The event took place from 5-13 December 2020 at the West Bund Art Center, Shanghai, China.

Design Informatics has recently taken part in this year’s FutureLab in Shanghai, China representing Edinburgh College of Art (ECA).

FutureLab is an international platform dedicated to the research and presentation of innovative teaching practice for future art and design education.

Last year ECA took part with the Talbot Rice Gallery’s Trading Zones exhibition and featured alongside 30 other universities and institutions from around the world including Aalto University, the Royal College of Art, the University of Florence and New York University Shanghai.

This year’s exhibition was entitled Critical Digital Economies and included works from the Institute for Design Informatics. Peak15 was commissioned to create the exhibition design with curator Jane MacDonald. Peak15 studio works with academics to communicate and visualise their research and was founded by ECA masters alumna (2013) Sigrid Schmeisser.

Each piece asks questions about our place within the ever-changing digital economy. As we move to a society in which data replaces money as the primary representation of value, we find ourselves entangled in the complex data streams of personal, social and environmental information making it increasingly difficult to know who has power, who is designing the rules, and how we should break them.

Work from across the Institute’s research projects - Qualified Selves, OxChain, After Money and Creative Informatics - were represented.

Pip Thornton’s Arcadia screens greeted the visitor and mimic an LED stock market ticker that displays the text of Walter Benjamin’s Arcades Project as priced by Google’s algorithms; whilst the word ‘tea’ is £1.88, the word ‘delight’ is £2.06, the word ‘art’ is priced lower than both at £1.70.

The West Bund Art Centre, Shanghai
Image: FutureLab
The West Bund Art Centre, Shanghai

"FutureLab has provided us with a platform to demonstrate the advanced design thinking and making that ECA has when it comes to thinking about creativity and data science.  "

Professor Chris Speed, Chair in Design Informatics

Three interactive Smart Seesaws invited visitors to place money into a series of smart contracts that distribute money according to live global events: if there is an earthquake anywhere in the world within the next minute, your money will pass to an emergency fund. Every time a lifeboat launches in the UK, money will be transferred to the Royal National Lifeboat Institution.

Gigbliss Hairdryer
Image credit: FutureLab
Gigbliss Hairdryer
Image Courtesy: FutureLab

A series of critical design prototypes sat within cases and were accompanied by videos that portray their use. KASH Cups are ceramic coffee cups augmented with RFID tags to give each one a bank account. Credit for coffee can only be added to each cup when two people socialise, turning the cups into social currency. The management of personal data is becoming extremely sensitive, the Co-Creation Prototypes were designed with ‘extreme data users’ who all want data services to make their own data work harder for them.

Finally, the Gigbliss Hairdryers presented a future for distributed energy management in which individuals can buy and sell energy on their hairdryer to make money, or let the machines to the work, helping with finances and saving electricity.

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