empathy-bomber-backpack-03 A speculative workshop for a speculative future

Last month Casa Jasmina, with the support of Toolbox co-working and Fablab Torino, hosted for the entire February a workshop of School of Ma (School of Machines, Making & Make-Believe). The workshop was run by Sitraka Rakotoniaina and Andrew Friend with a three day participation of Iohanna Nicenboim.

The projects were based on speculative design and the results were presented at Casa Jasmina the 27th of February during our birthday.

But what about the projects? We are presenting in this blog-post two projects based on some speculations on the coming future…

The Empathy Bomber Backpack is a speculative object designed for the extreme activists of a near-future where biological contraband creates a chemical metaphor of the ‘empathy warfare’ that defines our globe today. If today activists use terror to send a blunt and devastating message, the activists of tomorrow have concocted a plan to go straight to the core of their intentions, to enforce genuine understanding through extreme measures. This futuristic Bomber Backpack was designed by Monique Grimord,  interactive designer and social prototyper, with a master in Graphic Design from SCAD, and a background in political science. Monique lives in São Paulo, Brazil, where she invents objects for socio-political storytelling, using design fictions as a method of cultural commentary.

The second speculative project is Growing Trash by Matt Visco, a creative technologist whose work focuses on design interactions aimed at exposing the hidden elements of daily life. Matt’s work manifests itself in both digital and physical objects that contain embedded behaviors. Matt holds a degree in computer science from University of Berkeley, California and is currently working as a freelance developer and designer in Oakland, California.

Growing Trash aims to provoke these questions in its user. As the can fills, it grows taller to create more space. This encourages the user to be lazy, space becomes seemingly endless and the need to take out the trash disappears. As the trash can growa, taking out the trash becomes more challenging. The user is forced into a conundrum; either submit to complete laziness and let the trash pile up around the can or take initiative and put in the extra work to take out the trash. This object promotes laziness but due to it’s absurdity generates self-awareness and potentially leads to corrective behavior. Unread Cats takes this concept to the digital realm. When a user opens their gmail they are bombarded by videos of cats based on their amount of unread emails. If a user has only one unread email they only receive one cat video, a pleasant addition to checking mail. As the user gets lazier with reading their emails more cats videos appear. This promotes laziness by overwhelming you with funny yet mindless material for you to digest. The user is incentivized to not check their mail and watch cat videos instead. Again this promotes laziness by encouraging the user to watch these videos but in rendering your mail virtually ineffective over time it also creates a self-awareness.

Both Monique and Matt during the four weeks workshop, used all the Fablab‘s facilities and Genuino‘s boards to create the interaction and give life to their projects.

On the same time, Iohanna Nicenboim came as visiting tutor and was guest of Casa Jasmina. We asked Iohanna her experience as designer and as guest of Casa Jasmina, here the entire interview

  • Hi Iohanna! You recently won the Internet of Things People’s Choice Award for the Best Design Fiction Project of 2015/16. Congratulations! Can you tell us about your background and what led you to even becoming interested in the field of IoT?

Hi! Thank you. My background is in Product Design and New Media, so somehow the IoT connects these two. I was always interested in technology, but sometimes found the ‘screen paradigm’ very cold and limited. Thus, researching about Ubiquitous Computing and the IoT was fascinating, as I could finally imagine interactions with technology being part of our everyday life, and especially embedded in the physical world of objects. However, I still think there is a lot of work to do for designers of the IoT: its social aspects are not well explored and there is a gap between user-centered and thing-centered design. Thus, trying to understand this technology’s challenges and possibilities, and especially how we would like to adopt and domesticate it, are my personal interests right now.

  • Tell us more about your winning project Objects of Research. What were you hoping to achieve in creating these objects? In the end, did they meet your expectation?

