Category Archives: editorial

Editorial #12: Bodies of interaction


A collaborative project realized by Jan M. Sieber and Ralph Kistler
The documentary film was made by Susann Maria Hempel

In the last decades, since the computers became portable and ubiquitous, the everyday life of people changed drastically. How we communicate and socialize, the way we gather for fun or work, the concepts of entertainments and occupations changed and are still mutating. The continual introduction of innovative interfaces as experiment or as product in the market impact thoughts and actions. The relations between the human and the non-human bodies are in a constant dialogue, re-discussion and contradiction. The facts and actions in the virtual world regulate and organize in a different manner the actions in the physical world. The digital appendices alter the life in the city and its fluxes. The control of the electronic extensions of our body increasingly involve the gestures of the natural body and cause its modification.

The fact is that these digital artifacts influence our behaviors and a critique of the trigger factors must be encouraged and increased. The focus of the 12 issue of Pad journal is on the interactions between digital artifacts and human behaviors. In specific on the relations, influences, modifications between these devices and the human body viewed as physical, virtual and/or social. The body of human relate with and through artifacts in a continuous extension of their potentialities, those abilities, possibilities of action, faculties of actualization[1]. The potentiality of the human-artifacts belongs to the two individuals as well as to their relation. The potentiality of talk to someone farther than our voice can reach, the potentiality of see farther than we otherwise could, the potentiality of recall to memory and so on; as much as the potentiality of functioning in mobility, the potentiality of being carried in a pocket, the potentiality of recognizing human movements. These that we can call technical potentiality can support greater potentiality for human-artifacts activities interfering in the social and cultural context as well as the identity of the now redefined individual. The technological innovations offer a constant expansion of tools to be applied for the creation of these potentialities and the role of the designer is to understand the how of the affection of these new tools on the potentiality of our bodies, being them physical, virtual or social.

The limits of the human physical body are challenged by artifacts and redefined. As an example the race of the Natural User Interface (NUI) or Tangible User Interface (TUI) or as we can say better today the touch and gestures based interfaces, brought great innovation in the daily technologies in the form of smartphones and tablets. Although defined for their use of tactility these interface rely richly on the vision and are in many cases bare of other feedback. The topic of vision-independent technologies is addressed by M. Bengisu “From screen readers to tactons: vision-independent technologies for accessible products”. A path that start from extended accessibility conditions can be proved fruitful in specific context of use (for example complex tasks, or sport activities) as well as in more generics daily applications. The use of auditory and brain interfaces, a technology today in vast growth and daily more accessible, is a step towards the critiques of consumer electronic standards in which the issue is not yet tackled. The negative potentiality of a not-to-see open to the many potentialities of hearing, touching and feeling.

The physical body and the concept of tactons, the tactile icons, meet with the materiality of artifacts that are becoming “active” and “changing”. The research on new materials with dynamic and interactive potentialities is explored by M. Ferrara in her “Smart materials based research for tangible user interfaces”. Smart material interfaces, responsive environment and communicative clothes are the three core topic discussed in the article. The body and its physicality is a crucial perspective on the actual turn in interaction design towards materiality. Materials are getting dynamic, changing, somehow computational, the next interfaces will be physical and tangible in a totally renewed and yet to define way.

The body digitized become virtual and so the space around it. How our surrounding affect us and how can we describe them using the tools of vision of memory, and of digital representation? P. Lee Lucas sets a three perspective picture on describing a place and its alterations in “Sense of place: sense of tele-place?”. In a google-map-mediated-world where a place it is because it can be digitally reached, leaving tracks of its past in the digital world is an increasingly interesting subject that sits next to the digital archives and digital museums and galleries that are populating the Internet. Can our architectural past be digitized? What will survive now the book, the architecture or the digital representation?

