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UCSD, Parsons and the Cooper Hewitt: Institutions of education and culture making a commitment to design's intellectually-oriented practice - Core77
"Last week we mentioned how governments were dabbling in discursive design, and this week three major educational and cultural institutions weighed in with different forms of support for this intellectual arm of design practice.

Perhaps the biggest news was the announcement by the University of California San Diego (UCSD) starting a new undergraduate major, Speculative Design. Within the Department of Visual Arts, known for an emphasis on experimental art and the resistance of commercial art and even commercial fine art, the inclusion of design to its offerings was not without some initial resistance. As its Chair, Jack M. Greenstein reflected upon the genesis of the program three or four years ago: with "design so closely related to product and marketing…we couldn't really foresee how this would work."

This rejection of design due to its relationship with commerce has long been a point of tension within schools of art, sometimes resulting bad blood, formal schisms, and even banishment. The same reason that UCSD eventually found that speculative design made sense for them—that it is ultimately idea-based and shares many of the same goals as experimental art—is precisely why it can be discounted by mainstream design.

Just as it has taken the good part of a century for schools of design to emerge (rather than having industrial design, for example, located in schools of architecture, schools of engineering, and schools of art) discursive design has not found a singular home in academia. But similar to corporate product development processes where design is seen as the link between marketing, manufacturing, and engineering, discursive design can be the bridge between art, technology, and more traditional design education.

As opposed to UCSD's seeming emphasis on discursive design's more artistic capacities, the MIT Media Lab stresses its value in the technological sphere. Their Design Fiction Group, under the leadership of Hiromi Ozaki (a.k.a. Sputniko!) is particularly interested in prospective students "with a strong interest in emerging technologies" and with "backgrounds in synthetic biology, bioengineering, and electronics." And certainly many industrial design programs are looking at discursive design projects and courses as a way to extend the cultural reach of design as part of an expanded notion of 21st century practice.

As part of UCSD's launch event for the program, Fiona Raby gave the keynote speech, presenting the many and influential projects of her co-run studio, Dunne and Raby. This occurred just a day after The New School's Parsons School of Design publicly announced that she and Anthony Dunne were beginning a "new gig" within their School of Design Strategies.

In moving from their celebrated positions at the Royal College of Art, Parsons can offer them a broader collaborative community. Raby says, "In joining The New School, I will be able to not only work with faculty and students to explore new forms of socially engaged practice in relation to emerging technology, but also collaborate with some amazing people in disciplines like anthropology and political theory, which Anthony and I haven't been able to connect with before."

While their positions include teaching, they are also going to be driving collaborations with other universities, notably the MIT Media Lab. The hope, says Tim Marshall, The New School's provost, is that "their inspiration and insight will help our students to not only prepare for but also help shape our social and technological futures."

And it is this question of social and technological futures that Forbes contributor Johnathon Keats questions in, "Can the Cooper Hewitt Design Triennial Save Us from the Next Global Die-Off?" Published a day after Raby's keynote and in anticipation of the Triennial's February 12th opening, Keats discusses several discursive design projects to be exhibited that deal with synthetic biology and questions of its relationship to how we might (have to) live our lives. Designers Daisy Ginsberg, Neri Oxman, and Ana Rajcevic exhibit objects and images of hypothetical creatures, synthetic organs, and animal-inspired prosthetics for humans.

These uses of current and future synthetic biology and bioengineering are of course not predictions, but provocations. As UCSD professor, Benjamin Bratton stated in his insightful (and perhaps incite-ful) lecture just prior to Raby's keynote: "These technologies are Pharmakon [Socrates' term]: remedy and poison. Any perspective that emphasizes their positive or negative potential without assuming the inverse is incomplete or dishonest." The Cooper Hewitt as a cultural institution is trying in this way to keep us a little more honest.

In regard to this week's events from the UCSD program announcement, to Dunne and Raby's gig at Parsons, to the kickoff of the Triennial, we turn to Keats' for a helpful summation: "While more frequently found in art, this philosophical turn belongs equally in the realm of design, where it can problematize product development before manufacturers remake society in their own image. Moreover, design is the universal language of the modern world. Using design speculatively brings philosophy to everyone."

