Friday, May 9, 2008

Serious Play

This week, I was lucky enough to attend Art Center's bi-annual design conference where the theme was Serious Play.  Overall, the presentations were really interesting, starting off with Tim Brown's keynote which gave a quick glimpse into what it's like to work at Ideo.  His interactive ice-breaker speed-drawing exercises left me feeling completely un-creative in my decrepit adulthood, but I guess that was precisely the point.  Unlike adults, kids are fearless, they never apologize for their drawings, and they naturally know how to play with their hands, role play, and just have fun before the onset of societal rules and poopy old adulthood.

After Tim, some flashy jump roping, and a juggling interpretive dancer, we all adjourned for Targetinis (cosmos), oysters on the half shell, and a very well-lit opening night party in the tent outside.  

Day one started with a cosmic view of play from two guys one wouldn't immediately associate with the idea of play, astrophysicist George Smoot and Charles Elachi from JPL (it turns out that there's actually quite a lot of play involved in galactic and planetary exploration), and went on to define play with Stuart Brown.  We got a sneak peek at Helen Hood Scheer's new documentary "Jump" (which explains the flashy jump roping) and Elizabeth Diller's firm's design for the High Line in New York, a sinuous public park to be built atop an old raised railway line along Manhattan's west side.  The morning session ended with a fascinating discussion with Robert Lang, ex-JPLer, mathemetician, and origami artist extraordinaire.  It's INSANE what this man can fold out of one piece of paper (moose, nervous bunny, and the rattlesnake of a thousand scales) and event crazier what the art of origami has actually contributed to science (solar sails, a stent for arteries, etc.)  

We also got some QT with the Director of User Experience from Google, Irene  Au and the founder of Second Life, a virtual world which I still don't completely understand.  According to Philip Rosedale, it's only a matter of time before all information is organized, not in text form as Google presents it, but in a virtual world like Second Life.  Um,...maybe.  But would you really trust the info if your source was a flying guy with a swan's head and a tutu?  

I can't make it to the rest of the conference but came away with a few new ideas, the urge to play and a new respect for kids.  I'm going to get off line and go play with my dog now.

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