January 02, 2008

Tools for survival

Imagine that you have the attention and presence of 80,000 designers and architects. Which five tools, business models, platforms, or applications, would you badly want them to learn about - and use? Tools for Survival is such an opportunity. The event and encounter, which Doors is directing for the St Etienne Design Biennial, takes place in November. We have a 5,000 square metre (50,000 square feet) shed to fill with tools and people - and hope you will help us do so. My idea is to arrange the whole space as a kind of caravanserai of informal stalls. Each stall, or carpet, will feature a tool, and people discussing its use. Live projects, in which communities from the region explore ways to use these tools, will run throughout the event. But Tools for Survival is not about green consumerism: Its focus is on platforms, models, base tools and system components - not discrete end-of-pipe products. A tool, in this context, can be a product, system. model, book, gadget, software, video, map, hardware, material, or website that is ready to be used now (or will be available for use soon). Each tool will probably entail a degree of social and collaborative use. The main zones will be grouped around the themes of food, water, energy, shelter, mobility, monitoring, and designing. The look-and-feel of the event will be more Bladerunner than Little House on the Prarie. That's because most people will stlll live in cities, not in cutesy little homesteads, as the going gets....different. Right now, please just note the dates: the Biennial opens on 12 November and runs for two weeks. Over the coming period we will organise partnerships with other organizations, including a network of design schools. And we'll soon start a blog/wiki as a public domain place to assemble and select your suggested tools.

COMMENT from Andrew Otwell (http://www.heyotwell.com/)

"Be careful not to turn this into just a trade show, though. The appearance of endless choice between models, gadgets, material, or whatever is going to be overwhelming. Would it be possible to reduce this down to "five tools, business models, platforms, or applications" as you say at the beginning? I think it would be great if everyone could walk out of the event understanding Five Great Tools and how to apply them in various contexts.
"The mechanical age was founded, in a sense, upon the "simple machines": the pulley, lever, wheel, screw, inclined plane, and wedge. What is the set of "simple machines" of the next age?"

Posted by John Thackara at 11:35 PM | Comments (0)

October 21, 2007

Why our design festival has no things in it


The house is cold, someone keeps turning the lights off, and the greywater toilet is blocked again.

As a way of life, sustainabilty often sounds grim. The media don't help: they tell us we have to consume our way to redemption. The shopping pages are filled with hideous hessian bags; and ads that used to be placed by double-glazing cowboys now feature wind turbines, and solar roofs.

Adding mental discomfort to the mix, politicians scold our bad behaviour as if we were children dropping litter. And preachy environmentalists expect us to feel guilty when we fail to embrace their hair-shirted future with joy.

Could one planet living be made desirable, better than what we have now? I think it can, and I have evidence to prove it. For the last 23 months Designs of the time (Dott 07) has explored what life in a sustainable region (North East England) could be like, and how design can help us get there.

The results of our efforts are on show at the Dott 07 Festival, on the banks of the River Tyne in Gateshead, which opened last week (and ends on 29 October). [Dott 07 is a project of the Design Council and the regional development agency One North East. Doors of Perception was responsible forprogramme direction].

Although Dott 07 is a design event, it is not filled with shiny products. The Festival's main exhibits are not things, but people - people who've been busy exploring practical ways to live better, more modern lives with less stuff.

One example is the UK’s biggest urban farming project in Middlesbrough. Three weeks ago, 8,000 citizens celebrated a bountiful harvest of fruit and vegetables grown in municipal flower beds, allotments, roadside verges, and skips, all over town. 2,500 people at the Middlesbrough celebration ate a town meal based on recipes created by pro and am chefs in communal kitchens.

The main contribution of designers was to make visible, and connect together, people, knowledge, and resources that for the most part were already there. An "Edible Middlesbrough" map, on show at the Dott Festval, was commissioned by the town as an action plan for the years ahead. Uniquely for a development plan, the map highlights flows of food rather than rivers of traffic.

The Dott Festival also features Year 8 students re-designing an aspect of their school. A year ago, more than 80 schools in the region responded when Dott 07 posed them two questions: "how big is your school's carbon footprint?"; and, "what design steps would it smaller?".

Partcipating students had to find ways to measure resource flows in their school: how much water is used, how waste is dealt with, how pupils get to school, where their food comes from. These numbers, represented in 3d graphics, gave them insight into how their school was performing as a system.

Phase 2 was to design ways to make these systems more efficient. The students had help from professional designers and architects, but many turned out to know as much about the issues as the experts - and some students went out and talked to local businesses in a kind of reverse education process.

Another Dott 07 project, called Move Me, looked for ways to improve transport provision in Scremerston, a small rural community in Northumberland. The idea was to identify un-met transport needs and then design ways to use exsting public and private transport resources in a radically more efficient way to help people to get around.

At one level, Move Me was about ride-sharing, which is not such new ideas. But ride-sharing - in common with all schemes to share resources and time - is bedevilled by issues of trust and security: how do you ensure that the stranger sharing your commute to work is not a psycopath?

