We’re just back from the 3rd annual Innovation & Futures Thinking course taught at IED Barcelona, trying to catch a bit of rest and recovery. We’re also collectively taking some time for reflection on the course experience, what we learned along the way, and capture some ideas for doing things better/differently in future studio courses and workshops.
The 2-week course itself was tremendous. The backdrop of the city itself is always fantastic (though this year’s 35C weather required a bit more hydration). The instructor crew for this year—John Willshire, Andres Colmenares, and Natalie Kane—as well as visiting coaching talent—Susan Cox-Smith and Joy Blundell—gave us a nice mix of structure and creativity, experience and fresh eyes, to guide the students through what is always a challenging process. Elisabet Roselló also joined us to provide local knowledge on field work day, as well as to add to the conversation as we built scenarios.
The 16 students themselves were, of course, the best part. We were joined by a great mix of curious, clever folks from Brazil, China by way of Italy, Spain, Italy, Argentina, India, Greece, France, Canada, and Pakistan by way of the UK. Students brought professional background from management, UX, film and media, design, psychology, and social policy.
In this moment of building refugee crises, post-Brexit miasma and ongoing redefinition of identity, this year’s course looked at futures through the lenses of migration, citizenship and belonging, with more of an experiential focus. We began by immersing the class in new ways of thinking and structuring data and signals about human movement—capturing trends about technological identity, movement driven by climate and politics, emergence of new communities and maintenance of old ones in the face of dispersion, and a wide spectrum of related issues and trends.
The class then took two days to structure and flesh out a common timeline of the next 15 years as a scaffold on which to build a series of loosely connected scenarios. A day in the city looking for signals, evidence and inspiration related to these scenarios—around societal fragmentation, divergence into a global networked class and local work, emergence of new forms of community, and new digital identities—was followed by iterative shaping of narratives, personas and artefacts to form tangible futures the teams could share with each other.
The outcomes were rich, imaginative, and insightful projects that gave us glimpses into these future scenarios through critical services, artefacts and interactions (see images below).
—Refugeen: a near future UN-funded prototype to help resettle refugees from Turkey and Syria into Canada. Refugeen used a mix of native natural language WhatsApp chatbot-based intake and support, biometric identification, and holographic on-demand information.
—Pick and Mix: an integration service for frequent travelers using socialization around local food as the central focus.
—Better World: a global virtual community using the body as a natural interface that allows members to slip into an AR-like immersive environment. Temporary skin-based wearables provide the gateway connector to user-defined communities.
—Hidden Secrets: another AR-based system, providing migrants and travelers a way to access secrets and insider knowledge placed by residents.
—SIDI: a post-May biometric digital identity system created by an alt Gov.uk’s Ministry of Digital Identities. This project came with additional artefacts exploring personalized travel for someone passing through the SIDI system.
Thanks again to the hard work of students and staff who made it all possible, including hat tips to Madeline Ashby and Fraser Hamilton for drop-ins. See below for videos and pics of some of the student work and the class in action.