The importance of community and redesigning forms of virtual interaction in this digital age - Friends of Friends / Freunde von Freunden (FvF)

The importance of community and redesigning forms of virtual interaction in this digital age


Technology is not a free radical that will one day turn against people. It is designed by people and as such can serve a human purpose.

Thanks to smartphones and social networks, we can experience a feeling of close proximity to people scattered far across the globe. In the same way, it is also possible to feel far removed from people in our immediate vicinity. The questions of whether technology brings us closer together or pushes us further apart and what demands need to be met by digital developments, formed the basis of The Sooner Now in Düsseldorf. For this MINI and FvF invited a number of experts to examine the challenges and opportunities presented by new technologies in order to scrutinize the impact these will have on communities at large.

“New Ideas and useful designs don’t happen in isolation, but through exchange.”

Sarah Schappert, MINI, A/D/O

Some developments in technology have already demonstrated their potential for fundamentally redesigning forms of human interaction. Particularly when looking at work in the creative sector, virtual collaborations, cloud-based tools, and exchanges via digital platforms have already become prerequisites for contemporary work. But the impact of developments in technology are not limited to the working realm. Increasingly, technological innovations are reshaping human interactions in a multitude of ways. Ansgar Oberholz from the Institut für Neue Arbeit and Ingo Eichel from Adobe Systems have long focused on how tendencies of decentralization and digital networking trigger societal changes at large.

Besides opening up opportunities in the virtual arena, the mindset of New Work manifests itself in a reshaping of corporate architecture. “Nowadays a person’s ranking can no longer be deduced from the number of windows in their office,” Ingo says in conversation with Ansgar. When job hierarchies are pushed to the background in favor of project objectives, the localization of jobs changes. Traditional room divisions give rise to shared spaces, retreat areas emerge to accommodate concentrated work or teamwork and remote work via a network becomes as equal and as valid as direct personal exchange.

Louisa Heinrich

Living with Technology: Putting Communities First

“I think if we’re going to make any kind of progress we need to stop thinking of the digital world and the physical world as separate entities.”

Louisa Heinrich, Superhuman Ltd.

Initiatives such as CreativeMornings and A/D/O, a design hub founded by MINI in New York, demonstrate that the global and local can no longer be separated as easily as before. Both are internationally connected endeavors that place a strong emphasis on being integrated with their local neighborhoods.” A/D/O is as far removed from the car as you can imagine,” Louisa Heinrich comments in her lecture on humanising technology. “And yet, it is an expression of the brand.” She describes the initiative by MINI as welcome thinking outside of the box, which aims to tackle a range of societal challenges.

“A good community has to be able to maintain itself.”

Lisa Kunst, Creative Mornings

Just as the first MINI in 1959 was an answer to the petrol shortage of the time, the designs and urban services conceived in A/D/O’s workshops aim to find solutions to real world needs. Louisa, who created her company Superhuman Ltd. with the same goal in mind, emphasizes that the design of technologies should always strive to serve a human purpose. “Technology does essentially nothing by itself,” she says. More importantly, the influence it has reflects the intentions of those designing it. It is therefore the task of companies, designers as well as users to take responsibility and to remain conscious of the fact that with all technology, humans are at the heart of every system. Even in the digital world, real people shape the future and therefore have the ability to create a future that is worth living.

A big thank you to our network in Düsseldorf and all the staff at  NOOIJ for their support. We also thank our amazing cast of speakers:

Lisa & Rainer Kunst, Creative Mornings, Düsseldorf
Ansgar Oberholz, Institut für Neue Arbeit, Berlin
Ingo Eichel, Adobe Systems, München
Louisa Heinrich, Superhuman Ltd., London
Sarah Schappert, MINI, A/D/O, New York

Finally we want to thank Mono Tee for their refreshments and our partner THE DORF for their support on site.

The Sooner Now is a joint initiative of FvF and MINI Germany which aims to provide a platform for innovative projects and people wanting to contribute to a better lifestyle in cities. Both in the physical and figurative sense: The Sooner Now is as an ongoing discussion designed to look beyond formats and cities. Find out more about the upcoming events in Hamburg and Frankfurt at

Text: Anna von Stackelberg 
Fotografie: Michael Englert