Thursday, 28 October 2010


At our dissertation workshop that I most certainly stayed awake through out it all. I'm sticking to my guns and doing my dissertation on the same topic I did my wiki entry on. So a duplicate mind map isn't needed. I'm going to hone in more on a specific topic that I can incorporate into my 4th year project yet to be decided, research has started.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Biosphere/ Technosphere & Design

Biosphere/ Technosphere & Design

Andrew J Tibbles

Product Design

The biosphere is the natural world we inhabit, the entire ecosystem. While the technosphere is the system which human beings have created separate from the natural world but still being in it. Human beings can create a biosphere as well as a technosphere, e.g. a garden or planned forest. In relation to design it can be in either sphere, for example a computer is clearly in the technosphere and is designed, while in planned forests a fire gap can be left so if part of the forest burns it wont spread too far. Now with advancements such as deep hypothermia surgery things only imagined in sci-fi is becoming more of a reality with 'living' robots (Whalley, 2008) and so the line between bio and techno is becoming ever more hazy. Nanorobots under our skin and in our blood(Tilbury, 2008) fighting of diseases and changing our appearances allow the technosphere into our own body. Some appose these advancements such as the Prince of Wales who fears we will all turn into 'grey goo' (Radford, 2003) but the advancement continues with promises of cancer cures (Kliener, 2009). The subject is still of much debate whether will help mankind or harm it.

The bioshphere's history is a lengthy one so I'll only write whats relevant when the technosphere is involved. The technosphere is a truly unique thing that man has created. Starting out with a clubs and knives made from things around to the bronze age, melting minerals and creating tools from it. Progressing to mass production and the technology that came with it. All this is what I consider to be the technosphere for the reason that no matter how primitive it is, it is still a form of technology and not exclusively electronics.
A good example of early bio/techno cross over is agriculture. Take the bread mills; a construction that would have used water, wind or animals to drive it, grinding grain into flour. Since then humans have drifted more and more into his own created world replacing water, wind and animals with machines flowing a lifeblood of fossil fuels.
Gristmill, modern day flour mill. Manchester Ship Canal. (Richerman,2010)

Bread making hasn't progressed beyond this but if we look at the impact it has had on how countries are now shaped, patch worked with fields. Losing wildlife because of hedgerows and other factors man made(Gillings, Fuller, 1998) our efforts to feed ourselves and destroy the insects that feed on with pesticides also have damaged the birds. The rapid decline of our farmland wildlife has happened in the last 50 years, (Turton, 2010) but organisations have grown to stop this from happening and to bring bio diversity back into Britain in recent years.
It isn't just nature that has started to reap the benefits of recent years, amputees and other people with physical disabilities have started to feel more human again (Savill 2009) the first few attempts at replacing someones hand would have been as simple as a wooden hand or a hook as Abu Hamza still prefers. Now people are able to move their mechanical hand through thought and saved nerve ends from the persons shortened limb. The most popular technology placed in the human body is a cochlear implant which helps deaf or the severely hard to hear to once again hear.

Thinking more globally now. One of the biggest struggles of our times is the increasing demand for power sources and where we obtain them from. Our main sources of energy are fossil fuels such as gas, oil and coal but knowing that they will run out, whether it is near or far they will run out. Renewable sources are being developed and using what the biosphere has to give instead of what we can take from it. Well known renewable sources such as wind turbines, solar panels and tidal energy and new types are cropping up constantly, a good example of non conventional renewable power source is the microbial fuel cell, (Anon, 2008) which works as a kind of synthetic stomach where it can be fed and can generate electricity because of this.
In the past bio has been created through techno, in 1996 Dolly the cloned sheep was 'born' and died young in 2003.The difference recently is that Dolly still possessed all the natural functions and cells of any other sheep but we have created a synthetic cell (Connor, 2010) which has made as many bold promises as nanorobots.

Product design, being my specific specialization, could be used to implement the new power sources into the home or office spaces, using that building as it's very own power source, and even a source of income when you sell the energy to the power plants (Gangemi, 2006). Continuing the help of the biosphere product design is able to change its manufacturing techniques, like using as little glue or screws so things can be easily recycled. More conscious choices of materials and where they come from, so things aren't polluting the water, air, the people working or the population near by. Designing responsibly.

