Bedankt om een mondmasker te dragen!

by Dries De Roeck on July 18, 2020

Bye 19, hi 20.

by Dries De Roeck on May 30, 2020

Birds flying high you know how I feel
Sun in the sky you know how I feel
Breeze driftin’ on by you know how I feel
It’s a new dawn
It’s a new day
It’s a new life for me

Feeling Good (Anthony Newley and Leslie Bricusse, 1964)

Although I can fully recall me writing my 2019 in review post last year, another year came and went. As I’ve been writing these yearly reports since 2011, I just needed to get this belated one out … it had been catching dust for way too long. And although the report is not where I would like it to be at, I’ll just push it out anyway.

Looking back, 2019 a lot changed. Not so much on the visible side of things, but more on the internal side – both personally and in my close family. I’ll try to unwrap some aspects of this further down, the short version is that I’ve developed a better sense of taking care of myself and caring less about external factors. It’s all very much in development, and I hope to keep up a healthy consciousness of my personal agency throughout the years to come.

Things that stuck with me looking back at 2019

Senegal

At the beginning of 2019 our family moved to Senegal, Africa, for 3 months. I took 50% parental leave and worked on my PhD writing for the other 50% (as well as some small projects I could follow up from abroad). It was the first time anyone of my household spent time in Africa, and looking back I’m so glad we did it.
Our three months stay allowed us to truly get to know the local culture and develop a little less-than-superficial relationships with people. The worldview of our family has changed rather dramatically afterwards, which has once again taught is that life is all about social contacts with people close to you. All the rest is replaceable and, when put into perspective, extremely irrelevant.
There is so much more to be said about this, our full diary is still up at https://social.roeckoe.be/@HelloSenegal – the visual diary has been taken offline for now, but I’m more than happy to share pictures on request.

Draw the internet

Early last year, I got children aged 6 tot 12 in both Belgium and Senegal to make drawings of the internet. The goal was to have the future generation draw the internet in order to ultimately broaden views on what the future of the internet is or could be. I submitted a proposal to do this project in a rather impulsive way, and was really excited I managed to get some funding for it from NESTA. I very much enjoy the result and perhaps I’ll continue the project in a second iteration or other incarnation of the subject matter. What I liked about it most is that it made me realise people in Senegal relate to digital connectivity in a totally different way. These insights (which I mention in the full report) made me want to explore this topic more at some point in the future.

CCCamp

In August I spent about 5 days in a parallel world. It’s hard to describe what CCCamp actually is, but it includes technology, technology, nerds, science, Rob leds, education, community and broad spectrum exploration. Together with 6000 other people, I stayed on a massive campground north of Berlin with some of the Open Garage Hackerspace / Fri3d Camp crew. I’ve never seen anything like it, I learned a lot and genuinely had a good time amongst people who respect each other. I even got the chance to give a short talk during the lightning talks section, still rather psyched about that little feat.

DIS2019 & academia

During my stay in Senegal, I did manage to successfully submit a work in progress paper to the DIS conference. As an outsider it might not feel like much, but after the often harsh comments I got on my research, getting some confirmation from peers was very heartwarming. The DIS crowd was great, and I somehow hope to be back at a future occasion.

Religion

I never thought I’d be writing something about religion, but it has been something that has keeping me more busy than before. The seed for this was laid in Senegal, where religion is a part of life. Most interesting, Muslims and Christians live together in harmony, they participate in each other’s religious feasts and share burial grounds. When we returned home after three months, our oldest daughter decided for herself she had been learning about Jesus and the Christian bible for a while now. She now wanted to explore Islam.
After some talking and considering, my wife and I decided it only made sense to explore different religions at school. Also, at our school in Belgium, parents are asked to reconfirm which religion their children get taught at school. So, to everyone’s surprise, our daughter switched to Islam at the beginning of the school year. It was, and still is, very controversial when talking to people. Then again, our children are not baptised or ‘linked’ to any religion.
As parents, we hereby made the conscious choice to offer various religions. All this together led to being more involved with and interested in religion all together. Not that much from a personal belief, but more from a cultural and social perspective. For instance, I never knew there were so many similarities between the Bible and the Koran. Exploring these stories from a distance and being able to put them in another perspective is super interesting, it is often a basis for good discussion in our family which I hope to keep doing.

