Eccentric Interfaces, Environmental Interventions


Design data-driven interfaces for environmental systems and other lifeforms

Workshop Dates: July 25th – 29th, 2016

Keywords: data visualization, speculative interfaces, design for emotion, tactile information, latent data, environmental empathy

How can design shift our perception of natural systems and other lifeforms? How can our technological interfaces be reconceived to accommodate more-than-only human perspectives and agendas? What does eccentric design, that privileges ‘non-human’ perspectives look like?

This workshop focuses on data-driven design interventions and interfaces that address our interconnectedness with environmental systems and other lifeforms, in ways that go beyond divisive political headlines or scientific papers. Practices of data collection and data performance will be considered as being less about sensors, and more about structuring participation and building experiences that foster localized environmental literacy and stewardship.

Participants will be guided and supported to develop concepts and prototypes that probe, magnify, amplify or uncover our environment’s own chatter around us. Open source hardware and software environments will be introduced and works may be realised in a variety of analog and digital media such as analog sketches, simple mechanics and kinetics, code-based digital visualization, or through spatial installation. Through these works we will explore how designers are uniquely positioned to structure engagement with non human systems and lifeforms through heuristics and creative strategies like humor, beauty and surprise.

Examples of environmental data that we will explore are: sound (acoustic ecology), phenology (temporal events), infrastructure/resource use (power, water), climate (temperature, weather conditions), pollutants (air quality, ozone impact).

Examples of contexts for presenting environmental data: personal objects, household objects, outdoor and building-wide installations.

Throughout the week, we will discuss contemporary work and historic precedents in the field, with an emphasis on design process. We will investigate environmental change and dynamism in and around Copenhagen through several field trips to observe local ecosystems and plant and animal communities . We will also conduct short sessions of research, brainstorming and round table discussions conceiving and critiquing prototypes and design interventions. Students will be supported to produce simple prototypes.

We will ground the course in the following foundational questions:

  • What counts as information? Certain modes of information production are valued more than others, how do we weight different sensory experiences and what design opportunities does this present?
  • Computationally mediated interfaces are now celebrated over more analog forms of data presentation. What are the affordances of different modes of presenting data?
  • How can the environmental interfaces we design reflect a more networked and less human centric view of the world?
  • How might interaction design address the impossible problem of representing the agendas, perspectives and experience of other non-human organisms and systems? How can we design with others? With other interests that extend beyond the ‘exclusively human’.

Learning expectations:

  • Learn to program basic communication between sensors, Arduino and Processing, Javascript
  • Learn to program real-time data visualizations using programming environments such as d3.js and p5js
  • Learn how to engage scientific research and concepts through aesthetic and creative strategies
  • Hone ability to communicate visual and physical concepts through quick sketches and low resolutions prototypes

Prerequisites: Basic skills in programming and Arduino will serve students well but are not required.

Annelie Berner (CIID)
Tega Brain (Processing Foundation Fellow)