Conference PaperPDF Available

Signs of livingness in design material[itie]s

Authors:

Abstract

For human-made objects, even when not explicitly hi-tech or distant from the so-called "natural" environment, it has been hard to express "signs of life"; nevertheless, thanks to some recent advancements in the field of material design, we can now consider (and reflect on) some innovative and quite expressive possibilities - in particular when it comes to cutting-edge smart features, strategically employed to encourage users' perception of a potential aliveness [with]in the object. The aim of this study is to understand which materials’ features can ignite - or suggest - signs of livingness when applied to an artefact (note that both non-living and living materials have been considered). Smart materials, no matter if their origin is natural or synthetic, have indeed the ability to change their status (color, shape, movements) in response to external stimuli such as temperature or humidity. As an example, think of a thermochromic ink that makes a kettle "blush" when the water is boiling: just a useful - yet funny - warning sign or an indication for the users to perceive the switch as an alarm signal directly sent from the object? Natural materials are known to highlight the passage of time and the interaction with the user (e.g. the darkening of a walking stick handle); after years of industrial standardization, the world of design is now clearly rediscovering their potentialities - considering natural materials' nuances and imperfections as para-linguistic markers, thus underlining (via some sort of "intersemiotic translation") their dynamism and changeability over time. Even more interesting is the growing discipline of biodesign, which focuses on the development of materials and objects directly from living organisms - such as fungi, bacteria and yeasts (primarily triggering designers for their sustainable features). These biofabricated materials are in some cases stabilized to become inert before use: generated (as wood or leather) by the reproduction of living tissues, once "fixed in time" they can still carry their peculiar species' aesthetics - like the velvety skin of a fungus transferred to packaging and fabrics; in some other (more speculative) scenarios, materials and objects are instead still alive during their usage: living architectures and sensors made by fungi or grass-made dresses that will change color, thickness, appearance and weight while "growing" - thus inevitably modifying the user experience in depth. As exemplified, it's clear that some objects' embedded signifiers (along with their resulting sign[al]s, variously expressed via a chromatic, texture-based, shape-related idiolect etc.) can definitely trigger and enhance the (stale?) relationship between humans and artefacts: by paying attention to subtle changes, reflected in details and/or "activated" by living features, the user can now properly feel some additional active (and communicative) counterpart directly emanating from the object. It's then important to understand which particular sign[al]s on the material side(s) have the ability to trigger human attention towards something sensed as partially alive and smart; the analyzed case studies have thus been grouped in three main categories: (i) non-living material feature mimicking livingness; (ii) inert biofabricated materials once alive still carrying signs of livingness (sometimes even hidden for users acceptance); (iii) signs from living matter able to instill relationships. Considering the philosophical and design trend towards multispecies environments based on symbiotic relationships, the possibility of a "user-object bio/inter/semiotic communication" is then of great relevance not only for the world of biosemiotics, but also (and more importantly, since experiments and advancements are mostly associated with project and lab expertise) for the expanding sector of biotechnology in general and biodesing in particular.
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2021 GATHERINGS PROGRAMME AT A GLANCE
TIME Mon 26 Tues 27 Wed 28 Thur 29
1:10-1:30 Introductory Remarks
1:30-2:00 BATESON JAROŠ SHAROV
Poster Presentations
2:00-2:30 BENNETT BEEVER TØNNESSEN CÁRDENAS-
GARCÍA
2:30-3:00 FAVAREAU MARAN PHAROAH BOHÁT
3:00-3:15
BREAK
(and Breakout Room)
BREAK
(and Breakout Room)
BREAK
(and Breakout Room)
BREAK
(and Breakout Room)
3:15-3:45 CELY-SANTOS HENDLIN MIYAMOTO PAINTER
3:45-4:15 GUDDEMI KHUMALO MÄEKIVI SMITH
4:15-4:45 HARRIES-JONES &
ANDERSON
CREIGHTON ŠVORCOVÁ &
LACKOVÁ
GÓMEZ
4:45-5:00
BREAK
(and Breakout Room)
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(and Breakout Room)
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(and Breakout Room)
BREAK
(and Breakout Room)
5:00-5:30 POLLINI &
ANGELINI
KURISMAA CARIANI BLOOM
5:30-6:00 ROBUSCHI ALEXANDER JACOB, et al. SCALIA
6:00-6:30 VELMEZOVA BACIGALUPI ROSSAMINTH CHAVEZ
6:30-7:00 KULL KARATAY &
DENIZHEN
JASTRZEBSKI &
RACZASZEK-
LEONARDI
SCHUMANN
7:00-7:30 End of Day Discussion End of Day Discussion End of Day Discussion Day End Discussion
7:30-7:45 Closing Remarks
8:00 pm Tuesday July 27: A Special Performance of Music & Talk
with STEPHEN NACHMANOVITCH & DAVID ROTHENBERG
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References
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References
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The dynamics of meaning expression and communication
among people, dogs, and other creatures
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References
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References
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References
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References
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References
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“In a communicational world there are no objects”:
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References
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References
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References
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Towards symbolic engagements – a tentative developmental trajectory over the first two
years of life: From jointly moving through affect-imbued action arcs to co-creating
systemically-structured sense-and-action-shapes
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References
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Language emergence and articulatory potential in biosemiotic perspective
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References
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References
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On the biosemiotics of beauty: Rereading the prose of science-fiction writer Ivan Efremov
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