well be connected. I will make a post with all the projects on the Delft Design Lab Cities of Things as soon as all videos are ready for public sharing. The projects became more interesting if more than one type of object was connected and when the objects also take initiative in the interaction. And adding a goal for the impact made the projects even more relevant!

The week was also dedicated to IoT Rotterdam. The whole week sessions and workshops could be followed. I participated in two workshops organized by Creating010 on Value of the Smart City and on Digital City and Digital Citizenship. On Friday Pieter and I gave a masterclass on Responsible design for networked objects. We shaped a new masterclass that focused on diving deep into the redesign of an existing smart object, to go beyond the first level issues and solutions. We were very happy with the format and the discussions we had. We think that the masterclass will work even better in 3 hours with more time for the designing part. We are happy to do the masterclass more often so let us know! :-)

If you are interested in Trust and IoT, we do another round of workshops on 22 April, 96 May, and 20 May organized by IoT Eindhoven. Check the meetup-page for info and RSVP.

We also sent out a newsletter for ThingsCon, with the introduction of our new year theme: EVERY____. Want to know more, check the newsletter here.

The rest of the week was filled with meetings with graduate students and field lab development. And what happened furthermore in the world; let’s check the news bits…

Find the collected news-items in the newsletter.

See you next week…

I don’t have any public sessions on the calendar. I might check out the NGI Forward session with the Libellium CEO, one of the bigger IoT platforms. I cannot make it to this week’s What’s Next but if you are into Generational Intelligence, check it out!

As it is less packed with sessions, I might have finally time to update the websites of Delft Design Lab and Cities of Things…

Have a great week!

Weeknotes 137; responsible networked objects

Happy easter!I do a short weekly update this week as I am ‘celebrating’ easter (as in being off from work-related activities as much as possible).

As you know my activities are mainly related to the Cities of Things research and spin-off activities. That is also recognizable in this newsletter. I concluded a while ago that the topic would deserve a dedicated newsletter, but I value this weekly routine a lot too. So I decided to keep both without copying the one to the other. This one will keep the focus on weekly updates on activities and news captured placed in the context of my interests. The Cities of Things newsletter will be published once a month and take one topic to dive a bit deeper. I hope this will work out :-) The first monthly Cities of Things newsletter has been published on ‘cities of things with a black-box character’.

It has also a relation to the NGI event I joined last Monday: on explainability, an interesting article by Beatrice Fazi. In her philosophical study, she looks amongst others to the autonomy of automation. Check the article here.

As said, I keep it short. Let me share some articles.

Find links on capturing soft robots, robot helpers, humanoids, and the bigger stories via this week’s edition of my weekly newsletter.


And looking to the coming week. Next to giving a kick-off for the students at AVANS doing the Smart Systems minor, I will attend IoT Rotterdam as much as possible. As announced before, Pieter and I will do a masterclass on Friday on Responsible Design for Networked Objects

And I am looking forward to the presentation of 8 teams of bachelor industrial design students on the Things That Predict topic. More on that in next week’s update for sure!Have an inspirational week!

Weeknotes 136; soft robotics

Last week was less packed with events than the week(s) before, so the focus was on meetings with students, planning for the field lab Cities of Things and beyond, and preparing for some workshops in the future.

One of them is the workshop we organize for the Media Architecture Biennale 29th of June (MAB20). As it is practice for academic workshops, we ask participants to submit a short position paper on the topic. We made a website with all of the information: subvercity.org. The subject of the workshop is ‘Subversive Citizen Manual for the More-Than-Human City’, and we will “explore the design space of contestation within the more-than-human city, employing thing-centered-design techniques to envision a set of subversive strategies creating a manual of subversive strategies to disengage or mingle with artificial agents in the smart city”. Check it out!

Speaking of MAB20, one small event I attended last week was the inaugural lecture of Martijn de Waal, who is now officially a professor at Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences. He repositioned the research group towards Civic Interaction Design (and also one of the organizers of MAB20). As expected, he did a great job in positioning the domain. Civic in a networked society, helping citizens to shape the future of their cities. Where civil society is influenced by networked individualization, the markets become platforms and government changes to liberalization. From dutified citizenship to intrinsic motivation (cooperations), social organizations, urban commons. His central question: How can citizens, institutions, and companies collaboratively shape society to address the needs of citizens & matters of public concern and contribute to societal missions? Definitely recommended to watch the whole lecture if you are into this subject.

For the rest, I missed more than I experienced as things go. I did attend the final session of the CityLAB Berlin smart city symposium. I listened to some sharp moderators of sessions stressing the need for learning cities by the value creation in the city ecosystem and looking to other cities that have been there earlier. The worst outcome for smart cities is a standardized way. And start seeing smart cities as communities first and cities as regional actors. Maybe I can find some time to watch back some of the sessions sometime ;-)

I had a nice discussion session as part of a focus group session in the research on autonomous driving and the perception and societal aspects organized by Maria Luce Lupetti of TU Delft. Curious to hear the conclusions combined with the questionnaire.

Let’s dive into the news captured from last week: soft and helpful robotics, bigger and smaller stories…

Find links on capturing soft robots, robot helpers, humanoids, and the bigger stories via this week’s edition of my weekly newsletter.

