conceptualising the future: a look behind the scenes pt.2

Ever wondered how the show-stopping projects exhibited at CSM’s annual degree show come to be? In this series, THE CROSS+NG follows the journey of final year MA Material Futures' students, starting at term one through to their exhibition at Degree Show. 

Bolor Amgalan - The Future of ROMANCE: Your Data-driven Sixth Sense 

 

Back in November, we caught up with students from MA Material Futures to get a sense of where their final projects were going, see it here. At that point, they had defined their respective research areas and the wider context of each project. 

Today, we follow up to find out how they have progressed. As it happens, design often follows a non-linear path - some of the projects have further developed from their initial concept and others have been re-framed to better focus the designer's intentions. Most importantly, following January's Work in Progress Show, the students had the opportunity to garner feedback from the public and are now embedding it into their work.  

 All projects are far from finished - yet it's been exciting to sneak inside the processes that build them. Next stop: Milan Design Week.  

 

1
The Future of HUMAN EVOLUTION: "Quotidian Mars" 

 
 

“Can we humanize the Mars experience and reengineer the things we will miss from Earth?”
- Christine Lew

The project looks at our future life on Mars and how we will potentially adapt to it. 

Initially, Lew was looking at how humans could power their body with radiant light to reduce their reliance on food supply. However, the context has been reframed to encourage a wider debate about the term 'adaptation' - especially looking at the everyday experiences and how those would change on Mars. Specifically, Lew will propose DIY artefacts that aim at recreating those on Earth - Such as a Martian bubble bath suit and artificial weather experience machine.

 
 

Christine Lew - Quotidian Mars

Christine Lew - Quotidian Mars

 
 

"This is definitely about the emotional implications of the Mars fanatics currently on Earth and how they could prepare for a life that may, or may not, happen. Ultimately I would like to allow people to further consider whether they would like to go to Mars themselves."  

Lew's research entails looking at potential things that NASA may 'overlook' - in that, these experiences are a part of the non-essential everyday. What do astronauts miss while they are on the International Space Station? Common answers are: having a bath/feeling clean, experiencing weather (such as a breeze or sunshine) and the smell of cooking or baking.  

"Before, I was interested in the extreme body/organ manipulation and adaptation of the human body to space. However, the technology and subject ironically seemed to miss a “human element” and a relevance with the everyday audience. It is a challenge to find the balance between practical design, versus the more poetic and indulgent possibilities of life upon Mars - How do you create a feeling of the strangely familiar and suitably alien?” 

 

 

2
The Future of DEVIANT BEHAVIOUR: Virtual Reality, Real Consequences 

How do emerging technologies impact areas of our everyday culture?” 
- Marta Giralt 

 

Marta Giralt is interested in exploring the implications of new technologies invading our lives. In particular, she is looking at Virtual Reality (VR) - an area receiving massive investment that will radically impact our everyday entertainment and, with that, likely our behaviour and morality.

 
 

Marta Giralt - Tongue

Marta Giralt - Ear

Marta Giralt - Hand Connected

 
 

Her project focuses on sexual experiences; a future scenario that is customisable and 'limitless' to all. There is sure potential, yet what is the flip side? "If we can do anything, will there be ethical and legal boundaries? Should there be? Or, will it become an outlet for people to live fully immersive experiences that they're not allowed to have in reality? With this project, I'd like to show the potential public grey areas in our ethical and moral codes, that might emerge with the development of VR."  

The 'Work in Progress' show helped highlight a few key critical points in this project. "I got really caught up in the idea that I needed to make something in Virtual Reality and made the project about that, when really I'm not as interested in the technical aspect as I am in the bigger picture. Also, the language I was using was very 'in-your-face'. It became uncomfortable both for me and the audience, making it seem like a simple project about pornography – that was not my intention." 

Giralt is neither celebrating nor condemning VR. But if the invasion is inevitable, her goal is to encourage a more critical adoption of it by the general audience. By engaging in conversations about the apparent ease with which we embrace new technology, without perhaps taking time to reflect on potential consequences that might manifest later, we may shine a brighter light in a darkening corner of 'advancement'. 

