Just back from a few days in Berlin, where, among many other things, I had a chance to get together with Aram Bartholl to talk about his SPEED SHOW project, a beautifully simple initiative to turn your local internet cafe into a digital art show.
“Hit an Internet-cafe, rent all computers they have and run a show on them for one night. All art works of the participating artists need to be on-line (not necessarily public) and are shown in a typical browser with standard plug-ins. Performance and life pieces may also use pre-installed communication programs (instant messaging, VOIP, video chat etc). Custom software (except browser add-ons) or off-line files are not permitted. Any creative physical modification to Internet cafe itself is not allowed. The show is public and takes place during normal opening hours of the Internet cafe/shop. All visitors are welcome to join the opening, enjoy the art (and to check their email.)”
I love the simplicity and DIY nature of SPEED SHOW, done in five easy steps:
On Thursday 24 June 2010 I will be giving a talk at the Interactive Architecture 2010 conference, as part of the London Festival of Architecture.
Featuring an impressive lineup of speakers ranging from Duncan Wilson of Arup Foresight to Usman Haque of Haque Design and Research, and chaired by Fiddian Warman of Soda Creative, the conference will be: “A forum for the building design community to gather and share ideas and experiences around exploiting new technologies to enable the built environment to dynamically respond to people in or around it.” Here is an overview of the conference themes and speakers:
When I was on the jury for the SHIFTboston design competition a few months ago, I was impressed by their desire to go after and embrace Big Ideas for the future of Boston. From contemplating transportation corridors for blimps and corresponding air ship terminals to floating extensions of the city, I came away from the experience wondering where they could possibly go from here. Well, now I know. Moon Capital is SHIFTboston’s latest competition, which humbly challenges:
“When considering the future of design let’s start looking out into space. WHAT IF we could occupy the Moon only 100 years after our first visit there in July of 1969? Might the Moon become an independent, self-sustaining, and sovereign state? If so WHY NOT start designing for that new world NOW?
SHIFTboston is calling on architects, space-architects, scientists, engineers, urban designers, landscape designers, industrial designers, fashion designers, artists and futurists to submit their most provocative ideas for the moon. Think: WHAT IF this could happen on the moon? SHIFTboston seeks to collect visions that will provoke thought on the moon as a new destination. We want radical ideas for new lunar elements such as rovers, growing pods, inflatable structures, droids and lunar habitats. How about a new moon culture? Envision: Fun on the moon – activities, moon fashion, and spacesuits! YOU TELL US. Competitors are encouraged to form teams in order to tackle multiple concepts.”
With some impressive momentum coming off of their last competition, they’ve assembled a stellar impressive cast of partners and jurors for the Moon Capital competition – visit the SHIFTboston competition website for more information.
While I was working on the Bairro Criativo direct design project in Porto, a design competition from the other side of the pond came onto my radar that definitely deserves some attention.
As the competition website says: “The Common Boston Common Build (CBCB) is a design competition that challenges participants to design and implement a project in response to real community needs. Held over 3 days during the Common Boston Community and Architecture Festival, the CBCB is open to teams and individuals from ALL disciplines and experience levels. Common Boston and LostInBoston have partnered to host this year’s event, focused to raise awareness of the built environment, improve wayfinding and inspire connections across Boston’s urban fabric.
Competitors will be asked to work with preselected sites as well as vocal neighborhood members to develop design solutions that address the specific physical and social needs of that community. The CBCB aims to prove that even when created in less than 3 days and with a capped budget, an innovative and influential response to a real problem can alter the way we interact with and understand the built environment of a community while seeking tangible benefits for its inhabitants.”
I’m obviously a huge fan of design-build competitions, even more so when they are created as catalysts for direct design responses to community needs. Makes me miss my old home city of Boston, but not for much longer… details to come. In the meantime, visit the competition website to learn more and get involved.
“Bairro Criativo” launched in Porto, Portugal on 24 May, the latest of my City As Platform projects which approach the urban landscape as a creative platform. I’m pleased to say that Porto has responded in style.
The agency ADDICT, lead by creative industries maestro Michael DaCosta Babb, asked me to create and direct a project exploring the question “how creative can Portugal be?”. The result is Bairro Criativo (Creative Quarter). Bairro Criativo combines the question they wanted to ask with one that I always like to ask:
We hear so much about ‘The Creative City’, but when do we get to see it?
For Porto, Bairro Criativo is that chance.
The framework for the project is quite simple. I put out the call through ADDICT’s communication channels to invite anyone in the city – designers, homemakers, business people, kids with crayons – anyone – to think of one thing they’d like to do to temporarily improve people’s daily lives in Porto. The only criteria was that the proposed ideas had to be simple, quick, and go in and come out with only a light touch on the city – nothing destroyed before they are installed, and no damage when they leave.
Of paramount importance to me was that this was an opportunity for a direct relationship between creative ideas and the physical city. No months of planning, no public workshops with post-it notes – let me know your ideas, let’s talk about how they’ll work within the framework of the project, and let’s make them happen. There are times when the long game is appropriate, and there are times when you just need to make the ideas happen.
It was interesting that a lot of people instinctively thought in what you could say were modular ideas – creating objects and opportunities to plug into the existing city to create new experiences, opportunities, and at times even temporary infrastructure. It was wonderful to see people think in modular, incremental terms – there was a pragmatic quality to the ideas at the same time as a fresh imagination which I enjoyed.
