Iskander Smit is an innovation director at tech and innovation agency INFO, visiting professor at the Delft University of Technology coordinating Cities of Things Delft Design Lab, and chairman and organizer of ThingsCon Netherlands.
November has started. An even more exciting Month than usual with the special happening in the US, of course. I’m not going to speculate on the outcomes and aftermaths as there are other channels for that. I can say that I am not expecting a smooth transition, and hopefully, the culmination of dividing forces will not come to a dramatic clash…
That said, let’s have a quick look back at last week. I did not visit many public events that deserve reporting. The digital twin webinar of Digital Society School was interesting; however, technical hick-ups made me miss most of it. I will try to look back later. The program is rather relevant.
I gave a masterclass new interfaces for a course Media Perspectives is organizing, and it was moved to digital space at the last notice, which changed the dynamics, of course, a lot. But with the use of Miro and a quite straightforward workshop we there was good energy and discussions. The workshop’s set-up in three rounds in break-out groups, with the groups building on each-others work, proved an excellent energizer again.
Let me mention ThingsCon preparations again. We are shaping the program more and more, and we are really looking forward to the different activities. We also filled in the Friday program a bit more. Check out the page if you didn’t before, and don’t wait too long register. For the logistics of planning workshops and sending special badges, we set the final day for registration on November 15. Spread the word!
Last week was the week of DDW. This year also completely online. As I mentioned last week, they managed also in this format to create an overwhelming feeling with lots of different programs. I have been following only a couple of them (partly). CLICKNL DRIVE, Design United’s Upclose & Personal, Embassy of Health with Waag, and Manifestations. All good experiences. Without going into the details, one theme that returned in multiple fashions was the attention for the collective versus the individual interest. At DRIVE on Monday it was mentioned specifically as a response to the opening presented projects that still focused on the ‘traditional’ user centered design. Especially with mobility it deserves to have attention for the impact on societal levels and this should be a starting point, not an after thought. It came back at a couple of other sessions too, the most clearly in the health session on Thursday where the Coronamelder-app was one of the topics. The tension between an app that serves the individual in providing a ‘passport’ for acting in society, versus a collective goal to contribute locating the spread of the virus, which was the original setup.
We organised another round in our ThingsCon Salon series on Trust in Design and had a nice group of participants to discuss the cases. We had some nice pointers to take to the next session where we will discuss the toolkit.Ok, let’s dive into some of the news of last week. Let me give shout out (again) to Patrick Tanguay’s newsletter Sentiers, as I could have included almost all of it here…
My planning was a bit messed up, whole of Monday in sessions, meetings, and transit. So a bit delayed.
Dutch Design Week has started. The program is smaller and only online of course, but still, they managed to make me confused about what is happening when and where. I hope that is on purpose. On Monday I visited my first hybrid event, CLICKNL Drive. And I missed another, Upclose & Personal by Design United. Both tips for the rest of the week, every day another theme.
CLICKNL Drive was well produced, as these days events are happening: it is more of a TV-show than an event. I liked how the people in the room and the people at home blended in, also the speakers were mixed online and on location. The topic of the Monday session was mobility. Good discussion in the second part on the real issues to discuss: what is the end goal of mobility solutions: the best for individual travelers or start with aiming for a just society. I feel a lot like the latter.
Next to the DDW events, I might have a look at a conference called Curbivore on a new framing; curb commerce. Wondering if this is a typical US phenomenon.
We also discuss Trust by Design in ThingsCon Miro-session on Thursday. And we announce our annual event program and have opened registration: Good Things Fest, 7-11 December!
Some interesting news items last week on AI, our relation to technology assistants, and ambient reassurance, and there was an Apple event.
I will be experimenting with the format of this newsletter a bit. In this introduction I limit myself to an introduction, and dive into the collected news items right away. Impressions from last week are mixed in.
Like every week, I collect some robot-stories. In the broadest sense of the word: automated processes to human-like robots. This week the focus is on the enhanced products and industrial processes.
Also on the relations – or better – conversations, we will have. How to design these? Also interesting to combine this with the insights on social sidetones to add in the conversation mix too. And how will this find its place when we will have telepresence devices. Combine this with the disconnection of reality and zoomed-faces and brainlike computers. A deep reflection in the essay on magic and the machine seems to be the right round up.
Next to this, some more practical and physical installments. Printed wifi is very interesting. The Samsonite meets Project Jacquard feels like missed opportunities. Will Apple be able to create the right mixed reality?
