Christmas Trees: Pine and PVC Needles

Generally ice or, rather, water, freezing at a below-zero temperature, increases in bulk when it solidifies. As a child, I was fascinated by a story of a hermetically sealed vessel, filled to the brim with water. If it were allowed to freeze, the water, at the moment of its transformation into ice, would shatter it, no matter how hard the metal from which it was constructed. Actually, of course, the water is no longer ‘water’ when it does it, but has become ice. But this was of no importance to me. What was important to a 6-year old is the image of the exploding bottle, sending shards of glass in every which way. I won’t go into the details of my rather disappointing experiment with an empty wine bottle, water and a cork, but a few weeks later on one especially freezing winter day my dad came home with a frost-bite. He told me that when skin temperature drops low enough, ice crystals can form around and within the cells, freezing tissue and ultimately rupturing cells. I wondered if shards of exploded cell walls also fly in all possible directions. Continue reading

An End to User-Based Thinking – Biological Perspective

Interview for Communications Community Office at the Government of Canada conducted by Jeremy Harley.

Ant foraging strategies as individual and social processes. Photo taken at the ant exhibition in Museum of Nature, Ottawa. (Alëna Iouguina, 2014)

Ant foraging strategies as individual and social processes. Photo taken at the exhibition in Museum of Nature, Ottawa, titled Farmers, Warriors, Builders: The Hidden Life of Ants. (Alëna Iouguina, 2014)

J: What do you mean when you say that we as developers, communicators, coders and designers need to stop thinking of our clients as “users” and start thinking about them as people?

A: ‘User’ is a misdirected term. To say that it is about ‘the user’ trivializes the scope of the interaction design process. As human-beings, we are not looking to simply ‘use’; we are looking to interact and communicate, as well as accomplish our goals in an efficient, effective, safe, and maybe even aesthetic and fun way. While it is ok to use the term ‘user’ to communicate the standardized concept across disciplines, we as researchers, developers, communicators, coders and designers must be mindful of the complex world of creators and ideators we are tapping into.

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Nature, 3D Printing, and Rock n’ Roll: Biomimetic Approach to User Experience Design

I had a great time at UX Conference this past weekend and will absolutely write a post about all the brilliant speakers that graced the stage of Canada Museum of Civilization. In the meantime, let me share my presentation about lizards, caterpillars, guitar picks, and my new-found love for UX community.

Enjoying a rock concert with the audience

Enjoying a rock concert with the audience

Of lizards, caterpillars, and love



Social Innovation or Natural Coevolution?

** The article was originally published in Vol. 1 of FIELDS An Interdisciplinary Design Journal. Please cite as follows: (A. Iouguina, 2013). Social Innovation or Natural Coevolution? FIELDS – An Interdisciplinary Design Journal. Carleton University: Ottawa, ON.

Social innovation or Natural coevolution?

Biological inspiration is transforming many of the ways we think about innovation. Its commercial and theoretical applications are already influencing various industries and academic institutions. Fermanian Business and Economic Institute of Point Loma Nazarene University has devised The Da Vinci Index, which measures research and industrial activities inspired by solutions found in nature. The Index is compiled based on the number of patents issued, scholarly articles published, the number of grants issued by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and National Institutes of Health (NIH) in USA, and the value of those grants for any given period. The reading of 1052 in the third quarter of 2012 relative to the 100 Index level of 2000 indicates more than a tenfold expansion in the activity in the past 12 years (Fermanian Business & Economic Institute, 2012).

Index of 1,052 in **third quarter of 2012 relative to 100 index level of the *fourth quarter 2000 indicates more than a tenfold expansion in the activity in the past twelve years.

Index of 1,052 in **third quarter of 2012 relative to 100 index level of the *fourth quarter 2000 indicates more than a tenfold expansion in the activity in the past twelve years.

Social innovation implies a paradigm change

Innovation is essential for society, because it is the principal mechanism by which societies create and sustain competitive advantage. According to various sources, social innovation implies a paradigm change, or, in other words, it challenges an assembly of beliefs – possessed by an individual, a group or a civilization – that defend as certain and makes them set against the acceptance of other possibilities.

“Social innovations are changes in the cultural, normative or regulative structures [or classes] of the society which enhance its collective power resources and improve its economic and social performance” (Heiscala, 2007). For Heiscala, ‘Social innovation’ means ‘change in at least one of the following three social structures: cultural, normative and regulative.

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Bionics ≠ Biomimetics ≠ Biomimicry

Did you know Otto H. Schmitt and Jack Steele both lived to be 84 years old?

They were very close to celebrating their 85th birthdays, but never got a chance to. They did, however, get a chance to become fathers of biologically inspired design movements and bring such terms as ‘bionics’ and ‘biomimetics’ into existence.

In fact, the term ‘bionics’ (biology + technics) describing the process of “copying, imitating, and learning from biology” was conceived by Jack Steele in as early as 1960 prior to the infamous Bionics Symposium.

United States Air Force, Wright Air Development Division 1961 (Kline 2009)

Steven Vogel in his book “Cats’ Paws and Catapults” defined bionics as being mostly concerned with systems design:

… [bionics] is based on living systems. The word ‘systems’ came naturally to those, mostly engineers, initially involved; neural systems and physiological controls formed biological parallels to human technology’s cybernetics and systems theory

Daniel Wahl  took  a radically  different approach to the evaluation  of the term, describing it from the perspective of ‘nature-culture relationships’ and indicating the deficiency of “salutogenic design  approach that increases human, societal, and ecological health synergistically”. One of the most interesting quotes by Wahl examines the place of ‘bionics’ within the biologically inspired design:

Unfortunately the focus [of bionic-centred conferences] was so exclusively on technological innovation that it almost actively tried to discourage ecological concerns and the issue of sustainability.

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