Peter Friedrich Stephan is a designer, researcher, author and musician. He is full professor at the Academy of Media Arts Cologne for Cognitive Design, guest lecturer at the Berlin University of the Arts and partner with the Institute of Electronic Business in Berlin.
Peter works on the future of design and its interactions with art, science, humanities and economy. Peter recently founded the Low End Academy which focuses on providing design intelligence for minimal standards of quality and competence starting in summer 2015. Other projects include »Theorymachine« (infrastructures for knowledge work) and »Matters of Concern« (design for social change). Peter serves on a number of committees like the advisory board of retune.
With a background in design and music Peter was a pioneer in multimedia design in the early 1990s with widely acknowledged projects in experimental and business contexts. He started working academically by co-founding a university program in »Computational Design« in 1994.
Doing more with less.
This is the motto of the Low End Academy that will start in spring 2015. The academy will serve as an attractor for designs that aim at providing a minimum standard of quality and competence. Whereas media hypes focus on the exceptional high end the academy in contrast will focus its research on low end:
How can basic qualities be produced like health, security and trust?
How can future civics participate in shaping digital society?
Can overdeveloped countries learn from other cultures how to do more with less?
As an initial project we work on the question of “selfies”. We will be partner of the radio station MDR Figaro that will produce a show on the historic and systematic contexs of self portraits. The show will be hosted by Andreas Höll and include exhibitions at the most prominent museums in Saxonia. A public symposion will be held on March 28, 2015 at Stiftung Moritzburg in Halle.
This endeavor can be seen as a follow up on Victor Papanek´s “Design for the real world” and Buckminster Fuller´s “Anticipatory Comprehensive Design Revolution” from the late 1960ties. More recent approaches that inspire the academy´s approach include Bruno Latour´s Actor Network Theory and his notion of “matters of concern” (read Peter Friedrich Stephan´s article here). The Low End Academy will be part of the movement “design for social change” and hook up with initiatives like Open Knowledge Foundation and The Public School.
Students will first learn to identify urgent questions and needs. Then they will look for competent and inspiring people from inside and outside of academia. A series of interviews will be conducted and the material will be published on the net. From there we hope to rise momentum and gather people around tasks and questions to be worked on in local projects.
Following the low end apporach, we endorse the use of alternative plattforms such as Raspberry Pi and Disapora. As we oppose the policies of facebook, twitter and others and we will not use them.
Aesthetics and technology
Our projects explore emergent aesthetics and technology in experimental and commercial contexts.
The projects offer new ways of visual, sonic or haptic perception/interaction (more to come…).
For older projects see ARCHIVE.
Complex traffic data is displayed comprehensively in realtime on mobile devices.
Cutting edge in 2003!
The Design of Knowledge Communities based on Pattern Language
Given the corporate goal of innovation it is crucial to tap into the informal and tacit knowledge types that knowledge management fails to address.
Explore Type in digital media.
While search engines collect and display more and more data, there is not enough aggregation to larger chunks of information. MIND 17 delivers comprehensive views of large data sets rendered in real time and featuring advanced tools for interaction. The focus is on constellations and contexts.
Research by design
My main areas of research are Knowledge Media Design and Design for social change. How can design relate to cognition and emotion? Design research can make an original contribution but has to organize its teams and budgets across disciplines.
Knowledge Media Design
Design is the ability to see »patterns that connect« (Bateson). Knowledge is form, thus theoryformation is a design task. Future knowledge systems are conceived as a co-creation of man and machine. If Big Data brings about the »end of theory« (Anderson), it will be crucial to find and design patterns that make sense.
Design for social change
Change does not wait to be designed. But designers can help to »lead from the future« (Scharmer) by understanding the concerns of people. Concerns can make you laugh or weep and let you stay up allnight. Concerns are love and hate, security and privacy, democracy and dignity. They constitute cultural diversity and clash with a global technoculture. So designers ask questions like: How to design trust ?
Moebius strip, PFS 2009
The achivements of digital technology in communication are big: The exponential growth rate of articles and pictures and their exchange in almost realtime at almost no cost. However, this still is only an accelerated Gutenberg galaxy. The basic units of communication did not change but only the production and dissemination of media containers has been organized more efficiently. This success implementation began to show its downside in information overload and today is a major obstacle to efficient communication. So the next step in evolution will be to enter the Turing Galaxy and process meaning itself. Computers can extract probability today – and maybe meaning later – from media on the basis of Big Data and learning algorithms.
Theorymachine researches future knowledge systems as a co-creation of man and machine. The perspectives of designers, computer scientists and computational linguists integrate to experimentally design highly comprehensive renderings of complex topics. The goal is to ease the exchange on controversial issues of public or scientific interest. Public interests are in the focus of the project »How to design matters of concern«, whereas scientific interests are in the focus of the project MIND17, theorymachine.com (in preparation).