The breakthrough, in Move Me, was the realisation that, when a sharing service is co-designed by the ctizens who will use it, many of these trust and security issues can be resolved without major effort.

Less stuff, more people. The patterns of daily life emerging from Dott 07 rely more on social solidarity than on fancy buildings, or shiny objects. The contribution of design is to make it easier for people to help and support each other in ways that bring material benefit in the immediate term.

A Dott project called Low Carb Lane, for example, looked for ways to make being energy efficient affordable for poorer people, not just a lifestyle choice for the well-to-do. Our homes are responsible for one third of total greenhouse gas emissions, and small changes can have a big impact. But for people on low incomes, investing thousands of pounds on insulation, new boilers, or solar panels, is simply not an option.

The solution developed by Dott's designers, live|work, is a financial service called SaverBox. A package of energy-saving measures, such as loft and cavity wall insulation, make someone's home cheaper to run, and greener - but the occupier does not have to make a large up-front investment. Instead, each month, the household pays off the cost of the insulation at a rate less than the energy savings that are generated by the insulation. The SaverBox scheme can be replicated nationwide using the existing structure of Credit Unions.

A less stuff more people spirit informs another Low Carb Lane outcome, the proposed NorthEast Energy Service Co-operative, or NESCO. NESCO is the prototype of a not-for-profit energy utility: it would work for the benefit of its members by putting them in control of their energy use, encourage energy efficiency, and make energy payment processes transparent.

Dott 07 projects have addressed basic aspects of daily life: food, schools, transport, energy. The idea is not to dream up global solutions to the challenge of one planet living but, on the contrary, to provide practical benefits for real people in a specific situations.

The tools, methods, models and services developed for one context during Dott are available to be adapted, scaled up, and multiplied by others. Whenever small steps taken by Dott 07 look like succeeding, even in part, others can quickly follow suit - only better, and faster.

This model of change gives governments a clearer task, too. They can stop hectoring us about personal behaviour change and concentrate, instead, on removing obstacles to change and creating incentives for the mass social innovation that wll be the basis for a sustainable society and economy.

Posted by John Thackara at 07:59 AM | Comments (0)

October 01, 2007

20 reasons to go to the Dott festival

The Dott 07 Festival opens in 13 days time in Gateshead, England. It brings together the results of projects and events that explore what sustainable life in one region could be like – and how design can help us get there. North East England, as one of the birthplaces of the carbon age, is anxious to help design its replacement. The 12 day Festival runs 16-28 October on the banks of the River Tyne. Doors of Perception has programmed its content.
If you can't come, but know people who might be interested - please pass this on.


1) Free 100-page Dott Manual (handed to you on condition that you have five conversations with a stranger).

2) Debates (the "why?" questions)

3) Site and location (world-class array of bridges)

4) Town Criers (how to be heard)

5) Landscape/Portrait (demonising design data)

6) Move Me! (no car? no problem!)

7) Welcomes (and unwelcomes)

8) Urban Camping (the real thing)

9) Landlines (landscape as spectacle)

10) Mapping The Necklace (from food to fondling)

11) New Work (time, space and lonliness)

12) Low Carb Lane (one house at a time)

13) Eco Design Challenge (the follower-generation takes charge)

14) Our New School (it's not just the building)

15) Better Lives With Dementia (an eBay for time?)

16) Design and sexual health (mourning after the night before)

17) Our cyborg future? (brain-scan heaven)

18) City Farming (hoodies cook burgers)

19) DE07 (twenty more events)

20) North East England (it's gorgeous)

You could 'do' the festival in a morning - but rushed visits are old-paradigm. The days Thursday 18 to Monday 22 October are probably best. Monday 22 is a one day mini-Doors, on Food Systems, Cities, and Design.

What a good idea. Yes. At 18:00h on Sunday 21 October at the Urban Camping site in Ouseburn.
We'll head for a local pub afterwards.


Monday 15 October
Café Scientifique @ World Headquarters 1900-2100

Thursday 18 October
Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art, 1300 – 1600

Friday 19 October
Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art – 11:00 -14:00

Friday 19 October
Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art – 15:00-17:30

Monday 22 October
Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art – 11:00-16:00

Tuesday 23 October
Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art 12:00 –14:00

Tuesday 23 October
Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art 15:00-17:30

INTERSECTIONS new design know-how
Thursday 25 October & Friday 26 October
Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art 0930-1900

Yes, here





Choose one of these

Posted by John Thackara at 08:34 AM | Comments (0)

June 11, 2007

"Poke an eye out"


"Void your warranty, violate a user agreement, fry a circuit, blow a fuse, poke an eye out". I arrived in California a week too late to experience this year's Maker Faire. But this preview video gives a good taste of this startling phenomenon, there's a DVD on sale already, and the site is pretty extensive too. Lethal-looking devices abound: the swelling crowds don't wait for "permission to play".

