Lift09 — Future Cities — Carlo Ratti [en]

We are headed for the death of cities. In 2008, half the world population is living in cities.

mapping = complexity to simplicity

How do we make sense of all these digital representations of physical spaces? Bunch of projects.

(haha! the cyborg’s primary tool is the iPhone ;-))

Represent the map of the city in a different way. Map of cellphone activity in Rome around the World Cup Finals.

Concentration of pedestrians (difficult in Rome, because you usually use velocity to identify pedestrians, and pedestrians often move faster than vehicles!)

Barcelona, photos on Flickr.

View density of pictures taken in various places. (Florence for example.) Patterns of movement of Italians vs. Americans in Italy.

Map of Barcelona which shows pictures from Flickr streaming out of it, over time (video map). Filter by tag. Paralells between geography of brits and parties in Barcelona 😉

New York 2008

New York talk exchange. Who is NY talking to? Spinning globe showing phone calls as threads linking two places. Over time, too. Beautiful!

Zoom and see what parts of the city are calling what parts of the world. Information on the composition of those areas.

Zaragoza 2008

*steph-note: tuned out during that one, sorry. Something about an info box at the expo, water on the roof and running down the sides, and a roof which collapses to the ground — better run out fast!*

Other projects: GreenWheel — on a bike, capture energy while you’re braking. Copenhagen citybike. Smart tags to see where your garbage goes (awareness! Wall-E!) Put tags in the trash in NY and then follow it.

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Lift09 — Florence Devouard — Update on Wikimedia Foundation [en]

At the start, was difficult for the foundation (not enough money, etc).

During the last couple of years, has stabilized a lot — much better situation.  25 staff members, 350 servers, 8mio dollars budget, audited and located in San Francisco.

Nearly 25 local organizations involved. Got a grant to improve usability. Also a sum of money from the Mozilla Foundation for something around pushing video formats.


– 250 languages
– 11 mio articles
– 200 000 articles for 12 languages

Gone mainstream, so more vandalism

– bots who track “deceased” or words like that… annoying when people are announced dead and they aren’t, even if it’s for a few minutes
– flagged revisions: the visitor knows whether the page has been reviewed or is a “draft”; tested on the German wikipedia (there can be upto 21 days of backlog, bringing it down to 7 days). There is discussion to use the same system for the English wikipedia (roughly 60% in favour).
– approved wikipedians can “rate” articles

Wikisource: online archives

Idea: put an image of the book on part of a page, and the text opposite, so that the digitized version can be checked.


You can create your own book. Define title, chapters, using content from wikipedia.

**Wikimedia commons and images**

media repository created in 2004 => order posters of images in wikimedia commons (WikiPosters) — available initially in France.

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Lift09 — Ramesh Srinivasan — Cultural Futures [en]

What would a diverse digital world/web look like?

How is the web impacting the world?

Design exposed Ramesh to questions of culture. *(steph-note: I think this is a very good point/thing.)*

Put technology in the hands of *people*: things happen. Used in a different way and in a different context than what they were planned for.

Cultures understand how to take technologies to use them in ways that best benefit them.

Usability tends to push us towards thinking that there are specific uses for the technology, and we design them for those uses. But out there in the wild, other uses appear.

Example: Native American communities in Southern California, spread across reservations, connected through wifi.

Rethinking the museum. Piece of pottery — viewed by Zunis through stories, uses, rather than characteristics. Intersection between what the Zuni say about the piece of pottery, and the museum.

Video camera in villages in Andhra Pradesh. People seeing themselves in different ways.

=> comparative study Ramesh ran. 2 villages, similar demographics. “Create videos” around their everyday lives.

What happens? specially in an environment where 80% of the villagers are illiterate?

Power of choice. Characteristics of illiterate societies (very ritualized). When they start creating videos, some kind of literacy settles in. They’d take videos of things in the communities that were wrong, and send it to the government. Social action. Posted on YouTube, even!

What happened?

Mobility, dissemination, social capital, dialogue outside the focus group, confronting ritualization by interrupting everyday life.

