The students at Konstfack, one of Swedens best Universitys for arts, crafts and design show their degree exhibition right now. I went there to see if the Internet of Things – that we believe is such a big deal – has made any impression on these students’ work. And well, I only found a few examples, so maybe there are other topics that make these students hearts beat. However, one of the industrial design students, Lorenzo Polo, have made a very interesting and reflecting degree project on the topic of IoT. After watching his movie about a product called Emotiva I was confused and set up an interview to find out more:
Video by Simon Schmitz.
Is this for real? Can you tell me more about your project “Emotiva”?
LP: The project is a speculative, provocative design proposal in which emotions are the centre of an alternative social network called Emotiva. In this social media, smart devices are able to monitor and then actually “transfer” to other users (with no filter) people’s emotional states through the Internet. The project has been structured as a parody. In this case, a parody of Kickstarter campaigns and Apple commercials. I wanted to generate reflection, through irony, on the role of tech-giants and designers that, when designing with technology, often tend to forget the ethical and social impact that a certain product could assume, giving more importance to revenues instead. In a bigger perspective, the project also aims to trigger reflection on how we are using technology and to which extent we are willing to rely on it – especially when it comes to deal with our identities and in social interaction.
How did you become interested in this topic (IoT and emotions)?
LP: New technologies have always been something appealing to me as designer, for instance 3D Printing interests me a great deal. Concerning IoT, I was talking to some IT engineer friends and I remember that I first thought that IoT was just “WOW, I can’t believe this”, and I eventually decided to focus my degree project on it. However, after some time of researching I partly shifted my perspective to be more critical and speculative. I was interested in the paradox of relating something personal and human such as emotions with something logical like technology, and wanted to understand how this relation could affect human social interaction.
Is the Internet of Things a topic that industrial design students are familiar with – is connectivity part of the students’ design concepts?
LP: The Internet of Things is a topic grasped only on the surface by most the industrial design students here at Konstfack, probably because it is still a new scenario. Although, I think that this will change in the future because we are going to deal more and more with IoT, especially in relation to design.
How do you think IoT will affect the way designers work?
LP: The design field has already changed a lot so far. Industrial designers for instance, are not only designing simple products anymore, but are involved more and more in the creation of hybrids between objects, systems, interactions, experiences, but most of all they are involved in the generation of values and meanings. With IoT the designer’s field will change even more; designers will have to face a new era of products in which the “connectivity” will be the protagonist and the differences between the aspects cited above will be even more subtle. This will lead to unexpected and hopefully positive results in the future.
What do you see as the biggest opportunities with IoT? Any downfalls?
LP: I believe that the Internet of Things has an enormous potential of applications in many fields. Paradoxically, I don’t think that the biggest opportunities will be concerning products, but I believe that IoT will be extremely useful in the creation of smart environments such as homes, cities, work places and the nature. The application of IoT in these areas will bring a better systematization and preservation, which will lead to a decrease of human mistakes, but above all it will facilitate our lives.
What reactions have you met?
LP: During the Spring Exhibition at Konstfack I did an experiment. I decided to exhibit the projects as if I really wanted to promote it, in order to see what reactions I would get. And I received a lot of reactions that I was hoping to get, such as “Don’t play with mind control!”, but I also received sarcastic ones, such as “ Do it…just do it man!”. It is interesting that those people probably haven’t fully realized that they have already given away their identities to technology in some extent, for example by letting social networks dealing with their personal information!
What is your background before Konstfack? Why did you chose to study in Sweden and how do you like it?
LP: I chose to study in Sweden for many reasons. One reason was because I’ve heard Konstfack is a good university, where I could improve my skills in terms of work methodology and design research. Also, I have always pictured Sweden as a country where democracy, meritocracy and rights were valorized concepts, and so far I was right!
Good characteristics for an IoT solution according to Lorenzo:
- It should not be invasive, meaning it should not be worn inside your body nor a wearable device sharing too much private information to others. The data should remain between the users and the service provider.
- It should be environmentally and ethically sustainable.
- Through the data and info collected, the IoT product should make the user reflect on his/her own behavior – not just make life easier. There would be no point to use it otherwise, at least not for me.