Picnic 2012: rise of the new ownership - Design - Domus
Picnic 2012: rise of the new ownership
 

Picnic 2012: rise of the new ownership

This year's Picnic festival showed examples that offer solutions to the actual economical situation from the lenses of urban planning, business, health and technology.

 

Design / Alice Mela

Picnic is a leading European platform for innovation and creativity that functions as an incubator and accelerator. Every year a group of people including technologists, artists, politicians and economists are called to take on a new challenge during two days of lectures, workshops, labs and more.

This year's festival happened 17 and 18 September in Amsterdam, with the theme New Ownership: The Shift from Top Down to Bottom-Up. Picnic welcomed more than 3,000 visitors, illuminating how new technologies and connectivity are empowering common people, spreading knowledge and increasing civic engagement. This trend is gaining strength at a time when the loss of trust in traditional top down institutions is increasing, resulting in local and global communities with higher social awareness, engaging in bottom-up strategies. The recently opened Eye museum was selected as this year's festival venue, for its iconic building — by Austrian architects Delugan & Meissl Associated.

Democratization of knowledge
The public was welcomed by a Fablab tent, where Fablab Amsterdam, FablabTruck and the Ultimaker 3D printers creator, Joris van Tubergen, drew from the collection of Dutch national museum Rijksmuseum. Visitors where asked to take blueprints derived from images from the museum's collection, to modify them and to fabricate something out of them. Laser cut key-holders based on ancient keys and 3D-printed "ancient" vases were some of the outcomes. The workshop invited visitors to apply their creativity on top of old art pieces, envisioning a place where art is not unreachable, but something to be shared rather than owned.

On the same line of thought, lecturers like open internet advocate Elizabeth Stark pointed out how sharing knowledge has brought a radical change in the educational environment, where the old system "one size fits all" cannot work anymore. People have nowadays access to all sorts of content, being in the position of making choices and institutions cannot ignore this trend anymore. No matter where you are in the world, you can become an expert on your own, accessing videos of MIT lectures through their website, watching tutorials on instructables.com or diving in the TED-ED educational library. This openness and democratized spreading of knowledge has created alternatives to mainstream education, hopefully presenting a opportunity for it to improve.

Top and above: images of the Picnic Festival 2012, which took place 17 and 18 September at Amsterdam's Eye Museum. Photo by Maurice Mikkers

Top and above: images of the Picnic Festival 2012, which took place 17 and 18 September at Amsterdam's Eye Museum. Photo by Maurice Mikkers

Simultaneously, people don't need to wait for attention anymore, since platforms like Youtube or Kickstarter have given them the means to raise awareness to a specific cause or interest, with no need for institutional support. All that is needed now is the will to do things that matter, as Tim O'Reilly stated in one of the festival's lectures.

The Picnic Festival 2012 poster. Photo by Jens Erfurth

The Picnic Festival 2012 poster. Photo by Jens Erfurth

The clothesline paradox
Tim O'Reilly is the founder of O'Reilly Media and an open source advocate since 1997. His talk started with a paradox, as a metaphor to understand what might have gone wrong with our economy. When we quantify the energy consumption of a tumble drier, compared to hanging clothes out to dry, we consider the latter option as a zero energy one, as if the human energy needed would suddenly disappear from the system. What really happens is that we don't monetize it and therefore we don't consider it a cost. Something similar happens with innovation: real innovators start by doing things that matter to them, investing endless energy and time, but without monetizing. That is how great businesses like Apple or Twitter started: the monetization came afterwards. What happened in the last decade is that producing monetary value became a primary goal, rather than a means to proceed or a side effect, but in these circumstances innovation is very rarely happening. "An economy is an ecosystem," continues O'Reilly, "if you take more out than you put in, the ecosystem eventually fails". He ultimately suggested that the only way to create innovation and keep the system healthy and sustainable is "sharing and creating value for others".

 
Picnic is therefore an open call for participation and engagement for anybody that wishes to make a change, from the bottom-up to the top of the problem
 
The Supersize 3D printer. Photo by Maurice Mikkers

The Supersize 3D printer. Photo by Maurice Mikkers

Crowdsourcing & the city
One of the leitmotiv of this year's festival was government, including topics about how cities and citizens are changing thanks to crowdsourcing platforms, that have moved from being defined as "guerrilla" actions to being supported and desired by open-minded city councils.

Left, open internet advocate Elisabeth Stark during her lecture. Right, a 3D printer at Picnic 2012.

Left, open internet advocate Elisabeth Stark during her lecture. Right, a 3D printer at Picnic 2012.

This is the case of services like Giveaminute.info, which was introduced by Local Projects' A'yen Tram. This is an online platform that aims to create a dialog between the citizens and the city. The project started as an initiative by few people in Chicago and became viral, extending (on demand) to New York, San Jose and most recently Memphis. Online services and social networks have increased people's civic engagement, making them feel connected and heard.

The oversized hall of Amsterdam's Eye Museum during the Picnic Festival 2012. Photo by Maurice Mikkers

The oversized hall of Amsterdam's Eye Museum during the Picnic Festival 2012. Photo by Maurice Mikkers

Cities like Amsterdam, for instance, have actively been using crowdsourcing and open data systems in order to involve the citizens in improving the urban area. Amsterdam's Municipality Deputy General Director Gijs van Rijn reminded us: "Let the citizens behave as they like—free—and we'll get the most".

Tim O'Reilly during his lecture. Photo by Jonne Seijdel

Tim O'Reilly during his lecture. Photo by Jonne Seijdel

This year's Picnic festival showed examples that offer solutions to the actual economical situation from the lenses of urban planning, business, health and technology. The festival has demonstrated that there is a new generation of multidisciplinary thinkers ready to make the steps necessary to make things happens, but it has also shown that this is not possible without the crowd. Picnic is therefore an open call for participation and engagement for anybody that wishes to make a change, from the bottom-up to the top of the problem. Alice Mela

The performance of Kypski & Matangi. Photo by Maurice Mikkers

The performance of Kypski & Matangi. Photo by Maurice Mikkers