The world of past digitized places can be considered a world of abandoned realities that can be inhabited only by ghosts. Virtual ghosts of people that really existed in the place and that now are not there anymore, people that didn’t survive their digital representation, or at least the representation of their spaces. These ghosts of the past can lean next to other digital ghost: the render ghosts. The concept of render ghost presented by Antonio Palacios in “An Ontology of Render Ghosts” is that of people inhabiting render spaces. The render ghosts, defined by James Bridle, are unknowns citizens of places yet to come. In opposition of the ghosts of a past city these are ghost of the future, a future that does not exist other than in the virtual representation. They are potentialities of citizens, users of a digital space that if realized will enable physical people to act inside it replacing the rendered ghost. This short circuit define ghosts from a present registered in the blueprints of a potential future. People will realize their machine dreams, will substitute their avatars, citizens will replace their own props and reiterate their representations. The virtual lose its virtuality or shows its never-virtual-purity mixing with realities of different times.

The body of social interaction is a body that relate itself through and with technologies. The time is in fact the dimension of dynamism that more affect the computational objects and their different realities. The concept of “fourth dimension” is addressed by Chiara Lecce, starting from the work of Lucy Bullivant and her 4dspace, in “The Post-digital era: towards a relational and sustainable approach”. The so called dimension of digital technologies shapes our everyday life through the object we use or as we should say the objects we live with. This population of computational artifacts is growing exponentially in experiments and installations having a wide affection on our visions but still a limited impact on our houses.

For the cover of this issue we present the project “Monkey Business” by Ralph Kistler and Jan M. Sieber. The awarded project is constituted by a toy monkey that reacts to the movement of the person in front of it. The mechanical animal duplicates the human body creating a physical dialogue that start with a greetings and doesn’t finish in a dull imitation. As the designers state “In a subtle way, the monkey asks for another move, you have never ever performed before. Playing the game, you will lose control unconsciously”. The bodies of monkey and human start replicating each other and influencing each other to the point of reaching a seamless interaction and choreographed performance. The bodies becomes one, the machine becomes human and the human becomes a monkey.

The door of contemporary is open to computational things, ghosts and shape-shifters; a world of potentialities is ready and waiting, it’s time to make things that help us to think, it’s time to make things that make us do, it’s time to make things that make us, better.

References

Agamben, G. (1995) Homo sacer: Il potere sovrano e la nuda vita. Torino, Giulio Einaudi.

Bridle, J. (2013, February 27). Balloons and Render Ghosts. Domus. http://www.domusweb.it/en/architecture/2013/02/27/balloons-and-render-ghosts.html [1-12-2014]

Bullivant, L. (2005). Architectural Design, Special Issue 4dspace: Interactive Architecture. Academy Press.

Sieber, JM. and Kristler, R. (2011) Monkey Business in:

Turkle, S. (2011). Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other. New York, Basic Books.

Footnotes    (↵ returns to text)
  1. The concept of potentialities refers to the notion proposed by Giorgio Agamben in Homo Sacer.

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Nefertiti with gas mask, designed by El Zeft, worn by women during a manifestation in Cairo, downtown

Editorial #11

PAD Issue #11 is online. This issue is completely dedicated to the Mediterranean design with interesting contributions coming from different authors living and working in the countries of this part of the world.

Why are we addressing the topic of Mediterranean Emergency and Activism?

Because the critical situation of the Mediterranean area, that in the last years run into an acute condition of emergency due to strong social conflicts and demonstrations of public dissidence against political and social repression, especially in the field of art and design practices.

Lampedusa Island, in the south of Italy, is afflicted by the continuous clandestine disembarking and by serious sea crashes that have caused the death of many immigrants. The Syrian civil war records an increasing number of refugees. To escape the violence, more than two million Syrian refugees [1] have fled their country to neighboring countries as Jordan, Lebanon, or Turkey. Refugees experiencing extremely poor and unsafe life conditions have overpopulated Gaza strip, like other Palestinian territories, for a long time. Meanwhile, protest movements have broken out in different regions, like Arab Spring in Tunisia and Egypt, or the occupy movements and the Gezi protests in Istanbul.

