PCMA Convening Leaders Preview

Convening Leaders Preview: Neri Oxman

The architect and designer breaks disciplinary boundaries connecting science, engineering, and art.

Neri Oxman

Knowledge can no longer be produced within disciplinary boundaries, but rather is completely “entangled,” according to architect and designer Neri Oxman, who will present the Opening Main Stage session at Convening Leaders 2018.

Named one of the 100 most creative people by Fast Company and a “Revolutionary Mind” by SEED magazine, Oxman is a professor of media arts and sciences at the MIT Media Lab, where she directs the Mediated Matter research group. Her teaching and research explore topics including digital design and fabrication technologies inspired by nature. One 2013 project produced a dome from silk fibers woven by a robotic arm that mimicked how silkworms deposit fibers, which then was completed by 6,500 live silkworms. Earlier this year, her research group published a paper introducing the “Digital Construction Platform,” a robot arm that can use 3D-printing techniques to build large-scale structures quickly and easily.

Here at Convene, we have been trying to imagine to what uses 3D printing could be put in the meetings industry. Does anything come to mind?

Because we’re approaching an almost unlimited access to data relating to all aspects of our lives — our medical, social, economic, and physical environments — the resolution of whatever it is we can design and build becomes ever greater. Consider, for example, the transition of information from an MRI scan to a 3D print in the production of a prosthetic limb with graded properties that match and respond to a particular person’s physiology.

Engineering then becomes embedded in the design process, not separated from it. With an ever-growing ability
to capture the many scales of data, we have earned the responsibility, as a species, to determine how to use it. The challenge then becomes identifying the appropriate media with which to represent and express this data, how to make it useful. And materials end up being the bottleneck. How we organize matter, how we give it shape, in what resolution … are important questions we should be asking ourselves.

For the meetings space, one can imagine opportunities associated with printed wearables that are responsive and adaptive, situated within the context of a given meeting. Imagine, for example, a wearable interface that acts as a personal projector such that, within a single meeting one can access multiple representations of ideas worn by their authors.

Barbara Palmer

Barbara Palmer is senior editor and director of digital content.