Forecasting and Ideas Workshop

The effervescent and delightful Collyn Ahart Chipperfield invited some of her friends to her (amazing) place recently to take part in ‘an evening of ideas, imagination and inspiration from the worlds of architecture, design, fashion, digital and trans-disciplinary creativity’. I was delighted to take part. She’s working on a project, and plied us with booze and food to get the most out of us in an awesome forecasting and ideas workshop.

Collyn shared a few factors she wanted us to to consider in our discussions, and we added some more. Essentially they formed the framework in which we worked. There was a long list, but here are five which particularly made me think ‘oooh’:

  • connected isolation
  • mediocrity through efficiency / efficiency through mediocrity
  • the niche
  • exclusivity vs sharing
  • discovery vs creation

Before we started thinking about the future, we stared by sharing some things which inspired us. In our group, we had The Palace of Versailles, Dadaism, a Japanese album called Phantasm [?], Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire, Ghanaian wristbands, a poem by Oriah Mountain Dreamer (called Invitation ‘It doesn’t interest me if… I want to know…’), Audi, The Sea, LEGO, 3G, Moo cards, Vivienne Westwood as Margaret Thatcher on the cover of Tatler, An Oak Tree by Michael Craig-Martin (a glass of water, accompanied by this text), Food, mis-matching men’s shirt, the White Horse at Uffington, a image of a first-Century Egyptian inn and an image of an Iranian Mosque.

Collyn had very effectively helped us break the ice, get to know each other and get our creative juices flowing. Next, we began to think and talk about our topic, ‘Leisure Time Spent…’, with a 5-10 year outlook. Three other groups discussed three other topics, but here are my hasty notes from our group’s conversation. I have not attributed particular thoughts to individuals, but do bear in mind this is the output from the group, and certainly not from me. I simply scribbled while we talked. (Collyn provided the sort of notepads a waiter might use, with carbon-paper so we could take our notes home and leave a copy for her. Genius!).

We started out by thinking about life in 2008, gradually moving out from there. Hold on to your hats.

1 – Recession causes:

  • more sales of sex toys and pregnancy tests (apparently)
  • fewer house sales
  • more work for chimney sweeps
  • stronger links into the community
  • fewer people taking flights. more competition. cheaper flights
  • people asking ‘what does it cost to get there?’ shifting to ‘what does it cost to be there?’
  • more discerning around choices. more local tourism and events
  • (diversion of examples of local attractions we had not all seen: cabinet war rooms, packaging museum, museum of childhood at bethnal green, ‘cybersweets’ nostalgic sweet shop, also in bethnal green?)

2 – Will the technical pace slow?

  • what if it takes 10 years for us to get back to where we are now, economically?
  • is technology being held back, released at the speed which we are comfortable absorbing it rather than the speed at which it is developed?

3 – Social networking has evolved:

  • Facebook as the new MySpace as the new Friends Reunited
  • Destroying serendipity, or increasing it? Sharing so much online makes it awkward to say the same things to someone face-to-face: have they already read it?
  • handy for your extended network. close friends vs contacts
  • going beyond Dunbar’s 150
  • imagine Facebook in 5 years – even more sharing?
  • overcoming(?) privacy fears? a new approach: will we be more honest and accountable?
  • going beyond declarative living in an era of informed consent
  • internet vs cctv vs oyster vs nectar
  • our junk mail as a barometer of what the internet knows about us
  • celebrities are no longer alone in being watched. they are a template; we’re all monitored on a smaller scale
  • social media as narcissism. ‘famous for 15 people’
  • display of life-streams is too me-centric. need more room for serendipity, and highlighting friends of friends rather than stuff I already know

4 – Leisure time connected/disconnected

  • time out = being alone. finding nature. escaping from our highly connected lives. increasingly value time to ourselves
  • escaping overload. a break from constant stimulation
  • we are tired of bombardment of unnatural stimulation
  • (another group raised the point that our digital lifestyle is relatively recent, but people have been going to the countryside to have ideas for a long time)

5 – Age, home and TV

  • older people are acting ‘younger’. higher expectation about activity later in life
  • getting married and having kids much later
  • TV as an anesthetic. smalltalk rather than sharing. replacement for social interaction, or lubrication for it?

