Today I attended the University of Edinburgh Data, Design & Society (DDS) course’s final presentations session, having been invited by Ewan Klein, who is the course organiser.
Data, Design & Society is an innovative programmes across three departments of Edinburgh University: the School of Informatics; the School of Social and Political Studies; and Design Informatics. Students on this programme (which is a 20 credit bearing Level 8 course) have been focusing on specific real world projects which, this time, have been focusing on food and food sustainability. All of the course materials are available publicly online, along with more information on all of the projects.
The format for this session was group presentations of the projects and for each of these I’ve captured the group name and comments, but not all of the students names. If you are interested in following up with any of these do feel free to contact the teams via Ewan (ewan [AT] inf.ed.ac.uk).
Please note: I took these notes live during the presentations so please do be aware that there may be some corrections to come, and that there is much more information about all of the challenges and responses on the DDS site.
I went to an interesting talk yesterday by Prof Chris Speed called â€œDancing with Dataâ€�, on how our interactions and relationships with each other, with the objects in our lives and with companies and charities are changing as a result of the data that is now being generated by those objects (particularly smartphones, but increasingly by other objects too). New phenomena such as 3D printing, airbnb, foursquare and iZettle are giving us choices we never had before, but also leading to things being done with our data which we might not have expected or known about. The relationships between individuals and our data are being re-defined as we speak. Prof Speed challenged us to think about the position of designers in this new world where push-to-pull markets are being replaced by new models. He also told us about his research collaborations with Oxfam, looking at how technology might enhance the value of the second-hand objects they sell by allowing customers to hear their stories from their previous owners. Â Â
All very thought-provoking, but what about the implications for academic research, aside from those working in the fields of Design, Economics or Sociology who must now develop new models to reflect this changing landscape? Well, the question arises, if all this data is being generated and collected by companies, are the academics (and indeed the charity sector) falling behind the curve? Here at the University of Edinburgh, my colleagues in Informatics are doing Data Science research, looking into the infrastructure and the algorithms used to analyse the kind of commercial Big Data flowing out of the smartphones in our pockets, while Prof Speed and his colleagues are looking at how design itself is being affected. But perhaps academics in all disciplines need to be tuning their antennae to this wavelength and thinking seriously about how their research can adapt to and be enhanced by the new ways we are all dancing with data.