To end this week’s round up; two fun projects; a strange vehicle and weird building.
Just like the last 13 years or so I visited The Next Web conference. This year it took place in online space and that made the experience kind of different. To contribute to a report on the conference by INFO together with some of my colleagues, I collected my impressions. I share them here without editing.
This was a special year of course. As a regular visitor of TNW I learned that the meeting of people, the overall vibe, and energy is one of the biggest assets of the conference, there are few other conferences with the same vibe. Also connected to the setup and location. So you can imagine I was curious how that holds for an online version. Without expecting too much as I have been visiting (and organizing) a lot of online events this year. I mentioned it in my first tweet that day: I prepared myself for two days hopping in and out of sessions: it is so much easier to get distracted and plan other things around the event.
That said, I was happy to have seen four interesting sessions (and also a few others that were too boring or commercial).
Hi all. A couple of weeks’ silence in the weekly updates. I was on vacation as mentioned and last week was the first week back. Right on Monday, we did a session with the team of ThingsCon at NGI Policy Summit to discuss our learnings from 6 years of building a community and organizing events around the critical making of IoT. It was a nice discussion but we found it hard to get into a real discussion with the participants; the Hopin-platform creates a kind of distance between the panelists and the audience I think. A good learning (read also the latest newsletter of Peter Bihr).
Tuesday was dedicated to two graduation ceremonies of students at TU Delft I supervised. Congrats Siddharth and Xueyao! I will update the website of Cities of Things later with some insights.
Also nice to meet the two teams of Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences who are going to look into the design of things that predict.
On Thursday Friday I was able to follow a couple of sessions at The Next Web conference, also online this year of course. I liked the talk by Ben Hammersley and Genevieve Bell. Also here Hopin was used, it is a kind of standard tool now. It offers the basics quite well but I am not convinced of the engaging part. It is one of the discussion topics we have with the ThingsCon team in planning our December event. Nice to find all the ideas!
And I picked up the news again. Technews that is, related to the topics I focus on mainly. It is hard not to be distracted by all the dark world news floating around of course…
I also attended the PhD Defense of Péter Kun ‘Design Inquiry through Data’ which presents an interesting framework for those that are interested how data and machine learning become part of design practice.
Also last week we had a successful ThingsCon workshop we organized together with Lorna Goulden of IoT Eindhoven on ‘Don’t Be Evil – Building Trustable and Responsible Technology Business. We had an interesting group of participants, Miro worked very well as collaborative tool, and we are definitely planning to continue towards a definition of possible tools to support for instance tranparency and accountability.
The coming week is the final week before I will be off for a couple of weeks of vacation, so I’m planning ahead for some new projects starting with students as part of the research into Things That Predict and Cities of Intelligent Things, and the ThingsCon Salon in The Hague and NGI session. (latter not yet on the website).
Also looking forward to participate in a workshop on Designerly HRI (Human Robot Interface) as part of Ro-man 2020 conference. My contribution is about the potential role of predictive knowledge in the relation with robots.
More on human-nonhuman partnership in the news last week. And more AI. But let start with some quantum philosophy.
What happened last week? It was quiet with the graduation students, one is finalizing for graduation this week, another is planning for a green-light this week, two others are have these moment is end of September. I will update the DDL Cities of Things website soon as a project finishes.
Last thing to mention is the Robophilosophy conference organized by Aarhus University. Interesting to see how they solved the online conference experience. A mixture of live presentations and discussions, and pre-recorded talks. The talks were – as usual with academic conferences – linked to the accepted papers in the program. The discussion sessions tried to combine papers in themes like Design, Moral Robots, Ethics, etc. These sessions were very formatted with strict time-limits for the speakers. That was good to prevent long winding answers, but on the other hand, it did prevent a real discussion to happen IMHO.
I did not have time to follow all sessions. I liked the session of Aimee Van Wynsberghe, John Danaher, Selma Sabanovic. The latter stressed how robots are a means for humans to communicate, and you can in that sense use robots for building communities. Aimee introduced the notion of reciprocity in the interaction with robots, as mean to create social systems. Design for reciprocity should be part of design for HRI (Human-Robot Interactions). I was wondering how this relates to the notion of co-performance that Kuijer and Giaccardi described. I think there is an interesting different approach to look into: with co-performance there is a mutual goal.
