Cognitive City Salon at De Verdieping/TrouwAmsterdam

Cognitive City Salon
The synthesis of architecture and network technologies.

Thursday June 30 De Verdieping will host two events on the Future City. One of them is the Cognitive City Salon (CSS). In the CCS the synthesis between architecture, urban environments and network technology (smart-phones, AR technology, data-visualization and ubiquitous computing) is presented. How will (online) media and network technology change the way we understand, build, and inhabit our cities? You’re welcome to join the conversation.

The evening will be moderated by Juha van ‘t Zelfde, host of De Verdieping‘s lecture series Visible Cities and co-founder of Non-fiction, Office for Cultural Innovation.

James Burke – interaction designer, user experience architect and co-founder of VURB
Katalin Galayas – Policy Advisor to the City of Amsterdam
Kars Alfrink – ‘Chief Agent’ of Hubbub
Edwin Gardner – VOLUME Magazine

The four of them will present their thoughts on urbanity, technology and how we live in the middle of this all. But the Salons are not intended to give the stage to just the speakers. While sometimes it is important to only receive curated information, we are very much hoping for a lively debate at the event. Be challenged by the speakers, but also do your best to challenge them.

A special call for participation for the next IoT workshop by Volume and VURB will be delivered by Vincent Schippers, Alexander Zeh and Caro van Dijk. The workshop is for architects, planners, coders and others interested in prototyping applications for a more writeable city.

Date: 30th of June
Location: De Verdieping, Club Area (
Address: Wibautstraat 127, Amsterdam
Begin: 19:00 (start at 19:30)
End: 22:30
Entrance fee: 10 Euros

Please visit the Cognitive Cities website for more information

Visible Cities
Volume Magazine
De Verdieping

De Verdieping is the cultural fringe programme and project space of TrouwAmsterdam and is kindly supported by the Amsterdam Fund for the Arts (AFK) and the Netherlands Architecture Fund (SfA).

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By Michiel — Posted June 30, 2011 — 1,451 Comments

Urbanode call for collaboration

Yesterday I had the privilege to give a brief presentation of Urbanode at the Cognitive Cities Conference in Berlin. To give more background information, here is the full text on Urbanode as written by VURB co-founder Ben Cerveny:

The Urbanode project, a research partnership with Digitale Pioneers, begins the process of creating public system software by wrapping the controls for lighting control systems, such as those found in theaters and nightclubs, in a javascript programming framework.

Javascript is well on its way to being the default choice of lightweight scripting notations for all types of webservices. It has become common practice for any large-scale social networks, streaming media services, and informations systems to present a publicly accessible javascript application programming interface, or API, so that 3rd party developers can call on their functions or read their data in any program. In HTML5, the latest specification for web browser functionality, javascript takes on animation capabilities with the concept of a canvas that the application can draw to, as well as the more traditional mechanisms for creating dynamic applications by manipulating the Document Object Model. In Urbanode, we start to apply these same document-related scripting paradigms to space itself. How do you write applications in javascript that treat space as a canvas? What does the Spatial Object Model, or SOM, look like?

In thinking about designing for programmable spaces, it might be useful to consider a few user scenarios. In this first pass at understanding the design opportunities, lets look at use cases in 3 separate categories of interaction:

1) Direct Manipulation

2) Environmental Control

3) Ambient Information

Direct manipulation is perhaps the most straightforward example. A user might come into a danceclub or other venue and open their Urbanode browser on their mobile device. The Urbanode browser would query the local server and return a list of applications available in the space. In this scenario, let’s suppose there is only one called “Light Commander”. The user selects this application and the browser retrieves the appropriate web interface, which initially presents a schematic view of the lighting in the space, with each light color-coded to indicate whether it is under the control of the venue operator, another user, or available to be controlled. The user taps on an ‘open’ spotlight and is presented with a control interface with a color wheel, directional controls, sliders for focus and brightness, and light pattern icons. There might also be a timer counting down a short interval until the light reverts to ‘open’ and must be re-acquired.

Urbanode running from an Android Phone from VURB on Vimeo.

