Prototyping

Berlin Northumbria prototyping Valooe

This is a slightly edited version of an email I sent some weeks ago to my supervisors (all four of them) and project management.

 1

In February, we're having the IoT tech training with Officine Innesto. My plans are of making a speculative machine (tentatively called Valooe) that identifies objects and brings information about their repairability, spare parts, upcycling and stories/instructables. Rolling documentation/brainstorm / sketches in the doc I've just shared with you.

I don't expect to have a functional machine in a couple of months, but rather a prototype to demo how it would work. I can see Valooe operating in at least 3 or 4 different versions: mobile app, website, desktop machine (for repair workshops, flea markets, scrap stores, repair cafes), standalone kiosk (for public spaces). For the tech demo, we'll probably use NFC/RFID to mock the identification of objects and have a small display with a website displaying info about the "recognised" objects.

Valooe - sketching

2

For my research purposes, the link between the repair/upcycle machine and "smart cities" will need to be more explicit in the future. I am basing this argument in a series of assumptions:

  1. reusing those materials that still have potential value is less impactful and more advantageous (in environmental as well as economic and social terms) than any of the three final destinations of waste (recycling, incinerating or landfilling). This is not about increasing the efficiency of collection or processing of waste, rather it is about preventing the generation of waste.
  2. assessing the potential value of materials is a skillset that can be taught and shared. My prototype and my research this year will investigate whether this skillset can also be augmented with the aid of digital technologies under collective governance.
  3. by promoting the dissemination of such a skillset, any public body that has a mandate over waste management could reap the benefits of waste prevention and reuse of materials.

3

I know I repeat myself a lot, but I do think that the role of "agent valoriste" that I heard of for the first time during a residency in Nantes in 2016 must be a core part of my research. Here's a professional course on it being taught by an association there:

https://ecossolies.fr/Formation-Agent-valoriste

Have a look:

  • Collecter, trier, valoriser des objets, des matières
  • Informer, orienter, sensibiliser aux enjeux du réemploi
  • Travailler en réseau avec les acteurs agissant dans la prévention et la gestion des déchets.

If anything, I'd love my prototypes to serve those people and organisations.

4

I have accepted that the possibility of doing any kind of face to face fieldwork in this semester is remote if at all viable. So I took the advice from my academic supervisors earlier this week and will plan for a 100% online study this year. This way:

  1. Work on the tech side of my prototype with Officine Innesto and have some kind of functionality ready by late February (March)
  2. Work in tandem with (a) designer/s to have the form factor of Valooe, online UX/UI of the info screens, general look and ID ready ASAP.
  3. Produce a speculative video of Valooe as if it's already 100% functional... showing at least the machine, but hopefully the other 3 versions of it as well.
  4. Organise online workshops in which I will exhibit the video and discuss what is the relevance and implications of developing this sort of technology. I would like to recruit people active in different areas that might be interested in it.
  5. I will host a workshop at #mozfest exploring data structures for the universal registry of things (which would be the backbone of Valooe).

I am currently expecting a feedback on approval of 4 (and 5) from the University's ethic committee.

5

With the turn of the year and the perception that I've already crossed the 18 months mark (which means I'm halfway in this project), I decided to start mobilising my networks to speed things up. Here's a tweet trying to map the terrain:

https://twitter.com/efeefe/status/1349005161046437888

The replies to this tweet are already good clues on where and how to recruit participants. Ultimately, I would love to engage with agents valoristes active on the field, but there is a risk that I can only find them in Nantes, and my French is not that great, so I may skip that for the time being. But here are some loose ideas for afterwards, going into the third year:

  • A residency in Nantes, to understand the typology and genealogy of their many initiatives or reuse, as well as how much the public sector is involved with / responsible for them. I'm not sure the prototype will still be relevant by then, but I would also try to engage with people who are working in the field.
  • Learn more about specific policies of waste prevention in different localities. Not only Berlin but also Amsterdam who has committed to a "doughnut" economy and Barcelona where there are many "circular" initiatives as well.

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