At the start of a new year it's a good practice to look ahead: what will 2016 bring us?
In the past months Waag Society, a pioneer in the field of digital media, worked at themes, projects and programmes that will keep us busy in 2016. The following overview, without being exhaustive, gives an impression of what we already know about the forthcoming year.
Hack the Brain
After two successful editions in 2014 and 2015 in Amsterdam, Hack the Brain will now travel the world. A cooperation with the international movement NeuroTechX, that is organizing meetups with people who understand, influence and hack brains. The annual events this year will take place in (among others) Canada, the United Kigdom and in Rio (Brazil); the Amsterdam version will be on the theme of health and care. A European connection is made in 'BrainHack', that will also start in 2016.
Future Emerging Art & Technology
New ideas often emerge at the intersection of disciplines. Dutch e-culture organisations like Waag Society, Mediamatic, V2_ and STEIM are demonstrating this since the beginning of their existence and now get more followers, like the policy makers at the European Union. The project Future Emerging Art & Technology will add artists to EU technology research projects in the hope and expectation that this will contribute to new developments and finding new roads. This can be called a true breaktrough and in 2016 we will see the first results.
Smart citizens are in the lead these days. Last year saw the first Amsterdam Smart Citizens Lab, in which citizens, hackers and artists collaborated in mapping their environment with technology. January will bring a publication that describes the approach and results, and a whitepaper about the context and future of 'crowdsensing'. The Lab will get a follow-up in Barcelona, Kosovo and Amsterdam in the EU-financed project Making Sense. Also, the first edition of the Smart Citizens Academy will be held, preceding the event Resilient Cities, Smart Citizens.
More and more companies and (local) governments are recognizing the potential of maker spaces, hacker spaces and Fablabs to bring innovation. The company Saint Gobain is establishing Fablabs for its staff worldwide, Barcelona and Mexico became real 'FabCities' -- in which a network of maker spaces for citizens and (small) businesses is created. Hopefully, Amsterdam can join this network in 2016. Together with the Amsterdam public library (OBA) we will research how we can get the whole of Amsterdam to make.
Dangerous bacteria are becoming resistent to currently used antibiotics and the farmaceutical industry is not responding fast enough with new medicines. Time for a different way to attack them: with crowdsourcing. The project DIY Antibiotics (aka BioStrike) is aiming to enable people to search for alternative antibiotics, by using small scale tests and share the results of their efforts. It can prove the use of citizen science to tackle big issues, that our existing systems offer no solution for.
Platform Maker Education
We paid a lot of attention to maker education in the past year. We held four series of Fabschool Kids courses, and trained teachers to become makers in two Teacher Maker Camps, and finally succeeded to found the Platform Maker Education with the aid of the Ministry of Education. These initiatves will retain our full attention this year -- we will research the effects and give good practices a stage. Also, a full Maker Fair will be organized, to show the (many!) initiatives in the field.
The 'maker principles' will also be applied to healthcare in 2016. Now that the government is retracting, we have to find new ways of becoming and/or staying healthy. In the United States, a shortage of funds forced people to conduct operations themselves - how far are we prepared to go in Europe? Artists, designers and hardware hackers will work on new solutions in MakeHealth, together with patients and specialists. Blueprints will be shared with other 'healthmakers' to build upon their results.
Algorithms that are using extensive and complex data sources more often form the foundation of automated decisions. From social benefit fraud to suspects of terrorism; the ways in which systems 'flag' something of someone are not transparent, and are thus not open for review, appeal or human insight. In the project Codifying Morality we research in which way rules and values in systems can be exchanged, how we can make those explicit and allowing insight and how we can define a more open, active and designing role for all stakeholders in the process.
One of the most interesting projects about the (necessary) innovation of democracy is the European D-Cent. In D-cent, the relation between citizens and the government is critically reviewed. Technical tools are developed to reshape participation, the dialogue and the ways the money is divided. The tools are open source available and partly make use of Freecoin, developed by hacker (and fellow of Waag Society) Jaromil, a derivative of Bitcoin, to make the Blockchain available for social applications. In February we will bring the people behind it to The Netherlands, to give the debate a new impuls.
RICHES conference and the Digital Museum Lab
In April, Waag Society organizes the heritage conference Identity Matters, about cultural diversity and the use of new technology in museums. Despite many positive examples of renewal, a structural reconsideration of the role of archives, museums and monuments for the public has yet to take place. In het project RICHES, Waag Society and a great number of institutions have looked for ways to increase awareness and possibilities, and in MeSch we experimented with new ways of storytelling interfaces for museum visitors. The results will be shared widely and will find their way into a Digital Museum Lab.
With partners like Geonovum, Public and the tax department we will start BetaLab: a place where the government can test ideas and technological solutions before they will be put out to tender. Together with users and hackers prototypes will be developed, in small steps, to reveal a distributed perception of the consequences of a certain approach. This lab will work agile, creative and with a high output to bring the digital services of the government to a higher level - something we all will benefit from.
AMS Data Platform
Plans are made to develop the data platform of the Institute for Advanced Metropolitan Solutions (AMS) in 2016. The data collected by AMS partners will get a safe storage, others can do research with the data and possibly develop services. The data platform will build upon the semantic technology of the City Service Development Kit and the results of Erfgoed en Locatie (Heritage and Location), to make big steps in a short timespan.
Waag Society is always active in a social context. Every project involves several partners, each of whom bring their own, unique perspective. We're looking forward to another year of new insights and solutions. Cheers!