Posted by John Thackara at 07:05 AM | Comments (0)

December 04, 2006

Jeremijenko in Glasgow

A rare opportunity to meet Natalie Jeremijenko in Glsagow. Voted as one of the Top 100 young innovators by the MIT Technology Review, Natalie is a design engineer and techno-artist who creates large-scale participative experiments in public spaces. She produces multimedia installations that use robotics, genetic and digital engineering, electromechanics and interactive systems. Her work focuses on the design and analysis of tangible digital media to bridge the divide between the technical and art worlds. 11 January 2007, 11am-4pm, The Lighthouse, Glasgow. Cost: £40 + VAT includes lunch and all refreshments. Contact: Gillian@urbanlearningspace.com or telephone +44 141 225 0105.

Posted by John Thackara at 06:20 PM | Comments (0)

December 01, 2006

Eeks a mouse!

The website of the conference in Boras now has videos of the speakers including Jeremy "hydrogen economy" Rifkin, Saffia "Free Trade" MInney, Oliviero "1,000 slides" Toscani, and John "oh no not a mouse!" Thackara. Back in Newcastle, we explored the relationship between design and sexual health.

Posted by John Thackara at 06:17 PM | Comments (0)

October 08, 2006

The economics of attention

In his review of Richard Lanham's new book The Economics of Attention, Adrian Ellis says that "its core argument (is) that everyone is straining for distinction in a late capitalist global economy jammed with commodities and information, and that culture and creativity are what affords the producer the possibility of distinction. (This) explains the universal prevalence of shock tactics in both art and advertising (and) offers insights into the changing role of the creative artist and the artist's sensibility in contemporary society". I'm not so sure. Are attenion-seeking artists really a new phenomenon, economic or otherwise? After all, it's 135 years since artist Emile Zola assured the world, "I am here to live out loud" - and few artists before him were shrinking violets. Ellis goes on to attribute the phenomenal increase in the number of people describing themselves as artists, in the past half-century, to "the changing balance of power between the technical and the creative (and) the inexorable logic of The Economics of Attention". Surely traditional job market economics are a simpler explanation. As I've been telling everyone recently, a Dutch survey found that only two percent of those with a degree in art or design consider themselves to be unemployed. The government should introduce compulsory art education for all - and thereby abolish unemployment at a stroke.

Posted by John Thackara at 08:46 AM | Comments (0)

August 15, 2006

What a gas

PICNIC'06 is a new Amsterdam event to do with "creativity in cross media content and technology". PICNIC includes a conference, lectures, an exhibition, art installations, and parties. The conference (I'm speaking at it on the Friday) will explore the distribution of content over different channels and will examine new interfaces and tools which enable people to "live their lives online". That bit sounds sad. But an intriguing roster of speakers includes John Underkoffler, advisor to Steven Spielberg on Minority Report; John de Mol, co-founder of Endemol and a legendary format designer (ie Big Brother); Dan Gillmor, Director of the Center for Citizen Media; Matt Locke, Head of Innovation at BBC New Media & Technology; and Justin Kneist, founder of Fabchannel which won a Webby this year for best music site. September 27-29 at Westergasfabriek, the cultural facility located in a former gas factory.

Posted by John Thackara at 04:49 PM | Comments (0)

July 06, 2006

To sit or not to sit?

Allan Chochinov, editor of Core77, drew my attention to a remarkably cheap - in fact, free - way to increase patient satisfaction in hospitals. According to researchers at the Mayo Clinic, patients perceive that health providers (their term) who sit during an evaluation "are their bedside for longer than those who stand - - for the same amount of time". This correlates with numerous studies demonstrating that time is a key indicator of patient satisfaction in health contexts around the world. Having someone just listen to you for five minutes makes most people that I know feel better. Some clinicians get very worked up on this topic: they argue that perceptions of care quality do not always correspond with actual care care quality. This may be true, but I'm confused: does it matter?

Posted by John Thackara at 06:47 AM | Comments (0)

July 05, 2006

Fuel cells to Newcastle?

What would it mean, in practical design terms, to make one household carbon neutral? We'll discuss this at the next Dott 07 (Designs of the Time) Explorers Club meeting on 11 July. The event takes place at the Robert Stephenson Centre in Newcastle, UK. Many of the greenhouse gas emissions that come from residential households could be reduced if we made our houses more efficient, generated our own energy, switched suppliers, or simply switched off devices. But cumulative energy use is invisible, and alternative insulation and energy solutions are offered by multiple, fragmented suppliers and are therefore hard to procure. The evening will explore the design components of a whole systems approach to the challenge. Leading the discussion will be Chris Vanstone from RED at the Design Council, and Stephen Dormer from the Eaga Group. Tickets are free but you need to reserve by emailing Beckie Darlington beckie.darlington@dott07.com by the end of this week.

