Design Informatics Pavilion: Histories and Futures

By 2015, Design Informatics was in its third year, and the MA/MSc Design Informatics cohort had grown too big to show all of the students’ work as part of the ECA shows. So, Design Informatics left the mothership and headed out into the street in search of a fresh approach to showing our work and engaging with the public.

In the winter of 2016 Design Informatics were approached by Riverside Studios, London to consider a contribution to their plans to develop a digital arts festival. This quickly snowballed into the Edinburgh Digital Entertainment Festival (EDEF) which forged a collaboration with the Assembly Rooms venue on George Street to exhibit new practices, products and technologies that were defining digital experiences. Keen to be identified as a star in the Edinburgh constellation of digital practices, the Design Informatics team decided to grasp the opportunity.

Resident designer Mark Kobine was quick to engage Pierre Forissier of Biomorphis Architects who we had collaborated with for many years before Design Informatics was a ‘thing’. Pierre and Mark designed a bold solution to housing seven pieces of work from the students and researchers. An algorithm was designed to produce an array of organic patterns that punctured holes in a series of 12 ‘cassettes’ that would bolt together to make a solid structure. Made from Oriented Strand Board (OSB), the combination of a digital pattern and a raw building material made the Pavilion stand out against the artificial green grass that coated George Street.

The 2016 pavilion housed a range of works that articulated our interests at the time. Student work included Charlotte Zhang’s IoT clothing hooks that calculated the use of items and sold ones that were used less frequently, to Shi hui Tan’s array of personal clocks that adjusted the time according to how long individuals were logged in to Facebook. Research works included the BitBarista bitcoin coffee machine and Bitcoin Marriage arch that both attracted much attention before the 2017 spike in the digital currency, to the Designing with Living Things kitchen installation that asked what it might be like to live with living things (not dead).

Reusing the pavilion in 2017 was an easy decision since it had caught the eye of so many people. EDEF had evolved into FuturePlay with further emphasis on immersive experiences. Student interests in BioDesign had developed through the year toward a genetic olfactory product that enabled you to recover memories from people and places that you’d loved, and an artificial womb that allowed anyone (non-gender specific) to host the growth of a baby. Our own research into value had evolved in to the very popular After Money exhibit that offered sweets in exchange for personal data or sweeping the floor.

With a new pavilion in the making, 2018 promises to be equally provocative, involving work from students, researchers and the outcomes of a year-long collaboration with Tesco Bank. This time the theme is Data Pipe Dreams and the experiences will explore the possibilities and risks of playing with data.

The 2018 Design Informatics Pavilion ‘Data Pipe Dreams: Glimpses of a Near Future’ will be on George Street outside Assembly Rooms from 2 August until 25 August.