This presentation is a quick overview of the results from a workshop about how people move/interact in the city of Torino. It was discussed in a panel with Bruce Sterling and Geoff Manaugh at the "i realize conference".
i move and i interact in torino
nicolas nova | i-realize
torino, june 10, 2009
This presentation describes the result of a workshop I conducted in Torino, Italy in the
context of the i-realize conference organized by Top-ix. Based on a ﬁeld exploration (during
2 hours), we worked on the needs and practices of inhabitants of a Torino suburb, before
discussing the implications of terms of solutions (existing or disruptive).
the future’s already here
One of the thing we noticed is that the future we are presented with in media is already here.
Touch interaction for instance
the future’s already here
just-in time information
But also mobile and context-aware services.
the future’s already here
but it’s broken
did we care about people want/do?
That said, their deployment is often problematic... things get broken and these products are
often given/sold/proposed to people without so much care whether they would really need
back to what people do, which reflects their needs
At the same time, when we look at what people do, their practices, we can... we ﬁnd urban
gardens, natural pockets and chicken, even in the suburbs of Torino!
We even found vineyards!
24/7 access to goods and services
We also noticed 24/7 services such as porn DVD vending machines
People using billboards as walls
Participation in generating or correcting information for transportation systems. Is this the
wisdom of the crowd? perhaps. At the very least, this is bottom-up innovation.
workshop discussions/data analysis
With this material we discuss design problems, principles and trade-offs
trade off #1: design for everyone or iphone owners?
We spent some time talking about whether design should target everyone (public displays so
that everyone could know when the busy will pass by) or speciﬁc individuals (people who
have 3G phones).
trade off #2: general need versus individual desire
It’s important for designers to address needs but what happens when there is a tension
between individual needs (people who desire to have a big car, people who cannot use public
transport and need a car because there is no train in their area) and general need (sustainable
development to save the planet)?
trade-off #3: make the invisible membrane visible?
And also, we talked about the invisibility of all these digital services (wiﬁ, access to bluetooth services,
rﬁd tag services...)? How to make things visible.
principle #1: infrastructures are fine
but people need to be aware of them!
Which lead us to talk about the problems of infrastructures: they do exist BUT people are not
necessarily aware that there is a bike lane 200m from where they are! And it’s the same for
lots of other services (digital or physical).
principle #2: don’t break what works well
We discussed the tension between tabula rasa (starting from scratch) versus integrating
design in the existing elements of the urban fabrice. Urban gardens are important to people,
they should not be removed.
enrich trips, beyond optimization
We were fortunate enough to have transportation design students who drew amazing shapes
but interestingly what these students proposed as far beyond sexy spaceship-like tramways!
One of their message was that an interesting avenue would be to enrich transports
qualitatively: by providing tools to enable people to spend a good time in the buses/metro
(games, discussion boards, etc.).
new informational membrane
Of course we also dealt with how the digital traces we produced through our activity
(movement in space, cell phone usage) could be employed to create new services, such as
Citysense, a mobile application that aims at helping people to ﬁgure out where are city
“hotspots” (by sensing where the most popular places are based on the location information
emitted by cell phones). This kind of application create an information membrane to help
people take decisions.
old tools, still good solutions
However, some people in the workshop raised concerns about the difficulty to put in place
new devices. They proposed the use of watches and rﬁd tags as a way to interact with
physical space in different way, without forcing everyone to buy a fancy-and-expensive 4G
old tools, still great solutions that can be redesigned
I also pointed out how old tools, such as maps, could be reshaped and re-designed in
original ways based on design principles coming straight from digital practices (video-games,
interaction design). This project is called “Here&There” by Jack Schulze, it depicts Manhattan
in an innovative way. As Schuze puts it “The projection begins with a three-dimensional
representation of the immediate environment. Close buildings are represented normally, and
the viewer himself is shown in the third person, exactly where she stands. As the model
bends from sideways to top-down in a smooth join, more distant parts of the city are
revealed in plan view. The projection connects the viewer’s local environment to remote
destinations normally out of sight.”
high-tech products and solution are thrown to people
do they correspond to people’s practices? needs?
should designers/engineers disrupt people’s practices?
should we invent new things or improve existing solutions?