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RCA Tribes tutorial day

Last year, I took my first, terrifying steps into teaching. Last November I was happily invited back to work with the students on the Design Interactions course at the RCA on another short project.

This time it was all 1st years from the course, and in collaboration with Vodafone, with Ian Curson and others from their User-Experience group helping set the brief and getting involved with workshops set by the students.

The brief was deliberately wide and intended to steer us all from thinking about mobile phones. It was entitled “Tribal Futures”, and asked the group to:

“…focus in on the mundane and the extremes of our behaviour in groups and propose design interventions to support, subvert and celebrate our tribal connections. We encourage you to extrapolate the current trends in mobile, social and other technologies in terms of their failures as well as successes, and examine what technologies intended and unintended consequences might be.”

I quoted Clay Shirky later on in the brief:

“Groups are a run-time effect. You cannot specify in advance what the group will do, and so you can’t substantiate in software everything you expect to have happen”

Clay made time on a trip to London to give a talk to the group and answer their questions, early on in the project. Enormously grateful to him for that!

Clay talking to RCA Design Interactions

It was a short project, just 4 weeks – and the wide brief inspired a wide range of responses, from  Andy Friend’s “Nuisance Machines”: playful devices for creating incidental groups…

…to some that found a theme of flocking and swarming in group dynamics such asHiromi Ozaki’s swarming, archigram-inspired tribal search engine…

And Louise O’Connor’s lovely The Singing Flock which I really hope gets pursued into a larger project.

 

Louise OConnors Singing Flock

 

 

There were projects that encompassed the poetic, the playful and the semi-practical: like Derv Heaney’s “Constructive Hold Space” – part audio-architecture and part social network for those stuck on hold for call centres…

…to the pure poetic-playful –  like Helge Fischer’s Ceremonies for Agnostics

21st Century Festivals

Despite the punishing time-scale of the project, a few of the students managed to get out and do some design research in the field, including Oliver Goodhall’s investigation of Jaywick

…and Alison Thomson’s fantastic Waltz of the Orange Men – she actually got certified as a member of the local council waste disposal crew she spent time with! Dedication!

All of the projects can be found at http://beta.interaction.rca.ac.uk/ft/ and we’ve kept the project blog that the group used for research and work-in-progress live (but with comments closed) at http://beta.interaction.rca.ac.uk/futuretribes/ to show some of the process along the way.

And, talking of which, the Design Interactions course is having it’s annual Work-In-Progress show this week, along with the Animation, Architecture and Industrial Design Engineering courses  (sorry, can’t find a better link), where both the 1st and 2nd years will be showing off their work so far. Looking forward to it.

Now it’s all going to get a bit Kate Winslet.

Many thanks to Anthony Dunne, Onkar Kular, Noam Toran and Nina Pope from Design Interactions for the invitation, the support and the great conversations about the Jason Bourne movies; Ian Curson and his group at Vodafone for all their support, Clay Shirky, Will Davies and Richard Pope for being great speakers to kick-off the project with – and of course, the students for both putting up with me and creating such great work and surprises along the way.

Hopefully I’ll get to do it again…

At the end of last year I had the pleasure of working on a project with the first and second year Design Interaction students at the RCA. It was sponsored by Intel’s People and Practices Group, extending and examining their work on the future of money.

The brief we put together had this question at it’s core:

“As the technology of e-money and currency advances, how will that effect the social and psychological dimensions associated with those technologies? What new behaviours, new dangers, new rituals, and new pleasures could emerge?”

RFID force-feedback transactions from chriswoebken on Vimeo.

It was a great experience, and very satisifying to now see all the finished work up on the web, and looking great. Amazing to see what they did with a very abstract brief, not much time and the handicap of a first-timer as one of the tutors…

Core77’s already written about it, and I’m hoping to see some some of the pieces in the RCA Final Show shortly.

Congratulations to all there on the work so far, and good luck for the final push!

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Went to the as-per-usual-hectic opening last night and was knocked out to see such resolved and beautifully communicated work from everyone on the Design Interactions course.
In the past, the interim show work has struggled to make intangible and challenging concepts engaging – not this time.
Playful, clear and concrete stuff – well done all involved.

Today, Dopplr went v1.0 and open – but while the rest of the gang were over in Paris, I was at the RCA for the final presentations from students on the teaching project I’ve been visiting tutor for.
A very long day, but very exciting to see the fruits of six weeks wrestling with an enormous, wobbly jelly of a brief: the future of money.
I’ve lectured and been a visiting critic at design schools before, and also been industry sponsor for a couple of projects similar to the one we’ve been running (Intel’s People and Practices group were sponsoring this) but this was the first time I’ve really been stuck into a project all the way through.
Totally nerve-wracking, and totally satisfying.

Thanks to Wendy March of Intel, Tony Dunne and my estimable co-tutor Onkar Kular. Special thanks to all the first and second year students on the Design Interactions course for putting up with me.

No permalinks (boo!) at http://www.design-interactions.rca.ac.uk/news.html so here’s the blurb:

“If you are interested in how to explore new roles, contexts and approaches for design in relation to the social, cultural and ethical impact of existing and emerging technologies, please join us for our Open Day on Friday 7 December 2007. Visitors can meet and talk with students in the studio between 2.00 pm and 6.00 pm. Professor Anthony Dunne, Head of Department, will give presentations about the course at 2.00 pm and 4.00 pm.”

Here’s an upcoming.org entry for it if like me you can’t just remember to go to things any more.