Designing for Cuba: necessary in(ter)vention

Mira Dontcheva     Gwendolyn Floyd and Joshua Kauffman , REGIONAL

Seminar on People, Computers, and Design
Stanford University April 11, 2008

Cubans live in acute technological scarcity and political captivity yet thrive off technological improvisation, the informal market and a burgeoning Sneakernet that makes up for the lack of internet. The reaction to the information on this Sneakernet has recently brought Cubans a newfound sense of the possibility in political awareness and engagement. To put it in historical context, Sneakernets in Russia and Iran were vital in creating alternate dialogues and agendas.
Many thought that the recent succession in Cuban leadership would be an opportunity to accelerate Cuba's liberalization and integration into the global economy. Instead Cuba has shown that it is steadfast in proceeding with an unconventional developmental pattern that has to this point witnessed the emergence of technological revelations spanning community-based sustainable agriculture, to leadership in hardware and software development for the developing world.

This lecture shares REGIONAL's recent in-field Cuban research that spans the socio-technological, the political, and the top-secret. It will reveal how their research led to the design of a simple and affordable digital device that would potentially accelerate Cuban social change. And it discusses how an understanding of Cuba's development in a technologically walled garden offers us the chance to consider this closed-system metaphor for how the world is increasingly accepting itself to be.

REGIONAL performs and applies original analysis of global society, culture and commerce, uncovering and developing opportunities for profitable innovation and meaningful cultural intervention. They have recently spent months in Cuba and China researching emerging social and technological change, and have recently spoken at Etech, Hong Kong Polytechnic University, UC San Diego and the Institute for the Future.

Gwendolyn Floyd is an internationally recognized designer who researches and consults on the frontiers of technology and design. Her work is currently featured in "Design and the Elastic Mind" at New York's MOMA, and in the Smithsonian Cooper-Hewitt's National Design Triennale.

Joshua Kauffman is a globally-active advisor in technology-related urban, social and consumer scenarios. He frequently facilitates collaborative exploration and creation between global organizations and independent experts, and lectures about geopolitics and strategic design.

View this talk on line at CS547 on Stanford OnLine or using this video link.

Titles and abstracts for previous years are available by year and by speaker.