NFD Riot: Nefula workshop at NextFest 2015

On May 24th, AOS together with Nefula, performed  a one day workshop to explore Near Future Design methodology in the context of NextFest by Wired Italia.

NFD workshops are topic based: for NextFest we decided to investigate the near future of Riot, which turned out to be an highly interesting topic for the whole group.

About 20 participants from allover Italy formed a stimulating group who worked passionately to understand and apply NDF methodology.

Near Future Design workshop at NextFest

Near Future Design workshop at NextFest

After a general introduction, participants collaboratively explored Consensual Reality, Curious Rituals and State of the Art and Technology in order to produce the Future Map:

Near Future Design workshop at NextFest

Near Future Design workshop at NextFest: class at work

Near Future Design workshop at NextFest

Near Future Design workshop at NextFest: Future Map (detail)

In the design phase, two smaller group were formed with the aim to develop two separate concepts:

Near Future Design workshop at NextFest

Near Future Design workshop at NextFest: design phase

The result of the workshop, under the form of a the documentation produced, was given to the CS Cantiere in Milan: a work in progress “to be continued”, a small contribution to the current debate and possible evolution of new form of protest in social movement.

Near Future Design workshop at NextFest

Near Future Design workshop at NextFest: group photp



Stakhanov, a BigData god, predicts human futures

Stakhanov is a BigData god.

It is a reflection about the role which we, as human beings and as members of society, are attributing to data, information and algorithms.

Stakhanov installation

Stakhanov installation

Stakhanov captures public information from millions of people on social networks, and searches for patterns through it, using people’s locations, emotions, topics of interests and relations.

When it finds these patterns, it uses them to make predictions about people.

Predictions about where people will be, about their emotions in certain contexts, about at what time they will be doing which activity, about who they will relate with, or who they will be close to in space.

Stakhanov continuously harvests social networks for information and data, making connections, assumptions, correlations, using them to predict the future.
Line-by-line, it emits its verdicts about what will be and that which won’t.
Millions of people agree on the probability of a certain event? Fine, Stakhanov agrees, too, and it predicts it as a certain future.

Stakhanov prints out predictions

Stakhanov prints out predictions

You went running on the last three tuesdays, as documented by neat little maps published on Facebook? Well, Stakhanov predicts that you shall happily jog next tuesday, too: the gods-of-data say so.
This is the Word, coming from the Data-Above, in The Cloud.

A playful neo-religious data-invasion of privacy, false-hopes and the ingenuity in contemporary determinism.

During transmediale’s opening ceremony, Stakhanov gave a short speech which was generated by capturing all of the relations which the festival established in the past 3 years on social networks with thousands of people. The topics and emotions expressed in all of the social network conversations captured in this way were processed using natural language analysis to attempt a prediction on the possible topics for the festival’s next editions, and to express the major concerns and interests of the transmediale’s audience and reference communities.

Here is what came out:


Here are some images from the exhibit:

In the exhibit, a series of prints showed Stakhanov’s cosmology.

Stakhanov is a wordplay between Alexey Stakhanov, the epic russian mine worker who became famous for breaking all production records, and the Stacks, a term described by Bruce Sterling to indicate how we are not really using Internet anymore, but a series of Stacks, closed ecosystems owned by large corporations, such as Fecebook, Google, Amazon or Apple.

Thus, Stakhanov is the god using the Stacks to continuously and constantly mine people’s information, to produce the future.

We can use the images below to understand more about Stakhanov’s cosmology.

Stakhanov's cosmology 1

Stakhanov’s cosmology 1

In this image, we see how human beings live in the Socialis Continuus, in which we are ourselves, with our identities, relations, emotions.

We are influenced by Stacks, large corporations which now largely control how we access the Internet, and which also define large parts of the ways in which we relate, are fulfilled, gain access to knowledge, etc.

The Stacks use our actions to understand who we are, creating profiles which represent us, in the Stack Veritas.

Algorithms process our profiles and their relations to create other information about us, a description of reality, in the Res Algoritmica.

Stakhanov grabs all of this and searches for patterns within it, to make predictions, which might influence us.

Stakhanov Cosmology 2

Stakhanov Cosmology 2

In our daily lives we are Hacceitas, our selves, with our relations, identities, emotions, actions, thoughts, etc.

In the transition to our digital lives, some of this information is transformed: we become an Imago, a representation of ourselves.

Stacks create this Imago, the representation of ourselves in the digital domain. Thus, they are the Artifex (the artists, creating the representation of life)

Stakhanov captures the Imago of people, and searches for patterns in them, across time, locations, emotions and activities. When it finds patterns, it organises them into a Forma.

The Forma are used to create predictions, the Prophetia, which we come to know, and influence us.

