About MediaLAB Amsterdam

I’ve been project manager at the MediaLAB since February 2013.

MediaLAB Amsterdam conducts applied research by developing innovative interactive media applications for design problems. We work with final year students from various disciplines and countries, who work in teams of 4 towards a tested prototype that they present at the end of their design & research project. Project assigners come from government orgs, Dutch SMEs & large international corporates from across fields of IT, media, city making, education, culture, healthcare and other fields. They bring in Digital Media & ICT related problems, societal challenges, ideas or innovation issues.

We’ve worked with Cisco, NOS, IKEA, ProRail, City of Amsterdam, Amsterdam Light Festival, Dropstuff, Beeld&Geluid, Arkin, Ordina, AVROTROS, WeMakeVR, Submarine, TWC and many others.


Tinkering vs. Prototyping workshop

Tamara and I tried out a different format to get the students to think about tinkering and prototyping. Both have in common that they celebrate early failure as a way to learn quickly and deeply about your ideas and prototypes. We asked the students to create paper prototypes – always a big hit and a huge surprise – and to tinker for an hour with a prototyping tool they were unfamiliar with and report back what they learned. I really enjoy facilitating these sessions and using whatever comes up in the room as an opportunity to learn something about the creative making process together. Awesome day, always too little time awwwww. We can’t get enough!

Visual communication workshop

Last Friday I facilitated a small workshop in the basics of visual communication. The student teams worked on some small exercises to help make their communication within their team – and to the outside – better by making it more visual in simple ways. Armed with only paper and markers, the students practiced their drawing skills, their ability to translate concepts into quick drawings, and they learned some tricks to make better use of the canvas and guiding the viewers’ attention to what’s important. It was hot, and it was reallllly the end of the week but we laughed really hard. Some showed their natural ability to think visually, others made massive improvements just be learning a few small tricks. Awesome!

Transmedia Analytics

In the spring ’14 semester I coached the project Transmedia Analytics, a collaboration between interactive production company Submarine, University of Amsterdam, and MediaLAB Amsterdam.

This project goal was to capture a variety of data points from two interactive web based documentaries (The Last Hijack and Unspeak) and present these data in a way that allows the producers get an understanding of how audiences engage and interact with their creation, and enrich the user experience accordingly. This resulted in a custom designed analytics dashboard tool: Figures. The progress of the project was documented on the students’ project blog.

“Dancing the Digital” published on VVVNT

A short article of mine was published on VVVNT recently, dealing with the expressive and philosophical potential of performance practices combining dance improvisation and live coding.VVVNT is an online journal, forum, & project space for sharing ways of thinking with practical connections across time, scale, system, & discipline.


Tinkering at the minor Intelligent Environments

I made an excursion to another HvA location to give a workshop tinkering to students of the minor Intelligent Environments. These students, mostly from rather techy backgrounds like Software Engineering, Game Development etc are quite a different target group from the design & humanities students I’m normally used to at the MediaLAB.

For this workshop we took the better part of a whole day, and worked in multiple iterations to let students think about alternative interfaces, playful interactions and how you can work with objects as interface. To understand the important role the design of an interface plays in an any interaction. The students were asked to find an interesting – or boring – object and take it as a starting point to come up with a playful installation. To let the meanings, connotations and affordances the object embodies be leading in the kind of installation you will build. I found it very useful to have a number of show and tell rounds – with a gaming expert even! – to help the students improve their ideas and ways of executing them. Although the creative process was somewhat out of the comfort zone of some students, they all made tremendous efforts and progress in the course of the day.

My absolute favourite is this weirrrrd granny interface for a classic racing game using a walker (NL:rollator) :D

Tinkering workshop spring ’14

Tinkering the Olympics

During this semester’s tinkering workshop at MediaLAB, we spent a morning exploring Scratch and Makey Makey. In this pressure cooker style workshop, the students were asked to create playful interactive installations inspired (more or less) by the winter Olympics. This workshop is all make and very little ‘me-explain-you-listen’. The group was awesome and went nuts programming their own audio feedback, or even visual interfaces with customized avatars. Costumes were designed and tributes were paid to the olympic rings. Real nice. Some favourites:

Sven Kramer Ice Skating game

Knights Fight - with awesome costumes

And this classic: Frustration!

The Dark Side of Amsterdam

During the Amsterdam Light Festival, that took place between the 6th of December 2013 and the 19th of January 2014, residents and visitors of the city Amsterdam were being challenged.

During this light festival a group of international students seduced residents and visitors to enlightening the Dark Side of Amsterdam. Visitors were asked to confess about their dark side by wearing anonymous “sin” glasses in a nighttime light painting portrait that were projected onto the Mozes & Aäron church at Waterlooplein. 411 People used the installation, and revealed that with a majority of 91 people, Amsterdam is still a sin city of lust. Also see the infographic, twitterfeed and Flickr set.

Check out http://medialab.hva.nl/blog/project/amsterdam-light-festival/ for more info. I coached on the concept development and project management of this student project.

The Dark Side of Amsterdam won the audience award at Beamlab #32

Tinkering workshop fall ’13

At the very start of semester, I facilitated a tinkering workshop for our new bunch of talent! Tinkering is a key literacy in contemporary culture. Unstructured time for playing, exploring, experimenting and messing around with technologies allows us to think about the systems we use differently, and opens up space for new ideas and even innovation. It was a morning full of crazy fruit installations, weird games and minority report installations, we made using the excellent tinkering tool Makey Makey and easy-for-all programming environment Scratch.

Women’s Safety in Public Space

By using the powerful relationships between scent & emotion, and confidence through embodiment, PosturAroma helps women feel safer by enhancing their posture. By sensing the angle of the back and using scent as trigger, the user is reminded to keep her head up, and straighten her back when stepping into the world. Walk proud to feel confident, look confident, be safe.

During the fall 2013 semester, I coached a team of students for their project Women’s Safety in Public Space. The project that explores collaborative design efforts that look into what it means to design collectively across different countries and contexts. Two teams, one in Amsterdam and one in Bangalore will work on the same project brief in parallel, while regularly exchanging insights about their methods and progress. Students will work on the question: how can we enhance objective and subjective safety of women in public space, by innovative uses of digital media, communication technology and/or (networked) electronics? The research question will be answered separately for the context of Bangalore and Amsterdam. View Flickr set here.

The project is phase 1 of the project Design Across Cultures, a larger effort commmisioned by Cisco and made possible by Center of Expertise.

The Bangalore project was coached by researchers from Fields of View at IIIT-B University. The results of their project Convers(t)ation can be viewed here: http://medialab.hva.nl/blog/project/womens-safety-india/

The research paper about PosturAroma was presented at the 9th International Conference on Design & Emotion themed “Colors of Care” in Bogota, Colombia, 2014. It won the Award for Best Design Case and was featured on Fast.Co, Ideo.org, PSFK, Crisp.nl, Discovery Canada, and presented at the 2014 Rome Maker Faire.

Hout, van, M., Mul, L., Bogers, L. & Ito, S. (2014). PosturAroma – The Embodiment of Safety, in: Salamanca, J., Desmet, P., Burbano, A., Ludden, G., Maya, J. (Eds.). Proceedings of the Colors of Care: The 9th International Conference on Design & Emotion, Bogota, Colombia.