At the end of last week, my TED blog interview went live. It was a lot of fun to do, and my answers reflected on the philosophy behind our design practice, using details from some of our projects to expand on our aspirations for the future. Its quite a long piece, but I hope you enjoy the read.
Following the interview, I hosted a 'live conversation' on the TED site, prompted by the question:
"As unmanned drones, algorithms and prosthetics blur the distinction between man and machine, what, if anything, does it mean to be human?"
I was unsure as to how this live conversation would unfold, as it was only publicly announced just before we kicked off and was scheduled to run for an hour. After about 15 minutes, responses began flooding in, which was a real surprise. Site traffic was so high, in fact, that the conversation was extended by an additional half hour. I was typing furiously, trying to respond to as many people as possible, fielding challenging comments and questions. It was a great experience, and a lot of fun!
Here's the full thread, if you fancy checking it out.
After months of toil deep in the Drupal mines, we have just launched our shiny new website. Though we were fond of the old site, we really needed the space and structure to expand on individual projects and the studio's core mission. The new site comes with our new logo, inspired by the Devanagari script, and designed by the talented Fran Marchesi.
We've added an explanation of Superflux's structure, some examples of our way of working, profiles of our associates, and links to presentations and publications. We've also included an email newsletter, for more regular updates from the studio. Big kudos and thanks to Jon for all the development work, Justin for the incredible effort with words, and Carolina and Noah for their valuable input.
Here's the old website, for comparison and posterity:
As October's Indian summer starts to fade away, it's time to reconcile ourselves to the reality of autumn, and reflect on a busy couple of months at Superflux HQ.
At various points in the last few months, it's been hard to remember a time before we were working on the new website, text iterations and design decisions weighing heavy as we juggled pitches, project work and the endlessly challenging task of defining Superflux's core mission – something we'd all grasped at an intuitive level, but found near-impossible to articulate.
But now it's done, and we're back on the grid. So let's take a look at some of the other things we've been up to.
In the final week of August, we dialled into the Yeditepe International Research Conference of Foresight and Futures 2011 to deliver a poster presentation on 'Design Futurescaping'. This was part of a decidedly post-geographical session on participatory foresight and images of the future, with Team Superflux beamed onto a screen in a Turkish university, alongside Noah Raford and Scott Smith (both in London), Wendy Schultz (Oxford), and Jake Dunagan (Bay Area, CA).
With Anab travelling to Rotterdam at the end of September, to present on design fiction at V2_, we developed some of the ideas from this rapidly-assembled poster presentation into a longer paper to accompany her talk. Combining points from 'Learning to Play with Tomorrow', Anab's keynote from LIFT 2009 (as unpacked by Bruce Sterling) with case studies and best practices from our work, Syd Mead's designs for the world of Blade Runner, and academic writings on the public understanding of science and technology, the paper – also titled 'Design Futurescaping' – can be found in Blowup Reader #3.
From the Lab side of our operations, in August, we decided to pitch one of our ongoing projects to The Designer Fund in Silicon Valley. To our surprise and delight, we were one of the eight teams selected for mentorship and seed funding, with three months of guidance and support to help us take our idea from concept to prototype. Once at the prototype stage, we hope to be a position to consider additional funding options, with the aim of realising a minimum viable product.
Our team for this project is small and agile, with our associate Mark working on physical computing, technologist Tim Brooke lending his expertise in computer vision and robotics, Jon focusing on user experience, and Anab working on story and narrative. As of October, we are roughly half-way through prototype development, and, though we can't say too much, things are ticking over nicely.
Also under the Lab umbrella, we've been extending the work we started with Song of the Machine, building on our collaboration with Dr. Patrick Degenaar and his research team at Newcastle University. On one level, we've been brainstorming ways to develop our research. We're eager to kick off some kind of qualitative user research, focusing on the ways our prospective users are likely to interact with their immediate (domestic) environment.
At the same time, we've also been focusing on some of the commercial aspects of the team's research. Patrick Stevenson-Keating, a skilled and versatile designer, has been working with us to develop a form factor prototype of the wearable – something that can help Dr. Degenaar expand on the product concept and functions when pitching to investors.
In addition to our activities in the studio, we've found time to catch up with friends and travellers. We've had interesting conversations with the fine folks at Precipice Design and MMM/Re:think. In Rotterdam, Anab enjoyed catching up with Alex Deschamps-Sonsino, Julian Bleecker, and Back in London, we touched base with futurists-in-transit Scott Smith and Heather Schlegel, and bade a reluctant farewell to Noah Raford, who we wish every success in his voluntary secondment to Abu Dhabi.