It's February in Rochester, the snow is endless and the only thing that keeps me going these days is the promise of spring. At RIT, we're already gearing up for our 4th Innovation and Creativity festival, Imagine RIT, which happens this year on Saturday May 7.
Having participated in NYC World Maker Faire this past September, I'm a hard-core believer in the value of these types of events. They push creatives to tell rich stories about their projects and they engage the general public in colorful and creative visions of the future. Below are some projects that I'm involved with. Some of them will be featured at Imagine RIT, some not. But all of the projects I work on focus on making the world better, so listing them here helps me discover the overlaps and opportunities. If you find something that I've missed or are working on similar stuff, then please send me a message or leave a comment.
FUTURE OF JOURNALISM
My RIT colleagues Vic Perotti from business and Andrea Hickerson from journalism are working together on a project for the festival called "Rise Above the Crowd," and I'm honored that they invite me to chime in on the project whenever I want to. The project is still in the formative stages but I believe the questions that the project team is asking are the right ones: How does general public + mobile technology effect journalism? How can large networked displays + mobile inputs engage journalists and public in positive feedback loops? How does gaming and elements-of-play enhance the news experience? How do new technologies + conventional and unconventional content creators enrich real-time events such as Imagine RIT? Like I said, great questions. I'm excited to play with whatever they've got on festival day. The communications that will "Rise Above the Crowd" are bound to be rich ones.
DESIGN & BUSINESS FRESHMEN
In the Saunders College of Business our freshman engage in a year long course sequence called "Biz 1-2-3" in which they create a new product or service from start to finish. In the design school, all of the design freshman engage in a year long sequence called "3D Design" in which they learn to observe the world around them and intervene with 3D artifacts. This year, we decided that at least one section of these classes should play together. It's been a learning experience, for sure. Communication across these academic silos takes practice to master, but these kids are getting a head start and they are doing great. Some of the teams will show off their projects at the festival.
SAUNDERS CAFE & GENIUS BAR
In previous years, Saunders College has struggled a little bit with what to do for the festival. Our students don't make race cars like the engineering students do and they don't make sculpture like the art students do. So how do we exhibit our skills? This year we're going to try a mini-lecture series inspired by O'Reilly Ignite model and by the ITP Cafe that we saw at MakerFaire last fall. Our students and faculty really know how to explain the role of emerging technologies in society and economy, so we've created a space to let them shine doing just that. Additionally, the business students on the Executive Board want to host a Saunders Genius Bar - they'll staff a room with students, faculty, staff, and alums who all have social network know-how and offer free consults to festival attendees. Both the cafe and bar will be fueled by plenty of coffee and treats.
VIGNELLI CENTER/FABRICA COLLABO
I teach in a b.school even though my background is in art and design, and I am incredibly grateful to my mentors, such as famed design historian R. Roger Remington, for inviting me to participate in some of the projects they work on. As you probably know, we recently opened the Vignelli Center for Design Studies at RIT and Roger has been the champion of this project. This spring, the Vignelli Center is partnering with Fabrica, the communications think-tank for the Benetton Group, on a project called "Looking Back, Designing Forward." With this project, we'll be creating posters that celebrate positive innovations of the past ten years. And then we'll look forward to imagine and model innovations to come in the near future. Several classes are participating in this project. My class is going to focus the second half of the project on the future of the city of Rochester (see Imagine Rochester 2020 below).
YOXI DIGITAL DIET
I got an invite last week to submit an entry to this competition only to find that the entry date is on Monday. But when I found out that one of the judges was Douglas Rushkoff, I just had to throw something together. So I gathered a team and very quickly we wrote a proposal for a system called "Together" (name may change again before Monday). In a nutshell, the system doesn't help people cut down on their digital intake, but instead tries to change the quality of it. We liken this change to a person replacing processed foods with whole foods. And the “whole food” of digital input is input that encourages volunteering. There is probably some overlap among this project and the Knight Foundation project, in that we're all concerned with how people consume media and what people do with media. How does it inspire action? We're seeing some pretty amazing proof of that in Egypt this past week.
FOODLINK STUDENT PROJECTS
We're in the winter quarter at RIT and my students are wrapping up the projects they've been working on for Foodlink. They started by simply observing volunteer culture. And I have to hand it to them, they identified some pretty incredible problem spaces to work on. Group one is working on making signage that helps developmentally disabled volunteers work more independently. Group 2 is working on a ride share system for volunteers. Group 3 is working on a beautification/farmer education installation in the warehouse where volunteers sort food. Group 4 is working on a way-finding system for volunteers. Group 5 is working on a needs/skills board that matches staff with specific needs with volunteers who have the skills to fulfill those needs. I've pushed them pretty hard this quarter, and I feel a little guilty about that, but the work that they are doing is top notch.
IMAGINE ROCHESTER 2020
I've been struggling to find a way to continue my work with Foodlink and take on this fantastic project that we've got going with Fabrica. I've been incredibly impressed with the R&D that Foodlink is engaged in. Their immediate goal is to continue serving eleven counties with emergency food, but their long term vision is to transform the region so that emergency food is no longer needed. Think about that for a minute. They already have mechanisms in place that support this vision and I hope they will be mainstream ten years out. So my class will work with Foodlink and other future thinkers in Rochester to make a 3D map of the city year 2020. I am grateful to Fabrica for putting forth this brief. Ten years into the future, it turns out, is a very useful amount of time to be exploring. We don't have to invent the future from scratch. But rather, we can look at the seeds that are being planted now and imagine what cities will be like when these innovations reach a tipping point.