Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, Ph.D.

I study people, technology, and the worlds they make

Tag: Europe

Not sure what this tower is, but it’s awesome

Stumbled on this tonight, and it’s a great piece of architecture.

Downtown Stockholm

I don’t know what it is, though.

Downtown Stockholm

However, in its small way it’s as cool as the Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur.

Patronas Twin Towers at night

Pac Man

The subway stop near our hotel is decorated with images from old video games, including Pac Man.

Pac Man love

You’ve gotta love a public transportation this whimsical. It’s also really, really efficient.

Evening in

It started snowing this morning, and hasn’t stopped. I didn’t expect to see several inches by this evening, but that’s what we’ve got.

I went to the conference for a morning session on innovation systems; it was interesting to compare attempts to build systems here to ones I’ve seen or been involved with in Silicon Valley, thought reading John Kay’s Obliquity has made me skeptical of all attempts to reduce things as complex as innovation and entrepreneurship to a set of business processes. However, that doesn’t mean that people shouldn’t keep trying to work on these issues, just that we need to recognize that our best efforts are likely to move the needle just a little.

My kind of place

I confess I didn’t know much about the Mobile Life Centre, but was quite favorably impressed with it. There’s a neat group of students, and several really great senior researchers, including a couple who’ve had close ties to Microsoft Research.

After that I met Heather and had lunch in a pizza and kebab place in Gamla Stan.

Today's lunch: Kebab and chips

It was unexpectedly huge, so instead of eating out, after going to the Royal Palace and the medieval museum, we had coffee at Coffeehouse by George, bought some bread and cheese at NK, and had dinner in our room. Between Heather having a bit of a cold and it being freezing cold outside, a quiet evening inside seemed like the thing.

It's snowing! WTF is it doing snowing?

Our hotel room, by the way, has been quite nice: it’s essentially a studio apartment, with a little kitchen, and one of those slightly mysterious European bathrooms (what do people have against showers that don’t spill water everywhere)?

Our hip, ultramodern hotel room in Stockholm

We leave Stockholm tomorrow morning, and head back to England. Then we have Saturday to ourselves, and Sunday the kids arrive for a week.

Wacka wacka wacka

At one of the Metro stations here in Stockholm.

Wacka wacka wacka

This place is very cool.

Wacka wacka wacka

In Stockholm

We’re in Stockholm, Sweden for the next couple days. I’m at a conference at the Mobile Life Center, in Kista, which is the high-tech neighborhood of Stockholm. Lots of interesting-sounding stuff the next couple days, but we got here in time to see a little of the city.

After flying from Heathrow via Amsterdam, and taking a taxi from Arland airport to the city (hint: take the train, there’s nothing to see driving), we got to our hotel, then immediately set out for Gamla Stan, the old town (actually its old island).

Around Gamla Stan this evening

More about it later; I’ve got a bunch of pictures up on Flickr. It’s a really cool place.

Around Gamla Stan this evening

Two Euro aggregators

Sign and Sight and Eurozine. Both good for those of us whose reading knowledge of German, Norweigian, Romanian, Swedish, Danish, and Polish is rusty. From their about pages:

signandsight.com translates outstanding articles by non-English language authors bringing them to a worldwide audience. signandsight.com gathers voices from across Europe on a variety of topics, aiming to foster trans-European debates and the creation of a European public sphere.

Eurozine is a network of European cultural journals, linking up more than 75 partner journals and just as many associated magazines and institutions from nearly all European countries. Eurozine is also a netmagazine which publishes outstanding articles from its partner journals with additional translations into one of the major European languages.

[To the tune of ABBA, “Chiquitita,” from the album Gold (a 2-star song, imo).]

Greetings from Denmark

While my colleagues are occupied with putting on a brilliant conference for the Technology Horizons program, I’m in Aarhus, Denmark, doing a talk at the DesignDay conference. I’m talking about the future of technology and the role of design in creating products (and by extension, company value).

There are two big points I’m working on in this talk.

First, while it used to look like the future of technology was about making things smart, it now seems clear that it’s going to be about making people smart. Smart things are a means, not an end: the end is sociability– linking to other people, and creating cooperative/collective systems for doing cool things. Design strategies that take full advantage of pervasive computing technologies, but also pay a lot of attention to interface issues, and also operate in ways that don’t crowd out person-to-person interaction, will be especially compelling.

I realized on the flight over that lots of different things I’ve studied over the last year– ranging from the open source movement to aging in place– share underlying technologies and aims that enable and/or encourage sociability and cooperative behavior. I want to try to flesh this argument out.

The second point is that Denmark has both world-class computer science researchers who are interested in pervasive computing, and an incredibly deep design community that extends from architecture and furniture through to toys and stereo equipment. (Okay, Silicon Valley is the other place where you’ve got this mix, and arguably good Japanese electronics has drawn on Japanese aesthetics. And the Koreans are trying like mad to get world-class in design.) There are already some contacts between parts of these communities (obviously Bang and Olusfen has more than its share of acoustics and electronics experts), but in the future, as wearables become a real thing, as smart furniture moves into the marketplace, as aging in place takes off, there will be opportunities for Danish companies and design firms working all across the industrial/product spectrum to create value by collaborating with pervasive computing people.

We’ll see how it goes.

(Incidentally, I’m keeping meticulous records of the trip at my personal blog, and have a Flickr photo set devoted to my views of Denmark.)

© 2017 Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, Ph.D.

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