It would be unfair of me try attempt to summarise the other groups (especially as I missed the last part of the last summary, leaving rather abruptly, suddenly having realised I was going to have to run to the tube to avoid missing my train home) but what I did see of the wrap-up afterwards was very positive. Lots of ideas. Five things that really stuck with me:

  • the irony of poor people living in the city centre and travel to badly paid jobs in the outskirts, while rich people life outside the city and travel to well paid jobs in the city.
  • a cheaper process doesn’t necessarily make the the whole system cheaper. expensive, difficult creation processes mean we make more effort to get it right first time
  • to master something, you need 10,000 hours practice. What happens when we have been using today’s tools for 10,000 hours? Will they mutate and evolve in that time?
  • a hammer is technology
  • we have poor memories of our own childhoods. Today’s parents have the tools to capture and catalog their children’s lives very thoroughly

That’s enough bullet points for now. I wish I could digest it better, or differently, but fortunately I can just wait for Collyn to do it. I await her output eagerly.

6 Comments

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  1. I found your comment about memory interesting because I have very good memories of my childhood and I think this is because I don’t have video footage or lots and lots of photos. I remember my childhood from my own perspective rather than the cameras – what I was thinking, smelling, tasting etc.

    When I have a lot of images of something to remind of a time or place I forget other aspects of it.

    Remember when we got married – we didn’t want to video record the day so that we had to remember the whole day for ourselves. We were worried that we might only remember the parts that were videoed after having watched it a lot.

    I wonder if children will benefit from so much information about themselves or if they will rely on it as ‘this is what happened when’ rather than their own memory of an experience.

    On a more sombre note – if when you die your whole life flashes before your eyes – that will be interesting! I wonder if it is from your perspective or from a slight distance.

    Comment by Ray — November 20, 2008 #

  2. My thing about serendipity is that it requires the giving up of control. That’s why we are forever decreasing the serendipity available to us in real life – we increase our control through devices that reduce our placedness, e.g. mobile phones, 3g, mp3 players, handheld games consoles, netbooks.

    It means that we don’t randomly strike up conversations with people who happen to be in the same place as us. As placedness decreases, so does serendipity.

    We still want serendipity, but we want to give up as little control as is necessary, so we increase our placedness online, through things like virtual spaces, or facebook. There, because you are in a place, you can have the chance meetings with others in that place that lead to something fruitful.

    Comment by kyb — November 20, 2008 #

  3. Interesting points Ray. An image that sticks with me is a girl shaking hands with the Dalai Lama, but she isn’t looking at him, she’s looking at the screen of her camera phone…

    When I was young, I hated the idea of taking photos and video, because I was aware that it changes the way you look at things. Makes you less able to appreciate them as they actually are, and as you say, it changes the way you remember things too. Of course, as I get older, I appreciate my mums point of view more and more – she takes photos because she’s aware of the frailty of her memory and she’s afraid of losing the moments.

    I actually that many people will have less records of their early life now than before. When I celebrated my grandfathers 90th birthday recently, the people who came had looked through boxes in attics and newspapers, and they had photos of his childhood. Now, it just takes a single server crash, or the theft of a laptop (as happened to me), and those photos are gone for ever.

    Comment by kyb — November 20, 2008 #

  4. Yes, there is always a good feeling when you a find a photo of something you haven’t seen for a long time that serves as a celebration of a moment.

    I sometimes find photographs too nostalgic and find they can often make me feel sad for time having passed. For example my sister who is ten years younger than me, photos of us together when she was little, I know I will never get that time back, where as in my memory -it is still there but the moment the photo was taken has gone.

    We watched the last episode of Six Feet Under recently where Clare leaves home and takes a picture of the family on the doorstep. Nate says to her “you can’t take a picture of this, it’s already gone”.

    Just watched it again on Youtube and am now in tears! Sob!

    Comment by Ray — November 20, 2008 #

  5. Perhaps we never really take a picture of something until it’s already gone. I know that I don’t have pictures of the places I or my wife have lived, until we were about to move out of them.

    Comment by kyb — November 20, 2008 #

  6. Hi…maybe you don’t remember me, I was in the LEISURE group with you as the token female. I was just beating myself afterwards because we didn’t cover the essential topics of sex and booze to the depths it could have gone to!! sigh….

    Comment by Fiona — December 30, 2008 #

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