July 31, 2023

The Distributed Design Platform at re:publica

As we look back on the vibrant and dynamic atmosphere of the re:publica festival, we cannot help but reminisce about the exciting topics that we have been encountering. The visit was an inspiring experience that left a lasting impact on visitors, speakers, and collaborators. 

Between the 5th and 7th of June, the Distributed Design Platform was part of the re:publica festival in Berlin. We participated in the maker’s community exchange, hosted a workshop around social food hubs, and hosted a session about Money, Skills, and Work together with Kickstarter. Four of our platform members, namely Pakhuis de Zwiger, MAO, Ars LongaFab City Grand Paris, and OpenDot, have joined the team from Fab Lab Barcelona on these exciting three days. 

Some of our reflections connect to the interconnectedness of what we perceive as magic in our histories and how we think about futures. We acknowledge that societal issues and solutions need to be place based in the perspectives and territories. We still ponder about technology playing a deeper role in our every day than what many of us think. And we are humbled by the effort towards a positive change driven by the many individuals and organizations, which collective efforts are made ever more present at events like these. 

In a thought-provoking presentation, AX Mina, an author and futures thinker, delved into the significance of the term “magic” in the context of technology and the emergence of the technological sublime during the Industrial Revolution. Mina explored a diverse outlook on our future, one that draws inspiration from ancient wisdom traditions and embraces the magical and mystical elements that exist within our world.

Throughout the talk, AX invited the audience to consider a more expansive perspective, highlighting the importance of interweaving technological advancements with the values of interconnectedness and empathy. By intertwining modern innovation with age-old wisdom, AX encouraged a reimagination of the future that transcends mere gadgetry and acknowledges the profound transformation that can occur when we embrace the magic within ourselves and our interconnected world.

Among the many topics discussed at the festival – whose main theme was CASH! – was the influence of AI on the world of design and small batch manufacturing. Obviously, from the point of view of those involved in the Distributed Design network, a new field of work is likely to open up. 

One of the presentations, entitled “State of the Art of Design and Artificial Intelligence”, given by Sebastian Löwe, was particularly eloquent on the subjects likely to move our community forward. As the author of the book “Design und künstliche Intelligenz (2022)”, Sebastian opened our eyes to sectors that we thought would be spared by AI for the time being. Beyond acceleration of rendering for presentations of first drafts, AI is also being used today to support designer-producers in the design and manufacture of products. Actually, technical assistance tools (shapes, stress distributions & material skills) are already inviting themselves into our little experimental workshops, and some major groups are already targeting our profiles (designers, small craft businesses, laboratory workshops) like Alibaba Cloud, which is launching its MaaS (Model as a Service) ModelScope platform with over 300 open-source AI models ready for deployment. I tried not to sound too flabbergasted. It’s clearly a field of experimentation that our community need to work on quickly as part of our Distributed Design exchanges and learning process, and of course, to think about the effectiveness of these new tools – WiseTech  – in our practices.

The presentation ‘And the winner is…extremism’ of Jonathan Russell raised questions about CASH and responsibilities. The audience was taken on a journey about online safety and the implications for our societies and social structures. The danger of extremism by reducing online safety was explained, but the underlying message was the power of our choices as human beings in the ‘online world’. We are programming AI, we are making (inter)national policies, we are working in big tech companies, we are creating the dark web. This message is scary as well as empowering. Taking the story of Jonathan to a higher level of abstraction and translating it to our Distributed Design community the presentation tells a story about responsibilities and choices. When designing new products or concepts we have the choice to do ‘good’ or ‘bad’. The values of the Distributed Design community are open, ecosystemic, regenerative and collective. By making explicit choices on sustainability, inclusivity and transparency we can move towards a just society. A wake-up call for everyone in the community to choose wisely and stay on the bright side of the world wide web. 

Re:Publica is a fantastic opportunity to meet and learn about subjects that we tend to not dig enough, because of a lack of time. Even if the presentation formats are very short (30 minutes in general), these discussions or mini-lectures are very effective and meet our need for mental tools on subjects that are sharp but essential for the work of our Distributed Design community. 

The Distributed Design Platform’s visit to re:publica was an exceptional opportunity for connecting, learning, and collaborating. It served as a catalyst for new partnerships, as attendees discovered potential collaborators, exchanged knowledge, and explored regenerative systems. 

Stay tuned for more about the re:publica experience in our following blog posts! 

You are a Creative Talent and would like to use funding mechanisms such as the Distributed Design Platform Creative Mobility Scheme to visit events such as re:publica?

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