Design, philosophy art and business

What do arts, design and philosophy have to do with business?

[ this is the english version of our article which appeared on the SIMI Newsletter, in Portuguese. SIMI is Brazil's Open Innovation System]

Let’s start from art.

The arts have a crucial role in society.

They are sensors and suggesters of new imaginaries.

According to Marshall McLuhan, “the artist is the person who invents the means to bridge between biological inheritance and the environments created by technological innovation”.

According to Derrick de Kerckhove, one of McLuhan’s most successful alumni, “few people apart from artists are capable of predicting the present. [...] The role of the artist today, as always, is to recover for the general public the larger context that has been lost by science’s exclusive investigations of text”.

Roy Ascott, one of the world’s best known artists and researchers to have adopted technologies in syncretic ways, describe the role of the artist as the figure which is able to confront with a world which increasingly sees its content and meaning as created out of people’s interaction and negotiation. A world which is unstable, shifting and in flux; which parallels life, not through representation or narrative, but in its processes of emergence, uncertainty and transformation.

Gregory Bateson, the anthropologist, social scientist, semiotician and cyberneticist who helped extend system theory and cybernetics to social and behavioural sciences, and who developed the science of epistemology to bring together the various early forms of systems theory developing in various fields of science, thought that art was the only possible way to satisfy the need of finding solutions through radical changes in our way of thinking, or even to our way of knowing: a new (or ancient) mindset in which conscious purpose would be viewed as only a minor and rather suspect part of mental life.

The job of the artist is to not to praise or condemn technology, but to bridge the gap between technology and psychology.

Arts are about possibility, and opportunity. About sensing the present (the contemporary) and exposing it, in ways that suggest reflection, and the insurgence of imagination. About the opportunity – through artworks and performance – to shift what is perceived as “possible”, as “imaginable”.

And, in this, to promote people’s activation, in a continuous virtuous loop in which, once the boundary between impossible and possible, fake and real, prohibited and allowed is shifted, nothing is the same anymore. Because perception has changed.

Art is also the opportunity to let new imaginaries emerge directly from people.

For example, imagine a writer, in his novel, writing: “I was alone at sea.”

Some readers will imagine a stranded castaway, desperately balancing on a wooden log. Some will imagine a beautiful yacht, and the main character sunbathing on its deck. Some will imagine something else. All of them will produce their own mental model of the scene. For some the main character’s hair will be blond. For some others it will be black.

They will participate in creating the world which the writer is describing. They will become active, engaged by the narrative. They will become performative creators of their own version of the world.

This is a very interesting modality, especially if one is able to “listen” to these different world being built in people’s minds. Comparing them, evaluating them, understanding what is desired, envisioned, preferred.

All this, through art. Art as a sensor and as the enabler of the participatory performance which activates people to (re)imagine their present and, thus, their future.

Design starts from where art left off.

Design is about, literally, designing. Imagining that which is not yet there. Interweaving anthropology, ethnography, economy, engineering, technology, communication to create the future.

The future does not exist. It is a performance. It assumes forms as we build it, as we create it, as we take the next decision.

When a designer begins designing a chair, the chair does not yet exist. Not even the concept exists yet. To create the chair’s concept the designer needs to gain understandings about what people think a chair is, what is it for, how much they are willing to pay for it, what material could it be made of, and so on. Learning not only to give answers, but, most importantly, how to find the really important questions to ask.

The same kind of discourse could be done to design a new product, service or technology.

There is an interesting and valuable short-circuit to be made in this process, when we imagine interweaving the design process to the arts.

The emergence of Near Future Design (NFD).

To all effects, this process has revealed to be very valuable for multiple global companies.

It is safe to say, for example, that planetary relevant enterprises such as Google or Amazon today base their entire medium-term strategy on the idea of Near Future Design.

NFD is an interdisciplinary process which can be described in the following steps:

  • understand the consensus reality and the established narratives;
  • understand the “strange now”;
  • foresee the future possibilities and
  • design for the new normal.

