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Yesterday we had a whole brainstorming day.
Numbers: 16 people, 16 design challenges, 16 brainstorms = 4 sessions x 4 brainstorm, 5 people each 1 hour brainstorm.

I participated to Martina’s, David’s and Gizem’s brainstorm (apart of my own).
Was great fun and a lot of inspiration. Here‘s David “how might we”.
Martina’s was “How to make more exciting the cooking process, bringing stereotypes, superstition, jokes in the kitchen object?”. Filo, Dean and I participated to the brainstorm. Three Italians and one american discussing about food.. was awesome! We come up with strange behavioral cooking tools, hyper-technological fridge and table cloth, services and competition for grandmas.
Gizem researched about blind people and her focus was on memory and how we can enhance the sensory experience of remembering. Super interesting as well. Tools to build meaningful material library or to record soundscapes. A lot of TUI and a frame to hang a piece of the wedding dress, as we do for pictures, to remember the texture.

My design challenge, in how-might-we shape:

How might we enable creation/sharing/marketing of fictional or real stories about objects, using locative social networks?


The HOC – Hypermedia Open Center at Politecnico di Milano, is working on interactive storytelling for kids. They are currently collaborating with the Tech Lab, Switzerland. The TEC lab have developed an ad hoc software to enable storytelling. The software is called 1001Stories, is a web-based platform and enables production of little multimedia objects (pictures + text + audio recordings) and output them as a website + ITunes app + CD. The multimedia obj need some redesign, both graphic and interaction wise, here an example in italian.
The interesting bit is that they are actually running successful projects that reached a big audience, apart from using it as a presentation format for their own stuff. PoliCultura is an initiative that had involved many Italian primary and secondary schools using the technology described above. The project have the shape of a contest, the schools submit research around a topic produced with or by the kids, using the 1001Stories tool for organizing the pictures and recordings. I really would like to try it out and see what can be done better. I’m also interested in the idea of using mobile devices as data collectors to bind it back to the city context.

Monday we have to send out a document describing our research and our design challenge. Here’s mine:

How might we enable creation/sharing/marketing of fictional or real stories about objects, using locative social networks?

I want to enable people to tell stories about objects and places, in the city. In this way, I want to enable creation of stories (fictional and real ones), communication/sharing of them and marketing through them. I want to explore the potential of locative media from a storytelling perspective in order to rise awareness about everyday objects life cycle and life span.

Systems like Gowalla, Foursquare and Nokia Vine exploit the GPS embedded in mobile devices and the access of the contact list from Facebook, Gmail, etc to build locative social network and game. Companies are trying to advertise and target the market through those systems.

A storytelling tool around objects can be the way they do that. Using as an entry point the shops themselves, where the objects are sold, you can encourage people to track the story of the object they’re buying. On the other end, the shops can advertise themselves and share the stories around their own shop. Stories can be the center of something in between a marketing campaign and book crossing.
Another possibility is a storytelling tool around the shops themselves. Imagine to have access to the stories of the little Pakistani shop at the corner. From thins angle, the tool can be use for integration and rediscovery of neighborhoods.

On another level, the stories themselves can be either fictional or real: imagination can be the way to explore new possibilities.

Those guys busted my head grounding all the conversation around real business opportunities. No art was discussed. To some extend the conversation diverged from my topic, but on the other end, that was what I was looking for, a fresh sight on the research from a practical point of view.
I introduced the topic, asking the guys to focus on the value of objects, in the sense of the relationship that the consumers have with them. I wanted to explore this relationship and possible way to enhance it in order to increase the time consumers want to keep an electronic object. The first step in the exploration was about focusing on defining properly the object life cycle.
Cecilia added a couple of bricks to my initial schematization:

Go Green!
Factors as transportation, energy and waste should be considered as relevant at each step of the process and became crucial in the design step (as stuff you should consider while designing) and at the buying step (where they can became an added value to the product). I’m sure that “go green” is a chapter inside most of the business strategy plan of big companies. But there are still a lot of problem with green products. Are they actually green? They act as a relief to the climate burden that each of us has to carry, but it is right to be relieved?

Mass customization can be another way to add value to an object. The object become co-designed by the customer itself and in this way a closer relationship might emerge. For reflections about this topic here it is an article I wrote some months ago about Fluid Forms a design studio that is exploring the new possibilities that mass customization offer from a product design perspective.

Thinking about customization for electronic product is not that easy. Customize a circuit in a mass production system is very hard, from a purely technical point of view. But if we think about a circuit as a bottom layer on top of which we have an electronic API then it become possible to think about customizing the interface and the casing of the object itself.
Personalize and customize items are still very expensive, and they are luxury items DNA-wise.