The "everyone" is certainly an ethnocentric oversight, given that discursive design is currently a product of and for the privileged world. But all of this is a start. In order to responsibly, substantively, and extensively deliver on this promise, we need even further academic emphasis, even more visionary practitioners, and even greater public engagement in discursive design's future.
Designers! Help future a future."

[via: https://twitter.com/annegalloway/status/705497337502642176

See also discussion here: https://twitter.com/annegalloway/status/705497387586842624 ]
speculativedesign  design  ycsd  cooper-hewitt  parsons  brucetharp  stephanietharp  jackgreenstein  discursivedesign  benjaminbratton  mitmedialab  hiromiozaki  designfiction  designfictiongroup  sputniko!anthonydunne  fionaraby  dunne&raby  newschool  speculation  daisyginsberg  nerioxman  anarajcevic  medialab 
march 2016 by robertogreco
Tomorrow Today: Design, Fiction and Social Responsibility | DisegnoDaily
"Here they seemed to allude to criticisms of critical design – or the acronym SCD (speculative critical design) by which it has also become widely known – in the sixteen years since the term first appeared in Dunne’s 1999 book Hertzian Tales. If at its best, critical design is held to spark public debate about the ramifications of science, technology and policy, the field has also been lambasted for its limited reach and efficacy. John Thackara, for instance, recently mounted an attack on what he termed its “infantile science fictions” and Susan Yelavich, Associate Professor at Parsons School of Design charged it for ‘only preaching to the choir’.

At the symposium, keynote speaker, design curator Paola Antonelli – who has spent much of the past decade promoting Critical Design to a wider audience through exhibitions at MoMA in New York – diagnosed the moment in her presentation. In the evolution of movements she outlined “a tendency where pioneers are doubted; after a period of drunkenness, the boat capsizes and follows with fatigue.” Antonelli used the online exhibition she co-curated on Design and Violence as evidence of critical design’s enduring potential. The website uses both mass-produced and conceptual design artefacts to provoke discussion on issues such as the death penalty and euthanasia. Antonelli then went to on to call for the scrutiny of standards in Critical Design."



"The afternoon ended fittingly with a performance by urbanist, designer and futurist Liam Young. His vision of the future came in the form of a story told against a backdrop of dystopian, computer-rendered urban landscapes.

Such stylistic probing and cross-pollination of genres were evidence of critical design’s constant scrutiny of ever-evolving codes. These are necessary to straddle the present and the future, reality and fantasy, the ordinary and the extraordinary, the feasible and the strange, the negotiation of which, according to Dunne and Raby, is essential to critical design’s power and success. As the pair conclude their 10-year tenure at the Royal College of Art at the end of this academic year, it was clear from Tomorrow Today that the future of both critical design and otherwise rests on a knife edge."
anthonydunne  fionaraby  dunne&raby  2015  speculativefiction  speculativedesign  designfiction  design  criticaldesign  future  paulgrahamraven  daisyginsberg  liamyoung  onkarkular  johnthackara  susanyelavich  paolaantonelli  catharinerossi  portiaungley  alexandradaisyginsberg  via:anne 
july 2015 by robertogreco
Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg and the problem of design fictions | Features | Disegno Daily
"Confusion is one of the results that typically arise from design fictions like those Ginsberg creates. The discipline seems to suffer from a problem of how exactly its fictions are to be read. It is sometimes difficult to know how tongue-in-cheek its proposals may be or how seriously we are meant to take them, and consideration of related disciplines makes the point clear. We know that art, for instance, is often oblique, non-literal or metaphorical; it cannot always be taken at face value. Yet literality is precisely what we expect of design, a discipline we are near hard-wired to think of as problem solving and practical. Qualities like humour, provocation, politicisation or subversion are common in art, yet their presence in design is rare. Just as when a designer presents a chair we assume that it must be to sit on,5 so too when a designer suggests growing a Maui’s dolphin in your womb there is a temptation to take it is an order."