In other words, it is an anthropology-based approach which starts off by observing and gaining understandings about the “consensus reality” and the “established narratives” (that which we all agree upon as possible, feasible, “normal”).

Then moves onto understanding the “strange now”, the composition of the rituals (new meaningful recurring patterns), gestures, practices and processes which are rising in importance, becoming more common, but are not yet generally accepted and understood.

For example a “strange now” of a few years ago was represented by people going to music concerts and video-recording them using their smartphones. It has now turned into a common practice, so much that there are images of numerous people at concerts all holding their smartphones up in the air: even a few years ago it would have been very strange, if not incomprehensible; now it is normal, so much that there are dedicated products and services which leverage this precise gesture and practice. This was a “strange now” just a few years ago.

In turn NFD explores the future opportunities, the state of the arts and technologies, to get a sense of what might be behind the corner, all the technical and technological possibilities which are young or even not yet in the market, and which have potential to becoming more important.

All this is added up in the design for the “new normal”, the “next thing”: the act of uncloaking, of using all this knowledge and understanding which was gained in the previous steps, to extrapolate and highlight current trends to present the sheer breadth, of, often unsettling, future possibilities that lie ahead of us. Using, for example, Superflux‘s wording for it: interrupting the Normality Field, and moving on.

This is exactly what enterprises such as Google or Amazon do, enacting powerful strategic cornerstones through these powerful actions.

For example Google’s Car, Balloon, Genetics projects are simulacra. There is research and experimentation behind it, but the most powerful part of their composition recipe is about NFD: an exploration in the “new normal”, describing “tomorrow’s normality field”.

This has tremendous effects: an organization is able to shift hundreds of millions of people’s perception of “what is possible” and of “what is normal”, and to start millions of conversations about it. The proposed vision obviously adopts a new normalcy field which is in perfect synch with the brand’s values and objectives. In this case: Google Inc. will be able to help mankind to solve some of its most pressing problems with the environment, energy and health, as long as human beings provide as much data about themselves as possible.

Or we can think about Amazon’s “delivery drones” recent example. It was a hoax, a fake: no-one at Amazon is currently working on delivery drones. But the “perception of the possible” has shifted for millions of people, and the discussion has started: people have joined into a global performance in which they are expressing their desired, preferred future of delivery services.

These and other examples, some of which are of the highest possible caliber, make this disruption clear.

It is an inversion of cause and effect. The effect comes before the cause. Causing people to take action and starting global conversations about their desired, preferred futures. And designers and entrepreneurs ready to listen to these expressions to, finally, design the causes.

It is the performance of the future: it is Near Future Design.

It is enacted through Transmedia Storytelling, through the creation of entire worlds, of simulacra (according to Baudrillard‘s definition) in which a suspension forms, on the possibility to discern what is “real” from what is “false”.

For what people know, Google Car’s project could even not exist at all: for all practical reasons it could be completely forged through computer graphics and condescending testimonies, to transform the sense of possible and to start the global conversation, to understand people’s desired and preferred futures, and to activate them. Of course we know that Google Cars exist, but to all practical purposes, they might as well not.

This modality is bringing enormous disruptions across sectors and domains.

For example in Energy.

More traditional Energy companies, like Chevron, Shell and the like, are suffering a forced transformation. Their most aggressive competitors are not other traditional energy companies. Not anymore. For example it is interesting to assume that Chevron’s biggest competitor today would not be British Petroleum, or PetroBras, but Google. Because Google, through perfectly executed Near Future Design has shifted the way in which hundreds of millions of people perceive an Energy Company to be. It has changed the rules of the game. It has transformed the “Energy Company” from a company which produces and distributes energy, to a company which deals with information which is used to coordinate and systematize the actions people who produce their own.

And this is just one of the examples.

