Peter Vermaercke

Peter Vermaercke

Peter followed up a Bachelors degree in Communication Science at Ghent University with a Masters in Journalism Studies (including research into a code of ethics for bloggers), and a Masters in Innovation Management. A firm believer in the Internet of Things, and a huge fan of the Namahn library, Peter still dreams of studying at the world-famous MIT Media Lab in Boston, but for now he is content to belong to the Namahn media lab closer to home.

Did the Namahn library entice you here?

I first spied the library on a visit as a student during my final Masters when our professor invited us to attend a Master Class in Human Factors. A couple of months later, I returned to borrow a book. I got chatting with Joannes, and he invited me to get involved in some projects as a collaborator… As a result, I was invited to join the company. I still use the library—it’s a great resource with loads of material you can’t find anywhere else.

Was user-centered design your first career choice?

Before Namahn, I did an internship in an advertising agency. I quickly relised this was not the challenge I was looking for: everything was very departmentalised, with strict divisions between roles (junior/senior), and a fixed delivery sequence. The result was a working chaos! Namahn is a refreshing contrast: I like the relaxed atmosphere and the physical space we work in. We have a good mixture of backgrounds, skills and expertise. This mix makes what we deliver very strong. Basically, people at Namahn can do it all and that fluidity is very appealing. Each day we push the boundaries and take pride in what we do.

Which aspects of user-centered design excite you?

My Innovation Management Masters involved user-centered innovation. The course was very hands-on, helping companies as they built or redeveloped products. I was involved at the start of the process, working closely with the target users. I really enjoyed the experience. My interest in web-centered technologies also developed my appreciation for interaction design. In particular, I enjoy delving deep into problems and finding solutions that are innovative. Sometimes, our clients can miss the obvious or can’t see what is in front of them. This is just one aspect Namahn really helps them with. Also, I get to work on a rich variety of projects at Namahn, which suits me very well.

Why did you conduct research into a code of ethics for bloggers?

I wanted to discover if it was feasible (and necessary) to have a code of ethics and if yes, who would sign up to it. I interviewed professional journalists, bloggers and the people in between, like the Journalism Council in Flanders. The answer was emphatic: none of the bloggers I interviewed wanted a code of ethics. Some had a personal code, but since they blog as a hobby they do not feel any responsibility towards the public, unlike journalists. For them, blogging is about freedom of speech.

What about the Internet of Things?

I’m passionate about physical (ubiquitous) computing and I see the web transforming towards the Internet of Things (Internet applications able to communicate with human-made objects). In the future, interfaces will not necessarily be invisible, but they will be intuitive and integrated. Of course, this poses all sorts of challenges, but Namahn is a great place to explore them.

Do you enjoy any more earthly pastimes outside work?

Photography is a big passion of mine: I always carry a camera, usually digital but sometimes analogue. The craft of analogue is exciting, you have to think twice before taking a photo, you have to wait to see the result, and there is the magic of developing and printing. It’s like choosing to make your own bread, even though you can go out and buy a loaf. It requires patience, a different mind-set. But when I travel (my second passion), a digital camera comes in handier. My favorite destination is New York and I try to go every year. This is an extreme city and in the words of former NYC Mayor Ed Koch: “New York is where the future comes to rehearse.” In fact, I wanted to find a job there after university, but this proved to be more difficult than I expected! I’m happy to wait a while before considering that route again. I also want to go to Italy. I love Italian cinema, the language and cuisine. I cook everyday and I’m well known (in Ghent) for my pesto, all made with homegrown ingredients.