Research Partners include the Humboldt University Berlin and the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence.
Projection of type in space, Nicolas Pelzer, 2008
Typefonts were conceived for books. Digital fonts are adopted to be displayed on screens but mostly do not make use of the dynamic potential of the digital medium. How can future type look like that uses the full design potential of digital technology? Can type become smart? Will there be completely new sign systems to change our notion of type? Can global standards in functionality and aesthetics be defined? The invention of the alphabet and the invention of the printing press were eminent cultural changes. What if new and original digital sign systems will turn out to mark a cultural change of the same magnitude?
The project combined experimental media design with historic and sytematic reflection.
In cooperation with Prof. Claudius Lazzeroni, Folkwang University Essen.
For more information see publication
Peter Friedrich Stephan, Claudius Lazzeroni 2008:
Raumstaben – Eine Schrift nach der Schrift. Ein Forschungsprojekt im Wissensdesign (pdf)
in: Bernd Scheffer, Marcel Schellong, Christine Stenzer (Eds.): Schriftfilme. Schrift in Bewegung, Bielefeld: Aisthesis, p. 219–241
Do you want to understand? Learn how to act. (von Foerster)
The Low End Theory Club integrates
– historic and systematic knowledge in art, science and design
– aesthetic practise
– emergent technologies
Zil Lilas, Peter Friedrich Stephan, Frans Vogelaar
Kompaktseminar, 2 day Workshop with guests, Day and Time tba
Smart Cities, liquid democracy, participatory design: These are a few buzzwords to indicate a radical shift in the public and political sphere. Globalization and digital technology push post-industrial states into a new era. New services are paid for with a loss of privacy. Global monopolist and new grassroots movements fight over the future of the „next society“ (Drucker).
How to design matters of concern? (Peter Friedrich Stephan)
What are you concerned about? Your family, health, education, religion, money, food, violence, sports, love, the environment, security? Concerns emerge from values that are embedded in our cultural and social contexts. Concerns are altered by personal experience and articulated in our actions. Concerns are the basis on which we decide how to live, what choices to make, what politics to support and what things to buy.
It has been argued that the scope of tasks designers work on has broadend from products to services and on to processes, systems and discourse. Thus design delivers an integral perspective from „matters of fact“ (products) to „matters of concern“ (public issues). The workshop will address questions like:
New Civic (Frans Vogelaar)
The ‘civic potential’ is already being unleashed at an unprecedented scale in media (user generated content, Youtube), in handmade and homemade items (Etsy), in hospitality (Airbnb) and in transport (UberPop). The next decade citizens will take part in innumerable co-creation initiatives in the private and the public domains, and more importantly in the blur where the one can’t be separated from the other. These initiatives will make use of recent concepts and developments, such as prosumer, bottom-up, peer-to-peer, start-up, social design, open design and design thinking.
From a city perspective the well-established creative city will merge with the smart city into a new ‘Co-creative City’. From the citizen perspective the creative city and the smart city will translate into the creative & smart citizen, shaping a ‘New Civic’.
Playable Realities (Zil Lilas)
Virtual objects, subjects and spaces are challenging the very notion of real. Play with me!—Gamification, a strategy of maximization of the service system is creating new social topologies and also new types of imagination/oppression. Reality without the elements of play is not just unplayble, in minds of many it would be unliveable. Playing—once a strategy to learn civic structures became a route of escape from the very same civic structures. In metaphysics of the game, entertaining is a new real, to play is to be, and boring is a new dead or at the best a latent real. Game of friends known as Facebook shows us how using simple maximisation strategies one can become a god. Games are inadvertently normative, unfolding within value-space(s) and clipping out types of acts outside the range of these spaces. Proliferation of not so much various game-types but rather the social envelopes (genres) of the game combined with newest technologies brings us such constructs as: serious games, advergames, exergames, infogames, games for change, among myriad other manifestations. Engaging in play is as much act of free will as it is a submission to the rules of the game and also validation of the specific genre. Playing is political. On one hand it is normative act and on the other, political strategies themselves become more and more gamified: customer becomes player and player becomes political agent—voter, thus completing a circle of production, narration and domination.
Donnerstag, 14-16 Uhr
Filzengraben 8-10, Seminarraum Kunst- und Medienwissenschaften, 3. OG, R. 2.04
Die LowEnd Academy gestaltet und erprobt neue Formate der Wissenskommunikation. Jeder weiß etwas, daß ein anderer gebrauchen kann. Doch wie findet man zusammen? Wissen entsteht in Interaktionen. Diese sind heute zunehmend technisch vermittelt und erscheinen in einer Vielzahl neuer Formate wie Netzvideos, Massive Open Online Courses, E-Books, social reading, Wissensmarktplätze…
Leitende Fragen sind:
Während politisch motivierte Wissensökonomien auf Spezialistentum und Exzellenz zielen, fragt die Low End Academy nach einem Minimalstandard von Qualität und Kompetenz.
