Why Design Now? Asks Cooper Hewitt of the Web-World

The National Design Triennial at the Cooper-Hewitt Museum located in the Upper East Side of Manhattan has been exhibiting “Why Design Now?,” a look at the most contemporary designs of contemporary culture. With designs ranging from social design to architecture to pop culture to health services, the expanse of objects is staggering.

Supplementing the exhibition was their Why Design Now? conference on October 1st, put on by Cooper Hewitt and GE. During the day-long event, speakers from the vast array of design fields took the stage to present their innovations and interact with the audience in a live forum which encouraged discussion. Although the conference was bounced around through a series of subjects, one aspect was always in focus: the technical applications used to bring the conference to a world-wide audience.

A support team of camera men dashed around the lecture hall, streaming live across the internet to an audience that was boasted at three times the live attendance. Through the simple concept of airing the conference live on the world wide web, Cooper Hewitt’s exhibit passed the realm of only being able to cater to the small community who show up at its doorstep every day to create an international interest, allowing those who would not otherwise be able to make the trip to it’s 5th Avenue location to take a peek at what they have to offer.

This was not without some difficulties, though. As Adam Bly, Founder and CEO of SEED Media Group was at the platform explaining his company’s new online design forum, the server suddenly stalled, attempted to reload, and crashed, prematurely ending his speech for the day and leaving the audience unable to view his work. The reason?-many in the online community watching the feed had, in that moment, opened a new tab to view the page for themselves, causing the webpage to be too overloaded. It was joked that this is what the power of instant information can do, but in the end, I couldn’t help but feel that Mr. Bly had his moment in the sun at the forum taken away too soon.

Another technological detractor from the conference, which was installed for the purpose of better spreading the Why Design Now? message, was the live Twitter wall across the left side of the room. Artistic bouncing speech bubbles flipped and spun around each other, displaying the online public’s reactions to the conference. It was an interesting, yet distracting, forum of public opinion and discussion, ranging from complex questions towards the speakers to simple quotes. A particularly well-spoken thought would, within minutes of being said live, fill the Twitter wall, showing the audience which comments had the most impact on those watching from their own desks.

Although technology has its downsides, in the end, I appreciated the steps that GE and Cooper Hewitt took to create a more open, universal network for their exhibit. It made me feel as if I were a part of something bigger, and that the lines of communication to the outside world had been opened to create the discussion around the globe: “WHY design now??”

Kadie Yale

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