What does Heraclitus have to do with design? Apparently, the "crying philosopher" has more to do with the future of cities, buildings, and cell phones than you'd expect. Or at least that was the theory behind the seventh annual Doors of Perception this November in Amsterdam. The high-minded theme of this year's gathering of the tech-leaning global design tribe was "Flow." If Heraclitus based his thinking on the notion that "we can never step in the same river twice," the slippery setting of the "new, new economy," according to conference director John Thackara, is a world filled with sensors, smart tags, and wearable computing. Ubiquitous computing — "ubicomp," in Doors-speak — will push us over the line from an economy of making and selling things to an economy of "service and flows."
Some highlights: Gaming guru JC Herz made a convincing case for online game communities as a new model of open-source innovation. Sci-fi folk hero Bruce Sterling provided a strange, virtuoso enactment of the dark underbelly of ubicomp with his short story "Two Days in the Life of Ivan Ubiquovich." Not surprisingly, the most-grounded thinking came from a contingent of designers working on the future of cities and the flow of people through "place."
Learn more about Doors on the Web (http://flow.doorsofperception.com).
A version of this article appeared in the February 2003 issue of Fast Company magazine.