Things that worked out differently in 2019

That PhD

I had initially set out to finish the PhD work in Q4 of 2019. While I really tried to get myself motivated to do so, it turned out to be really hard to do so. To this date, I still don’t know the real reason why I didn’t manage to push myself forward … I have for sure been going through a mental battle with myself when we returned from Senegal. I had planned, and hoped, to do way more writing over there – but I only managed to crunch on one (crucial and difficult) chapter and write one work-in-progress paper. In the final months of 2019 I did manage to put together a very clear overview of what I wanted to write and how all elements would fit together.
But combining that with commercial projects ongoing and refusing to give up on family time did seem to take much longer than I thought/hoped. The relationship with my supervisors didn’t exactly get better either, but I take full responsibility for setting false expectations – something I shouldn’t have done in the first place. Right now I have most text which I want to submit, but the whole process of reviewing and re-reviewing the review is drawing so much mental energy. Every week I have moments that I’d rather just quit everything and go work in my local supermarket where I could at least make myself useful. I think it was on my list as well last year, but the little voice inside my head just needs to go. My mind gets salty very quickly these days, and I suspect the PhD and all aspects surrounding it is the main source of salt. Whatever happens, I will publish whatever text I have in the months to come. If they lead to a PhD it’s for the better, if not, at least I’ll have filled up a GitHub repository with text.

Meaningful xmas lights 2.0

Ah my old friend, meaningful xmas lights! I wanted to make a version in which I’d give out tokens to people living in my street so they could all control their own set of lights through a web interface (eg. chosing colours, animation pattern,…). All pieces of the puzzle were in place to make this happen, I even got some help from someone who lives nearby in setting up a database to store colour values and assign
But, then December came … and no lights were there. My energy level was super low and I didn’t manage to put in the hours I should have been putting in. I could also blame myself for investing too much time in World of Warcraft Classic, which launched in August 2019 – it for sure had a role to play in all this. Still, one day I’ll make these lights, maybe sooner than later!

Things I want to do in 2020

Do meaningful & personal work

I want to start paving a path which focuses more on what I want to do myself, independent from external sources. This is totally triggered by the work I was able to do on the ‘draw the internet’ project, which allowed me to do paid work in an area I find super interesting. And however short, this little project showed me how ‘business’ can be done differently – where personal learning is high and all people involved were constructive and supportive. No need to constantly justify and explain myself and each action I take towards others, which is what really drains me from all kinds of energy.

Care less & care more #degrowth

Very much linked to the above, I want to figure out how I can make the ideas behing degrowth work for me and embed them in what I do. In my current thinking it means I need to figure out how to keep having a steady source of income to pay monthly costs, whilst being able to secure enough time to do explorative work that keeps my mind ticking.
Or maybe I just want to learn more about degrowth, but I do feel it hold so much value which fully aligns with the way my own personal values have been evolving.

Revisit Africa

I really hope we can revisit our friends in Senegal later this year. Our plan is, still, to leave around November and stay for at least four months. Ideally, this will be after I completed, in whatever way, my phd work. I hope I can still find a project to focus on during my time there, I have some ideas brewing … but nothing defined yet. Keywords are learning, unlearning, making, internet connected, computing, decolonisation.

But but covid?

When I initially wrote the draft for this post, the covid pandemic wasn’t on the horizon yet. But since I’m only posting this now, almost 6 months into the year, it makes sense to at least say something about it. There are three tings I currently heavily react to, things which I have a different idea about or strike a nerve. I wrote some other things about covid on this blog, fwiw find them here and here.

There is no normal

Whenever I hear the word “normalisation” I tend to get very nervous. I really wonder why many people around me want to go back to what they were used to before covid. Things will never be the same, it’s time to construct a new frame of reference, no-one knows what there is to come … so craving how things were is just useless. Please stop using the word ’normal’ or ’normalisation’.

Harmony

I’d be lying if I were to say my family had no issues in making the switch to ‘covidlife’. We had some issues finding our balance, but once found I find it super nice to just live in harmony with each other. I must say I was a little sad when I heard my daughters would need to go back to school. I’ve been enjoying working side by side every morning. My daughters doing their schoolwork and myself catching up with smaller work things. Being present and responsible while remaining respectful, it’s a challenge … just like parenting is a challenge or keeping a relationship afloat is.

