Design and the Elastic Mind

Royal College of Art. New Sensual Interfaces. 2007

Christopher Woebken
Design Interactions Department, Royal College of Art
New Sensual Interfaces
Concept and video. 2007 Linseeds. Lent by Christopher Woebken. Image by Christopher Woebken Audio courtesy of Acoustiguide

PAOLA ANTONELLI: This is a video of New Sensual Interfaces by designer Chris Woebken.

Anthony Dunne says the piece was a reaction to popular perceptions of nanotechnology.

ANTHONY DUNNE: Usually nanotechnology's presented as something that can make materials super hard or super light or super strong. It almost always takes the form of some kind of coating at the moment.

And Chris wasn't really interested in trying to come up with a new nanoproduct, but was interested in what would happen if nanotechnology started to replace existing materials how might we interact with that world in a very different way?

And he focused on one of the dreams of nanotechnology, which is smart dust, where tiny little particles communicate with each other join together, move about, form new objects, break apart. And looked at if our technology was composed of that kind of technology, basically, how would we use it? What would we be doing?

So, you have these seeds, representing his smart dust. And he's basically interacting with them in a way that we don't really know what he's doing, but we can see that it's very different from today. It looks quite poetic and very aesthetic.

I think, the dialogue between designers and scientists is almost mutating design, so that designers are having to think a little bit more abstractly.

We're not just talking about new forms of media, but redesigning parts of people, redesigning animals using tissue as a component in a product. And I think what design can do is fast forward and imagine what happens when those technologies enter everyday life and what kind of new products might emerge.

Design in that way can facilitate a debate about whether we want these futures or not.

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