Objects of Research is a critical design project about the IoT. It focuses on the question: ‘WHO is the OBJECT in the Internet of Things?’ With this question, I suggest that we, humans, might not be the customers or the users of the IoT anymore, but rather the objects. This idea is based on the current trends of quantification, as well as the current models of online services, in which we are the producers of data, which is used by companies and governments. Around this ideas, I explored the scenario in which artefacts in the house could not only collect data, but also use us as subjects (or objects?) of their research. Through four fictional devices, I examined the challenges and risks of adopting the current models of the online services, into our future houses. Thus, my goal was to trigger a critical reflection on what kind of Internet we would like to adopt in Things. I think it is important for designers to address the Internet of Things also critically, as that could help us identify and reflect on some of the challenges we might face in adopting this technology. Thus, my aim with this project was to problematize the IoT, and try to break with the current discourses which are extremely positive, preventing us from understanding its social implications.

  • You came to Torino to visit with students from School of Machines, Making & Make-Believe. What incite did you share and which did you gain?

I know Rachel Uwa for some years and was following the School of Ma since it started. When she told me the premise for her next program in Turin, I thought it was a great opportunity to join. I felt very connected with the starting point for “Coming Soon” which proposed to explore how we could reflect the subtleties and complexities of our human nature in the devices we create. I especially liked that the program was about IoT, but with a focus on culture and ethics. I was also excited to meet the instructors, Sitraka Rakotoniaina and Andrew Friend, and enjoyed sharing a small part of the program with them. The group was really creative and open, and I loved the atmosphere that Rachel and Casa Jasmina provided. It was so much fun to hear about their process and ideas, it was truly inspiring for me!

  • While here, you were hosted by Casa Jasmina. What was that experience like for you?

Living at Casa Jasmina was a very interesting experience for me as a designer, which I would call a “real design fiction” or a “What if? experience .” Since I work in the field of design fiction, I always create making-belive projects, in which I come up with an idea and through videos and images make it credible for others. But being at Casa Jasmina was like embedding myself into the fiction: Every light I turned on, every noise from the heating or move from the wind, made me think, what if things around were connected or alive? How would I like to interact with them? And especially, how would this change my relationship with the house? Additionally, I knew the house was not very technological, but I discovered that exactly that might be its great potential: leaving things open lets us imagine alternative interactions that are very different from the superficial promises of IoT commercials. Instead, the openness allowed me to think how would I like a connected home to be, which is much more important.

  • How do you imagine the future of Casa Jasmina? As a designer what do you expect from the project?

I think the real challenge of the IoT is to go beyond connecting artifacts, and rather imagine which new kinds of objects could exist and which new relationships we could have with and through them. One of the most interesting aspects for me about the IoT is that it can radically impact on the way we perceive objects, our houses, and ourselves. Once our houses get connected to the internet, the idea of home might change dramatically. So I think Casa Jasmina is a great way to explore how people might perceive “home” in the future and what could be the impact of this shift for the design of IoT. Personally, I think it is a great playground for designers, a place to imagine and explore questions in a very free way.

  • At some point, you shared an idea for how the Casa Jasmina space could be divided which was quite interesting. What came of this idea in the end? You will come later, in the summer, for a residency in Casa Jasmina to develop this project. What do you expect from this experience?

Yes, the plan is to come back in the summer to work on an idea I had while I was staying at the house. The idea is based on my experience that there were spaces which seemed more private than others. Some places might like to share informations and some others might need to keep secrets.. as in every house. So my challenge is to reflect the privacy of spaces with design, finding an interesting design language. I want to explore Privacy not as a dichotomy, but as a more complex gradient of personal values. I would like to start this exploration on door-knobs, as I am really interested in the infrastructural elements of the house. I like the tension between the visibility and invisibility of the infrastructures in connected houses, and I think that by drawing attention to the physical infrastructures, people could be more aware of the invisible infrastructures of spaces we inhabit, such as networks.

  • Could you tell to a designer and a normal guest the reason to come and visit Casa Jasmina?

Reasons are many, but among them: to meet the amazing team of Casa Jasmina, to enjoy a nice meal and relax in the bright and beautiful space they have, and to travel in time once you go out of the door: Turin is a magical city where time has stopped, and the future is coming soon 😉 What advice would you give to others thinking to visit Casa Jasmina to help them best utilize their time in the space? Personally, I think it’s good to be there and let the house talk to you. In the Fablab you can build everything, but I think it would be important to understand what are the needs and possibilities of that particular space. My recommendations are: Be ready to be surprised, and to challenge your assumptions of what a Smart Home should be – instead, you can imagine what kind of smart home you would like it to be. I think it would be good to do a short (research) visit and then come back and build your project!

