Im/material traces – The Workshop

On Thursday the 9th of June a workshop on the topic Im/material traces was held as a part of the workshop series things2things. In total 11 researchers and designers from different professional and geographical backgrounds participated and covered a wide range of expertise on the topic of internet of things.

The workshop was organized by Holly Robbins a PhD candidate at the department of industrial Design engineering at TU Delft and David Derksen a product designer with a strong  focus on natural traces and materialities in his work.

The goal of the workshop was to explore ways that materials and their physical form can express the im/material (digital, algorithmic) qualities of connected objects.

Programme overview:

  • A.Sensitizing: Participants are asked to bring three objects: an analog object with traces, a connected object and an object of daily use.
  • B.Phase 1  //  Material Trace Exploration: Orientation Talk , MATERIAL EXPERIMENTING Workshop Session
  •  C.Phase 2  //  Imagining Connectivity: Creating scenarios using the objects they brought and the game cards against humanity in three groups of participants
  • D.Phase 3  //  Integrating Traces :In three design phases the groups implement different criteria in the beforehand created scenario.
  • E.Wrap Up: Reflection on the day and concluding discussion

A: Sensitizing

Before the workshop the participants had the task to look for different objects and bring them to the workshop. The objects were part of the workshop but also functioned to sensitize the participants. By looking for objects with traces of use participants are  stimulated to look closer at the objects surrounding them and get aware of different traces of use, since traces can be of different forms for example digital or analog, the participants were asked to bring three different objects:

  1. An analog object with traces
  2. A connected object with an computational layer
  3. Any object of daily use


B: Phase 1

Orientation Talk

The workshop started with an introduction of the workshop followed by showing examples of  different traces in different materials. The focus is on copper, wood and leather.Further it is shown how traces are used as a mean in different design objects.

Some examples are:

        • Diptych by Lex Pott
        • Ripening Rugs by Adrianus Kundert
        • Transience mirrors by DD /Lex Pott
        • Tarnish Collection by Daniel Schofield


Material experimenting workshop session

The participants  are introduced to different materials and different ways of treating them to create different traces in an accelerated way. The participants are asked to create a personal library of samples of accelerated traces of use

Different materials and treatments are shown in: 


  • Hard/softwood

Treatments: oil or paint or ink, sanding in different roughness, polishing, sandblasting soft woodbleaching with acid/lemon/etc

  • Copper/ Brass

Treatments: cold patina, polishing, vinegar/polishing or masking, sanding or sandblasting and polishing, sanding / dark oil

  • Leather (thick/fine versions)

Treatments: sanding/brushing, polishing, oiling, scratching, bleaching with acid, sandblasting


C:Phase 2  //  Imagining Connectivity

In phase two the participants were divided into three groups and in the groups played a few rounds of the game cards against humanity. Cards Against Humanity is a game in which parts of statements or sentenceses are left blank and the blanks have to be filled with phrases printed on other cards. The funniest statement wins. After a statement was picked the group chose one or two objects from the library of brought objects and created a scenario around the object.This scenario was presented by each group in a roleplay.


The chosen cards against humanity statement of group 1 was: “The class field trip was completely ruined by the profoundly handicapped.”


The group created a fork that is responsive to touch which is used to feed handicapped people which cannot communicate verbally. The fork has sensors and recognizes when the fed person does not want to eat more. The fork would also detect which food is liked and which food is healthy for the fed person and which is not. Hence the fork would have an influence on the eating behaviour of the people which are fed with it.


Group 2

The chosen cards against humanity statement of group 2 was: “When Pharaoh remained unmoved Moses called down a plague of passive aggressive post-it notes.”


This statement transformed in the scenario of an ‘evaluation machine’ for professors.A student hands in an essay to a professor, the professor scans through it with an ‘evaluation machine’ which was symbolized with a hairdryer. The evaluation is blown out of the hairdryer in form of feedback post-it notes.


Group 3

The chosen cards against humanity statement of group 3 was: “What is the next happy meal: crippling depth!”


They created a box with a lot of strings which represent all online transactions of a user.


D:Phase 3  //  Integrating Traces

In this phase the participants were asked to further develop their scenario by implementing different criteria in three design cycles. After each cycle the groups presented the outcome followed by a short discussion.