 

3
The Future of GARMENT MANUFACTURING: 3D-Printed Garments 

“Can 3D printing significantly help in reducing increasing garment production and waste?” 
- Jenny Banks 

 
 

Jenny Banks aims to explore 3D printed garments, beyond their appeal of novelty, to make a difference in fashion's over-consumption and its widespread environmental consequences.

 
 

Jenny Banks - System 1 - *The project isn’t in association with H&M, have only used their transparent used clothing/recycling framework to build onto.

 
 

For this to truly have an impact, a key element is to be critical about how mass customers will engage with 3D printed garments: "When we think of 3D printers, we often see them in the context of makers-spaces. Or, places that aren’t necessarily where consumers want to engage with fashion. Also, shopping is a highly social activity which would be sorely missed if we were to just print out our garments at home in isolation." 

Banks is therefore no longer seeking to adapt and repair clothes using this manufacturing process, but to present the future of our wardrobes, where both slow and fast fashion can complement one another. Traditionally manufactured, durable, staple garments would protect us, whilst 3D-printed fast fashion would satisfy our desire to change our style and have something new, with little impact on the environment. 

Now the challenge for her is to stage it all in the final project. "The spectacle of a 3D printer, in action, is invaluable in drawing people into this new process. But, it's a huge challenge to build a fibre printer like the one I'm presenting. I’m a textile designer trying to be an engineer, which is great fun but quite daunting. At Work in Progress I also realised that my work was presented very technically, requiring the public to use their imagination to make it into a reality. Garments are an everyday thing - I need to make it more approachable." 

 What if you don't make it to that point? "3D printed garments will soon be part of our everyday wardrobes. Even for the public to stop and think about the potential of their used clothes in becoming something new, because of this project, would be a step in the right direction."

 

 

4
The Future of FASHION CONSUMPTION: Post-material Fashion 

“How could we consume fast-fashion with no material implications?" 
- Martina Rocca 

 

Rocca's intention has always been to tackle fashion over-consumption at the source, by staging something that would make consumers shift focus from the material to the experience. In so doing, shopping would be rich and rewarding, yet with a reduced impact on the environment. 

 
 

Martina Rocca -post-material fashion

Martina Rocca - post-material fashion

Martina Rocca -post-material fashion

 
 

"It's a well visited area, yet designers seem to focus on mainly tech-based solutions for better efficiency of garments and materials, of systems and processes. Whilst tackling the material consequences of the problem is crucial, I am interested in approaching it more from the upstream, by addressing behaviours that might cause the issue in the first place." 

Initially, Rocca was developing a set of props intended to replace the spectrum of fulfilling sensations fashion might provide. The goal was to craft an immersive experience, involving the privilege of interacting with the props, of having a quick yet fulfilling tactile and visual stimulation, of sharing moments and of creating memories. 

The 'Work in Progress' show, however, made her realise that the approach alone was too naive. "Consumers purchase goods not only for the pleasure and entertainment it generates, but also for other reasons such as the human need to own something tangible or the will to define our identity. If I want to really tackle the subject, I have to engage with the system not reject it".  

Also, Rocca realised that the general public is less aware of this issue than she had assumed. The aim of her project is to change consumer mentality, in order for them to be informed, responsible and conscious of their actions. With that, she is going to review the communicative aspect of the project accordingly. 

 

 

 

5
The Future of LAND USE: Palm Oil - Not in My Backyard 

“What does the controversy surrounding palm-oil say about our relationship with land?” 
- Annya Suhardi 

 

Suhardi's intention is to use her project as a platform to communicate and discuss the controversies surrounding palm oil.

 
 

Annya Suhardi - Palm Oil

Annya Suhardi - Palm Oil

Annya Suhardi - Palm Oil

 
 

"I'm trying to expose the geopolitical dynamics in the use of palm oil. For instance, most of EU's biofuel is made from palm oil: I find it interesting how we strive to be environmentalists, but often this gets in the way of us seeing the bigger picture; this might backfire sometime in the future."

