Welcome to Open Set Reader

Next to our rich range of activities is Open Set's Reader — a series of brainy pieces carefully presented in this publication. From numerous qualitative articles and materials, to several captivating interviews; these texts embody the refined thoughts of today’s distinct designers, artists and thinkers. All these creative fundamentals are combined under the theme of Memories of the Future, and explore how the notion and perception of memory can be used to stimulate alternative approaches towards the future.

Next to inspiring pieces from amongst others Annelys de Vet, Max Bruinsma, Olia Lialina, and TD Architects, you’ll find an in depth examination of civility in a mediated society, together with the artistic duo Karen Lancel & Hermen Maat. An interview which explores Lancel / Maat’s artistic approach and their strong speculations regarding emerging future scenarios and possible alternative environments.

Furthermore, thinker and academic Sebastian Groes who brings us along into his future of memory, in which he posits ten characteristics of memory in the 21st Century, and considers a twenty-first century ethics of mind and memory. Also we talk with Mike Thompson and Susana Cámara Leteret (Thought Collider) about their inquisitive design research approach and the way it connects to this year’s theme of Open Set.

With this reader I endeavor to question the phenomena and role of archiving and retrieval. Cordially I invite you to the world of the current, future environments and intriguing scenarios of our utopian destiny.

1. Articles

1.1. The Future of Memory

from: Memory in the Twenty-First Century (edited by Sebastian Groes)
Palgrave Macmillan (2016) pp. 1355 — 636

Ten characteristics of memory in the Twenty-First century

It is helpful to set out a list of numbered developments that chronicle the changing state of memory in the early twenty-first century.

  1. The role of the human mind in memory is increasingly marginalised. With the ferocious power of the digital, technologies and machines are increasingly taking over cognitive and memory functions and storage, making memory an increasingly non-biological process. New forms of cognitive technology make the brain a porous, permeable container that mediates and navigates between the mind and the world. The early twenty-first century is characterised by a nomadism of mind and memory. Cognition and memory are not dependent solely on neural activity but are dynamic processes in which the mind interacts with external forces beyond the subjective self. Although in the anthropocentric model of embedded cognition the human being still features at the centre of thinking and memory processes, in models of extended cognition the human biological unit is a subservient part of a dynamic self-organising whole. The power of humans has become more complex and ambivalent because ‘the underlying issues involve the very complex dynamics and human agency in both its conscious and unconscious manifestations’.1 Through instant, repeated and shared retrieval processes, memories are increasingly dynamic and protean, but also migratory and distributed across platforms, media and technologies, and other people’s minds.
  2. Memory is increasingly a collectively shared networking activity between humans and machines resulting in transactive assemblages with a democratic potential. In a digital context, memory that is based on cognitive interdependence has intensified exponentially.2 Both memory storage and memory processes tend to involve more than one creator and/or user, who assemble what has been called ‘networked memory’.3 While the state and conglomerates such as media and ITC giants attempt to wield power through digital technology, traditionally powerless individuals and bodies of people are able to create independent zones for themselves for the reinterpreting and rewriting of knowledge and memory.4 This development has a democratic potential and allows us to challenge hierarchically structured authority and other privileged social constellations, and explore the potential of the ‘wisdom of the crowd’ or the ‘group mind’.
  3. Memory is an intersubjective process. The location of memory is changing, taking place not strictly in the brain, but acting through dynamic cognitive processes within the intersection of the mediating spaces where the mind and external tools and machines connect in cognitive loops and circuits. Memory processes also take place between individual subjects, who, with the help of the ubiquitous presence of technologies, engage in ‘transactive memory’.5 Memory requires an intersubjective, transhuman point of view.
  4. ‘Global Memory’ has matured. New technologies have caused memory storage and processes to become a world-spanning practice; the global reach of the corporations and the internet have created a super-organism made up of all human minds bound together by something like a biological version of the internet. This process started around 1900, and matured in the twentieth century with the strong effects of the advancement of new technologies on cultural production.6 With more awareness of climate change at the start of the twenty-first century, there is also a renewed awareness of the earth as a global notebook that contains memory traces of mankind’s presence written into the geological strata.
  5. Memory is an increasingly mediated process of fictionalisation which undermines the possibility of authentic, original remembering. Postmodernism taught us that thinking and perception are constructed and narrated, and argued that in the post-war world we tend to (prefer to) live life at the level of representation. Our heavily mediated perception fictionalises memory, and external forces beyond the subjective self shape, edit and manipulate memory. Despite the waning of postmodern theory and a renewed desire for authenticity, memory is more than ever a process of representation.
  6. Memory is increasingly conditional, mutable and open-ended. In the digital age, much of memory is taken over by technology and programs outside the human body, so that outside forces are shaping our memories. This open-endedness of memory is increased by the knowledge that, because technology makes memories easily retrievable, we are enabled to revisit and reinterpret past autobiographical memory. Other people share in the construction of our memories, both now and at a later date, and this makes memories less fixed and absolute, and more relative and mutable. Memory work in the twenty-first century is never finished, and always provisional.
  7. Memory is forwardlooking. There is a renewed emphasis on the fact that memory evolved for planning purposes, and that it has a great role in shaping our imagination and prediction of the future. Memory has a profound role in making decisions, navigating space and plotting the world ahead. The possibility of the extinction of mankind due to climate change asks us to imagine our present lives as future memories.
  8. Memory has acquired new, complex temporalities. We are seeing new, posthuman machine times that displace traditional organic notions of history and time. With the ability to instantly retrieve memories and information through digital technologies, the gap between the present retrieval moment and past memories is a closed circuit. Conceptions of death have become increasingly complex: even though we may experience biological death, we may continue to dwell in cyber space as digital memories. The Anthropocene asks us to imagine our present as memories in a future where everything is already dead. These are new, posthuman mortalisms that shape twenty-first century subjectivities.
  9. The unconscious has a major role to play in memory. We are seeing a return to an investigation of the role of non-conscious processes in memory. Research has shown that for half of our ‘conscious’ lives we are engaged in some kind of mind-wandering. In fact, a recent study even suggested that daydreaming is the default state of our brain, and that those parts of the brain are overridden by other parts when we need to focus on a particular task.7 Hayles notes that recent research has suggested that the unconscious ‘plays a much larger role than had previously been thought in determining goals, setting priorities, and other activities normally associated with consciousness. The “new unconsciousness”, as it is called, responds in flexible and sophisticated ways to the environment while remaining inaccessible to consciousness, a conclusion supported by a wealth of experimental and empirical evidence’.8 The web and social media such as Twitter, which are algorithmically generated and mined, have become a new collective unconsciousness of our culture.
  10. Memory has accrued a plurality of new, often anti-anthropocentric perspectives. New studies into memory require new posthuman forms of vision and imagination.9 Climatic memory demands a geological perspective. Neuroscience has introduced a molecular, neural vision which in art has generated a cellular, synaptic imagination. ‘Big Data’ and algorithmic patterning require an ‘empty’, mathematical perspective. These perspectives continue to displace humans at the centre of critical thinking.
Lesion (2010), Andrew Carnie