Cycle 1 – Criteria:The formation of traces should represent people’s  engagement with the technology in an understandable way


  • Group1 changed the fork into a spoon.By biting on a certain position of the spoon the Eater leaves traces which give feedback which food he likes and which he does not like.In the topic however is a contradiction since cutlery should not have many traces since it should be hygienic: Therefore the idea of the group was to have one base and exchangeable top parts( the part which is put in the mouth) for different people. The individual spoons or fork tops then could be identified by the left traces of the owners. The device has two interfaces, the handle and fork/spoon, with touch points to both helper and patient.
  • Group 2 adapted the evaluation machine to a tool that does not replace the evaluation of the professor but is rather a tool for the professor to give him feedback on his own way of grading.The report is read by professor and then the algorithm scans the report and also gives an evaluation. Then the professor can evaluate his own grading by comparing his evaluation with one of the algorithms.The evaluation on post-its allows a public discussion visible to everyone. Hence the student can give feedback to his grading. The system will become smarter over time.
  • Group 3 created a new object for their scenario, using the ink traces in wood discovered in the morning workshop. The new object is a wooden box which displays the personal data body in ink.Every interaction which leaves a trace online is displayed with ink drops on the wooden box, every year represents one side of the box, so the box would last for 4 years. The group wanted to visualize the data, create awareness and inform users about when and why data traces are left online. The object can attract the users to something (data) they normally are not attracted to.


Cycle 2 – Criteria: People should co-perform the task that the technology performs. Evidence of this co-performance should be a trace.

  • Group1 added that the handle, which is the digital part belongs to the helper he has one handle and can add individual cutlery tops for each patient.
  • Group 2 adjusted the scenario to the perspective of the student. The main goal of a student is probably to get the graduation paper but students also has other goals during their study. Different building blocks stand for different study and personal learning goals of the students  The blocks are the traces, they create a record of the different achievements. It’s a representation of the study process,the technology stands in service of evaluation
  • Group3 adds co-performance by enabling the user  to move the needle which distributes the ink. If the needle is not moved it will always drop the inc at the same place and create a big splash at one spot.Traces are a means to reflect how much data and digital content is created. The responsibility to move the needle confronts the user of its data online. It triggers the users to become aware of the data usage. It does not have to be negative, the data can also show that lot of money was spent, because of a big birthday party or many photos were shared on facebook after a holiday. The device  could trigger the user  to investigate where the bigger ink spots. “The trace is managing you and you are managing the trace”


Cycle 3 – Criteria: Traces should be residual, embedded in the technology itself, and not be ephemeral and disposable

  • Group 1 adjusted the personal handle to a usb stick like handle that carries information about the patients. If the fork it attached to the handle the personal info is accessible to the helper. This information could be a  conversation starting point for the helper and could create opportunities for human  interaction touch points.
  • Group 2 and 3  stuck to the concept of the second cycle, since they saw the criteria already fulfilled

E.Wrap Up

Evaluating the created scenarios led to a discussion revolving around how use traces can aid to understand more complex problems, which traces are desirable and which are not and which role materiality plays in our more and more digital world.

The discussion led to the conclusion that materiality can help to bridge the growing gap between the object and the data, it can aid in understanding complex intangible datasets by providing an interface that is concrete and tangible.

However it is questionable which are the traces that should be visible and given an interface.

Do we want to create more products that aid us in monitoring and tracing our own environment or do we rather create interfaces that help understanding the traces we leave without always being aware of it, such as every click we do online or every payment we do using our bank card.

Where should we as designers position ourselves? Many participants expressed that the focus should be on the design of objects which enable the users to understand their own data bodies online and create awareness of the  traces left by different everyday actions and the impacts they have.

Objects with Intent – TheWorkshop

On Thursday the 14th of April a workshop on the topic Objects with intent was held as a part of the workshop series things2things. In total 12 researchers and designers from different professional and geographical backgrounds participated.

The workshop was organized by Marco Rozendaal, Geke Ludden, Jelle Stienstra & Jan Hendrik Croockewit.

The goal of the workshop was to developed design knowledge on how to design intentful networked objects in a IoT infrastructure by designing interactions that serve as demonstrators.


  1. Introduction
  2. Ideating, Designing and Iterating scenarios in Groups
  3. Reflecting on the outcomes of the workshop with the design perspectives
  4. Presenting the results


    • Presentation about technology by Jan Hendrik Croockewit
    • Introducing the four Design perspectives
    • Introducing the coming home scenario


Presentation about technology by Jan Hendrik Croockewit

 After everybody was welcomed and introduced Jan Hendrik Croockewit gave a short introduction about different technologies which can be used to create a wireless connection between the objects within an Internet of Things. The presentation focussed on different technologies such as GSM,WiFi,Bluetooth, Bluetooth Smart ZigBee and LoRA a relatively new technology which is very low in energy usage but has quite  a wide range (2km), hence  is something in between GSM and Wifi.


