Category: Energy

Sustainable Futures at Inside/Out Festival

Not really having any idea what I was signing up for, on Tuesday I attended the Sustainable Futures breakfast salon at the Somerset House by Editorial Intelligence as part of the Inside/Out Festival. The morning included three brief introductions by a guest panel comprised of Jim Haywood, Sandy Black and Olivia Knight followed by casual questions and discussion.

Sustainable Futures lecture at Somerset House

As my recent thesis incorporated similar themes regarding sustainability, consumerism and the individual vs the collective’s relationship with energy – I’m quite critical on the topic. That being said, I found Haywood’s and Black’s perspectives rather trite. While obviously an extremely knowledgable sustainability consultant, Haywood presented a wealth of environmental statistics and projections that I believe alienate the individual from personal action due to the unintentional cross-over into environmental scare tactics. I’m personally against scare tactics for their growing overuse and potential desensitization to the topic, as well as their portrayal of this ‘larger than life’ problem in which it becomes too easy for an individual to view it as a global issue in which that can’t have an impact. Don’t get me wrong, climate change IS a very large global issue, I’m just being critical on how we inspire and instigate behaviour change and collective action. On the other hand, Haywood’s concluding analogy was strong and on point – wish he would’ve played it through his entire talk. He compared sustainability to climbing Mount Everest:

  1. Take the first step up the mountain, beginning with individual action
  2. Rope in the other climbers, to summit the mountain is a join initiative
  3. Scale the mountain, but be sure to enjoy the view and see that its worth it.

Professor Sandy Blank spoke from a fashion perspective, bringing a specific vantage point rooted in the dichotomy between fashion as an embedded cultural construct and its complex lifecycle problems. She highlighted the competing paradigms of aspirational (think Oscar gowns) verses FastCheapNow (think Primark), and how a growing shift toward the latter is resulting in shocking amounts of textiles waste. I could be wrong, but I don’t remember her mentioning all the other environmentally unfriendly practices embedded within the entire fashion supply chain (disclaimer: strict time restrictions on the talks), and felt she shifted a bit too strongly towards defending the positives of fashion – enabling self-confidence, social communication, etc. While these are valuable points, and myself as a fashion advocate believe in, I was left waiting for a disruptive solution. Maybe its me, missing the purpose of these talks, because they definitely lead to valuable discussions, but perhaps I keep naively awaiting an effortless answer…

…which was given by the third speaker, Olivia Knight. And it made my day. Knight is the founder of Patchwork Present, a website where friends and family can contribute to the one gift you really want, rather than buying you 25 you don’t want. She is the first to mention that collaborative gift giving isn’t a new idea, she just made it digital and easy. While I find Knight’s business innovative for disrupting an timeless tradition (gift-giving) by both modernizing and making universally accessible an existing solution (collaborative consumption), hearing her clearly articulated thoughts on consumption made me want to run up and give her a double high-five. She began with the tension between want and waste, highlighting our human nature to need or covet things. And we do need stuff, but “we don’t want to feel bad wanting.” Unfortunately though, we often consume what we don’t need and show our love for another by buying even more things we don’t need. Patchwork Present addresses the latter by facilitating collaborative consumption of the things, or thing, you really do want. Through this smarter consumerism, want is in turn celebrated, while I believe also taking an actionable step forward towards a more sustainable future.

Needless to say, I was impressed with Knight, and though perhaps critical on the morning as a whole, overall enjoyed the diverse perspectives and discussions.

MFA Thesis – UID Exhibition at Semcon

I was selected to exhibited and present my Interaction Design thesis project, The Family Circuit: A New Narrative of American Domesticity, with a group of other UID graduates for three days at Semcon in Göteborg, Sweden.

Umeå Interaction Design exhibition at Semcon by Karey Helms

MFA Thesis – The Family Circuit report

First draft of my MFA thesis report has been ordered from blurb. PDF version available to download here.

Design Fiction MFA thesis by Karey Helms

Thesis Gateway Presentation Feedback

Following my gateway presentation last Friday, I received a lot of helpful feedback regarding my next steps and exhibition priorities and setup. During my presentation I skipped all previous background and process material and essentially launched into a narrative of the fictional world and characters I’ve created – you can read the first draft iteration of The Family Circuit: A New Narrative in American Domesticity.

Umea interaction design thesis persona brainstorm by Karey Helms

Feedback from reviewers included:

  • Finding a balance between conveying main message quickly vs requiring in depth analysis. Is the goal to get the message quickly? Essentially, my exhibition needs to be able to cater to those with a short attention span, while also allowing the various layers of the project and story to reveal over more time and with additional material. I personally am more inclined to cater to the latter, as I feel making the message overly explicit will sacrifice the experience of peeling back the layers.
  • Emphasis on storytelling: be sure to connect and relate the characteristics of the characters into and through the cycles of daily events (something I have but need to work on making more explicit and central).
  • 5 minute presentation at design talks could be a a narrative describing the world and omitting the why/how I got here. Of course, followed by an ‘if you want to see more, check out my exhibition…’
  • Make the exhibition minimal, highlighting the artifacts. Hint at other aspects of family life, but don’t overload with unnecessary details.
  • START STAGING NOW. Make a mini mockup of the exhibition plan, which could also inform if I want to make it full scale (most likely) or something along the lines of a cornell box.
  • Various supplementary ideas: Pulp fiction book, digital photo frame, Whole Earth Catalog (love love!), mockumentary (Modern Family & The Office – REALLY which I had time for this, but unsure)
  • Make my infomercial idea a higher priority
  • Make objects in photos/GIFs/video pop in relation to Energy of Things catalog
  • Match the exhibition setting to the scenes used in supplementary material
  • Don’t forget to relate and check back to my original intention: energy consumption awareness

My own thoughts & reflections:

  • Lots to do!
  • Keep having fun!