Uncertainty

Covid pushed everyone into uncertainty. It made me realise I actually like uncertainty … not being able to plan ahead forces you to live from day to day. There are no rules to follow, and everyone is doing the best they can to help out wherever they can. Today I listened to the p/reflections podcast, in which coping with uncertainty was highlighted as one of the main challenges to tackle. I think ever since I became a parent, I started being conscious about uncertainty … raising a child might be the most uncertain thing I’ve ever done. Maybe foster parenting even upped my level of coping with uncertainty whilst trying to remain present at the same time.

#postcoronapost

by Dries De Roeck on May 28, 2020

What is this?

Foresight Ghent launched an initiative to write letters to the future, insipred by what people see around themselves during the 2020 Corona crisis. My contribution below, written in Dutch.

Brief aan de 2040 versie van mezelf.

Kontich, 18 Mei 2020

Dag Dries,

18 mei 2040, je bent nu bijna 57 jaar. Dat is, op drie jaar na, zo oud als je eigen vader tijdens de Corona periode in 2020. Breng je, net als hem, op zondag ook pistolets en koffiekoeken naar je dochters? Doe je nog altijd de afwas met de hand? Plant je nog steeds patatten in je voorhof en kweek je ook nog kuikens in de veranda?

Als je deze brief leeft, wil ik vooral stilstaan bij drie dingen waar je in 2020 voor hoopte. Want als er één ding centraal stond in de coronacrisis voor jou in 2020 dan was dat de onnoemelijk hoge kracht van “hoop”.

Hoop 1/ humane niet technologie-dominante technologie
Wat ik hoop is dat je een manier gevonden hebt om alle technologie dominante ontwikkelingen in vraag te kunnen blijven stellen. De mensen rondom jou noemde de manier waarop je met technologie omging in 2020 ‘potato life’, omdat je weigerde je hardware te updaten en halsstarrig een Raspberry Pi gebaseerde computer voor je dochters wou bouwen. Maar, ik hoop, dat dit de start was van een zoektocht om op een onzichtbare, geïntegreerde, manier samen te werken met technologie!

Hoop 2/ persoonlijke keuze
Het beseffen dat je als persoon altijd een keuze hebt, los van eender welke externe factor is iets wat ik hoop dat je verder hebt kunnen laten rijpen in je hoofd en zich heeft kunnen ontwikkelen in een levensstijl waarin je zelf de touwtjes in handen hebt zonder dat je volledig afhankelijk bent van een een externe organisatie. Het leek alvast dat grote bedrijven zoals google en apple zich anders begonnen te gedragen tijdens de coronacrisis in 2020, de manier waarop de ontwikkeling van de ‘contact tracing app’ gebeurde leek je te mooi om waar te zijn. Ik hoop van harte dat deze tendens zich heeft verdergezet, dat het mogelijk is om data te delen tussen verschillende platformen zonder je eigenheid te verliezen.

Hoop 3/ nieuwe waarde en waarden
Mogelijks het meest utopische wat je in 2020 voor ogen had was dat er een evolutie in gang wordt gezet om anders naar waarde te kijken. ‘Degrowth’ in plaats van een constante focus op groei, het maken van oplossingen die minder efficient zijn dan hun voorgangers … maar misschien beter aanleunen bij de manier waarop mensen ze willen gebruiken. Geld laten circuleren, lokaal met microtransacties om op die manier mensen lokaal tot actie aan te zetten. Het lijkt een mooie toekomst, maar in 2020 was je vooral gefrustreerd dat iedereen zo snel wil teruggrijpen naar wat ze kennen. Toch hoop ik dat de samenleving beseft dat de ‘rat race’ niet de weg is die ons allemaal vooruit brengt.

Samenvattend, veel mooie woorden en hoop voor 2040 dus. Ik hoop vooral dat je niet bij de pakken bent blijven zitten en niet me je voeten hebt laten rammelen.
— Groeten van Dries uit 2020.

PS: mocht alles toch misgelopen zijn – vergeet dan niet dat je nog 2,5 Ether en 1,5 Litecoin hebt staan. Wie weet kan je daar nog een brood voor morgenvroeg mee kopen.

