Doors of perception 8

INFRA; platforms for social innovation, and how to design them

21 Mar 2005
26 Mar 2005

What infrastructures are needed to enable bottom-up, edge-in social innovation - and how do we design them? These are the two main questions for the participants of doors8, who can immerse themselves in project clinics, a bazaar, plenary presentations and an exhibit of 100 years of media artefacts from India.

Now that 'tech' has ceased to be a driver of innovation on its own, some advanced companies are using ethnography in an effort to make their innovation processes more people-centered. Designers from Motorola, Intel, HP and Nokia will explain at Doors 8 how they use social research in the design of services and devices. In discussion we'll ask, how meaningful is the ethnographic knowledge they're using? How does this approach to innovation compare to the kinds of bottom-up creativity found on the street?

The difference between social services provided by the state, and services enabled by the state but implemented by citizens, is pertinent in disaster relief. We will also explore the transition to what Ezio Manzini calls 'enabling services' in the context of health systems in the North. Hilary Cottam and Robin Murray will describe their "Touching The State" work in the UK. We will also see the results of a project commissioned by Hugo Manassei at Nesta, and the National Health Service, in which young service designers explore new ways to support "journeys of care".

Sixty percent of the work done in the world is "non-market". Among the enabling infrastructures now emerging are Local Economy Trading Schemes (LETS), alternative currencies, and so-called open money systems. Most of these local schemes are manually administered. But service designers Live|Work will bring us news of web- and wireless-enabled non-market infrastructures for sharing knowledge, tools, space, time and other resources. Sunil Abraham will describe Indian barter systems as benchmarks for these new service concepts. And Margit Kennedy will explain how complementary currencies influence traditional ones.

What does it mean in practice to design a platform for social innovation? To find out, we have scheduled two days of Doors 8 for Project Clinics. In these clinics, experts gathered together for Doors will evaluate real world projects and help their teams refocus them in light of the lessons learned in the conference. By way of introduction Tilly Blyth, the new curator of computing at London's Science Museum, will put this question into historical context. Jan Chipchase, who uses live video as a medium for street-level innovation in Tokyo, will demo this technique.

Someone, somewhere, has probably designed some of the services or situations that we will need in a sustainable society - so why repeat things? Novel ways to share food, move around, or care for each other, often already exist. But a lot of social innovation is not picked up on the radar screens watched by service designers in the North. And when need arises - such as with the tsunami - the North is often ignorant of what people affected actually need. So they do things with the best of intentions like drop the wrong kind of food. The question arises: can websites and wikis help us learn about, and share, living contextual knowledge? Jimmy Wales from Wikipedia and Alex Steffen from Worldchanging will discuss this with grassroots innovators.