Alternative Presents as New Weak Signals

The following projects are the result of the Masters in Design for Emergent Futures 2019/2020 class. Evolving over the course of nine months, they show the evolution and application of all the methodologies presented here in this toolkit, from the first Design Space based on the Atlas of Weak Signals to the iterative consolidation of projects inserted in actual communities of practice, which present and provoke new alternative presents in the different range of areas of interest the students immersed themselves in. 

The projects are presented here in five different categories, which are new weak signals that the students curated themselves, as an evolution of the weak signals which they departed from.  They speak about relevant trends, interests and efforts at the intersection of the vastly diverse typologies of research and topics that the students engaged themselves with.

Crafting Education(s)

These projects look at contemporary methodologies of creativity and learning to empower citizens to discover new professional paths and become hybrid profiles of the future.

Farm Academy 

Pablo Zuloaga – Colombia

Farm Academy is a conceptual academy of agriculture and digital fabrication that aims to improve rural people’s lives through low cost technology education in a non-colonizing way, applied to local concerns and needs, with methodologies and skills that could be adapted to the reality of each place. Teaching the scope of some technologies and skills, people can start building DIY food production systems that help them be more sustainable and self-sufficient.

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Radical Imaginations 

Daphne Gerodimou – Greece

This project explores how speculative design can be a powerful tool in cultivating imaginations and embracing the emergence of various narratives and perceptions. It explores how speculative and participatory design methodologies can be part of the educational paradigm introducing the need for an education of imagination alongside an education of knowledge and skills. Through a series of activities, workshops and personal explorations it stands as a collection of methodologies and speculative objects or dialogic prototypes, generated by individual and collective imaginations, each of those raising inquiries about alternate presents and possible futures. What tools do we have to initiate critical dialogues for our presents and futures ? How can we collectively imagine and therefore design our future narratives? How do  we start navigating towards systems that are not afraid of radical imaginations?

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Augmenting Creativity 

Ching-Chia Renn – Taiwan

Machine learning for creative practice. Augmenting Creativity is a project about exploring the opportunities of collaborating with Artificial Intelligence in a creative process and expression. From discussing and reflecting how technology would impact how creators think and act, to speculating the possible future scenarios of new relationships between human creators with machines. Finding the intersection between AI and the creative field, inviting artists and designers to create with the creative machine and identify their roles in the age of creative AI. The project not only makes creators know about the possibility of applying AI in creative practice, but also provides them tools to actually learn machine learning and have the ability to use them. Aiming to broaden the imagination and augment creativity.

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Imagine Future of Jobs 

Wongsathon Choonavan – Thailand

Learning experiences about the future of jobs for the next generation. In the past and nowadays, it has been complex to educate kids about the jobs they will have when they grow up. But if jobs in the future change very fast and are unstable, how can career education for the next generation look like? After researching, we found that “adapting yourself with creativity” is the essential point to use when they grow up in an unpredictable future. We have designed learning experiences to give them essential tools. In 4 steps: change perception -> imagine future job -> role play -> future skill. We design learning experiences in a variety of ways for a variety of audiences, such as workshops, collage craft toys, instagram content, and Gashapon toys.

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How can humanity rebalance its relationship with nature, microorganisms and our own bodies? Intranatura presents interventions to rebalance human-nature relationships for regenerative societies.

Organic Matters 

Laura Freixas Conde – Spain

Organic Matters is an initiative to rethink the future and value of regenerative economy, organic matter and local production. The initiative has different lines of research: a material platform to connect local producers with material designers and industries, a consulting service and a space to collaborate, develop and implement compostable applications that return nutrients back to Earth. Organic Matters platform promotes a local regenerative production model connecting local producers, material designers and companies interested in regenerative and low environmental impact materials.

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Adél Sarvary – Hungary

Balconnect is a green initiative addressing the biodiversity crisis in cities and the disconnection between urbanites and nature, by highlighting the ecological importance of native plants raised on balconies, terraces and window sills. It aims to build a social network of outdoor plant owners, engage them in collaborative learning, and in building habitats for wildlife together – because a balcony is our gateway to nature.

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Magdalena Mojsiejuk – Poland

What small change could influence both our deep misunderstanding and underappreciation of how our food grows, and make our cities greener?  What if we make the effort, energy, and money used on fitness and channel it into gardening? Can we change perceptions and attitudes, reconnect with public spaces, and get more food sustainable? After the current pandemic, we need to rethink our cities and leisure. Could we get more #GARDENFIT?

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Kira Healing Nature 

Juanita Pardo – Colombia

If humans could find a more tangible way of communicating with nature, perhaps we would understand that we are part of the same life force and that our relationship should be fair, mutual, balanced, and circular. Kira uses technology as a tool to preserve and spread ancestral indigenous knowledge, and awaken our intuition through practical exercises, medicinal recipes, and ways to heal nature back.

