Kate Smith

EXO Shelter Render - Michael McDaniel

EXO Shelter Render – Michael McDaniel

For a futuring scenarios task we envisioned a high surveillance society with no borders. The lead up to this scenario came into effect because of climate refugees. As a result of inevitable natural disasters on the tectonic plate lines certain countries are prone to creating climate refugees sooner or later. The Refugee Council of Australia refers to the rise in climate refugees being a direct result of ‘increased public awareness of climate change’. The Global Governance Project defines them as “people who have to leave their habitats, immediately or in the near future, because of sudden or gradual alterations in their natural environment”, this can be due to sea-level rise, extreme weather or drought.

With this idea we looked closer towards turning semi-permanent refugee camps into permanent, functioning communities, that sustain the ability to prosper and grow. There have been flat pack projects by IKEA and event tent outfits by designers such as Lucy Orta. However a design that struck to be most interesting was Michael McDaniel’s Exo Shelter for Reaction Housing. As a direct result of experiencing natural disasters in Mississippi as a child he became inherently aware of the “poorly equipped shelters”. His design solution is likened to a coffee cup – stackable and easily connected to a snap base (like a coffee lid). Its rigid and durable structure allows its life span to far exceed that of other similarly aimed designs. Further to this its nature allows it to be easily cleaned, transported and reused when needed.

On the Reaction Housing website they state their mission – “to revolutionize disaster response”. This mission tied in nicely with our scenario, which focused on the rehousing of refugees in Australia, and ultimately turning semi-permanent residences into permanent ones. The increase in refugees, often commented on in the Australian media, is for a reason and it needs to be addressed appropriately. The Exo Housing system is a “smart, highly portable shelter.”

EXO Shelter – Reaction Housing, Michael McDaniel

The UNHCR has reservations about the term coined ‘climate refugees’ as it has no grounding in the international refugee law. McDaniel has clearly noticed a void in the market for refugees, in the near and almost distance future it is difficult to visualize ‘world peace’ and ‘curing world hunger’, meaning that this issue needs to be addressed. To me, this move towards housing refugees in a sustainable way is essential to moving out of the continuous cycle they find themselves in. A cheap and affordable way to house and connect means they are able to focus on building lives rather than staying alive. This, I feel, is a big part of assisting third world countries. The following video from Ted Talks x gives useful insight into the idea of assisting refugees in life, rather than in survival. Melissa Fleming comments on those that have ‘forcefully displaced’ from their homes.

This idea of housing links nicely with Alysse Currans blog on Nomadism: The Contempory Guide for Sustainability, where she discusses Lucy Orta’s Dwelling X Maquette. She talks about the “inevitable expansion of the population”, which connects in nicely with the idea of quick, sustainable and affordable housing, such as the EXO housing the Michael McDaniel has built. Key words related to both designs include ‘low cost’, ‘durable’, ‘transportable’ and ‘easy to assemble’, which is exactly the type of modular housing we aim to create for our futuring scenario. Whilst the possibilities for the future are endless and highly unlikely to match what we have proposed, thinking of the future and towards the future about the possibilities that will lead us there and the challenges we may face is a perfect exercise in design. Where as designer we are inherently designing for the future, whether that be in 6 months, 6 years or 6 decades. We always need to think outside the box, of all possibilities and ultimately of human interaction and how we as humans can work towards a sustainable future and just world.

Council, R., (2012), “Climate Refugees?”, The Refugee Council of Australia, October 18 2014, <;

Curren, A., (2014), Nomadism: The Contempory Guide for Sustainability, October 18 2014, <;

Fleming, M. (2013), Let’s Help Refugees Thrive, Not Just Survive, Ted Talks x, October 17 2014, <;

McDaniel, M. (2014), Blog, Reaction Housing, October 19 2014, <;

Orta, L. (2014), Lucy Orto Bio,  Lucy Orta, October 17 2014, <;

Zimmer, L. (2013), IKEA Unveils Solar-Powered Flat Pack Shelters for Easily Deployable Emergency Housing, Habitat, <;


For this post I have interviewed David Smith born 1956 and made first hand observations of 60’s born Julia Jones and 2 year old Hunter Smith. Julia is in strong disagreement with the use of text messaging as a form of communication, she goes as far as to say that it is “a dead form of communication”, looking at this from a younger generation obviously sounds ridiculous, especially in a world moving more and more to digital communication. “The impersonal nature of digitalization” is the downfall Julia sees in the technology, which is of course as a result of her age distance from the digital age.

