S. Maffei, V. Arquilla, M. Bianchini

Politecnico di Milano (ITALY)
Is it possible to investigate new scenarios for urban sustainability, using a service research approach to explore sustainable services based on participation, delocalisation, knowledge sharing and energy efficiency?
CityLab, a course in Service Design held at the Design Faculty of Politecnico di Milano, has looket at sustainable urban changes in correlation to the city as a possible “context of innovation”.

In this scenario it is possible to identify an important evolution: the transition from a model of innovation based on the relationship between products and architecture to one based on services and social relationships (related to the emerging needs of groups, networks and/or communities of citizens, workers, users, clients,…).
In particular, CityLab has focused on crucial opportunities for service design to intervene, which significantly affect the urban and metropolitan quality of life (welfare, energy, communication, food, work).

Investigating such a complex context as the city requires the development of a specific teaching approach that considers the relevance of three factors:
- the nature and typology of the teaching activities related to service design are changing: research activities are becoming as important as practice-based ones;
- the impact of internet and communication technologies are redefining the method and the approach of teaching and research activities in the field of design;
- the inclination to social networking and crowd-sourcing of the design students falls back on how they approach teaching activities (they are the digital natives generation, as Marc Prensky defined them).

The teaching model here proposed is based on a collaborative approach aimed at creating a shared knowledge repository: the tool is an on-line platform dedicated to building a community of researchers/designers (the whole class) capable of envisioning service design scenarios.

The activity has followed specific steps:
1- Problem setting: creation of a set of focused mind maps describing the interesting theoretical fields and their connections;
2- What if scenario: what would the services for the city look like if …
3- Qualitative research: blue sky research and best practice analysis.

CityLab community (students supported by professors) has shared all the information and results through a blog. The shared repository has enabled:
- the creation of a rhizomatic map to distinguish areas for potential innovation, and to allow exchange of knowledge among professors and students;
- a collective and continuous learning process on design topics and service design tools;
- the creation of a place for discussion and research on service and sustainable design topics (research Lab).

The adopted approach is innovative for its idea of collective and continuous learning, which has lead the class to work as a real research lab (or better, as a peer network), beyond the physical limits of the class itself (time and space) and with the development of a think tank based on the blog, of which all the students have been authors and contributors.