How local influences drive design in the digital age // by Paolo Cardini (Part 2)


In these examples, however, the transition happens from object to object, and physicality has a certain advantage in matters of authenticity. To identify attempts at localism in digital form, we should look at physical representations of the digital, where virtual data are translated into physical outcomes, and physical perceptions of the digital, where the transition from data to data is able to create a tangible interpretation of local realities.

One of my own attempts at physical representation, trying to address this analog/digital-global/local glitch, is a 3D-printed necklace generated by a string of code. One of the parameters for defining the necklace’s shape was the machine’s geo-location and the correspondent country’s GDP.

courtesy the author

courtesy the author

 If the system were processing and 3D printing a necklace in Qatar, the place I was living at that time and one of the richest countries in the world, the location- and GDP-based code would produce a chain of many, large diamonds shapes; differently, in the Republic of Congo, at the other extreme of the wealth ladder, the digital product would be only one tiny diamond shape.

In "The Idea of a Tree" by Mischertraxler studio we can recognize a related experiment with physical representation in which the source is not socio-economic as in my necklace project, but rather local environmental conditions. In this case a machine uses sunlight data to determine the shape and colors of a bench that becomes a physical representation of the weather in that specific place at that specific time. "Windmaker", a project developed within Yale's graphic design department, is based on the same idea, but the localization process happens through physical. 

Windmaker uses postal codes to visual the local current wind conditions in any website. No object is involved here, but the virtual reproduction of a natural state is created a strong and poetic link between what is perceived on the computer screens and what is seen through the windows.

IDEA OF A TREE // via misher'traxler

IDEA OF A TREE // via misher'traxler

CLUE, or "Culturally Localized User Experience," is how Huatong Sun in her book Cross-Cultural Technology Design defines the translation from globally distributed technology into local habits and cultural heritage. She analyzes the case of mobile phone texting and describes how people all around the world manipulate technology to better fit their specific needs. In Arab countries, for instance, an improvised alphabet named Arabizi, consisting of the phonetic pairing of roman symbols and numbers with the Arab alphabet, is used by youth to chat on their phone’s Latin keypads. Can we start thinking of Culturally Localized Digital Objects?

Arabizi, the Arabic chat alphabet // arabic-keyboard.org

Arabizi, the Arabic chat alphabet // arabic-keyboard.org

In the currenct world of ubiquitous Apple style, a push towards localism and cultural customization seems needed to escape the present market's blandness

In the Third Industrial Revolution, digital manufacturing and self-production allow objects to be designed and produced anywhere at anytime. If we agree that the future of product design should be democratized and localized, we should focus on authenticity -based on locally determined physical representations and physical perceptions of the digital - as a key factor in the devepment of valid design solutions.