Today I am talking to Will Odom, design researcher at the School of Interactive Arts and Technology at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada. Will has made design his preferred mode of inquiry and uses carefully crafted artefacts to open opportunity spaces for alternative futures and to ask critical questions about which roles technology can have in positively shaping the human condition.
At Simon Fraser, he co-directs the Everyday Design Studio and is particularly interested in exploring the notion of slow technology. It is the idea that, contrary to the efficiency push of the digital, technology can allow for creativity, exploration and reflection at speeds that enable us to develop meaningful relationships.
In this conversation, we speak about a new smartness of things, one that allows technology to subtly evolve with people over a longer period of time. Will shares how he sees his designs as speculative proposals, as boundary objects that open up a dialogue about new opportunity spaces for technologies in our lives. While some of Will's best known projects explore how people listen to music, we start talking about his latest work, looking into possible roles of technology in relation to alternative notions of "home". While the shiny Smart Home prospects tell the normative stories of the white, middle-class family of four, many alternative notions of "home" exist for which this IoT narrative seems very much out of place. People who live on boats, in vans, in collective housing, are squatters or nomadic pet-sitters may often experience the coarseness of connectivity or have different concepts of ownership for which none of the technology is designed. Will engages in thorny social issues, aiming to provide a glimpse of different futures that can open up debates. We talk about how Will often oscillates between the ultimate particular design and the underpinning theory and philosophy in an attempt to understand the relationship between smart everything and us through his design practice. Its fascinating, mindful, deeply engaged and also very beautiful work. Enjoy.
This work is part of the Research and Education Award I received from the Next Generation Internet Initiative and has been made possible by the support of the Department of Business Development and Technology at Aarhus University
Music by To Rococo Rot (I Am In The World With You)