Facing these troubles, expression of long-term unsolved problems, civil society demonstrates its disagreement, during public events and by social media, also creating visual artifacts like Calligrafiti or masks (as shown on our cover), and generally using design practices, going beyond the conventional conception of design as a marketing or styling tool (T. Balcioglu). Furthermore, the advent of ICT has enabled rapid production and widespread distribution possibilities, urging activism and the potentiality of creative dissidence.

This issue starts with an article, as introduction, by Tevfik Balcioglu, a renowned scholar and design historian in Turkey, who proposes an overview of Mediterranean emergency. Tevfik Balcioglu launches DAD! (Design Against Disasters!), asking for a design response in order to find a solution to this humanitarian crisis as well as to give voice to civil society in the Mediterranean area.

In his text, the Italian semiotic scholar Francesco Mangiapane, appeals to a “great conversation”, between all the citizens of the Mediterranean area, founded on different design disciplines that could be able to rebuild a constructive social and cultural collaboration facing the emergencies.

Concerning immigrants stories, the paper by Marta Amorós Torró, PhD of the Universidad de Girona (Spain), brings us back almost a century ago, for a retrospective analysis of emigration, seen in an opposite direction than today, when part of Spanish, Italian and Maltese population moved towards colonial Algeria, with a consequent strong sense of belonging to European-origin communities.

The paper by Raquel Pelta, a Spanish historian from the Barcelona University, analyzes Mediterranean phenomena of activist design. The text describes socio-political activism in Spain since the 60s, and its relation with art and design movements, which came into view particularly in the 90s.

The paper by Andreas Sicklinger and Reham Mohsen, design professors in Cairo, concerns the intensive use of graffiti around the cities of Egypt during the events of the last years of revolution, and analyzes the new use of faces in Graffiti as protesting images. Authors say “This phenomenon has raised through a social and psychological background […] which is referring to a new identity for the Egyptians”.

In this situation of chronic emergency, politically active design could find several solutions for everyday life, in order to decrease emergency seriousness. Marina Parente offers an overview of design research on emergency housing and temporary living, which represents “the intersection of practical needs with the aspiration, sometimes utopian, toward an extreme simplicity in living and an innate desire for freedom and exploration”.

The paper by Maria Antonietta Sbordone and Rosanna Veneziano presents an example of product-service design project for immigrants, for a better access to the healthcare system by peoples in the emergency areas. The text highlights the role of design, which leverages on ICT as a useful tool to improve accessibility, to share data and information, in order to develop an integrated assistance in which the immigrant citizen becomes part of a healthcare system.

And also my article presents a number of projects where the social approach of design emerges transforming power relations into a new social order.

The closing text is the reportage by Ziad Zitoun, which focuses on the “Arab spring” in Tunisia, Lybia and Egypt, shown very powerful examples of visual design. The article, both emotional and personal, illustrates socio-political movements and their relationships with art practices in the Southern Mediterranean coast. In the mean time it describes the roles of network technologies as catalysts of activism phenomena in the public space.

Nowadays, Mediterranean emergency reality represents a primary challenge for designers toward a socio-cultural evolution and an economic renovation of this part of the world.

Cover photo: Nefertiti with gas mask, designed by El Zeft, worn by women during a manifestation in Cairo downtown. Photo by El Zeft (Egypth). The same mask was used during “Egypt : sexual assaults on women must stop” German protest.

Footnotes    (↵ returns to text)
  1. See at: http://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rotte_di_migranti_nel_Mediterraneo 

Editorial #10: From Sicily notes about a changing reality

Number 10 of PAD is a special number. It is devoted to Sicily and, to those who, like us, come from this region of the Mediterranean or have spent there a part of their life; this number represents a moment of retrospective consideration, in the will of opening a “conversation” with the current situation, for a connection between seek of comprehension and real change of the practices.