"Having lived both in Indonesia and the UK, I wish to show both sides of the same coin. It's not about promoting or banning the use of palm oil. My intention is to expose the privilege that we (the 1%) have over those living on the other side of the world, who are ultimately the victim of our advantage. These small farmers and palm oil factory workers on the other hand, see themselves as patriotic figures who fight poverty in their countries." 

To Suhardi's surprise, during the project, she came across how the majority of the audience still struggle to relate to palm oil, despite its ubiquitous presence in our everyday products. Consequently, she is now focusing on the communicative side of her design project so to connect London with Indonesia and trigger the debate. 

"Palm oil is so vilified in western media, of course mainly for its huge environmental impact. Yet, if compared to other sources of fat like butter, olive or sunflower oil - palm oil yields 9x more than the next most popular vegetable oil. Butter has more unhealthy fats. Banning palm oil means substituting it with another vegetable option; that will need at least 9x land to bridge the demand. A plantation owner I interviewed back in Indonesia was of the opinion that the media backlash is an effort to push palm oil out of the EU and into the US, in order to drive up competition for locally sourced fats such as butter, sunflower, soy oil etc. I'm not sure if I agree, but I find his point really nails what my project is about." 

 

 

6
The Future of ENTOMOPHAGY: #yummy #delicious Insects 

“How can Western Cultures be more accepting to eating insects?” 
- Lucinda Pender 

 

Pender has been farming her own mealworms since the beginning of the project. She is now looking at presenting the most ethically efficient method of killing and preparing mealworms, to be fully accepted as a staple food source – in a way that adheres to both human consumption and the demands of Western diets.

Lucinda Pender - Delicious Insects

Lucinda Pender - Delicious Insects

Lucinda Pender - Delicious Insects

This has developed into the concept of the Mealworms Slaughterhouse. "My hope is to have a running machine that could be developed further to a fully functioning – legislated slaughterhouse, I aim to really consider the whole system that is required to make Entomophagy a serious contender for the future of food". 

One of the reasons behind such design direction was the discovery that, although few food businesses are encouraging entomophagy, governments and legislations are far behind. "Without the support of legislation presenting people with the great benefits of eating Mealworms as well as taking away the Westernized negative connotations that go hand and hand with eating insects – entomophagy will struggle to be completely accepted" 

The overall aim of the project is to have a working slaughterhouse, which represents a big technical challenge. "But I am excited by the chance! Breaking the barriers of western acceptance, in my project, is also down to identifying the possible ethics and legislation needed in killing Mealworms for human consumption. So I really believe my project will thrive if I get to design the whole system". 

 

7
The Future of ROMANCE: Your Data-driven Sixth Sense 

“How will technology impact future romantic relationships?” 
- Bolor Amgalan 

Amgalan is interested in exploring the future of relationships through the lens of technology. She has embarked on a personal journey to try and fully explore the implications involved in the quest for 'the one', in a future of quantified-selves. The quantified-self promises an improved self-awareness through self-tracking. It is about extending beyond sports and performance, into the more emotional areas of our lives. 

Bolor Amgalan - your data-driven sixth sense

Bolor Amgalan - your data-driven sixth sense

eHarmony estimates that by 2031, 50% of relationships will start online and by 2040 we'll be DNA-dating. It seems just a matter of time before Big Data and AI play a key role in determining who we should date or marry.  

So, what does this mean for romance? "Do we think that science has all the clues and that there will be some sort of higher truth in the numbers? Or, do we ultimately strive for romance as well as the ups and downs of a relationship, to actually better us? Should this not be subjected to a scientific formula? Or - as my brother said - the data will differ anyway, from what we think and what we feel." 

Amgalan is going to ground the project on first hand insights: "I am going on actual dates, with users from dating sites that claim to have the best matching algorithms while wearing devices that monitor my physiology". These include galvanic skin response sensors, a heart rate monitor, brainwave sensors as well as a DNA match evaluation system. 

The project is in its experimentation stages and it will be interesting to see the results that emerge. Her findings will constitute ground for debate, to ultimately encourage the audience towards an open discussion around the future of romance and technology.