Human After All

by Dries De Roeck on April 19, 2020

Last week, Jürgen asked on LinkedIn (a platform with which I have a serious love hate relationship) what we hope and fear after 4 weeks of Corona. I somehow managed to formulate a reply to this in Dutch, which I have read over and over again and wonder how I managed to consolidate a serious chunk of my thinking of the past 2 years in these paragraphs.

Today I read a piece by Cennydd Bowles, author of ‘Future Ethics’, which touches upon many related items. I realised it would make sense to copy my ramblings off LinkedIn and save them here.

Here goes, my original reply in Dutch first and translated to English after.

(I recently got called out for writing poor English, doing what I can /shrug)

What I hope and fear after corona

Ik hoop dat mensen beter beseffen dat wat hun persoonlijke keuzevrijheid een effectieve impact kan hebben. Dat het aan individuen is om actie te nemen, en niet te blijven wachten op Godot om dingen in gang te steken. Het is in deze periode van ‘gedwongen contemplatie’ dat we quasi verplicht worden om bij onze eigen waarden stil te staan, los van instituten of organisaties.

I hope people will be more concious about their personal agency, that they can as people have genuine impact. It will be up to to individuals to take action, things won’t happen by waiting for Godot to kickstart stuff. In this period of ‘forced contemplation’ we hardly have any other option than to reflect about our own values independent of institutes or organisations.

Ik vrees dat we binnen een paar maanden terugkeren naar een default modus, en vaak gaan horen dat het ‘toch beter is zo’. Dat alle hoopgevende initiatieven die de afgelopen weken zijn opgedoken gaan worden toegedekt met de mantel der liefde en niet naar échte waarde geschat worden. Ik vrees dat we geen stap verder zijn gekomen, desontdanks de luide kreun van de samenleving, om op een andere manier over groei te denken.

I fear we’ll just revert to a default mode within a few months and we’ll hear people all around stating that “things are better like they were”. All hope providing initiatives we see bubbling up right now will be covered up with the cloak of charity and we will fail to recognise their true value. I fear we won’t have made any step forward, despite the loud moan of our society, to think about growth in another way.

Ik hoop dat we allemaal beseffen dat we nu kunnen proeven van een alternatieve toekomst, waar minder conventionele normen en waarden naar voor geschoven worden. Voor sommigen zal die beter bevallen dan voor anderen, afhankelijk van een resem factoren. Het is nu de moment om daar op zijn minst even bij stil te staan als persoon, als organisatie.

I hope we all realise we’re tasting an alternative present right now, where less conventional norms and values are put forward. For some of us these will resonate, for others they won’t – there’s a bunch of factors that influence this. At least, now is the time to take a moment and reflect on this as a person, as an organisation.

Ik hoop, tot slot, dat we post-corona op z’n minst voldoende voorbeelden hebben om aan te tonen dat dingen wél anders kunnen. Dat de bakker om de hoek wél creatief is, dat mijn buurt wél zorgt voor elkaar. Human after all.

To conclude, I hope we’ll have plenty of examples post-corona to illustrate things can be done differently. The bakery around the corner is a creative business owner after all, our neighbourhoods do seem to care for each other after all. Human, after all.

Stay the F home

by Dries De Roeck on March 12, 2020

I posted this as an impuslive post in LinkedIn, just copy pasting it here for future reference. Unsure why I posted it on LinkedIn actually, but I think it was something to do with the hidden slap in the face to capitalism at the end of the message.

An interesting observation. When the Belgian health minister states [translated] ‘stay the fuck home’ it turns into a joke (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Idc2mkS-QLk). However, when a grassroots initiative states ‘stay the fuck home’ the message powerfully resonates in online communities (staythefuckhome.com).

I wonder what mechanisms are at play here, for sure it has to do with who brings the message and what is in each context percieved as ‘acceptable’ language. Online community mechanics versus top down dominance.
Additionally, staythefuckhome.com manages to deliver a well argumented message in a very clear way. The choice of words is used to provoke, but they immediatley show there is reasoning and deeper thinking behind it (basically clickbait, but in a good way?).

All in all, it did get me thinking about how the initial momentum created by the Belgian minister could have been used differently. Unfortunately, the blijfinuwkot [dot] be domain has meanwhile been claimed by capitalist thinkers … which is a shame and a missed opportunity.

