I'm in the lobby of the hotel, having something to drink and working on my slides.
This is a lovely little hotel. The last time I was here I was put up in the Hotel Royal, which is the kind of small yet grand hotel where an Agatha Christie mystery might take place; the Hotel Guldsmeden is the sort of place that might appear in E. M. Forester, or Alan Furst. (Apparently I'm a bit of a guinea pig for the Innovation Lab guys, who figure that I would be a good person to put up in, and then hear back about, Aarhus' non-corporate hotels. I take this as quite a compliment, rather than an excuse for cheaping out and not getting me the suite at the SAS.)
The lobby is a living-room sized room off the main entrance, with half a dozen tables and a buffet where breakfast is served in the morning. Candles on the tables, two or three different kinds of chairs-- thing match, but almost-- and Sade's latest on the CD. It's now raining, so the cobblestones outside the window are shiny and reflect the streetlamps and signs from down the street.
In a word, it's perfect.
My talk: I've got an hour tomorrow to talk about the future of design and its meaning for Denmark. This is a little like talking about the future of religion at the Vatican: the burden of history weighs very heavy in both places, and alternately feels like an inspiration and source of strength, and a restraint against innovation and change. My basic mission will be to explain why design is going to matter in the coming decade, and what it's going to be about-- essentially, to answer the "so what" question.
There are two big points I'm going to make. First, while it used to look like the future of technology was about making things smart, it now seems clear that it's going to be about making people smart. Design strategies that take full advantage of pervasive computing technologies, but also pay a lot of attention to interface issues, and also operate in ways that don't crowd out person-to-person interaction, will be especially compelling. I realized on the flight over that lots of different things I've studied over the last year-- ranging from the open source movement to aging in place-- share underlying technologies and aims that enable and/or encourage sociability and cooperative behavior. I want to try to flesh this argument out.
Second, that Denmark may be unique in having both world-class computer science researchers who are interested in pervasive computing, and an incredibly deep design community that extends from architecture and furniture through to toys and stereo equipment. Putting these together would work to the advantage of both.
Now it's just a matter of working out which slides to use, and how to structure the argument so it flows well. Increasingly, I find myself spending time working on the mechanics and rhetoric of the story, as much as they points themselves. Maybe this is a good sign, maybe not. We'll see tomorrow.