I was glad to attend an inaugural session of the Bliksem en Donderdag (literally Lightning and Thursday), almost a year ago. Back then it was an experimental gathering, called by Koen Snoeckx from the Baltan Labs. By its fifth edition, it already looks like an established platform that brings together young innovators and all sorts of ‘helping hands’.
The format of the gathering was more or less the same, a chain of micro-presentations followed by feedback from the audience (some fifty people gathered in Kazerne this time.) However, I sense a more balanced collection of the pitches, ranging from more mature and technology-oriented, to more societal and cultural initiatives.
Mohamed Emam has presented Viditory, a concept of small ‘glasses’ that could help blind people to read – and to do many other things. It all sounded great (though some people immediately asked why it should be glasses, then? A very demanding space for design).
Because of our earlier work with Kanthari, we at Summ()n are always taking interest in new technologies for blind (vision-impaired) people. This project looked liked like one of those, yet I had a feeling that it is over-designed and too gross for a team of two. I sense an impact of all these ‘startup supporters’ who force young teams to present their ideas in too bombastic manner, in the hope that it would impress their investors more.
The next pitch, by Floriane Misslin, was an almost exact opposite. Her project started as a design research exercise, into a visual/semiotic analysis of unisex fashion and is currently seeking for more ways to make itself known. It may look very niche and marginal, yet of course deals with quite central topics of today, not so much ‘fashion’, but (gender) identity in general.
The next pitch was yet another extreme: The student team fromTU/e is seeking for a replacement of a very peculiar sensor technology (LIDAR?) for their next racing car – this time an autonomous one. (I think this genre of student project is called Student Formula).
It all sounded cool & stuff, but was too technical for the majority of people, and plus this is more an issue of finding a good sponsor. Yet some people (including Peter Kentie was one of the members of a ‘jury’ of some sort) managed to give an advice or two.
The next project, Lia, presented by Fidan Rustamova, also had great noble goals – to improve our ever declining capacity to keep good posture. But it was again too commercially flavored, or rather too startapy-bootcampy flavored. Not surprisingly, these projects are less receptive to the rich feedback they get from the audience. Trained to present their pitches to ‘investors’, they have this characteristic offensive/defensive mix: We are the greatest. If you have any questions, we have thought about them already and have a solution. See the first sentence.
There were a couple of interesting ideas suggested by both the jury and people from the audience, and yet Fidan somahow missed the point: these people here are not to buy but to help to develop the ideas further.
The next pitch was very different in this respect. First, it was outside of the program, and thus fairly spontaneous. The lady (I didn’t get her name) was truly asking for help, for new and inspiring ideas. She was from a student team who developed a light installation at the TU/e (I haven’t seen it, as I don’t go to the TUe in the evenings. Apparently it was presented at the latest Glow festival).
It works, i.e., it glows, this huge chimney, but the team is now looking for more ideas on what to display on (or visualize with the use of light). Thy dynamics of the discussion was very different, the ideas were flowing and cross-fertilising each other.
And so was in the case of the last presentation, by Mahbobah Ahmadi, from Amalied, an NGO from Limburg that helps children to learn the skills of tomorrow. Again, the request was to help in thinking of the right programs, content-wise and perhaps process-wise, and the suggestions were aplenty (and all well-received). I think to connect this initiative with Teach the Future program I just wrote about.