Stakhanov Cosmology 3

Stakhanov Cosmology 3

Our Imago is represented in the Cloud, which is only truly accessible by the Stacks and a limited number of other, interrelated, subjects and entities, in the Caelum Internum.

Through the APIs other entities, among which is Stakhanov, are able to access the Imago of people, with many limitations and incompletenesses.

This is the Caelum Externum, in which the Imago is partially available, as the Stacks keep most part of them for themselves.

Stakhanov Cosmology 4

Stakhanov Cosmology 4

The last image, shows the Stack’s phylosopy.

In all of this Omnia Sunt Adventores, “everyone is a customer”.

Every person and entity is a customer for the Stacks, with different levels of engagement.

The Hospes, are the people who dedicate attention (Adtentio). Anyone who, for any reason, dedicates time and attention, is already a customer.

The Benevolens are the ones who share information (Informatio), such as their email, behaviour, actions.

The Cliens actually spend money ($).

The Stacks are obsessed with Clients (Clientibus Obsesses).

Here are some of the reactions to the Stakhanov exhibit at transmediale:,1569731;art256,1485701

The Near Future of Education


With students, designing the future of the education system. A fundamental action towards a shift to a participatory, inclusive knowledge society. This post describes the structure and methodology of our action.

Note: This post is the result of the conversation which we had at CyberResistance in Milan, at the Cantiere.

 The Future does not Exist.

In our approach to Near Future Design we try to create a state of suspension in which it is possible to explore multiple versions of future scenarios and to engage people from different cultures and backgrounds to enable them to become performers, able to express themselves in highlighting not just (technically/technologically) possible futures, but desirable, preferable futures.

Near Future Design: infinite futures

Near Future Design: infinite futures

There are a few steps involved in doing this.

The first step is to create a Future Map.

From our point of view, the building a Future Map involves the combination of a technical/technological activity together with an ethnographical/anthropological one.

The first one involves the comprehension of the current State of the Arts & Technologies: current technological advances, promising research, patents, new products, trends, etcetera. Given proper and reliable information sources, this task is rather simple, in that it requires to keep updated.

The second one is fairly more complex, as it requires the comprehension of the Established Narratives, the Strange Now and the Future Possibilities.

The Established Narratives describe our common understanding of consensual reality. Given a certain topic or domain, the established narratives enclose the forms of consensus which is accepted within relevant communities or cultures: “normal” things within the domain, as they are culturally, traditionally and commonly understood.

The Strange Now describes the emergence of recurring patterns, rituals and other behaviours. Although having become recurrent, these behaviours do not yet benefit from widespread social understanding, comprehension and encoding: they are commonly understood as “strange”, peculiar or curious.

The Future Possibilities describe what people in relevant cultures and communities perceive as possible, feasible and technically/technologically advanced and desirable regardless of their actual technological feasibility, present or future: they describe people’s perception of possibility, in the future.

All these elements are combined into a Design for the New Normal. Its objective is to merge the two types of results into the description of near future designs: the “things” which will be normal a short time from now; the next normality field.

The Near Future Design is represented in a series of ways and it becomes a Simulacrum: a state of suspension of disbelief in which the Design is implemented using a Transmedia Narrative whose objective is to make it as believable and likely as possible, so much that it becomes so entangled in consensual reality that it eventually becomes it.

In particular, this last phase, happens by means of imagination, performance and desire. It is a language-based operation, in which a linguistic landscape is created which allows for the emergence of new imaginaries: people become performers by apprehending new languages, which allow them to imagine new things and concepts and, in turn, to bring them to life, through desire. The performance of the future: people’s perception of what is possible shifts, as they experience a transmedia simulacrum which is so likely that they start using it, eventually making it become true and, in the process, express themselves on what is their desired, preferred future.

This is exactly what we are doing with the education system.

The Near Future of the Education System.

Together with the students at ISIA Design in Florence we are using Near Future Design techniques to design the Near Future of the education system. To do this, we are following the the full Near Future Design methodology outlined above, and we are enacting the transmedia simulacrum in two ways: by enacting a transmedia narrative which will be started shortly, in the following phases of the action, and by adopting the model we’re designing, performing it and using it ourselves, to experiment it on the field according to an agile methodology, by designing it, implementing it, releasing/using it in its beta version, and by redesigning it according to a series of iterations, forks, merges.

Here below is an image which describes the structure of our initial design, further detailed in the next sections.

Near Future of Education structure

Near Future of Education structure


Assumption number 1: decent education has an really high entrance/access barrier.

If you have a lot of money, you don’t have a problem with the current education system. If you can afford the hundreds of thousands of dollars which are needed to attend the best (and not-so-best) schools in the world, you really do not feel the crisis. You have laboratories, personalised courses, a good student/professor ratio, tutoring, mentorship, auditoriums, libraries, equipment, etcetera, you have it all.

