Investigation 3 - Case Study

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Horizon Scanning

tl;dr: Find sources that signal to future change for on designing memorials and monuments. Gather 1 strong ‘signals’ and 2-3 weak signals. Reflect on the change that it heralds and why we should pay attention to it. Report your discoveries.

As part of this project, we’re working with a 10 year horizon to design our monument. Working in this way means that we must forecast ahead to understand the kinds of future contexts we might encounter and how they can effect and inform our approach. There’s a lot that can and will change in this timeframe, so it’s key that we get a sense of what’s coming down the pipe. This will allow us to either account for it or incorporate it into our proposition.

What could influence our design down the road:

  • We know technology will change - and rapidly. For example, the current interest in smart objects and connected experiences illustrates a potential a seachange in how we encounter the digital in everyday settings.
  • The cultures and practices of dying show indications of change too. Karla Rothstein notes that “cultural transitions away from the gravesite as the locus of permanence are already under way.”
  • Equally the economics of death and dying, sustainability and environmental issues around burial and potential legal or regulatory changes are all elements we’ll want to be aware of and design for.

We can spot these big changes through small effects today. To do this, we’ll want to ‘scan the horizon’ for things that indicates a signal to future change. Signals are simply snippets of information, often hidden in the popular press, social media, or news media that point to emerging trends, cutting edge thinking, or insights that impact our projects or surrounding markets.

There’s typically two types:

  • Strong signals: These are things that are definitely going to happen and can’t be ignored. Typically the obvious change like an increasingly large aging community and the impact that will have.

  • Weak signals: These are subtler and have wiggle room! These are typically emerging (current or recent) developments that could shape the environemnt of a project. These could be, for example, changing public attitudes, discontinuties, a breakthrough research study or any source that might challenge the status quo or ask probing questions about what change might occur in the space. It doesn’t need to affect change as a rapid breakthrough innovation but it should be something that’s relevant and could effect the landscape within our horizon. Weak signals are sources of things that could become forces for change.

“Weak signals are those ambiguous pieces of information about a changing world that are typically hidden among the “noise” of current media, but that can with time coalesce to form a pattern that alerts leaders that it may be time to adapt. The ability to scan the horizon for weak signals to better understand how to adapt is a critical capacity for organisations that want to be sustainable and thrive in the future.” From Forum for the Future

Learning Objectives

In addition to the standard case study objectives, here we specifically hope to:

  • To identify factors that will influence our design, across dimensions of the technological, social, economic, environmental and legal, in the broad term
  • To become familiar with practices in designing for monuments and memorials with digital tools or ubiquitous computing by researching researchers, artists and practioners and the work they have created;
  • To identify reference projects in the space of digitally mediated memorials that are relevant to your own investigation;
  • To develop a receiptivity to critical production, critical design and critical making; and
  • To learn how others in the field approach questions of memorialization through production of computational tools, processes, or outcomes.

Selecting the work(s)

“Monitoring for weak signals can be done by observing publications and activities of specialists, blogs, conferences, and mainstream media, as well as fringe publications. Weak signals indicating potential future change may occur as outlier behaviour, discontinuities, unconventional wisdom, or disruptive technologies. These could be represented with a photograph, a story, or an on-the-ground observation. Generally, there is not substantial evidence or data to support a weak signal as evidence of a major shift within the landscape, however as the signal matures, evidence will build.” From Horizon scanning to improve social impact

First, you’re asked to scan sources (such as those listed above) and identify a ‘signal’ that you believe is relevant to this project and the timeframe involved.

You should gather 1 strong ‘signals’ and 2-3 weak signals.

For each signal you should summarize key elements of they source material, make the case for the change that you believe it heralds, include links to the orignal, and provide a short reflection/statement on why you believe it’s an important signal for us, i.e. why should we should pay attention to it.

You should post each signal to slack separately with about 150 words per example.

What to write up:

Follow the guidelines for posting a case study to Slack. Include in your post about 400 words in which you discuss:

  1. Briefly introduce your case study in a couple of sentences).
  2. Describe why you selected this case study (what is interesting, inspirational, innovative, etc. about it)
  3. Describe why the case are significant or exciting

The post should contain supporting materials (video, audio, data, code, documents that will help serve as augmentation of the project narrative and represent the case study to your peers. You should provide at minimum one cover/masthead image at the top of the project and you should import from online sources (YouTube, Vimeo, etc.).

Example formats for a case study are provided in the main case study information