Rethinking Retirement and edgeryders at Biennale of Desgin Ljubljana (?)

So, a few weeks ago I was in Ljubljana as one of the approx 80 participants selected to the BIO26 designathon process.

Short background: I used to work for Museum of Architecture and Design in Slovenia in 2013/2014 - right before firmly joining edgeryders - as I was doing my Ph.D. in architecture and politics and found it helpful to immerse myself in the topic. I was soon moved to the Biennale team, where I did communications and some event support. It was the 50th anniversary of the Biennale of Design, and the new curator, Jan Boelen, was shaking things up dramatically: he didn’t want pieces of design. He wanted social change, participation, new processes. Which is when the Biennale went a new path, and this is the path I happen to be taking with them once again but from a completely different position.

This year the process became a competition, where we were first grouped in different topics - University, Library, Garden, Museum, Newspaper, Retirement Home. Then, each of these challenges was tackled by three multidisciplinary groups we were divided into by the curators. We were all handpicked and then hand-distributed, according to our skills and experience. And then we had to compete against each other.

So, I’m in the retirement group. I am in a team with two young Italian architects and a Chilean visual artist. The only female-only group in the whole competition.

We’re against a duo of Eindhoven trained designers, from Canada and Singapore, who were teamed up with two German architects who run a studio together in Munich and Berlin. The second team was all-Slovenian (strange move), architects and designers, some who already participated in BIO before.

Now, we are given pretty much 30 hours to come up with a project and a compelling pitch and then show them to the jury: Deyan Sudyic, the director of Design Museum in London, Amelie Klein, curator of the Vitra Design Museum in Germany, or Johnny Golding, professor at the Royal College London, among others.

Fun! I was absolutely convinced we stand now no chance. And here we are - we won, we were commissioned to realise the work for the exhibition in November and we will work with a designer Kathrina Dankl, who mentors our project.

And I would like to have Edgeryders play a role in this project. So, what is it about?

Rethinking Retirement is an experiential research - we will create two spatial situations, one inside the Retirement home, and one inside the Museum of Architecture (both in a very interesting neighborhood in Ljubljana, walking distance), connected by visual elements, which will be designed to trigger new responses and ideas about retirement, one of them most probably with an experimental video documenting the research, second - a cozy space filled with participatory events and props.

We were motivated by several aspects of this challenge:

  • a rapidly growing number of elderly people around the globe presents huge potential and resource, and we need to imagine better ways of using these. What we have noticed is that for example all the activities in the retirement home, some of them with beautiful results and demanding craft and skills, are not very smartly done: the results of these stay at the house or are given to the families. What if what and how is produced in the house could be designed better?

  • elderly people are extremely humble about their life experience and skills they could offer to the younger generation. They all seemed to feel quite behind, esp in technological development and were more eager to learn from youth than teach them. If asked what could they offer - these would be social and soft skills: empathy, kindness, etc.

  • we saw them mostly really happy and fulfilled. But it’s a beautiful home for rather privileged people, with a huge waiting list. And we spoke to probably cherry-picked ones anyway. These experiences across the social, economic and age spectrum will be dramatically different.

  • dealing with the stigma of aging is key here obviously

  • but also: if these retirement homes have so many skills and time, could they offer us a possibility of shifting the economies around them, or maybe even globally? It made me think of E-nable, whose founder I saw at Re:Publica this year - he accidentally started a platform of volunteers which provides people with free or cheap, 3d printed prosthetics. We already have space, time and knowledge in one place - and a lot of problems in Slovenia: unemployment, rapid gentrification, frozen and low wages…

We won’t be reshaping the retirement home - we will be inviting people to discuss various scenarios for their retirement. We will trigger new encounters and reflections, and ask and document questions, answers and stories. We did a small sample of this, with some of the inhabitants and users (younger retired people who come to the house for activities) of the retirement home and we were stunned to hear their candid responses.

I’d like to use the platform as part of this research and exhibition - possibly with a simple interface that could be embedded in the exhibition, where we would have a set of questions and space for reflective writing, which would upload the content to the platform and make it available both for analysis and further conversation.

Or in another scenario, with a separate community, to which we will find another way to upload these stories.

I’d be happy to have a conversation about it with you and see whether there is interest and where this could take us. I think it’s great that there is already some interest and discussion around this topic going on the platform, the intentions seem aligned.

Also, any feedback is obviously more than welcome.

@nadia @alberto @matthias @noemi and everyone who is interested :slight_smile:


First of all, congratulations! Twice, in fact – I did not know you were doing (have already done?) a PhD.