Posted by John Thackara at 06:24 AM | Comments (0)

June 15, 2006

Doors of Perception 9: "Juice"

Doors of Perception 9 takes place in New Delhi, 1-4 March 2007. The theme is “Juice” and the subject is food, fuel and design. The encounter (we have stopped calling ourselves a conference) has several parts: A two-day Project Leaders Round Table for c30 people who will be invited after a call (which will be published in July); a design innovation bazaar in the Palm Court Gallery, at India Habitat Centre; and a one day (thing in an auditorium) also at India Habitat Centre, on Saturday 3 March. Our partner for the event is the Centre for Knowledge Societies (CKS). Our content partners, who will develop bits of the programme, include culiblog.org (Debra Solomon) PixelAche (Juha Huuskonen) and futurefarmers (Amy Franseschini). The Royal Society of Arts (RSA) and Designs of the time (Dott) are sending design students. Winy Maas from MVRDV will be one of the featured presenters. Joost Wijermars is coming. Doors 9 ends with a Holi party on 4 or 5 March. For now, just note the dates; details of how to participate will be announced regularly in Doors of Perception Report.

Posted by John Thackara at 07:05 AM | Comments (0)

June 13, 2006

Event design and quality time

If a client offers you a budget of $1500 per person to design a large event for thousands of people, do you refuse? I don’t think so.The environmental impact of large trade shows and conferences might be damaging - and the experience for those attending them may be impoverished – but the event design industry is flourishing.

That much was clear at last week’s Event Design Forum in New York. Although the first such gathering to be staged, the event sold out well in advance (making its organiser, Dan Hanover, a happy man). Hundreds of professionals from a wide range of design disciplines converged on the Puck Building to swap war stories about everything from storytelling to touch screens, holograms to hospitality.

This is not, I discovered, a shy and retiring industry. Its firms have names like Momentum, Impact, Velocity, Sparks. There was much talk of “killer ideas” and “creating impact”. Stories had to "engage a target”. Events had to become “bigger, bolder”.

My job was to be the “but wait a minute!” speaker at lunchtime. I duly ranted about the wastefulness of resources in set-piece events. I whined that people going to the Olympics emit 35,000 tons of carbon in a couple of weeks.

I complained about the point-to-mass thinking that lies behind so many set-piece spectacles. I also pouted that pre-packaged experiences are being made worse, not better, by push media and high-powered displays.

Confronted by such a red-blooded crowd, I thought my story would lead to me *being* the lunch. But a strange thing happened. A lot of people said they shared my concerns. As so often happens, designers as people are concerned about issues that are hard to raise in their working lives.

And these concerned designers wanted to know, “what else can we do?”. People I talked with in New York used words like treadmill and conveyor belt to describe their role as designers in this big bad industry. Which, they also pointed out, correctly, is no worse than most other industries.

So what are the alternatives to today’s mainstream of trade shows and events? I suggested, in New York, that we explore ways to deliver three kinds of quality in the meetings we design.

The first is quality time. We should design for both fast and slow speeds in the events we create, and thereby add social value to the experiences we have at them. We should design chunks of empty time into the trade show day - time that contais no content, at all. (This subject was explored in an event Doors organised in Europe for the High Speed Train Network )

The second quality is place. Why erect vast, noisy, short-life structures - at huge cost - when existing places can be so much more interesting? We should follow the lead taken by artists: they frequently squat abandoned buildings and bring them back to life through sheer creative activity. As an example of this, an event in Germany called ENTRY2006 will take place at Zollverein which used to be Europe’s largest coal washing facility.

The third quality is encounter. In Rajhastan, travelling storytellers go from village to village, unannounced, and simply start a performance when they arrive. No sets, no LEds. Although each story has a familiar plot - the story telling tradition dates back thousands of years - each event is unique. Prompted by the storytellers, who hold up pictorial symbols on sticks, the villagers interact with the story. They joke, interject, and sometimes argue with the storyteller. They are part of the performance. Hearing about these storytellers reminds how much we have lost of the un-mediated, impromptu interactions that once made daily life so vital.

Posted by John Thackara at 07:48 AM | Comments (0)

April 23, 2006

Doors 9 and Doors 10 to be announced in Paris on Saturday

Juha Huuskonen has invited Doors of Perception to run a two hour session as part of Mal au Pixel. The session takes place in Paris on the afternoon of Saturday 29 April - ie in a week from now. Juha and Aditya Dev Sood will be on the platform, along with your correspondent, and we'll take the opportunity to tell you about our plans for Doors 9 and Doors 10. If you're one of those old-paradigm types who needs a time and address, the details are: Saturday 29 April, 16-18h, at Mains d’Œuvres (1, rue Charles-Garnier, 93400 Saint-Ouen). Metro Garibaldi.

Posted by John Thackara at 08:17 PM | Comments (0)

April 22, 2006

Chat about Aspen

Sorry 'bout the silence this last week,; I've been on the road. Still am, but Allan Cholnikov has started a discussion about what we are trying to achive with the Aspen Design Summit here. You don't have to register or sign in, and you can choose to receive email for newly posted messages. Just click the Subscribe button when you get there.