Environmental control is oriented around locations within the space, rather than specific pieces of controllable hardware. In the scenario we will consider here, let’s imagine a restaurant in which each table has network-accessible properties like “mood” or “energy level”. When the diners first sit, they can open the Urbanode browser and scan a a symbol on the table with their phone’s camera to log-in to that space. The application presented is a simple scrolling list of mood choices like “romantic”, “party”, and “family”. Each choice dynamically effects the table-specific lighting brightness, color, and variation over time. These mood choices might also reconfigure the music stream or other audio, and also be displayed to the staff on a separate monitor so they might choose to service tables differently depending on selected mood.

Ambient information applications serve as ways to map data from network sources [webservices data, mobile device polling, or sensor data] to attributes of environmental mediation like lighting or audio. Let’s suppose the spotlighting on an obelisk in a public square is programmable using Urbanode. A citizen with permission to control those lights could build an application that displayed realtime sporting information using abstract color patterns and sequences. As citizens entered the square, they could consult their mobile devices, open the Urbanode browser, choose the “SportsMonument” application, and learn what the color mappings represented [say a soccer match in which the team colors of the team in the lead would be displayed, brighter depending on how big the lead is].

These examples are by no means an exhaustive catalogue of possible uses of the Urbanode infrastructure. On the contrary, we hope this initial framework inspires a whole range of uses, many surprising to us. We plan to continue adding to the catalog of environmental services Urbanode can control, starting a broader range of lighting equipment and eventually audio hardware and projectors. This kickoff phase in collaboration with Digitale Pioneers marks a strong start to an ongoing investigation of how we will build and live in the public spaces of the future.

The VURB Foundation is looking for new partners and collaborators to start working on new prototypes and services. For more information, please send an e-mail to

By Juha — Posted February 27, 2011 — 5,413 Comments

Contribution to Time Out magazine out now

With contributions from 36 of our dearest friends and heroes, including Ben Cerveny, Nalden, Hans-Ulrich Obrist, Saskia Sassen and Winy Maas, our co-created vison of Amsterdam in 2020 appeared in the new year’s edition of Time Out magazine Amsterdam. Download it here.

— Read more ›

By Michiel — Posted January 3, 2010 — 9,870 Comments

Non-fiction in 2009 (and we’ve only just begun..)

It has been an exciting first year (in beta) for us at Non-fiction, with projects ranging from social media strategies for the Muziekgebouw aan ‘t IJ and Tropenmuseum Junior, via new concepts for an illustrious canal house ánd an ancient castle to a range of workshops in a.o. Ljubljana and Zürich. Together with our friends at TrouwAmsterdam we opened the temporary project space ‘De Verdieping‘, hosting a wide range of cultural and social events. The year ended with a cover story in Time Out magazine, giving our co-created vision of Amsterdam in 2020. The start of the next decade promises to be even more innovative, collaborative and challenging..

So what happened in 2009?

At the beginning of the year we worked with the renowned Muziekgebouw aan ‘t IJ, the Concerthall of the 21st Century, helping the organization with their public strategy, new media development and visual identity.

In the months leading up to the summer we organized Aura: an exhibition and a series of events in the historic premises of Castrum Peregrini Foundation, where in WWII young German Jews survived in hiding.

Since March we are responsible for the artistic direction and strategic development of a cultural project space, De Verdieping, in the basement of the Berlin-style club and restaurant TrouwAmsterdam, resulting in a series of lively public discussions, art and architecture exhibitions, experimental performances and film nights in collaboration with half the city (and soon the world).

Around the summer working with the Tropenmuseum Junior (TMJ) in Amsterdam to devise a social strategy for their new exhibition ‘Qi of China‘ and an online game that enables children in the age of 6 – 13 to experience a number of key cultural values in Chinese culture.

Halfway through the year Non-fiction relocated its office from the Scheepvaartmuseum (National Maritime Museum) to the former laboratory of the Netherlands Institute for Cultural Heritage, right in the cultural heart of Amsterdam overlooking Museumplein (Museumsquare).

in July 2009 Non-fiction’s Juha van ‘t Zelfde co-founded VURB, together with Ben Cerveny, design strategist and data visualization theorist and in collaboration with James Burke (RoomwareNarb). VURB is a European framework for policy and design research concerning urban computational systems.