This week I do not have a lot on the agenda for public events. I watched the presentation of the NGI Forward session this morning on Explainable AI. Beatrice Fazi was introducing the philosophical concepts of her paper (Beyond human: deep learning, explainability and representation) that I definitely will read later. It is quite hard to summarise I think ;)

At INFO this Wednesday a livecast is organized on the innovation cases of Just Eat Takeaway and GROWx, in Dutch. In the evening of The Hmm will do a tour on alternative platforms. Alternative to a broken internet as they say.

I mentioned earlier we will do a masterclass at IoT Rotterdam next week (9 April). It is already fully booked I think, so in case you did not submit, check the other activities that whole week!

Next Monday will be easter and I am not sure I will be able to compose the newsletter, maybe on Tuesday instead. Enjoy the long weekend!

Weeknotes 135; looking back at an online SXSW

Last week was packed with external events. I was a bit disappointed not being able to follow a lot of Mozfest. I attended two sessions last week in the end. The program looked very interesting but also overwhelming and a challenge to make the right choice.

That is typical also the case with SXSW. Last year it was canceled on late notice, this year it was fully online. With a huge amount of sessions to chose from but also with some flaws.

Reflections on SXSW

Looking back at the online version of SXSW, I concluded that it was quite a different edition that missed a lot of the energy and inspiration you normally have, being away from home, in a giant bubble of people making the stuff you use, with random meetings, etc. It was a pity that the setup of the platform did not manage to have only a bit of the special community feeling in the system. It was a straightforward set of live and on-demand talks. The on-demand one stays even online till half of April so the need for the rush is not there at all.

I was invited to contribute to a Dutch group blog and that created a sense of urgency to follow it last week and share impressions. I wrote three posts (all in Dutch), the first on the trends presentation of Amy Webb, the second on a combination of talks reflecting on Chinese and Western design culture, and the last one an overall reflection with a short overview of a couple of talks.

People tend to ask what you have learned from the conference when you are back. This time I found that harder than ever. It is not about one big trend, but often it is about a set of weak signals, combined with confirmations of developments you were watching already. The last time I was in Austin in 2019 it was already very prominent that inclusivity and ethics should play a role in thinking about tech. That was still very present in the program, even more maybe. Also, AI is still very everywhere. But it was more combined maybe with cultural backgrounds.

I have a slight feeling that topics as synthetic media and filtered and extended realities are upcoming, touched upon but not yet as big as AI. I might expect that will be a hint to next year though. Moving away from a human-first focus to a humanity-first, or even beyond; ecology-first, popped up in a couple of presentations. Combined with the You of Things, a shift of focus is on its way.

So maybe if I should take-out one thing; that it would be that there is a quest for the new reality. A reality that is both artificial, filtered, but also embodied again as we might get confused about what reality is after all…

And further…

The rest of the week was packed with meetings and plan-making. It is not healthy for your night rest to have these evening conferences…

The news of the week

On to the other news of last week. I thought for a moment that there was nothing on NFTs this week to reach the bar, but it did in the end. Of course a round-up of new applications of robotics and specific robot-doggies.

Continue reading Weeknotes 135; looking back at an online SXSW

Weeknotes 133; nature-tech symbioses

Welcome to weeknotes edition 133; looking back and forward, sharing and reflecting on some interesting news on IoT, and relations with intelligent things and robots.

Speaking of that. This week we are entering the weeks of events. March is always an intense month for some bigger events I tend to follow and/or visit. Like SXSW that starts next week, and Mozfest, which I always missed, until this year I hope. Runs for two weeks and has too many sessions to prevent FOMO I am afraid… And this week it is interesting for the human-robot-interactions. I will follow the academic conference HRI2021 that – just like SXSW – will be an evening experience due to timezones.

Also; Thursday evening and Friday (CET) the conference Public Spaces is held, interesting for those interested in the public values in smart cities and mediated spaces.

In a way, I am happy the conferences are in the evening, and online, as time is always limited. On the other hand, I truly miss the shift to the “other dimension” a conference can be when visited abroad. A good way to disconnect a bit and focus. Much harder with these online versions…

From last week I have no events to report on. I had to miss the PhD defense of Cristina Zaga, but will try to check it out later.

In the Cities of Things Lab-related activities, there were meetings with 4 of the 5 graduation students, and presentations by the 8 teams of the minor Design Connected Experiences on their concepts for “things that predict” in the city. A pleasant surprise all the teams had a different topic. I will take some time later to add the projects to the citiesofthings.nl website. As an overall reflection, it is a challenge to unlock the value of really autonomously interacting objects that form a different counterpart than ‘just’ contextual information touchpoints. Building communities of objects, longer dialogues is a new lens on the city. Now they will also add the predictive knowledge. Looking forward to seeing what that will change.

In other news: nice to see that the ThingsCon initiative of the Trustmark is part of the NYC IoT regulations, check this post of Peter Bihr to learn more. We will organize some sessions on these principles in April and May by the way. The program for the IoT Masterclass in Rotterdam is now online, and we will organize 3 workshops in April and May with IoT Eindhoven. By the way; check also the latest ‘Getting Tech Right’-podcast from Peter with Anab Jain on speculative evidence among other things.

News of last week

Let’s jump into the news articles of last week. Remarkable explorations on nature-tech symbioses with a robotic angle. And the usual round of new applications for Spot the robot-dog, and for delivery pods. Also in legislation; how do they have a place in the city. Maybe start with a round of autonomous vehicles and levels of autonomy…

Continue reading Weeknotes 133; nature-tech symbioses