Too bad that not many people have all of this money. And even of the ones that do, most of them rely on Debt to obtain access to these schools, and debt – as we have learned – comes with an awful lot of implications.

Assumption number 2: current education models are mostly competitive rather than collaborative.

Competitive models may be adequate for the industrial era, but they are not for the networked, information/knowledge/communication era, which is based on collaboration, universal access and inclusion. All of which are critical to the creation of social capital and the ushering in of a sharing economy.

Assumption number 3: knowledge as a common.

Not only because, as Rifkin puts it, it allows for marginal costs to tend relentlessly towards zero, with all that this implies, but also (and most of all) because, as Bauwens frames it, in the framework defined by Contributory Commons (provided by the Civil Society) and Ethical/Solidary Economy (the Reframed Corporation), an Information & Knowledge Common is enabling and empowering, and should be defended as a strategic asset.

Assumption number 4: perceptive, cognitive, attention and strategic models for education.

The ways in which we learn, collaborate, work, design and relate have radically changed. From a perceptive and cognitive point of view, and from the perspective which sees the emergence of novel modalities in which multiple disciplines converge, different roles become entangled, serendipitous actions become strategic and, in the passage from atoms to bits and back, the production of knowledge and information becomes a performance which is cultural and linguistic, and which is polyphonic, interconnected, emergent in nature.

Assumption number 5: need for a new definition of “value”.

From the P2PValue project page:

Commons-based peer production (CBPP) is a new and increasingly significant model of social innovation based on collaborative production by citizens through the Internet.

In this framework a novel definition of “value” must be found, encompassing the well-being of the ecosystem, and in a mutualistic sense, progressively loosing the definition of “value” determined by the market sale price of products and services, and embracing one which is mutually determined, at a peer-to-peer level.

On top of these 5 initial assumptions, the State of the Arts & Technologies and the Strange Now analyses have provided indications about 11 axes in which we have dimensioned our proposed design. You can read more about the 11 axes of transformation on the NearFuture Education Lab’s blog on Nòva24.

The Foundation

Why create a Foundation to explore the Near Future of Education?

There are multiple answers. Two are the most important ones: to enact a strategic shift, and to host, protect and preserve the Knowledge Common that is at the center of ecosystem.

First: to enact a strategic shift.

a strategic shift

a strategic shift

In the current situation, a hierarchical organisation of things and processes is in place: governments and companies deal with each other to establish policies and strategies which are applied to, in this case, schools and universities and, by them, to students and other participants. This has major political, social and economic implications. And, maybe most important of all, is not flexible, resilient and capable of adapting to the transformation of cultures, societies and the environment, or to take into account people’s and communities’ desires, visions, expectations and emergent behaviours.

The transformation we propose is dedicated to creating an environment, a space.

The environment is the Knowledge Common, which is protected and preserved by the Foundation.

The Foundation itself is open, accessible and permeable: anyone can get in, but it is not necessary to get in to make use of the Knowledge Common.

Multiple forms of interaction and interrelation with this environment are possible, such as contributing to the Common, using the knowledge contained there within, producing recipes to it, a particular form of meta-knowledge (and, thus, that is part of the ecosystem itself) which shows how the various parts of the Common can be used together, combined, assembled together with other relations, elements, or even with other recipes.

These forms of interaction can come from inside/outside/edge of the environment/common.

The Foundation, open and accessible to everyone, preserves the Common.

The Currency

The Knowledge Common has a value, which constantly grows.

This value is measured using K-Coins, Knowledge Coins.

K-Coins are a mutualistic currency, which is used to measure how much a person or organisation contributes to the value (well-being) of the Environment/Common.

K-Coins are mutually assigned: if subject A perceives that subject B contributes to the value of the ecosystem (by participation, contribution, production, meta-production…), A can assign K-Coins to B. In other words, K-Coins are proportional to the Reputation which one has in relation to their active participation to the well-being of the Environment/Common.

(some additional info on the ways in which we are designing the K-Coins may be found here: )

Agile Ecosystem: pull, fork, watch, merge

All the things we have seen so far (and the next to come) represent knowledge, as well.

The Future Map, the definition of the Foundation (its statute and regulations, for example), the K-Coins definition and the software needed to make them work, the collaboration and relation tools… everything that we describe here is part of the Knowledge Common that constitutes the core of the Environment, of the Public Space, that we are describing.

As such, they can be freely accessed and used.

Using the Git metaphor, they can be watched (to know how they’re changing), pulled (to use them), forked (to modify them, creating your own version) and merged (to take the results of multiple contributions and to assemble them into a new version).