Twenty-first century ethics of mind and memory

In light of this list of changing characteristics of memory there are some new, urgent questions that arise: What should we do with our memory? What is memory for, in twenty-first century contexts? How can we make memory more useful, and perhaps in different ways? Must we take better care of our mind and memory, or ensure that we reduce the impact of these contexts on our human minds? How, and to what extent, can we let our cognitive abilities evolve in beneficial ways? Should we be afraid of the evolution of the human mind that’s to come?

Such questions evoke new debates about the bioethics and the biopolitics surrounding these rapid changes in memory. They include the right to privacy in the digital age, and, more contentiously, the right to be forgotten through some kind of digital switch-off after we die biologically. There is also a fascinating debate about the ethics of human enhancement, which Nick Bostrom and Julian Savulescu explore in Human Enhancement (2008). In The Second Machine Age (2014), Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew MacAfee explore how machines will take over various human professions in the next century, greatly altering the shape of society, but also the values and forms of recognition.

To discuss the ethical issues regarding memory fully would require another book. Yet, let us make a start by calling for a new ethical agenda that sets the agenda for the new critical thinking about, and protection of, the human mind. Our humanity exists in a shared duty of care towards our cognition, in which memory features centrally. In society there exists a strong awareness of the lived effects that new and rapidly changing contexts have on cognition and memory, which can be used to establish a new competency of mind and memory. We need a reconsideration of pedagogic strategies within a new form of education and society that should teach all of us about the precarious nature of the human mind, and the contexts and influences that shape it and govern our everyday lives as citizens in liberal democracies. This new competency generates a new ethical and political awareness about human power and freedom, which can be laid down in a flexible, open-ended body of rules that safeguards our psychobiological life. These ethics should form a body of codes that enriches our lives, and reaffirms our basic civil liberties. We should have more ownership and control over our brain, mind, memory and behaviour. Just as physicians take the Hippocratic Oath, these ethics should be enshrined in universal law and be integrated into business models and in capitalist production.

