Protein’s urban kaleidoscope of science, art, technology

The Protein Forum event last night, in uber trendy Shoreditch was not your usual pretentious Hoxton affair. Below 54, the venue for the evening, was very 70s kitch – lots of pod chairs and shiny, shiny surfaces. Hell, at the end everyone was dancing like they’d been friends for years.

The night was all about that place where science, technology and design meet. Dopplr’s Matt Jones, Kate Moross a freelance illustrator who gets paid to go to clubs and draw on people (yes draw on people) and Tuur Van Balen A Royal College of Art graduate who’s work My Body=My City that looks at biological interactions with the city, were all there to talk about their work.

For those of you unfamilar with Dopplr it’s an invitation-only travel site that lets you share your trips with your friends online and allows you to see where everyone is at once. They use clever tools like geolocation and social mapping to make it easier for you to meet up with friends who’ll be in the same place as you at the same time.

Jones began his talk with a picture of a rubber duck to draw attention to his philosophy that it’s “all in the details” or those, “unexpected perfect things”; more about the how than the why.

It’s a way of thinking that’s proving successful with a new Facebook application and a move to mobile in the future, Dopplr seems to be simultaneously a social network and an adaptable application.

So back to that duck. Jones explains, “You’re on holiday. It’s your second night in the hotel. You’ve had a long day, you get home and you want to have a bath and, what do you know, those nice people from housekeeping have left a rubber duck for you.”

It’s that same approach that they apply to their site. The icon for example. The tiny strip of “pleasing pastels in the mid range”, that’s given to every member when they sign up, appears at the top of the screen and acts as a coded picture of your travel patterns.

The funny thing is that new users don’t usually pay much attention to it, at least not untill they’ve been members for a while and they only notice the colour bands changing, it’s later still. These little touches have no actual monetary value but are priceless for making a site stick.

So what’s next for Dopplr pondered Jones at the end of his presentation. “Well..” he said in a very self-effacing manner “Making money? Ok, yeah so this is why I’m never put up in front of company directors.”

Fresh from her work with Nike, Cadbury and Topshop Kate Moross began her presentaion with her mantra “work nice play hard”.

Like all digital animation Kate bases her work on the equliateral triangle. A technique that was pioneerd at Pixar. Moross credits Gestalt theory and the concept that the only limits are the edge of the page as having a creative influence on her work. This girl draws on anything, shoes, shop mannequins, ice cream vans and had the pictures to prove it.

In her trucker cap and pink hair she asked us all to come up with a job title for her. Difficult for someone who’s got their fingers in as many pies as she does. She’s been busy with her band at SXSW, setting up her own record label as well as, you know, drawing on people.

Urbanbiogeography was the term Tuur Van Balen gave to his graduate project My Body=My City. He gathered urine samples from people in different areas of the city, in this case Golders Green, Notting Hill and the City to try and get people to think about how their waste contains information – not the most hygienic of past times but it ended up posing some interesting questions.

Water from the City was high in caffeinne, Red Bull and expensive anti-depressants. Golders Green water was oestrogen free as women tended not to use the birth control pill and Nottinghill, with the the highest concentration of organic food shops anywhere in London, made for water that was preservative free.