If a certain subject grabs and modifies, let’s say, the Future Map, or the statute of the Foundation, they can use it for their own purposes, but the results remain part of the Knowledge Common, together with their relation with the original version.

This fact has enormous cultural, political and practical implications.

First of all determined by the possible co-existence of multiple versions of everything.

This implies, for example, that if I have a certain vision of the Future Map, of how the future of the education system could be, I could just fork the currently adopted Future Map, modify in ways which reflect my point of view, and put it back up for merging. Then other people will be able to make their own decisions: merge it, fork it on their own and use it, or else. In any case, I would be able to use my own Future Map for my own purposes (in this case, to aim at a certain objective in the transformation of the future of the education system).

In all this, K-Coins allow everyone to express (currency as a means of expression) themselves about their perception of my contribution to the Common, contributing to my reputation and, thus, augmenting the value of the environment/common itself.

This possibility for measure also achieves a virtuous effect: since everyone’s reputation is connected to their active contribution to the well-being of the Knowledge Common that constitutes the environment, and since the K-Coins measuring it are mutually assigned, everyone will be engaged into making positive contributions, thus augmenting their value, thus incrementing their reputation and possibilities/opportunities within the ecosystem.

How Does all this Work?

The Foundation will work as a Wirearchy.

In Wirearchy a social network (in our case it will be a combination of a peer-to-peer social network, and of a meta-social network, operating in piggy-back with major social networks such as Facebook and Twitter and in mode physical modalities) hosts conversations, relations and interaction.

From these, the communities of practice emerge: people and organisations interested and involved in certain topics, domains and issues, and making experiments, hypotheses, researches…

Work teams can emerge from all this, eventually including some or all members of the communities of practice as well as participants from the rest of the social network, or even from beyond its (fuzzy) boundaries. Work teams actively work on the domain/theme/issue, eventually arriving at the definition/creation/implementation/deployment of a certain information, knowledge, object, product, service or else.

In this ecosystem, any form of production includes two elements: knowledge and other things (such as objects, products, services…).

All knowledge produced becomes part of the Knowledge Common.

All the rest may be sold, offered, used or else, at the discretion of the producers.

The knowledge produced and put back into the Common defines the “value” of the “project” within the ecosystem, through the number of K-Coins that other people assign to it – from their point of view and if they desire to do so – evaluating how it contributes to the well-being of the ecosystem.


Within the ecosystems, a series of subjects produce recipes.

Each project, course, study program, how-to, tutorial… each of these things is a recipe, may contain and use recipes and may be contained in one or more recipes.

Recipes are like the ones for cooking: they contain ingredients, and the instructions on how to combine them to obtain a certain result.

Recipes, as forms of (meta-)knowledge are part of the Knowledge Common.

There can be recipes about what is the education path to become a Designer, an Engineer, a Cultural Anthropologist. Recipes about how to build chairs, drones, particle accelerators. Even recipes about cooking.

A certain recipe may indicate that, before attempting to do something, I should learn something: Recipe to create object X could state that “you can use software tools Y and Z, physical tools K and T, and you have to follow course A, preferably with Mr. B, and it would be better to join Lab C, and you would need the collaboration of at least 1 person who has followed course D and E, and who is proficient in using tool Y”.

Recipes can be produced by multiple subjects: I, for example could produce a recipe about “what you need to learn and do to become a proficient Communication Designer”.

Other people could create similar recipes (starting from scratch, or forking my recipe, for example): other designers, people who think they know what it takes to become a Communication Designer, and more.

One peculiar type of subject which could desire to have its say about this could be, for example, the Italian Ministry for University and Research (the MIUR), or any other governmental institution in other parts of the world. Actually, all of these types of subjects basically occupy their time creating “recipes” – under the form of official study plans, policies, regulations and more. We recognise these plans, rules and regulations as valid and mandatory on the premise that we trust these governmental entities and institutions, and that we acknowledge them the role of the maintainers of the systems in which sciences, humanities and research can thrive and prosper.

It’s a matter of trust, and reputation.

What could, then, happen in the ecosystem which we’re describing?

It may become true that Mr. X’s recipe on “how to become a Robotic Engineer” is valued more (in K-Coins) than the one from the MIUR, other Government Agencies, or even than the one from Stanford, or even MIT. Because…? It can happen for multiple reasons, of course. One of them is that, in the ecosystem, more people have recognised more value (by attributing K-Coins) to Mr. X’s recipe. This would mean that the education ecosystem recognises Mr. X’s recipe more valuable than the one by the Ministry, or by Stanford, or by…

This possibility is disruptive: what could a Ministry of Education, or Stanford, or MIT do in this case? They could produce a better recipe, or adopt Mr. X’s, or fork it or… many more things. Sure is that that they would have to act, in order to bring more well-being to the ecosystem.

Let’s look at some scenarios.

