Ash at CIID

Ashwin Rajan's blog while at the Copenhagen Institute of Interaction Design.

Visualizing the Iranian Blogosphere

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This Berkman Center for Internet and Society project provides a visualization of the Iranian blogosphere, a very active blog space “of approximately 60,000 routinely updated blogs featuring a rich and varied mix of bloggers” from within and outside Iran. Here is a snapshot of the visualization. The main techniques to mine data was “computational social network mapping in combination with human and automated content analysis.” Studies such as this are helping to create “initial conclusions about the actual impact of technology on democratic events and processes, and to identify questions for further research.”

The size of the dot represents the number of other blogs that link to it, a measure of its popularity. The position of each dot is a function of its links with its neighbors.

Snapshot of "Iran's online public" by the Berkman Center for Internet and Democracy.

Snapshot of "Iran's online public" by the Berkman Center for Internet and Society. Fromhttp://cyber.law.harvard.edu/publications/2008/Mapping_Irans_Online_Public

Written by Ashwin Rajan

May 16, 2009 at 12:31 pm

Ezio Manzini on The New Design – 危机: crisis (危: danger; “机: chance)

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Leading design thinker Ezio Manzini spoke at CIID on the theme ‘Next Design – Design for Social Innovation and Sustainability’ in March this year. This is a snippet of his talk from the Service Design Synposium held in Copenhagen in 2008.

I found his views so interesting that I’ve added a full description of his March 2009 talk from the CIID website here, for the benefit of readers as well as my own future reference.

Ezio Manzini is a designer, engineer, architect, educator and author – he is one of the most important thinkers in design today.

危机: crisis (危: danger; “机: chance). In Chinese, as in several other languages, the term “crisis” has the double meaning of “danger and “chance”. Without doubt, we can say that today we are facing a worldwide, deep crisis. Many people are talking about the risks. But it is necessary and timely to talk about opportunities too. This is particularly true if we want to discuss the present and future role of design: by its nature, design has to consider opportunities and to become their active promoter.

However, facing the present crisis, to play this role, design itself must change. A change that could happen if the design community takes at least the following three steps:

  • To adopt an adequate economic model (the emerging idea of social economy)
  • To extend the definition of design (the central role of service design)
  • To generate a new design knowledge (visions, proposals and collaborative tools).

Manzini will present these three steps and introduce the concepts of next economy and next design.

The next economy is, mainly, a service-oriented, social economy. It “produces” services, knowledge and networks of meaningful interactions. Its main fields of action are the ecological re-orientation of the production system, the social production of a new generation of services, and regional eco-development programs: a cluster of activities that, considered as a whole, will be “the industry of the XXI century”.

The next design is, mainly, a design for social innovations and sustainability. It adopts design skills and capabilities to co-create original solutions for the next economy. That is, for the emerging social economy. It refers to socio-technical systems innovation, adopts a service-oriented approach and conceives and develops visions and solutions endowed with sustainable qualities.

Today design for social innovations is still at its early phase. But, around us, in all the region of the contemporary globalised world, the possibility to develop it moves in parallel with the growing wave of social innovation. To link design with social innovation is the main opportunity that we have to give design the role it could play in the transition towards the next economy. That is, also, towards a viable sustainable society.

Written by Ashwin Rajan

May 16, 2009 at 12:13 pm

Brainstorming Based On Insights From Interviews – Intel

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Continuing notes on the Intel-CIID industry project. The following are some of the user quotes from feedback obtained via remote online interviews, on the issue of sustainability by energy efficiency practices.

  • “Long term costs of managing residences …. now seem to equal or out-weight cost of acquisition”
  • “I think it (energy efficiency) is a good concept for the future. But, wondering how this issue effects my current life… ”
  • “We need to get used to ‘self-sufficiency.”
  • “A thinking generation could make this (sustainable energy efficiency) work.”
  • “Costs for water, public lighting, lifts (elevators), and washing clothes can be shared among (residential) communities.”
Concepts from brainstroming

Concepts from brainstroming

At this point, we had spent a few continuous days in near proximity of users, hearing them out. So we thought it was a good point to zoom out a bit and identify dominant patterns in the thinking of our users. The idea behind this was to move away from the exact thoughts as verbalized by users, and carry those concerns forward to ‘open up’ the domain of opportunity for design.

IMGP5711

To do this, the team used the quotes and resulting insights collected as inspiration for a series of  brainstorming sessions. The sessions were driven and managed by CIID and Intel faculty Vinay Venkatraman and Jay Melican, and consisted of a series of exercises with different goals. Switching to a ‘studio’ mindset, members from across the project class circulated between teams and helped put up ideas on walls by the dozen (and this is such an effective way of capturing the skills and perspectives of members across the studio). We were looking for associations, hidden meanings, metaphors, anything – however literal, visual, conceptual or semantic – that would help us move from the realm of concrete concerns into the domain of inspired insight. Here are some images from the brainstorming sessions.