Posted by John Thackara at 01:41 PM | Comments (0)

February 23, 2006

Doors 9 discussion in New Delhi

As part of our preparations for Doors 9 in India next year (March 2007) there will be a small round table meeting of art curators and cultural producers in New Delhi in the afternoon of March 10. Representatives from funding agencies, cultural missions, art galleries, event spaces, museums, schools of art, architecture and design, prospective sponsors and others wishing to discuss possible activities with us next year are welcome to attend. Please contact divya@cks.in. On 15 March, we're also organising a creative communities holi party as a means for creative groups and individuals to meet. (The first Doors holi party in 2005 was the concluding highlight of Doors 8 ). This year's holi party will be produced by Centre for Knowledge Societies in collaboration with the Global Arts Village, Khoj, Studio Us, Kids at Home, AIE, and numerous creative individuals to whom we are very grateful. The party is in Chhattarpur, New Delhi, from 11 am. Admission is limited to people bearing a printed invitation. To request one of these invitation cards, send an evocative email telling us about yourself and your interest in Doors 9 to: holi@cks.in

Posted by John Thackara at 08:20 AM | Comments (0)

February 03, 2006

Feast of light

A fabulous-sounding event this Sunday is Aurora Feast. Heureka Science Centre, Vantaa, Finland, hosts a celebration of the mysterious, dynamic and whimsical Northern Lights. Recapturing of the mood of traditional feasts, Aurora Feast intertwines the spectacle of sights and sounds with talk and food. Artists and scientists will discuss instruments and interpretations of the medium of light. An audiovisual event features Aurora imagery, VLF recordings, magnetograms, and all-sky camera imaging. And Aurora Live is an interactive, real-time and web-based visualization of personal and cross-cultural interpretations of the Northern Lights phenomenon: On February 5 we are invited to submit, in a single word, what Aurora conjures up in us: a feeling, a sensation, an image, a vision, a memory, a thought.

Posted by John Thackara at 02:51 PM | Comments (1)

January 30, 2006

Creative communities and social innovation

For service design, public services are an enormous opportunity - half the economy in most industrial countries. This seminar in Helsinki, on Friday 10 February, is about framing the welfare and care story as a series of design opportunities. Speakers include Ezio Manzini (on creative communities and active welfare); John Thackara (platforms for public service innovation); Anna Meroni and Francois Jegou (on the case studies we encountered during the Emude project); Kari-Hans Kommonen; from UIAH MediaLab (on the co-design of social spaces); and probably Markku Wilenius from Finland's Futures Research Institute. Wilenius is leading a national project to discover how Finland, which most people consider is already one the world's most innovative countries, can become much more so in the future. The meeting is organised by Teolliinen Muotoilu (Industrial and Strategic Design) at UIAH. Friday 10 February, 13h-17h, Taideteollinen Korkeakoulu, Hämeentie 135C, Helsinki - 8th floor, room 822. Contact: Cindy Kohtala, cikohtal@uiah.fi. The seminar is free and open to the public, but please register here by Monday 6 February 2006.

Posted by John Thackara at 08:28 AM | Comments (0)

December 31, 2005

Active welfare in Helsinki

Emude, a consortium of design schools and research institutions - and Doors - has spent the last two years years looking at social innovation among creative communities in different parts of Europe. Having observed the emergence of what we call “active welfare” in many of these situations, we realise that new kinds of social infrastructure are needed to support it. A meeting in Helsinki, on Friday 10 February, probably at UIAH, will develop this idea. Details will be in our February newsletter and on this blog, but you might want to book your flight ahead of that to get a good price. Oh, and if you're celebrtating the new year tonight, have a great evening. And see you in 2006.

Posted by John Thackara at 01:02 PM | Comments (1)

October 23, 2005

Jan Verwijnen

I received the extremely sad news from Helsinki that Jan Verwijnen has died, following a serious illness, at the age of 56. Many Doors people will know of Jan as leader of the Spark! project that we participated in not long ago. Sparkl! was an inspirational experience that reflected Jan’s insatiable curiosity towards new phenomena. He read, studied and wrote incessantly to the very end; cities, their structures, and human lives in urban environments, were his main interest. Students will remember Jan as a discursive, critical and tireless teacher; colleagues report that when the rest of them went home after working hours, Jan would often move from his office to sit on the table corner and discuss with students sometimes well into the evening. In addition to his teaching, Jan conceived and executed many EU and TEKES projects (of which Spark! was but one). He published a number of books. And played a pathfinding role in several ground-breaking curriculum development projects. Among Jan's unfinished projects remain his doctoral dissertation, and a visiting professorship at the Estonian Academy of Arts. His colleague Eija Salmi, who sent me this sad news, concludes: “Jan always found it easy to get to know new people. He was so well-informed that it was always possible to find mutually interesting topics. He had friends all over the world. Though always a cosmopolitan, his wish was to be buried in Finland, near to his sons and those close to him. It had been good to work here, here he gave so much of his best. But his was a life cut too short”. Jan was buried on 21 October but a
memorial event will held 6 November 2005. Contact: inmemoriam@duvin.org.