How can I teach in this Ecosystem?

I could offer a course/lab/training-on-the-job/something using the social network, or by participating to a Community of Practice or Work Team (and possibly recognising the need for such an offering), or because I really enjoy teaching a certain subject/practice, or because I have the tools/spaces/conditions to offer it, or else.

In my offering I can use elements from the Knowledge Common, optionally forking them and creating my own versions, which are put back into the Common. I can use recipes, and produce recipes of my own, to be used in the course or outside of it (“my course is needed to learn how to build object X, as described by recipe Y”). The offering can also be included in recipes by other subjects, which deem it as being fundamental for achieving a certain purpose.

These same people may decide to replace a certain element of their recipe with my offering, should they be convinced (and, in this, reputation helps) that mine is better.

Eventually, I will give the course/lab/stage/practice… and the people who have participated (students, recipe-adopters, be that to become an engineer, complete a project, to learn something so that I can then teach it, to learn something for no purpose at all…) may decide to assign me some K-Coins for my positive and active participation to the well-being of the Ecosystem.

From this moment my offering would benefit from increased reputation.

How can I create a project in the Ecosystem?

This scenario works much in the same way like the previous one.

The major difference is in its augmented degree of generality.

To engage a project you have to learn something, use knowledge and information, assemble a certain number of recipes, and more. All to produce, as described, more knowledge and some objects/products/services/other.

Thus, it would work out in the same way.

The social network/communities of practice/work teams scheme could be used to start a project. The project would use elements from the Knowledge Common (be them single elements or recipes…), combining them with courses, laboratories and relations with other people and organisations which would have to have access to knowledge and recipes (either directly or by “going to school”) and, possibly, a certain level of reputation.

In this scenario: the value of reputation in the ecosystem becomes self-evident, as enabler, facilitator, multiplier, accelerator of the action.

How can I learn something in the ecosystem?

You always learn in this ecosystem.

One of the strengths of this approach is the explicitation of this fact: in different moments and contexts of their life subjects will act as “learners”, professors, laboratories, entrepreneurs, producers of recipes, and more.

I could decide to learn in multiple ways: by choosing a certain recipe (based on the reputation of its creator, or for some other reason); by choosing a certain course/lab/other offering; by joining into a project in which I would need to learn a certain thing or adopt a certain recipe.

Or I could even identify that no-one is currently offering a certain course/lab/training/other, and by using the social network/communities of practice/work teams to try to make it available (and this would also be an opportunity for someone to actually create the offering).

If all else fails, I could try to learn by myself in some way, and, maybe, even offer the course myself.

In all this, the usual mechanism applies: of all the contributions which I used (the course, lab, recipe or else) I would be able to assign K-Coins to attribute to them reputation, based on my perception of how they contributed to the well-being of the ecosystem and of the Knowledge Common.


We’re building all of this and, in the next few months, you will see much more happening.

As stated above: this process which we’re building is the first contribution to the Knowledge Common itself.

You all can (and should) contribute to it in any way you can: by participating, designing with us, helping us to communicate, to get in touch with people, groups, organisations, institutions who could be interested in these kinds of developments.

In four words: to make this happen.

More news really soon.

In the meanwhile follow us and join in like this:

Near Future Design at TEDxRoncade

Art is Open Source will be at TEDxRoncade to talk about Near Future Design on February 22nd 2014.

Saturday February 22nd 2014 starting at 10:30am

Where: Auditorio Tenuta Ca’ Tron, Via Boschi, 14 Ca’ Tron – 31056 Roncade ( Treviso, Italy )

The theme of this TEDx Event is “Biodiversity is the new progress

From the TEDxRoncade website:

“The idea of progress is written in the landscape. The eras of agriculture and industry have transformed the ecosystem. For centuries, their technologies have defined the boundaries of what is possible. In the era of knowledge, where value focuses on immateriality, the idea of progress transforms. The logics of the ecosystem – from biodiversity to complexity – extends to culture, economy, design: the landscape of knowledge unites the heritages from the past to the richness of opportunities for the future.

To create the new world we must be aware of its frontiers: in a globalised planet, inhabited by 7 billion human beings, it is not the the unexplored territories of physical geographies, but in the unexplored territories of ideas.

If we are able to become aware of it, we will be able to start thinking about progress, again: embracing the road to a form of innovation that is dense with meaning.”

From this perspective we will explore the point of view of Near Future Design, a set methodologies whose purpose is to abandon the idea of a singular future, and to transform our perception through the possibility to shift our perception of “what is possible”.

Near Future Design comprises techniques and methodologies coming from different disciplines.

From the creation of the Future Maps, built starting from a careful comprehension and evaluation of the State of the Arts and Technologies, to the ethnographical understanding (and, again, mapping) of emergent behaviours and rituals.