For a preview of a couple ideas I’m particularly excited about seeing happen…
Farmville for Real is a collection of modular structures made of two interlocking pieces. These small strucutres can exist on their own or in a group to enable pop-up community gardens anywhere, depending on the desire of the residents. The objectives of the project, say the creators are to:
Provide people with an inexpensive opportunity to participate collectively in a project of common good.
Promote shared responsibility in public spaces.
Renew the urban landscape, making it more pleasant and healthy.
Teach children and young people to start early to enhance the environment.
Create an alternative way of spending free time.
Create neighborly ties among the participants of the project.
Another piece, Estrutura Simbiotica by Dioga Aguiar and Teresa Otto is a modular construction that, as they say, “aims not only to increase the space of existing bus stops, but also to entertain those who are still waiting for their transportation.” I like it for both the visual qualities, but also for its symbiotic relationship with the bus stop (as the name would imply), and for its role in getting us to think of other areas and objects of the cities that could host a designed structure that plugs in to existing objects to increase both functionality and enjoyment.
More information on the project can be found on ADDICT’s website (in Portuguese).
For Portuguese readers, you can find an overview of the project in the current issue of Time Out Porto – scanned above.
The newly launched Italian magazine Note Bene asked me to do a piece for their introductory issue, tantalisingly devoted to (paraphrasing from the original Italian intro text) “the authenticity and creativity of action”.
Break that phrase down more and you have a real jewel: “the authenticity of action”.
As a motivating concept for almost any pursuit, it doesn’t get much better than that. It also resonates strongly with one of my favourite quotes from my business side:
“We have a strategic plan. It’s called doing things.”
– Herb Kelleher, Southwest Airlines
I love the simplicity of that statement, and the no-nonsense reality that the most effective strategies are in fact no more complicated than doing things. It was fitting that the invitation for the piece came on the back of a talk I gave to a conference in Italy called The Nameless City, as from both a design and urbanist point of view, the authenticity of action and the simple strategy of doing things is the most effective techniques we can employ against the sameness of our visual, narrative and physical landscapes.
The piece is a fleshed out version of one of my The City as Platform talks, as delivered in Italy. It’s a gorgeous full colour A3 production, so please search for it at your local international magazine source. For more information on the publication, you can download a PDF of their English press release here (2.8MB), which also has contact information if you want to get in touch to get a copy or help distribute them. At the moment, they don’t have a website.
They went with an Urban Play identity to illustrate my text, so until you can get a copy, here’s a couple spreads from the issue:
Several years ago I was the victim of a fairly vicious case of identity theft. Vicious may be a strong word to use in connection with identity theft, but I feel it fits here, as the perpetrator went the extra mile: as bizarre as it sounds, he legally changed his name to Scott Burnham, and then began to absorb my personal data and identity as his own.
If you think it’s difficult when someone gets ahold of your bank statement from your trash or copies your passport information at a hotel, try having someone claim to be you, armed with legal documents showing that, actually, he is you… but he’s not. It’s not a lot of fun.
As online privacy issues appear in the news daily, it is becoming increasingly obvious that there is a huge opportunity for an online service which anchors our identities securely within a trusted framework. Facebook had that chance, but its callous drive towards the commercialisation of our personal information and identities quickly kicks the supports out from beneath an allusion of trust. In other words:
When hundreds of millions of people hand you their personal data, the business opportunity is to protect it, not pimp it.
The latest episode of the podcast This Week In Google nailed it when co-host Jeff Jarvis of Buzz Machine identified a fundamental problem when our identity becomes more of a commercial resource for another company than our own property. In order to maintain privacy over aspects of our identity we don’t want commercialised, we have to exclude or obfuscate our personal information, which in turn erodes the larger framework of our online identity, lowering trust and truth. As Jarvis says:
“The more our identity becomes Facebook’s property, the more we feel free to lie about it. The more that the canonical ‘me’ becomes my property, the more truthful I’m going to be about it. We have to own our own identities, and when we do, that will maintain the highest value possible … [the opportunity] starts with services that help you maintain your own identity. That give you control. The reality of where we are right now is that our identities are what you find online about us. So how can I manage that?”
The seasoned netizen will respond that there are an array of services out there that allow you to manage your online identity. There are, and I use most of them daily. But they are reactive by nature, with most offering you the chance to track what is being said about you elsewhere on web. We need more services to control what is, as Jarvis says, canonical information about ourselves, and what is not, without having to worry about how our identity is being monetised.
Google Profiles has a foot in the door there, but they’re not leveraging it actively, at least not yet. And while many give Google a higher trust index than other online services (due largely to their embrace of The Data Liberation Front and open standards), the recent uproar over Google Buzz privacy holes show just how fragile trust can be when dealing with our online identities.
Regardless of the media or the medium, one thing never changes: the killer app is always trust. It is only recently that we have had to debate the exchange of our trust and identity for the sake of connecting with other people, which is a perverse exchange. Identity should never be treated as a monetised platform, and trust is a commodity that holds limitless value. And there’s the window of opportunity.
For those who want to dig further into the issue, Jeff Jarvis goes deeper into some of these ideas on his blog here.