Posted by John Thackara at 01:50 PM | Comments (0)

October 04, 2005

Design and the growth of knowledge

In this one-morning symposium on November 10, three eminent researchers discuss designing as form of research. Brenda Laurel, Gillian Crampton-Smith, and Kun-Pyo Lee will look at the ways design generates knowledge which can be used beyond the product at hand and thereby generate wholly new ideas. The event is hosted by the Technical University of Delft (Professor Pieter Jan Stappers) and is moderated by John Thackara. The symposium morning is open for all those involved in (interaction) design, including students, design and research managers, designers and researchers. Thursday November 10. Contact: Pieter Jan Stappers: email p.j.stappers@io.tudelft.nl

Posted by John Thackara at 08:29 AM | Comments (0)

September 11, 2005

Cellular Doors in London

About one hour after reading Malcolm Gladwell's article, I attended a small group meeting of Doors persons in London. I cannot report that we avoided discussions of abstract knowledge, or ideas for the sake of ideas - but we had a good time. Kristi van Riet made this mini-movie:

We're thinking of staging similar meet-and-greet evenings in Helsinki (18 October) and Tokyo (31 December). Details will be announced in the Doors newsletter:

Posted by Kristi at 06:06 PM | Comments (0)

August 26, 2005

Please don't deluge Deal

A plaintive request arrives from London: Diana Deal, conferences administrator at the Victoria and Albert Museum, has been 'deluged with emails' about the Critical Debate between Rem Koolhaas and myself on 14 October - but it's not Diana's job to sell tickets. For that, please enter 14 Octobner at the 'What's On' box on the the V+A website - or email: bookings.office@vam.ac.uk.

Posted by John Thackara at 07:39 AM | Comments (0)

July 03, 2005

Obscure but secure

If you're too damn mean to shell out a measly $4,400 to join those manly TED guys in Oxford, five pounds ($9) buys you access to BACKSTAGE.BBC.CO.UK Open Tech 2005 in London on 25 July. Organised by NTK (Need To Know), this event is about "technologies that anyone can have a go at, from Open Source-style ways of working to repurposing everyday electronics hardware". Among the programme highlights are Yahoo Troublemaker Jeremy Zawodny and "a look at the Dirac open video compression algorithm". If you know what the hell that is you'll presumably be impressed. Speaker Danny O'Brien explains: "On the Net, you can go from obscurity to slashdotting to global fame to obscurity without making a penny. You can have privacy or influence, but not both. You can be famous for fifteen people, but not keep a forwarded email a secret". O'Brien talks about "the decoupling of fame and fortune, and the new security of obscurity".

Posted by John Thackara at 08:55 PM | Comments (0)

July 02, 2005

The high cost of manhood

A ticket to the TED Global conference in Oxford next week costs $4,400. Which is only right and proper: the calibre of speakers is exceptionally high. Mind you, the provison of "really big world changing ideas" is very much a guy thing in TED-land: I count seven women out of 44 names in the programme - of whom (the women) I reckon two will get to talk; the others, though doubtless brilliant, are performing artists.

Posted by John Thackara at 11:10 PM | Comments (0)

June 27, 2005

Koolhaas and Thackara vs Queen Maud of Norway's frocks

Do come to the "Global Design Critical Debate" at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London on 14 October. There will be two introductions - by Rem Koolhaas and John Thackara. Then a panel discussion chaired by Joe Kerr will include Professor Leslie Sklair, Vice President for Global Sociology, London School of Economics; and the writer Sukhdev Sandhu; his book 'London Calling: How Black and Asian Writers Imagined a City' was recently published. The four of us have to compete for your attention with a V+A exhibit entitled "Style and Splendour: Queen Maud of Norway's Wardrobe, 1896-1938". The big debate is in the V+A Lecture Theatre (near the Silver Galleries) on 14 October 2005, 14h-16.45h. Information: Diana Deal: d.deal@vam.ac.uk

If Maud's frocks prove too enticing, you can always attend a lecture I'm giving at the Royal Society of Arts , also in London, on 12 December. My topic: "Solidarity economics and design: life after consumerism".

Posted by John Thackara at 05:40 PM | Comments (0)

May 19, 2005

Surrogate blogging

Alex Soojung-Kim Pang blogged my talk at Ideo and made it sound much crisper and more interesting than the talk itself. Surrogate blogging sounds like a great businesss opportunity - and good for the environment, too, if it reduces the quantity of hot air entering the atmosphere.

Posted by John Thackara at 07:30 PM | Comments (1)

April 17, 2005

It's a material NYC

The US leg of my book tour for In The Bubble kicks off in New York on May 13. I'm speaking at an event called Malfatto: Imperfect Design for a Better World?. Material Connexion's founder, George M. Beylerian, has invited an awesomely creative bunch of speakers: the architect/artist Gaetano Pesce; toy maker and sculptor Kardash Onnig; trend announcer Li Edelkoort; Scott Henderson, co-founder of Mint; James Ludwig, Director of Design for Steelcase; and Scott Wilson,Global Creative Director for Nike Explore. Then at the weekend (14/15 May) I'm taking part in Orange Alert, a season of events celebrating Dutch design organised by Robert Kloos.

