Master class on Future Probing: Designing ‘everyday futures’ with the students from TU/e’ Industrial Design

{Long time not see, as they say; Summ( )n’s team is busy with a couple of large global – exciting! – projects that take all time and energy. Which is great but doesn’t leave much time for the blog, alas. Plus, we are currently doing re-designing our website which is a also demotivating a bit to update the ‘old’ version.}

Anyway. A good opportunity to share one of the small latest projects, a session on Future Probing that we recently run with the students of the department of Industrial Design of the TU/e in Eindhoven. The session was in some way similar to the one we run earlier this year with the Design Lab of TU Twente, though bit smaller in size and this more homey,

Another different is that this time the session was a part of the course called “Researching the Future Everyday”; the one in Twente also dealt with ‘future scenarios’, but in this case the TU/e course is one step more nuanced and granular, and more focussed on understanding of the ‘everydayness’ of the possible future.

It is of course great to see that TU/e makes moves their educational programs from the grand (and hollow) ‘future trends’ kind of futuring, and towards better understanding the apparently unremarkable human activities, those daily routines and mundane practices (all the things we would dub ‘the fabric of life’), and how these would change in the future (the course was developed by Lenneke Kuijer who kindle invited us to prepare this session).

The picture above is of course not your usual exercise in ‘creative making’. The team is demonstrating one of the ‘future worlds’, the one they imagined and constructed based on the analysis of multiple ‘signals of the future’.

As always, it started from group discussions and collective (and collaborative) exploration of these signals in small teams (and as always, these discussions took more time than planned, because they are seen and experienced as interesting and very valuable moments):

The teams expectedly struggle with doing ‘glimpsing’ into the future, when they have to come with common themes, or meta-foresights that manifest themselves in different domains, and through different signals.

But they all did manage, and then the ‘fun’ part started, of making the ‘future worlds’. This part was done by the teams with significantly lesser issues than in our average session – surprise, surprise, and what else one would expect from the student studying design?

All three world-presentation were good, and in one we’ve seen a special gem, when the team decided not only to present, but to enact the future – obviously a much more powerful, but also much more changing way to work with the possible futures:

All in all, it was a good session (though I had to leave earlier and missed the presentations of the ‘future probes’). I later got a feedback that the students enjoyed the events and some of them may even use it in their own course projects. All good.

Overijssel Province Goes Extreme

I wrote about a very interesting project we have developed together with the Trendbureau Overijssel, a future think-tank of the Dutch province called Overijssel. By now we have prepared and conducted the first phase, a pilot session together with the team from the Trendbureau and a group of representatives from different cities of the province and other organisations and creative teams.

The Future Probing session was kindly hosted by the Design Lab of the University of Twente, and the heads of the Lab also joined the session, adding additional expertise to already very diverse group of participants.

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The Future of (Futuring About) Wearable Tech

I was planning to write this text much earlier, soon after I finished my short ‘field report’ about the WoW gathering in Eindhoven. Alas, things started to move a bit slower on this side. Anyway, it is ready now, even if in a very condense form, so read (and look at it) below.

As I wrote earlier, I was offered an opportunity to talk about the ‘future of everything’: of women, fashion, and yes, {smart} wearables, too. The only real constrain was that 1. it should be very short and 2. it shouldn’t be a ‘slideshow’ but a real conversation (itself a gross challenge these days!)

Following our approach at Summ()n, I didn’t plan, of course, to present yet another set of ‘trends’ accompanied with a few freakish pictures (a common currency of future gurus these days). Instead I thought to suggest a conversation about the very way we do our futuring, i.e., thinking about, imagining and eventually making the futures that we want. Following the constrains, I decided to bring with me not the ‘digital slides’, but some real (analogue!) artefacts to talk about.

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Future Probing session with the students of the Design Lab of U Twente

Future Probing session at the Design Lab of the University of Twente was one of the examples of Summ()n’s ‘teaching activities’, when we present our tools and methods to students of various universities and schools. In this case it was a ‘very good one’. Unfortunately, we (and the students, too) are often given too little time for these exercises, while the goals are set too high (yet too abstract, too), and the results tend to be so-so.

In this case it was quite opposite: the students were all from a very particular course (Scenario Based Design), and had a number of specific business cases to work with. Knowing these boundaries, we had a chance to prepare a small, but meaningful set of ‘future signals’. Plus, the students had a good deal of time to go through theses signals (ok, it was still pressure-cooker kind of format, but most teams managed to handle the signals from all four domains that we have prepared: Professional Tools, Collaborative Practices, Smart Spaces and Business Models).

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WoW Eindhoven follow-up – now with Tzarina

I’ve already written here about the Women of Wearables movement, and a very interesting inaugural event of their local chapter that I managed to attend last November (Women of Wearables Eindhoven). The program of this first gathering was excellent and rich (though I have to admit that my presence had a bit weird slant, too, as I was the only man in the 30+ audience of WoW ladies back then).

Never mind. In fact, quite opposite, the event lead to many other interesting developments, including our conversation with Marija Butkovic, the WoW’s founder, and with many other interesting people from this network. All these contacts keep enriching Summ()n’s own Future of Fabric program, and we also hope that Summ()n can inspire the WoW-ers, too.

Guess what? The next development turned to be ‘curiouser & curiouser’, as I was invited to the next WoW gathering in Eindhoven, but already as a key speaker! I was invited by Yelena van Kharitonova to talk about the future of… well, basically, of everything: women, fashion, wearables, and what not.

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Future Probing for Executive Council of [undisclosed]

Those strange moment when we present our Future Probing (and Summ( )n in general) at the board level (it was Executive Council at this time), of very large and interesting company, and our presentations are very well received (which may in turn lead to numerous projects) – and yet we can’t tell a word for a while.

We are ‘proud & happy’… but in a discreet way for a moment.

Extreme Futures with Overijssel Province

Ah, what an excellent news to start the year with! Our proposal for a Future Probing project Trendbureau Overijssel was approved and will be running the program with them later this spring.

It’s a great news in a number of ways: the work with governmental organisations is always an honour and stuff… but it is also always very difficult to get (or at least it takes a lot of time). In this case the approval of our proposal happened relatively quickly – also because our commissioner had a first-hand experience of Future Probing already!

Earlier in 2016 Hans Peter Benschop, a head of the Trendbureau, participated in our Summer School about Future Probing method. Despite the exercise was very basic, it was interesting and inspiring, to the extend that he later invited us to submit a proposal for a Future Probing program with this Dutch province.

And a cherry on a pie is the title of the program -Extreme Overijssel! Summ( )n was invited to facilitate the exploration of the fresh and novel ideas about the possible futures, beyond the today’s ‘trend litany’. A thrillingly interesting exploration is ahead, superb! More news to follow.

Reach’s New Website

Fortunately, there are more positive and colorful things in life then otherwise, always are! Today is a very special day for #Reach, a global research network that we are a proud member of already for four *(4) years!

Reach – now a 18(!) members strong network – has just launched its new website, full of information and inspirations! Please look at (and keep visiting it or – better even – subscribe to the meta-feed of the news shared by this community in real time.)

On this occasion the members had a global gathering – only virtual for a moment, but full of vitality and very emotional nevertheless. And – with a firm intention to have a ‘flesh’ one later in 2018!