In the Palace of the Popes

Is culture something that’s produced to be sold, or a description of the ways people live? It’s an old question, but last week’s Forum d’Avignon (see also my story below) put a new spin on it: could the culture industries lead the way out of the economic crisis?
The debate [continue …]

2022-09-28T15:10:16+00:00November 23rd, 2009|knowing|

High entropy? Moi?

When I first came to Tokyo, fashionable parts of the city would be lined with hundreds of heavy taxis sitting in queues with their engines running, for hours on end. Every powered item was always on, 24/7. Tokyo Metropolitan Government has [continue …]

2009-11-01T21:09:54+00:00November 1st, 2009|knowing|

Metrics and Aesthetics

I gave a  talk at an event called Green Platform at Palazzo Strozzi in Florence.

Introduction: measuring what matters

“These are my principles. If you don’t like them, I have others”.

Groucho Marx could also have been talking about environmental standards. [continue …]

2023-04-21T16:23:33+00:00March 8th, 2009|knowing|

City Eco Lab: thing-design to-do list

City Eco Lab asked: What would life in a sustainable St Etienne be like? and, in which ways can design help us get from here, to there?
The discovery, mapping and documentation of a territory’s natural, cultural, human resources is a key element in building resilience.
Designers and artists can [continue …]

2022-09-28T15:28:29+00:00December 5th, 2008|knowing|

Moths to the flame

I was mesmerised by last night’s tv ad for Westfield, a vast 150,000 square metre shopping mall that opens in West London next weekend. The ad features attractive and horny young people who turn into fairies. Fair enough, but they then start taking off and [continue …]

2022-08-23T14:03:12+00:00October 27th, 2008|knowing|

Space, time and childhood

“When George Thomas was eight he walked everywhere. It was 1926 and his parents were unable to afford the fare for a tram, let alone the cost of a bike and he regularly walked six miles to his favourite fishing haunt without adult supervision. Fast [continue …]

2008-04-14T07:10:58+00:00April 14th, 2008|knowing|

Of doomers and bottle fillers

In Sao Paulo before Christmas someone referred to me as a “doomer.”

I had not heard the word before, but was told that it describes sad, train-spotter-like people who can’t stop talking about peak oil, climate change, the instability of financial markets, the impending food crisis, and what John Michael Greer [continue …]

2022-10-07T15:43:50+00:00January 1st, 2008|knowing|

India’s new design policy

When I first visited India 20 years ago, the country had fewer design teachers for a population of more than a billion people than had Wales – whose population is three million. The supply of teachers seemed to be stuck because India had just one national public design school: the [continue …]

2023-04-18T09:03:49+00:00February 12th, 2007|knowing|

Event design and quality time

If a client offers you a budget of $1500 per person to design a large event for thousands of people, do you refuse? I don’t think so.

The environmental impact of large trade shows and conferences might be damaging – and the experience for those attending them may be impoverished – [continue …]

2023-04-21T17:02:28+00:00June 13th, 2006|knowing|

Is the future old news?

Is it time to put the future out of our misery?

Design can be valuable as a forecasting tool, and designers are great hunter-gatherers of ideas. We should develop that role further.

But we should not just look ahead in time, and not just look for technology trends.

In particular, we should look [continue …]

2022-10-07T19:30:41+00:00May 31st, 2006|knowing|

Design transformation

What, in broad terms, is happening to design right now? According to a new paper from RED in London, we are experiencing two important shifts: Firstly, in where design skills are being applied; and secondly, in who is doing the designing. A new discipline is emerging, they say, that [continue …]

2006-04-10T15:26:36+00:00April 10th, 2006|knowing|


I thought I’d escaped from the quicksands of of learning-speak when I completed the chapter on learning (which nearly did me in) for my book. But no! A new tsunami of learning lingo is upon us. Teachers having been exhausted by years of enforced modernisation, the hapless victims this [continue …]

2006-01-31T11:05:25+00:00January 31st, 2006|knowing|

Stress @ education

Britain’s unhealthy obsession with formal education appears to be stressing out the country’s youngest children. A recent story in The Guardian reports that toddlers starting at nursery, after being at home since birth, experience high levels of stress in the first weeks after separating from their mothers, [continue …]

