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

A tool to keep protesters safe during demonstrations

Visible Cities, our regular night on the networked city in De Verdieping in Amsterdam, returns on Wednesday 9 March with a presentation of Sukey. It is a set of applications designed to keep people protected and informed during protests. Sukey brings together in-house code, resources like Google Maps and open-source software like SwiftRiver.

With the recent uprising in the Middle East and North-Africa, and student protests in the UK, mobile technologies have become the de facto standard for sharing information, distributing eye-witness reports, and organising collaborative strategies in real space and time. For this edition we are still looking for an extra speaker with knowledge of how crowds behave during protests and public gatherings. Please get in touch with via e-mail if you know or are such person, and would be able to join us on this evening.

Visible Cities has been taking place in De Verdieping since 2009. Its aim is to make visible the myriad of design research and deep thinking that is taking place in the Netherlands and beyond in the field of urban informatics. Topics are civic information systems, collaborative redevelopment, urban systems literacy and responsive environments. Previous speakers were a.o. Ben Cerveny (VURB, Bloom), Euro Beinat (Current City) and Ole Bouman (NAi). De Verdieping is a temporary site for urban and cultural innovation. It is housed in a former printing press.

Join this event on Facebook.

By Juha — Posted March 1, 2011 — 3,010 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

Juha is contributing to Cognitive Cities Conference

I am delighted and honoured to have received an invitation to give a presentation at the Cognitive Cities Conference in Berlin this weekend. I will talk about my experiences with VURB and the no longer fictional dimension of the networked city. The line up of this conference is impressive, with Adam Greenfield (Urbanscale), Warren Ellis (author) and Matt Biddulph (data strategy Nokia) amongst many interesting people. It will be moderated by Wired Editor at Large Ben Hammersley.

My contribution will be the personal history of a heavy user of the city and its public spaces, and a visiting member of the different tribes of users of the built environment. I have been fortunate to have been hanging out with inspiring people that have been passing through Amsterdam in the past years. Combined with my own interest in how public spaces work and how people make decisions to go about the city, this should hopefully result in a gonzo-journalist portrayal of Amsterdam as an interactive city.

Many thanks to the organisation for this invitation, I look forward to seeing you all in Berlin this weekend.

By Juha — Posted February 22, 2011 — 2,735 Comments

New column in Metropolis M: Museum Manager 2011

Inspired by the computer game Football Manager, in which you are the trainer of a top football club, Juha van ’t Zelfde dreams of the game Museum Manager, in which you get to run a top museum.

Museum Manager 2010, the precursor of Museum Manager 2011

It will have been in 1995 that I managed to get my hands on my first copy of Championship Manager 2. CM2 was a computer game in which you could be manager of any of the big (and small) teams in the English, Spanish and Italian football competitions. The first edition appeared in 1992, and by the time its name was changed to Football Manager (FM) in 2005, the game had grown to become the ultimate sport management game, with football competitions and associated players from every continent.

You begin the game by creating a profile and selecting a team from one of the world’s many football leagues. Let us, for example, take FC Barcelona, the most successful team in 2009, with such famous players as Lionel Messi, Thierry Henry and Zlatan Ibrahimovic. When you make up your profile, you are asked to do more than just fill in your name and age. You also make a choice about how you join the team as a manager: as a former worldclass player (a Rijkaard type), a successful manager (a Van Gaal type), or as an unknown rookie with no experience at all (a Van ’t Zelfde type). Let us begin as an unknown trainer: Juha van ’t Zelfde, 30 years old, half Dutch, half Finnish.

The next step is that you are welcomed to the team by Chairman Joan Laporta, Johan Cruijff’s famous friend. On behalf of the Board, Laporta expresses their faith in your appointment and their expectation that you will make their team the champions. With the likes of Messi, Henry and Ibrahimovic in your selection, this of course has to be possible, but should you need a little extra support, you have a transfer budget of €15 million at your disposal. Barcelona has a stadium that seats 98,000 spectators, world-class training facilities, state-of-the-art training for young players and a total budget of €664 million. You also have a staff, including an assistant-manager, coaches, youth coaches, physios and scouts. In short, everything is just as it is in real life, and you feel responsible for the future of the team.

