Collider: Designing a Parasensical Futures Institute

In collaboration with Edinburgh Futures Institute

The conversion of the Old Royal Infirmary into the Edinburgh Futures Institute (EFI) presents some interesting challenges to design an environment that harnesses data-driven technology for social benefit. With spaces designed to bring together academics from a range of different disciplines across the arts, humanities and social sciences the Institute will deliver a programme of research, teaching and innovation that is cognisant of the needs of government, industry, and the wider community.

Augmented with sensor technologies now small enough to be integrated into parts of clothing, jewellery, furniture and building materials, the Institute will become ‘parasensical’. We adopt the prefix ‘para’ to designate objects or services that might be extreme or beyond the normal, to suggest that the use of technology to ‘sense’ what takes place in the Old Royal Infirmary, will be open, contested and extraordinary.

EFI invites you to imagine what a parasensical environment might be like, and to co-design how Internet of Things technologies might be used to construct cultures in which citizenship, participation and creativity can be developed. This Collider will bring together staff, students, entrepreneurs and creatives to work together to develop outlandish and viable propositions for how technology might be designed, deployed, governed and accessed to bring to life the old hospital and help it become an active collaborator alongside the many human occupants.

A collider is a conceptual design event, bringing together computational thinking and design thinking, to pull informaticians together with designers, and problem holders. The first part of the Collider sets the scene through invited provocations before breaking out in to co-design sessions.


Richard Williams is the head of History of Art, and Professor of Contemporary Visual Cultures. For over twenty years his teaching and research has explored the visualisation of the city, through case studies chiefly in the USA, Brazil and the UK. Key questions for Richard are: why do cities look the way they do? How have artists and film-makers, as well as professional urbanists envisioned the city? And how have real and imagined cities fed off of each other? His work has drawn on the social sciences and psychology as well as art history, and in teaching he is interested in practice-based research as well as more conventional approaches.

Lyndsey Jackson is a senior arts administrator and live event producer, currently the Deputy Chief Executive of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society.  The Edinburgh Festival Fringe is the largest arts festival in the world, and the greatest platform for artists and creatives to develop and showcase their talents on an international stage.  Lyndsey supports the Chief Executive, the Board of Trustees, the senior leadership team and Fringe Society staff to deliver the Society’s vision, aims and objectives through motivational leadership and clear strategic direction, leading on business continuity, governance and strategic planning, digital innovation and commercialisation, and the development of education outreach programmes that support the place of the festival in its host city.

Dave Murray-Rust is a Lecturer in Design Informatics at the University of Edinburgh. His work is concerned with ways that people, data and things interact. Current research questions include: How can we understand the “social machines” – large-scale human-computer collective systems – that are a manifestation of the algorithmically mediated society that we are heading towards? How can we ensure that there is space for people within computational systems, preserving privacy, choice, identity and humanity while making use of possibilities of computational coordination and personal data? How can we work with things that have an increasing sense of agency, from sensing to responding to shaping the world around them? In practice, this relates to: IoT, personal data, human data interaction, physical computing and manifesting data.


13:00 Lunch

13:30-14:00 Presentations and challenge setting

14:00 Ideation workshop

16:30 Close

Event and catering is free and all are welcome, but places are limited so please sign up in advance.


Design Informatics, Room 1.09 Evolution House, Edinburgh College Art, 78 West Port, Edinburgh, EH1 2LE