Field-to-Face: Beauty in Biorefining

At Pontio, in North Wales, a new Masters by Research in Relational Design (#api_MRRD) is designed to help you make a positive step-change in a live wellness project for a region.

The elements of a thriving bio-economy exist in Wales – but they are disconnected. One project scenario could be a product-service platform that links biorefining and beauty. Read More »

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Wellness In A Regional Context: New Masters Course

Adventure. Tourism. Education

photo Sebastien Coell

Wellbeing is intimately linked to connection – to other people, but also to place, and the living systems that inhabit it. Relational design creates those connections.

Would you like to spend a year developing a project or business idea that reconnects city and country in a regional context? With a focus on wellness, adventure, tourism, and education?

The new Masters by Research in Relational Design (#api_MRRD) is hosted by Arloesi Pontio Innovation (API), based in Pontio, at Bangor University. I’m teaching on the course as its senior advisor. It launches in September.  Read More »

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Peak Car, Cloud Commuting, Gram Junkies, Green Tourism, Caloryville

Here are ten stories on all things mobility that I posted too soon. I have a hunch they will resonate better now than when they were written.

Is Peak Car Headed For Seneca’s Cliff? (2017)
Sharing platforms enable new relationships between people, goods, equipment, and spaces. The consequence? The notion of mobility as a discrete economic sector no longer makes sense. News that Ikea is buying Task Rabbit is further confirmation of this convergence.(This text based on my keynote at Seoul Smart Mobility International Conference)

From Bike Chain to Blockchain: Three Questions About Cooperation Platforms and Mobility (2015)

Until now, transportation has been planned to ‘save’ time. In this age of energy transition, would a better criterion not be, how to save calories? Who should own mobility sharing platforms: private companies? cities? us? What kind of ecosystem is needed to support the sharing platforms we want? 
 Read More »

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When Value Arises From Relationships, Not From Things

The following interview with Valentina Croci appears in the March 2018 special edition on innovation of Domus magazine . The print edition is in Italian and English, but does not include all the illustrations I’ve used here). 

Q1 The consumerist model and our fossil resources have been stretched to their limits. What could be an alternative model of production?

Innovation can help us reign in the over-extraction of  resources. This seafood tracing platform is being developed by @provenance

JT   I’ve come to an inconvenient conclusion: production is not the purpose of life. I say inconvenient because many of us depend on industrial production, and its many support services, to earn the money we need to pay for daily life needs. But because the global economy has to grow just to survive, its hunger for energy and materials is insatiable. The growing complexity of it all is resource-hungry, too — think of all those interconnected global supply chains.

This conflict between a perpetual growth economy, and the biophysical limits of a living planet, is why the perpetual search for new forms of production – whether ‘clean’, ‘green’ or ‘circular’ – is not where our future lies. Read More »

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“Whatever Makes Your Dough Rise” – Work-In-Progress 2018

Learning the phrase “Whatever Makes Your Dough Rise” was one  of many gifts I brought back from a Fellows’ retreat last week at the Good Work Institute in the US. Here is an update on my recent texts, talks and xskool workshops.

Our xskools  are about city people reconnecting with the land and rural communities at the scale of the bioregion.

Grottole, Italy
In southern Italy, we’re working with @CasaNetural on ways to unlock value with-and-for the people of Grottole. Read More »

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Connecting the “what is?” with the “what if?”

“The future will be all about cities” – say people who live in cities. Our xskools, in contrast, are about reconnecting with rural communities and looking, together, for ways ways to unlock value. Check out our updated xskool page.

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Is Peak Car Headed for Seneca’s Cliff?

This text follows my recent keynote at Seoul Smart Mobility International Conference. The author thanks 
Seoul Design Foundation and @Seoul_gov  for their invitation. I also thank XuanZheng Wang, professor, China Central Academy of Fine Arts (CAFA), for alerting me to the @Mobike developments.

Two hundred people per second now climb onto a dockless bike somewhere in China; the blue dots (above) denote transactions in Shanghai.

Considering that dockless bike sharing platforms were only launched two years ago, in 2015, this growth rate is remarkable.

The biggest company, Mobike, already operates more than seven million bikes in 160 cities Read More »

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From Gut to Gaia: The Internet of Things and Earth Repair

The following text appears in the inaugural edition of Ding, a new magazine about the Internet and things, published by the Mozilla Foundation. Ding will be launched at MozFest in London on 27-29 October.

On a recent visit to @IAAC in Barcelona, I was charmed by their Smart Citizen platform that enables citizens to monitor levels of air or noise pollution around their home or business.

The system connects data, people and knowledge based on their location; the device’s low power consumption allows it to be placed on balconies and windowsills where power is provided by a solar panel or battery.

Smart Citizen is just one among a growing array of devices that can sense everything from the health of a tomato in Brazil, to bacteria in the stomach of a cow in Perthshire – remotely. 

Low-cost sensing technologies allow citizens to assess the state of distant environments directly. We can also measure oil contamination in our local river with a smartphone. Thousands of people are monitoring the air they breathe using Air Quality Eggs.

This innovation is intriguing, but leaves a difficult question unanswered: Under what circumstances will possession of this data contribute to the system transformation that we so urgently need?

Read More »

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john chris jones at 90

I’m reposting the piece below to celebrate the 9oth birthday (on 7 October) of john chris jones. For jones, writing and living are still intertwined in a sublime but grounded way.

I’ve been re-reading “the internet and everyone” by john chris jones.

I’ve been astonished once again by the sensibility of an artist-writer-designer whose philosophy – indeed his whole life – first inspired me when I was a young magazine editor more than 30 years ago.

Like another muse of mine, Ivan Illich, John Chris Jones was decades ahead of his time. The time is ripe now for a wider readership.

He wrote about cities without traffic signals in the 1950s – sixty years before today’s avant garde urban design experiments.

In the 1960s, Jones was an advocate of what today is called ‘design thinking’; (then, it was called design methods).

He advocated user-centered design well before the term was widely used.

He began by designing aeroplanes – but soon felt compelled to make industrial products more human. This quest fuelled his search for design processes that would shape, rather than serve, industrial systems.

As a kind of industrial gamekeeper turned poacher, Jones went on to warn about the potential dangers of the digital revolution unleashed by Claude Shannon.

Computers were so damned good at the manipulation of symbols, he cautioned, that there would be immense pressure on scientists to reduce all human knowledge and experience to abstract form.

Technology-driven innovation, Jones foresaw, would under-value the knowledge and experience that human beings have by virtue of having bodies, interacting with the physical world, and being trained into a culture.

Read More »

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