Imaginaires synthétiques

What does it mean to live in an hybrid environment made of organic and synthetic matter? What happens when technologies become so ubiquitous that it becomes difficult to know what is "natural" or not? Such concrete tetrapods used as armour unit on breakwaters of the Mediterranean sea can be seen as a metaphor for this hybridity.

How do artists and designers explore this hybrid character? How does their work overcome the opposition nature / technology and reveal new imaginaries of a future in the making?

Imaginaires synthétiques

What does it mean to live in an hybrid environment made of organic and synthetic matter? What happens when technologies become so ubiquitous that it becomes difficult to know what is "natural" or not? Such concrete tetrapods used as armour unit on breakwaters of the Mediterranean sea can be seen as a metaphor for this hybridity. How do artists and designers explore this hybrid character? How does their work overcome the opposition nature / technology and reveal new imaginaries of a future in the making?

“crap future”

At some point the Internet of Things is going to look like this: a bunch of discarded plastic artefacts in a flea market.

At some point the Internet of Things is going to look like this: a bunch of discarded plastic artefacts in a flea market.

Strangely enough, I had to come to the Southwest part of Madeira to discover Crap Future, an insightful new blog "about futures, innovation, politics, technology" by Julian Hanna and James Auger. The premise looks great as can be seen from the About page:

"Crap Futures casts a critical eye on corporate dreams and emerging technologies. It asks questions about where society is heading, who is taking us there, and whether ‘there’ is where we really want to end up."

Perhaps the most fascinating entry so far is the one about their critique of "smartness"... which looks quite close to long-time research interests here.

Why do I blog this? Knowing James' work for a long time, I'm curious about their analyses. Also, like the two authors of Crap Future, I also believe it's preferable to explore near future worlds by investigating islands. As they say:

"escaping from a big city to a distant island also reminds you of how far we’ve been brought down by technology: how inhuman many aspects of our lives have become, how much we’ve lost or traded away in a few quick swipes. From here on the margins of Europe, what we’re promised by advertisements and political manifestos looks even less shiny than it does in the steel-and-glass centre. We know intuitively that the smart home is not our home; for the margins it’s cast-offs, afterthoughts, crap phones. "

Given the news from Las Vegas' CES – with smart fridges among other products that may or may not appear on the now infamous @internetofshit twitter stream – it's definitely wise to adopt a more critical perspective, and I guess Crap Future may be helpful for this.

“crap future”

At some point the Internet of Things is going to look like this: a bunch of discarded plastic artefacts in a flea market.

At some point the Internet of Things is going to look like this: a bunch of discarded plastic artefacts in a flea market.

Strangely enough, I had to come to the Southwest part of Madeira to discover Crap Future, an insightful new blog "about futures, innovation, politics, technology" by Julian Hanna and James Auger. The premise looks great as can be seen from the About page:

"Crap Futures casts a critical eye on corporate dreams and emerging technologies. It asks questions about where society is heading, who is taking us there, and whether ‘there’ is where we really want to end up."

Perhaps the most fascinating entry so far is the one about their critique of "smartness"... which looks quite close to long-time research interests here.

Why do I blog this? Knowing James' work for a long time, I'm curious about their analyses. Also, like the two authors of Crap Future, I also believe it's preferable to explore near future worlds by investigating islands. As they say:

"escaping from a big city to a distant island also reminds you of how far we’ve been brought down by technology: how inhuman many aspects of our lives have become, how much we’ve lost or traded away in a few quick swipes. From here on the margins of Europe, what we’re promised by advertisements and political manifestos looks even less shiny than it does in the steel-and-glass centre. We know intuitively that the smart home is not our home; for the margins it’s cast-offs, afterthoughts, crap phones. "

Given the news from Las Vegas' CES – with smart fridges among other products that may or may not appear on the now infamous @internetofshit twitter stream – it's definitely wise to adopt a more critical perspective, and I guess Crap Future may be helpful for this.

The Leaky Future Conjecture: The Leaky Future Conjecture (LFC)…



The Leaky Future Conjecture:

The Leaky Future Conjecture (LFC) asks “What if nature were able to leak information from the future to its own past?” Although human-like time travelers are standard fare in Science Fiction, the conjecture makes no presumptions about what form this communication might take. A Leaky Future could take the form of a stream of bits of information, perhaps as a stream of electromagnetic radiation. The transmission bit rate of this information could be much slower, say, measured in bits per year or centuries. It could operate at very small scale, such as DNA replication, or at the very large scale, such as the sun’s solar cycle.