To comprehend the passage from the established narratives (what we perceive as our normal, daily lives and practices), to the discovery of the strange now (patters of recurring behaviours and rituals for which there is still no “encoded” and commonly understandable meaning), to the mapping of the future possibilities (the possibility to understand technical, technological and processual trends, for as they are now, and the degrees of likelihood according to which they will evolve in the future). All done to design the New Normal, the things which, according to a varying degree of plausibility, will constitute the new “version” of our daily lives, in 5 years, or in 1 year, or in 1 month, or even later on, this afternoon.

We then use arts and design to expose the New Normal, using acts of world-building implemented using Transmedia Narratives, to open up these scenarios, to transform them into global, participatory performances. To shift our perceptions of what is possible, to open up critical, immersive conversations in which our desired and preferred versions of the future can emerge.

See you at TEDxRoncade!

Near Future Design: the perception of a “new possible” and a new role for Design

What is the future?

The future does not exist. It is a performance to which we all take part in, establishing a global conversation, making decisions and embracing directions. Each time we do this, we push our perception of “what is possible” a little further beyond.

At ISIA Design Florence we have made a huge experiment in Near Future Design, and we presented it at Frontiers of Interactions 2013. Here’s what we did and how it went.

In this fairly long article we will introduce our own definition of Near Future Design, the process and methodology which we use, and the first results of this experience, showing the case studies produced by our students at ISIA Design in Florence.

Note: We’re setting up a publication that will be available if you want to know more about the project and about our idea of what is (and can be) Near Future Design. Please check back for updates if you want to know more.


The Future does not exist.

Future is a performance that sees us all engaged through the dimensions of desire and of the imaginary.

In the interconnected contemporary era innovation is established through dialogues and conversations, observing their tensions and orientations, and by using the results of these observations to project (to design) a vision of the possible future, and to implement it.

In this scenario, the vision on the future – together with all its ethical, environmental, social, political and ecosystemic implications – is possibly the most precious product that can be offered by any organisation.

This requires a new solicitation for Design, which becomes the activator of the imaginable. And, thus, of the designable, intended as the act of “conceiving that which is still not there”.

This process includes all of society and all of its communities, which become able to establish active and shared dialogues for the creation of their own futures: they become desiring performers of their own futures.

+MIND, a nanotech pill

+MIND, a nanotech pill

Near Future Design

Future is an undefined lapse of time, after the present.

Future does not exist, some might say, except as a possibilistic projection of the tension of the present. Infinite futures exist, and we actuate them according to the decisions we make and the directions we embrace.

Futurology, the study of the future, is a science, art and practice which postulates possible futures. It highlights, in the process, the importance of their characterisation as multiples and plural: many possible and alternative futures, not a single, monolithic one. Thus exposing the limits of clairvoyance, of prediction and of combinatorial, probabilistic and statistical calculus, in respect of the possibility to conceive (and actuate) possible and preferable futures.

One of the main assumptions of future studies is that the future is plural, not singular. It consists of alternative futures with varying likelihood. The primary objective of future studies is to identify, map and describe alternative futures, by gathering quantitative and qualitative data and information dealing with the possibility, probability and desirability of change, according to a holistic perspective. Here, the cultural analysis of what are the “preferred” futures among the different possible ones is a fundamental part of the process.

The future of Health?

The future of Health?

Future is the result of a conversation.

In the era of information, of digital networks, of hyper connection and of knowledge, the comprehension of the future changes direction.

It is the era of continuous disruption, in which a constant state of radical innovation bears impacts of incredible energy on all our societies. In which game-changers across business, city governance, energy and politics, are the main actors and beneficiaries of innovation processes.

It is here, in this transitory and nomadic space of change and mutation, that we can imagine to start our conversations about the ways in which to co-create our future, in performative ways.

To do that, we must start from a level comprehension which goes well beyond the understanding of the state of the arts and technologies. We must start from the understanding of the imaginaries, of the rituals and tensions of the contemporary era, including the conflicts and the things which provoke wonder and sense of surreality.

We must understand the “sense of the possible” just as much as the “sense of the desirable”.

unboxing NatNet, a nanotech 3D printer

unboxing NatNet, a nanotech 3D printer

We can merge the comprehension of that which we can imagine as being implemented to the comprehension of that which we desire to be implemented: beyond utopia, past the dualistic dimension of true/false, in the state of floating suspension of the performance through which we will push a bit further both sensibilities (to technology and desire), to enact our own Future.

