Fablab de Waag Society in Amsterdam

Fablabs (fabrication laboratory) are cooperative work spaces where inventors and artists work together using a collective infrastructure. You can find Fablabs all over the world.

Last week I was given an introduction of the machines in our own HvA makerslab. It is great to see what the possibilities are of this work space; 3D printer, laser cutter, body scan, vinyl cutter and more. We used all the machines to find out what the opportunities are for our CMD students. Coincidentally I coach Anne Vlaanderen during her graduation at CMD and she is graduating in cooperation with the Fablab de Waag Society. Together with the two other graduate students I coach, Alexander Eerenberg and Joris Bijsterveld, we visited Anne at the Waag where she gave us a tour. The Waag is a 15th century castle on the Nieuwmarkt 4 in Amsterdam. The building has an amazing atmosphere and the Waag Fablab is located in one of the four towers.

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The Waag in Amsterdam

Anne is the expert when it comes to using the different machines and she has great creative ideas. She is also the initiator of Digituig, an organization that “focuses on the development and implementation of digital creativity in primary and secondary education“. We had an amazing time at the Waag! Who ever wants to work with the machines of a Fablab reserve a machine on their website during one of the open days. Working at a Fablab is free of charge, what you give back is information about your work at the Bablab.

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Fablab The Waag Society in Amsterdam (Anne Vlaanderen in the background)
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Form Research by Karin van den Driesche
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Joris Bijsterveld and the space rocket

Karin van den Driesche


Play the City

Last week I was invited to participate in ‘Play the City‘. ‘Play the City’ is an Amsterdam and Istanbul based city design and research organization founded by Ekim Tan: “Play the City introduces games into city-making. Seeing city games as tools of the new democracy and open citymaking. Play the City has been designing city games for various urban questions internationally.” (source: ‘Play the city’ Facebook)
Together with my colleague Rob Prass I went to Pakhuis de Zwijger, where ‘Play the City’ is located, with no specific expectations. After a very friendly welcome we first had to pick an envelope which contains our budget and some rules, next we had to carefully plan and design our area in the Almere Oosterwold project. My cooperation with Rob worked out very well, at least we thought so :-), and after we had bought and carefully positioned our roads, bridges, buildings and energy resources we evaluated what happened during the game itself.


It was very interesting to see how people worked together, made deals, supported each other, designed creative concepts and so on. However, as in real life, there were also disappointments, distrust and (friendly) break ups. After a passionate review we could only conclude that we all had a great afternoon with unexpected insights and fun! Many thanks to the people of ‘Play the City’ for their guidance and support during the (fantastic designed!) city game and the opportunity to participate!

When you’re interesting in playing the city game don’t hesitate to contact the people of ‘Play the City’. In the video a talk by Ekim Tan on the reason why she founded the ‘Play the City’ game.

Karin van den Driesche

Jannis Kounellis: Gray is the Color of Our Time

In this beautiful video the artist Jannis Kounellis talks about his work, art, humanism, cultures, current time, participation, globalization and more. I love to hear how he talks about the reason why he became an artists instead of a sailor like the rest of his Greek family: “Why does someone become a painter at that moment? I don’t quite remember if it was morning or afternoon. If the sun was shining when an image hits you.”

It is interesting to hear how he views globalization as repeating the same everywhere as opposed to dealing with diversity. Kounellis: “We [artists and designers] should listen and participate without interrupting the relation established by the people with the land.” In this light he prefers Picasso when he compares him with Mondriaan because it is Picasso who let’s himself be influenced by war in his work [literally by painting Guernica] and Mondriaan doesn’t use the bombing of London in his work. Even though I agree with Kouneliss idea of respecting diversity I wonder whether the work of an artist who follows his personal path of investigation, whose work is separated from events in society, participates less in society than an artist who does?