Next spring and summer we will be organizing several projects at Duivenvoorde Castle, a stately museum-mansion and unique parkland (see below) near the city of The Hague. We received a request from the organization to make a contribution to their yearlong celebration of the museum’s 50th anniversary in 2010.

In the past four years, we have been organizing experimental music events at Bimhuis, Melkweg, De Verdieping and TrouwAmsterdam. These nights are organized under our electronic music label Viral Radio, which has a regular show on Dutch public network VPRO‘s 3voor12.

In december we visited lovely Ljubljana to give a presentation and a series of workshops for the Access to Contemporary Art Conservation conference, organized by the Netherlands Institute for Cultural Heritage in collaboration with Museo Reina Sofia in Madrid and kindly hosted by the Moderna Galerija in Ljubljana.

Non-fiction’s Juha participated an intimate workshop in Cabaret Voltaire in Zurich in his role as editor of Soundmuseum. ‘Audio Art on the Radio’ was organized by the Institute for Contemporary Arts Research of the Zurich University of the Arts, and focused on the question how open, interactive and democratic radio should be?

Recently the Amsterdam branch of the international city periodical Time Out invited us to come up with a vision of the city in the year 2020, so we decided to provide them with a collaborative urban visions by collecting dozens of thought-provoking Twitter-style messages from our friends and heroes from around the world.  The magazine has just hit the stores, so check it out or contact us if you wish to receive a copy!

Wow, that’s a lot..

And we even forgot to tell you about Curating the City, our night long interview series with museum professionals and artists about ‘the museum in the city and the city as museum’ during the annual Museumnight (n8), and about our latest publications and our friends, new and old, and about the birth of Michiel’s daughter and Juha’s hobbies.

And what are our plans for 2010?

Now the ‘noughties’ make way for a brand new decade, Non-fiction is gearing up for yet another year of recession-defying activities and  intelligent pragmatism. We will continu our exploration of the pro’s and con’s of co-creation, social media, urban interventions, guerilla gardening, data visualization, public accessibility, augmented reality, ubiquitous museums and other innovative ideas that will fundamentally change our lives.

And we will jumpstart the new year with presentations and proposals for such diverse organizations as the local municipality, SNS REAAL Foundation, Binger Filmlab, the Zuidas, PICNIC, ICN, Paradiso, Duivenvoorde and ING. And we are happy to receive more inquiries and invitations, since we can always outsource some of our activities to our man in India.

We will keep you updated on our website and on Facebook and Twitter (and here and here), but please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us if you are looking for a stimulating conversation, a good laugh or a place to meet kindred spirits.

Please join us for the opening of the new year in De Verdieping with a special sound performance by our dear friend and multi-instrumentalist Machinefabriek on Wednesday 6 January at 8 pm. And later that month, on Thursday 28 January at 8 pm we are hosting the ’2020 vision’ event at De Verdieping in collaboration with Time Out Amsterdam, showcasing different perspectives on the future of Amsterdam by KesselsKramer, LAgroup, Concrete, Benthem Crouwel and… Non-fiction.

Drive and shoot straight on New Year’s Eve!


By Michiel — Posted December 31, 2009 — 9,076 Comments

The Medium is the Metropolis

Oakland Crimespotting by Stamen

Oakland Crimespotting by Stamen

“The age of ubiquitous computation is condensing around us even as you read this.  The various systems throughout a modern city that you probably interact with everyday are beginning to maintain persistent memories of their own use, communicate with each other about their status, and even reconfigure themselves based on your dynamic needs.”

This is the opening statement of VURB, a European framework for policy and design research concerning urban computational systems. VURB was founded in July 2009 by our friend Ben Cerveny, design strategist and data visualization theorist, in collaboration with James Burke (Roomware, Narb) and Non-fiction’s Juha van ‘t Zelfde.

“In the same way that social networks and digital representation have had profound consequences on the cultures of print, music, and video, so too will the urban fabric of the city itself be transformed into an information layered, collaboratively shapable medium.”

