For Team Superflux, the first few months of 2012 have (according to Justin) been a little like trying to land a large and particularly cumbersome aircraft, or dance the tango with a fridge-freezer. Wherever possible, we've been focusing on projects that support our core strategic vision, chipping away at a range of projects across experiential futures, design futurescaping, and various flavours of innovation.
As 2011 slid into 2012, we completed some exciting work for the strategy unit of the Prime Minister's Office, Dubai. Collaborating with Changeist's Scott Smith, we adopted an interesting and productive combination of design and foresight methodologies, to produce a dossier of materials that will inform future strategic work around a set of key social, demographic and economic trends in the United Arab Emirates.
'brings together a range of expert thinkers, designers, futurologists, writers and ... the public ... to explore the opportunities and challenges of life in 2025, and to consider the potential contribution that technology and entertainment can make in shaping a better, more sustainable future.'
Working with an interesting and provocative group of stakeholders and collaborators, from sustainability, storytelling, and more traditional design work, we participated in a set of workshops, outcomes of which were developed by them into a set of scenarios to guide thinking around questions of ownership, innovation and sustainability. You can download the full report, which lays out detailed versions of the four futures, linking them to current drivers and weak signals.
As the workshops moved forward, some of the concepts were selected to be developed further. Over the last couple of weeks, team Superflux was commissioned to develop some concepts from one of these scenarios, finding hooks for a potential community and service ecosystem around the Internet-of-Things.
As a second stage of our collaboration with Dr. Degenaar and his team at Newcastle University on 'Song of the Machine', we have been focusing on the interaction and experience design challenges for their work around Optogenetic Retinal Prosthesis – relishing the opportunity to shape the technology as it develops. As of March, we are in the middle of a three-month research phase, pulling insights, conducting in-situ user interviews, and working on design concepts in partnership with the scientists and engineers at Newcastle, and the RNIB. All of Jon's efforts in putting our filming kit together are paying off now, as we go across different parts of the city and country on little film expeditions. It's interesting to be working at the intersection of product development and scientific research, and we're learning a lot as we attempt to balance the speculative, the functional, and the feasible.
More recently on the Lab front, we've begun some initial scoping work for a European Union project bringing together the RCA, Science Gallery Dublin, Medialab-Prado, and a host of other partners, to contemplate potential applications of synthetic biology. We'll be contributing to the first stage of a three-year collaboration between science and design, working to design and develop concepts around the idea of 'mutant products', and the interaction of markets and (biological) mutation.
Odd weekends have been blocked out for work on Project SAM, as the core team race to get an initial prototype up and running as soon as possible. This has entailed an impressive work of mathematical wizardry from Tim Brooke, lots of tinkering and soldering from Mark Selby and user experience design flows from Jon Ardern, as we've knuckled under for a series of high-velocity sprints.
Somewhere in the mix, we found the time to write a guest blog post for PIVOT Dublin, applying some of our work on design futurescaping in an Irish context.
Out of the studio, the end of February saw Justin in Switzerland for Lift 12, pretending to be a journalist, and helping Nicolas Nova run a foresight workshop (on which, more to follow). Before heading back to the UK, he caught a train across the Franco-Swiss border to check in with urban futures kingpin Emile Hooge, who gave him an insider's look at innovation, politics and regeneration in contemporary Lyon.
In January, Anab represented Superflux at a seminar run by Demos to explore the implications of the new Communications Act, looking at intellectual property, licensing, and the role of the state.
In human resources, we are excited to have Patrick Stevenson Keating join Superflux as an Associate in February, spending few days a week in the studio working on a range of projects. We've also been joined by Superflux intern Raphaël, who'll be with us for the next few months.
Lastly, we're being kicked out of our post-collapse Liverpool Street HQ relatively soon as the building sale is being negotiated – so if you have any insider knowledge or leads on possible spaces, please get in touch.