Living in his studio that looked like one of his paintings, Mondriaan wants to reveal what has always been there, what he sees and what others don’t see, a world of perfect balance. As a consequence of this idea a balanced world wouldn’t need art because we would be living in art. In this sense it is not surprising that realism for Mondrian was out of the question because realism for Mondriaan is to fall back on the existing visible world which is in unbalance. However Mondriaan isn’t a pessimist, although he considers art in his time as being in isolation, art will eventually reunite with life.

I can imagine that the work of an artist who responds to events, globally or locally, has an obvious link with society. But the work of Mondriaan, as an investigation on understanding the world, represents his idea that (abstract) art equals living. Finding and visualizing this perfect balance through art would show the structure beneath our world to the world. And although Mondriaan refers to the world as a linear system in his work and not so much to the systems of societies, I think Mondriaans work of perfect balance can be used to show unbalanced processes that are still invisible in society. Mondriaans work is a canvass of life striving for balance which therefore can operate as a reflection on the events occurring in our society and personal lives.

As Picasso painted the result of war in all its immensities, Mondriaan tried to construe the system or rhythm of a balanced world that would overcome an unbalanced life that leads to catastrophic events. The latter takes time to understand, as Mondriaan was well aware of.

Karin – Filterdesign & University of Applied Science Amsterdam

(source: Close up: In het atelier van Mondriaan.)

Participatory Street-up Innovation: Issues

Re-reading my hypothesis on the transformative potential of ‘participatory street-up innovation’ I think a few important anchors in my thought process are missing. First I have to define the term ‘innovative’, if only because  in recent years this term has become a huge hype for several branches, especially in the world of design. My idea of innovative stands for ‘ahead of the times’. In other words people can re-use products in an unobvious and contemplative way.

Second, I talk about issues without addressing how issues come into being. I think that issues mostly stem from the disruption of daily life by events out of our reach (from bad weather to war). Moreover it is in the way how people respond to the disruptive event that will create and define personal and public issues. The latter arises when large groups of people start participating on the issue. This is just a first thought on the question how public issues come into being and not an answer to the question by far.

Third, by focusing on the re-use of products I limit the findings about unobvious and contemplative ways of dealing with material circumstances too much. This is because a product might only function as a tool during the process of creativity when people create things. The re-use of products might be confined to the product itself and will show nothing about the disruptive event, issues and material circumstances I am interested about. That’s why I want to broaden the focus on the re-use of products and the things that people make to material relations and interventions. Unfortunately material relations and interventions constitute a long-term process that in the beginning might be invisible. I hope to find out how to detect the invisible material relations and interventions and subsequently making them visible. I think this would be a role for artists. (more on this later) In this creative process from invisibility to visibility their might be the trans-formative potential in street-up innovation which I wrote about earlier.

So reconsidering the hypothesis on Participatory Street-up Innovation (PSuI) the question I want to investigate is how to detect (and visualize) material relations or interventions and the issues they bring about. This is necessary to discover the ideas stemming from material participation in daily life before, during and after disruptive events. In this way I hope to gain insights on how people deal with the complexity of the world and its issues.

Karin – Filterdesign & University of Applied Science Amsterdam

Participatory Street-up Innovation

This year, what is left of it, my aim will be to take the first step for a long-term project on the transformative potential of ‘participatory street-up innovation’.(Remember ‘Street-Up Innovation’?; the innovative ways people are adapting the use of a product to their needs and way of working.)

I added the term ‘participatory’ to street-up innovation because when people start to share their experiences with products these stories would show (part of) the material circumstances of an individual. Sharing a personal experience will show alternatives to deal with material circumstances. And although the line between a personal issue with products and a public issue may be subjective, when a large enough sector of society is affected by an issue, it becomes a public issue. In this way people could become aware of new material (and social?) circumstances and its alternatives ways of dealing with it. At least that’s my hypothesis on participatory street-up innovation.

There are two elements that fascinate me in the concept of participatory street-up innovation; first whether an individual story, about a personal experience with products in this case, possesses a trans-formative potential from an individual story to the public sphere and second whether an alternative way of dealing with products constitutes a social issue? If a trans-formative potential in street-up innovation, that allows an individual story to become a social issue, exists can artists and designers use this trans-formative potential to co-create long-term, committed work of thought carried out by the public?

