Do you remember humanism, the philosophical stance that emphasizes the potential and agency of human beings, individually and socially? Philosophy may look so distant from our modern World, filled with technology, competition, changes and challenges…but it has never been so topical.
That is why we found so important and inspiring to take part in the “philosophical debate”, today simply called a webinar, hosted by Elli&Rini to celebrate its latest creation, PIANETA, during Milan’s Design Week.
A digital roundtable that was a chance to gather together professionals from different backgrounds and fields, in order to discuss of one of the most pressing matters of our time: technology, and it’s role in relation to mankind, to our future, to our culture, to a city like Milan and to Covid-19.
A matter that has been defined through the title of the event: “Milan redesigns a sustainable space&time within a new Digital Humanism“.
Digital Humanism: an idea that resonates with our Vision and Mission
“Digital humanism is the result of a hitherto non-experienced convergence between our complex cultural heritage and a technology that has produced a social sphere that has no precedent. This convergence, instead of simply forming a link between antiquity and now, has redistributed concepts, categories, and objects, as well as behaviours and associated practices, all in a new environment. Digital humanism is the affirmation that current technology, in its global dimension, is a culture, in that it creates a new context, on a global scale.“Milad Doueihi, Professor of Digital Humanism at Paris-Sorbonne University
This statement is the basis from which took off our philosophical debate. An event that couldn’t be other than digital, could it?
In front of a screen, we found ourselves talking about the implications of an idea that is very dear to SPII, so dear that is forms part of our VISION: to put the Human Being at the center of a fully automatized and robotized world of the future.
We already live today in an (almost) fully automatized world, where it looks like technology is at the center and mankind is rotating around it: a point of view we would like to invert.
This is why SPII’s MISSION is to provide the best interaction conditions between man and machine, by means of technology, style and ergonomics.
This is why we created a product like Intelliarm: putting a human being at the center of the design.
During the webinar our CTO Silvio Zuffetti brought two more examples of how our Vision and Mission are taking shape, bending design, through technology, to human needs.
Digital Humanism applied to industry
Another example brought us far from our usual field (railway mobility) but closer than ever to our MISSION.
Avanchair is a startup born out of the need to move of the founder Andrea Depalo. Despite (or thanks to) his wheelchair: an idea, then a patent, then a crowdfunding campaign, and the dream is becoming a reality. How? Well, the technology leveraged comes directly from industrial automation and robotics.
This is what Digital Humanism means for us: human needs that leverage machine technology to improve people’s well-being.
The last example echoes 3 words from the webinar’s title: digital, space and time.
V-Desk is a virtual simulator that allows to use VR to immerse people in an experience that is every bit as “real” as the original thing. A breakthrough innovation that can change our industry and beyond.
Typically validating ergonomy and style requires building huge and expensive mockups for people to see and touch things, with long technical times, limitations due to space and distance, etc. Working as we do with the whole world, it becomes almost impossible to proceed that way.
V-Desk allows to overcome this limit – to step “over the edge” thanks to technology, overcoming problems and improving solutions.
Designing for sustainability means starting from people and their needs, using technology in the best possible way to draw the square and the circle that enclose a modern Vitruvian man, at the center of innovation, thus obtaining a design that serves mankind, not the contrary.
In our first example – Intelliarm – this means improving working conditions, in the second one – Avanchair – living conditions, and in the third one – V-Desk – we reduce constraints such as space and time.
What does Digital Humanism mean for the rest of us?
It has been interesting to find how our Vision and Mission resonate with so many of us, in so many different fields and situations.
Architecture and its challenges
Such as with Giovanni Antonelli Dudan, architect & interior designer who designed PIANETA with Elli&Rini.
To create it, he asked himself a fundamental question: what are we moving towards to, in the office world?
We spend most of our time in there, but that space is changing quickly and adapting to demands of mobility, fluidity, etc.
Office space and daily living take often place in the same space, now more than ever. We need areas dedicated to concentration, spaces designed for sharing, and others dedicated to relax. Technology allows to combine these spaces, acts as a bridge.
To design this project he started from that: from a human being and his needs.
An office is a closed space, a place to concentrate, to isolate oneself. But it can also be an area of openness, of connection, of sharing. They wanted to go beyond the apparent limit of closed vs. open space. To create something that was both, at the same time.
