„The Future of Everything“– Social Simulations 1970|2010

Sebastian Vehlken

“Living Earth Simulator Will Predict the Future of Everything” – in 2010, such headlines followed the announcement of a design plan for a social supercomputing network. This FutureICT initiative responded to the EU Flagship Program, a funding scheme for groundbreaking research. In my talk, I will not only provide insight into the present discourse concerned with large-scale social simulations. By comparison with the socio-cybernetic layout of Stafford Beer’s Cybersyn project, I also wish to outline the conspicuous similarities and differences between today’s efforts and those of the 1970s, particularly in the problems that the projects sought to solve, in their conceptual designs, and in their media-technological implementation.

Domestic Space in the Age of Technological Acceleration

Jan Boelen, Laura Herman

It is somehow ironic how Le Corbusier’s utopian housing projects were lead-encased for sound insulation, in order to preserve the private sphere of the home. While Le Corbusier was deeply concerned with designing functional, efficient houses with all the necessary appliances to meet the inhabitants’ basic needs, today’s occupants have trouble connecting to Wi-Fi networks. One might wonder how the architect would have designed the house, which he famously described as a Machine à Habiter, in times when the house is transforming into a place permeated with embedded smart objects, interconnected through the internet. In the framework of Digital Bauhaus, we will look at how new technologies have affected domestic space throughout time and space. Moving historically from the Machine à Habiter to the Smart House, the workshop will draw on different artistic approaches and strategies which artists and designers have employed to draw attention to technology in relation to the house–from dystopian landscapes and places of control to imaginative futures of emancipation and new horizons. Not only is it the aim of the workshop to gain a critical understanding of past and emerging paradigms and practices, but also to yield insights into the ambiguities that remain around a number of issues including security and privacy, socio-cultural impact.


What’s Wrong with Social Innovation?

‘Social innovation’ is a bit of a  puzzle. As one of the currently fashionable policy ‘trends’, it emerged out of the conviction that the great challenges our societies are facing today require new methods and strategies. Over the course of the last decade, the field of practices that understand themselves in terms of social innovation has experienced rapid growth. Increasingly, social innovation has become an important reference for national and European policy programs that address questions of ‘sustainability’ as well as challenges in the fields of, for instance, education, health care or social work.

However, there is one great problem that ‘social innovation’ has: Nobody really knows what it means. Indeed, there seems to be a widening hiatus between the increasingly grandiose claims as to the capabilities of social innovation (e.g., solving so-called “wicked problems” like world poverty or pulling off “systemic change”) and the ability to come up with a clear explanation of what it is one is actually doing. A closer look at the growing social innovation scene, its organizations, conferences, publications and web-fora leads to the impression that it is held together mainly by a therapeutic belief in the ‘goodness’ and efficacy of one’s action. This, of course, is not a particularly strong foundation upon which a new field of practical expertise can be built, let alone a new policy field could be founded.

This presentation explores the concepts behind social innovation in order to search for approach to ‘radical change‘ that is more realistic and powerful than the current rhetorical gymnastics.

Superstudio and the Attempted Murder of Utopia

Ludwig Engel

Do we need to design the future? And if not, how can we not do that? The lecture discusses the historically (un)intended utopian potentials in architectural visual production exemplified through the work of Italian architecture collective Superstudio.

When Superstudio formed in Florence in 1967, pop and consumer culture were reaching an historically unfathomed high. Against this hyper-materialism, the group took a critical stance aiming at making architecture disappear completely, thus taking away its power as a representational weapon of market ideology. Superstudio’s most famous work – The Continuous Monument, An Architectural Model for Total Urbanisation – offers a glimpse into the paradox that the task of designing an utopia brings with it: Intended as a fierce criticism of an insatiable capitalism by stripping architecture of all its form and meaning, today, Superstudio’s designs – stripped of their historical context – are often misinterpreted as visions representing our globalized and digitalized planet where any alternative to market economy has become unthinkable.

Given this historical example, highly relevant questions for today arise: How powerful is design today in shaping the future? Does today’s design production offer ways of alternative thinking? Can it visualize systemic change, can design even trigger change? And if so, how can its perception be processed in such an accelerated manner that its idea is not bent by history?

Rethinking the Future of Societies – Is the Stone Age Over?

“The Stone Age did not end because humans ran out of stones. It ended because it was time for a re-think about how we live.”