The Design Perspectives


interaction design perspective

From an interaction design perspective, we look at design considerations for designing the appearance, behavior and interactivity of intentful interconnected objects.


social perspective

From a social perspective we look at the meaningful experiences the objects elicit, the way the objects embed in activities, as well as how they influence them.


technology perspective

In terms of technology, we will reflect on how the objects rely on embedded intelligence, their connectivity and actuating capabilities to make them work?


workshop perspective

We will also reflect on the workshop itself, how did the workshop allow us to sketch the envisioned interactions made them configurable and how we could do this in a collaborative way.


Coming Home Scenario

The workshop was centered around the theme of ‘coming home’

Participants are asked to imagine how other artefacts in the home, such as the couch, lighting, media, can play a role in the coming home experience. What is this experience about? Coming back from a tough day at work and wanting to relax. Coming home to do some work because you have a deadline. How about multiple people in the home?

The workshop was held in a space that represented different living areas, such as living room, garden, entrance, eating area to help the participants imagine different situations around the theme of coming home.


2.Ideating, Designing and Iterating scenarios in Groups

After the introduction, three groups were formed. In three iteration cycles, the group developed a design in form of a scenario, which explained the envisioned interaction between the objects and the humans  in a certain situation. The first two cycles focussed on the interaction and the social perspective.Cycle one was focussed on brainstorming, cycle two acting out using the environment and requisites. In the third cycle, the focus was on the technical perspective.


Group 1 ‘From Mood to Food’ – Wouter, Harry, Lissa and Benjamin


Group 1 chose the scenario of cooking when coming home. They focussed on the situation when someone comes home and starts cooking how can the objects in the kitchen and the cooking itself respond to the mood of the person. They explored different moods and concentrated on feeling stressed and feeling bored. The kitchen suggests a recipe that responds to the mood of the person, not only considering the outcome but the cooking and the movements itself.


Group 2 ‘The house as a servant’  – Sander, Pieter, Douwe and Tobias


This group explored the situation when someone is coming home, having very limited time, because he has a sports match. How can the house help that person to value the time he as much as possible and have a moment of relaxation at home? The house acts as a ‘servant’ that corresponds with the person already before arriving home, ordering food and opening the right drawers in which the sports clothes are when the person arrives home. This way time is saved that the person can use to eat his ordered dinner. This time should be valued and not spend staring at the watch. Hence, the house slowly indicates with light and music when it is time to leave.


Group 3 ‘Working at home’ – Tom, Kasper, Luuk, Evert

T2T_LR_051_TKurpershoek_16-04-14_DSC04443Group 3 focussed on the situation of a coupe in which one of the works at home and the other comes home. Depending on the mood of both people two different lights suggest a certain behaviour. A  bigger, ambient light, which can be seen in the peripheral view of the worker reacts on the person coming home. A smaller light on the desk of the worker is interacting with the worker. The group focussed on two scenarios. In the first the person coming home is calm and sees that the small light is still on focus, while the worker can see the bigger light from far changing colour his small light will stay a while bright, if the  worker is concentrated. After a while, it will slowly change to a more ambient colour suggesting the worker that it is time to stop. In the second scenario, the person coming home is very stressed and asks straight away for the attention of the worker. Both lights react upon that and suggest the worker to stop working.


3. Reflecting on the outcomes of the workshop with the design perspectives

The participants were asked to write their thoughts on post its and pin them on the design perspective posters over the day.The perspectives were discussed and more post its were added, see pictures above. Different questions were raised.


Interaction Design perspective

There is a conflict between behaviour and interactivity, how can the user make clear he does not agree with an action the system takes? The system is not always right, so what happens if system is wrong? How can an action be stopped, or how can the user teach the system different behaviour and give feedback?  Maybe it is interesting if the actions of the system are not always predictable, since the actions of other people are also not always predictable.

Should the system indicate whet it is doing, so the user can stir in in a different direction if he realized in misunderstood his actions? It is important that the system acts intuitive and natural and does not need too much confirmation of the user. It should be a help and not a hussle.


Social Perspective

How does the system interact with different people? If the system is designed for one, how does it interact if a second person enters the situation? How does a system then decide on who it should focus, if different people have different moods? What should designers consider when the system is social? Can a universal system be designed, which works on different people?


Technical Perspective

How much data does a system need to make the right decision? How intelligent is it? It is interesting that the participants understand data in the context of the workshop terms of behaviours and feelings such as stress, happiness, focus or boredom. These feelings have to be translated into user actions which can be turned into measurable data.


Workshop Perspective

The participants liked the roleplay and groupwork a lot, but mentioned that tinkering material and requisites, more fast prototyping tools as well as remote controls could be a great contribution for fast iterations and prototyping.

4.Presenting the results
To conclude the workshops the concepts were presented to an audience. After that the topic was discussed over drinks and snacks.

