Advice, please, on those missing millions

The theme of Doors 8 is “Infra”, which we interpret to span both hard and soft aspects of infrastructure in a networked society. Infra therefore includes people as well as systems. Now we keep reading that, in Europe alone, there’s a shortage of 1.5 million information technology workers. A question arises: does this mean that, every day of the year, 1.5 million days of IT maintenance and development is not getting done? Has anyone studied what the effects are on our IT systems – and ourselves – if 548 million days of maintenance are missed each year?

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Health as service design at Doors 8

Will health systems bankrupt the west, drive medical staff to despair, and dissatify their users in perpetuity? The National Endowment for Science Technology and the Arts (Nesta), together with the Health Modernisation Agency, both from the UK, are supporting a series of projects to do with service design for health care, whose results will be presented at Doors 8. Hugo Manassei, Creative Pioneer Programme Director at Nesta, and Lynne Maher, Head of Innovation Strategy at the National Health Service, are briefing a team that includes designers Indri Tulusan, Deborah Szebeko, Nicola Koller, Suzi Winstanley & Harriet Harriss. More on this later.

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New Dark Ages? Not At All

“Avoidance of difficulty or unpleasantness. Disavowal of extreme situations. Retreat into distraction. These appear to be the hallmarks of the fast-encroaching New Dark Ages”. No, these words are not about the U.S. election results. They’re a comment by Anne Marie Willis, editor of Design Philosophy Papers, on the state of design research. Having tried, via a mailing list, to engage 1,000 PhD design researchers in environmental issues, all that Willis encountered was “a small flicker of debate”. Her conclusion: “Signs of climate change abound. Extreme weather events are on the increase all over the world. But there seems to be an inverse relation between extremity of conditions, and preparedness to contemplate them”. Anne Marie, perhaps you’re looking in the wrong place? Academics are condemned by their business model to be inward-looking, and self-referential – but, out in the world, a lot of exciting design creativity is bubbling up.We need to focus on that. www.desphilosophy.com

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Flying Blind With Unisys

Last week I commented on the puerile computer game imagery being used in corporate advertising by firms like BT. Its now Unisys’ turn to insult our intelligence with its “3D Visible Enterprise” campaign. Every sentence is sententious. “It’s more predictable because it’s visible”. “Imagine any change, and know how it will affect every layer and process of your organization”. “You can see cause-effect relationships that were hidden”. “A highly predictive tool that allows you to see the results of your decisions before you make them”. This laughable guff flies in the face of 2,000 years of philosophical enquiry – not to mention more recent insights into the hard-to-preduct behaviour of complex systems. Dear Unisys: cancel this absurd campaign and give Doors of perception ten percent of the un-spent budget: it will save you from ridicule, and make you a smarter company.

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Adpocalypse Now

Gloom-and-doom mongering can be self-indulgent for the mongerers, and de-motivating for the mongereed. All credit therefore to Adbusters for breaking that pattern with a brilliant come-back issue. It’s about “The Day The World Ends”, and contains some great writing. “”The collapse was only a problem so long as we thought it could be reversed. As soon as everyone gave up, things got better”. “Well, you finally got mass participation in ‘Buy Nothing Day “.

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“On Brand”

Am I the last person to hear the expression “on brand” used in the context of design? It was one of several expressions that I heard for the first time at the World Creative Forum in London a couple of weeks ago. Another novelty, for me, was the description of Creative Industries as a “portfolio investment” by a dapper young man from the Singapore government. CI will grow to six percent of that country’s GDP by 2012, he said, with great precision.

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Emergent Economics

m. kennedyI’m delighted to report that Margrit Kennedy, a world authority on complementary currencies, has agreed to join us at Doors 8 in New Delhi. www.margritkennedy.de
Non-cash economic systems are, for me, where a genuinely new economy is being born. And where so-called emerging economies are in many respects ahead of “developed” ones. (Barter dates back thousands of years in India).If a light and therefore sustainable economy means sharing resources more effectively – such as time, skill, software, or food – then economic systems for exchanging non-market work have got to be part of the answer. Networked communications, and wireless networks, can be repurposed as enabling infrastructures to help systems like local and complementary currencies, Ithaca Hours, Time Dollars, LETS systems, micro-credit programs, interest-free banking, and other community-oriented monetary systems, scale up.

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Miffed Missive From Massive

Bruce Mau has written to say he is “surprised” by the tone and content of my email newsletter piece last week about his new exhibiton, Massive Change.
What I said originally was:
“We will build a global mind. We will design evolution. We will eradicate poverty”. No ifs and no buts are discernable in Bruce Mau’s new exhibition, Massive Change, which has opened in Vancouver. The website boasts that “few things remain beyond the reach of our fantastically augmented vision” – but it’s nonetheless hard to see from a distance whether such proclamations are meant ironically. The masculine, can-do, rhetorical style of Massive Change seems on first encounter to be a conversation stopper rather than starter. That said, the book promises a “cautious look at our limitations” as well. To January 3 2005, Vancouver Art Gallery. http://massivechange.com/
I did not mean to sound cynical – and if that’s what came across, I regret that. I spend much of my time telling non-design people that, although many of our problems are the result of poor design decisions, designers, as a group, should not be blamed. But a real backlash is brewing against the perceived notion that designers are arrogant and pay far too little attention to the possible downsides of their actions. Harry Kunzru’s new book Transmission, for example, (it’s about Bollywood movies and computer viruses) includes a pretty sharp attack on “Design”. Design is bound to get hammered by a NoLogo type of book in the near future.

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Care and time

Britain’s National Health Service has identified five “key dimensions of patient experience” – and time and speed issues dominate. The top two issues are first, waiting times for appointments, and access to services; and second, time given to discuss health/medical problems face-to-face with health care professionals. A third priority, “safe, high quality, co-ordinated care”, included a need for out of hours calls as a major determinant of satisfaction. Read the whole story:
www.nhssurveys.org

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