Silicon Valley, Monopolies and the Model T

Silicon Valley is perhaps the most iconic place narrative of the late 2oth century. Politicians in numerous countries including Malaysia, China and Saudi Arabia tried to copy the model, without much success. They didn’t get it right, because Silicon Valley was not about office space in glass-clad corporate headquarters. Silicon Valley was about a particular place at a particular time. It was a place in people’s heads rather than a place on the map.

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The 5 C’s: The most important design skills for the near future

CODE

Since the first introduction of CAD and 3d modeling systems, code is behind most products. With generative design, the code becomes the design itself. Big data about user behaviour in combination with machine learning and adaptive production methods (Industry 4.0) will make highly personalized and adaptive design solutions the new normal. To master code, designers should be able to write it.

CONSTRUCTION

With the Internet of Things, the division between interaction design and industrial design is about to disappear. A designer should know how to code, prototype, and build intelligent products with embedded applications. Starting points are the Raspberry Pi, Arduino or Nanode.

COMPLEXITY

Global economic, technological, social and environmental issues are getting increasingly intertwined. There are no simple solutions to complex problems. The ability to navigate complexity will be a key skill for the designer of the future.

CULTURE

In a globalized world, cultures can adapt, mix, or clash, and differences can be hard to handle. Deep-seated assumptions rooted in a designer’s own culture can lead to products which do not work in other cultures – psychologically or in terms of use. Openness, the ability to emphatize, and an understanding of different cultures and users will be as important as understanding economy and technology.

CYCLE

In a world of limited resources, knowledge of recycling technologies, biodegradable materials, and the ability to design for a circular economy – by considering disassembly and recycling already during the design process – becomes increasingly important. Designers should be able not only to conceive new products, but to plan the way these products are made, unmade, and recycled. What comes around goes around.

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This post was originally published in February 2014.

The “perfect” machine?

There is often something in an artifact which does not conform to the cognition and working mode of humans. Take, for instance, a glass door without handles. This door, in itself, opens and closes just as it is supposed to be. But people, searching for visual and tactile clues, for protrusions or moulds suggesting how that door is intended to be opened, have, in the absence of a clue, troubles with it. Donald Norman labeled this phenomenon “affordance”. But there is a deeper philosophical dimension. By not providing a clue, this door demonstrates the ontological distance between a human and an object.

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Art, Design and the Elements

Aristotle explained the elements in terms of what we might call sensual qualities: hot, cold, wet and dry. His main thought was that all materials are manifestations of different compositions of the elements. This idea – that the world consists of underlying elements – was fundamental in several ways. It implies that the world is not what it outwardly seems: A stone is not just a stone – it is composed of a mixture of elements which we cannot see. If the world consists of underlying elements, then materials could be transformed by changing their underlying composition.

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Like friends, follow uses: The construction of social media

Digital machines such as smartphones frame behavior and instill new cultural and social practices. ‘Liking’, ‘sharing’, ‘following’ are relational activities which have been defined by social media and established as new normal in the shaping of human relationships. The phenomenon of communication devices prompting new behaviors and expressions is not new: for instance, the word “hello” did not exist until the development of the telephone.

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Analysing the Digital: Transformations, Territories, Frames and Uses

While the digital is explained in itself by computer science, important questions for the humanities – such as how the Digital affects human behaviour, or how it impacts society and economy – are outside its scope. Different disciplines have provided answers, but there has been no integrated concept bridging these insights.

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