Designing for Next Nature (workshop report)

Van Mensvoort
November 25th 2006

desiging for next nature

The extent to which new technologies are intervening with everyday life can hardly be underestimated. Virtual realities, nano- and biotechnology are increasingly providing new construction kits for our reality. Information and communication design aim to ensure the controllability of highly complex connections and giving rise to virtual social systems. Design is becoming invisible, but design can also visualise things. The question arises: How does one design for next nature?

Last week a group students from the Industrial Design Masters of the Eindhoven University of Technology worked on a quick and dirty, but nontheless thought provoking, design proposal. At the end of the week the results were presented before a jury. And the winners are..

VOTE XP (Winner)
In video games and internet forums systems in which the level of experience gives certain abilities to the users are quite common. Examples are the game World of Warcraft and Google Page Rank. In the internet and gaming community such systems are widely accepted and proven in their use. Arne Wessels an Joris Zaalberg believe it is time to translate these systems into the democratic process of a country. VoteXP is a new real-time voting system that gives people right to vote based on their experience on certain political areas.

vote_xp

People can acquire several levels of voting right as they get more into a certain topic. When you for example visit an elderly home often or talk to elderly your VoteXP will increase, just as your right to vote on that topic. At a certain level (one star) you have deserved a right to vote, but when you continue to learn more on the topic a second level (two stars) can be achieved for more influence. It is also possible to propose bills, for that you will have to have an overall high level of experience so that you understand the implications of such a bill. If you have encountered and convinced enough people, the bill will be accepted. The system could be designed to balance out itself, assuring the required democratic level.

FENG SHUI GENETICS (First Runner up)

The runners up, Dick Rutten, Joanne Riekhoff and Floor Mattheijsen, looked at the rapidly emerging biotechnologies. In their vision genetic technology could possibly help us to make the world a better place, but if used inconsiderately it could have terrible effects as well. They propose to translate Feng Shui, a 3000 year old philosophy that states we should adopt ourselves to nature rather than opposing it, to biotechnology. Feng Shui is generally applied in architecture and interior design, but gene technology could be seen as architecture of genes. Feng Shui believes could therefore form the basis of guidelines for thoughtful use of gene technology.

feng shui genetics

Companies that use genetic modification have the possibility to apply for the Feng Shui Genetics (FSG) control stamp. With this stamp they can communicate to the outside world that the consequences of their genetic manipulations were taken in account.

LIVING MICROWAVE MEALS (Second Runner up)

Laurens Boer and Alice Verdonk respond on the tendency to see live as a product. In order to provoke a debate, they present a futuristic vision of a modified animal that would grow all its ingredients on its body. You can buy this living animal product in the supermarket, where it will replace the current microwave meals.living micromeals

The costumer will have to kill the animal in order to prepare the mail: there will be special equipment to simply cut the meals head and legs off. You can also choose to let the animal meal drink wine or sauce to give it the flavor you desire. A next nature vision on microwave meals.

Honourable Mentions

Among the other proposed projects that the jury appreciated were the 'Furniture Evolution Revolution', a proposal to make furniture adoptable in a more fundamental, organic way than just stackability or foldability. Furniture would change as the user interacts with it -a tangible interaction- and this leads to a change of the user behavior as well. This cycle evolves new affordances for furniture. Other projects that scored high, especially on visuals, were the 'Parasite Insurance', in which clients of an insurance company would take a 'parasite pill' that continuously monitors and secures the health of the client. And 'Mommy, Mommy, I want a Dinosaur!' in which the history of domestic animals was visualised and put in extreme with the presentation of a plastic surgery clinic for pets. The jury consisted of Carlijn Compen, Bas Groenendaal and Joris van Gelder.

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Should men be able to give birth to children?


Joyce Nabuurs: To me this question seems to be a logical next step in the emancipation movement of the past century. More and more women entered the workspace, but the responsibility for pregnancy and childrearing remained female.

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