Things That Talk

Pre- Diploma Program by Knut Karlsen November 2008
Subject to change until january 16th

The diploma will research and explore design opportunities related to energy awareness in the context of the family home. Concepts related to local production and conservation of energy will be investigated.

Energy, Distributed Energy Production/Conservation, Use Qualities, Home, Family, Everyday Life, Physical Computing, Mobile Technology, Communication, Design Research, Lightness.

The modern world as of today consumes resources at a pace not sustainable in the future. “Earth 3.0” has been launched as a term for a situation where we keep the prosperity of the industrial revolution (Earth 2.0, i.e. today) and return to a sustainability of the earth before modern times (Earth 1.0) (Rennie, 2008). By using design methodologies and looking into our closest environment, the home and family, I will try to find and create opportunities that can impact behavior concerning energy use without moralizing and restrict our prosperity, but by trying to move forward on constructive and engaging path.

Distributed Energy Production/Conservation
The reasoning for covering my bases with production/conservation is that I see those topics as being closely related. The project might address just production or conservation, but a combination would also be valid to explore.
Energy production and use is a source for global attention. Today most of the energy is produced in centralized power plants and used by all sorts of end users with various consciousnesses concerning the energy consumption. Current initiatives for energy made from renewable sources have introduced the possibility to produce your own power in a decentralized way. What design opportunities lies in promoting a decentralized way of thinking about energy?

“Things That Talk” was originally intended as a title for a series of toys that communicate. During the development of the project the title has come to have both literal as well as a more profound meaning in that objects and systems could impact our daily life if they could talk to us about their daily life and environment. This is one of the central things I will research and conceptualize during the diploma. These artifacts will embody means of communication with the surrounding environment and the people within.

By using the family, the standard western family of parents with kids, as the base context for my development I have a familiar situation that lots of people can relate to. This will help the task in that its presentation will reach more people outside of the design community. The family as an institution has a wide set of connections with its surroundings. This will open a range of possible design opportunities.

Physical Computing
Based on earlier projects where I have gained some technical insight I would like to enable the practical exploration with actual functions using knowledge from Physical Computing. PhysCom is a term used to describe the use of readily available hardware and software that enables designers to design and prototype concepts incorporating sensors, circuits and outputs that interact with a dynamic world. Using physical and working prototypes in various parts of the design process can give a more realistic insight into the actual situation. The disadvantage is that making hardware/software is time consuming and can limit the designers’ creative freedom.

I enjoy research into technical fields that have potential untapped insights. Hopefully those insights can be converted to useful concepts that enable more transparent and approachable interfaces between man and technology. This involves writing as a tool to get a fundamental understanding of the area, but also practical design tasks incorporating aesthetics and designing experiences as well as developing concepts and products. Moving a foggy concept into a readily understandable and useful artefact is an interesting design challenge.

The Diploma will aim to bring forward concepts that will challenge existing preconceptions of current energy production/conservation and give insights into where this will go in the near future. What it not will do is to deliver a readymade product or service at a level where it can be industrialized.

I will deliver documentation of the research, exploration and evaluation of the work done throughout the semester. During the exploration phase I will develop one or more conceptual artefacts digital or physical that can be used as an experience prototype or demon- strator that can be used in evaluation and exhibitions.

• A paper based on the research and current status of the project is to be presented for the Nordic Design Research conference 2009 which accepts a 4 page exploratory paper at February 1st 2009.
• A workshop is planned in the initial concept phase (mid January).
• By experience the material posted on the blog is not usually suitable for direct conversion into a paper, but for my own oversight and having a public window on the project I will maintain the blog during the process.
• The schedule, by experience, will be adjusted and detailed during the project. 

Preliminary bibliography
Bell, G., & Dorish, P. (2006). Yesterday's tomorrows: notes on ubiquitous computing's dominant vision. London: Springer-Verlag London Limited.
Bonsiepe, G. (1995). The Chain of Innovation - Science, Technology, Design. Design Issues , 33-36.
Diamon, J. (2005). Collapse. London: Penguin Books.
Igoe, T. (2008). Making Things Talk. I T. Igoe, Making Things Talk.
Löwgren, J., & Stolterman, E. (2004). Thoughtful Interaction Design. I J. Löwgren, & E. Stolterman, Thoughtful Interaction Design (ss. 108-112). Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Rennie, J. (2008). Editor's letter. Scientific American , 2.
Thackara, J. (2005). In the bubble. Cambridge: MIT Press.
Webb, M. (2006, October 21). 3C Products. Hentet February 1, 2008 fra Schulze & Webb:


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