Why do I blog this? this is a notion I was aware of but not under this name.

betaknowledge.tumblr.com as a compilation of weak signals about the future

Btw, I started a tumblr few days ago to accumulate insights, data points and “weak signals” in a very basic/raw way… I use to put that material into delicious but I’m not satisfied with the service anymore.

It’s called beta knowledge and it can be seen as material that can be turned into long posts here on Pasta and Vinegar, in articles/books/reports, or, even better, into design objects.

I’m trying to integrate that into the feedburner RSS feed.

Weekending 11132011

Hello. It’s time for the weekending post. A few things.

First — I was introduced to this graphic above from @bruces. It shows a Venn diagram showing a kind of perspective of what-could-be. For that reason, I chose to interpret it as another “graph of the future”. How’s that? Well, because it indicates the measure of what can be a product and therefore, what can enter into the world at a particular scale — it’s represents things that can exist at some point in the future. It’s a really simple measure of “product” or “possibility”, but because of its simplicity, its admirable. It says that what can be a product must be desirable, profitable and possible/buildable.

Update: @bruces posted his notebook drawing that I originally saw three, wine-fueled hours into a midnight dinner in London. It comes from Hugh Dubberly.

I pondered this a bit over the week. I shared it for a moment at the recent Society for the Social Studies of Science conference, as a way to think about the future. But, what I want to consider are the unexplored, peculiar areas that are not at the super-sweet spot there in the middle. Are these various terrains that can be explored — perhaps to shift the meaning of what is desirable, profitable and possible? Ultimately, that sweet spot in the middle has to become some sort of least common denominator. What about the impossible? Or the barely possible? Or the unprofitable, but possible and desireable? You see what I mean? How do yo get out of the rut of assuming that everything must be a product — desirable/profitable/possible — and actually innovate? Make new impossible things? Or new, weird things only desirable to 17 people?

Update #2. Here’s Hugh Dubberly’s drawing — at least I think it is. I never saw the one from which Bruce did his notebook sketch.

Yet to be considered.

Well, also this week was a bit of frustrating time figuring-out-new-stuff. Can you believe that we still have to use USBSerial dongles by Keyspan in 2011 in order to talk to modern bits of development hardware? What gives with that?

This is a development board for a VS1000 chip which does audio decoding. I’m hoping to learn more about how to make it do interesting things for some real-time audio hacking and making-of-things. Look for cool stuff soon. Definitely desirable, possible and unprofitable little gizmos and hatchapees.

The last thing is that the video of the Thrilling Wonder Stories thing I did in London last week with Bruce Sterling and Kevin Slavin is available online now at the Architectural Association web site. It’s worth a look. If you fast forward to about 1/2 way through, you’ll get to the start of the presentations from myself @bruces and @slavin_fpo.

Finally, had a lovely coffee time chat with David Kirby who was in town to do some interviews for his upcoming projects.

That’s it for what happened.

In upcoming news, you’ll find more people blogging and doing things through the Laboratory.

The band is getting back together. Yeehaw.

Continue reading Weekending 11132011

Opportunism

RadiationDetection

Completely understandable how the recent tragic events in Japan would translate into email from an electronics source containing *only parts and supplies and modules to make Geiger Counters. At the same time as it’s understandable, it’s one of those things that feels like it’s taking advantage of the general panic, confusion, sadness and apocalyptic angst.

Not deflecting the urgency and anxiety of recent events in Japan, it’s curious to me to think about how and when change is able to happen. By that I mean that things happen, swerve off-course or are able to swerve off of into unexpected, new directions. For example, the events after 9/11 where an *opportunity space opened up in which dramatic, unprecedented changes were able to be made in the legal systems of some countries. Things that would not have been so easy to implement had their been no epic tragedy. Similarly, in a way — now we learn quite a bit about nuclear physics, science, speculation about the malfeasance (if you can call it that) of this nuclear quasi-agency in Japan (via @xenijardin WSJ: TEPCO initially resisted using seawater to cool reactors; harm to “valuable power assets” feared ). We find ourselves preparing — again — for an earthquake, nuclear catastrophe, flood, Tsunami, etc. Entirely enormous nations are scaling back and turning off nuclear power plants (I find this most intriguing) and rethinking their energy policies. I mean — that’s epic. Whatever side you may be on the issue of nuclear power, these events, at the cost of untold lives, future lives, physical infrastructure, and so on — everything has been changed.