Posted by John Thackara at 06:54 AM | Comments (0)

April 14, 2005

One for the birds

Science tells us birds sing to attract mates and defend territories. But why do some birds make only a "peep" and others sing ornate songs that go on for hours? An intriguing event in New York on 16 April brings scientists together with musicians and poets to explore how different approaches have explored and made sense of bird song. David Rothenberg, a philosopher and musician, who has just published book WHY BIRDS SING (Basic Books), will host the event and present live examples of music he's made live with actual birds, from the white-crested laughing thrush in the National Aviary to the Albert’s lyrebird in Australian rainforests. David's guests include Don Kroodsma, who is among the most accomplished field biologists working on the intricacies of bird song; Ofer Tchernichovski, who has recorded every single sound a baby zebra finch makes during the two months he takes to learn his song, and then analyzed all this data using custom computer software; Alan Vardy, the leading expert on the poetry of John Clare, the British Romantic nineteenth century poet who best understood the rhythm and sense of the song of the nightingale; and biology professor Fredric Vencl,who wrote the only scientific paper published on the song of the white-crested laughing thrush.

Posted by John Thackara at 08:22 AM | Comments (1)

April 02, 2005

Conference pictures

Pre-Conference workshops. 46 images.

Day 01 Conference. 18 images.

Day 01-b Conference. 49 images.

Day 03 Conference. 69 images.

Posted by John Thackara at 03:16 PM | Comments (0)

March 30, 2005

Doors 8 Holi party pix

The first 61 Holi party images are online. As Bhagwat Shah explains: "amongst India's innumerable festivals, Holi ranks as the most colourful. It celebrates the arrival of spring and death of demoness Holika, it is a celebration of joy and hope. Holi provides a refreshing respite from the mundane norms as people from all walks of life enjoy themselves. In a tight knit community, it also provided a good excuse for letting off some steam and settling old scores, without causing physical injury". Thus ended one of the most memorable of all Doors parties.

and here
second bunch

Posted by John Thackara at 06:23 PM | Comments (1)

March 29, 2005

Doors 8 proceedings

So here's the deal: You probably had a perfectly good reason not to come, and you were of course missed, but those of us who made it to Doors 8 are pretty comprehensively wiped by an amazing week. The concluding Holi party slowed our turnaround time further, so you'll have to wait a few days for presentations to be be posted here. Someone in Delhi guessed that 200,000 photos were taken at Doors 8 - but we have no idea where most of them will end up. Some will be posted here. Keep an eye on Flikr. And please, send us the url if you know where else they (or blog entries) are: editor@doorsofperception.com

Posted by John Thackara at 11:14 AM | Comments (1)

March 05, 2005

What you will miss in fourteen days from now...

Doors of Perception 8 begins in two weeks from now - plenty of time to grab a flight and a visa. We have posted details of a pre-conference workshop on Emerging Economy Service Design. This complements a series of street-level workshops that now also include 'exploring market cultures of Delhi' with Jogi Panghaal and something on 'social robots' with Roher Ibars. The website is also online for the special new media exhibit at Apeejay Media Gallery,Bombay, Badarpur Border. We all go to the opening of that on the Tuesday evening. The Doors of Perception party is on the Wednesday evening. If you don't feel a terrible anxiety at the thought of what and who you might miss by failing to come Doors 8 - well, lucky you.

Posted by Kristi at 01:26 PM | Comments (1)

February 19, 2005

How to avoid time compression

Like the migratory patterns of Arctic Terns,the travel patterns of the Doors crowd are a perennial mystery.All we know is that people register later every time we do a Doors event. (At Doors 7 in Amsterdam, we sold a third of our tickets in the last couple of weeks). Now, with just four weeks to go before Doors 8 begins, we know that more people are thinking about coming, than have yet decided. Please note: you cannot register for Doors 8 by SMS, and we do not advise trying to obtain an India visa using a mobile phone. Be modern: don't leave it too late.

Posted by John Thackara at 09:07 AM | Comments (0)

January 30, 2005

Save the Giroud Verifier!

Speaking of infrastructure, I was shocked to read that Amsterdam's museum of energy generating equipment and lifts - EnergeticA - is threatened with closure; there's also a danger that its collection will be broken up. EnergericA is in an old power station and most of its exhibits relate to electricity rather than electronics. I never head of the place until I read about its plight in the paper yesteday, and to judge by its remarkably clunky website the whole thing is a volunteer-run anomaly. But there are pictures of old storehouses full of gauges, and the exhibits mentioned online include strange devices such as a Giroud Verifier used (in 1789) to test the purity of gas. A lively discussion of EnergeticA is to be found on the website of the UK Vintage Radio and Repair Association.

Posted by John Thackara at 08:14 AM | Comments (0)

January 25, 2005

Who will be who?

We have updated the speaker profiles (there's a button on the right of this screen). These should give you a better idea of the kind of people you'll meet and interact with in Delhi. Our week together features a range of activities :
- plenary think-piece presentations (Monday and Tuesday);
- Project Clinics and workshops (Wednesday and Friday);
- one-to-one conversations (every day);
- encounters and exchanges in the city and around.
We've added a new session on the Wednesday evening. Marko Ahtisaari, newsly appointed Director of Design Strategy at Nokia, and Joi Ito, a Vice President of Technorati (among a networked universe of other activites) will host a happening on the theme: 'Infra Of Sharing'.