Wir verbinden theoretische Überlegungen mit praktischen Experimenten. Zunächst werden relevante Themen, Fragen und Personen recherchiert. Erste Beobachtungen und Befragungen beginnen bei Studierenden und Dozierenden der KHM und weiten sich aus zu lokalne und internationalen Partnern. Interviews, Videofilme und Animationen werden produziert und auf einer eigenen Webplattform publiziert, sowie social media Kanäle genutzt. Dabei werden konzeptionelle, gestalterische und medientechnische Aspekte des digitalen Publizierens vermittelt.
Lokale Partner sind Michael Erlhoff und Uta Brandes (Köln International School of Design). Später ist eine Ausweitung auf weitere internationale Hochschulen sowie außer-akademische Institutionen und Personen geplant.
Publications by Peter Friedrich Stephan cover design and media theory.
Articles and book chapters have in published in german, english, french and japanese, see > researchgate.
– Designing “matters of concern” (Latour): A future design task? in: Jonas et al. (Eds.) 2015: Transformation Design, Basel: Birkhäuser (Board of International Research in Design), in preparation
– System and Design – A conversation between René Spitz and Peter Friedrich Stephan, in: System Design – Over 100 Years of Chaos in Everyday Life, Catalogue of an Exhibition edited by Petra Hesse, René Spitz, 01/2015: p. 130–136; Museum für angewandte Kunst Cologne/Germany
– “Matters of concern – Designaufgaben der Next Society” pdf, in: REVUE – Magazine for the next society #16/2014, p. 118–123
Peter is the editor of two books
– Knowledge Media Design (Oldenbourg 2005)
– Events and E-Commerce (Springer 2000)
Radio, video and sound production can be found at > media
Peter Friedrich Stephan is interviewed by Dr. René Spitz (curator)
»System and Design – Over 100 Years of Chaos in Everyday Life«
Catalogue of an exhibition at Museum für angewandte Kunst Cologne/Germany, p. 122-128
pdf (english version), pdf (german version)
Peter Friedrich Stephan discusses Sounddesign with Andreas Höll (art critic)
»Totalbeschallung oder Abschottung? Über Klangdesign im digitalen Zeitalter«
Mitteldeutscher Rundfunk (MDR), 23.09.2014, 18:05 Uhr | 06:27 min, see/hear
Peter Friedrich Stephan discusses Design Thinking with Bernhard Krusche (CEO of ignore gravity)
in: Magazine REVUE – Magazine for the next society #8 2011, p.10–19
pdf (english version), pdf (german version)
At the LowEndTheoryClub´s video channel we feature mostly student works from the Academy of Media Arts Cologne.
We started by uploading works from the early days of interactive media design like this exhibition from 1998 (to be continued…)
Creative Music Studio in Woodstock, N.Y./USA, Workshop Recap Oct. 2013. Hear my radio report (in german)
Featuring Karl and Ingrid Berger, Mark Helias, Peter Apfelbaum, Kirk Knuffke, Steve Gorn, PFS, …
Some projects will be remembered for pioneer concepts on new media platforms
(to be continued…)
Interaction and screen design, Munich 1991
One of the first applications for the new Apple Newton
Computer game, Munich 1991 Engaging audiences on the first Apple Powerbooks
Eventmarketing, Munich 1990 Interactive music mix station
Eventdesign, Munich 1991
Visuals in cinemascope, cutting edge at the time
Visualization for a publisher, Munich 1992 Visual metaphor for displaying business areas.
Advertising for fashion, Munich 1990 Key visuals for a campaign promoting new denim styles
Some outstanding alumni from my courses at Academy of Media Arts Cologne and University of The Arts Berlin (to be continued…).
Andrea Bauer, Boris Moshkovits, founders of ddaynetwork
Felix Hahn, Carsten Becker, founders of fluct
Dr. Thomas Nicolai, Dr. Lars Kirchhoff, founders of sociomantic
Dr. Bettina Maisch, Innovation Manager, Siemens Corporate Technology in Beijing, China
Sven Koerbitz, Co-Founder at Tweek TV
Prof. Andreas Muxel Köln International School of Design
Prof. Holger Reckter University of Applied Sciences Mainz
Prof. Dr. Hendrik Send, Prof. Dr. Daniel Michelis Anhalt University of Applied Sciences, Report in DER SPIEGEL 16/2013 (pdf)
Universität der Künste Berlin
Masterprogramm Leadership in digitaler Kommunikation
Prof. Dr. Thomas Schildhauer
Humboldt Universität zu Berlin
Institute of Internet and Society
Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Jonas
Hochschule für bildende Künste Braunschweig
Managing Partner Eden Spiekermann AG
Prof. Dr. Steven Ney
Professor for Policy Science and Social Entrepreneurship at Jacobs University Bremen
Co-Director D-Forge /Design Thinking Solutions