We can now go back to the beginning, to the role of the arts: sensors of contemporary society and shifters of the “perception of the possible”, by creating worlds – transmedia narratives – which engage people in activating themselves into a global conversation about their desired, preferred future.

There is a lot of art – of poetics – in everything that we have discussed so far.

It is about opportunity through anthropological performance, through co-creating our futures, the “new normal”.

It is Near Future Design.

Open Innovation Week Brazil: Near Future Design and the Unknown Challenges of Innovation

Art is Open Source will be at the Open Innovation Week in Brazil for a workshop and a seminar about Near Future Design, and to speak about how to confront with unknown challenges in Innovation, for a more participatory, performative vision of the future, and about how the arts and design can collaborate with sciences to imagine, design and enact positive, sustainable futures.

Here is the link to the Open Innovation Week in S. Paulo, Brazil: http://www.openinnovationweek.com.br/

Our workshop on Near Future Design will be held on November 26th and will deal with the challenges which come by trying to engage society into searching and finding the forms and processes which will shape their (near) future.

This kind of activity bears a lot of potential for all types of subjects involved.

For governments and administrations, who can facilitate the emergence of such processes, and use them to activate citizens and operators to create positive, constructive futures in collaborative ways, and to observe and model the ways in which societies change in the process, to highlight anything from trends to people’s desires and expectations, to design new policies and best practices.

For operators – such as companies, foundations and associations – to engage citizens into designing their preferred, desired futures, through expression and communication, being able to invent new business models, new opportunities, new policies.

For citizens, to be able to push forward their perception of what is “possible”, to collaboratively search and find their preferred futures, and to enact them, with the collaboration of the whole society, including governments and organizations.

The most important product any company and organization can sell today is their vision on the future. In this scenario the ability to open up to a global conversation which confronts this vision to ethical, environmental, societal and political issues is a fundamental asset, as is the capacity to capture the results of these dialogues, and to integrate them into the vision itself.

This is the era of continuous disruption, in which game-changers – the organizations who are able to radically change the rules of business, governance, design and politics, and to re-frame problems and issues in new, unexpected ways – are the main actors and beneficiaries of innovation processes.

Through an intense, participatory set of activities we will try to give answers to questions such as:

  • What is Near-future design?
  • How is it different from Strategic Design?
  • What is a pre-totype and how does it compare to a prototype?
  • How can we use the methodologies of Anthropology and Ethnography to observe and sense the transformation of societies?
  • What are the Unknown Challenges, the ones which have been not yet identified bu operators and key players, but emerge from Anthropological observation and creativity?
  • How can we use these insights to create near-future designs (pre-totypes) which are able to disrupt markets, establish a global conversation involving key players, all while communicating the organization’s vision for the future and opening it up to a co-creative approach which will also benefit from the global discussion?
  • What are Transmedia Narratives and how can we use them to make all of this happen?

Additionally, during the Open Innovation Seminar, on November 25th, we will:

  • give a keynote speech about the idea of Unknown Challenges, according to which we will introduce the opportunities offered by forms of Ubiquitous Anthropology to discover unexpected, unforeseen challenges that constitute the cultural, performative, emergent creation of the communities and societies, and which are described by their own expression and communication, in emergent, polyphonic ways;
  • in the panel focusing on New Approaches for Innovation, we will present our work which interweaves arts, technology, design and sciences to form intersections in which new models can emerge by working along the dimensions of desire, imagination and the perception of the (im)possible.

We’ll be there with our Eisenhower Fellow Bruno Rondani, and Wenovate, the Open Innovation Center.

This is the Facebook Page for the Open Innovation Week in Brazil.

Open Innovation Week Brazil on Facebook

Open Innovation Week Brazil on Facebook

La Cura, an Open Source Cure for Cancer, at TEDMED

From La Cura

“We can transform the meaning of the word cure. We can transform the role of knowledge. We can be human.”