In this sense (conversational, communicational, polyphonic, emergent, co-authorial) the definition of the Future changes: it becomes design, projection, performance. A performance of knowledge, of ethical and civic auto-determination, actuated through auto-observation and auto-representation, in a whole that is ecosystemic and liquid, and in which dissonance and noise become forms of life, essences through which it is possible to learn thanks to the simultaneous presence of the multiple points of view which are expressed. Here, in this space whose boundaries are fractal and oscillatory, difference rises to become a value of primary importance: it is the source of life itself. (Bio)diversity as a space for opportunity and possibility.

In the creation of this space for possibility, the role of the “impossible” is obviously redefined, and becomes a tool for the polyphonic conversation just as the “possible”, with the same dignity.

Both become tools to push a bit further our perception of the “possible”along axes which are cartesian, diagonal, non-euclidean, chaotic and indeterministic at the same time – to trigger the performance of the Future.

Efesto, the near future of pleasure

Efesto, the near future of pleasure

This is what we have defined as Near Future Design.

A performative dimension in which the observation of the state of the arts and technologies meets anthropological and ethnographical observation.

In which the diasporic and ubiquitous dimensions of our hyper connected reality transform into exceptional instruments for the comprehension of the multiple points of view which are present in the human ecosystem of relations and interactions (and, thus, of communication).

In which multiple sources of knowledge combine traversing disciplines and modalities, disseminated across cities and the spaces of communication and information.

In which we can observe the perception of the “possible” and of the “desirable” to understand: tensions, conflicts, harmonies, dissonances; rituals as they form; tendencies when they are only suggestions; identities when they are only atoms in search of their chemical bond; dis-identities, before they come apart, to then reassemble multiple times into Otherness.

In this scenario, design plays a fundamental role. One of which organisations across business, industry, politics and society are rapidly learning to understand the value.

It is a transformed design, and a design of transformation. In-between product design, communication design, strategic design and design anthropology. Interweaved with Ethnography and Human Geography.

It is Near Future Design, and it is enacted through the practices of Design Fiction.

ATUM is coming: the near future of wearable emotions

ATUM is coming: the near future of wearable emotions


We have formalised a process to perform Near Future Design.

Here are its steps:

  • Define topic areas of interest
    • during each cycle/project we define the topics of areas of interest which form our research domain;
    • these can be contiguous, complementary or contextual, providing continuity, but also the possibility to expand the observation to the indirect aspects of transformation to human societies brought on by our object of research;
    • the output of this stage is a visual representation of the research domain, along with its extended documentation;
  • The Future World Map
    • the map aims to collect information about what is perceived as “possible”, “impossible”, “desired”, “feasible”, “preferred” and “envisioned”;
    • it has two main areas, regarding the state of the arts and technologies, and the anthropological, ethnographic, psychological and emotional analysis of relevant cultures, communities, groups, organisations and individuals;
    • the part of the map that takes into account the state of the arts and technologies mainly deals with technical issues concerning the advancement of technologies, the data and information about the relevant contexts, the description of trends and tendencies;
    • the part of the map that takes into account the anthropological, ethnographic, psychological and emotional analysis deals with the collection of evidence about the ways that human societies shape themselves in the referenced contexts, describing approaches, strategies, tactics, rituals, relationships, networks, emotional expressions, gestures, economies, dynamics, ecosystems and their balances, both in their current state and in their transformation;
    • in all sections, information is provided for the background information, the socio-technical settings, the possible actors and stakeholders, and providing an expanded context for the stories that are about to be told;
    • the output of this stage is a visual map, a report and an extensive knowledge base, which can assume different forms, depending on the context and circumstances;
  • The Story Setup
    • it is the incipit of the story;
    • it describes in general terms the future scenarios which we aim to describe, at the same time limiting the scope to explicitly exclude certain areas which will not be examined, and opening up to the domains which will be part of the research;
    • its output is under the form of a narrative, expressed in visual and textual terms;
  • The Concept(s)
    • each possible future examined is described with conceptual (often abstract or diagrammatic sketches) as well as with a draft narrative which highlights its main modalities and which sets up the development of the actual storytelling;
  • The Story Functions
    • each story is designed according to a formalised schema (usually the three-acts of Setup, Conflict and Resolution), to provide consistent, solid narratives;
    • for each story, the basic story functions are created, highlighting the kernel of each narrative, which describe in growing detail the “stories of the chosen future”;
    • multiple stories can be created for each concept, even following different paths among the identified possibilities;
    • the output of this stage consists of the list of kernel events for each story, as well as a diagrammatic representation of their relations and of the relations running among the different (and alternative) storylines that are being developed;
  • The Event Maps
    • each story is expanded into an Event Map;
    • each Event Map is a diagram in which the main parts of the stories are grouped into circles, starting from the kernel functions (the main phases of each story) as well as some additional events which might be added to balance the story logic;
    • satellite events, alternative paths and time-based items are added to the Map to create context, and to enhance the world-building characteristics of this stage;
    • each story described in this way constitutes a world, giving a full sense of context and of credibility;
    • the output of this stage is constituted by the Event Maps diagrams and by their documentation sets;
  • The Story Maps
    • the Event Maps are transformed into sketches;
    • the representation in sketch form increases granularity and makes them more concrete;
    • this phase allows for some iteration with the previous ones, as its concreteness gives immediate evidence about the balance of the stories and about the necessity to re-factor them at one of the previous stages;
    • the output of this stage is constituted by the sketches and by their documentation;
  • The Design Fictions
    • Simulacra
      • the objective of this phase is to create a simulacrum, a credible, possibly functional, “prototype from the near future” (a pre-totype), through product design and communication design, working across different media;
      • the objective is “world building”, creating not only “the object” (or service, or idea, or …) but also to create the world around it, for its credibility;
      • we answer the questions “What would be the world like, if there was object X? What would be in it? How would people behave?”, and we try to implement as much as we can about the answer using different media;
      • the final result should create a state of “suspended (dis)belief” in which it is impossible (or at least somewhat difficult) to decide if the “object” is real or fake, as there are multiple clues and evidences that point to its existence;
      • the simulacrum (and its state of suspended dis-belief) is the tool which we use to “shift the perception of the possible”, and to start the global dialogue around the possibility of the transformation of human societies, thus triggering the performative dimension of Near Future Design;
    • Transmedia Narratives
      • the output of the Design Fiction phase, thus, is constituted by a set of Transmedia Narratives implementing the simulacrum for the story;
      • the Transmedia Narrative is a multi-modal storytelling technique which is able to move and combine the effects of multiple media, from physical objects, to websites, urban interventions and more.