And PIANETA was born.
The legal perspective
Laura Gobernado Guzman, corporate and real estate lawyer, agrees with us. From her legal perspective, she believes the great challenge of digitalization for humans is its rapidity. The pandemic era proved to be an exponential acceleration of this issue.
How can we handle it?
Firstly, through education: we all need to understand and be prepared to this world, to be in charge of it and not its subjects.
Second, we need regulations: the respect for human rights (which thrives in humanism) in the digital age will depend largely on our ability to give them legal protection.
This means strict rules will be needed to regain democratic control over data, privacy, information, time, etc.
One of the biggest challenges will be to integrate digitalization without losing the value of people’s work (does it sound familiar? The person at the center), and to give it a purpose that benefits human beings and not the opposite.
The spaces we live in
Marco Rossi, Interior designer at Cosentino, has met Digital Humanism in his work often.
He remembers for example this kitchen’s design, in which a very special monitor was integrated into the wall: its purpose was to show works of art, with a very high level of details and resolution. He reflects that technology serves us today not only to go forward, but also to go back, to rediscover the classics, art, culture in a new way. Even in the home and at the office.
“Digital humanism recognizes the importance of technology and the needs that belong to human beings“: he agrees with this, ad materials and technology are collaborating in an increasingly close way, and he sees this everyday.
The luxury of experimentation
Not many industries should understand the most secret and inner human desires and needs, as luxury and fashion. Erica Corbellini, an expert in this field, brought her vision on Digital Humanism to the debate.
“We talk more and more about brands having their own signature, their own humanity somehow, but we need it to be a digital one, which serves for customization, for authenticity, to create a connection with the customer. The pandemic has been a catalyst for transformation, new mediums and habits have emerged”.
In order for a brand to be cool today, it has to be relevant: it has to try new things, new ways of doing old ones. In doing so, a brand communicates a willingness to experiment, but above all to adapt, to put contemporary man and what he lives at the center.
The digital medium allows luxury brands to do all of this, because it allows them to reach everyone directly, in a one-to-one relationship, despite time and space.
A new music
A voice outside the choir (pun intended), the one of Alessandro Solbiati was not coming from any industry – he is a musician and a composer, and a brought to the table a philosophical discussion about the role of music in relation to the human being.
“The whole history of music would not be what it is if musical instruments had not been invented. And as new ones gradually emerged, so did the possibility to bring music to more and more people: from an exclusive audience at the king’s court to concert halls, theaters, and so on. So music adapts to man, and vice versa”.
The same happened during the pandemic: music, a shared experience by definition, was forced into isolation. But thanks to digitalization, it was possible to create some other forms of shared music such as a a meta-orchestra, made of individual instruments combined and multiplied.
Something that cannot exist in the real world, an example of the possibility of further expressions of mankind thanks to the digital tools.
The answer is “digital living”
Finally Sergio Vaccarini, the “Rini” from the Elli&Rini Atelier, took word to talk about the “digital living” that takes more and more place in the “digital places” that we inhabit.
Digital living is a branch of development in search for this new balance: between a man that is is hyper-connected, and environments that are becoming smart, where everything is activated and becomes a source of transmitted or received information.
“Man IS indeed at the center, but also in the middle of a bombing of information, of a storm of calls to action. We no longer go looking for info and experiences in a physical place, they find us”.
The result is “hyper-estrangement“, a feeling of being there with the body but somewhere else with the mind. We need to build places and spaces that recognize this, and adapt to it.
“Spaces into spaces“, that serve different purposes – the goal of PIANETA, indeed.
A creation that combines a human centered design from Elli&Rini and Duda design, plus technology and know-how from SPII and Cosentino, in order to provide an answer to all the above.
It began as a webinar, a meeting to confront among professionals on the challenges of our time, especially after the pandemic, that saw technology increasingly mediating social interactions.
It ended up into a philosophical quest, looking for answers to difficult questions. Some of them we found, some are yet to be pursued.
The only thing that is sure is this: we are all called to become the heroes of our future, so that we own technology and it doesn’t own us.
If attention to mankind remains at the center, we believe we can only do well.
See you next time,