The author and curator shares some thoughts, leading up to next week’s PSFK Conference.
Phil Patton will be one of the panelists at our upcoming PSFK CONFERENCE NY 2011. Phil is an author and independent curator. His books include Made in U.S.A.: The Secret Histories of the Things That Made America. He writes on automobile culture and design for the New York Times and teaches in the design criticism program at the School of Visual Arts. He was guest curator of the Cars, Culture, and the City exhibition last year at the Museum of the City of New York. He has written for Design Observer, I.D., Rolling Stone, Wired, and been a contributing editor of Esquire and Departures. In anticipation of the conference, we bring you a few thoughts from Phil:
What is the most exciting challenge that you’re addressing right now?
Watching the automobile culture reinvent itself—it is beginning to see itself as a system rather than as objects; it is a networked culture of increasingly smart, linked units. But how much of the emotional appeal of mobility can translate to the new world?
Where do you find inspiration outside your industry?
The more powerful technology gets the more people have interest in gritty handmade art—street art is blooming. Also appreciation of outsiders like Jim Work, who draws on recycled junk mail, is flourishing.
What emerging trend, idea, or technology are you excited to see develop in the realm of sustainable design or thought?
Looking at the current interest in frugal design and Indian idea of Jugaad—like jerry rigging and clever hacking. How can this help with innovation?
Also, I’ve reported on the revival of intercity bus travel. It is part of a category you might call boring green. In terms of carbon per passenger mile, bus beats everything, including rail and utilizes existing infrastructure. Buses can be also be shifted to hybrid or hydrogen fuel faster than private cars. It’s not something we often think about that the bus could be more efficient, in this sense, than the bullet train.
But the key fact that buses today often come with power plugs and wi-fi suggests something else. That technology has changed the meaning of waiting time and travel time. Traveling on a bus today is a lot less onerous than in the past. Improving the quality of travel on existing modes may turn out to be greener than expensive huge new systems.