  • What are your upcoming plans? Any new IoT objects on the horizon or what’s next for you?

Right now I am developing some new ideas, which I will show in Milan in the Salone del Mobile as part of the Good Home project. I am also planning a workshop in Berlin around March at Art+Com Explore, and extremely excited about going back to Casa Jasmina in the summer for a residency. 

chargement ATV5  au S5C le 24/03/14 VA219 3…2…1 lift off, house guests in orbit

Casa Jasmina is already in orbit waiting for its special guests.

This is the eleventh consecutive year for the Italian electronic art fair SHARE FESTIVAL. SHARE FESTIVAL is a cross-disciplinary platform for the promotion of contemporary art and culture in all its creative forms.

The headquarter of the 2016 edition of SHARE FESTIVAL will be Casa Jasmina, the perfect place for SHARE that has moved directly into the means of production for Italian digital art and crafts.

Hosted in the post-industrial building that Casa Jasmina shares with Fablab Torino and Officine Arduino, this year edition sounds great with the theme “House guests”. SHARE will take place in May and immediately followed by the Torino Mini Maker Fair with its lively burst of digital.

With a ten days exhibition, Share Festival will show in May the six artworks chosen by its jury from around the world, exhibited at Fablab Torino and Casa Jasmina spaces.

Casa Jasmina will also host a special show of artworks chosen from SeditionArt.com. SeditionArt is a new commercial gallery for code art and media art, where screen display rights to limited-edition electronic works can be privately collected, purchased, and traded online.

For this edition SHARE decided to invite as jury members two special guests: Cap. Samantha Cristoforetti and Paola Antonelli

Captain Samantha Cristoforetti is an European Space Agency astronaut, engineer and design enthusiast. Paola Antonelli, born in Sardegna, is the Senior Curator of the Department of Architecture & Design as well as the Director of R&D at MoMA New York. Paola Antonelli was responsible for adding video games, the Arduino control board and innovative 3DPrinted objects to the NY MoMA’s permanent design collection.

The jury is completed by Chiara Garibaldi, the SHARE Festival director, Jasmina Tesanovic, widely known as “the Jasmina of Casa Jasmina,” and American author Bruce Sterling, curator of the event.

For the meeting of the jury the 4th March a public appearance of Samantha Cristoforetti and Paola Antonelli is scheduled. Around 17:30 pm they will show up for a public talk at Toolbox coworking.

We have few free places to attende the talk the 4th of March, we will open this Eventbrite link at 12:00 the 2nd of March. Please follow the link and be sure to reserve you place.

If you can’t reserve it come to join us, it will be a room 42 m from the live room, where we will follow all together the talk.

See you the 4th of March!!



IMG_1832 (1) A midwinter night’s Meetup…connected devices and future

Last night from 6:30 pm Turin GMT (we love Turin), Casa Jasmina organized a Meetup at Toolbox’s entrance hall, to reflect and talk about the state of art of connected devices and design fiction.

The panel, presented by Rachel Uwa from SchoolofMaaa, was part of a one month workshop hosted by Casa Jasmina and Toolbox coworking, with a provocative title: “Coming Soon”.

What exactly is coming soon? This was the main question of the panel.

The first speaker was Regine Debatty, editor of the famous blog “we make money not art”. She talked about the “Geological materiality of the Internet of Things”.

Ranging from the extraction of minerals to the production of artifacts, from the mass distribution to Amazon’s workers conditions; how Pink Floyd should say, she highlighted the dark side of the IoT, reflecting about who finally is the machine. Humans or things?

Same questions but from consumers’s point of view for the presentation of Iohanna Nicenboim, whose projects are in this moment at Casa Jasmina.

Iohanna, who won this year the IoT Awards as Best design fiction objects, on her projects reflects on: “what are the implications of giving objects more power?”