The VURB foundation, based in Amsterdam in the Non-fiction office at Museumplein, provides direction and resources to a portfolio of projects investigating how our cultures might come to use networked digital resources to change the way we understand, build, and inhabit cities.

“The modern city is built not just upon physical infrastructure, but also patterns and flows of information that are always growing and transforming. We are only now beginning to develop the tools that allow us to see these patterns of information over huge spans of time and space, or in any local context in realtime.

Just as the industrial age transformed cities with the addition of towers to the skyline and far-reaching transit networks, the digital age will bring new urban-scale infrastructure into  everyday experience.  Where the products of industrial urban evolution were huge physical manifestations that celebrated the magnitude of urban culture, the digital era is instead producing equally impressive manifestations that live in the cloud.”

For more information on VURB, visit .

By Juha — Posted September 6, 2009 — 4,152 Comments

The ubiquitous museum. An interview with James Burke

Jame Burke at work in the Volkskrantgebouw, Amsterdam

Jame Burke at work in the Volkskrantgebouw, Amsterdam

Juha van ‘t Zelfde > Who are you and what do you do?

James Burke > Presently, Narb consists of Tijs Teulings and James Burke. I’m a former chef who became an interaction designer across a number of different fields. I’m mainly known as one of the guys behind the Roomware project and separately also a founding member of the P2P Foundation where i’m still an editor. Recently i’ve been involved with the push here in the Netherlands to open up government data, working with then Ministry of Internal Affairs. My daily freelance work is interaction design for web and physical spaces which is often for events. Tijs works as a freelance web developer and architect, founded portfolio service and is co-founder of the Roomware project which he and I started together with Robert Gaal. Tijs also runs his office as a co-working space under the moniker of Nomadz.

What is Narb?

If you Google “Narb”, you’ll find a description which says “Narb – People Filtered Art. Discover, discuss and collect art online”. We’re essentially an art discovery site with social features. We list exhibitions that are currently showing, much like any magazine or art listing site, but add tools for filtering and discussion to help people find new art that’s exciting and makes them want to get up off their ass and visit a gallery or museum. After they have found what they want to see, we give them a way to interact via comments, ratings and by letting them gather art pieces as virtual goods to form a collection. We also created an iPhone app, and a mobile website to allow for these kinds of interactions right in front of art itself at any gallery or museum. Leaving an exhibition, people can keep track of where they went, what they said and find out what other insightful people have also written about art works. Aside from what’s been mentioned, people can also submit venues and exhibitions for coverage, and take photographs via the iPhone app, which then get added to the exhibition they are in. But NARB is not just for visitors, it also offers some interesting new things for galleries and museums.

A big part of our mission is to make art more accessible. We built an API which helps cultural institutions to reuse and republish the information about the exhibitions they are hosting and the art they are presenting. We want to enable mashups of art (data), both useful and useless. One way we use the API ourselves is for helping create room-based interactions on screens inside art venues. The screens show live feedback as people add comments, upload images, add art pieces to their collections or rate art objects. Theoretically you could put a screen in each room of a museum or gallery and show feedback for only the works showing there. While tools like an API might not be for everyone, curators get a new toolset to tinker with, in respect to experimenting with public participation. For the less adventurous, or technically inclined curator or museum educator, we simply offer new insights into the experience of their visitors through direct feedback and nice colorful stats.

How was Narb received on the Rotterdam Museum Night?

Mixed. Significant downloads for the iPhone app and site visits, but commenting on art and collections was light. Less than we had hoped at least. Especially in relation to the visitor numbers. We have a lot of work ahead of us still.

What did you learn: what went well, what went wrong?

What went well for us was finally launching after working for the last 5 months building the prototype. It was really important to just get going in a big way. So we got quite a lot of new users and lots of great reactions from people who love the concept. Downsides were that commenting, rating and collecting got light usage. Here are a few theories as to why this might be so.

The user experience
Our user experience was probably not good enough. Perhaps people could not find how to comment or rate art easily enough. Equally they might not have understood what the service was about at all.