Salvatore will be at TEDMed 2013 to tell the story of “La Cura”, a global art performance about the opportunity to transform our societies to become more active, aware, caring human beings by reclaiming information and knowledge, and by feeling the desire to be part of a society whose well-being truly depends on the well-being of all of its members.

La Cura

La Cura

La Cura started when Salvatore was diagnosed with cancer on September 2012. After that none of our lives have been the same: something incredible had happened.

Salvatore was not really satisfied with medicine’s approach to his illness.

As he said many times: “I felt as if I disappeared”.

Doctors are, obviously, the “good guys”: they are people who save lives every day, and who put professionality, intelligence, creativity, passion and dedication in what they do.

Yet human beings who are diagnosed with serious illnesses such as cancer often become part of a process which is too industrial. Medicine too often talks about them, not to them. The language doctors speak is not intended for patients, nor is the information that is generated during the illness. Images, exams results, lab values, are all things that do not speak to diseased person, who literally has to become a patient: to wait for something/someone to do something.

And this is only the tip of an iceberg whose essence is about the complexity of being human and part of a society.

Even the enormous advancements of medicine and its practices haven’t been able to address this complexity. People who are diagnosed with grave diseases disappear, replaced by the disease itself.

They become part of an industrial process (or neo-industrial, or post-industrial or crowd-industrial, in these times of digital change) which reduces human life to a set of protocols, procedures and to a series of services to access to benefit from things that feel like a vacuum in more than one way: the disease becomes the focus of one’s life (and of his friends and relatives), leaving out fundamental unanswered questions about the person’s life, sociality, emotions, knowledge and freedom to express, decide and be active in informed, positive ways.

La Cura is about this: is about avoiding loosing this fundamental perception of this complexity, and about the fundamental need to avoid reducing human life to the simplicity of a set of protocols, procedures and services.

It is a story which has deeply touched all of us, in exciting, emotional, sometimes dangerous, but always overwhelmingly insightful ways:

  • it is the story of human participation to the disease of a fellow human being;
  • it is the story of freedom of expression and decision;
  • it is the story of the desire for knowledge, understanding and comprehension of the human condition in all its complexity, and from a variety of points of view;
  • it is the story of the possibility for human collaboration across cultures, disciplines, times and places of the world, without prejudice and in the explicit will to make sense of things through active participation and with responsibility;
  • it is the story of the dangers and the responsibilities that come with the desire for freedom, and about the necessity of the help of the whole of society to be able to bear them, and to make sense and extract meaning out of them.

And, most of all, it is the story of the will and desire to live a free, informed, active, positive life, and of the need to feel part of a positive human society to fully achieve it.

It is an Open Source Cure for us all.

AOS at “HYBRID CITY II: Subtle rEvolutions” with “Real Time Dissent in the City”

We will be at

The HYBRID CITY II: Subtle rEvolutions
Conference, workshops, exhibition and parallel events
23-25 May 2013
National and Kapodistrian University of Athens

with our contributions:

  • Real-time dissent in the city: tools and tactics for contemporary disseminated, dispersed, recombinant movements

    • Abstract –  During years 2011 and 2012 we have created a series of open software platforms which are able to analyse in real-time the content which is produced by users of social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Flickr and Google+, by combining data-harvesting technologies, natural language analysis and geo-location. We have used these technologies in different ways with the objective of trying to understand the various forms in which dissent manifests itself in the scenario of contemporary urban areas, characterized by the progressive availability of accessible ubiquitous technologies such as smartphones and network-enabled devices.