Last but not least, the presentation of Andrew Friends and Sitraka Rakotoniaina, tutors of the SchoolofMaaa’s workshop.

They presented their design fiction projects, based on interaction between reality and imagination, increasing the experience and underlining the power of creativity.

The Meetup ended with some questions on the aesthetics of new devices and their future potentialities.

This was the second Meetup organized by Casa Jasmina and with  many participants was the second in a long series.

This is the link to watch the video.

iotawards-winner-01-945x500 copy Best IoT open source project 2016

The Academy awards night is coming and is a perfect moment to be nominated and to win a prize. Casa Jasmina (without any golden statuette) won its prize yesterday: the Internet of Things Awards as best IoT open source project chosen by the editors.

The Open Source award honors projects that bring those values to the Internet of Things, either by incorporating open source technology or by making public the details of their own designs and software”, this is the idea of the IoT awards organization in which Casa Jasmina completely believes.

The open source movement is for Arduino and consequently for Casa Jasmina, the core of internet in terms of hardware, software and protocols that compose the global communication infrastructure, and in this way the power of collaborative development is the main focus of Casa Jasmina idea.

As a futuristic Wunderkammer, Casa Jasmina will collect and share artificialia to present in a open way system what and how the IoT concepts will change the daily home life.

Winning this competition is for Casa Jasmina the acknowledgement  of a project that take on to transform into reality a series of reflections around IoT and open source. Casa Jasmina is really proud to have been selected between 21 projects, because this represent the attention we are trying to attract.

There is still a lot of work, Casa Jasmina is working hard to reach the goal; it’s not simple but awards like this give hope to the project, and show the interest that exists on these issues.

So thank you all

regine001 Design talk: connected devices, design fictions and future possibilities

As part of the School of Machines, Making & Make-Believe’s four-week ‘Coming Soon’ program being held in collaboration with Officine Arduino, Casa Jasmina, and FabLab Torino, an informal panel and open discussion will take place at Casa Jasmina.

We will discuss about: speculative futures, connected devices and realizing designed fictions. 

Special guests include Regine Debatty, curator, critic, and blogger of the illustrious website We Make Money Not Art, and Berlin-based designer and researcher, Iohanna Nicenboim, whose focus is on creating meaningful interactions with emerging technologies.

Leading the discussion will be the instructors of the ‘Coming Soon’ program, Andrew Friend and Sitraka Rakotoniaina, a London-based collaborative duo specialised in designing objects, artefacts and devices as a form of storytelling to question and excite. Together they exam relationships between the known and unknown, the real and imagined in the individual quest to harness the sublime.