The environment
15,000 people showed up, tickets were all pre-sold out, which means all venues were full to capacity. What does that do to your art experience? Perhaps the human density factor squashed out use of social media. People were clumped together, so, where in small gallery you would usually see one or two people it was like an art opening but with double the crowd. Not sure if there is a statistic that can be applied to crowd density but this should be a consideration. Noise. The atmosphere was often like a party rather than the quiet reflective space needed for opinion forming, although it should be stated, not everywhere.

We were presented as part of an art piece called RE:ID . We’re mates with the artist and helped him with his set-up for museum night. Our service was mentioned always in combination with RE:ID which might have been confusing to visitors. The same on the website. On the mobile page, the museum night staff placed a mobile version of their website next to our applications. We were never hidden, so these are all small things. We also did not set up any public screens at the event so visitors maybe had less motivation to comment as they would not immediately see their feedback as a form of public presentation or performance amongst a group of friends.

All the things that failed to work as we had expected did also offer hints as to how to solve them though, so that’s what we’re trying to do in upcoming releases of the iPhone app and website.

What is your next step with Narb?

We’re in talks with several museums to cover their entire shown collection, so visitors will see more gentle reminders to add feedback at the venues themselves. We’re working on some new ways to get users off their seats and into galleries and museums. We also want to refine how to improve our experience for festivals as they are a different type of event where we think we only just dipped our feet in the water. At the same time the website and iPhone app need continued improvement. Follow the @narbme twitter stream which is where we officially declare new features and updates to our services.

Could you tell me something about Roomware?

Sure. Roomware was an idea that became something practical, a framework for interactive spaces. We wanted to bring the best of the web into physical spaces but we found it was hopelessly complicated to do back in 2006, so we built a simple server that handles the hard stuff of creating cool apps using wireless protocols like bluetooth, RFID and Wifi. You tell the roomware server what you want to use, for instance, add a bluetooth module. What it does then is detect all bluetooth devices in a space and publish these as an XML feed. This makes it easy for developers building an application that uses bluetooth to re-use the XML feed. You can find a few examples on the Roomware Project blog.

The server is totally open source and can be downloaded from our code repository. It’s a modular structure which presently is in need of some care and developers. At this time of writing we support Bluetooth and RFID. We also support zoning, meaning you can run multiple Roomware servers across multiple locations which lets you get really specific with what’s going on where.

The seeds for doing something with Roomware were probably sown when I used to be a chef at the original Supperclub in Amsterdam where you were a chef but also a kind of artist or active participant. It was 1998-2000 which was the period when mobile phones started appearing. While crazily and passionately cooking there , I started thinking about what kind of participative experiences could be made if the phones of people we all connected in some way and able to control shit in general or form something in a theatrical storyline. I was playing around with microphones at that time, recording what people were saying, as I had a computer in the kitchen and then replaying overhead conversations back through the main speakers. This proved lame mainly as I was too busy cooking to really dig into creating something worthwhile. It ended with me more or less only cooking, while friends asked into kitchen were playing music and recording dumb samples of the cooking instruments and integrating these into the performance.

What can be the role of new media in physical space?

Err.. thanks for asking that annoying question as it’s one of those massive wide open ones that can fill a whole book. There are a couple of them already well written that address this question with withering insight, for instance, Everyware by Adam Greenfield and Shaping Things by Bruce Sterling. Recommended reading for those of you with passing knowledge of this space; or better, required reading.

Just apply what ubiquitous computing can mean to every area of life. To the home, to work, to museum spaces. If it’s the latter, in line with this interview, then think about what you can do with augmented realitycustom electronics and Roomware-like services bringing objects with all their magical spimeyness at microscopic and global view into play. Think about what’s possible if you were to use some of these tools to power new forms of participatory art and cultural expression. It’s about new ways of interacting with computers, not beige box computers but all-knowing hidden-in-the-wall led-light-studded computing modules that can be scary and dangerous but exciting too.

The role of these new-fangled media if you will is to make our lives a bit easier without being annoying or scary.

Thank you James.

This interview was conducted via e-mail on 23 March 2009. Disclaimer: the interviewer is a member of the advisory board of Roomware project and Narb. Both Roomware project and Narb will be deployed in De Verdieping.

By Juha — Posted March 24, 2009 — 90 Comments