Thursday, 18 October 2007

Dott Festival | Day 3

Day 3 was a cold, but sunny day for the Dott Festival. The first influx of people had thinned out a bit, giving the Dott Team, Designers and Volunteers some time to catch their breadth before the weekend.

I spent my morning touching base with people via email whom I had met on Day 1 and at lunchtime headed down to the Dott Festival site to attend the first of the Dott Debates.

Today’s Dott Debates were presentations and conversations around ‘The Movement Dilemma.’ The afternoon kicked off with two presentations from (external to Dott) professionals who deal with mobility in their daily work. After a short lunch and tea break we came back for presentations on the three Dott 07 projects:

1. Move Me
2. Mapping the Necklace
3. Welcomes

I will only cover two presentations here. One from the first half of the Dott Debates session and one from the second half.

In the first session, Andreas Zachariah talked about his journey from Investment Banking to studying Design at the Royal College of Art (RCA). At the RCA, Andreas undertook a project called Carbon Hero. Carbon Hero is a mobile phone interface and information system which lets individuals see their daily carbon footprint. It’s such a brilliant idea because we are in need of becoming more aware of our impact on the environment and most of us carry our mobiles around all day and have it on. Andreas successfully put two-and-two together and the Carbon Hero idea was born.

Andreas’s belief that is even the small steps can make a difference further led him to design the information system people-friendly tracking and comparison measures eg. He designed alternative units of measure so we can all understand, in familiar terms, just how much carbon we were creating. We can also compare our weekly carbon footprints, enabling us to think a little bit more about what made the difference between one week and the next.

I enjoyed Andreas’s final slide titled the ‘Legacy of Design’.

It left us all with some things to think about such as:

- The fact that we need to create ‘waves not ripples’
- We need to encourage ‘empowerment not apathy’
- We need to give ‘transparency and personalisation’
- We need to enable ‘knowledge not spin’
- We may need ‘Failing to succeed’ and finally,
- We must ‘trust the human spirit’

David Towson of Live | Work, Newcastle presented a more in depth story of the Move Me project (the Awards night presentation was Pecha Kucha style ie. Three minute presentations with six slides and 20 seconds to talk about each slide) with which took place in Scremerston and looked at how to bring more mobility to school children in a widely dispersed area without impacting hard on the environment.

One of the things I love about design are the tensions in the problem that must be solved. Horst Rittel called them ‘wicked problems’, and they aren’t black and white, but the grey and complex. The grey and complex are the kinds of problems designers deal with everyday.

David started with the fact that most cars of the road each day travel with empty seats. If every one of these cars took an extra person, half a million cars would be removed from the roads. Powerful facts to begin with, but what and how can we begin to work on this?

David immersed us into the life of Margaret who makes a 5-mile walking trip down, each day to collect her child from school. In the photo we see a bus timetable, a potential point of intervention from a designer, but in the Move Me project, David points out that design did a whole lot more.

Through using the design process, David and his team involved all the stakeholders around the issue of getting children to school in Scremerston. This meant talking to children, staff, parents, bus operators etc.

What they found was that the information could be a whole lot more visible and clear. So the Live | Work team re-designed the timetables and other sources of information for bus services.

But that would not be enough to help fill those empty car seats. The key part of the Move Me project was designing a system of bespoke timetables, where individuals could identify, communicate and share their movements around Scremerston. The sharing and visibility of this information enabled people to become connected so that car pooling could take place, allowing greater mobility of school children and filling those empty seats.

If the success of the project is not already clear, the implementation of this project into other areas around the UK, such as in Berwick and within 53 other schools in the region, certainly demonstrates the extraordinary ability of designers and citizens to solve wicked problems.

Urban Camping

After the Dott Movement Debate, a group of us popped by the Ouseburn Valley to check out Dott's Urban Camping site. In July 07, Dott got together designers from around the world for 10 days to have them explore ideas around sustainable tourism in the North East. The last time I saw the ideas, they were concepts in Powerpoint presentations, but today, we got to see one of those ideas fully realised under the towering viaducts in the Ouseburn Valley.

The Dott Camp is a real accommodation site where one can stay during the Dott Festival for just £15 per person, per night and make very little impact on the environment. The site is a short bus ride and an even shorter walk away from the Dott Festival.

The tents are above ground, on scaffolding for increased safety. There are cooking facilities and toilets on site, and discounts for food at the local Ouseburn pubs and restaurants. It's a peaceful place with pleasant views.

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