Danaher did a good final presentation as he dived into the question how social robots change our values. I don’t have the answer yet. Danaher sketched the roles of robots in relation to agency: from tools (negative agency) to supervised (low agency), interdependent (high agency) and reflective (moral agency). I might need to chew a bit more on this.
In the news I share here I have always some robotics topics, every week new instances of robot companions are introduced so it seems, gradually but surely taking a place in our lives…
Temperature is dropping, and we are slowly getting out of vacation times. There was not a lot last week to right about so I keep it short. I missed the new format of Pivot podcast I’m following for tome time. The Pivot Schooled edition are five longer edition with some high-profile guests. It costs 30 dollars for all five; this week Uber CEO will going have a discussion with the founder of gig-workers collective. I am curious how it will be.
Also this week a new academic conference on Robot philosophy. This fits very well the topics of this newsletter so I will have a look at a couple of sessions for sure. It is also an slightly different setup from the DIS online conference I ‘attended’ earlier: all presentations are recorded, but there are live discussion sessions you can attend. It is too bad I did not have an excuse to go to Aarhus, the organising university, but it is on the other hand a lot cheaper (registration is 10 euro).
We are also very busy planning some events for ThingsCon. Of course our annual event that will happen in December in an online format. More on that beginning of September I expect as we open also call for participation. Next week Thursday we will have a smaller gathering in the form of a workshop we organize together with IoT Eindhoven on ‘Building Trustable and Responsible Technology Business’. Check more information and RSVP at the meetup page.
Together with the Smart Cities team of The Hague we are organizing a Salon end of September (24, 15-17h) on responsible onboarding public digital ecosystems. All on their living lab Scheveningen. Read more at the meetup-page. As soon as there are more details, I will share these of course here too.
Let’s dive into the news of last week. Futuring and robots are the main drivers of the news here. And some track & trace at the moment that the COVID-app is introduced in the app stores here in the Netherlands. I expect some articles next week on that. I have installed the app but disabled the functioning for now, as I am still not totally convinced I need to support the initiative. More on that next week, on with the robots etc.
Vacation version of this newsletter. It is not me that is on vacation, but the rest of the world is for sure. I think last and this week is peak vacation, next week things are starting up and preparing for the new year.
However, the news was intense with the Beirut explosion that was almost felt like a live experience. Combining all the footage will make it into a frightening AR experience (not too soon I hope, or better never).
Also: Reels is there. TikTok competitor on Instagram. The battle begins now for real (no pun intended): experience vs status. You now see that the ‘professional’ Tiktok-makers refer to Instagram-accounts to make money out of their videos. But the experience of a Tiktok stream is some much more appealing as Reels is now. Read this great essay on TikTok cultural tricks.
Finally, to follow-up last weeks announcement of my visit to Boymans Drive-Thru museum at Ahoy. The super short review: it is a fun experience. And the experience is more about the setting than the art. Partly because it misses background information on the pieces itself. It is interesting how it changes your relation with the art if you are trapped in a cocoon…
I did not capture as much news items as usually, which is fine. Still some nice and interesting reads….
Nothing will remain hidden…. Especially when you focus on poo-tracking apparently. We learned before that our sewage system is an early indicator for COVID cases, here some other use… “An orbiter saw signs of almost a dozen previously uncounted colonies in Antarctica, boosting known numbers for a threatened species. The discoveries were made by spotting the distinctive red-brown guano patches the birds leave on the ice.”
Is it a hack or a form of citizen participation you could debate: “by reverse engineering apps intended for cyclists, security researchers found they could cause delays in at least 10 cities from anywhere in the world.”
Let me share this here too. I think it is interesting indeed to think about the role of audio as AR and especially in combination with edge-computing on devices like the AirPod. The next generation might very well be extended with a GPS and accelerometer and intelligent behavior to switch between personal (noice cancelled), social (transparency) and AR-mode.
I shared the society-centered design before as it came out, in this post they explain what design choices were made for a compelling manifesto. Useful in case you might up to creating a manifesto some time.
Not directly related to intelligent systems, IoT or robotics or life automation, to name a few of the common themes in this newsletter. But it is looking very nice and it is about possilble futures for cities, so I think it fits: “A building of Bangkok’s Thammasat University is now home to Asia’s largest rooftop farm.”
Nice to share the Tis.tv newsletter for one time. Often nicely curated videos combining new and known in a theme. This one is about the new tools for making online meeting more exciting. The version of this week is on delivery robots, but those you all have seen in this newsletter before of course :-)