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November 04, 2005

Food journeys

Doors of Perception Report
Quick Scan of Design and Innovation
By John Thackara
November 2005

A project called Beyond Green will use oranges as a vehicle to
explore the complex relationships that make up the world's food
systems. It is about how our food travels to our ever growing cities,
the enormous environmental effects this has, and alternative
suggestions for local food production. A virtual demonstration for
"the right to know where your food comes from" is online, and we are
all invited to plant our own demonstrator. Beyond Green will also be
shown in different musuems in the US.

One third of the UK's greenhouse gas emissions come from residential
households. Householders could reduce this by making their houses
more efficient, generating their own energy, switching suppliers, or
simply switching off. But power bills are confusing, energy use is
invisible, and installations are tedious. The RED team at the Design
Council in London, having experienced thgese frustrations first-hand
at a house in London, concludes that people need design help to make
these kinds of changes doable. Its Future Currents project proposes
new products, services and policies to help householders save energy
and reduce C02 emissions.

A beautiful but sinister wolf's eye accompanies the website for this
week's, symposium, in Delft, on "Design and the Growth of Knowledge".
See you there.

A new documentary called Contested Streets explores the rich
diversity of New York City street life before the introduction of
automobiles. The film shows shows how New York might escape from
gridlock by following the example of other modern cities that have
reclaimed their streets as vibrant public spaces. There is footage of
reclaimed streets in London, Paris and Copenhagen, and interviews
with New York notables. If you're in New York, there's a preview on
Wednesday, 17 November, 7-9pm, at the New 42nd Street Studios. Or
check out the five minute trailer at:

"Ignoring it is bad. Very bad". The recent pronouncements of
consultants are indistinguishable from third-rate slasher movies.
That was Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen,on
"disruption", but I've heard similar blood-curdling proclamations
from McKinsey and Accenture in recent months. The suits are like
petty hoodlums running a protection racket: Their aim is to scare
companies into paying them millions of dollars for protection. My
advice to companies and governments is this: don't pay these guys
another dime. The greatest disruption of all is a cultural and
attitudinal transformation that's growing right now, under the
consultants' radar. This transformation places more value on
biodiversity, social cohesion and local culture than on the vacuous
promises of brands and tech.

"We are in a brawl with no rules". "Incrementalism is out.
Destruction is in". Tom Peters' contribution to the
slasher-business-book genre is a book about design. Ever since Peters
invented the business blockbuster with In Search of Excellence, in
1982, some in the design industry have hoped that a Tom Peters of
design would also emerge. Well, their wish has come true - and the
result is a mixed blessing. Peters writes that the book is about
"re-imagining what's essential" - but the word sustainability does
not appear once. He's not blind to the subject: in a small box on
page 133 he states that "I believe that this Green Thing is very real
- and very potent. One part of this effort is the introduction of an
absolutely stunning new logo".

Bruce Sterling has a new book out about the future of created
objects. Shaping Things proposes that we will soon encounter "a new
kind of thing" which he calls a "spime" that is user-alterable,
baroquely multi-featured, and programmable. Bruce's book is the
latest in a series called Mediawork, directed by Peter Lunenfeld,
that also features Rhythm Science by Paul D. Miller (aka DJ Spooky) -
a title that which "takes sampling and mixing in music as a metaphor
for contemporary existence". The series is inspired in part by the
1960s collaboration between Marshall McLuhan and designer Quentin
Fiore; their collaboration resulted such "marvelous little mind
bombs" asThe Medium is the Massage and War and Peace in the Global
Village. Each Mediawork title is accompanied an online "WebTake". For
Shaping Things this writer contributed a text, and
Schoenerwissen/OfCD have made a textual filter for "meaning making
enabled by databases".

Another place to find out about the next generation of interactive
products is "DeSForM", an inaugural conference about design and the
semantics of form and motion. The conference, which takes place in
one of Newcastle's striking new cultural edifices, the Baltic,
focuses on "the use of motion to demonstrate the functional state of
interactive products, and to create empathy with their users".
Speakers include nanotechnoilogy expert Dr Raymond Oliver, and Colin
Burns, former CEO of IDEO Europe. Friday 11 November 2005, The
Baltic, Gateshead, UK.

