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Think about what "air" is

The modern era becomes more and more complicated, continuously changing at a dizzying speed. Responding to the needs of the market can only accomplish remaking things that already exist, making it difficult to create new values that will have an impact on society.

It is important to have the essential "questions" for confronting society, and to formulate the "correct processes" to search for their answers----. In 2016, WIRED JAPAN and Loftwork Inc. started Polémica, a service for corporations that want to create the future. It is a program that supports the correct processes to search for settings and answers to questions.

Go beyond the existing framework and search for new business possibilities

At the start of 2017, this project was started as Stage 2 of Polémica. Company A, a corporation searching for new business possibilities for the future in a wide range of fields, requested our consultation, causing us to go beyond the domains of existing enterprises and start a search program for the question "What is air?"

  • Details
    - Determine the fields of opportunities for the future
    - Research to determine fields of opportunities
    - Workshop planning
    - Report on research details/tool production
  • Structure
    The client's identity is restricted information.
    WIRED: Kei Wakabayashi, Yosuke Kawamura, Shinya Yashiro, Asuka Kawanabe
    Loftwork Inc.: Chiaki Hayashi, Michiko Wakimizu, Mao Tada, Satoko Kitajima
    Kyoto University Center for the Promotion of Interdisciplinary Education and Research: Naoki Miyano
  • Period
    Feb. - Jun. 2017

Main process/creative

Determine project design/fields (themes)

In the project design phase, following a number of discussions by three corporations, we took our view off of Company A's existing enterprises and values and determined the field as aiming toward a future that cannot be made through analyzing market needs and other conventional marketing methods.

"Air", a wide concept that includes existing enterprises, was set as the research theme. There were no existing cross-sectional and comprehensive studies or literature, so all project members cooperated to perform a multifaceted and cross-sectional literature survey that included science, sociology, religion, language, and culture, deepening our study.

Literature survey

Photography: Kaori Nishida

We chose almost 40 pieces of literature from a wide range of themes, including classical literature, fiction, history, philosophy, culture, and science and scanned them. The survey collected our "findings" and the 'hypotheses" born from them.

A workshop with 20 Kyoto University researchers

Photography: Kaori Nishida

In the collaboration with Kyoto University Center for the Promotion of Interdisciplinary Education and Research, we ran a two day workshop titled "The Anatomy of Air". We also included experts from fields unrelated to air, tossing people from a variety of disciplines the question "What is air (to people)?"

In running this workshop, participants were thrown six questions that were derived from the literature survey, stimulating lively discussion. By turning discussion toward schedule inconsistencies, we were able to deepen our understanding on the wider theme of "air".

- What is the smallest unit of analysis for air?
- Does the air a person breathes change them?
- Sound, smell, light. What else can be carried on air?
- Are the actions for creating air and the actions for feeling it different?
- How can sanitation and feng shui be united?
- Does smoke in the air make air and parallel worlds visible?

Collecting data to form hypotheses and backing from a variety of viewpoints on "air" based on the researchers' fields of expertise. / Photography: Kaori Nishida

The main facilitator of the workshop was Kyoto University Center for the Promotion of Interdisciplinary Education and Research's Associate Professor Naoki Miyano (center of photo) / Photography: Kaori Nishida

Workshop findings are put into words and structured

Photography: Kaori Nishida

The day following the workshop, the project members combined the hypotheses and backings that had been raised the day before. They extracted information that could provide hints to answer the large question “What is air?” from among the countless sticky notes that had been posted, and proceeded to structure them and put them into words.

Upon combining the information, they were able to approach “air” through a number of concepts and define an approach for understanding exactly what the “air” we experience both consciously and unconsciously in our day-to-day existences is.

Playing cards for firmly comprehending the complex and multilayered concept of “air”

Illustration: Kate Pryer, Design: Yumi Fujita

The project members were not capable of expressing the several concepts surrounding “air” that they had gained from the workshop in a two-dimensional form as they had expected. Various concepts could be nested within one another, or the layered structure could change depending on who was defining them.

In the end, the final output was not presented as a written report or a video, but instead idea cards were designed to be used by members of Company A in the future for ideation and validation. These cards were designed with flexibility and white space so that a variety of interpretations and new ideas might be born depending on the person or group that uses them.

The idea cards are divided into six categories: concept, quality, action and condition, approach to air overseas, realization through conversation, and realization through reading. From these nearly 100 cards were made. Blank cards are also provided so that members of Company A can fill in new realizations and ideas that come about in the future.

By arranging the cards randomly and thinking about their connections, unexpected questions and viewpoints may be born—We expect Company A to continue using them to approach the complex and multilayered concept of “air” in the future.