Poetics and Politics of Data, exhibition at H3K

Note: after some time of relative silence on the blog, we’re happy to say that the design-research project Inhabiting & Interfacing the Cloud(s) will be part of the next exhibition at the Haus für elektronische Künste in Basel (CH), in the form of a counterpoint or “behind the scenes” to the media art exhibition per se. This explains partly that, then…

We had to work hard for the exhibition, especially because I was also in charge of the scenography (a work by fabric | ch in this case though), while Lucien Langton produced almost all the video documentation content.

At the invitation of H3K curator, Sabine Himmelsbach, we’ll therefore present the work that has been realized so far, half-way through our research process.

This will consist for large parts in video documentation and few artifacts, including some new ones (“Tools” oriented). We will use this material later on the I&IC website to fully document the current state of our work. We’ve prepared some “automated documentation” based on our blog. Here’s a sneak peak about the first one about the overall project:


An automated introduction to "Inhabiting & Interfacing the Cloud(s), a design research" from iiclouds.org design research on Vimeo.


The opening of the exhibition Poetics & Politics of Data will  be tomorrow at 7pm, at H3K (Dreispitz neighborhood in Basel), the show will then last until end of August.



Christopher Baker, Hello World! or: How I Learned to Stop Listening and Love the Noise, 2008

Cloud Computing design exhibit in Saint Etienne

The Cité du Design in Saint Etienne (France) had an exhibit about cloud computing few months ago. It was part of an initiative by Orange, the French telco, that asked design students to speculate about “the personal digital space of tomorrow.” The question they addressed are the following:

What new uses? How to organize this space for storing personal data? How to avoid being overwhelmed by all the content that we unwinttingly store in it on a daily basis? How to make the memories that we capture on video and in photos more accessible? How can we easily send all or part of this special prvate space to the people we love? Can we find a new material or emotional value for this data?

Inhabiting and Interfacing the Cloud(s) – Talk & workshop at LIFT 15

Note: Nicolas Nova and I will be present during next Lift Conference in Geneva (Feb. 4-6 2015) for a talk combined with a workshop and a skype session with EPFL (a workshop related with the I&IC research project will be finishing at EPFL –Prof. Dieter Dietz’s ALICE Laboratory at EPFL-ECAL Lab– the day we’ll present in Geneva). All persons who follow the research on this blog and that would be present during Lift 15, please come see us and exchange ideas!


Via the Lift Conference


Inhabiting and Interfacing the Cloud(s)

Curated by Lift
Fri, Feb. 06 2015 – 10:30 to 12:30
Room 7+8 (Level 2)
Architect (EPFL), founding member of fabric | ch and Professor at ECAL
Principal at Near Future Laboratory and Professor at HEAD Geneva

Workshop description : Since the end of the 20th century, we have been seeing the rapid emergence of “Cloud Computing”, a new constructed entity that combines extensively information technologies, massive storage of individual or collective data, distributed computational power, distributed access interfaces, security and functionalism.

In a joint design research that connects the works of interaction designers from ECAL & HEAD with the spatial and territorial approaches of architects from EPFL, we’re interested in exploring the creation of alternatives to the current expression of “Cloud Computing”, particularly in its forms intended for private individuals and end users (“Personal Cloud”). It is to offer a critical appraisal of this “iconic” infrastructure of our modern age and its user interfaces, because to date their implementation has followed a logic chiefly of technical development, governed by the commercial interests of large corporations, and continues to be seen partly as a purely functional,centralized setup. However, the Personal Cloud holds a potential that is largely untapped in terms of design, novel uses and territorial strategies.

The workshop will be an opportunity to discuss these alternatives and work on potential scenarios for the near future. More specifically, we will address the following topics:

  • How to combine the material part with the immaterial, mediatized part? Can we imagine the geographical fragmentation of these setups?
  • Might new interfaces with access to ubiquitous data be envisioned that take nomadic lifestyles into account and let us offer alternatives to approaches based on a “universal” design? Might these interfaces also partake of some kind of repossession of the data by the end users?
  • What setups and new combinations of functions need devising for a partly nomadic lifestyle? Can the Cloud/Data Center itself be mobile?
  • Might symbioses also be developed at the energy and climate levels (e.g. using the need to cool the machines, which themselves produce heat, in order to develop living strategies there)? If so, with what users (humans, animals, plants)?