Fantasies of stopping scientific, technological progress and the digital revolution are useless, and enslave us to a nostalgic, potentially regressive rhetoric. We should establish an ethical debate about how technology can be used in a beneficial manner. We can re-direct the harmful impact of technology on the human mind by finding new ways to protect and nurture the workings of the mind and memory, through software such as internet blocker Freedom, but also, more importantly, through ethical debates in the public realm. In liberal democracies, the government must aim to close the current gap between rapid developments and their often slow responses through the creation of independent bodies whose advisory reports are swiftly implemented. New technologies can be employed to, wherever possible, create contexts in which we are able to use and explore our human cognitive abilities and functions to the fullest. Those same technologies can also be used to commit our society to improving the lives of people whose cognition is somehow impaired. As an example, Ineke van der Ham showed how we can use GPS technology to help, for instance, stroke patients.

Discussions by Heather Yeung, Peter Childs and Martijn Meeter have foregrounded the importance of the ethics of memory, and remembering, whilst Nick Carr, Adriaan van der Weel and Sebastian Groes showed the ethical implications of reading. Such ethical considerations show the continued value of the Humanities, which is the pre-eminent field in developing the intellectual frameworks to offer a proper duty of care to the human mind. The Humanities will thus continue to be able to offer its traditional social functions, which includes enabling frameworks for empathy and morality, facilitating an ethical responsibility, and for critical thinking and reading. This ability to unite disparate forms of thought as well as its ability to think critically offers new opportunities for a seriously marginalised Humanities. But after the dismantling of the authority of the Humanities at an institutional level, we can no longer return to a naïve, archaic form of Humanism. The idea that, in Robert Hampson’s words, ‘humanities research has an important custodial role in relation to cultural assets’ no longer seems to be enough.10

The Humanities can be the middle ground where our increasingly uncertain, chaotic world, and the fragmentation of our pluralizing knowledge, norms and value systems might be restored to some sort of unity. However, this middle ground is constantly shifting and we need a more mutable, flexible model; the Humanities’ practices are to be reconsidered in order to adapt to new, contemporary demands on society and the human mind. The challenge of its authority should be viewed as an opportunity for reinvigorating responses; the Humanities are not sacred, but could benefit from a critical, anti-monumental spirit, which will take them into the twenty-first century with new confidence, and new objectives. This book embodies and enacts a new idea of a dialogue between the Humanities and the Sciences, in the spirit of E. M. Forster: Only Adapt. This book is symbol of a new, ferocious intellectual energy, and has shown the power of cross-disciplinary dialogue through the creation of a space where thinkers and critics can interact with one another as active citizens. Its dynamism invites a new embodied cognition, a thinking-with-the-body that can incorporate numerous disciplines, including neuroscience. Memory in the twenty-first Century celebrates play, curiosity, creative-critical exploration, serendipity and imagination. We can make it new, again.

Critical reading and thinking have a privileged position in understanding contemporary forms of thinking about memory because reading comes closest to understanding and analysing, in Paul Ricœur’s words, ‘the virtual experience of being-in-the-world proposed by the text’.11 We must reconsider reading as a form of simulation that allows us to critically navigate, anticipate and understand modern virtual experiences. This skill is political and ethical, and indispensable, and if we reconsider literacy in the digital age, we may take the human into the next century in new, creative-critical ways. We must reintroduce Homo Ludens, ‘Playing (Wo)man’. Play is an immersive, creative power that draws on, and generates, spaces that often fall outside the power of the state and capitalist enterprise. As Jussi Parikka states: ‘Play is important when understood as part of didactics — the hands-on approach that allows us to try, to have tactile contact with, to touch and open media and hence, paradoxically, to work in quite the opposite manner to the cool distance-taking mechanic methodology’.12 We must play in order to adapt to the digital, and the digital offers plenty of opportunities for play, if approached with an awareness of the mode of production from which it emerges and a conscious knowledge of the rules of representation that it is founded on. Paul Bloom states that ‘[i]magination changes everything. It evolved for planning the future and reasoning about other minds, but now that we have it, it is a main source of pleasure. We partake in experiences that are better than real ones. We can delight in the minds that create imaginary worlds’.13 However, we could use imagination for not just pleasure, but also for a serious purpose: it is the novel, hopefully in new, exciting forms, that is able to provide the deep imaginary space that enables a complex thought. As Adriaan van der Weel, Michael Burke, Sebastian Groes and Mark Currie have argued, the novel has a vital role to play in the ethics of memory because the world of the text problematises our relationship to the world beyond the subjective self, acting as a space of simulation where we rehearse multiple interpretations, part of an ongoing, unfinished process that questions memory and identity in our contemporary culture. If memory operates and acts in the same way as predictive simulation, we should use the dynamism and mutability of memory so that we can reorder and reinterpret the past with a view to forcing a major reconsideration of the world to come.