Mankind has been always fascinated about materials and their intrinsic properties. During different periods of mankind evolution, man has always challenged his cognitive limits to learn materials’ properties so that they could serve his own purposes and benefit civilizations as a form of cultural expression. Materials such as stone, metal and textiles have played an important role in civilizational history. So what is the time that we are currently living in? Can we position ourselves in a certain period of our civilizational history? We have lived for almost 200 year under the umbrella of the industrial revolution. In the past decades, we became aware of facts that demonstrate that our current situation of fabrication methods is becoming unsustainable and being hidden by the so-called ”synthesism”. In addition, the human and social component has been completely neglected and often abused. This workshop intends to promote awareness and engage the audience in an active discussion about new visions for implementing radically new fabrication methods that could revolutionize our future societies. The starting point is to correlate slavery (social), pollution (impact on enviroment), tools (workability), non-genetically modified organisms (no ”synthesism”) and tiny materials at the 10-9m scale (chemistry and nanotechnology) to produce new and sustainable materials that have the potential to revolutionize and contribute to the implementation of the so-called “bioparadigm”, so that our present decisions can have a profound and positive impact both in society and environment.


Competitive Social Design

Louis Klein

Social Design is inevitable like the Beuys’ Social Plastic. The interplay of the individuals, their ways to meet the inescapability of the social other drive the emergence of social systems. Regulations, habits, organisations, cultures, laws and institutions come into existence and autopoietically stabilize themselves and channel human behaviour. Oftentimes we forget that they are man-made, hence plastic and contingent. They can be changed and need to be accounted for.

Since the enlightenment, the progressive obsession with the individual blocks our perspective on the realms of possibilities to engage in ways to conceive what Baecker calls the Next Society. In an ironic twist Fukuyama anticipated the fundamentalism of western societies in this unhealthy liaison of capitalism and democratism, which he praised as the end of history.

While we throw billions at big science to study the human genome or quantum mechanics, there is little progress in exploring the conditions for the possibility of political or cultural development. It seems as if we turned a blind eye on social complexity preferring to muddle through with what we have.

While the West remains occupied with its ignorance, systemically less fundamental societies like Singapore, the UAE or China seize their opportunity to invest in their social designs, courageous enough to experiment, research, and assess. And based on social design impact evaluation, they improve and innovate towards more competitive ways to set-up politics and business. What if we looked at it other than with the arrogance of the western fundamentalist?

Communities of Vision: Co-creating Utopias

Communities of Vision: Co-creating Utopias

When an individual or a group of like-minded individuals anticipate a desired outcome they may quickly and easily move towards implementation of a desired future. However, in a complex society with many differing perspectives, values and cultures, one’s vision of the future may be another’s worst case scenario. Environmental challenges on a global scale currently underscore the necessity of navigating and negotiating these complexities in ways that enable a sustainable and resilient future for all.

How might we move toward a shared vision of the future that takes into account complex and interconnected perspectives, a multiplicity of cultures and tolerance for a wide range of values? How do recent theories of affect and materialism play into this discourse, both through exploring possible ethical and technological structures and by experimenting with possible futures?

In this talk, I’ll share a set of Principles for Communities of Vision, and how these can be implemented with a group of diverse participants towards visualizing the future. In the process, we will also review methods, tools and strategies for building and facilitating Communities of Vision at various levels of scale, as well as uses for policy-planning, as input into product and service design requirements and for contribution to public discourse.

The Bottom-up Field Guide

Connectors Malmö

Where does the influence of the public sector end and the rise of the grassroots movement begin? We’re experiencing a phase where civil society demands more influence and is beginning to receive more recognition as the relevant actor to solve society’s complex issues. This is a time where you and your neighbourhood friends can get together, solve a trivial social challenge locally and possibly scale the solution to other places and contexts. In this hands-on workshop we explore the process of turning an idea into action from a grassroots approach. We will simulate the progression of a budget-less informal group with a powerful vision to becoming an influential movement getting things done. Underlying this workshop we will assess the concepts of cross-sectoral collaboration, human-centered design and community engagement.

Promenadologische Betrachtungen über die Wahrnehmung der Umwelt und die Aufgaben unserer Generation.

Martin Schmitz

Wer plant die Planung?, Design ist unsichtbar, Durch Pflege zerstört, Der kleinstmögliche Eingriff und Warum ist Landschaft schön? sind fünf Formeln und Fragen des Schweizer Soziologen Lucius Burckhardt (1925-2003) zur Planung und Gestaltung in Architektur, Design, Urbanismus oder Soziologie. Der bebilderte Vortrag führt in die Aktualität des Werkes von Lucius Burckhardt ein.


Mundane Utopias

The workshop will explore how design can be used as a tool to speculate on possible near-futures and discuss them. Building on new paradigms of design, such as speculative design or design fiction, we propose to use design methods to prototype scenarios of mundane utopias. These future societies will be framed by extrapolating a massive use of current emergent technologies such as big data, algorithmic regulation or biotechnologies. Participants will investigate the everyday implications and impacts of these technologies and how they could turn into dystopias for specific publics.


