Saturday, 13 December 2008

Flowers that bloom in the sand

So, it's over. It is now 30 hours since we closed the Digital Economy sandpit. All the participants, facilitators, mentors and funders have gone home - probably to a good nights sleep - and are hopefully reflecting on what was, even by sandpit standards, an extraordinary week. The people who took part were the result of an intense competition for places - 31 out of 240 who applied. The scope of the underlying knowledge-base stretched from computer science, through a number of areas, to design. The potential challenges were as varied - the initial ideas were broad, but once the various inputs were added, the participants had an enormous canvas to paint on (bit of an in joke - sorry). That they came up with 7 varied but compelling projects is a testament both to them and to the process. They will now go away and distill the basis of their ideas into a standard research council application form. One thing I hope they do is capture the non-confidential basis of their ideas and post them on this blog. Certainly once they have submitted the full applications and they are approved, there will be the potential for using this blog as a means of communicating their progress to a wider community. In the meantime, I think they deserve their rest!!


Tuesday, 9 December 2008

There's some powerful augmented reality stuff happening out there. I've just been listening to Rich Jenkins of Media Power Inc ( His company is doing some interesting next generation stuff on augmented reality on the iPhone, etc. Some of what he is doing may trigger some thoughts for the Digital Economy. 

Have a look at

Sustainable Innovation

Just listening to Judy Estrin, CEO of JLabs. Some thoughts...

Judy believes that we are presently in an innovation deficit - we are reaping the fruits of innovation seeds sown many years or even decades are go, and are not planting enough seeds today for the future.

So, how can we use the digital economy to up the pace of sustainable innovation?

Diverse perspectives are critical to innovation - and so the Sandpit process (hope day 2 is going well!).

Artificial Intelligence

A quote from Allen Newell's famous paper - Fairy Tales:

. . . Exactly what the computer provides is the ability not to be rigid and unthinking but, rather, to behave conditionally. That is what it means to apply knowledge to action: It means to let the action taken reflect knowledge of the situation, to be sometimes this way, sometimes that, as appropriate. . . . In sum, technology can be controlled especially if it is saturated with intelligence to watch over how it goes, to keep accounts, to prevent errors, and to provide wisdom to each decision

You can find more on this at:

As others see our future?

This morning has been a whirlwind tour through views of what may be important building blocks in the Digital Economy. It started with Sebastian Conran deconstructing the aspects of design that made things valuable. He was followed by Alan Newell talking about digital exclusion - with a particular emphasis on the exclusion of the older members of society. Next came Bronwyn Kunhardt, who talked about semantic searching and the problems of language. She was followed by Richard Halkett who gave a slightly scary review of how the education system probably wasn't right for the future and Simon Phipps, who proselytized on behalf of open source. Then we got to eat lunch!!!


Chairs are for wimps!

There again, they can be useful sometimes!

Monday, 8 December 2008

Day one, your chance to add your thoughts

One of the outputs from the first day was a list of research 'wishes', really just high-level thoughts about topics within the digital economy sphere. If you have any thoughts, connections or resources that you think might help to advance the conversation, please add them as comments to this entry.

Wouldn't it be nice if...

  • We explored non-conventional methods like storytelling and art–practice?
  • Things enrich our experiences with the meaning they draw into our lives?
  • We explored human emotions like desire in the things we design?
  • There was a physical and virtual flow of experience using non-invasive technologies?
  • Technology could defeat rather than encourage crime?
  • Technology could help to build trust and bypass cultural/social/language barriers?
  • Technology could drive community engagement?
  • Technology could encourage transformative government?
  • Technology could help reconnect different generations?
  • Technology could help in sustaining skills and expertise through knowledge sharing?
  • Clothes fitted people (in the ways they’d like to look)?
  • Design could be across cultures and generations?
  • Technology worked for everyone?
  • Technology brought people closer together?
  • We could predict how users might respond emotionally to a design?
  • Technology could enhance emotional well-being?
  • Users were at the heart of the design process?
  • Technology evolved through use?
  • We had open, collaborative development tools and processes?
  • We could make what we need in our communities?
  • Everything was bespoke – and as a result create a more ecologically sustainable future?
  • We could enable social inclusion by designing and making things that adapted themselves?
  • Everyone has access to the knowledge and resources to know the life cycle of things and act upon it?
  • Making overtook shopping as an activity?
  • Designers would learn from the entire manufacturing process and product life cycle?
  • The technology was an enabler, not a controller?
  • Emotionally augmented communication media?
  • There was true participatory design?
  • My computer could sense emotions and thoughts and react accordingly?
  • Connecting older people drove social and technological change?
  • Everyone could use technology safely and securely?
  • Technology connected us better with nature?
  • We could design out deliberate technological obsolescence?
  • Technology could reduce human error?
  • Technology reduced our impact on our true environment?
  • We could rely on all technology 100% of the time?

Off to a good start

6 Hours in and the sandpitters are happily exploring their skills and experience and seeking to define the sorts of challenges they think exist. It's early days and we don't what to be too specific, but we need to have goals to debate.

Thursday, 4 December 2008

The Tyranny of Instant Access

I have just spent a few days in Boston at a conference I have been intermittently attending for almost 25 years. The opportunity to learn some new science was a "reward" for all the other stuff I have to do!! :-) As is normal, the other stuff didn't go away and I found myself waking up to new e-mails, skulking in the back of lectures with either my iPhone or laptop using the free wi-fi (when did conference organizers think that would add to learning capacity?) dividing my time between where I was and a place over 3000 miles away. That kind of geographical immediacy is a bed rock of the new digital age. We assume everyone is there all the time and get ever so slightly bent out of shape when they are not. I came to enjoy the evenings when Europe went to bed and I got to drink with friends without constant interruptions!! Arriving back in the UK I found that our little sandpit community has acquired a life of its own. We set out to use as many of the tools of the whatever number web we are currently on to maximize the effectiveness of the sand pit and ensure that the very best project get to the end of the week. Now my web pages are full of enthusiastic people wanting to do great things. Kind of restores your faith in the power of people to use technology really. :-)


Our Second Life island is nearly ready!

We are very excited about this - we have plans :-)

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Sandpit: what's in a name

Just to correct any misunderstanding, the title of this sandpit is 'Design in the Digital World: For the people, by the people'. The 'Digital Economy in Business' event was the (broader) scoping workshop preceeding the sandpit, where this sandpit topic had its genesis.