About our guests

Sitraka Rakotoniaina born in Madagascar and raised in Paris, currently lives and works in London. He is an Artist and Designer whose body of works ranges from fictional science experiments to speculative objects and devices. His work explores our relation to science and technology, encompassing cultural and social implications, as well as the beliefs and values intrinsic to their development. With a focus on the possibility of transforming individual sensory experiences, Sitraka often uses the human body as vehicle to trigger people’s imagination. He ‘crafts’ narratives through the conception and fabrication of objects and uses their ‘aesthetic’ qualities and theatricality as the foundations enabling a physical form of storytelling. Sitraka studied Industrial Design and Graphic Design/Multimedia in Paris, and graduated from the Design Interactions course at the Royal College of Art. He has worked as an independent Interaction Designer since 2006 and is currently represented by Nexus Interactive Arts as a Director on their roster. His work has been shown internationally including venues such as the Victoria and Albert Museum, Venice Architecture Biennale, Saint-Etienne design Biennial, the Art Center College of Design. And recognised through awards and publications including D&AD, we-make-money-not-art, Axis Magazine, See Yourself Sensing by Madeline Schwartzman, Design and Violence by the MoMA, etc.
Exif_JPEG_PICTUREAndrew Friend is an artist and designer who’s work explores experience, and the relationship between people, landscape, and their desires. He is interested in the extraordinary, fantastic and desirable (or indeed undesirable) experiences and outcomes that may result from these interactions. His work spans a range of media, through narrative and drawings to large scale physical objects designed to promote, facilitate, and question these experiences, examining relationships between the known and unknown, the real and imagined in the individual quest to harness the sublime. His work has been exhibited and published internationally at institutions including The National Museum of China, Beijing, Welcome Collection, London, & Art Centre, Los Angeles, USA, in 2015 he was awarded the Arte Laguna Prize, (Land art division), Venice Italy. Andrew is currently studio leader and associate lecturer in the department of Spatial Practices, Central St Martins, University of the Arts London.
regine-debattyRégine Debatty is a writer, curator and critic, and founder of we-make-money-not-art.com. Régine is known for her writings on the intersection between art, science, technology, and social issues. She writes and lectures internationally about the way artists, hackers and designers use technology as a medium for critical discussion. From 2012 to 2014 Régine ran the weekly art and science programme #A.I.L. (Artists in Laboratories) on Resonance104.4 fm in London. She is also the co-author of the ‘sprint book’, New Art/Science Affinities, published by Carnegie Mellon University and is an Honorary Fellow of the Royal College of Art in London.
Iohanna (1)Iohanna Nicenboim is a Berlin based designer and researcher, focused on creating poetical interactions with technology. Inspired by complex socio-technical systems and scientific imaginary, she creates speculative futures and alternative presents in different scales and formats: from generative food installations to narrative connected devices. Her practice overlaps design, science and data, showing a critical and provocative approach towards technology and the way it relates to society. Her recent work is concerned with the social and ethical aspects of the Internet of Things, investigating what our role as humans in the connected home would be, suggesting we may become the objects of the systems we have created. In this way, Iohanna encourages a critical reflection on the models of the Internet and the use of data in our daily lives. She is currently a teacher at Node Center, part of the organisation team of Retune Conference, and a reviewer for TEI16: Tangible, Embedded and Embodied Interaction conference. Aside from various workshops and residencies, her work has been featured in international festivals, such as FutureEverything, and books like DataFlow.
schoolofma Call for Applications| Coming Soon : Fabrication, Internet of Things, and Design Fiction

Program dates: 1 February – 28 February 2016

Special Holiday application deadline: 26 December 2015

Regular application deadline: 1 January 2016



Can we create connected devices which reflect the subtleties and complexities of our human nature? Can we fabricate objects that lead to the creation of new cultural norms? What is the role of ethics in the creation of a new connected world?

In this four-week program* Coming Soon, led by Andrew Friend and Sitraka Rakotoniaina stemming from the RCA in London, the School of Machines, Making & Make-Believe, using a hands-on approach, will investigate the creative and expressive possibilities of Internet of Things technologies, electronics and sensors, and gain a foundation in digital fabrication and design fiction methodologies.

Inhabiting a fictional narrative, students will dream up inventive ideas for new smart objects and with the aid of our instructors and other professionals, learn the proper tools and processes needed to create and communicate their own vision of the future.

Starting with basic prototyping through to advanced fabrication techniques, making use of the latest digital fabrication tools within the Officine Arduino community facilities, we will work through the entire process of design from initial narrative and conception through rough prototyping. At program’s end, we will present a fully documented performance and exhibition of our final objects in Casa Jasmina, the connected home of the future conceived by science fiction writer Bruce Sterling and Massimo Banzi, co-founder of the Arduino project.

The infiltration of smart devices into our lives is coming soon. Currently, corporations and even governments are investing billions to fund research and manufacture up-and-coming networked objects designed to “make our lives easier”. But what are the implications of this?

Throughout the program, we will collectively construct the mythologies and belief systems we inhabit, as a means to speculate around the possible impacts contemporary exploration may have on future society.

*This is a special program in partnership with Officine Arduino, Fablab Torino, and Casa Jasmina and will take place at their facilities in Turin, Italy.