Taking it to Policy. Scale vs. The Local.

How do policy-makers view the world? Example, waterlogging (monsoon). Hundreds of terms in people’s vocabulary for that, but only one for those complaints on a policy level.

Public Grievance & Redressal website

Where to start? tagging to overcome ontology issues, for example.

Two main issues:

a) how do we develop web systems that actually show controversy (wikipedia doesn’t really show that, for example *steph-note: except in talk pages*)

b) search: information has moved from “in your mind” to “what you can find = Google”. Google’s algorithm is based on a certain idea of how things should be found. eg search for Africa — head over to page 3 at least to find the first page *produced* by/in Africa… that says something! How do we show different ways of solving a problem?

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Lift09 — Change — Yeong Roh [en]

Arts: helps her think about herself. Shift of mode from previous speakers. More reflective.

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Change what, and how? and what *should* we change?

Start with changing our outlook or perspective of ourselves.

I Ching. Book of change. 2800 BC.

Author accused of being a North Korean spy.

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Word for “open up and make connections” = “connect all the way from the earth to the heavens”

Who do we **think** we are?

4 Dimensions of existence according to Ken Wilber:

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Levels of Consciousness: Senses — Cognition, science — Understanding, culture, values — Spirituality.

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Lift09 – David Rose – How Fiction Shapes the Future [en]

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Persistant needs/wishes fantasies:

– to know
– to communicate
– to heal
– to protect
– to create
– for mobility

Inspirations for where to advance.


To know the truth. Invention and fiction.

  • Marsden (?): here were no cultural icons representing strong women => WonderWoman, with lasso of truth. In its snare, you have to tell the truth.
  • Snow White: mirror mirror on the wall…
  • Conlin: Alexander Crystal seer.
  • Wizard of Oz.

Single pixel browser. Orb. Ambient objects: between push and pull. Skiing conditions, gardening, weather forecast…

Watches are a pretty mature object, but angular perception is not very ambient. *(steph-note: I think I may have got that wrong, lots of examples of angular displacement devices.)*

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Fridges are a great place to diplay stuff. They’re already expensive, so easy to add an extra screen or something.

Exposing customers to energy prices flattens the demand curve.

Showing us a device with proximity sensor: from far away you see the cross-room view of the weather forecast, and as you get closer, you see more detailed views. *(steph-note: wow!)*

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Photo frame with presence sensor, and squeeze sensor.

Internet-connected pillcap. Ordering refills. Escalating alerts to take the pills. Share on facebook (I’m on something and I’m doing well). Rewards! Medical records!

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Phasers on stun on Star Trek. Exploring brave new worlds without harming anyone.

Ambient umbrella!!


Robots would give you time to be creative. Roomba!

Painting with a digital brush that picks up color from your environment! (great video)

Guitar Hero.


Flying carpet. Drive in the smart lane, GPS. Marauder’s Map = GPS combined with Google Latitude. Tracking busses in SF.

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Lift09 — Change — Nicolas Nova — The Recurring Failure of Holy Grails [en]

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Videophone 1969 — so expensive that nobody could use it.

The Intelligent Fridge 1996

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Location-based services 1993 — a success in terms of communication, but not in terms of where people are *(steph-note: not sure I got that right)* — Google Latitude, but problems for privacy reasons. Not that simple.

Common characteristics:

– overoptimism
– reinvention of the wheel
– ignoring similar attempts


– Trapped in the zeitgeist (designers, researches, engineers).
– Time is not stable. Innovations happen slowly.
– Short term, long term
– bad understanding of “users”
– the “average human” myth

Automating rituals (Where are you? Smart fridge that does the shopping.)

Virtual assistants in MS Office. Idea: technology should be more “natural”. Making things “natural” is difficult: what is natural, and how can technology really replicate it?

What is “natural” shifts over time. Eg. swiping travel cards that are in bags in the subway: natural for the people who are used to do it, but not for those who have never been in the subway. It’s difficult to define.

So, why is it important to explore failures?