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Redefining Relationships highlights the effects of our interactions with the industrialised and digitalised society, challenging our habitual processes for emergent societies of the future.


Natalia Barankova – Slovakia

Since the industrial revolution, fashion has become a synonym for cruelty, human gluttony, status and insanity as the speed of consumption has been increasing exponentially. COVID-19 has become an unexpected catalyst for rethinking the fashion industry. MY-X is a project aimed at building a future of ‘wardrobe surgeries’. The main part is a tool, designed to prolong the life cycle of clothing through its deconstruction and consecutive customised reconstruction by means of parametric design, digital fabrication and sewing. However, the project is a vision of a new fashion system built on circular collaborative mass-customisation, through connection of citizens and their resources and emergence of local micro factories.

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Data Diet

Caroline Rudd – USA

Internet emissions currently account for two percent of global emissions, which is more than that of the aviation industry, and continues to rise. With the rise of AI, 5G and the monumental surge of internet users due to Covid19, creating a low carbon internet has never been more important than during this hyperconnected era. Through conscious web design, increased awareness, and responsible data management we will reduce the impact of the internet on the environment.

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Breaking Free 

Elsa Garduño – Mexico

Waste is a bad design. We must reevaluate the value of the product and the packaging, and stop designing for abundance. So the question is: can we redesign convenience? Throughout the years it has been proved that change cannot be made from one side only. Businesses, governments, and citizens must work together to move towards a circular economy in which plastic never becomes waste or pollution. We need to rethink our practices, and the way we design, use, and reuse plastics. As citizens, we represent an important part of moving forward to a circular economy in our cities, but it is crucial that we change our ways… BFP is a citizen movement for citizens looking to create a community in an effort to reduce single-use plastics within our neighborhoods. The goal is for the movement to evolve, calling on businesses and the government to work simultaneously with citizens to improve the city while helping the planet.

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The maker movement has given rise to societies of collaborative production and collective infrastructures. Metamorphise seeks to establish new methodologies and circular methods of consumption and distribution.

Urban Fabrication

Zoe Tzika – Greece

Making Collective Infrastructures.Can we open up some productive perspectives for actualizing alternative urban futures? The notion of Urban Fabrications is presented as an interpretive frame for understanding emergent urban design experiments in contemporary cities. Stimulating theoretical and practical experimentation regarding possible future pathways of urban design intervention,  as a means to promote social participation in the conception and appropriation of urban space. The project explores how we can make more resilient neighbourhoods with the participation of the local communities. It experiments with the materiality & the energy of the urban ecosystem, in an inter-scale approach in order to understand how we can create circularity and self-sufficiency. By making collective, bottom-up infrastructures people can actively shape their environment and their everyday lives.

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Hala Amer – Jordan

Through this project, I would like to call for cultural intelligence and ethnic equality through the processes of making in the context of large scale migration and displacement crises. As ‘making’ exists in every culture, it is a mid-ground for different communities to understand and appreciate one another. Merging the local host communities with the ‘displaced’ new communities and encouraging collaboration in the context of a Maker Space will yield astonishing results. ‘How to Collaborate: between the displaced communities, cultural organizations, and maker spaces.’ This methodology is written and designed by myself and a few co-designers to be open to evolution and development by any and all who have experience within the target group. The co-designers of this methodology range between entities, individuals, or organizations who have experiences in conducting or designing workshops, running an organization supporting the target group, or by makers who shared their skills.

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Making Meaning 

Mitalee Parikh – India

How can we change the things we make by changing the way we make things? After the industrial revolutions, manufacturing processes have become so efficient that mass-producing things has become faster and cheaper by the day. The technologies we have developed have a way of keeping up with our imaginations. The question then is – what futures do we imagine? We have systems for mass customization using automation as well as making machines for markets of one, so how we make things that make sense and add value to the world? Through a series of design actions and explorations on making and meaning at different scales, the study concludes with a model/framework to make meaningful interventions in the world and understand what it means to make things that make sense.

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Wasted Waste

Georgia Restou – Greece

Through my research, I am focussing on finding ways to stop the stream of tyre pollution with the use of innovative technologies, that could create a new lifecycle for this otherwise overlooked product, that sits in landfills polluting the ecosystem in order to boost the circular economy and combat climate change. About 1.5 billion tires are created consistently every year around the globe. Giving value to End of Life Tyres is a good way to stop them from ending up in landfills polluting our environment. Tyre upcycling into rubber granulates saves 58,4% of CO2 when compared with ELT’s co-incineration and can reach 95% of carbon footprint reductions when compared to those of virgin materials substituted. Combining GTR with fabrication methods, such as 3d printing and injection molding, that help us generate customized products, creates an added value to this material source by extending its life cycle.

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