This makes total sense, and you already know you do not need permission to do that. Beyond that, what sort of role do you envision for Edgeryders? As a researcher, my standard response is always “let’s do an ethnography of that!”, but of course that’s easier said than done, requires money etc. etc.

The help I would need for sure is technical - to develop an interface that would be mobile/tablet friendly, possibly also accessible to everyone outside of the space via QR code or a short link, or some even more funky entry, in two languages (Slovenian and English), that would somehow nicely sync the responses to the dedicated Retirement space on our platform. That might be the ideal way to collect responses and have a good overview, but also to open this discussion to a new community of retirement-concerned members of our community, future and present.
And find a way to either register super easily or enable submissions just by disclosing your name and email, let’s say?

Secondly, I would love to do the ethnography on top of that data and use the grapher as part of the exhibition, possibly with some meetups and workshops around the science behind it and what we see coming out of this conversation.

This of course would cost and right now we know for sure we will get some money to develop our project - but for sure not enough. I would be interested to know if edgeryders would be eager to participate financially in developing this interface and research, while I will use some of our budget to match it?

I am considering having a call for one community manager and one researcher from Slovenia, volunteers, possibly social science students, who would take over some of the tasks associated with this part of the project. Then I would have to know other costs and look around for possible funds, also in Slovenia.

All of these ideas might change a lot over the coming weeks as our design work starts tomorrow - and I’m very open and eager to hear about possible hacks and ways around these solutions. But this is how I see it now.

(PS. i have never finished my PhD, I dropped around the 2nd year, when I was told I will have to teach 130 hours of computer science each semester, that was too much even for me. maybe someday I will try again).

Apart from issues of money, remember research ethics and the GDPR. Collecting personal data and recording people’s views on things – rightly – are responsibilities, so we make sure people know what they are telling us and why. This is why our procedures for registering and posting are what they are. :slight_smile:

That’s a good point - I am waiting for my friend who does ethnographic research in his artworks to share his agreements, and then I will see how I can easily adapt it to this solution. I guess there can be a couple of ways: printed terms and conditions in the spaces, available to participants who want to take part in the process. Second would be asking them for permission if someone is supervising the devices at the moment. And third - ticking boxes with GDPR and the consent on the application. Does that make sense?

Will share the form soon to see if that fits :slight_smile:

Natalia, please. Not “ticking boxes”. This is serious, and important. You ask people to participate in research on retirement; you might come across intimate, confidential issues. You need to know how to handle them, and they need to know what data go where, and how you will use them.

I appreciate that these concerns make research harder, and posting on our platform yet more complicated. But: no shortcuts, and no compromises on ethics.

I meant ticking boxes as we have them anyway when we sign up on the platform, it doesn’t have to be different I guess? Plus a printed agreement available to everyone in the space. Or this is not sufficient? What would you do?

(I guess the main problem here is the double-step registration, otherwise the way we ask for consent is convenient for a different interface - I wonder about a way in which this can just be done more conveniently)

No, for the platform we are convinced that this is enough.

That’s wonderful, so the only thing that would need tweaking is taking off the two-step registration and having it in one simple and fun window, with the consent form. The second window will already have the research questions. Do you think this is feasible to develop in 2-3 months and how much would it cost? @matthias especially :slight_smile: When it comes to UX design and visual side of it, the group of designers that did the visual identity for Biennale would be a superb partner - I am checking if they could help me develop a super pretty interface for this tool.,

If this process would be too disruptive for the platform, could we create a separate platform dedicated to the subject that could later be integrated with other communities, maybe as a separate Retirement space?

I will be in Brussels last week of June so we can discuss the aspects of it in person - I think it would be wonderful to have some of our work shown and included in one of the oldest biennales in the world and explore new venues for this research tool and method. If you decide this is too much work and financial burden, I will find a way to do it without our platform then.

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talk to @owen about this too - he is setting up something similar for our other funnel sites.

Hi would love to hear more about this:

We did a small sample of this, with some of the inhabitants and users (younger retired people who come to the house for activities) of the retirement home and we were stunned to hear their candid responses.

We are part of an “Ambient Assisted Living” (healthcare, housing) research network and I would be very interested to find out more about how you envision to use the platform in your project…

The login flow is difficult to change, as it is a Discourse core function and also integrates with the shared accounts that we have now. The consent form is only needed for, so we don’t want to show it to each and everyone signing up on

However, there are other options, some of which I discussed with Nadia several times already. For example, we can have a form for choosing a username, entering an e-mail address, giving consent and creating a topic in a certain category, all in one. A password would be sent to that e-mail address, so that people can log in under the same identity when they want to contribute to the discussion under their topic. Also, when they get the password by e-mail, they can’t lose it. We’ll have lots of spambot issues with such a form of course, so we’ll need a captcha and moderator approval (which would happen inside Discourse).