Next: What are material circumstances, what is the relation between material circumstances and the use of products and why is dealing with material circumstances important?

Karin – Filterdesign & University of Applied Science Amsterdam

A moral dilemma for design

Yrjö Sotamaa: “Papanek’s Heritage – Design for a Real World”, a seminar at the Aalto University on March 6, 2012: “Designers in Finland felt that is was unethical and immoral to talk about beauty in a world full of inequality and problems.” This moral dilemma stems from the sixties of the last century. World famous Finnish designers were awarded for the beauty of their designs, not because of their social impact.
Does this dilemma still play a role today? I think so, especially the question about design as an elite activity within the social classes of the 21st century. For me, design, the role of designers and design education should be (more) about social impact within a critical attitude towards design itself.
“Considering all the areas which my list touches upon, it might be easy to assume that I feel that all the problems of the world can be solved through design. But in fact, all I am saying is that a great many problems could use the talents of designers. And this will mean a new role for designers, no longer as tools in the hands of industry but as advocates for users.” (Victor Papanek, Design for the real world, 1985)

Karin – Filterdesign & University of Applied Science Amsterdam

Designing Social Innovation by Dr. Ramia Maze

The parts where dr. Ramia Maze discusses life cycle diagrams and future studies I found particularly interesting.

“How are designers working to advance the social good? In particular, how can the field of interaction design address sustainability? This presentation presents a model for an interdisciplinary and international approach to design research based on expert interviews and case studies.” via http://vimeo.com/40550326

[Vimeo http://vimeo.com/40550326%5D

Karin – Filterdesign

Storytelling & Social innovation

Desis Philosophy talk on Storytelling & Social innovation
Can we consider the act of telling stories of social innovation a political action, as it opens up the idea of public realm as a place where decision-making take place? Is storytelling in design for social innovation a poetic action, where the two dimensions of telling and making, as in the Greek idea of poiesis, are finally reconciled? Can we look at telling stories of emerging sustainable behaviours worldwide as a way to manifest what is at the margin of the mainstream of society and help its potentialities to be fully expressed? How can we as designers tell the stories of the margins respecting their complexity without oversimplifying them? During this second session on storytelling following the one held in Dublin past November during the Cumulus conference, we will reflect together on this topic and try to formulate some design guidelines for our design practices.

March 12, 2014, 14.00 -17.30 at Design Academy Eindhoven
Source: http://www.desis-philosophytalks.org

Karin – Filterdesign

Making a difference through design?

Looking for examples of social design I came across several designs for emergency shelters. Ease of use, fast to deliver, locally made, recyclable material, lightweight, these are all requirements for the design of emergency shelters. But the fact that nobody wants to live in an emergency camp is for social design the most important issue to address. Finding your family, feeling secure, safety, being able take care of health issues,  protection against cold, heat, floods, finding food, clean water, communicating with family and friends all over the world, is what comes to my mind as most important issues when on the run for war or natural disasters. However I was never in such a situation. Nevertheless I found examples of emergency shelters which address these social and emotional issues better than current tents used around the world. Problem is that these designs aren’t used. And watching images and films concerning  war situations or natural disasters can make these designs look superficial. Okay you are in a war, you lost your family and you are on the run but you do live in designer tents. Designed in countries where there is a form of peace. Immediately creating a difference between the active helper and the passive victim. But all in all, I believe that taking action for those who (temporarily) are not able to lead their lives as they want to, will bring change. And these small actions don’t exclude the big questions about war and nature.

So what about an activist getting information out using a creative approach, is that a social designer?

Emergency-shelter--Felix-St Emergency shelter by Felix Stark

zipping_1UHHs_1333 topviews_uPccx_1333 LIFElink Emergency Shelter

bedu2 bedu“Bedu” temporary disaster relief by designer Toby McInnes

x2shelter_2_NPa1x_69 x2shelter_1_IzeG6_69 By GEOTECTURA Architectural Studio

Karin van den Driesche- Filterdesign