Report from Ars Electronica’s People Thinking Lab

Nov. 30, 2016
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The Ars Electronica Festival is a vast experience of media art held every September in Linz, Austria. Along with several collaborative actions of Ars Electronica and Hakuhodo, this year, the People Thinking Lab was set up as an experiment to transplant our sei-katsu-sha insight philosophy into Ars Electronica. Takamasa Sakai of the Hakuhodo Institute of Life and Living (HILL), who coordinated the exhibit and gave the lecture, reports on the experiment.

People Thinking Lab: Open, Future!

The People Thinking Lab, an experiment by the Hakuhodo team to transplant our sei-katsu-sha insight philosophy to Ars Electronica, ran throughout the festival this year.

This idea emerged in the course of discussions with the researchers at the Ars Futurelab about what would happen if the Ars Electronica’s philosophy of Art Thinking, which examines the future from the viewpoint of art, were fused with the Hakuhodo philosophy of People Thinking, which examines the future from the viewpoint of sei-katsu-sha (living people with lives of their own, not mere consumers).

During the Lab we displayed four scenarios for the future of communities created as part of “100 Views of Your City,” HILL’S latest research report. Making use of Shadowgram, a co-creative installation developed by Ars Electronica, we also provided an area where visitors could formulate their own questions — like “What will be the necessities of life in the community of the future?” or “Where will people find sanctuary in the future?” — and see how others reacted to them. Through the festival, we received more than 1000 voices of diverse nationalities, ages and gender at the Shadowgram.

A lecture about the sei-katsu-sha insight methodology was given on the stage set up on the festival site. Many audience members expressed empathy with Hakuhodo’s unique ideas and approaches to understanding sei-katsu-sha. True innovation takes more than technological advances, they agreed; also essential is a focus on reading human emotions and a progressed methodology for doing so.

The People Thinking Lab signage displayed at the main entrance of the festival site. Art- and technology-savvy festival-goers were stimulated into thinking about the future from the viewpoint of sei-katsu-sha.

Visitors intent on a movie portraying life in the future, produced by Hakuhodo Institute of Life and Living.

The interactive installation Shadowgram. Visitors photographed their silhouette in whatever pose they liked, which was printed out on the spot in the form of a sticker. They then wrote their answer to a question about the future on a speech bubble, and attached both to the bulletin board. More than a thousand visitors of many different ethnicities and nationalities, ranging in age from small children to almost a hundred, participated in Shadowgram.

During the lecture on the HILL methodology, the audience members joined in the discussion by the three speakers on stage. Many different viewpoints were shared.

Under the title People Thinking Tool Collection, the Lab also exhibited tools for visualizing Hakuhodo’s ideation process, along with artworks that expressed indefinite things such as people’s “lifestyles” which we have been observing, and “emotions,” those given concrete shapes through ideation and designing processes.Why this exhibition by our People Thinking professionals in an already full-house of artworks by professional artists?The thinking behind is our belief that because today, new concepts and ideas such as autonomous technology, AI, singularity which call into question the very reason for human existence are born in such speed that we are almost stampeded by them, we need a way to form and shape the human subconscious, express them beyond the realm of words, and re-acknowledge our being.

One of the artworks created by Hakuhodo, Hand Bag, which clasps with you as if holding hands. On the theme of human bonding, it is designed to remind you of your other half even when you’re apart.

The People Thinking Lab reawakened me to sei-katsu-sha insight’s potential as a tool for blazing the trail to the future. The approach that emerges when sei-katsu-sha insight is fused with art, while rooted in a perspicacious analysis of sei-katsu-sha and social trends, offers no solutions, it only throws up questions and leaves it to you to decide how you feel and what you think. So in one way it’s a rather rough-and-ready approach, but for precisely that reason it leaves room for lots of surprising insights. The integration of sei-katsu-sha insight with art and technology is a catalyst for opening the way to the future. Of that the collaboration between Hakuhodo and Ars Electronica has convinced me.

Takamasa Sakai
R&D Director, Hakuhodo Institute of Life and Living
Takamasa Sakai, R&D Director at the Hakuhodo Institute of Life and Living, joined Hakuhodo in 2005. He initially worked as marketing planner on branding, product development, and communication planning in such fields as education, telecommunications, the food service industry, automobiles, and entertainment.. He assumed his present post in 2012. He is author of Using Your Own Data Yourself: The Shock of Personal Big Data (Seikaisha, 2015).

The Hakuhodo Institute of Life and Living
The Hakuhodo Institute of Life and Living (HILL) was established by Hakuhodo in 1981 to give shape to the philosophy of sei-katsu-sha insight. In researching people’s perceptions and behavior, it sees them as flesh-and-blood individuals — sei-katsu-sha is the term Hakuhodo uses — rather than faceless consumers. And it takes a uniquely multifaceted approach to studying them: tracing how their values evolve over time, using experimental techniques to identify the first glimmers of future trends, visiting sei-katsu-sha in their own homes to discuss issues relevant to them. There is no other think tank anywhere on the planet.
“Open, Future” is HILL’s watchword. By giving free rein to the varied talents of its researchers and adopting a broad-based approach that transcends specific markets and industries, it is creating a more exciting future for everyone.
https://seikatsusoken.jp/

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