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Lab for Narrative Technologies and Spatial Installations New York University Abu Dhabi's Experimental Research Building (ERB).

The Lab for Narrative Technologies and Spatial Installations (NTSI Lab) is a Design Research Lab with a focus on R&D projects. Based in the Middle East it is run by a group of international and interdisciplinary faculty members from different universities around the globe. The Lab was initiated by Felix Hardmood Beck (New York University Abu Dhabi) in October 2015 and lead by him until 2021. In 2022 Prof. Zlatan Filipovic (American University of Sharjah, College of Architecture and Design (CAAD)) took over and became Director of the NTSI Lab.

At NTSI Lab we envision systems and spaces, and create and deploy innovative objects through design and engineering tools. While in Applied Research one observes the status quo, Design Research puts the focus on what ought to be 1. Whereas most engineering research labs are specialised in the use of abstract mathematical models, our goal is to generate representative scenarios and pioneer use-cases in form of conceptual presentations, case-studies, or technological prototypes for:

1. Products, Applications and Services that do not yet exist.

Our primary research focuses on technology semantics. The nucleus is not only on technology itself, but on the integration of technology within society 2: We analyse the digital society and translate trends into new and interesting kinds of medial devices and technological artefacts. Our work encloses the following aspects:

  • Relevance (substance and sustainability)
  • Interdisciplinary (creative and unlimited)
  • Respect (honesty and persistence)
  • Sincerity (clarity and forthrightness)
  • Multidimensionality (useful and effective)
  • Adequacy (sensitive and economical)
  • Quality (targeted and uncompromising)

Our secondary research focuses on the creation of artefacts on high user experiences (UX), intuitive user interfaces (UI) and Embodied Human Computer Interaction (eHCI) often in the context of Internet of Things (IoT), Smart Materials or Smart Workspaces.

We want to find answers to the following main questions:

  • How would we like to live in the future?
  • Which role will technology play in our future?
  • Which impact will society have on creating new technologies?
  • How can the virtual realm be transferred into the real world?

Lab for Narrative Technologies and Spatial Installations NTSI Lab's prototyping space (Building: A5, Section: 015-2).

Plastic Recycling Lab NTSI Lab's Plastic Recycling Workshop (B2 basement, underneath D2 Dining Hall at Serco's waste management site).

2. Site-specific installations for architectural spaces.

In a first step we analyse the basic elements of architectural spaces to understand its unique characteristics. We take into consideration implied facts like location, structure, materiality, layout and geometry, transition, hierarchy, light conditions etc., but also soft facts like its actual and future use, its aura, and its potential to host installations. We research the relationship of how architecture can be the frame for installations and how a space will potentially contribute to shape the form and format of an installation.

In a second step we focus on the development and integration of content relating technologies. We explore the specific quality of a dedicated technology in combination with physical properties of objects and materials to create not only a site- but also a content specific installation. We are interested in exploring the correlation of a strong narrative character to be compiled with a highly technological character to create a performative presence in space, and as its consequence: to create a unique identification of place.

The overall intention is to improve processes, services and special systems being designed and to create prototypes to gain knowledge about and to develop new technologies. Our main question is:

  • How may algorithmic, electronic and mechatronic applications support scenario development and anticipation?

Lab for Narrative Technologies and Spatial Installations

Research through design. Research as design. 3

In our daily work we make use of an iterative design process that follows repetitively the steps of research, analysis, proposal, and prototype. An experimental practise that results into innovative solutions, its reflection and contextualization (research through design):

  • Looking
  • Learning
  • Asking
  • Making
  • Testing
  • Evaluating
  • Communicating

We use a broad range of design methods (research as design):

  • Sketching
  • Mind mapping
  • Matrix evaluation
  • Perceptual mapping
  • Product autopsy
  • Trend spotting
  • Future forecasting
  • Cultural probes
  • Cultural comparisons
  • etc.

As well as experimental practices (research as design):

  • Scenario testing
  • Product usability
  • Material testing
  • Mock ups
  • Quick-and-dirty prototypes
  • Experience prototyping
  • Rapid prototyping
  • etc.

Our research is: reflective, sustainable, critical, communicable to others, ethical. Results are presented at national and international technology meetings, design festivals and conferences in the fields of Innovation, Design or Media-Art. If adequate projects are realized with partners from the cultural sector, or from the industry. Prototypes can be transferred into further product development and into NYUAD’s Entrepreneurial Lifecycle. Results by that optimise the fields of research and development to advance the UAE and Abu Dhabi as a center of ideas and human talent.

NTSI Lab – Fields of Research

  1. Design as Research – Positions, Arguments, Perspectives, Board of International Research in Design, Gesche Joost, Katharina Breies, Michelle Christensen, Florian Conrad, Andreas Unteidig (Eds.), Birkhäuser Verlag GmbH, Basel, 2016 

  2. Transformation Design – Perspectives on A New Design Attitude, Board of International Research in Design, Wolfgang Jonas, Sarah Zerlas, Kristof von Arnheim (Eds.), Birkhäuser Verlag GmbH, Basel, 2016 

  3. Research Methods for Product Design, Milton, Alex, Paul Rodgers, Laurence King Publishing, London, 2013 (p. 12)