Lost In Space: A Traveller’s Tale

As well as being thresholds between land and air, modern airports are gateways to complexity. Through them, we enter the operating environment of global aviation, surely mankind’s most complicated creation. But in airports, although we are isolated from the rythms of the natural world, we remain ignorant of how this artificial one works. The result is to reinforce what philosophers call our ontological alienation: a sense of rootlessness and anxiety; of not quite being real; of being… lost in space.

Aviation is typical in many respects of the way the whole world is going: saturated with information and systems; complex but incomprehensible; an exhilarating human achievement, and a terrifying prospect, at the same time. It’s time design got to grips with these ambiguous features of our technological society. But I’ll return to these broader issues at the end.

Right now, I want to focus on three design questions: why does air travel makes you feel strange ? what can design do to improve the experience? and why go in person, when you can call?

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Tokyo: Begin The Next

In 1990, Japan was at the height of its ‘bubble economy’. It popped, spectacularly, two years later. 

In Tokyo, cement trucks sport the slogan, ‘Begin The Next’. Buy sellotape at the cornershop, and the bag carries a slogan: ‘Perhaps We Are At The Beginning Of A New Renaissance’. Ride Honda’s new Dio motorcycle and an entire text on the faring declares ‘Movement. The City is a 24 our stage where we act out a life. Be it day or night, we go out anytime looking for something new’.

Hardly surprising that they call Tokyo: the Sea of Desires: its citizenry revel in continuous change and innovation. In the West, we whinge about our insecurity and the ephemerality of all we hold dear; in Tokyo, they exhilarate in the perceptual white noise of an information-rich environment.

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Virtual Platform (Advice to Dutch government on new media policy, 2000-2003)

Doors of Perception served until 2006 as a member of Virtual Platform. This advisory group to Dutch government on new media cultural policy.

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Design Clinic for Entrepreneurs (Workshop, Highlands and Islands of Scotland)

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The Highlands and Islands Development Board, in Scotland, exists to help hundreds of small and medium sized companies, over a very wide geographical area, innovate new products, services, and business models. Doors helped their Inverness office stage design scenario workshops in which entrepreneurs from different companies helped each other envisage radical scenarios and how they might be implemented.

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E-Culture Fair ( Marketplace of new media prototypes and research projects, Amsterdam, 2000 )

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E-Culture Fair was an international marketplace of creative and innovative concepts, processes and products in the field of new media. The emphasis was on new forms of communicating, learning, and playing in a broad social and cultural context. E-Culture Fair was joint venture between Doors of Perception, IJsfontein and Virtual Platform – the latter being a club of Holland’s eight buzziest new media organisations, including Doors.
Some 50 projects, selected from graduate design schools and new media centres from the US, Europe and South Asia, were presented in four themed zones:

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