The imagined course into which the future was going to be made, has swerved.

We often like to think of change coming about from good, thoughtful, happy actions and activities. Like good design work, for example. I think, from my experience, it is often never like this. It is hard. Change is hard. Making things better is hard. Generally, and anecdotally from the experience of myself and others up and down the hall here on the 7th floor of the Laboratory — people are reluctant to change their ways, the course of their lives. Moving out of “comfort zones” and all that is, well — uncomfortable. Adapting and adopting new ways of living, behaving, thinking would make for a more resilient world, I think. One that was not afraid of difference, of giving things up for the hope and possibility of a better things.

Of course — it can all go wrong. But at least we’d try.

*Anyway..

Parenthetically, Studio 360 has an intriguing related radio story on this topic. It is called Japan: The Imagination of Disaster.

Why do I blog this? As always, we here are quite intrigued by how the future comes to be — what are the mechanics, semantics and motivations that move people to obtain and create possible futures. In this case, “taking advangage” of opportunites when one can do that bit of swerving, rudder-pushing, tiller cranking because the currents become favorable to try a new tack.
At that moment when the normal course of events seems to swirl out of control

Continue reading Opportunism

Future of Technology Conference University of Michigan September 24-25

Friday October 16, 15.04.18

I’ll be speaking at the Future of Technology conference at the Taubman College of Architecture, Planning and Urban Design on September 25th — the conference is on the 24th and the 25th. This courtesy of my chum John Marshall, who I visited last year to be a guest in his fantastic Heliotropic Smart Surfaces design studio which, if I remember correctly — John and Karl had no idea (in a good way!) what would happen other than that they would look into “smart” and the sun and surfaces. Brilliant guy, he is. That’s the way to run a creative studio. Optimism and enthusiasm and a tinge of creative recklessness.

Friday October 16, 11.34.47

Anyway. That’s where I’ll be. In Ann-Arbor.
Continue reading Future of Technology Conference University of Michigan September 24-25

Stuart's *Fragments of Possible Worlds* / Reperceiving The Future

Saturday October 03, 17.27.54

Just a fragment of a post — something that’s been sitting in drafts for a few months now for some reason. I guess I was trying to find something to put alongside of it, but it sits well by itself.

It’s from a post by Laboratory cousin Stuart Candy and its got some suggestive little nuggets — particularly appealing to me is “reperceiving.” This is the way he is describing what artists and futurists do as their vocations — “enabling new perceptions.”

Stuart Candy Reperceiving Detroit

" Called “Fragments of Possible Worlds: The Art and Design of Experiential Scenarios”, my presentation encouraged the audience, mostly Cranbrook students and faculty, to consider the resemblance between the role of the artist and that of the futurist. What the two have in common, as I see it, is the vocation of enabling new perceptions. Compared to the artist, whose self-understanding frequently seems to include a studied refusal of the constraints to which many other kinds of work are subject (viz. “artistic licence”), the futurist’s role may be somewhat more circumscribed, especially in a consulting setting, by the client’s needs. But the general role is fundamentally similar. And, while there is a conscious turn towards public and political engagement in my recent work, compared to the more narrowly targeted, strategic use of foresight as used in organisational settings, this common ground shared by art and futures is well captured by the elegant phrase of Royal Dutch/Shell scenario planning pioneer Pierre Wack: “the gentle art of reperceiving”."

Why do I blog this? I like this way of describing the work of creating new visions of possible worlds as reperceiving, or helping people to reimagine what the world could be like. Finding new ways of describing the work we do here in the Laboratory is quite helpful. Related is this diagram by James Auger that I recently came across on Nicolas’ blog in which he describes Auger’s diagram showing how paths to the future can be mapped out in a specific way. This might be a side, side project — to create a visualization that describes this action of re-imagining and reperceiving.

Continue reading Stuart's *Fragments of Possible Worlds* / Reperceiving The Future