I think that the biggest impact product design can make physically is this way, doing it by the green book as it were. But all it can really do is experiment with existing technologies further than scientists can, try to fit them into items that people could work with and interact instead of it just ending as a science project.
The biggest impact it can make mentally is critical product design, highlighting a moral dilemma, educational purposes or imagining what could be done with research and collaborations.
The design pair Auger and Loizeau, I think, have done great work with the designing the biosphere and technosphere together. One of their more strange pieces is named 'Smell +'.(Auger, Loizeau, 2009) A project which required the participants to smell each other unoxygenated in an attempt to expose them to that primal instinct that smell can find you a mate. Other uses of the smelling device include searching for health problems such as dogs smelling out cancer. For more pleasurable purposes it can be used for cooking, deomnstrating how our perceptions of food change when a different smell is presence in the air.
Diagnosis of illness through smell

A great solution to carbon emissions was one of Dr Rachel Armstrong's projects 'LIVING architecture'. Dr Armstrong is interdisciplinary practitioner based in medicine and collaborated with scientists and architects to create or modify a bacteria that would suck in carbon emissions from the air to turn it into solid carbon. The idea is to place this bacteria on our houses and buildings and see our city grow and live. Self multiplying and increasingly useful in our age. These cells are programmable and will seek out an enviroment instructed to it. I appreciate that multi people are working together to make something extraordinary and not seeing professionals keeping to thier given practices and it alone.
A topic which intrests me is the human robot interactions. If robots are ever given real AI how will people react to the technosphere entering what they would associate with the biosphere. As it stands Computers have programmable intelligence although it can intelligently learn, it is limited to memory space. I'm also reffering to the act of robot emotions, something profondly unique to the biosphere. Critical design through products could demonstrate why people shouldn't reject these feelings as false as it is natural to do. If or when that time arises product design could collaborate with psychologists to takle the problems the AI itself is experiencing with it's world around it, if at all.

Dr. Ben Whalley, BBC NEWS, 2008. Rat-brain robot aids memory study. [online] (Updated Wednesday, 13 August 2008 18:25 UK) Available at [Accessed 8 October 2010]. 

 Nancy Tilbury, 2009, The Flesh Dress. Nancy Tillbury Personal blog, [blog] 30 October, Available at:   [Accessed 8 October 2010].

 Tim Radford, 2003, Brave new world or miniature menace? Why Charles fears grey goo nightmare. Science Blog [blog] 29 April, Available at:[Accessed 8 October 2010]
 Keith Kleiner, 2009, Company uses nanorobots to fight cancer...but it's not at all what you thought it would be. Singularity Hub Science Blog [blog] 4 May, Availavle at: [Accessed 8 October 2010]
Simon Gilling, Rob Fuller, 1998, Changes in bird populations on sample lowland English farms in relation to loss of hedgerows and other non-crop habitats. The reference in scientific document supply, Abstract [Abstract](n.d) Available at: [Accessed 8 October 2010]
Clio Turton, 2010, Why buglife goes wild for organic farming. enviromental blog [blog] 20 August, Available at: [Accessed 8 October 2010]

 Richard Savill, 2009, Bionic hand gives student new lease of life, The Telegraph, [online] 19 January, Available at: [Accessed 8 October]
Anon, 2008, General priniciples of MFCs,, [online] 9 December, Available at: [Accessed 8 October 2010]
Steve Connor, 2010, Synthetic cell is a giant leap for science, and could be bigger still for mankind, The Independent Science blog [blog] 21 May, Available at: [Accessed 8 October 2010]
Jeffery Gangemi, 2006, Selling power back to the grid, The Bloomberg Businessweek, [online] July 6, Availabe at: [Accessed 8 October 2010]
James Auger, Jimmy Loizeau, 2009, Smell + Design website  [online](n.d) Available at: [Accessed 8 October 2010]
Dr. Rachel Armstrong, 2009, Living architecture, [online](n.d) Available at: [Accessed 8 October 2010]
Richerman, 2010 [electronic print] Availabe at: [Accessed 8 October 2010]