My thing with gaming

by Dries De Roeck on December 10, 2019

I’m writing this while being partially ill. Although I’m supposed to be writing up my PhD, I tend to be coughing and blowing my nose more than hitting keys on my keyboard. So I’m briefly writing up some thoughts about games and gaming, which requires a little less mental effort compared to writing academic articles … it seems to be more compatible with my mucus filled sinuses at the moment. </justification>

So, what is the deal with games and gaming? I think this post will be an interlude to a longer piece on the adoption of e-sports which I’ve been crunching on for a while. Recently I’ve been experiencing some odd issues about the perception of gaming in my social circles. There are 3 things I’d like to touch upon:

  1. The word ‘game’
  2. The social aspect of gaming
  3. Games and story

1.

First of all, I love games. I love boardgames, computer games, outdoor games, … anything really. Over the last months, it struck me how culturally loaded the word ‘game’, ‘games’ or ‘gaming’ is in Belgium. Over here, we mostly use the word ‘game’ to talk about a digital game. This can be a PC game or a console game. When we talk about a non-digital game, like an outdoor game or a boardgame, people are more likely to use the Dutch word for game (spel, bordspel). This quickly leads to assumptions that ‘games’ are things for nerds, mindlessly hitting buttons on controllers deep into the night. I always feel like I need to justify for playing computer games, often resulting in very awkward discussions. I’m sure that people like Ian Bogost or Bob De Schutter have plenty of research to back this up. We should stop assuming that games are linked to nerds, everybody games. #homoludens
Example: I recently received an invitation to join an open area VR game with headsets and fake guns. The invitation stated : “you don’t need to be good at gaming”. While the intention is not bad at all, the wording gives me the creeps as it’s indirectly judging ‘gaming’.

2.

A common misconception is computer games being perceived as anti-social because you’re just starting at a screen. In contrast, for example, boardgames are social because you spend time with real people in the same room. Statements like this drive me mad. I have been in super social contexts when playing computer games, either whilst playing the game itself as well as outside of the game. Computer games are super social, just differently social than what we’ve been used to. The popularity of platforms like Twitch is just a confirmation thereof, people enjoy being part of a community … which in this case is virtual. As with everything, it needs to be taken into moderation. We should stop calling out people playing games for being anti-social.
Example: I meet up with friends every monday night in-game. Instead of going to the pub, we talk over discord about the same things you’d talk about in a pub, it’s just the activity that we’re doing is endeavouring in dungeons together. Yet, when I tell this to people who don’t play computer games, I’m regarded as anti-social and weird.

3.

Lastly, something I love to get to when having a discussion on games is all about narrative. When I played Firewatch, I didn’t have the idea I was ‘playing’ a game at all. I was experiencing a story, a progression of events in which I could steer what happens. I wanted to know the ending of the story … I didn’t want to complete the game. I’ve been a long time supporter of initiatives like the, gone but not forgotten, house of indie (screenshake in particular) and AMAZE festival. It are these places which, I believe, show the richness of the gaming medium. Where boardgames get mashed up with open area games and blended with screen based games. We should stop refrain from thinking games are blunt entertainment. People I enjoy following in this domain are JoonSokpopKlondikeDevillé.
Example: Talking about series and movies over lunch is perfectly fine and tends to be socially accepted. Try to do the same about your first time playing through Firewatch or the experience you had when playing No Man’s Sky. Frowns and odd looks guaranteed. Same goes for talking about sports, debating football scores is ok, talking about yesterday’s overwatch game is odd.

Some final points:

  • Refrain from using words like ‘gaming’ and ‘gamer’ just to refer to playing computer games. Be conscious about terminology.
  • Computer games form an enormously rich cultural medium and go beyond being an entertainment thing. Explore like any other form of art.
  • It is not because physical interaction is not happening in the same room, games should be called out to be anti-social. Things are not what they seem.

To close, I don’t want to offend anyone here – I merely want to put forward some points on why I love games and how I would like people to engage with and talk about them. As with everything, there are types of games I like and dislike … whether they involve a computer screen or not. Just like I like or dislike movies, series, paintings, music,…

In a next post on the gaming topic, I want to dive into the tipping point of e-sports and how I’ve experienced this over the years. It starts from the same frustration regarding gaming prejudice as the ranty stuff above, but I want to show that e-sports is the type of thing which is super huge in a very invisible way.