2022-10-02T10:21:46+00:00October 28th, 2005|knowing|

Jan Verwijnen

I received the extremely sad news from Helsinki that Jan Verwijnen has died, following a serious illness, at the age of 56. Many Doors people will know of Jan as leader of the Spark! project that we participated in not long ago. Sparkl! was an inspirational experience that [continue …]

2023-04-21T17:00:26+00:00October 23rd, 2005|knowing|

Design and the growth of knowledge

In this one-morning symposium on November 10, three eminent researchers discuss designing as form of research. Brenda Laurel, Gillian Crampton-Smith, and Kun-Pyo Lee will look at the ways design generates knowledge which can be used beyond the product at hand and thereby generate wholly new ideas. The event is hosted [continue …]

2005-10-04T08:29:15+00:00October 4th, 2005|knowing|

Beyond the cranium

Where does the mind end and the world begin?

Until recently, philosophers tended to think of the nervous system as a glorified a set of message cables that connect the body to the brain. But philosopher Teed Rockwell thinks that the boundary between mind and world is a flexible one.

In his [continue …]

2022-10-21T12:10:58+00:00September 23rd, 2005|knowing|

What innovation sounds like

“Quiet in class!”. Silent attention to Teacher’s every word was the required mode of interaction when I was at school. Only speak when spoken to. Teachers themselves were judged by the quietness of their workspace; a noisy classroom meant they were not in sufficient control. All that seems to be [continue …]

2005-09-12T08:28:52+00:00September 12th, 2005|knowing|

Toys for the boys?

A mesmerising shopping list of new ‘research infrastructures’ has been sent to the the European Commission by a committee of top scientists. These new toys – sorry, ‘tools’ – range from an Extremely Large Telescope (ELT) for optical astronomy, to a research icebreaker called Aurora Borealis, and a [continue …]

2005-08-31T10:14:03+00:00August 31st, 2005|knowing|

What they made and what they think

The catalogues published by design schools when students graduate are frequently over-designed, under-edited, and consequently hopeless as communication tools. A welcome exception is MAID from the industrial design masters programme at Central Saint Martins in London. I was able to find out from it what the tutors and students [continue …]

2005-06-18T18:24:35+00:00June 18th, 2005|knowing|

Now listen good

My parents have been plagued by a rising volume of junk telephone calls from telemarketing outfits. Imagine my incredulity when I saw on the BBC this morning that one of the leading firms calls itself The Listening Company. One of the people we have to thank for the [continue …]

2005-06-17T11:29:15+00:00June 17th, 2005|knowing|

Paul Ricoeur

One of the reasons I decided to live in France was attending a lecture by the philosopher Paul Ricoeur, who has just died at the age of 92. It was a rainy Monday evening five years ago, in February, in Montpellier – and yet more than 600 people crammed [continue …]

2022-10-07T16:08:06+00:00June 13th, 2005|knowing|

Europe’s institutional Spruce Goose

The European Commission President, Jose Manuel Barroso, wants to create a European Institute of Technology to compete with MIT. According to one report, there’s a belief that “Europe needs an institution capable of  bringing together its currently too-dispersed scientific and teaching excellence”. Instead of creating one new institution, the EIT would [continue …]

2005-05-04T06:51:02+00:00May 4th, 2005|knowing|

Darwinian innovation

My book isn’t even out yet (the US publication date is on Friday; UK/Europe is at the end of May) and already someone has raised a sneaky question about its basic argument.Fast Company have a section in their book reviews called “Things We Didn”t Like” and they say: [continue …]

2023-04-18T07:31:42+00:00April 28th, 2005|knowing|

Europe’s IST research priorities

A new survey of front-line researchers in 25 EU countries reveals surprising devations from tech policy orthodoxy. The so-called Fistera Delphi (it’s a system for averaging the results of an opinon survey) asked experts, including this writer, to prioritise research priorities for 2010 and beyond. Strong endorsement was [continue …]

2022-10-21T12:10:40+00:00April 26th, 2005|knowing|
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