Films, planes and summer schools

by Michael Smyth, UrbanIxD project coordinator.

Late one evening, a couple of weeks ago, I started watching Top Gun on TV. The film was introduced as an 80s testosterone fueled classic that was perhaps one of the most often quoted films of the period. Now I will be honest with you, I have seen this film before, but I was intrigued to see if it stood the test of time. So I began to watch and was quickly drawn in to the macho pilot world of Tom Cruise and Val Kilmer and, I won’t mind admitting, that I was again seduced by Tony Scott’s heat haze panoramas of jets. So cut to the scene where the pilots first meet each other at the Navy Flying School, the eponymous Top Gun. The head of the school tells them what he expects, the fact that they are the ‘best of the best’ while all the time Tom and Val spar in an early bid to be the Alpha male of the group. At this point I hit record and went to bed, but the scene stuck with me and got me thinking about what I was hoping for from the UrbanIxD Summer School in Split.

Now I don’t for a moment think that the Summer School will resemble Top Gun in any way. I, for one, will not be engaged in any aerial dogfights, simulated or otherwise and have long since given up the desire to wear a flying jacket. But I do think that one idea that holds true is the desire to learn through doing. All the participants at the Summer School bring with them an impressive range of talents and skills but it is the fact that we can learn from each other that is so exciting. Yes there will be speakers and atelier leaders all of whom have been chosen because they can engage and inspire us to achieve more, but it will be in the act of practice that each of us will learn about, and grow to respect, the different talents that all of the participants possess.

So my hope is that the Summer School is not the competitive world portrayed by the pilots of Top Gun, rather it will be a collaborative world in which we all grow to respect and value the multidisciplinary skills needed to research in the field of Urban Interaction Design. The prize, if indeed there is one, is of our own making. We have time in Split to participate in something special, to make connections, to be part of a network and to share in the hopes and fears of those first faltering steps of a fledgling discipline. Yes we might occasionally ‘crash and burn’ but at least there will be someone there to help us up and offer advice. Cue the heat haze panoramas of Split in August 2013.