To be continued!

Deprecated car parts

by Dries De Roeck on December 8, 2019

Some weeks ago it struck me that when electric cars were to get widely adopted, a glorious part of language would get deprecated. I live near Antwerp in Belgium, we speak Flemish (Dutch with a twist). While there are Dutch terms for car parts, every local car mechanic tends to use, at least some, French terminology. The nice thing about it is that they are French words, pronounced in a Flemish way. Some words are not French at all, but look French in some way.

Because of this part of language about the fade out, I decided to already start compiling a list. Maybe I’ll use it for something sometime. Thanks to all contributors who replied to my tweet, to be honest – I learned a lot just looking up the terms I didn’t know myself!

  • Vis platinées
  • Joint de culasse
  • Carburateur
  • Catalysateur
  • Chappement
  • Bougie
  • Embraillage
  • Villebrequin
  • Vitessenbak
  • Amortisseur
  • Piston
  • Démarreur
  • Alternateur
  • Bobine
  • Boîte
  • Bielles

Under debate whether they’d actually go away when EV’s get adopted (they probably won’t) but mentioning them anyway:

  • Silentblokken
  • Jantes
  • Intercooler
  • Radiateur

I had this list lying around for a while, but reading Anab Jain’s tweet motivated me to put it online.

I could imagine an exhibit about future mobility where I’d be crying over the loss of local language and heritage … obviously recognising that the combustion engine was never a good idea in the first place.

The handshake and the touch

by Dries De Roeck on November 27, 2019

A little incrowd social media storm was triggered by @aliekens posting an image of the original 1990’s ‘Flanders’ Technology’ artwork. I think it’s safe to say that most people who grew up in Flanders in the 90’s (like myself) have probably seen the artwork somewhere. My personal memory mostly relates to the image being used on cultural information boards near the motorway as well as it being linked (I think) to the ‘house of the future’ project which truly fascinated 12 year old me.

The original 1983 flanders’ technology poster

However nostalgic people might get because of this, it was very interesting to read the reaction from a non-Flemmish person on the image. Marc Steen (NL), who once introduced 10-year younger me to Science and Technology Studies, commented something along the lines of …

“But basically this image has now been redone and can be found on so many stock photo sites.”

A shutterstock search result for human robot handshake

It got me thinking about some specific things about the original image, compared to available stock photo imagery:

  • It’s a handshake, not a touch or intention to shake hands. It signifies technology and humans collaborate. Other images base their visual reference on Michelangelo’s fresco painting ‘the creation of Adam’, in that case it immediately becomes clear who is intended to be superior to the other ie. the human There is an unspoken hierarchy, as it links to the old testament bible story.
  • The human hand is most prominent. The image shows the human hand in the foreground, again highlighting the human role in the relation. There is, however, no dominance in the relationship – there is no actor taking explicit control by giving a power handshake or using a dominant handshake.
  • It’s a manually drawn image. This might seem obvious, but the very specific aesthetic and feeling the image conveys is important. It is more along the ‘vintage’ 1960’s futurism drawings, which makes it rather analogue and rough compared to more recent renditions of the same handshake where the image is digitally produced. Because of this, in my mind, it sparks hope and forward looking positivism instead of a cold, automated and machine focussed world.

So to me, even if the image is as old as I am, it still makes sense anno 2019. It seems like in the ‘80s people greeted computerised systems in order to start getting acquainted with each other. In recent years, I’ve personally been fascinated by how technology has impacted society and how we seem to be trying to ‘reclaim’ technology and make it more human again. In my opinion, the human dominant side of technology is something we need to keep pushing for in order to stay conscious about our own agency as individuals in a data hungry world. This idea is, in my mind, still conveyed in the OG Flanders’ Technology ‘robot handshake’ image.