The obvious solutions
There’s an obvious relation between the price, the value and the quality of a product. You can choose to buy a perfect hand shaped dress or an H&M one. The first one will fit you perfectly and will, hopefully, last a long time. The second one will be poorly sewed and maiden, but it’s also so cheap that allow you to buy another one whenever you want. People wants instant satisfaction, and they want it over and over again.
One obvious way to increase the perceived value of an object is rise its price. And another obvious way its to increase his lifespan, that is particularly relevant for technological objects that are normally designed to last a defined amount of time, to increase sells. But short lifespan is not the only reason why we thrash electronics: another big problem is obsolescence. We thrash a tech product when it became obsolete to buy a new fancy one.

Some picture of the dinner:

I found in the blog of 23Company an interesting post about Normann Copenhagen. Here’s the post that catch my attention
Basically Normann Copenhagen has recently received an award for they’re use of social media. Instead of waiting for a top-down social media strategy, they just started try out things, and learn from mistakes.

Behind the “just do it” attitude there’s also a great belief in the fact that social media will bring the company closer to both customers and retailers. That motive has recently led to a videosite where people can get a glimpse of the work in the workshop and meet the designers behind their great products.

This videosite is the one that use 23’s video technology and is basically a collection of insights about the work that designers have done in the workshops. The videos are beautiful to look at. You really feel the hard work that is needed to design an object, and that object in this way, gain real value. They have appeal also from a maker-diy point of view. The idea is simple but is about transparency and authenticity. Normann Copenhagen find a way to deliver those values to their customers.

If you have a couple of minutes, go and have a look how do they have prototyped some beautiful stuff!

This will be the first experiment. I invited for dinner some friends, to talk about my thesis.
The crew:
Cecilia, expert in objects life cycle.
Georg, electrical engineer and musician, working with earing aids.
Lawrence, architect.
Robin, scientific journalist.

I will present my research space and.. prompt a chat with some kind of design game. I will report findings/insights.
I like this format, in between pleasure and work. I hope will be interesting.

Lift ’10 is going on this days and yesterday Ishac suggest me this speech.
The speech is given by one of the founder of Index Venture, Niel Rimer. He talk about his experience as a venture capitalist about what is considered a success product wise and what is not, and what are the possibilities and the challenges today.
He suddenly remind me the importance and the value of being grounded in the reality in order to deliver product and services that have real value for people.

Why do I blog this? I’m going a bit wild in this research and I’m looking a lot into art and critical design. But if I go for that (for art and critical design), I have to decide consciously to do it. I need to keep in mind what I lose and what I gain.

We build up relationship with objects, and those relationships are maiden of stories and people and memories. What if we can track/record/store those stories or reveal them to enhance the value of the object itself?
But, to some extend, this mean a lot of recording and data analysis that require the user to be active in the process. In order to make sense of the data in a meaningful way, there’s a lot of boring job to do.
So what if we can, instead of recording and tracking true stories, invent stories for objects? What value can be brought in the relationship we have with everyday objects in this way?
Imagine a little kid in the street recording imaginary stories for random objects he find around. Would be the kid do it? Would be fun? And if you can retrieve those stories, would you be interested to listen to them?
Inventing stories is a creative act. Can this creative act be used for some sort of therapy for people with mental problems maybe?
What if are elderlies that do that?

I love Illustrator. So, as soon as a first image of a possible solution popped-up in my mind. I drew it. Here you have the “Novel recorder for everyday objects”. That is the English translation for the Italian title you can see in the picture. Basically, you record a story, and a correspondent TUIO tag is printed on stickers paper. So you can stick it on the chosen object and later on retrieve the story with a mobile phone or something.

From time to time I feel the need to put stuff on the wall, in order to being able to look at them from an higher perspective, hoping to find a sense in the mess.
This is the first bunch of picture/thoughs/sketches I hanged up a couple of days ago.
There are some picture, the same you can see in this older post, some fast ideas and of course some post-its, that i love to cut in little pieces.

Brio is a Swedish company that produce carefully crafted wooden toys. I remember, as a kid, playing with their wooden train and wooden rails.. the rails were a modular system of single pieces with simple joints that allows multiple combinations.

And I remember I got also the labyrinth.


Few years ago, Brio come up with a new product, the Brio Network, that is a system of characters and probes that embed RFID technology.
They merge wood craft and technology to design an innovative (and award winning) wooden toy!
Is an nice example of a real-life product.