Visit our website to learn more and submit an application: http://schoolofma.org

Twitter |  https://twitter.com/schoolofmaaa

Facebook |  https://www.facebook.com/schoolofmachines

11760299_10153301170597819_3998969923994740710_n Good Night Lamp
A lamp gives us light, for reading, for a romantic mood, for a cosy corner, for bright playful fun, for a Christmas tree…  A lamp is decorative but functional: people are fussy about their lamps.
Lamps are household objects that can make a marriage tremble: My mother’s lamp must be set here, it’s part of my identity, my patrimony!  But it’s old and hideous, it scarcely works, it makes me nervous!
Then the lamp is shoved out of the common space, a dusty memento, banished into a private corner like an unwanted child.
When my daughter was five she discovered a lamp I had stored away in the cellar. I had used this lamp when breast feeding her, during the long nights of wailing infancy, and never again.
The forgotten lamp shed a dim yellow light  and was made of a kind of rubber.  A trashing child could not shatter it as the mother struggled to restore a child to sleep.  This five year old had not seen this lamp since the age of nine months, and yet, unerringly, she took it back to the windowsill where it had once stood. She had to stand on tiptoe to restore it to its proper place, and she was adamant in wanting it exactly THERE.
She had no words to offer, just a big emotional wave of happiness, which of course I could not deny her. Although the lamp was ugly and had no more use for nursing, I saw it rooted at its window sill as if it was a tree of life, our life.  Our common life, a link, a line, a thread of time, a memory of mother’s milk, the first food of life, of mothers and child’ s bonding… name it.  So the lamp remained there until the child grew, we left the flat, we the country, and we finally cut the electric umbilical cord.
This experience drastically changed my concept of lamps. I lost all interest in buying entirely new lamps.  I only wanted old lamps that already had a story, a light to cast on my soul, not only my spaces.  Rather demanding and irrational of me.
Then  Alessandra Deschamps-Sonsino gave us a lamp as a housewarming present for Casa Jasmina.  This connected house lamp (for actually there are two) is shaped like two houses: a large house and a smaller house, or a mother unit and child unit.
    These two lamps, connected by wireless data signals, are known as the “Good Night Lamp.” If the mother lamp is switched on, the child lamp would also spontaneously light up, even if it is standing on the other side of the planet.  The smaller lamp has no switch.  It glows only when when the mother lamp is also glowing.
    This is a silent message of reassurance, like a never ending umbilical cord between mother and child.   It doesn’t interrupt or demand attention, action, or speech, like an SMS ping, email or phone call.   It merely glows when the other glows, no matter what the time zone or location, conveying silent emotion to whomever is on the other side of the bonding line. It’s even possible to have one mother unit and several smaller ones.
    This seems to me the right level of intelligence for a “smart lamp.”  A lamp doesn’t need to be so “smart” that it lectures the fridge and the toaster — better that it should have the right shape, size and glow, and that it should cast the light I once saw when I was awake during long nights, holding my baby wrapped in a cosmos of motherly worry and bliss.
infografica_header-02 Developers builders or explorers?

The most important role of Internet of Things developers is to explore new possibilities. The technology is widely available; in no small part because of open source software and hardware projects. Now we need to learn where we can take it. We can build it, but should we?

During spring/summer 2015 we collaborated with VisionMobile to run a survey on IoT developers and the value that Open source has in the field.

We discovered that Between IoT developers there is a big chunk of open source enthusiast. 1/5 value the importance of using Open source tools and platforms.

Developer that define themselves explorers cover a crucial role in the field. It is from them that all the truly new, out-of-the-box ideas come from.

Only by exploring seemingly crazy ideas can the Internet of Things reach its full potential. The open source ecosystem is often the area where these ideas bloom.

While open source is so valued between developers, there is still  a lot of work to be done. 60% of the opensource enthusiast in fact,  think that open standards are missing in IoT.

We are really happy that the connected Home is the most interesting vertical market for developers, and we can’t wait to see what this big group of explorers will develop in the next future. Hopefully the next invention will be OpenSource.

Find a full article on Developer Economics website. 

Explore the infographic in high-res with some the interesting dataopen-source-enthusiasts-iot


Peter and Michelle in Casa Jasmina - photo by mauro ujetto We lived in the open source connected home of the future. And survived!

