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HighWire recently held an Ideas Workshop with Alex Deschamps-Sonsino CEO of Tinker London. The workshop was the first of a coming series of workshops related to an emerging HighWire project involving Richard Wood, Graham Dean, Natasha Carolan & Marcia Smith. This project is focused on (broadly speaking) physical computing, interaction design, physicalisation of data and emotive and persuasive design.

The day was pitched as an ideas factory, to encourage idea generation, exploration of the domains of interest and networking between the relevant disciplines. Given our ongoing dedication to playfulness the day was designed to entertain and inspire each participant. With guests including Folly CEO Taylor Nuttall, Imagination Lancaster and the Computing and Management schools in Lancaster we started the day by creating teams through drawing keys out of bowl at random, a starting point which set up a playful and provocative atmosphere.

The first project was a creative process of creating physical avatars with your key ‘partner’. This encouraged participants to get to know each other and induced a few giggles along the way. Following this we introduced the ‘Physicality Project’ and were treated to an inspiring presentation about the work and research of Tinker by Alex.

Next we had a brain storming exercise in which we stormed the domains of ‘Data’ ‘Transformation’ and ‘Physicality’. This resulted in generation of masses of ideas. To explain the terms as we presented them; Transformation is the middlespace, the place between Data and Physicality.  It might be an arduino kit, an API or script. Data as a term is extremely wide and can, for the purposes of this workshop include Data not traditionally considered useful, for example the sound of rainfall. Physicality, as we present it, is about the physical representation of data in a sometimes playful, provocative or emotive manner. Following brainstorming we discussed and evaluated the ideas presented, stickering them ‘Done to death’, ‘Bright & Inspiring’, ‘Count me in’ and ‘Reference’.This allowed a collaborative synthesis of the information, a useful brainstorming and synthesis experience.

Following lunch a competition between groups began, where, inspired by a guiding word “Funny, Touching, Wrong and Fabulous’ the groups competed to develop a concept guided by the word. Half way through the exercise groups were moved to the next word and continued the development of the previous groups concept work.

Ideas that emerged from this included the ‘Anxious house’ which migrates or huddles together with similar anxious houses based on natural language processing of news reports and information made available from open crime data in it’s locality. In response to moral panics, often generated and highly publicised by the media. Anxious houses move to somewhere with a more positive environment, or group together in a protective fold. (Touching)

‘The Organic Network’ a physical social networking system that encourages the networker to maintain relationships with their peers by linking interactions or rather lack of interaction to that of maintaining the life support of plants. Lack of contact with peers results in the death of the plant through dehydration, meaning that peer is lost to you and that you perhaps in future make more effort with your peers. Nodes within networks that are no longer welcome can be ‘squished’ to remove them from the network, and new relationship statuses are indicated by the coupling of two physical nodes. A second level impact of this is that the networkers has a renewed sense of the value of their peers. (Funny)

Further to this was a little pink handbag that dropped e-pheromones as persons navigate tourism trails or urban landscapes. E-pheremones communicate with a dog collar, meaning the dog followed the e-pheremones. Useful for child tracking, tourism and crime tracking. (Fabulous)

Finally was the God Project; involving a magnifing glass (and we still maintain that HighWire is not a Social Engineering forum) enforcing sustainability and positive environmental behaviour by punishing those who engage in negative behaviour, such as littering by frying them with a magnifying glass. (Wrong)

The day was a success for all concerned, resulting in the generation of interesting concepts and a wealth of data of use to the group in the early stages of the project. We will be running further workshops across the summer and if you would like to participate please contact us.

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