Earlier todaWe went to the Vanabbe Museum, to see their joint exhibition with the ‘Fontys FutureMediaLab’. The name of the latter sounds great, but is also a bit confusing; I didn’t find any traces of this establishment as yet at the website of the Fontys University (former Fontys Hogeschool). I know that they have recently opened a new program in Art & Technology (which also has a track on ‘games’). They also have a well-developed research and educational track on future studies (called
The Trend Watching Lectorate).
But the name of the FutureMediaLab most likely refers to a student project which aimed at the development of a few ‘futuristic’ concepts, to be later presented at the Museum (which is also confirmed by this short movie on YouTube).
Anyway, the exhibition was there, and we’ve been kindly guided by the students over the three concepts presented at the show. The first concept, called ArtiShocking, is aimed at
the tech-savvy and hip youngsters, who would want to eat healthy but don’t know how. The concept offers to them an engaging, multi-platform system, assisting them in learning about the healthy food recipes, facilitating the purchasing, and in general involving these people into a community-based activities.
I remember discussing almost exactly the same system with the guys from Unilever, Albert Heijn (large supermarket chain in the Netherlands), and a bunch of similar folks. The need was (and is) apparently there, young people do want to eat healthy (yet consistently eat junk food), they don’t know much about health eating and confused with what is not presented at the PoS and beyond. And they do like to hang our in all kind of web communities. Looks like it’s not a rocket science to link these dot.
Alas, to my knowledge all similar attempts have failed to produce any sizable impact (by the way, Albert Heijn does have by now a similar system, although not necessarily oriented to the youth). What’s up? There are a couple of issues to blame: A, the ‘gameplay’ of these interventions (understood broadly, of course, since some of them do not position themselves as games) tend to be a crappy one, not taking into account neither initiation and ‘n00bness’ stages, nor offering any decent ‘lvl-ing’ strategies. And B, these interventions tend to see the existing situation as a void space they populated with their offer. It is never a void, but always a presence of already existing ‘solution’ (although it may not necessarily be understand as such, even by the people themselves). In other words, if you try offer something ‘new’, be sure there is already something there; you need to think about a ‘conversation’ from the old ‘offer’ to the new one.
The second concept, called SWAN, was targeted at the so called tech-women (of unspecified age), who are apparently very knowledgeable yet bored to death, and so would welcome this ‘Alternative Reality Game’ to help in structuring their free time. The gameplay (in this case explicitly defined as such) consists of QR Codes mediated quests (tasks to do, puzzles to solve etc), and unfolds in both virtual and real worlds. That is what Wired is basically doing right now with their latest gamagazine (see their Enigma game there). Back to SWAN – my anti-feminist attitude doesn’t buy it. Neither does the anti-feminist attitude of my wife.
The last concept was targeted at ‘6-9 old kids’. Called Wijland, it was aimed to solve a purported alienation of the kids in the cities from the ‘nature’, to the extent they have no clue how and where their food is produced, and how a farm works etc. So the idea was to create a playful model of the farm, allowing for some interactions in ‘real world’ and also leading to some task in the online ones. I can’t really comment on this concept, our 10 year old son said he doesn’t see the point (=need), but perhaps we live in a quite special environment here in Brabant: there are plenty of real mini-farms here that are designed to show to the kids the life, of both animals and people there. I also know that if these farms try to install anything with a display in it, it attracts all the kids (and distract them therefore from the ‘real-life’ activities at such farms.) Don’t have a good solution myself, but this one doesn’t look very plausible.
But ANYWAY. Yet another great initiative of the Vanabee Museum, and kudos to all the students; student projects are to be, well, student projects.
PS: I thought a bit why my comments on these concepts were relatively harsh; they are not that bad, after all. I then realized that they all have the same fault, two faults, actually: 1. they always project the current state of affairs into the future, assuming that it always be ‘as today’, and 2. they don’t foresee that they themselves will start changing people, and don’t want to deal with it (mostly because they don’t understand it). I m gradually becoming allergic to such things. Although to blame students for the second is not fair, that dimension is not explored by the majority of designers anyway.