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Sensing Tomorrow in Singapore

Image: Flickr /马克爱生活 / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Occasionally you have those invitations that you not only can't turn down, but you know in an instant the answer is "absolutely yes." Here's one of those moments: I'm quite excited to say I'm going to be joining my great friends at FutureEverything in their first event in Singapore, subtitled Signals of Tomorrow running 5-13 September.

Not only will I be giving a talk alongside a great line-up featuring Dan Hill, Cheryl Chung, Sara Watson, Alexandra Deschamps-Sonsino and other great folks from Singapore and around the world, I'll be leading the Innovation Lab, that will "devise imaginative ways to engage the public in envisioning the future of technology and a Smart Nation."

Bringing together artists and designers with voices from different parts of Singaporean society, this unique lab will mix foresight, participatory art, and rapid prototyping to create works that fuse critical thinking and creativity to provoke new thinking on how technology, cities and citizens can come together fruitfully. I'm also excited that this is taking place at the ArtScience Museum in Singapore, guided by the amazing Honor Harger.

Stay tuned for more info on the event, new speakers, and thanks to FutureEverything and Singapore's IDA for assembling what will be a groundbreaking event. 

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New Lenses

For the past six summers I've taken a short break from "work" work to lead short courses in futures, innovation and design, in various weights and mixtures. I always come away having learned as much as I've taught. This summer is a double-shot.

Starting next week, I'll be leading the Innovation & Futures Thinking summer intensive at IED Barcelona, perched in the lovely, quiet Gracia neighborhood. We have a large cohort of students coming from very different backgrounds, and will spend two weeks moving from an introduction to these two fields, and how they connect in reality, through sensing, sensemaking, storytelling and ultimately prototyping and planning.

The goal is to send the students back out into their professional lives with a better long-term lens in the work, and a set of flexible tools with which they can assess shifts in the world around them—particularly from outside their immediate fields—and apply that understanding to improve the future viability of their ideas. I'll be joined by John Willshire of Smithery, Andres Colmenares of wabi sabi lab and a few other special guests.  [Late word is that we're now at full capacity!]

A few weeks later, I have the pleasure of joining up with School of International Futures (SoIF) for their summer retreat in Strategic Foresight, which provides a long-awaited opportunity to work with Andrew Curry of the Futures Company, as well as with my hosts at SoIF, and what promises to be an intriguing, diverse array of participants. And all of this takes place in Buckinghamshire, not far from my old haunts. If this experience also sounds good to you, there is still room to join.  

I'll take time to recap what was learned from both sessions in the next round of the newsletter, which is targeted for August, along with some news on current and upcoming activities I haven't been able to mention yet. 

Also, we're considering organizing some shorter workshops on futures in Amsterdam or nearby this autumn. If this interests you, please drop us a line to discuss. 

Hope to see you out there, somewhere. 

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Questioning "Things"

Image: Flickr / Scott Beale, Laughing Squid

After a brief, work-induced blogging sabbatical, it's time to get back to it. If you've followed us on Twitter or subscribe to the quarterly newsletter we just sent out, you'll know we've been working on an internal lab project called Thingclash. This project, which is open and ongoing, is intended to shed needed critical light on how designers, product planners, engineers, strategists, developers, investors and users think about the Internet of Things (IoT), with particular focus on how design and technology mesh with—or clash with—existing cultures, behaviors, norms and desires.

The classic case of this is the phenomenon of card clash, a problem most well known from TfL, London's transport network, whereby contactless payment systems don't distinguish between the transport system's own Oyster contactless card and regular contactless bank cards. Simply put, a technology of convenience conflicts with the cultural construct of the wallet, in which many people carry a mix of cards. The solution offered by TfL is to retrain behavior rather than retrain the system in some way. Clearly, the problem is more complex, but the outcomes are simple, and the solution a potentially unnecessary social hack. 

I introduced the project at Thingscon in Berlin last month, and we launched a microsite to house the project as it unfolds. Our initial plan is to develop some basic tabletop tools that can be used to illustrate the various forms and modes of frictions that emerge between the IoT and people. WIRED recently discussed Thingclash in an article on the role of designers in improving how the IoT fits into our lives. 

Image: WIRED

Image: WIRED

We will be holding an internal workshop to push the design of these initial tools along in July, and will open it up to folks who have already expressed interest in contributing in the coming month as well. If you are interested in knowing more, or would like us to come and talk about Thingclash at an IoT event or internal session, get in touch. We'd love your own thoughts, feedback, or examples of thingclash you've observed in the world.

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