After 10 numbers, PAD restarts from its origins. Born in Palermo in 2005, thanks to a group of researchers who have been working perpetually for the development of the design culture in Sicily, PAD has achieved an international reputation. It has left its original place in order to enter the web region, popular place that is being colonised by the Southern countries of the world, because of the possibilities of emancipation offered by the net. And nowadays PAD is immersed in a net of contacts that feed its Pages on Arts and Design.

After this premise, let’s go back to the question of this number. What is new in Sicily?

Back to the original places for a recognition of what is the current Sicilian scene of design and art, we cannot but highlight the fact that design, that until a few years ago was exclusively connected to the formation of the young at the Faculty of Architecture of Palermo, is now taking a full-bodied structure with branches in the whole region and several articulations. Industrial design courses are widespread in the Academies, with Palermo and Catania as driving forces, so are workshops, events, professional occasions, enterprises of new typology, whereas ADI Sicily, regional delegation of the Italian Association for the industrial Design, has become the reference point for the actions of design for the producing companies and the young professionals (as you will read in the interview of Alessandra Fazio to Vincenzo Castellana, President ADI Sicily).

There is also a flourishing of social enterprises (as written by Agnese Giglia) connected to creative activities linked to the territory resources, of art centres such as Farm Cultural Park of Favara (visible in Reportage) and Fiumara d’Arte in Tusa and of laboratories of ideas that help provide new ideas to the genius loci of whom Sicily is rich.

And then there is a young generation of artists and designers, born in the South but trained all around the world, that has left their home country in order to be fulfilled. They have learnt to travel, to be contaminated, they have achieved the right thinking necessary to be able to protest, to carry out a “cultural resistance”, thus spreading know-how and a new forma mentis. Willing to give a contribution to the future of their home community on location or at distance, this generation represents a new chance for a Sicily that is widespread, connected and global.
Also through their projects (as you will see in Young Sicilian design), Sicily becomes a place to be traversed and visited: destination for the cultural and enogastronomic tourism or for Pizzo-free tourism, with unique products that come in contact with their own environment, thus seeping authenticity. Moreover, one shouldn’t forget that there is also an image of Sicily that is conveyed by a product that has become global: the series Montalbano that Rai exports with the result that spectators have multiplied their visits to Sicily year after year.

In this overview that this number proposes, by presenting some case history of Sicilian design in order to reach modernity, we wish to prevent from exalting a reality that is still too complicated and contradictory. We will put our expectations into the hands of the young and of the strategic dimension of design within the Sicilian territory.
Design is a generative and epidemic activity.
The cultural tools of design and arts can give a substantial contribution to the creation of an “economy of culture”, the only economy that disposes of endless resources and potential, that can carry out projects for a sustainable and virtuous future.
Cover Photo by Sasha Vinci artist born in Modica in 1980. Today living and working in Scicli.
www.sashavinci.it

“Sicily…is the land where I came back voluntarily some years ago, the place where my instinct tells me to stay and work. Sicily is the centre, and it is like this that we have to imagine it. It is necessary to join forces against any kind of power obstructing the cultural evolution of this incredible territory. A real change can be triggered by the independent realities of art”. (S. V.)

Editorial #09

PAD #9, the first issue in 2013, deals with matter very hot to young designers, researchers and design scholars: the evolution of design-production relationship.

In the digital era, the world travels at a very high, yet sometimes uneven, speed, and finance introduces turbulence shaking markets with unseen violence, while technology offers unbelievable opportunities of communicating and producing. How, in this context, does design practice and its relationship with production change? How does production innovate?

We put these questions to our network of correspondents throughout the Mediterranean world, and they came back proposing interesting cases, each peculiarly meaningful of a changing reality.