Event 3: Key Insights

On Friday 18th of March the third and last event of the Predictive Materialities Workshop took place in TU Delft. The third event was intended to bring the insights of the first two events together and plan the next steps after the workshop.


The Programm

  • Part 1.Presenting and discussing the results and the insights of the last two events
  • Part 2.Discussing the next steps towards the Dutch Design Week



A few participants did and ideation session after the second workshop and presented their insights.

Gaspard started with showing a webpage that allows the user to upload a picture of a piece of clothing or an outfit and then searches in the internet for similar clothes. Further he presented a two projects about the traceability of production steps of clothing.

The following projects were looked at:

The discussion led to the idea of giving the user the possibility to reward the people which are involved in the making of  their clothing directly. This would become possible if every production step could be traced back to different people.

The discussion led to fair trade and how we can better judge which products we should buy or if we should even buy or rather lease products.

Two projects were introduced:

  • Mudjeans: Lease your jeans – A service which allows the user to not own a jeans anymore but to lease it.
  • Buycott: An app which tells the user about production backgrounds of products when the are scanned. In that way it helps the user to make a decision of which products to buy based on the user’s values.


In the next step Marcel presented an algorithm he created, which tries to match the facebook data of two people. His goal was to find common interests to create a common ground as a base to become closer to each other. He downloaded all facebook data of Dries as well as his own facebook data and compared the times when they are both active on facebook, further he compared which events they attend and which are common interests.

“ I designed an algorithm to become closer to Dries”



In the next step the participants discussed how the insights of this workshop can be demonstrated at the Dutch Design Week. How can the attention of the visitors be catched and their interest in the findings of the workshop be evoked?What could be a memorable experience? Different ideas were discussed:


  • It should be something ‘hands on’ but showing the technology and the implication  similar to Things Clash.
  • Creating an algorithm that creates a conference it finds people and publications online, downloads them and automatically sends invitations to the people fitting to the topic.
  • Creating something that connects to the  APIs of social networks and collects the data of the visitors. With that data tangible things can be created and handed out to the visitors. It would be a great way to turn their intangible data into something intangible.
  • Creating a speculative future: A provoking question or statement such as “If data is the new oil, what’s the motor?” could be visualized and the visitors could be given tools to respond to that statement.
  • Rather than a statement it could also be a future scenario. ‘‘If we behave like this and that this is how our future will look”. Let the visitor drastically and very tangible explore the results of his actions in a  scenario that involves senses.
  • Designing a laboratory in which the implications of one’s actions can be explored.


Arrangements were made to further work on a proposal for DDW.Some of the participants will come up with a concept to present the insights at the Dutch Design Week in October 2016.


Event 2: Designing by Value


On Tuesday  9th of February the second event of the Predictive Materialities Workshop took place at TU Delft. The workshop was facilitated by Chris speed and Debbie Maxwell.
The event evolved around the topic of blockchains,alternative currencies and data as value.  he event included an introduction to the Blockchain and the Bitcoin by Stichting Bitcoin Amsterdam.

The programme

  1. Reflections on the participant’s progress
  2.  Introduction to the Bitcoin/BlockChain for Designers by Stichting Bitcoin
  3. Workshop.1: Blockchain for Designers by Debbie Maxwell & Chris Speed
  4. Workshop.2: Discussion and Design Implications

Part 1: Reflections on the participant’s progress

The participants had the task to pretend to be an algorithm that finds patterns in other participants online data. Based on this data they designed an object for another participant. The object was 3D printed and send to the participant it was intended for. Here are some pictures of the results.


Part 3 : workshop – Blockchain for Designers

The goal of this workshop was to get the participants familiar with the usage of bitcoins and the blockchains. Lego pieces were used as bitcoins, one piece represented one bitcoin. All participants had a set of stickers in their own colour, which were sticked on the lego bitcoins in order to track the transactions. Participants had to trade different materials with lego bitcoins. In three different rounds they had different trading tasks. In each round two participants functioned as minors, who had to calculate all transactions and announce when a block is closed. In the first two rounds goods such as water, sheep, grains etc. were used as values to trade. In the  third round the participants were asked to use their own values.

Some examples of the values they were trading were: a kidney, a moral compass, DNA modification treatment, a clean slate, time, dinner, holiday, advice, different insurances, multiplyer, a free out of jail card…


Part 4: workshop – Discussion and Design Implications

In the last part the participants formed teams and came up with service ideas.

ABC  Anner, Marcel, Gaspard by









Educoin  by Teun, Nazil, Dana



Assasinator by Iskander, Giulia


undispiable value


Life Coin  by Dries, Emily, Tomasz 

life coin



Hammer  by Fako, Jelle, Matthijs