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Human Values in the Age of Digital

How can design serve as mediator between technology and human values? A highly anticipated exhibition by Design Society will explore just that.

Human Values in the Age of Digital

In October, Design Society will open to the public in Shekou, Shenzhen, China with two inaugural exhibitions: ‘Minding the Digital’ in the Main Gallery, and ‘Values of Design’ in the V&A Gallery.

It’s the former that has particularly captured our interest, given the way in which technology has infiltrated our lives. ‘Minding the Digital’ is a large-scale, speculative exhibition that reflects – through design – on the unprecedented impact of digitalisation in China and beyond; specifically, it will explore how design can mediate between technology and core human values.

Through the works of over 50 established practitioners from around the world as well as digital talents from China, the exhibition aims to immerse the audience in various forms of ‘design wonders’ and experiences shaped by digital technologies.

The exhibition asserts that digitalisation can open up cross-disciplinary, technology-driven approaches to ideation, problem-solving and fabrication, all of which are revolutionalising the design industry. However, through human-centric design approaches, digitalisation can also enhance connections with ourselves, others, our heritage and communities. The audience will be guided to question and reflect upon these digital-led opportunities and challenges through three key sections in the exhibition: Digital Encounter, Digital Interactions and Digital Participation.

Digital Encounter will discuss the interplay between human and machine intelligence in design, raising questions on whether they will complement or contest in the digital era. Microstructures by Dutch designer Joris Laarman and digitally fabricated furniture by Chinese designer Zhang Zhoujie will show the importance of algorithms and digital fabrication tools in generating new forms which were previously unachievable. The biometric, robotically fabricated Research Pavilion 2013-2014 by Achim Menges and Jan Knippers of Stuttgart University will show how profound research and human interpretation of nature still play a crucial role in design.

Digital Interactions first illustrates the growing intimacy and empathy between us and design objects and interfaces, juxtaposed with alternative design practices that reinvigorate connections between us, the others and our history. Designs in this section include the reactive, human-like sphere ANIMA by Dutch artist Nick Verstand, which can intelligently interpret our body movements and portray its character by responding with audiovisual expressions; and the six-screen kungfu visualisation installation Reactor by Australian digital arts professor Jeffrey Shaw in collaboration with Hing Chao and Sarah Kenderdine.

The last section, Digital Participation invites the audience to experience the power of design as an innovative force in the industry and in our communities. It features Design Society’s original research led by Programme Director Zhao Rong and Senior Curator Carrie Chan (and supported by Tongji University and China Academy of Fine Arts), and illustrates how China’s design ecology is being shaped by the latest digital technologies and the *Internet Plus strategy.

*Internet Plus strategy was first mentioned by Premier Le Keqiang in a government work report in 2015. It’s a national strategy for inspiring new economic models, and transforming traditional industries.

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