 

  • Re-thinking public space and citizenship through ubiquitous publishing and technologies. The experience of Ubiquitous Pompeii for the Italian Digital Agenda.
    • Abstract – In this paper, we describe the first instances of a family of projects with similar characteristics. Through these projects, we aim to establish contact with urban communities to a) suggest visions for possible forms of city innovation and to b) start co-creative processes for imagining, designing and enacting transformative processes. These co-creative processes involve technologies and innovative methodologies which are able to create knowledge, participation, sustainable and inclusive business models. One of these projects is the Ubiquitous Pompeii where our research and design team developed a city wide process in the city of Pompei in Italy. Ubiquitous Pompeii started by engaging high school students with a series of workshops structured in two phases: a) students’ awareness about the scenarios and opportunities offered by ubiquitous technologies; and b) the acquisition of the skills used to appropriate the technologies and methodologies and to embrace participatory design processes. Students were able to design and develop their visions for the development of their city and its communities, creating services and digital tools. Peer-to-peer learning and collaboration practices played a crucial role. Tools, methodologies and roles have been designed and developed to support the emergence of practices engaging all agencies into a networked process for the creation of the digital future of the city. Institutions and operators play the role of facilitators in what basically is becoming a citywide co- creative process. Along these lines, we have structured a transdisciplinary methodology and a technological toolkit dedicated to cities and urban communities including collaborative ethnography to observe the various stages and processes of the project and discuss its meta-stories with the different actors. The project has been declared as an official best practice for Italy’s Digital Agenda, and as such will be scaled to other cities in the near future, also envisioning wider knowledge sharing and collaboration tools which will be able to interconnect the different communities.
The HYBRID CITY II: Subtle rEvolutions

The HYBRID CITY II: Subtle rEvolutions

Eisenhower Fellowships: a journey through the changing scenarios of leadership, innovation and creativity

Salvatore Iaconesi will be on his Eisenhower Fellowship to explore the changing scenarios of leadership in the US, and to understand the opportunities for collaboration and exchange among the arts, sciences, humanities, businesses and public policies.

Eisenhower Fellowships

“identifies, empowers and links outstanding leaders from around the world, helping them to achieve consequential outcomes across sectors and borders. EF provides a transformational experience leading to lifetime engagement in a global network, where dialogue and collaboration make the world more prosperous, just and peaceful.”

Art is Open Source, through Salvatore Iaconesi, will be on the fellowship to explore various types of scenarios.

As we know, everything around us is changing at incredible speed.

The ways in which we learn, express, collaborate, work, consume, relate, exchange information, knowledge and wisdom are very different from they were even a few years ago.

Touched by the impact of digital cultures, the world has mutated and continues in this transformation.

This has extreme, radical impacts on human societies and on the ways in which we can imagine shaping our public policies: our perception of private and public spaces has changed, just as much as what we perceive to be legal/illegal, possible/impossible, suggested/forbidden. Just as our visions, imaginaries, opportunities.

We are in a situation in which giving answers has become not only very difficult, but also not very interesting. What is interesting, today, is to understand what the fundamental questions are, and to create open spaces for discussion, and for their continuous, iterative, participative assessment.

Many signals exist around us that can help to observe – just like anthropologists, ethnographers and cultural geographers – the ways in which things are changing in human societies. These signals can be collected in large quantities and observed according to a series of different approaches: for business, science, art, research, culture, commerce, policies…

We can also imagine collecting these signals to enact some form of forecast.

Possibly the most interesting thing which we can do is to take these signals into account to observe our present and what it says about our near-future, to see which new daily rituals they describe, new ways of doing things, new habits, new things that we have learned to give for granted, or that we have forgotten about.

And to use these observations to create things, be them objects, products, services, processes: real ones, possibly under the form of live prototypes that can be used to inspire further, materialized observations about our near-future.

Some call if Design Fiction, some call it near-future design: what is certain is that it is a practice that needs the contribution of the artist just as the ones of the scientist; of the engineer and the poet; of the businessman and the designer; of the anthropologist and the architect; of the technologist and the politician. In a joint effort to understand, create and leverage the layers of meaning emerging from our human societies.

This is what we will do during this Eisenhower Fellowship, collecting the experiences of leaders throughout the USA, suggesting change and creating the opportunities for exchange and collaboration for a better understanding of our present and of what will come up next.

Eisenhower Fellowships

Eisenhower Fellowships