Posted by John Thackara at 10:19 PM | Comments (1)

January 20, 2005

Danger zone?

Someone asked us if Doors 8 is near the tsunami danger zone. No, it is not. The distance from Delhi to Chennai (the Indian city where the tsunami hit hardest) is 2095 km, or 1301 miles. That's similar to the distance from Boston to Miami, Amsterdam to Athens, or Tokyo to Beijing. The real danger is that you'll miss this great event and kick yourself so badly that you'll end up covered in bruises.

Posted by John Thackara at 12:12 PM | Comments (0)

January 06, 2005

Presenting at Doors 8

Many employers will only pay travel and registration costs if an employee has been invited to present a paper. This crazy policy implies that nobody comes to learn - just to speak - and it leads to over-crowded conference agendas. The policy is a pain for us, too: We want you to come, and we want everyone to be an active participant - but if we overload the agenda with one-to-many presentations, nobody benefits. But we live in an imperfect world, so here are the three ways by which people get to present at Doors 8:
a) By leading a pre-conference Workshop during the days before the conference: these events are an opportunity for incoming experts to meet local designers and design students and engage with a subject and/or situation in a rather open and exploratory way. We will announce these events and make connections between interested parties where we can, but will not provide financial support.
b) By speaking the Conference (Monday/Tuesday): the programme for this is full.
c) By presenting at the Social Innovation Salon (during Conference breaks, and all-day Wednesday and Friday): the Salon is a kind of bazaar in which project leaders and teams will present the results or work-in-progress of a live project. A small number of projects will be the focus of Project Clinics on Wednesday; others (we reckon 30-40) may be presented in the Salon where we will provide space, time, a table, and a noticeboard. If you have a proposal for (a) or (c), send a short email to Priya George (priya@ict4d.info) with a copy to Joost Wijermars (joost@doorsofperception.com) - and they will give you a speedy decision. We will not waive your registration fee if your workshop or project is included in the programme.

Posted by John Thackara at 11:48 AM | Comments (0)

January 04, 2005

Pyramids and campfires

A key question for Doors 8 is, how best shall we share design knowledge when and where it is most needed? Books, databases - or blogs - full of insights, tools and rules are a support, not the thing itself. The most important knowledge is embodied, and situated. There's a tension between the capacity of institutions to help us share (design) knowledge, and their opposite tendency to foster entropy. Martin Buber proposed that 'the tradition of the campfire replaces that of the pyramid'. And Bruce Chatwin, in Songlines, quotes an Indian proverb: 'Life is a bridge; cross over it, but build no house upon it'. Hmmm: now where does that leave architecture?

Posted by John Thackara at 07:39 PM | Comments (0)

December 14, 2004


This blog is part of the build-up to Doors of Perception 8, which takes place in New Delhi next March and is on the theme, "INFRA: Platforms for social innovation and how to design them". What infrastructures are needed to enable bottom-up, edge-in social innovation - and how do we design them? Doors 8 will address this question from a variety of angles over the five days :
- plenary think-piece presentations;
- Project Clinics;
- a social innovation bazaar;
- one-to-one conversations;
- an exhibit of 100 years of media artefacts from India;
- encounters and exchanges in the city and around.
Your takeaway from Doors 8 will be next-generation service concepts, plus many of the connections and capabilities you will need to implement them.

Posted by John Thackara at 09:56 PM | Comments (1)

November 21, 2004

Round Table: dinner pictures

Images of a dinner which you did not attend or were not invited to are not the most gripping. But what the heck: if you don't want the Project Leaders Round Table stuffing their faces, don't click here.

Posted by John Thackara at 11:51 AM | Comments (0)

November 20, 2004

Project Leaders' Round Table

(click on the image for an image collection.)
On Thursday and Friday, 18-19 November, 60 people met in Amsterdam for the Project Leaders' Round Table. Our aim was to learn from each other about success factors in design research projects. We heard about projects that were based in real-world issues or situations; were multi-party collaborations and involved new actors, and new partners; and in which new technology was a means, but not as an end-in-itself. These stories involved Tools For Citizen Services and 'Touching The State'; Resource Ecologies involving Food, Space, People; and projects to do with Locality As Interface | Creative Communities | Design And Local Knowledge. A more detailed account of the event, and a reflection on its conclusions, will be posted here shortly.

Posted by John Thackara at 12:11 PM | Comments (0)

October 04, 2004

Doors of Perception 8 - INFRA

Welcome to the website and weblog for Doors of Perception 8. The box on the right of your screen lists all the usual notices and announcements you'd expect for a Doors event. The top box, "What & Why", is an introduction to the event -- why we're doing it, what we hope to achieve, and what you should get out of it. Over the coming weeks we will post news items and other stories here, in this web log bit, as we develop the programme for the week-long events next March. We're not sure how the web log and the event will interact, but we invite your suggestions and participation.

Posted by John Thackara at 10:18 PM | Comments (8)