Last weekend Casa Jasmina reached an important milestone.

Peter, Michelle and Alexandra have been the first brave guests of our crazy apartment. They knew the apartment is not finished yet; they knew the project is going to be a continuos work in progress for the next two years; they knew we were looking for people that embracing the open source philosophy, were eager to contribute to our project. That’s why we knew they were the perfect guests for trying out living in Casa Jasmina for the first time.

The moment of giving away the house keys  was quite weird. We weren’t sure about what to expect from the guests and they din’t know what they were supposed to do inside an open source home.

“Are there any rules we should know? ” asked Peter, “No rules, you are the first! you can make your own rules!”

Casa Jasmina (July 2015) on Flickr – Photos by Peter Bihr


Michelle, Peter and Alexandra did a great job in making their own rules. They brought presents, wrote letters for the next guests of the apartment and even built a SCRUM board on the side of the kitchen.

The SCRUM board is the perfect symbol for our open source apartment.  It encourages visitors to contribute to the project and visualize the development of every single idea. I look forward to see all the post-it idea written by our first guests moved towards the MADE section of the board.

digital version of the Scrum board is also on Github to allow everyone to discuss the project remotely.

Their visit was also the perfect excuse to organize the first Turinese IoT meetup: Our little effort to connect people and spark discussions around the topic of IoT, connected objects, makers, design and open-source. A nice crowd of 30 people showed up under the sun of Casa Jasmina rooftop making it a interesting moment of thoughts sharing.

Thanking a lot our amazing guests, I recommend finding some time to read the nice blog posts they wrote going back to their homes:

Casa Jasmina: How to be a guest in an open source connected home by Michelle Thorne

Visiting Casa Jasmina by Peter Bihr

armband-wearable A Wearable in Casa Jasmina

We have been working on some principles for our activity in Casa Jasmina. One of these principles is: “Try it until it seems normal.”

How do things from our future become part of our daily life? That happens when we no longer notice the things. If we can make ourselves believe that something feels like an everyday object, maybe, some day, it really will be normal.

If we can never make it feel normal, no matter how we try — if they always feels awkward, broken, strange or difficult — then probably the future doesn’t  have a lot of room for these things.

To start simply, a month ago, I acquire a Nike armband for the Apple iPhone 6. It’s a lightweight yet sturdy orange strap of velcro, elastic, and translucent plastic, that allows users to turn an Apple mobile into a wearable device. The Nike strap is similar to wearable straps made by competitors Belkin, Griffin, Shocksock and so on, and at first glance it looks, frankly, pretty weird.

I wondered what difference this object would make to my life, so, as a Casa Jasmina project, I decided to wear this thing for an entire month.

The Nike company is full of ex-Apple people, so this armband has received a lot of Nike design thought within an Apple frame of mind. Even though it’s basically just an elastic strap, it almost screams that it has a cool phone inside, with bright aviation-orange perforated dots, a light-reflective Nike swoosh, and stretchy, waterproof, breathe-through detailing, complete with glossy black velcro chevrons.

This wearable Nike device really puts up a big fuss about being a high-tech wearable — but why? Wouldn’t it make more sense to hide the expensive phone discreetly, and normalize the situation? If you want to strap a phone on your upper arm, why do you need a bright, gaudy phone gleaming on your arm?

Well, it’s like this. Consider the demographic use-case these Nike designers are confronting. The designers imagine their Nike armband user as an athletic, headlong young woman, a Just-Do-It female jogger who is, charging around town in her brief, body-hugging Nike outfit. She is running — maybe even parkouring — but there’s no place in her sleek, friction-free Nike outfit in which she can put her Apple mobile.

The Nike designers contemplate every ergonomic part of her body, because Nike guys are excellent at that, and they realize — it just has to go on the upper arm. There’s no other reasonable place to put it.  People may notice it there, but so what? Just Do It Nike Woman is already getting plenty of attention — because she is young, fit, active and dashing around in public in flashy Nike sports gear.

So it’s no use hiding her iPhone. One the contrary: as a female athlete, she probably WANTS people to know that that she has an elite iPhone 6. Why? Because she is safer that way.