The Family Circuit: A New Narrative of American Domesticity

Last Friday was IxD thesis gateway presentations – more so a private discussion with tutors and reviewers to assess our thesis progress, plans, and priorities for the upcoming five weeks. As my thesis is taking a strong design fiction direction, I did not give a presentation, yet read my draft narrative. To be completed this week, but please enjoy the preview below… it’s proudly quite ‘punny’ (wink wink).

The Family Circuit: A New Narrative in American Domesticity

The Family Circuit: A New Narrative of American Domesticity

It was a cloudy morning in early May, as were most days in Newtown. Otto Power approached the front door to check the weather, only to encounter resistance. Annoyed at the door’s conduct (tivity), he countered the friction with force, and it hesitantly opened – subtly challenging his potential motive while also directly insinuating the impending consequence. Going outside before breakfast was a break in Otto’s usual morning routine, especially for a weekday, and the mental energy used by the intelligent door to evaluate the uncommon situation would cost him the required electricity for a warm cup of coffee. Otto already speculated as much, for it was rare to have a morning electrical surplus. But he had woken with a vague yet irrepressible weight growing in his body, for Otto Power was tired. And so the forthcoming electricity sacrifice failed to impede the growing hope of a different day, and as he stepped outside he thoughtfully wondered aloud, “Will it be windy today?”

Family Circuit – Project Name & Inspiration

FINALLY got around to naming my thesis project due to some much needed pressure as all graduating students were asked to submit a selection of project information for the UID’14 Design Talks upcoming webpage. After a serious brainstorm yesterday morning, I came up with ‘Family Circuit,’ a subtle play and similarity to ‘Family Circus’ as recent developments in my project have brought forward the the family dynamics, individual characters, daily energy rituals, and cohesive storyline as a central focus of both my ideation and final deliverables. Which, on that note, also brings to light that though prioritized highly in my original goals, I’ve come to the realization that working energy harvesting prototypes are not essential to communicate my concept, and thus will take a back seat if explored at all. On the fun side, I’ve very much enjoyed this week researching and watching films featuring dysfunctional families – Wes Anderson perhaps being most influential. Great Wes Anderson Montage below by Alejandro Prullansky:

Though, its quite hard to top my favorite film family of all time – the Hoover family from Little Miss Sunshine.

Little Miss Sunshine family inspiration

Thesis Mid Review Feedback

I am very pleased with last week’s thesis mid review presentation and feedback. While I typically don’t look forward to ‘the making of’ – presentation process days – I’ve found these frequent thesis presentations useful both personally to more strongly formulate the best way of delivering my work, as well as extremely fruitful for the class to reconnect regarding each others projects. Not to mention, its exciting and rewarding to formally see your own progress. You can also view/read my full mid review presentation.

Umeå IxD thesis mid review presentation

Feedback from reviewers included:

  • One unified story in the end, perhaps focusing on a specific daily cycle within a single day of the year
  • Videos as a potential result or strong support material
  • Return to earlier ideas and re-brainstorm around them
  • Potential organization of scenarios around maintenance (ex: father must take something to work to continue generating)
  • Provoking question: What will be my everyday life?
  • Either integrate or be able to answer why I’m not – the smart home and financial connections
  • Look into Albert Borgmann’s Device Paradigm
  • Potential inspiration in Fabrica’s Holidays in Iceland campaign

My own thoughts & reflections:

  • While a lot of my current ideas are quite bold in their shocking nature and associated humor, I do not necessarily envision them as my end result and want to be carefully mindful choosing and crafting my final situations based on the strength of the content, not the statement. Though I love a big bang, I am fully open to a more subtle provocation if it entails a cohesive storyline and logical system.
  • Furthermore, though a principle component of my earlier goals was the development of working prototypes, I’m beginning to see that this is really not necessary to accurately convey my concept and therefore not a worthwhile use of my time. Ah, killing a darling, I do love prototyping. Though, as one of my tutors expressed, I have plenty of working prototypes in my portfolio.
  • Call me crazy, but I really love doing a thesis. As my undergrad did not involve one, I was naively unaware how much selfish satisfaction can result from intense investigations into your own passions. And its spring in Umeå.

Thesis Mid Review Presentation

This past Thursday and Friday were IxD2 thesis mid review presentations. Below are my presentation slides and annotations. Text written some odd place in between formal snippets taken from my report and my quite colloquial style of presenting. All background photos are my own unless stated otherwise.

UID interaction design energy consumption thesis mid review

Because every presentation should begin with a different quote!

Human Generated Energy Harvesting

This weekend I was browsing energy harvesting materials for some near future prototyping while also looking at concepts and products already on the market. Below are a few, one I was previously aware of (Powertraveller), and others new to myself.

Powertraveller makes portable chargers for using electronic devices while exploring the outdoors. Their products are designed to withstand harsh environmental conditions, promoting flexibility and exploration while off-grid. My thesis in contrast will focus on creating speculative projects while on-grid.

Juice Box by Artifact is an energy system to bring electricity to people in poverty living off the grid – another interesting contrast to my thesis in which I hope to inspire people to be more mindful while living ‘off of’ the grid (or on-grid).

The Pocket Socket 2 by K-TOR is a hand crank generator that can charge an impressive range of electronic devices. I really appreciate the instructional video below that demonstrates how to use the device (closer to the end of the video), as I feel this provides a physical ‘experience’ of energy.