IMGP5709

Written by Ashwin Rajan

May 16, 2009 at 11:43 am

Remote user research – Intel industry project

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Here are further notes on generating insights from user research to inspire design concepts for the CIID-Intel industry project titled ‘The Social Collective as an Agent of Behavioral Change’. Doing background research on the concept of the smart grid, my teammate Mimi and I found ourselves in an fascinating conversation about how urban residents in our native countries South Korea and India seemed to perceive the idea of sustainable and energy efficient housing. We thought this was a very interesting target audience to explore further and design for.

Given a very short period of time (less than a week) to conduct user research to inspire us in our solutions, we decided to conduct online interviews with people we could reach in South Korea and India. The exercise was simple: address the issue of energy efficiency in urban residential apartment complexes and try to understand how aware people were of the concern, how they associated it with in their daily lives, and if they actually participated in making any sustainable energy choices.

In order to set the context, we used simple videos available from publicly available content online. The subjects were asked to watch a video (like the one shown below, made by one of my favorite design firms Xplane) and then take an open, informal online interview on Skype. Using an online tool like Skype helped tremendously as it was easy to work in multiple modes, exchanging links or references and text, while also speaking freely at length.

After setting the context for sustainability in general and energy efficiency in particular, we were able to dive in further with specific questions like:

  • Do you know the concept of a ‘green building’ or ‘sustainable construction’ ?
  • Do you know anyone who owns or lives in a ‘sustainable’ home or construction?
  • What are the points that are most energy-intensive in your apartment block or society?
  • What are the points that are least energy-intensive in your apartment block or society?
  • Are there energy costs that you think you can share with your fellow apartment or society residents?
  • How much do you think you can save on energy by changing the design of your apartment and the materials in it?
  • Which gadgets in your home do you think consume the most power?
  • Which gadgets in your home do you consider most dispensable?
  • Which gadgets in your home do you consider least dispensable?

Written by Ashwin Rajan

May 16, 2009 at 10:25 am

Sustainlane’s Greenest US Cities

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Treehugger has this comprehensive piece on Sustainlane’s (a “people powered sustainability guide”) list of the greenest US cities for 2008. Portland tops, and a lot of action underfoot elsewhere as well.

Portland_Map
Map of Portland’s performance on several green parameters. From http://www.sustainlane.com/us-city-rankings/overall-rankings

Written by Ashwin Rajan

May 16, 2009 at 10:05 am

The Oil We Eat

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Connected to my last post on strategies to redesign the global food production, distribution and consumption system, here’s a link to a landmark essay which goes right to the heart of the matter in lucid and frightening fashion.

The Oil We Eat by Richard Manning. PDF available. Author of the critically acclaimed Against the Grain.

Nice video of Manning discussing his fundamental premise below.

The story from the Indian perspective:

Written by Ashwin Rajan

May 16, 2009 at 8:45 am

The Vertical Farm Project

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The first phase of working on the CIID-Intel industry project was exploring current and future thinking around sustainable energy management technologies and concepts.

One of the prototypal projects I have been very kicked about for some years now is the Vertical Farm Project. I guess my background interest in this comes from understanding something of the terrible consequences of large-scale commercial farming in India: where the benefits of farming necessarily need to first impact the immediate local, small-scale community, and sustain the local economy. The unconditional dependence of the small farmer on the big market (read urban consumption) distributors is a sad tale which I won’t go into here. The central need is ‘local’. Extending the idea that small farmers need to grow food in order to first feed and sustain their immediate community, a ‘urban farm’ located within close proximity or within a city neighborhood to supply the needs of the surrounding community sounds like a good one. And apparently the concept is being discussed quite actively; here is a description and some videos + links on this fascinating concept.

A description from verticalfarm.com: “An entirely new approach to indoor farming must be invented, employing cutting edge technologies. The Vertical Farm must be efficient (cheap to construct and safe to operate). Vertical farms, many stories high, will be situated in the heart of the world’s urban centers. If successfully implemented, they offer the promise of urban renewal, sustainable production of a safe and varied food supply (year-round crop production), and the eventual repair of ecosystems that have been sacrificed for horizontal farming.”

Inside the vertical farm. From http://www.verticalfarm.com/designs.html.

Inside the vertical farm. From http://www.verticalfarm.com/designs.html.

This page with rich designs for the concept continues to grow!

A New York times article discussing viability and costs associated with the project.

A slideshow of pictures from the New York times.

Sources for this blog post:
http://www.verticalfarm.com/
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/15/science/15farm.html

Written by Ashwin Rajan

May 16, 2009 at 8:05 am