The generational differences felt between children and their parents is an obvious and accepted one. The generation x is known as the technological generation or as put by my interviewee David Smith “generation now”. In the digital age of online shopping and instance gratification, we are becoming more and more impatient for the things we desire. This has lead to websites such as the Iconic, which offer there same day 3 hour delivery fee. Often nagged by parents to discontinue their constant interaction with technology, teenagers (born 1990’s-2000’s) feel the intergenerational differences. Growing up on the border of the digital world and its previous state it is easy to comment on the sudden change in reliance on technology, noting the rise in social media platforms around the same age of our mass social development.


However with all these points in my mind a new generational difference is already starting to rise. This is the children born after the year 2000, who grew up in the digital age from day one. As young adults now we are shocked when we see very young children playing with iPhones and iPads, when we were outside playing at the same age. Hunter Staples is a 2 year old boy, walking and using only some familiar words, yet he understands the swipe to unlock the iPhone function and readily picks up and plays with iPhones as an interactive object. Whilst obviously not understanding the interface or having the skills to play a game this pull towards technology in young children is growing.

Interviewee David Smith expressed his optimism towards the future of technology whilst also placing prevalence on the down falls. He made an interesting comment about human relations, stating that online dating is the way of the future and “we’ll be laughing at the day we picked up in bars”. Whilst a comical statement to make it may not be far from the truth. Technology is readily being incorporated into every human interaction, almost exponentially. The question is how will this affect our future as humans?

Jones, J. 2014, personal communication, interview, 20 October 2014, Mosman, NSW.

McDougall, B. 2014, Tablets and technology blamed for developmental speech impairment, The Daily Telegraph [online], 21 October 2014, <;

Smith, D. 2014, personal communication, interview, 20 October 2014, Mosman, NSW.

Big Data, the future of surveillance…

But how far away is this future exactly. Recent public uproar has out this notion into the eyes of the public as something already in play in our everyday lives. The new Facebook messenger application has come under fire due its extensive list of required permissions for the app to run. This list includes the ability to use the microphone to record and the cameras to take photos at any point in time  and can be seen in the image below.


I found a great example of this so called big data revolution on my very own iPhone. The control centre will always tell me how long it would take me to get “home”, and when I am at home it lets me know how long it will take to get to Neutral Bay – a place in which I spend a lot of time for work. How do you where “home” is? How do you know that I will be going to work today. With further research I found that the iphone data logs every place you go, every day. If you stay there for any length of time it will log this, taking note of places that you continually visit. This data logging and tracking can be seen in the screenshots below. This essentially enabled me to realise that carrying a mobile phone, whether you know it or not, is carrying not only the possibility to be tracked, but recorded, photographed and monitored.  And we don’t know where or to whom this information is being shared, stored and analysed.

IMG_7876  IMG_7911 IMG_7912

Malte Spitz (2011, TED TALKS) comments on the ability for big data to “spot business trends, prevents diseases (and) combat crime.” which correlates directly to scenario related to no borders and high surveillance. Where immediate immigration no longer poses disease and crime threats. The data sets that are now being collected from each and every indivudal are now too large and too complex to be processed by humans they need to include “capture, curations, search, sharing, transfer, analysis and visualisation. At this point strong connections can also be drawn to many “sci-fi” and “futuristic” TV shows and movies such as Person of Interest. The idea of connecting surveillance with big data is clearly seen in the opening monologue of every episode –

This idea also explored in The Simpsons: Season 21 Episode 20 – To surviel with love.