Social Design Cookbook

Judit Boros, Melinda Sipos

Collaboration practices and methodologies have an increasing role and enabling power in contemporary societies as they establish and inspire new ways of social coexistence and cooperation, economic development and growth.

“The Format Project” is an ongoing research project on replicable formats of cooperation.

It explores widely adopted models and practices of collaborative knowledge production, sharing, collective action and decision-making. With the rise of global connectedness, practices that are born on a small and local level are being copied, adapted and replicated globally at a pace previously unknown. Also, they do not only spread across boundaries of physicality and languages, but also across contexts and domains. Thus, replicable formats of cooperation significantly contribute to the evolution of how we, humans, create new social systems for cooperation.

At this workshop, participants will be guided through the creation process of new social formats for collaboration and cooperation. “Motivation architecture” as a design concept will be used to explore and outline the participation of stakeholders in such processes, with a special focus on the balance between their motivations and contributions.

Design Gestalten | Designing Design

In 1995 Nicholas Negroponte stated that “The change from atoms to bits is irrevocable and unstoppable”. 30 years later we may review Negroponte’s statement and claim that atoms and bits will continue to merge with the advent of smart skin and wearable computers. The body as physical interface to the world has been complemented by the smartphone, the Internet and last but not least wireless, invisible and fast data-autobahns. The body now acts as a communication device between the individual and its physical and virtual environments. Its modification, crossing cyborgian and humanoid genes, describes a fundamental change of the body’s actual material and its new role in the local and urban environment, on a macro- and micro-scale as semi-autonomous communication interface.

Do we need to redesign design in the age of a hacked body?

What are the new challenges for the future gestaltung of society?

Is there a general system residing on a meta-level of design with or without artificial computation?

The Bauhaus as a Commune

Niklas Maak

Many exhibitions underscored the historic relevance of Bauhaus as a style, its impact on modern art, architecture and design. But if you look closely at the photography of the Bauhaus, you’ll discover something else in them: an attempt to reframe the display and the production of art, an attempt to overcome classic categories of the private and the public, an approach which involves collective living, and an unseen idea of collectivity. The story of Bauhaus is also the story of an artistic community that was, from the very first moment on, aware of the fact that it was regarded as a new model of collective living, as a social „Utopia“. How does our understanding of the contemporary relevance of Bauhaus and its members change when we view their work from this perspective? Could Bauhaus be an approach for the present, could it, beyond being a historicised category, serve as a structural model to reframe our idea of public space and collective being, of the city as a social construct that is in desperate need of new forms, and new spaces for collectivity? Could Bauhaus have a relevance for today’s discourse about the future of the public realm and its relation to the private space, and also, in a wider context, for the question how, and to which aim, we conceive objects, and spaces?

Bauhaus and the Life Reform Movement

Anja Baumhoff

The Bauhaus in Weimar was founded after World War One – at a time when people experienced modernity as a freezing shock. The life reform movement, popular since the mid 19th century, provided an alternative way of living which also influenced the Bauhaus. Today the ideas of the life reform movement are part of the counterculture as well as the ecology movement and the party Die Grünen. Most Germans think of it as something left wing and progressive. But an analysis of the early 20th century examples prove that the reformist and enlightened impetus should not be taken for granted. The life reform movement has had a darker side to it which was far more conservative than we like to assumed.

The Un-Quantified Self: A New Romantic Era in Business and Tech

Tim Leberecht

We are facing another age of „disenchantment,“ this time caused by the datafication and quantification of everything. Tim Leberecht argues that a new romantic movement is forming in response to the grip of a mechanical, functionalist worldview that suppresses subjectivity, ambiguity, and emotion with the belief in a data-driven objective truth. As technology allows us to make everything seamless, convenient, and pre­dictable, Leberecht cautions us of the human costs of an “algorithmic society” and heralds the value of mystery, friction, and vulnerability in creating beauty and meaning. Romance, he contends, is a human right, and the ultimate differential in a world of maximizers and optimizers.

The Responsible Romantic’s World of Ideas Then and Now

Johanna K. Jaeger

The disruptive power of Romanticism has left its mark on German history and society. But not only in the well celebrated intellectual sense of the “Dichter und Denker” era. In its beginnings, the Romantic protagonist furthered the resilience of the moral values of his time, throwing himself into a new world in creation. More than a century later, the Nazis abused these motives and wowed them into a compelling narrative, sweeping away morale absolutes and agreed values. Down to the present day, Romanticism hasn’t lost any of its allure on the intellectual and lay world alike.

Observing the rather innocuous side of the genesis from Romanticism to Romantic manifestations today, we are now left with deciphering the magic of its components. Can we eclectically reassemble them and put them to use to re-think and re-shape society? Depending on our “application” of the “Romantic Toolbox”, where might this lead us in the bigger picture? Current lifestyle trends can be read as the path of consumers following a mass exodus into the cozy, numbing individualized Biedermeier world.

