Interfacing Anything, Anyone, and Everything
Digital interfaces occupy a special place in how we interact with the world. If we stop for a moment and pay attention, many interactions between elements of our everyday life are mediated through some sort of digital medium. Not just the obvious ones, like sending a message to someone, but also our bodies, thoughts, the information we produce when we walk, eat, sleep, the environment that surrounds us, the machines in it, the lights in the sky — everything is sifted through various computational instruments, digested into data, and transformed into whatever suits our needs. And so, how do we imagine new ways of interfacing? And are there still any uncharted territories we have yet to turn into data?
Future Cities and Societies
A fixed, singular idea of the future city is reductive at best and totalitarian at worst. Cities can't just be imagined as uniform skyscraper nurseries with ever-smarter infrastructure and monorails. So when we look at cities, we don't look at them as lifeless shells, but as the products of various forces: economic, social, political, technological ones. And how these forces shape them on various scales.
The healthcare industry is arguably the most difficult to fully automate. Yet between robot-assisted (and remote) surgeries, medical chatbots, or AI diagnostics, it is hard at work not only removing human hands, but making you the sole carer. How would healthcare look like if it were to become just you + devices?
The Stream, a Future Web
The Stream is a fictionalization a the web that's become ever more ubiquitous, faster, noisier, messier… But mostly faster. It relies on many elements, such as Rapid Language, which is a fictional language that is both speakable among humans at a face pace, and optimized for machine recognition, like spoken code.
Mobility means getting from A to B. If a description is always as simple as possible but no simpler, then this one is far too simple. Mobility is how we access the world; it shapes cities and landscapes and separates us from each other. X (person, thing) gets from A to B via C with the resources of D, financed by E, uses the infrastructure E, is driven by F, in the style of G, sometimes collides with H, with I brand tires — the alphabet is not enough to cover all aspects of mobility. How we envision it reflects our relationship to the world; how we enable it creates our world. Imagining new mobilities is perhaps one of the hardest things to do. Marshall McLuhan, referring to the invention of the engine and the first automobiles, spoke of the "horseless carriage" — because once technically feasible, it was long before automobiles ceased to be reminiscent of their predecessors and became recognizable as something of their own. Despite new technologies, we always tend to serve outdated paradigms. With our work on new mobilities, we want to reveal these oddities and, at the same time, introduce new possibilities and relationships with mobility.
The Overlay, a Shared Digital Layer
Looking at AR, VR, XR, any other‑R, or even digital holography, no matter the medium, and no matter the hype, there is an unshaken urge: to manifest what's not physically there (mostly digital imagery) like it's another layer over reality. It's as if we wanted magic to become manifest ("magic" is a widespread analogy in this industry), only human-made and computer generated. Now most experiences relating to this are solitary ones. But let's suspend economic feasibility, and speculate there comes a central platform where — whether through goggles, lenses, or whatever shines your moon — we end up viewing a shared digital layer. One where you can see digital cat ears on your friend's head. And others can too. Or where the "100% organic" label dances around the can of beans. Beauty filters, but no phone is needed. Captions, like everything is a museum. Fireballs you can throw at passers-by. Wayfinding systems. Notes you leave for friends, or foes etc. You could call this a 'world-canvas,' some call it augmented reality, or other names, and it used to be an important vision for cyberspace. But we just go with 'The Overlay.' And it leaves new questions open, like: what do people wear when the digital is also a material? Are there ads everywhere? Can you filter things and people out? How is digital, yet land-bound real-estate managed? How blurry can the limit between real and virtual get? Would it matter? And so on…
N123, Stories of The Normal Future
A book series compiling all of the work of N O R M A L S between 2012 and 2013. Every design experiment and speculative impulse has been curated into a series of 3 paper publications. Rather than a crude compilation of narrative singletons, all of our more-or-less silly ideas about futures are hyperlinked into a cohesive world depicted into a graphic novel, along with project documentations and other stories.
Future Money, Future Problems
Various currencies are commonly accepted and used for the trade of goods and services. With the advent of cryptoeconomics and decentralized finance we see currencies that no longer act as just 'money,' value indexed on processing power, seemingly created out of thin air. In future economies could we trade in reputation, internet hype, likes, biodiversity, tokenized frustrations, good intentions, completely arbitrary things, or just not trade? And what would be the micro- or macroeconomic implications of such new systems?
Locales of the Normal Future
Sitting on a wall, N°433 slowly sips an ultravitaminated rainbow juice augmented with little spiraling clouds. Before her, acres of virgin land spreading out are progressively leveled by a myriad of printers droning about. Frenz are running around, impatient to finally make this little piece of Culture their own.
— And so, we get to build what we want?
N°73 is already busy planning for the gigantic monument to himself he'd always wanted. — "Ye" — without looking away from his interface. "Well, within the limits of reason…"
— And what are these limits exactly?
'Locales of the Normal Future' is a series of world-building workshops inviting design students to creatively role-play residents in the world of N O R M A L S.
A lot of our work has music in the background that we compose to suit the mood of various fictional settings. You can find some of it compiled here.