Program Details

The conference will take place on the 17th of April 2015 at Harvard GSD.

Day of conference

8:30am | Welcome breakfast and registration

9:00 am | Conference presentation

9:30am | SESSION 1 “Data-driven design”

Michael Hansmeyer, Benjamin Dillenburger
“Mesh Mining”

Paul Keel (presenter), Jeffrey Huang, Jianxi Luo, Patrick Winston
“Design Decoder: Mapping the Genealogy of Design Ideas”

We present Design Decoder, a multidisciplinary and speculative research effort aimed at harvesting digital design data to map the genealogy of design ideas. We investigate the effects of design data on design practice, and realize a generic, data‐driven design tool for monitoring design trends, for the customized discovery of relevant design inspirations, and for enabling predictions as to the particular needs and interests of individual design communities.

Panagiotis Michalatos

11:30am | KEYNOTE

Mario Carpo
“Computation, Simulation, Optimization, and the New Style of Big Data”

12:30pm | Lunch

1:30pm | SESSION 2 “Programming the Physical World”

Jessica Rosencrantz
“Growing Objects”

Jessica will discuss Nervous System’s efforts to revolutionize product design through generative techniques, 3d-printing and interactivity. Along the way, she will take several detours into the realms of natural pattern formation, simulation, and biology. The talk will focus on some of Nervous System’s latest projects including a 4D printing technique that creates complex, foldable forms for 3D printing and an exploration into the morphogenesis of plants.

Alma Steingart
“Rendering Higher Dimensions”

Gentiane Venture
“Towards individual robotics design: Using human motion for enhanced Human-Robot Interaction experience”

Andrew Witt

3:30pm | SESSION 3 “Urban design and big data”

Andrea L. M. Hansen
“Visualizing Systems: Reading and Representing the Human Environment”

As shown by events ranging from Hurricane Katrina and Typhoon Haiyan to the Arab spring and Occupy Wall Street, the human environment in the 21st is century is affected by a multitude of environmental, cultural and political systems of substantial complexity and scale. This lecture examines how data visualization and mapping allow designers to take an active role in helping to dynamically adapt global cities to profound—and often sudden—change, using examples from Fluxscape’s interactive visualization and mapping work with Code for America, the Detroit Collaborative Design Center, the Cities of Los Angeles and Philadelphia, and the Visualizing Systems website.

Dietmar Offenhuber
“The pigeon in the haystack – design before and after the fact”

We generally think about reasoning as a process of pattern detection and inference, and pattern recognition is among the key technologies for the emerging paradigm of data intense science. But patterns can be misleading. According to the philosopher Alexander Riegler, pattern recognition is the last resort: under normal conditions, humans construct information rather than process patterns. In my talk, I will critique the view that sees visualization first of all as an analytic tool for patterns discovery, and contrast it with a different perspective that focuses on the roles of visualization and digital interfaces in constituting and shaping the underlying urban data sets.

Etienne Turpin
“Mesoscalarity: Data Polities and Designed Engagement”

The presentation will focus on three concepts for data-driven design which have emerged from research for We will outline the concept of mesoscalarity as a means to both describe and analyze the integrative approach to ‘big data’ (spatio-temporal data mining), ‘big crowdsourcing’ (interventive operations within data mining processes), and ‘small data’ (community-led data collection efforts). We will elaborate the concept of data polities by considering how design-driven institutional ethnography can locate potentials for organizations of various scales and capacities to reimagine the role of data collection and analysis as a means to enable institutional transformation, collaboration, and adaptation. We will consider how designed engagement enables both the formation and study of data polities while demanding a lithe, adaptive comportment to mesoscalarity and transferability across domains, geographies, and ecologies of practice.

5:30pm | Tea Break


Edith Ackermann
“Digital Portraiture and the Quantified Self: Paradoxes and Ironies of Living by the Numbers”

Socrates famously wrote “the life which is unexamined is not worth living”. And as the examiners themselves are part of the life, their accounts are by necessity auto-biographical. What’s new, in this day and age, is that the very idea of “self, and its role in the making of a life worth living, have shifted to the point of omitting the mind between the brain and body. Psychiatry, behavioral- and neurosciences have outed psych-analysis, and what’s left to examine are the numeric expressions of otherwise invisible bits and atoms that drive our attempts to tame our unconscious. Marshall Mac Luhan saw it coming: “In the electronic age we see ourselves being translated more and more into the form of information, moving toward the technological extension of consciousness”. The quantified self (big data applied to digital portraiture) is steeped in the behaviorist credo that coming to know who we are, or developing a feeling for what matters, is akin to measuring how we do. Its motto: Get the facts, show the evidence, fix the problem, and reach your goal! Its dictate: Beware of human interpreters. Data speaks for itself, and the bigger the data the stronger its predicament. This talk addresses some of the paradoxes that arise from taking at face value, or living by, the numbers that draw the contours of our digital identities—with no regard to, or understanding of, who we “really” are when mindful of the Psyche’s own capricious “logic”! That’s when the poets’ musings, the philosophers’ insights, and the scientists’ wildest guesses are worth a hundred bio-trackers, self-help devices, and monitoring tools!

7pm | SESSION 4 “Open data and civic media”

Rahul Bhargava, Emily Bhargava
“Data Analysis as Civic Engagement: a new arts ­based approach”

Janina Mueller, Ann Whiteside

Alan Wiig
“The geography of data centers and the networked urban condition”

The disposition of data to transform social exchange is predicated on pervasive connection to global telecommunication networks, where the ‘high design’ of digital, mobile technologies like an Apple iPhone function through mundane, distributed, operational landscapes that transfer information across distance while also affecting proximate space in consequential ways. While data is largely immaterial except in the action it enables, the storage, maintenance, and transmission of data require many layers of interfacing systems that function across scales but are always, inherently embedded in particular places. This presentation will examine the aesthetics and politics of data centers through case studies in the Northeast United States. Understanding the impact of data on the planetary, networked urban condition necessitates conceptualizing the relationship between data infrastructures and the fabric of the city.

Evening before conference

An opening reception will take place on the 16th of April at 7pm along with a poster session.


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