Assume 3000 – 4000 EUR for that kind of functionality. Of that, 1000 EUR we could cover from the H2020 IT budgets, as such a form would make it simpler for people to contribute there as well. For the rest you’ll have to find it in your projects’ budget or somewhere else. The H2020 IT budgets are quite tight, so we can’t cover the nice-to-have features all from there …

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Ok, this looks fantastic - so the post created at the first time would stay on the platform, even if the person doesn’t login later on and activate the account?

When does the captcha enter - when you activate your account? And can we choose which captcha it is? (I just really hate those where you have to pick squares with objects, and thinking that there should be elderly people interacting with the platform, I would love it to be as simple as possible).

That’s wonderful news, especially as it really sits well with what we planned and wished for anyway - we can just give a short link or a qr code at events to audiences who can then share content on the platform as they would on twitter let’s say, shorter impressions, more ad hoc.

Thank you for this, do you think it can be done in 2 months? I know with your help it will be just perfect <3

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@soenke - we’re building two different environments (at least that’s the plan, everything will be confirmed by Wednesday) or spaces in which people will interact differently with the topic of retirement - and they will be then encouraged to reflect on it using various tools and devices, one of which could be a website open on a mobile device, where they will be asked a set of different questions regarding their ideas about aging, or their experiences. These would be collected on the platform (when not entered by people themselves, for example, written down on a paper, then transcribed and included in the research) and then analyzed. I’m particularly curious to see what kind of new encounters and possibilities are hiding there - for example, how to actively engage elderly with the outside world and make use of the space, time and skills they have. What problems do younger people face? How could these two generations meet to help each other? Maybe elderly homes could have a bit of a different character and equipment that could produce something really needed outside of them - for now, they have plenty of workshops inside but what these produce is neither sold not very useful. But we also have to see if they are interested in doing other things, or maybe hand-made paper roses are enough to keep them happy?

Anyway, as you are doing this project and have even more solid and direct experience with this topic, maybe we could have a call about it? One of the things I really want for this project is to go outside and beyond the context of the Biennale and the home we’re working with - so if we could tie our needs and ideas, it would be a great step ahead. Or if you happen to be in Berlin, we can meet in person.

Sure, sounds good, sent you a message to find a date / time !

Yes, it would stay.

No, before sending off that form with the post, consent to the research ethics questions etc… That’s needed because every form not protected by a login or captcha just attracts thousands of spambots.

Yes. It just can’t be too simple … bots already learned to solve the “shaky numbers” captchas etc…

If it’s aimed at people you met before at events etc., that short link or QR code can also be used to pre-fill or avoid the captcha. But only if that link is only distributed by non-digital means (or at most by e-mail campaigns, but not published openly on the web). Because then we can be reasonably sure that no bots will get their hands on it.

Confirmed, can be done. (Might be 2.5 months from now at most.)

But, you first have to find the budget for it :wink: The 3000 – 4000 EUR indicated above is the maximum, it will probably be somewhat less as we will only charge our usual developer rates, by time spent. Less the 1000 EUR I can commit from H2020 budget (as we’ll re-use the functionality on the NGI Forward platform), you’ll have to find ≤3000 EUR from your project budget or similar.

We can’t start working on this before 2019-07-01 due to current deadlines for other projects, so you have until then at least to confirm the budget.

Also to note, that budget is for the tech development based on your technical requirements. If you want a sophisticated design or UX, that would be in addition and you’d have to manage that part of the process (get that designed by somebody and handed to us when we start with the work).

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Hi Natalia, sorry, took longer than expected. For some reason my busy colleagues seem little inclined to ponder adding an open notebook science platform to their toolkit, so I’ll have to think a bit more about communication workflows in these projects. But we are very curious about how you wish to use the platform. Locally, we have been meeting with people from across healthcare, a lot of naivite it seems regarding the potential of data-driven ai-based business models, but also great interest in using the opening created by ai to change the terms of the debate away from the usual technological determinism. The EU decided, for instance, that ai requires its own ethics / regulatory framework, draft guidelines are now being explored in a “piloting process” which is one (no more, but it is one) opportunity to explore how that might actually happen. What I find intriguing is how some of these ethics guidelines (Algorithm Watch keeps track of them) are already been feeding into (feminist) strategies of making, imo a way to mobilize prototyping processes in the service of policy making. Not sure how best to proceed here but if this is something you think might also relate to your design activities we can pursue that.

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