Britain's unhealthy obsession with education appears to be stressing
out the obsessees - the country's youngest children. Children, who
start at nursery as young as eleven months old, experience high
levels of stress in the first weeks after separating from their
mothers. Many are still showing "chronic mild stress" five months
after their first day in the new environment. In Switzerland,
children don't go to school until they are seven years old - and yet
the country scores third in OECD world rankings for educational
attainment. Read more at:

We like to say that Doors of Perception features who will be who more
than who is who already. So we're delighted that Indian artist Ashok
Sukumaran, a featured presenters at Doors 8 in Delhi earlier this
year, has won the main prize of the UNESCO Digital Arts Award.
Sukamaran's "poetic yet pragmatic" project, Switch, was selected out
of 242 project proposals by an international jury.

Next January, Benetton will make available to the goverment of the
province of Chubut in Patagonia aproximately 7,500 hectares of land
to be used for the needs of the indigenous populations. It is the end
of a process that has seen as protagonists, a family and groups of
Mapuche activists, the Argentinean government and Nobel Prize winner
Pérez Esquivel as well as Benetton itself - represented mainly by
Luciano Benetton. All sorts of interesting issues are raised, and
there's a chat space on the site.

The brainchild of George Beylerian, New York-based Material Connexion
has grown into the largest global resource for designers looking for
of new materials. By categorising materials according to base
composition, rather than current use, the service gives designers a
better understanding of their future potential use. A new book from
the team identifies key trends and looks to the future.

The Peter Dormer Lecture, an important event in the applied arts
world, is held each year in memory of the pioneering writer on
design, architecture and the crafts who died in 1996.This year's
lecture will be given by Dr Alan Powers, Chairman of Pollock's Toy
Museum in central London, whose most recent book is Modern: The
Modern Movement in Britain. Monday 5 December 2005, Royal College Of
Art, London. Email: joanna.laurie@rca.ac.uk

The World Summit of the Information Society in Tunis is where policy
makers try to coordinate actions and standards in an amazingly broad
range of activities and "concrete actions" to do with information
technology and development. One way to sample the mix without drowing
in information is to dip into The Golden Book: it's free,
downloadable, and covers case studies from Benin to Samoa. The summit
itself runs from15 to 19 November 2005, in Tunis.

A conference on the "Physics of Socio-Economic Systems" is being
prepared by our friends at the Condensed Matter Division of the
European Physical Society. Dresden, 26-31 March 2006

My in-tray is groaning under the weight of books, pamhlets and
reports on all things Creative. Creativity is one of those Good
Things (like Community) that is being rendered tedious by too much
analysis by economists and policy makers. A welcome exception is this
online report of a workshop on design principles for tools to support
creative thinking. It's by some wise US researchers - among them, Ben
Shneiderman, Mitch Resnick and Ted Selker.

An intriguing experiment is underway to create a market for software
as art. Steven Sacks, founder of Bitforms gallery in New York, is
selling software in editions of 5000 at $125 each (although the
recommended 60" plasma screens will add to the price if you don't
already have one). The ten Bitform artists, who use custom code to
create screen-based experiences, include celebrated names such as
Casey Reas and Golan Levin. Sacks is adamant that software art is
"not a screen saver, not a DVD, not a slide show". Indeed, he locates
one piece, Torus, "in a universe situated halfway between the second
and third dimensions". By a strange coincidence, this hybrid universe
is just up the road from where I write: the creators of Torus,
Kristine Malden and Frederic Durieu of Le Ciel Est Bleu, are
neighbours of ours.

The nuclear lobby is trying to portray nuclear power as the
inevitable solution to Britain's future power needs. But their
campaign has been dealt a potentially lethal blow by a schoolboy
called Peter Ash. The young inventor attached a generator to his
hamster's exercise wheel and connected it to his phone charger -
thereby meeeting the most important power need of a whole generation
in an environmentally friendly way. More at:

Posted by Webtic at November 4, 2005 10:56 AM