The joint design research Inhabiting & Interfacing the Cloud(s) is supported by HES-SO, ECAL & HEAD.

Interactivity : The workshop will start with a general introduction about the project, and moves to a discussion of its implications, opportunities and limits. Then a series of activities will enable break-out groups to sketch potential solutions.

I&IC Workshop #3 with Algopop at ECAL: The birth of Botcaves

The Bots are running! The second workshop of I&IC’s research study started yesterday with Matthew’s presentation to the students. A video of the presentation might be included in the post later on, but for now here’s the [pdf]: Botcaves

First prototypes setup by the students include bots playing Minecraft, bots cracking wifi’s, bots triggered by onboard IR Cameras. So far, some groups worked directly with Python scripts deployed via SSH into the Pi’s, others established a client-server connection between their Mac and their Pi by installing Processing on their Raspberry and finally some decided to start by hacking hardware to connect to their bots later.

The research process will be continuously documented during the week.

I&IC Workshop #2 with James Auger at HEAD: Design Implications

Based on the concepts and scenarios produced in our second workshop, we decided to work on the design implications of such projects. More specifically, we realized the set of contexts (religion, music, etc.) the workshop participants worked on share common traits: the needs for a cloud infrastructure was fairly similar and let to the idea of a basic “data unit”. Such a mobile system would act as a mini-data center.


I&IC Workshop #2 with James Auger at HEAD: output > “Cloudified” Scenarios

Note: the post I&IC Workshop #2 with James Auger at HEAD, brief: “Cloudy” presents the objectives and brief for this workshop.


After last week’s workshop at HEAD – Genève, we learnt that addressing Cloud Computing from a design perspective requires to take a detour. Instead of looking at data centers and cloud computing directly, we asked students to choose a domain of everyday life (religion, cooking, communication, etc.) and work on how this technology may influence it, the kinds of practices that may emerge and what kind of implications would surface. The projects reflect this diversity and we also push the student to adopt both a critical and speculative angle. Such requirements mean that the output of the workshop largely consists in a set of short scenarios/usage strategies exemplified by sketches and pictures. Each of them provides a subtle perspective on cloud computing by showing that the limits and the opportunities of these technologies are entangled.


Cloudified Scenarios – a workshop with James Auger at HEAD – Genève on Vimeo.


Two posts have been added later as follow-ups to this one that propose an update to the direct results of the workshop:

- http://www.iiclouds.org/20141112/iic-workshop-2-at-head-design-implications/

- http://www.iiclouds.org/20141112/iic-workshop-2-at-head-ui-proposals/


I&IC Workshop #2 with James Auger at HEAD, brief: “Cloudy”

At HEAD – Genève today, we started the first workshop of the research project with James Auger (from Auger-Loizeau design studio and the Royal College of Arts in London). We’re going to spend this week with the first year students of the Media Design MA exploring cloud computing, personal cloud systems, objects and user interfaces.

In order to address this, the workshop started with a background description of the project’s purposes, the evolution of computers and network infrastructures, as well as an introduction to the current state of design objects and architectures related to cloud Computing: NAS systems, servers combined with heater, speculative projects related to such technologies. From this broad list of material we wondered about the lack of artefacts that go beyond purely functionalists goals. Cloud computing systems, especially in the context of people’s context is generally a commodity… hence a need for design interventions to re-open this black box.

Following Eames’ quote “A plan for arranging elements to accomplish a particular purpose” (as a definition of design), we asked students to start with a basic activity: to create a map of “elements” related to cloud computing. They had to choose a domain of everyday life (cooking, communication, etc.), begin by compiling “their” elements (material scale, cultural, historical, list people’s motivations, objects used to achieve it, situations, behaviors, etc.), sub-themes.

From this we discussed this ecology of elements and what aspects or user contexts they could focus on. Interestingly, students chose very broad topics: religion, communication, cooking, art performances, animal-computer relationships or music-making.   Based on this map, we then asked students to explore the role of cloud computing into these elements by looking at these questions:

  • How elements of the diagram might work with the cloud? How the cloud may influence each of these elements/the relationships between two of these elements?
  • How relationships between the elements on these maps may evolve with cloud computing?
  • What are the new situations/problems that may arise with the cloud? Implications?
  • What kind of objects will be linked to the cloud? Why? (From products to the role of the product and situations that arise)

The (many) answers to these questions led the groups to highlighting design opportunities to be discussed tomorrow.