Note: the process is derived from the work of Storienteering, from which we have captured and modified the approach to story building, and onto which we have integrated our own version of Design Fictions, Transmedia Narratives, the idea and important role of the Simulacra, and, in the setup phases, the anthropological/ethnographical approach in the definition of the Future World Map, which becomes a Near Future World Map.

+MIND at Frontiers of Interacion

+MIND at Frontiers of Interacion

The Near Future Design concepts produced at ISIA Florence, and presented at Frontiers of Interactions 2013


Flickr of the Near Future Lab at ISIA Design Florence



by Francesca Cangioli, Tommaso Cappelletti, Clohé Chat

What happens when you can take a pill that transforms you and your body into the next-generation smartphone?



by Francesca D’Angelo, Elisa Ledda, Veronica Mencacci, Elena Rota

What happens when Finland’s government introduces a nanotech device which you use to monitor your health and a nano-printer which you can use to print out the molecules of your medicines, thus lowering national health’s expenditures by 70%?



by Alessio Belli, Shanshan Liu, Francesco Peri, Stefano Ravelli, Tommaso Tregnaghi

What happens when you can print out a pear, your food, or just about anything using a nanotech 3D printer? What happens when this possibility gives rise to a global, shared, peer-to-peer movement?



by Thomas Aito, Stefano Grazioli, Sebastiano Lucenti, Michele Talozzi

What happens when a nanotech vibrating gel is introduced in the market, revolutionizing the world of pleasure? What happens when this is the product of an OpenScience approach?

Tety artistic director and designer Ernest Guevchenko

Occupy Pleasure on Facebook

Ximeng Xingiu (OP)

Lenina Somav on Facebook

Lenina Somav

Lenina Somav on a public Forum

Some fake Scientific Publications



by Bianca De Magistris, Martina De Natale, Linda Gimignani, Stefano Macaione

What happens when you can wear a nanotech dress which reacts to your emotions? What if the info is published on a social network and shared online?


The list of articles appeared on CheFuturo! about the near future designs:







More Info:

The presentation of all the simulacra at Frontiers of Interactions 2013

The workshop on Near Future Design at Frontiers of Interactions 2013

David Gray meets Near Future Design

Leandro Agro receives some nanotech gifts


Special Thanks

Riccardo Luna and everyone at Che Futuro!, with special care for Alessia Anniballo

Leandro Agrò, Matteo Penzo, Piero Tagliapietra, Marcello Merlo, Serena Montanari and everyone at Frontiers of Interaction for hosting us and taking care of us in such an incredible event

Stefano Maria Bettega, Andrea Spatari, Silvia Masetti, Riccardo Basile, and all of ISIA Design Florence, for being an open, advanced and living place for experimentation and critique, bringing new life to Design

Bruce Sterling, Simone Cicero, Annaluisa Franco, Thingiverse, Matteo Farinella,, 3D Printing Industry,, and all of the other knowing and unknowing accomplices of this operation


Note: We’re setting up a publication that will be available if you want to know more about the project and about our idea of what is (and can be) Near Future Design. Please check back for updates if you want to know more.