It has been quite a journey. From May 2006 until December 2016 I’ve worked vigorously and passionately at Waag, seeing an overwhelming amount of projects and programmes come to life. Scottie, 7scenes, PICNIC Festival, Fablab Amsterdam, Apps for Amsterdam & Apps for Europe, Express to Connect, Digital Social Innovation, Fairphone, the Big Open & Beautiful series at Pakhuis de Zwijger, the Bio Art & Design Award, and recently MakeHealth, FabSchool, Pet shop, Riches, Textile Academy, Amsterdam Smart Citizens Lab and Making Sense, to name but a few of the 250+ projects currently on the website.
What holds these amazing and seemingly disparate projects together is their focus on Waag’s core values: if you can't open it, you don’t own it; learning by making; relational aesthetics; code is culture; critical making, and it’s unifying philosophy users as designers. In short: its desire to democratise the use of technology, and understand its volatile meaning.
And so many interesting things lie ahead! The expansion of the Fablabs into the public libraries of Amsterdam; the new Fabschoolino, that provides an outstanding way of introducing young children in opening up closed systems of knowledge; the self enhancement clinic that will be opened at the Wetlab; using blockchains to make a fair AirBnB and distributed identity management, the coming edition of the BioHack Academy - and many many more. As technology develops so rapidly, there is an pressing need to get a first-hand understanding of its (im)possibilities. The same Internet that can empower and uplift can control and manipulate us far beyond what George Orwell had envisioned in his visionary novel 1984. Any new technology needs checks and balances, artistic explorations into its limitations, and rigorous scrutiny - things that Waag and its extensive network can provide so well.
For me, this journey has morphed into a different direction with accepting a new job at the University of Twente. From January 2017, I’ll be the managing director of the newly founded DesignLab, where science, technology and philosophy collide with design thinking to develop solutions to some of the worlds many pressing problems. I look forward to this challenge and invite you to come and visit and be part of this change in my professional life in one way or other.
For ten years I have enjoyed and learned a lot from my many gifted colleagues, amongst which its charismatic and visionary founder/director Marleen Stikker. It is absolutely amazing how she keeps this 22 year old institution vibrant and fresh, adapting it to society’s course to stay relevant and snappy. I’m certain that Waag will live up to its potential for many years to come, and I’m very happy to have been appointed a fellowship to enable future collaborations.
Meanwhile, I wish you a very happy, fruitful and inspiring new year with many new ventures, insights and inventions as well as time for reflection and pauzes. Thank you for your generous support in the past; I’m looking forward to extend and deepen our relationship in the future - so please don’t hesitate to keep in touch.