"If industry characterised the 19th century, and information technology the 20th, it is tempting to look at biotechnology and synthetic biology as strong candidates for the 21st. The capacity to grow non-consumable products – as Suzanne Lee has done with her Biocouture project – or to create low-emission fuels or cheap pharmaceuticals is clearly appealing, while notions of programming DNA like computer code hold obvious attractions (as well as generating obvious fears) for areas such as agriculture. If farming is the practice of coercing nature into producing desirable results, biotechnology presents a development of this idea: nature rewired to produce these same results “naturally". It is a point writer H.G. Wells made 119 years ago in his essay The Limits of Individual Plasticity: “We overlook only too often the fact that a living being may also be regarded as raw material, as something plastic, something that may be shaped and altered."

Such an idea understandably resonates with designers, yet also raises questions about how design as a discipline will adapt in the the future. What role do designers play if synthetic biology becomes a dominant production mode? Biology is not an equivalent material to wood or metal; a new matter that can be easily subbed into the design process and subjected to the designer’s expertise. Rather, it is a substance that, at least for the foreseeable future, requires the knowledge of a biologist to manipulate.6 It is a point to which Ginsberg is sympathetic. “I think synthetic biology presents an interesting area for designers because it makes you ask what designers will be doing if biologists are designing,” she says. "My question is 'What does design become in that space?' I’m curious to see if design can reflect on itself by working in a very unfamiliar space. Is there an opportunity to think about what we make, and what we should or shouldn’t be making?”

These are some of the questions addressed by Synthetic Aesthetics, a book that documents an ongoing research project of the same name. The project was initiated by the University of Edinburgh and Stanford University in 2010, and paired synthetic biologists with artists and designers to generate residencies that examined crossover between the disciplines. While not all of the resultant projects are fictions, many are.7 Biologists Wendell Lim and Reid Williams for instance collaborated with IDEO designers Will Carey and Adam Reineck to propose drinking vessels formed from dormant bacteria that, when awakened by water entering the glass, would activate to mix and form a probiotic drink. "The book in a way was laying out what we’ve learned from the residencies, but it asks questions as well,” says Ginsberg. "What is synthetic biology, what is design, what do we want design to be in synthetic biology, and how do we bring its ideas of ethics, innovation and sustainability together?”

Such open-ended questions however feed back into the problem of design fictions. As a field, design fictions is not interested in providing definite answers or pursuing clearly defined goals (à la a brief to design an affordable, ergonomic aluminium stacking chair) and that’s where confusion enters in. Rather than problem solving – as conventional design is typically seen as being –8 it seems most contented when simply probing, holding a mirror up to debates that have no easy answers. "There is an understanding that design can only make stuff to sell, that it translates technology into things to consume,” says Ginsberg. "I think there is room for design practices that challenge and expand that. In a way, my practice is a design-based think tank."

Yet it is a state of affairs that makes the publication of Synthetic Aesthetics significant. Books about design fictions are comparatively rare, a fact that in part contributes to many people’s uncertainty with the discipline: it is simply not well-known enough yet for the process of acclimatisation to have taken place. Prior to Synthetic Aesthetics, the most visible texts in the field have been Dunne’s Hertzian Tales9 and his subsequent collaboration with Raby on 2014’s Speculative Everything. Writing about this latter title, the design scholar and director of London’s Design Museum Deyan Sudjic remarked that "design is about asking questions, as well as answering them” and it is true that the emergence of design fictions is not the first occasion in which design has acted as provocateur. The Italian design avant-garde of the 1970s were highly critical of the society in which they operated for instance and such precedent suggests that there is nothing conceptually confusing in design acting in the way that it does in design fictions. Design fictions aren’t confusing in and of themselves any more than a projection of a train is confusing in and of itself; all that is lacking is familiarity with the discipline.

