tryplex: a report on setting up a COIN

Mischa Schaub Benjamin Schmid, Stephan Urech, Patricia Kaeufeler

In summer 2010 the final-year students at the Swiss Institute for Postindustrial Design HyperWerk decided to dedicate their academic year 2010/11 to the question „how to swarm“. A group of three students were sent together with their professor to COINs 2010 to present this institutional question as an exercise in applied swarming. This trip proved to be such an important team-formation experience that from now on this text will talk about us, since we became such a great team. We decided to build a framework around our intention of living the swarm by making our kick-off statement at COINs 2010 and saying that we would deliver a report on our results at next year’s conference. So this provided us with a starting point and a defined aim –prerequisites for any strong vector and force.

At the conference we were very happy to meet the people working towards a scientific explanation for what we had felt intuitively: that the tools and rules of collaborative networks are transforming innovation fundamentally. We believe now that the future of innovation will depend on the capability for synchronous improvisation with many hands on the grand piano of imagination.

Our plan was appreciated at the conference. This became manifest with the COINs Steering Committee entrusting HyperWerk with organizing the next COINs conference in our hometown Basel, Switzerland. After the conference our student team decided to start their own swarming process by visiting several of the institutions behind the great people we had met at the conference. This gave us the idea that purposeful nomadic behaviour with a traveling laboratory might achieve a noticeable effect within several months.

Back in Switzerland we started working on the first elements for fulfilling our vision. We set up technology for the production of inflatables – inflatable products are very small but can become very big. That makes them easily transportable and highly visible, and they can be used as projection screens for exhibitions. As postindustrial designers we are fascinated with technologies for speeding up prototyping and decision-making, and with getting messages across in unusual ways. The nearly immaterial qualities of inflatables seem ideal to bring information from the digital realm into our real world. So we visited manufacturers of high-tech machines for the creation of inflatables, and we found much goodwill, great equipment, and generous conditions. Many of these companies standing behind ultrasonic welding technologies seem to have found 1

vivid ways of coopetition, and they are interested in supporting our idea of a lab traveling between research institutions and festivals for design and media where we want to organize the high visibility.

As an alternative approach to living the swarm we kept searching for great swarms on their way to innovation. Joining such a swarm would take a lot of the workload from our shoulders. In November 2010 we noticed an open-source movement growing around hacked versions of the Kinect controller, a 3D-camera system that promises to change fundamentally the processes of intuitive interaction. We participated in the related discussion fora and invited the leading personalities of this young and open community to come to Switzerland and hold workshops at the HyperWerk. Already in January 2011 we started to publish our approach to the Kinect in the form the open-source “tryplex toolkit for team creation,” We had not done such a project before and were eager to find out about the dynamics that might evolve from our approach. The interest we met with and the visibility we achieved turned out to be very strong, and in the meantime an innovative community has formed around this evolving toolkit. We continue to work on our original vision of changing the very act of design innovation with the tryplex toolkit, which might yield some kind of real-time process comparable to the intense experience of an improvising jazz band.

Between December and February we networked a lot, looking for institutional partners who might invite our traveling lab for Kinect -driven inflatable technologies. We were lucky to meet and convince the steering committee of a design initiative to develop a large project for design collaboration between France, Germany, and Switzerland. This initiative is called “Design am Oberrhein” and is supported by the regional design schools around Basel. In the meantime, our nomadic fablab was cordially invited by several of these institutions, and so far we showed the results of these first experimental weeks at three design festivals. With every visit we were able to learn new things and see additional aspects of our enterprise. We started with the glass-blowing school CERFAV, went on to the Academy of Art and Design in Strasbourg to do various interactive installations, and then we had a great week in Offenburg at the Medienhochschule. On our way we started to play around with such great fun technologies as pneumatics, which we combined with Kinect’s interactive potential to bring new life into inflatable bodies.

The results proved so convincing to us that our institution HyperWerk decided to concern itself with the question “how to swarm” during the coming years. To realize this we plan to take off with two nomadic labs for such visits during 2011/12. This shall take place on a global scale and eventually lead us to establish HyperWerk satellites, as it were.

For the beginning of August we plan to participate performance-wise with our inflatable swimming gear in the Rheinschwimmen Basel, where at least 10,000 people will be swimming down the river, forming a swarm of their own. And just now, in the end of June, we are waiting for the decision from the mayor of a small French village very close to the borders of Switzerland and Germany whether we will get permission to transform their old courthouse into a trinational design center, which would serve as a hive for the creative swarm of tryplex. This outlook is especially exciting since to our knowledge there has never been a similar initiative between these three cultures so close yet so different.

We hope to have established, through the success and visibility of swarm-based networking for innovation, a firm and promising position against the sad and fragmented academic mainstream of the Bologna reform.

Proposed Length of paper: 8 pages 2