Marauders and molesters will not dare to attack her — because of her phone. In the emerging circumstances of the Internet of Things, they should be properly AFRAID of a woman who is publicly brandishing an Apple mobile in Nike gear. She almost certainly has a fitness app in her phone, but she might have all kinds of antitheft and tracking apps in there too, too. A woman running with an iPhone 6 ought be scarier than a woman running with an angry dog on a leash.

So it’s a good idea to be obvious, insistent, even somewhat threatening about her iPhone. Her fancy mobile is like a visible proof that the cops are her friends and that she can afford to press charges in court.

Jasmina is a much more enthusiastic user of mobiles than I am. So, Jasmina was the first to try this Nike strap. Instead of jogging with it (we don’t jog) she wore it over her street clothes. Women immediately remarked that it looked like she was wearing a Jewish armband under the Nazi regime. Jasmina’s experiment ended immediately.

Women get rather a lot critical assessment about their clothing. Even male harassment is pretty common. So this made me the next candidate. I put my phone in my orange armband and wore it there for a month.

Nobody said anything to me about it. Sometimes the Turinese do publicly comment on my clothes — when I’m wearing a suit and tie. Then I get sarcastic remarks from street dudes along the line of “Hey boss!” However, the male dress code in my hipster émigré district of San Salvario is pretty relaxed. It takes a lot to get people to bother about my clothing.

So, how can we know if a Nike wearable armband looks “weird” or looks “normal”? Well, it’s certainly not statistically normal. During the month I saw only one other guy in Turin wearing a Nike armband.

He was a scholarly geek in pocketless shorts and a Tshirt, and travelling on the underground Metro in Torino, and obviously he’d decided this armband was practical. I noticed him instantly — he didn’t notice me, because he didn’t care. Nobody cared. A Nike armband is aggressive-looking, but nowhere near so fierce and transgressive as Google Glass, which truly upsets some people, or even an Apple Watch, which observant people will in fact notice. An athletic armband with a phone inside it is a mild social eccentricity, like wearing huge sunglasses or smoking a cigar. I can get away with it.

So: what does it feel like turn your phone into a wearable? It’s pretty useful if you are exercising hard, and really need a phone, and lack any practical alternative. Otherwise, it is plenty awkward.

To look at a display strapped to your bicep takes some twisting and craning. It’s hard to operate a touch-sensitive iPhone through a sturdy, sweat-resistant plastic screen. If the phone has a message, it’s difficult to read it. If it rings with a voice message, to try to talk into your upper arm is ridiculous. Almost everything a mobile phone can do works much worse when it’s strapped to your upper arm.

But I was conscientious, so I did my best to find some advantages. Listening to music works, because the earphone cables are shorter when a player is strapped to your arm. So, I spent a lot of time listening to the complete masterworks of “Subsonica.” The phone works adequately as a music player, and I like the Turinese band rather better than the Nike armband, but the best lesson I learned from this experience is that my cheap earphones are worthless. If I want to listen to music while walking outside, I really need to treat music with more technical respect.

Eventually, I did get used to the Nike armband. It became normal. It’s convenient in a few ways and inconvenient in many others, and since I’m not an active athlete who lives in sports gear, it’s not really a device meant for me. I don’t need a wearable, but I’m glad I tried it.

I discovered that it de-stabilized my relationship to the phone.

Since I had to struggle with my phone so much, in its new, awkward situation as a wearable device, I became much more interested in mobiles than I was before. The phone itself became visible to me again, because it was de-normalized; it seemed weirder, more futuristic. So I paid attention to it: I got a few new apps, I moved the old apps around, I tinkered with the settings. It was a refreshed device, because it wasn’t stuck in a cargo pocket or buried in the bottom of a bag. The experiment with an armband broke the hypnosis of my settled habits. Maybe I’ll be more mindful for a while, I’ll take more care, I’ll think deeper, I’ll do better.

With that said, though, a month is enough. I’m putting this completed experiment aside, and I doubt I will wear my wearable armband again. Basta.