Many failures are actually good ideas before their time. Failures can indicate possible futures to explore. More detailed critique. Source for design (Apple certainly learned a lot for the iPhone from their Newton failure).

It’s important to spot failures, there is a need to document them and turn them into a design strategy.

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Lift09 — Change — Patrick J. Gyger — Science Fiction and the Future [en]

Lift09 021 - Patrick Gyger Amazing stories (pulp magazines). Looking into the future. Thirties. This is when SF started becoming a genre.

SF starts creating a new 20th century. SF zeitgeist, science programme. SF moves over to other media: films, radio.

Commercials start using SF backdrops for all sorts of commercial goods. Up to the 60s, the future is used to promote goods.

What will the future be like? (based on SF, predictions)

Home of the future. Revolutionary transportation. We’ll all have flying cars! But actually, flying cars did exist, in the twenties (René Tampier). <–photo–>

Despite the real flying cars, they remain in the realm of imagination, they are still an object of the future.

SF plants the seeds of dreams and desire. It has to stay in the realm of imagination. There is no place for the flying car in the present, because it is an object of the future, by definition.

Some objects have made their way from SF into our world.

– wrist pager / wrist phone
– cybernetics, artificial limbs (cf. Kevin Warwick last year at Lift08)
– robotics
– communications, videophone (Skype)
– jetpacks (want to see your neighbour soaring above your head in the morning, off to work?)

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Failures — or not there yet:

– invisibility doesn’t really work
– cryogenics (not too good)
– teleportation for transportation — we’re not there yet
– time travel

The future did not take the shape of our SF dreams of the past. *steph-note: not altogether surprising imho, as SF is really talking about the present*

Right now, we live in Utopia in the Western world — we don’t feel the urgency to dream up our Utopia. Some technology utopias have been realised, but have not brought what we hoped from them.

We also live in Dystopia — aware of the dark sides of technology.

“We live in the dreams and nightmares of our grandparents, at the same time.”

Belief of the grandiose views of flying cars: machines, not politics, will produce beneficial social change. We don’t believe that anymore.

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Lift09 Workshop: Where will you work tomorrow? (Pierre Belcari) [en]

Workshop information. Watch the video.

Developing environments. Different solutions available at the moment in Europe. Evolution of the workplace.

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Where do we come from?

Office: individual offices, cubicles, open spaces

Hoteling: book work spaces when you need them, inside the company.

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Companies might try to encourage people to telecommute: save money on space, and improve work-life balance.

Evolution of technology has made evolution of the workspace possible.

Working from home? social interaction is lacking.

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Coworking: Gathering of people working independantly but sharing values and costs. Synergy.

*steph-note: I talked about eclau and Coworking Léman here.*

Xavier: FRIUP incubator. Very different from a coworking space. Very startup-minded. Need to leave after one year. Have to present a project to a committee who will decide if they can benefit from the incubator.

Nicolas: on the road.

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Workshop About Coworking at Lift09 [en]

[fr] Je participe à un workshop sur le coworking à Lift, mercredi après-midi. Si vous avez prévu de venir à la conférence, rejoignez-nous-y. J'y parlerai de mon expérience avec l'eclau. Si vous avez des aventures style coworking à partager, contactez-nous pour en parler au workshop!

The Lift conference is taking place in Geneva two days from now. Unlike last year, where in addition to live-blogging a whole lot of stuff I also held a workshop, an informal discussion, and gave an open stage speech (I was kicking off Going Solo), this year will be pretty low-key for me: just live-blogging and talking with interesting people.

If you’re not decided about coming yet, you might read what I wrote last year to encourage people to come to Lift08.

I’ll be actively participating in a workshop about coworking held by Pierre Belcari (I agreed to be co-host and talk about my experience setting up eclau here in Lausanne). It’ll take place in the afternoon.

Do join us if the topic interests you (“Where will you work tomorrow?”) and if you have coworking stories to share (or any alternate office arrangement stories) do get in touch with us so we can plan some space for you to tell your story.

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