Are we collectively shifting from a responsible attitude for society towards struggling with an opaque felling of undirected responsibility? Let’s run a background check on the Romantic’s world of ideas to see if the Romantic protagonist of today found tangible tools to be the transmission belt for change we are so desperately looking for.

We Get the Tools to Build Utopia – What Will We Do With Them?

Frank Rieger

With the internet of things, universal connectivity, the large surplus in data and processing power we approach an age where the we can do almost anything with our society. It can be shaped it into an dystopian surveillance state with retro-feudal decision structures or into a utopian luxury communism – and anything in between. We get the tools to build what we want. The question now is: what do we want? Is there a „we“? What are the optimization goals that are guiding the usage of these new possibilities?

Designing a European Republic

Ulrike Guérot

Europe needs a political redesign and this in three steps: first, pick the pieces, the political claims, especially of the young generation and the emancipatory movements which spread over Europe; second, undo the discourse mist which has fallen over Europe like mildew; third, reassemble Europe in a democratic and socially fair way.

A new political design means that Europa is more than a single market and a single currency. It must be build on the principle of political equality of all European citizens, which is the very basis for all political entities and unfolds in three things: voting quality for the EP, tax equality and same access to social rights. This is the emancipatory step Europe must take now. It points to a European republican movement, where nation statehood is disassembled, where chauvinistic discourses are deconstructed, where national borders are overcome in order to make the European dream true: Europe is the avant-garde for the first transnational democracy on earth in the Kantian sense. This democracy – a European-wide parliamentarism – must be build on Montesquieu’s principle of division of powers, overcoming the technocratic trilogy structure of the current European governance structure.

Redesigning Europe means also imaging a post-national European space – res publica europaea: under the roof of political equality for all European citizens and in the spirit of a European common good, regional and metropolitan entities with large regional autonomy and identity form a network and gather as constitutive elements of a future European Republic!

The European Republic is a network space. It is digital, flat, electro mobile, climate friendly, slow-foodish, genossenschaftlich, co-operative. It organises a complementary rural-urban network and clips together transnational industry-clusters for the prosperity and beautiful European landscapes for the aesthetics of the project! Because Europe is a women and therefore it is about beauty.

Design in the Clicktivism-fatigued Society

Lisa Ma

In the age of clicktivism, society reacts through social networks but often resulting in little social impact. The perception is that we are more emotionally active but in fact we are increasingly desensitized when the sensations of activism end at the instant gratification of a click.

Could design respond to a clicktivism-fatigued society?

Design is slowly starting to respond, by challenge our assumptions rather than problem solving for the immediate future. However, Lisa Ma argues for a more radical shift in design’s provocative role. Using glitches in systems, Lisa argues that designs are platforms of engagements for activism and by posing design dilemmas, restore the critical effectiveness of activism.



To help ‘translate‘ utopia into reality, we need a concrete image, the figure of a real ‘Vorschein’ – as stated in Ernst Bloch’s philosophical theory. CUCULA is indeed such a ‘Vorschein’: As opposed to theoretical debate about the refugees’ situation in Europe, we opt for pragmatic and immediate action, the ‘practice of making’.

As a pilot project, CUCULA investigates in new approaches, articulates concrete solutions within the realm of refugee politics. By putting the pilot to the test we want to question established structures and to formulate possible alternatives.

We aim for concrete and direct action while keeping our independency and flexibility. We interact, experiment and activate in order to collectively create new perspectives and to enter a constructive dialogue.
In our talk we would like to introduce our pilot project CUCULA and hopefully open up a fruitful dialogue.

Experiences With a Threefold Humanitarian Innovation Approach

Daniel Kerber

How can design become an effective tool for humanitarian innovation?

The focus of MORE THAN SHELTERS is on the creation of appropriate solutions in the humanitarian context and the efficient planning of emergency interventions. To do so the organization builds on design, meaning the contextual creation and planning of systems, structures and products. Such integrated planning and the inclusive design on different levels ensures participation of all stakeholders and affected parties and considers human habitats to be organic environments that need to be acted upon on all layers that define their reality.

With this understanding MORE THAN SHELTERS developed a threefold humanitarian innovation approach consisting of product design, social design and eco-system design. How these design processes can look like in practice and how they point towards a paradigm shift within humanitarian aid interventions will be the topic of this talk.

Guiding questions are thereby:

How can product design become a driver for improvement of human reality in emergency situations?
What social design tools and methods have proven to be successful in the field?
How can innovation be embedded in the complex eco-system of humanitarian response?

To illustrate the application of this approach and to show how answers to these questions look in humanitarian practice, practical examples from MORE THAN SHELTERS’ projects in the refugee camp Za’atari, Jordan and in post-earthquake Nepal will be given.