DMatters October 2018 Issue

Digital & Design - Revolutionising Interactions for a Better Future

In the recently ended 2018 Asian Games, e-sport was featured as a demonstration sport then suddenly became the talk of the town. From games to mobile apps and cloud computing to digital marketing, almost every part of our daily lives is now tightly intertwined with digital technology. In the past 20 years, we all witnessed the immense possibilities brought about by technological disruptions — and most importantly, how they have continued to reinvent business patterns and even altered our mindset. For example, with Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR), we are seeing the world in a whole new light. The medical and construction industries have found practical applications for improved precision rather than entertainment purposes.

Digital technology is no longer limited to the level of telecommunications. It is now changing how products and services are consumed, improving the quality of life, and even solving long-existing social problems. Just think about the new modes of interactions enabled by Uber, Airbnb, Spotify or blockchain. They have decentralised service consumption or information transfer, and redefined trade and business. But even with these juggernaut innovations aside, local-level tech initiatives can already make a huge impact. For example, organisations like Code for America are pushing for improved public governance with citizen-driven digital innovations.

The Arcade in Melbourne epitomises how digital design can contribute to society. Founded by Antony Reed, it is Australia’s first nonprofit coworking space dedicated to indie game developers. The hub houses more than 30 SMEs, with some of them employing gamification methodologies to address social issues. It supports tenants by providing an affordable workspace as well as advice on business intelligence and marketing, opening the door to aspiring game developers who otherwise lack community support. By becoming a crucial platform for bonding the game developer community, it also transforms public perception to video games. Industry practitioners hope that people will realise how culturally important games are, and how they reflect our actual society.

Mountains is one of many craft games studios based in The Arcade. Its founder Ken Wong has been awarded the Apple Design Award. He made his name with Monument Valley , a one-of-a-kind game experience which he developed with ustwo Games where he was the Lead Designer. While most other games are about fighting, slaughtering enemies and winning, Monument Valley is themed around discovering and forgiving. Its highly regarded scene design is so artistic that it is reminiscent of the beautiful art of M.C. Escher. Ken believes that games can do much more than entertainment. It can also be hugely educational and help us reflect, contemplate and experience life.

In addition to stimulating personal reflections, the digital experience can also provide inspiration for the public precinct. Nimrod Weis, Director of Melbourne-based interactive design studio ENESS, has created wonderful public installations by combining fine arts, programming, architecture and music. Their works transform ordinary places into meaningful public spheres. Recently, they have rejuvenated an ageing site in Brisbane’s South Bank with a colourful interactive installation, JEM, a “hybrid instrument sculpture” that responds audibly and visually to visitors passing through it. Nimrod enjoys observing people from all walks of life, interacting with the work and with each other naturally. The installation also adds extra commercial value to the site.

The dawn of the digital era has opened up endless possibilities and brought about a stream of surprises. Technology enables us to do things that are otherwise next to impossible. But behind its seemingly unprecedented and unrestrained abilities, it is our responsibility to reflect on how we can use them for the public good with design thinking. We hope that our world will become a better and more egalitarian place for everyone with the help of digital and design. Ken Wong, Antony Reed and Nimrod Weis will be joining us in BODW 2018 on 3-8 December. Learn more about our programme and get 30% off early bird tickets now!

Further readings:
More about BODW 2018

The art of Monument Valley by Ken Wong

The Arcade: a capitalist commune of indie game development

Flashing lights by Melbourne-based ENESS

Click  here  to read the full issue of DMatters October 2018.