I’m giving an online talk shortly. In an hour and half from now, to be precise.
As always, as I get closer to a talk the more ideas come to light, as the particles of information collide with each other, shedding new light on things. Sometimes, when giving talks to a room of folk, you might manage to get something in, a new slide, or a just a quick aside. You don’t want to break the linear narrative.
In these interesting times however, I’ve been experimenting with using a Miro board instead of a slide deck, and exploring ideas and thinking as more of a wander with wonders; offering some paths to turn down, some places to stop and look at, or some directions that male it clear that this path is not for today.
It means that I’ve managed to get one of those wonders in talk, but I’ve taken to here to quickly write about it first to see what I actually I think about it.
It’s about the similarities and differences between the disciplines of innovation, design and futures.
(The talk itself is on the subject of futures, to a service design network audience, so finding connections between these areas seemed important)
It’s a topic I’ve been wondering about for a while, perhaps more from a craft perspective than any other. Why do these disciplines often feel so blurry at the edges, and fall into each other (for better or worse)?
There’s definitely something about the tools and materials, and the way practitioners collect, connect and create from external information in order to achieve their goals.
The central idea which is reflected through the TENETS project I’ve been working on (Information is light, not liquid) helps support this.
Think of individual pieces of information as pixels or particles which come together to form an image, but can be reordered into a large number of alternatives views too. The information you collect, the way you recombine and order, and finally the way you show the results, is something that exists in different ways in innovation, design and futures work.
I was trying to find a suitable label, and perhaps metaphor, for those three disciplines. I’ve settled on Visual Fields.
That first image, with the overlapping areas, was by Harry Moss Traquair in 1938. It shows you different spatial arrays which can be seen by the eye when it is fixed in one position. What you can see clearly in front of you, and what’s still ‘visible’ but perhaps unknown as it sits to the edge. It feels fitting to think of the messy overlaps between three disciplines.
Then I was talking this through with Scott Smith earlier, and he mentioned spiders eyes. So I went looking online again, and found this…
“Spiders usually have eight eyes: two very large front eyes to get a clear, colour image and judge distance, and extra side eyes to detect when something is moving.”
Again, a nice juxtaposition for different disciplines; sometimes you’re very focussed on the thing in front of you, sometimes you want to get a sense of what’s moving in the wider environment around you.
Finally, the camera array on a modern smartphone comes with a range of different lens and sensors; here represented by Apple’s iPhone 12 Pro, with it’s telephoto, wide, ultra wide lenses and LIDAR scanner.
Rather than having one sensor to force all reality through, a sensing array of different disciplines should act as a complementary set of capabilities.
These three Visual Fields (and there are more, perhaps) represent ways of seeing the world, collecting the information from it, processing it, and creating the stimulus for certain actions.
What needs further thought in this encapsulation is what happens when you try and cross the inputs of one discipline into the outputs of another.
That’s for another day though, when I’m not half and hour away from giving a talk. Wish me luck.