Or … maybe I’m just trying to justify why Flemish 35+ nostalgic nerds like this image. Nevertheless, I enjoyed reflecting on the image a bit deeper.

tl;dr: playdate fanboy reporting.

by Dries De Roeck on May 23, 2019

During my morning commute I spotted a tweet by Cowly Owl’s Chris O’Shea about play.date. Upon seeing the playdate device, I was totally sold. Love at first sight, for sure. Finding out that the swiss army knifes of Panic (Firewatch and more) and multimedia hardware crème de là crème Teenage Engineering (OP-1 and more) are behind it made me even more excited.

The reason I love the device so much already is not because of the crank or the fact that Keita Takahashi (Katamari Damacy) will make games for it. It is the service oriented model behind the whole thing that I look forward to most.

Playdate is the perfect example of what I refer to in my ongoing research as a hybrid product service system. Meaning that it consists of a piece of hardware (in this case a wonderfully designed handheld gaming device) which is inherently linked to an intangible, digital, service component. Upon launch, the company will be releasing a game every week for at least 12 weeks. What I find interesting about that, is that you buy ‘future’ or ‘potential’ value. At the same time, you know that the product will always hold some value. Even without the network connection or without the service components, you will be able to keep playing games.

The product will be connected to the internet through wifi, which makes it possible for the creators to update the firm/software along the way. Interestingly, we’re now taking this for granted but in essence it is a very disruptive ‘potential’ business model. I’ve been refering to this as taking care of ‘future implications’ in my value framework model.

Another exciting aspect of playdate is its openness to the game development community. Although Panic hasn’t said too much about it yet, I’m imagining they will offer some kind of SDK or other tools (I’m thinking PICO-8 style) for a wider community to create experiences with the device – most likely not limited to the default interpretation of ‘games’.

Lastly, playdate has a monochrome screen. In times of ultra 4K and 5G broadband mobile networks it shows that getting back to basics and focussing on the essentials is more than good enough. It’s about tapping into a market segment and creating a meaningful product for a specific audience.

Bye 18, hi 19.

by Dries De Roeck on February 11, 2019

#2018inreview

The first month of 2019 came and went, it’s been an intense end of December and an evenly intense start of the new year. As I’ve been doing these looking back and ahead posts for quite some years now (and like looking back at them every so often – 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017) I’m pushing this out before I forget all about it. I had my 2018 highs and lows written down for a quite a while already, but never took the time to flesh it out a little beyond the bullet points. So here goes!

(Funfact: I drafted this in bullet points during a cold Belgian December day and finished writing this on a 30+ degrees Senegal February day)

Things that stuck with me looking back at 2018

The relativity of it all

It seems as life progresses, this becomes ever so apparent. This year, I once again came to understand and experience the relativity of life on different levels. Firstly, little A. stayed with us for a year. He arrived at our home as a crisis foster child, meaning that there was an urgent need for someone to take care of the child while the social situation around him were to be evaluated and taken care of. After some months it became clear that he couldn’t return home. My wife and I very deliberately chose to focus on short term “crisis” fostering some years ago, so we made the though decision to start looking (together with the fostering organisation in Belgium) for a future perspective for this child. Whilst doing something like that, it always strikes me (this was our 9th foster child) that the value you can offer as a human being to society is worth so much more than any kind of monetary reward, job title or personal achievement.

So as the years fly by, I see my personal values shifting to things that actually make a contribution to society or a community. I should be clear, this is often something I struggle with quite a lot but I think it is important to be aware of ‘the relativity of our lives’.

Ethics in everything

The past year I developed an increasing interest and consciousness about ethics. And although ’ethics’ clearly did turn into a buzzword in 2018, I do follow the train of thought related to the importance of ethics in the work I’m involved in. My own twist on ethics comes down to being respectful on all levels. The past year I probably got into some arguments I would never have gotten into before because I didn’t dare to speak up. Whenever I felt disrespected or when my opinion (I don’t often really have one) was muted I attempted to speak up. Don’t let yourself and your life be fooled or directed by others.

And I must say, it’s really hard to do that. I had several arguments and good chats with my wife on being tolerant and to not judge the behaviour of others. I’m still learning, but that’s how I’m experiencing ‘ethics’ in my day to day life.

First kickstarter & other side projects

Although I should focus on my PhD work, I invested some time in a couple of side projects that brought joy and satisfaction to my mind and were a way to get rid of some creative urges I tend to have. First of all, I had a blast running the ‘don’t complain, suggest what’s better’ kickstarter stickers & artwork campaign. This was the first kickstarter campaign I launched and it was super fun to do. I learned a lot, both about the administrative/logistical side as the social side and ‘expectation management’. It was very fun to get some local artists involved to rework the original quote and being able to pay them for their delivered work.

