When someone says they like to publish your tech in a book my first thought it YAY, my second thought it, daim, that's a lot of questions. Just in case it doesn't work out and they don't add Showerloop to their book I figure I should just share my thoughts with everyone. Mind you I've only slept for a bit of five hours and might close my eyes for a bit as I type this... forgive me if I make no sense.
1. What is the back-story to the projects conception? Please include incidental accidents or personal situations that gave the project life.
Oh man, there's a long version and a really long version to this story. Basically I've had the idea since I was a kid next to like a hundred bajillion other inventions but it only really manifested into some form of work or text when we had a class assignment in my second year of uni. It was a thermodynamics course and we had to present functionality of a heat exchanger in a device, like an engine radiator. I usually find subjects like that a little boring because I'm sure the teachers have heard it a million times and I like the opportunity to use my creativity. So with Timo Lumukka and Keiran Holland (who was instrumental in the testing and development of ShowerMagic, the name of the device at the time) we calculated the heat recovery opportunity of a shower that would recycle hot water, transfer that heat into cooler water that can then be used to rinse all the dirt that would inevitably accumulate in the water without filters. We pretended that the product existed with some basic mockups made in SketchUp and our classmates seemed to buy the concept.
Fast forward a year I couldn't drop the idea and I won a small business idea competition at the uni but we never got the promised funding. Keiran and I then completed our bachelor thesis on the project and joined a summer camp incubator program which encouraged us to keep working on the prototype.
2. What is your core mission statement and who is your most important audience?
I'm very bad with this kind of stuff. Lately I'm happy if anyone can gain from my knowledge and use it to solve real problems that they have. At first it was to just enjoy a guilt free hot shower but then I realised the potential impact it could have for the billions of people without access to clean water and sanitation, the growth of cities and the global population and the need for it all to happen sustainably and economically. I figure we either need something like fusion power or a way to reduce energy consumption without decreasing the quality of life and the enjoyment of things that makes us build civilizations.
3. What is your definition of social design and or social technology?
Tech, design or behaviour that empowers people to live in balance with nature and each other.
4. What is the strongest impact, case study, story or example that has come out of your venture?
One person complained that they can't stop thinking about me [and Showerloop] while taking a shower. So really I've just ruined the experience for many people, but I guess the first step is to be aware of your behaviour before you can change it.
5. Who in the design or business community is your strongest influence; an individual, a community, organisation or other that you think we should be looking to for the future?
I'd say the maker community. For me it's been Aalto Fablab, the POC21 community and Open Source Circular Economy Days. The Fablab has really empowered me by giving me the tools to take what's in my head and make them real. I'm not very good with measurements - I'll measure twice and then wing it when it comes to the cut. I really like digital fabrication, at least compared to cheap tools in a garage. POC21 and OSCEdays are the reason I'm still working on the project. Without all the publicity and support that I've received from them I would have given up a long time ago. Special props to Charlie, Solomon, Paul, Mauricio and Timm.
6. What’s your advice for professionals and/or students working in social technological / social design areas?
Be curious, ask lots of questions and find people and places to work. You don't have to have a lot of money to do it. There are lots of tools and materials just sitting around waiting to be used, you have to find and liberate them.
7. How do you see your organisation and approach changing in the next 5 - 10 years? Either by technologies, policy, manufacturing processes or something else?
Yes, hopefully I'll be able to make a living doing this and move on to other technologies. I'd very much like to produce things locally but even more than that make the tools that would allow entrepreneurs and partners around the world to replicate, modify and improve it and to solve problems for their neighbourhood's with locally sources materials. You know, circular economy. I really hope Fablabs and maker spaces alike become the norm in the future.
8. How do you think social design / social technology can become more financially sustainable, reaching beyond the charitable / NGO model?
Yes, we're quickly approaching the point where we can produce factory quality goods with automation and digital fabrication affordably and fast, coupled with new ways of communicating, sharing and thinking about our social constructs (not to mention the potential strife that's looming with the above mentioned aspects) I think there's a good chance that it will be the normal way to do things.
9. What are the future issues, challenges and opportunities that we as a design community must address for generations to come?
We need to do things as sustainably (socially and ecologically) as possible. Maybe sometimes that means not making things as well. For me it's all about open source and efficiency. Waste not, think in cycles, clean up after yourself and help others. I dunno, I'm rambling... I keep thinking about how broke I am but how much fun I have meeting people at the Fablab, learning about their projects and how thinks work. I think if we'd all have access to the right tools and made things that mattered we could stop the planet from melting and have a good time doing it...
10. Finally… we always design for a utopian world, what is your dystopian parallel and why should we be concerned by it?
I'm not totally sure I understand this question. Like what is the terrifying dystopic future I end up sobbing about when I've had too much to drink? That we loose, or have already lost, touch with nature and keep feeding faceless corporations with our labor in exchange for fashionable unhappiness and confusion. That instead of automation liberating us from reptitive tasks it just impoverishes us to the brink but we can't even be bothered fighting the robot army that is suppressing us because we're too fat, entertained, high or scared (like a robot would kick your ass). I'm worried that complicated as the world is today it's going to get more so each year as we approach the singularity or something like it in which case things change too fast to fathom.
Geez, I'm not a writer as you can probably tell and I'm generally optimistic because most people are good and try to do the right thing. We'll find a way for sure. I don't design for a utopian world, just the one I see around me. Utopia a dead system that never changes but if we continuously adapt and embrace natural and unnatural changes and act on it maybe we'll be ok.
Routes/mechanisms to engaging your audience //
I'm horrible at that. The odd blog update, facebook or twitter post.
Public motivation to participate //
Hopefully when we can produce our KITS a bit faster than more people can use them to build, test and improve their own ones.
Type of audience //
Home owners that are also makers
Design literacy required for participation //
Not so much but it helps to understand electronics and basics of fluid dynamics
Community scale and type //
Small... mostly just friends. I lack a good platform and the time to tend it. *sigh*
A list of accreditations for people who shaped the project //
Eduard Kobak, Miia Kröger and my family the Selvarajan's and the Kröger's, Keiran Holland, Anup Mishra, Gaurab K.C., Nishan Khadka, Hannes Jesar, Misa Bkjc, Mauricio Cordova, Timm Wille, Veikko Isotalo, Simon Kiepe, Dominik Wind, Patrizia Baffioni, Charlie Banthorpe, Solomon Kiflom, Everyone at POC21 and OSCE days Helsinki and the board of OSCE days, Paul Sohi.