A fabulous day at the office - Jonathan Romm

Sunday 25 October 2015 11:46: WATCHA, my digital aura is forwarding a Message form Jérémie McGowan to my smartphone:

Hi all,

Pardon the weekend intrusion. This news just in from Andrew Morrison regarding tomorrow's "Fabulous Seminar": we are starting at 11:15 instead of 10:45, to better accommodate international arrivals, etc. (The seminar will still end at 17:00, followed by "refreshments", as previously forecasted).

Full (updated) details and schedule: http://designresearch.no/projects/design-research-mediation/news?post_id=3940

 The seminar is in Group Room 4 + 5.

Look forward to seeing you all tomorrow,


 Yes! …Its going to be a fabulous day at the office tomorrow.

Group room 4 + 5:

Professor Andrew Morrison welcomed all the attendees (that met on time) and announced those who are late. Revealing the agenda of the fabulous seminar Morrison kicked-off the session fabulously by using a text based mobile application that extracts words and phrases from the official website. Passing his mobile device around the crowd asking random participants to read electronically generated textual representations about the seminar (did WATCHA have anything to do with this?). Then all the participants were given time to introduce themselves shortly…

Most of the attendees are researching fields like urbanism and landscape design, media studies, interaction, communication and graphic design. The crowd of 36 people from Norway, China, Denmark, Kenya, South Africa and others presented shortly their points of interest. 11 of the attendees have joined from the newly established class of PhD fellows at AHO, researching a variety of topics (see http://www.ahophdlive.no). Morrison helped in relating the participant’s short presentations to the fictional theme of the fabulous seminar.

The Fabulous Seminar – Oslo School of Architecture and Design – October the 26th - 2015

Urban imaginaries - Einar Martinussen:

Martinussen presents, discusses and argues that the impact of visual designed narratives is mainly expressed through popular sci-fi culture (books, comics, illustration, movies etc.) This power, he claims is significant and shapes our social perception, imagination, acceptance and to some extent, our expectations of future urban landscape.

Syd Mead - Blade Runner - Conceptual Art – 1980

Martinussen tuned the crowds attention towards the work of Moebius and his comic-book illustrations of futuristic urban life and moments of dense activity. Moebius, he claimed inspired Luc Bessons sci-fi screen play - The Fifth Element (1997). Dwelling on the opening scene where the main character (Bruce Willis) acts out a basic everyday life scenario of a man waking up in the morning in a future city apartment. A mundane humanistic scene surrounded by the spectacular and entertaining elements of the new. The movie, though being critiqued by many for its silly storyline, has been a source for futuristic study and design inspiration, Martinussen argues.

Martinussen then draws the attention towards the movie Blade Runner, directed by Ridley Scott (1982). With its Syd Mead inspired LA-futuristic chaotic and heavily urbanised look and feel. Einar points out the rich background material of flying cars, ostriches and futuristic artefacts that creates the dimmed urban atmosphere of Blade runner. Visually by showing Meads sketch book Martinussen is arguing that the visual art is as concerned with the surrounding artefacts as the main items that drives the of the movie forward.

Design fiction reviewed - Tau Lensjold (SDU)

Lensjold has through his research generated speculative examples of exploration into narratives created through interactions between human and animals (birds, dogs etc.) working with elderly and low cognitive function patients. His work points out possible future activities and constructs that reflect on themes like nearness, presence and exchange.

Whale-Buss of the year 2000 - Jean Marc Côté - 1899

Starting out with a historical perspective with examples like the fabulous illustrations of Jean Marc Côté from the 1900 World Exhibition in Paris– among those the Whale-Bus of the year 2000.  Lensjold pulls up the example of the “what-if” prompt as a central catalyst of the artistic journey. Skipping forward to the post-WW1, Lensjold presents promotions of developmental work that advertise streamline future fantasies, picturing Norman Bel Geddes work of “Airliner no 4” (1929). Here different styles and modes of representations of the constructed speculative designs are put forward. Moving on to the 1970’s Tau shows the avant-garde imaginaries (The film Supersurface Life-Italy).  Lensjold constructs a link towards critical design with “The Pillow” by Dunne & Gaver contrasting the familiar with the futuristic.   

Building on Bruce Sterling definition of design fiction – Tau argues that design fiction could be used at a methodological epistemological framework for inquiry – illustrated as an example by the rich interaction designs of the sci-fi movie Minority Report.

Drawing on the writings of Cameron Tokinwise (2015) Tao presents a cloud of different design definitions (discursive, critical, futuristic etc…) as part of the umbrella of “design fiction”. Its purpose is suggested as supporting the following main four applications:

-        Generating futures

-        Evaluating futures

-        Enlisting sponsors for futures

-        Materialising futures

Lensjold ends his talk by focusing on his own project; Urban Animals and Us, working with fictional experiments about connections between animals and humans. Showing the case Bird-Flute phrased as the “exchange between different actors in shaped urban spaces”. He is exploring communication as translations between species by conducting experiments and micro-events that are initiated by fly-by birds.