What makes the experience of playing FM so exceptional is the dizzying array of statistics and data that come your way. Players have more than 30 different characteristics, divided into technical, mental and physical qualities that are valued by a number from 1 to 20. The lightweight World Footballer of the Year, Lionel Messi, for example, scores 20 for flair and technique, but only 9 for strength and 10 for aggressiveness. The managers, trainers and scouts also have statistics to chart their qualities. All of these figures fluctuate. They can go up or down, depending on how you deal with the players, how you employ your staff, the shape you give to the training, which tactics you use in the games, whether you win the games, how you respond to the press and how the public responds to you. If you improve, the players improve, and vice versa. The result of all this is that you really get the feeling that you are leading the team, that your choices are deciding factors in the club’s success.

After this, football is never the same again. The first time you go watch a real football game, you see it all through the eyes of an FM manager. Worse, you want the real managers to play FM as well, so that they too can make their clubs better.
When I recently played Football Manager 2010, it occurred to me how wonderful it would be to translate this to the museum world, so that you could become manager of the Tate Modern, or to bring it closer to home, the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam. Alexander Ribbink would welcome you, express his faith in you and entrust the collection, the museum building and the staff to you. At the same time, he would make a budget available that you could use as you see fit. Suddenly, you would have to choose between purchasing a new work by Olafur Eliasson, appointing a new head of marketing, or developing the museum’s strategy in the field of Internet and new media. That new work of Eliasson’s is expensive, but it would bring in new visitors and generate a lot of international attention. A new head of marketing could mean an in-depth investment for the organization and make all of the museum’s departments more transparent. The online strategy would make the museum more approachable and accessible, but it would consume a great deal of time and require considerable external (and expensive) expertise.

Just as in FM, Museum Manager – which is of course what this game would be called – would let you begin with a smaller organisation and work your way up to the higher ‘divisions’. In the footsteps of Willem Sandberg, you could make the Stedelijk a unique museum with an exceptional collection that is squarely in the middle of society and actively seek collaborations with other disciplines. This would have consequences for relationships with the city, sponsors and other partners. If you are a success, New York’s MoMA will ask you to become manager of their museum, just as happens in the football world. Suddenly, you are in charge of an immense collection and astronomical budgets and have an international network of experts at your fingertips. But you are expected to produce results. Can you handle the pressure?

I cannot wait to play Museum Manager. Then, the first time I go back to visit a museum, I will observe it through the eyes of an MM manager. Moreover, I will want real museum managers to play MM, so they too can improve their museums.

Juha van ’t Zelfde is half Finnish, half DJ and half co-founder of Non-fiction, VURB and Viral Radio.

This article has been published in Dutch art magazine Metropolis M. It was translated from Dutch by Mari Shields. Follow Metropolis M on Twitter.

By Juha — Posted April 16, 2010 — 4,480 Comments

Viral music distribution

Viral Radio is the experimental electronic music vehicle of Non-fiction’s Juha van ‘t Zelfde and Beat Dimensions’ initiator Yuri Boselie (Cinnaman). It has been organising cutting-edge events in TrouwAmsterdam, Paradiso, Bimhuis and other venues across the Netherlands. Its latest interest is investigating new forms of music distribution and interaction via mobile phones, in collaboration with 3voor12 and VURB. Tonight, they organise their monthly night in TrouwAmsterdam.