Publications like Ginsberg's Synthetic Aesthetics are an important step in the acclimatisation process. As we become more used to the notion of design fictions, it becomes easier for them to do the work they were intended for. Rather than prompting confusion and misapprehension, they can begin to spark debate, generate ideas and inspire research. It is a similar process to that which L'arrivée d'un train en gare de La Ciotat would have gone through more than a century ago. What initially provoked terror was actually a marvel – a train’s arrival preserved on camera; a moment in a Marseillaise town bottled and unstopped in a Parisian theatre. On a second viewing the film’s audience would have seen that."
designfiction  speculativedesign  alexandradaisyginsberg  daisyginsberg  biology  2014  biotechnology  via:anne  anthonydunne  dunne&raby  fionaraby 
may 2014 by robertogreco
Synthesis | Exploring the cultural dimensions of synthetic biology
"SYNTHETIC BIOLOGY EXCHANGE LABORATORY

Exploring the cultural dimensions of synthetic biology through a week-long interdisciplinary exchange lab and series of public events"
exchange  interdisciplinary  syntheticbiology  biology  daisyginsberg  syntheticaesthetics  sythesis  alexandradaisyginsberg 
june 2012 by robertogreco
Synthetic Aesthetics
"How would you design nature?

Synthetic Biology is a new approach to engineering biology, generally defined as the application of engineering principles – such as standardization and modularity - to the complexity of biology. The aim is to 'make biology easier to engineer', through the design and construction of new biological parts, devices, and systems, and the re-design of existing biological systems for useful purposes, from biofuels to new medical applications. Biology is becoming a new material for engineering - a new technology for design and construction."

[Vimeo channel: https://vimeo.com/channels/synthaes ]
[Flickr group: http://www.flickr.com/groups/synthaes/ ]
syntheticaesthetics  industrialdesign  tangibles  futurism  futures  communication  modularity  environment  plants  nature  architecture  criticaldesign  self-replication  protocells  bioart  cyanobacteria  oscillation  structure  smell  symbiosis  sisseltolaas  christinaagapakis  marianaleguia  chrischafe  hideoiwasaki  oroncatts  saschapohflepp  sherefmansy  davidbenjamin  fernanfederici  willcarey  wendelllim  interdisciplinarity  interdisciplinary  research  aesthetics  bioengineering  syntheticbiology  collaboration  science  art  design  biology  daisyginsberg  alexandradaisyginsberg 
june 2012 by robertogreco
Alexandra DAISY Ginsberg
"Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg is an artist, designer and writer, interrogating science, technology and new roles for design in a biotech future.

As Design Fellow on Synthetic Aesthetics, an NSF/EPSRC-funded project at Stanford University and the University of Edinburgh, she is curating an international programme researching synthetic biology, art and design, investigating how we might ‘design nature’.

Other works include The Synthetic Kingdom, a proposal for a new branch of the Tree of Life; E. chromi, a collaboration with James King and Cambridge University’s grand-prize-winning team at the 2009 International Genetically Engineered Machine competition (iGEM) and a science fiction short story - The Well-Oiled Machine, co-written with Oron Catts while resident at SymbioticA, the art and science laboratory at the University of Western Australia in 2009.…"
oroncatts  treeoflife  ethics  futures  biotechnology  syntheticaesthetics  nature  syntheticbiology  art  designer  biotech  architecture  interaction  biology  research  science  technology  design  daisyginsberg  alexandradaisyginsberg 
june 2012 by robertogreco
Women at the Drawing Board - NYTimes.com
"As our list is focused on the future, many of our chosen designers work in these fledgling fields. Had we stuck to traditional areas, such as graphics or product design, the gender balance may have been different. Our choices include lots of smart men, but also women, like Neri Oxman and Daisy Ginsberg, who are working on the frontier of design and science, and the pioneering social designers Hilary Cottam and Emily Pilloton.

A defining quality of these new disciplines — and the evolution of older ones — is collaboration, both between individuals and by fusing elements of different fields, something that women tend to do well. “I am personally very inspired by Julia Kristeva and other feminist critical theorists, who are all about creativity at the margins and combining leftover things in different ways,” Ms. Cottam said. “In my case, that’s design, political theory and new forms of business.”"
design  gender  women  2011  daisyginsberg  emilypilloton  hilarycottam  nerioxman  alexandradaisyginsberg 
march 2011 by robertogreco

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