Every aspect of the town is monitored by cameras, and a speakerphone system is used to publically name and shame any misdemenors, this high surveillance results in a commune of citizens in a found “camera blind spot”.  This brings up the question of legality in the matter of surveillance, whereby in a system such as the one presented in The Simpsons, how strict is the system, are we living in fear all the time of being fined for jay-walking, arrested for minor speeding offences and so forth… where does the “big brother” draw the line.


Spitz, M. 2011, ‘Your Phone  company is watching’, Talk for TEDTalks

Hyponnen, M. 2011, ‘How the NSA betrayed the worlds trust — time to act, Talk for TEDtalks

Brooke, H. 2012, ‘My battle to expose government corruption’, Talk for TEDtalks

May, K. 2013, Joel Selanikio’s system for collecting big data on global health: A tale of two playlists, TED, 11th September 2014, <>

2014, ‘The dark side of data‘, TedTALKS playlist, 11th September 2014, <>

Shamah, D. 2014, How big data means big changers for location-based services -or at least save your battery life, ZDNet, 11th September 2014, <>

Groenig, M. 2012, ‘The Simpsons’, Season 21 Episode 20 ‘The surveil of love’ , video link

Stepney, S., ‘Big Data, Big Insights’, SDG Blog, 12th september 2014, <>

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2011, ‘Person of interest – Opening credits’, 12th September 2014, <>



Humans are transforming the landscape in which we live. This includes landscapes in all cases of the word, from the design landscape to the environmental landscape. An important issue regularly discussed in relation to the new age of the Anthropocene is that of climate change. Climate change is readily being directly linked to the impact that humans have on our environmental landscape.

The rising issue of climate change has arguable risen for the wrong reasons, however its mass-discussed presence is placing light on important issues of futurity. The whole idea of looking after the world in which we reside is becoming increasingly more important, with climate change as a running frontier for many of the environment based changes throughout the human landscape. The climate change debate, from whichever stance you take, has provided a platform for which people become informed and begin to think and discuss the impact, we as humans, are having on our own environments and how this will effect our future stay on planet earth. Bruno Latour makes connection between this issue and Alfonso Cuaron’s film Gravity, and James Cameron’s film Avatar. Where in both cases humans travel into space or other planets and only wish to return home again, the characters have ‘literally, been metamorphosed from a human to an Earthbound’, ultimately placing importance on the well being of the planet in which we live, where there is ‘no escape route except back on Earth’.

Anthropocene by definition is the current age in which humans have had the dominant influence on our environment and climate. This notion in discussion with climate change has effectively shocked the public into action in varying ways. The effect of humans and industrialisation can be seen, very distinctively, in many cities around the world. A visible sign of climate change, as apposed to rising sea levels and a whole in the ozone, which are scary but not seen as imminently dangerous, is that of air pollution in cities such as China (fig. 1 ).This very confronting and direct danger, often on show in the media is a huge example of the idea of Anthropocene.

The idea of science vs. politics in this matter, discussed in Bruno Latour’s Telling friends from foes in the time of the Anthropocene discuss this mismatch between fact and ideology – where we cannot make decisions on policy based on uncertain science (Latour B., 2013). He rightly discusses the fault in this method and the loop in which it creates for itself, living in a world were people are constantly working to approve and disprove science based on their own ideology’s. This in itself clouds the facts of climate change which can clearly be seen in the issue of air pollution, and is clearly human induced, with evidence.

This example shows the importance of the idea of the Anthropocene as a way of thinking about the future – that where the future is in our own hands and not that of anyone else or any other entity. This forward way of thinking needs to be utilized by the public in order to create a stable future.

Reference list:

Latour, B. 2013, ‘Telling friends from foes in the time of the Anthropocene‘ – Draft of a lecture prepared for “Thinking the Anthropocene”

Jason. 2013, Beijing air pollution exposes China’s health & environmental risks, Global Sherpa, 16th August 2014, <>

Stromberg, J. 2013, What is the Anthropocene and are we in it?, Smithsonian Magazine, 16th August 2014, <>

Kate Smith