On this month’s edition Viral Radio presents two artists it has been following for years and years: Dimlite and Jamie Vex’d. Swiss born Dimlite (Dimitri Grimm, 1980) is a master of mosaic textures and imaginative drum patterns. He is one of the most admired artists of his generation and a distinguished performer. His concerts at the Bimhuis in 2008 and 2009 rank among the best given there in the past few years. Englishman Jamie Vex’d (Jamie Teasdale, 1979) has gained critical acclaim as experimental dubstep duo Vex’d. They released the album Degenerate on Planet Mu in 2005, a prescient example of forward thinking bass music. Jamie has released solo works that are closer related to the video game and science fiction cartoons aesthetic of Hudson Mohawke and Rustie. He has created the new avatar Kuedo, that will release its first tracks within weeks.It is one of the most anticipated releases of the year.

The evening starts at 22:30, and tickets are 12 euros. As always, Viral Radio hosts Juha and Cinnaman will play their music straight out of the package. We look forward to welcoming you there.

By Juha — Posted February 5, 2010 — 4,318 Comments

Visible Cities #01: Euro Beinat and Ronald Lenz

The widespread employment and adoption of ubiquitous computing, sensor networks and mobile media into the urban environment have unforeseen implications for how we might come to use networked digital resources to change the way we understand, build, and inhabit cities. Visible Cities presents a revolving programme on how emerging technologies are changing the cities we live in.

After the #00 edition in December 2009, with Micropolis developer Don Hopkins, Visible Cities #01 will present Euro Beinat of the Currentcity Foundation, and Ronald Lenz of the Waag Society.

Beinat is Professor of Location Awareness at Salzburg University in Austria, and Chairman of the Currentcity Foundation. He will explore the dynamics of the city through mobile devices. Beinat works with a.o. Carlo Ratti of Senseable City Lab of MIT, and Aaron Koblin of Google Creative Lab.

Ronald Lenz heads the research department on locative media at Waag Society and is creative director at 7scenes, a startup developing a mobile and online platform that enables people to create, play and share GPS-based games, tours and stories. Lenz will talk about his myriad of projects he is currently involved with.

Visible Cities is organised by De Verdieping in collaboration with VURB. The mission of VURB is to investigate the consequences of the convergence of ubiquitous computing onto public, urban spaces. We are now entering an era where technology begins to weave together the desires of citizens and the services available to them in their environment in realtime. But what does the use of these new systems look like? Visible Cities tries to find the answers.

Wednesday | 03 February 2010 | De Verdieping @ TrouwAmsterdam | Wibautstraat 127 | Start 20:00 | Language is English | Entrance is free | Facebook

De Verdieping is the cultural project space underneath club and restaurant TrouwAmsterdam. Visible Cities is made possible by the Amsterdamse Fonds voor de Kunsten and VURB.

Visible Cities #02 is on 3 March. Our guests will be Ole Bouman (NAi) and Maurice Groenhart of Layar.

By Juha — Posted February 2, 2010 — 2,342 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 city is everybody


We are in the last day of our Time Out Amsterdam Future City tweet aggregation, and have been enthused by the imaginative, witty and sometimes harsh messages from the future. Artist Aaron Koblin hopped off the 5 minute electro-magnet train from Utrecht, transcontinental VURB founder Ben Cerveny printed 30 bikes and discovered that the floating polder Almere III had been altered by the residents (again), and ubicompuman Adam Greenfield is upset he needs to pay 100k to get into Europe.

The answers to our question “What are you doing in Amsterdam in 2020?” are coming from all sides of the planet, from Winy Maas and Friedrich Von Borries to Radna Rumping and Nalden. You are still welcome to join us in building our collaborative Twitteropolis. But hurry, our deadline is Monday morning. So according to you, what is happening in Amsterdam in 2020?

By Juha — Posted November 29, 2009 — 50 Comments

The networked museum marathon


Here is a first reaction after our 5 hour interview marathon that took place during last Saturday’s Amsterdam museumnacht. We first would like to thank all our guests from the various institutions, our visitors in De Verdieping, and the n8 organisation for kindly letting us participate in the 10th museumnacht. We are very happy with the start of this ongoing discussion on the (changing) role of museums in 21st century cities, and the influence of networked urban environments on museums. We will take our time to write up a summary of the event, and hope to update soon.

By Juha — Posted November 10, 2009 — 2,872 Comments