Edge Services – Ben Singleton

What happens if people use products or services they do not want other people to now about? Ben is looking at inconspicuous consumption. He did a sexual health project at DOTT07, looking at alternative places to offer  public health services.

Inspirations were alibinetwork.com who provide people with alibis and evidence to back these up. Another inspiration was Surrender Control which is a kind of game that sends you txt msgs to challenge you to do unusual things in public space which require you to overstep boundaries you normally wouldn’t.

These ideas and examples led Ben to the idea of designing Edge Services. Edge Services operate around boundaries of what is socially accepted and support inconspicuous consumption. He looked at the idea of ‘Edgework’ (Stephen Lyng 1990, 2004) because it reflects on people who consciously look for strong experiences that are potentially dangerous such as sky diving.

Ben uses a triangle model of practice-experience-technology to build edge services on. These services are case-studies to help him develop this thinking. ARK inc. is an example of an edge service project Ben does with Jon Ardern. Ark offers design solutions for society after it has completely crashed. ARKNET is one of the services, offering a guerilla infrastructure on shortwave packet radio (7kbits/sec) to send around vital information through an inconspicuous peer to peer network.

A group in Paris called UX is an inspiration for Ben’s edge services because it organised illegal break-ins in the Pantheon (to¬† repair the clock that had not been working for 40 years, and have a nice wineclub for members on the side every evening) and the catacombs of the Eiffel tower (where they had a cinema and bar). Another example is guerilla gardening. These are examples that point to inconspicuous production next to the consumption. The question is raised however if we can see this as something designers should design? Ben thinks the role of designers is more to do with design research, and communicate about them as a source of inspiration, than actually create these services themselves.

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