PROTOtyping 2010 Day 1

PROTOtyping 2010 is a symposium centered on the roles of craft in prototyping and of prototyping in craft. It has been arranged by the Victoria & Albert Museum and the Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design in conjunction with the inaugural Craft Festival of Scotland. The symposium brought together 16 diverse speakers from different industries to discuss the role of prototyping in their practice.

The conference attendees are a varied bunch that represent the cores of a long list of industries and fields including: space architecture, jewelery, history, business, gaming, consulting, blogging, media, arts, design, and so forth. It seems like no two attendees come from the same background. In fact the diverse mix of speakers and attendees makes for a truly eye opening and innovative experience.

First let me introduce you to Dr Louise Valentine,  she is the principle researcher and lead coordinator for the Past Present Future Craft project . She has set the theme and tone of the conference. The attendees are comfortable and relaxed. Everyone is intellectually stimulated, motivated, and very well fed. The caterer’s are fulfilling every growling stomachs wishes. Who knew listening and concentration created such hunger? Coffee and tea keep the lecture theater of creative people awake and kicking at least until the discussions at the end of sets of speakers. During the discussions, moderated by  people of various moderating skill levels, the audience sometimes get the chance to chime in and ask the burning questions.

Our opening speaker for the day is Constance Adams, from Synthesis International. She is dynamic and energetic and her tone is very matter of fact, at times comedic. I love her Americanness, bold and open, and it makes me a tad homesick. Her discussion of the Techne and Logos at the Edge of Space centers on her experiences designing environments for space. She leads the audience through the variety of design concerns and parameters that face a space architect (seriously cool job title).  I was really appreciating learning about the plethora of considerations in designing space environments and the layers of complexity that over lay her work on getting man to Mars. Others in the audience only visibly perked up their ears when she unveiled a woven tapestry that would line the space capsules (which are in NASA tradition only decorated in white, nay, and beige)  with GASP! patterns on it. This small bit of ornament being designed into a NASA space environment could not be taken at face value. Her structuring of an argument for NASA to accept the pattern quickly became the focal point of the tail end of her discussion. The pattern would indicate which way is up, which by the way is the major takeaway from Constance’s talk. Which way is up, something us gravity bound earthlings take for granted, is a crucial and major paradigm shift that Constance must consider in every design decision.

Leonardo Bonnani from the  MIT Media Lab spoke next focusing on The Tools and Tool-Makers of the Bazaar: New
Paradigms in Computer-Aided Craft,
which means he takes us on a journey through the world of open source and more. Leonardo had a spectacular line in his talk. He really hit my heart strings when he poignantly posed the question, “What artifacts should we make?” Check out his illusion shattering work at, his project illustrating what things are made of and where it comes from or  “a platform for researching, optimizing and sharing supply chains.” – from the Sourcemap website

Hazel White, from  University of Dundee led us through the projected she crafted while artist in residence in the Shetland Islands. She along with the programming skills of Paul McKinnon put together the Hamefarers Kist, which is an interactive multimedia memory chest.   Check out the video of her son explaining it to an intended user of the Kist.

The first three speakers then came down for a discussion chaired by Dee Cooper, Product and Service
Director from Virgin Atlantic Airways. These discussions after sets of three speakers provide the attendees to satisfy their own personal curiousities by opening the floor up to an open discussion. This in fact facilitated nice exchanges between the other speakers in the audience, the audience, and the speakers sitting in front of the lecture theater.

In his own words, the ‘lucky first-speaker-after-lunch’ spot was awarded to Michael Schrage, from the illustrious halls of  MIT originally from Chicago’s Hyde Park. I was quite interested to hear his talk, after all his book is called ‘Serious Play,’ which sounds like something a business games craftswoman such as I would like. He is a behavioral economist by training and I thought it would be mighty interesting to see him speaking to this audience filled with the design intelligentsia. His talk was quietly titled Crafting Interactions: The Purpose(s) of ‘Serious Play.’ His brashness won over the audience and his talk was received. Well after all he was preaching to the choir, when he insisted that businesses must play (prototype?) in order to innovate and that in the long run not playing can be detrimental to an organization’s competitiveness.

Next on the program was  naptime, because the next speaker (Catharine Rossi, RCA/V&A Museum) bored  most of the audience to tears. Her prerecorded script lauding the revolution in the world caused by the Italian design collective Memphis did catch the attention of one Mr. Carr in the audience who insisted that the focal designer of her talk ‘never considered the pieces referenced prototypes at all!’ Poor Catherine!

Dr Elizabeth Sanders from The Ohio State University and maker of Maketools rescued the afternoon with her frank and concrete talk about Prototyping for the Design Spaces of the Future. Her presentation was so beautiful. It was so simple and direct, but she never meandered or wandered. Her talk went through how the co-creation process can and should be used at a variety of points in the design process and not only in the tail of development. Later on she gave us wonderful advice about our current projects and different suggestions about how we could incorporate co-creation into this summer’s masters project. Her genuineness and kindness didn’t stop there, she even left us with a same of the materials she uses in her make kits, so we could recreate them. A new role model was born for me.

To provide a sharp contrast to Liz Sanders, Alex Murray-Lesley from Chicks on Speed spoke about Guitar High Heel Shoe Prototyping. Followed by a discussion lead by Chris van der Kuyl, the CEO of Brightsolid Ltd and one of Dundee’s local heros.

Whew! What a jam packed mind stretching day! Can’t wait for tomorrow!

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