Fashionably forward - Synne Skjulstad (W)

Working with speculative design education of graphic design students (without actually knowing about the term) at Westerdals School of Art Technology and Design, Skjulstad has published a paper together with a colleague about speculative graphic design. Showing examples from the course of students work that shows visual identity for a fictive terror organisation, using speculative graphic design for a new brand of water company. Reflecting on the student’s work Synne has noticed that the design expression is often mundane but when applied into extreme settings, it becomes spectacular. Skjulstad is interested in investigating this phenomenon further on in the context of future fashion. 

Showing the movie “Clothing of the future” from 1939 Skjulstad demonstrates how futuristic expression in fashion industries have been mediated. Skjulstad argues that research into relationships between sci-fi culture and fashion could be a study of its own. The Fifth Element, and lately Matrix and Snow Piercer are good examples, she claims. Fashion figures and haute couture have clearly pushed forward the narrative of the future (eg. J.P. Gaultier in The Fifth Element).

Even tough fashion and movement as expressed cinematographically is not a new phenomenon, the research into the fashion fictions as future narratives is new. Skjulstads standpoint is clearly demonstrated through the reflexive and humoristic aspects as shown in the fictional movie, Fashion Film by Mathews Frost 2012:

Skjulstad is planning to develop the research concept in relation to mediated future, fashion and movement further on. She is also planning to publish some of her first thoughts and findings related to this theme soon.

Landscape fables - Laura Watts (ITU)

The presentation represents the industrialized and innovation efforts of systems and landscapes transforming these into qualitative narratives that weave spectacular stories about and into futures. Watts uses improvisation and performance techniques to generate and present her narratives.

Writing futures – Starting off with a narrative reading of her writings describing a “future spaceship” describing an engineering project of hydro power station or something like it… she constructs a narrative that will be passed on drawing upon our heritage of storytelling. Like a children’s game that is passed on from one generation to the other.

Watts is moving smoothly forward telling stories of “wind turbine archeology” constructing imaginaries of landscape museums of the future. Towards the print ink as an integral part of the narration of big data. “Data stories” struggles with translating the mythical and empirical data into quantitative measurements captured by, or through big data-fication, of our everyday. Watts uses the phrase “Im standing in the field” repeatedly gluing one story to another to state that we, the seminar attendees are all entrepreneurs of stories standing in their different fields – “So let the lights in!” she finishes and tries to play a movie – but no sound is heard… the drama is broken and Andrew is somehow disappointed with the support of the ICT-assistant… one more check… oh its on, the magic is back… Piano music… foggy gray ocean in a cloudy longshot… the coastline is revealing itself in rythms… “I am standing in the field, my field…” Watts repeats, “Would you show me your fields?”

Janike Kampevold Larsen – Thanked Watts for a beautiful presentation and added her reflections regarding the use of a “non specific I” observing landscapes that creates a personalised awareness of landscape and geological agencies – “do we speak about landscapes or do we want them to speak to us?”.


Buzzz… my trouser pocket is vibrating, again. Its WATCHA, it does this quite often. WATCHA my newborn digital aura. Helps me to reflect and get to know myself better. Growing each day mirroring, supporting, nudging, representing, submissively. WATCHA: <Get the key at HASLE SKOLE> “you need to disengage… You are responsible for Nora’s class arrangement. I realise that I am going to miss the talks on Body bio-fictives by Ståle Stenslie and “A possible history of design fiction from Banham to the Baroque” by Jérémie McGowan… Not to mention the closing discussion of the Fabulous seminar. I dream about the years ahead where WATCHA will grow to be able to stay on my behalf and engage further on as I transit. As for now, I have to run!

 Next morning on my way to the office:

I have been walking to work the past three weeks. Its fantastic. 25 minutes of pure pleasure time to tune in on the work ahead and reflect on work done. I plug in my headset firing up my music app and my favourite tune this autumn, with a little sorting help from WATCHA.

Thinking about yesterdays fabulous seminar as I walk through the park. I wished I could have stayed longer and that there had been more time to discussion between the presentations. I think about the fact that design and fiction is closely linked, especially in the initial phases of any development process. Designers use representations all the time of all sorts to create more or less realistic illusions of what might be. This in order to engage in a dialogue with themselves or others. A profession of fake and dialogue. As I walk beneath falling leaves of red and gold it strikes me that the examples of yesterdays design fictions and constructed fables where in that sense preoccupied with fantasia per se and artistic expression. Fantasia is a strong effect since it secures memorable moments. I am mostly sure I will not forget this fabulous seminar. This is great, but from a designerly perspective somehow narrow. A stronger link to hard-core commercial design, architecture or urbanism and the fictions speculative perspectives involved, would have been great to include as part of the discourse at the Fabulous Seminar. Dreamy architectural renderings, tangible evidencing of services and must-have models of artifacts as fictions of a soon to become co-created or multi-shaped desirable fabulous futures. 

Tuesday 27 October 2015 08:45: WATCHA goes buzz again…

<PHD CONTEXT> - Session 02 of our CONTEXT Course "Interview seminars". Henry will join us again, for a full day discussion/review of the group work you have been carrying out around Interviews.