The Denver Session: the report

The first Digital Culture session in North America took place on the opening day of the Cumulus conference organised by the Rocky Mountain College of Art+Design in Denver, Colorado, Sep. 29th 2011.

Thanks to our good friend Fred Murrell, who took time to convey quite a nice bunch of speakers/contributors, we had a very lively and interactive session, with lots of discussions and exchanges between all the participants.

As for the previous sessions in Paris and Shanghai, the program was roughly divided in two parts : a set of presentations by invited speakers and an open space for Cumulus members. Not unsurprisingly, the “local” teachers got to know each other quite well, and decided to open up a bit the format of the session itself, by encouraging discussion and interaction. The setup did help for this matter, as we had a board meeting for the whole day, enabling proximity in a cosy environment.
The first speaker was Rafael Fajardo, who introduced several reflections about the outcomes of experimental “social” (as in “social activism”) games he developed through cooperative workshops. We went through a light and open discussion about the influence of games on digital culture, as it provided an opportunity for emotional engagement in digital systems.

We switched then quite smoothly to Hugh Graham from 1st Movement, who was the sole “business representative” of the session. We therefore asked him his opinion about the qualities, skills and knowledge expected from design education. His answer was quite clear : train autonomous, open and creative professionals with a true attention to users. Which lead us to the notion of tools and interaction with the users, a perfect transition for Michael Mages. He exposed the virtues of rapid sketches and low tech prototyping for problem solving.

After lunch break, the organisation has been a bit messed up as the fourth speaker, Joy Sikes,  didn’t show up. Nevertheless we switched then to the presentation by the Cumulus members. Pipsa Asiala from the Media Lab in Helsinki did a short presentation of the current activities of the department.

Last part of the afternoon was dedicated to the presentation of a long term collaboration between the web agency Markit On Demand (formely Wall Street On Demand), specialised in financial information display, and RMCAD Communications department. Erik Lennert, creative director of Markit, made a very clear and detailed description of a six months collaboration involving a whole group of student and a team of professional designers. Balancing pros and cons, he made a very encouraging conclusion about the reciprocical learning situations experienced by both the students and the designers.

This was an appropriate conclusion to the day, which happened in a very smooth and warmful way. We have to thank again the organisers at RMCAD, especially Fred Murrell who gathered this excellent panel.

The next session will be held in Helsinki during the spring’12 Cumulus conference ( May 24-26 2012) with the help of the Media Lab people. Details will be announced on this blog as soon as possible.

More pictures of the working group by Lindsay Roome

Frédéric Degouzon
Head of Strategy, L’École de design Nantes Atlantique


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