Besides that, I also enjoyed putting together a workshop/course on how to behave on the internet for parents of our local school in Belgium. Together with two other parents, we created three distinct workshops focussing on ‘privacy online’, ‘mindful online’ and ‘online gaming & entertainment’. The idea behind this was that instead of focussing on our children and their behaviour online, many parents have no clue about the state of the internet these days. So our goal was to inform parents in an interactive way in order to be able to increase our parenting skills with regard to these topics. By understanding and talking about these ‘digital things’ with other parents, we shape our own thinking and become able to question the way we integrate the digital world in our family lives.

Lastly, at the end of the year I pitched a concept to receive a grant in order to create a visual / artwork for an upcoming ‘next generation internet’ publication (supported by Nesta, UK). My proposal was to give children between 6 and 12 a very simple assignment: “Draw the internet”. The idea behind this was to get a glimpse in the heads of the future generations to understand how they experience what we call ‘the internet’ today. I have already done this with a local school in Belgium, and hope to do the same with Senegalese primary school. So far, results are super interesting and I can’t wait to deliver the final piece. This should be available online somewhere in March.

Things that worked out differently in 2018

Finding focus

I had hoped to spend more time on focused, deep work. For about the whole year I had the feeling I was ready to deliver a bunch of project work that I had been chewing on for way too long. But for some reason, everything still stayed quite superficial. I had planned and hoped to publish some cornerstone articles related to my research throughout 2018, but I couldn’t find focus or spend longer stretches of time to get down and do the legwork.

Personal projects

Maybe this is obvious, but the list of personal project I would like to do one day just keeps growing instead of shrinking. Also, every time I read through the list – I get inspiration for other projects.

In comparison to other years, however, I have the feeling I didn’t really develop any new skills or didn’t really improve on skills. I would have wanted to spend some more time on coding and, for instance, getting my community Christmas lights version 2 project up and running. That didn’t happen.

Relationships

I had to give up on some relationships in 2018, in particular there was one very though situation in which eventually the other party (very rightfully) gave up on my ever lasting doubt and fuzzyness. I won’t go into details here, but this has been a major ‘social’ learning for me.

Things I want to do in 2019

Get over the PhD

It’s the final year of funding, if the PhD is to happen – it will need to happen this year. If it doesn’t happen, that should also be clear this year. I’m very grateful to all people that keep supporting me and telling me I should just finish it. I think I’m on the way to finishing, it’s all laid out quite nicely now. And I hope to get some focussed, deep work, done in the weeks & months to come.

What is, however, very clear is that I need to get it behind me. “The PhD” has been this little voice in my brain constantly calling out it needs attention, which I haven’t always put in 100%. It needs to be purged out, in whatever way possible.

Experience Africa

Quite randomly, I’m spending 3 months with my family in Warang, Senegal from January to April this year. It all started out with some chats on temporarily relocating to teach elsewhere. Those discussions ended up in realising that both my wife, children and myself were really fed up with the way a lot of things happen in Belgium. We needed some time to get away from it all, reflect, and return with new ideas and perspectives. Over here in Senegal, my wife works at a local school. Our children go to that same school and I spend time at home where I’m getting writing work done for my PhD. During the weekends and some afternoons, we explore the local region. We decided upfront to pick a stationary spot and explore from there, which would allow us to experience ‘local life’ a lot better. So far this is all going rather well, I have the feeling spending time close to your ‘tribe’ is critical and is something we very quickly overlook in Belgium where everything needs to pay off, everyone is stressed out and social respect is hard to be found.

In conclusion

//I added this section after rereading the whole thing, realising I might have been a little dark and negative

I have the feeling that 2018 was a year in which I maybe didn’t get down to do the “work” I had planned, but I did evolve quite a bit on a mental level. I feel that currently my state of mind is a lot more peaceful, and that I need to be concious about where and when I spend my time and energy. My family’s choice to move to Senegal for 3 months is, to me, a confirmation and very much linked to that realisation and learning.

Top songs of 2018