Many of them replied: Ely Rozenberg reports about the numerous start-ups phenomenon in Israel; Teresita Scalco about projects presented at the AdHocracy exhibition, recently held within the Istanbul Design Biennial, and their relationship with technologies; Gianni Di Matteo enters the discussion about the ‘adhocracy’ concept and its roots, telling about ‘adhocism’ as ‘the art of improvisation’ and the makers community in Africa, especially in Egypt; Ana Perković reports about design self-production in Croatia.

In the From section we also publish some interesting explorations, like: C. Bissas, V. Asfi and L. Angelou, from Greece, propose the Inaugural Flight of the papairlines sharing platform; the academic research taking place between Turkey and Italy, aimed at contributing to sustainable evolution of the agro-industrial system, which is, as known, one of the most important production systems for the development of the Mediterranean area and the whole world, as per directions of Horizon 2000, the EC tool supporting research and innovation in the 2014-2020 timeframe.

The Close Up sections offers a pragmatic reading of design-industry relationship in Italy, by means of a chronicle and three interviews to as many famous designers working in Italy, in order to understand the meaning of current situation and the re-emerging of self-production (more akin to design in Italian) phenomena.

The Reportage section, besides the usual appointment with Fabio’s eye, places some graphic and photographic readings of current events side by side with topics covered in the issue.

As a due comment, the answer to the questions we asked ourselves about the evolution of the design-production relationship comes mostly from the young design people. I say people because it’s a more and more numerous and global group, giving life to a digital and connected community, sharing tools, rules and values as well, informing social, collaboration and creative practices.

The world of internet and technologies, and their potential, is the preferred place by young people for experimenting, sharing open systems and co-working. This is perhaps such a difficult world to understand, for those who don’t live in it, but it-s the which will give a shape to the near future.

Young designers, self-producers, post-industrial craftsmen, makers, hacktivist, backyard inventors show an attitude to opening and sharing knowledge revealing a significant difference with recent traditions, in contrast to the design-firm world, which generated in Italy from the 80’s, after denying the ’68 ideologies.

Within project practice, young designers don’t restrict their competence to the aesthetical, morphological, typological and functional perspective of products, instead they open themselves to contaminations with different techniques, arts and disciplines. In this way, they carry on spontaneous processes of continuing experimentation rather than wait for the customer. This way if working in nowadays technological scenario stimulates the capability to redefine production strategies, as well as trigger self-organized and interactive processes, where the idea of process itself and the contribution of different skills become a new, flexible content, meeting to the needs of the preferred counterpart: society.

Young designers prove to drive change and innovation in all cases we’ve explored, although not always they are champions of entrepreneurship, enterprise or social-at-large development.Vision and design abilities is not enough anymore, management skills are required. And on this wish goes our greeting for the new year!

Cover photo: Studio mischer’traxler, Gradient Mashrabiya Sideboard. Photo © Fabio Gambina

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Editorial #07

This issue of PAD presents the results of the second edition of the Mediterranean Design prize. The winning and mentioned projects in the various categories are commented by texts written by the authors themselves.

The exhibition of projects and the related conference was organized in 2009 in Istanbul for the first prize edition; this year it was held in Barcelona thanks to the efforts of Anna Calvera, historian and theorist of design as well as jury member of the contest, and Marinella Ferrara, researcher of Politecnico di Milano and coordinator of the Mediterranean Design Contest.

I found interesting that one of Anna Calvera’s articles opens this issue of PAD. With her, Tevfik Balcıoğlu, Dean of the Faculty of Fine Arts and Design in Izmir, Turkey, and also a member of the jury, and Marinella Ferrara, in Barcelona, we have discussed and agreed to submit the results of the third contest, which will be promoted in a few months, in Izmir.

I only add that PAD was inserted in the selection of Design Index that the Permanent Observatory of ADI, Industrial Design Association forms annualy, reporting the best product and design researches. This acknowledgment and appreciation received in recent years, lead us to believe that the time is ripe to rethink and re-launch PAD not only as a magazine but as a shared platform. And we are working on this project.