We should, then, not fear the future, but accept the current indeterminacy and uncertainties with a spirit of openness and plasticity that posits the increasingly conditional and relational nature of life in the twenty-first century as a form of control, rather than viewing it as a disempowering development. The plurality of futures embedded with our reconsideration of memory allows us to reject the cynical idea that our old world cannot be changed through ideas. Let us reject the rigid anticipated expectations of future anterior tense that dominates our twenty-first century lives, and embrace the possibilities of the unbidden. The world is changing, and if it is losing particular values and ways of life, this might not be such a bad thing after all. Our changing memory shows us how to adapt to the new contexts that are reshaping our lives: we must embrace mutability, plasticity and be prepared to live in and open-ended manner if we want to survive. How fast the ecology of life is changing can be demonstrated by looking at Will Self’s The Book of Dave (2006), which is partly founded on neuro-scientific knowledge of the memories of black cab drivers. In his satirical novel it is our carbon-based way of life that is criticised, through the imagined flooding of England. Glow (2014), an equally psychotropic, neuro-literary work by young novelist Ned Beauman suggests how the world is changing when the protagonist Raf points to the new mindful consciousness of a new generation:

Raf has always envied couriers for the MRI scan they take of their city, front tyres like toroid dog noses, a dead leaf’s difference in the height of a familiar kerb felt somewhere in the sinews when Raf himself probably wouldn’t even notice an extra few inches; and because, like pirate radio, they were supposed to get squashed under the internet, but didn’t; and because he once saw a game of bike polo and it looked like a lot of fun.14

The world is changing, and humans are changing with it, rapidly and maybe irrevocably. If we want to continue allowing future generations to remain human, we should accept and embrace this continuity in change. Memory allows us not only to find mental anchors in the past, and thus create an (imagined) sense of stability and coherence, but also to forge connections between the past, present and future. Memory is what makes us human to begin with; therefore, our new understanding of memory considered in this book gives us fresh insights into how we will be able to keep us human — albeit of a different sort — in the next century. Memory is vital for imagining new ways of being human whilst navigating the radical changes and possible futures of the world that lies ahead.

  1. N. Katherine Hayles, How We Think: Digital Media and Contemporary Technogenesis (University of Chicago Press, 2012), 94. 

  2. See Daniel M. Wegner, Toni Giuliano and Paula T. Hertel, ‘Cognitive Interdependence in Close Relationships’, in Compatible and Incompatible Relationships, ed. W. J. Ickes (New York: Springer, 1985), 253 — 276. 

  3. Andrew Hoskins, ‘Digital Network Memory’, in Mediation, Remediation and the Dynamics of Cultural Memory, ed. Astrid Errl and Ann Rigney (Berlin: De Gruyter, 2009), 91 — 108. 

  4. Ananda Mitra notes: ‘Those who have the power to create voices in the discursive space of the Internet could also be the ones who produce memory narratives of the digital age. This is a particularly curious position since the technology is problematizing power in the virtual. While the conglomerates such as media giants are attempting to wield power on the Internet, the traditionally powerless individuals are able to carve out a discursive zone for themselves too’. ‘Digital Memory’, Journal of Information, Communication & Ethics in Society, 3(1) (2005), 5.  

  5. Wegner, Giuliano and Hertel, ‘Cognitive Interdependence’.  

  6. Wolfgang Ernst notes: Wolfgang Ernst: ‘In contrast to two thousand years of basically written history, the advent of the audiovisual recording media had led to a genuinely multimedia “global memory” projects […] which turned the archive into a discrete matrix of life itself’. Digital Memory and the Archive, ed. Jussi Parikka (Minneapolis and London: University of Minnesota Press, 2013), 125.  

  7. See Paul Bloom’s How Pleasure Works (London: Vintage, 2008), 197 — 201, who points to Malia F. Mason, ‘Wandering Minds: The Default Network and Stimulus-Independent Thought’, Science 15(393) (2007), DOI: 10.1126/ 

  8. Hayles, How We Think, 94. 

  9. Eric Kandel notes: ‘Thus we gain from the new science of mind not only new insights into ourselves – how we perceive, learn, remember, feel, and act — but also a new perspective of ourselves in the context of biological evolution. It makes us appreciate that the human mind evolved from molecules used by our lowly ancestors and that the extraordinary conservation of the molecular mechanisms that regulate life’s various processes also applies to our mental life’. Kandel, In Search of Memory, xiii. 

  10. Robert Hampson, ‘Custodian and Active Citizens’, in The Public Value of the Humanities, ed. Jonathan Bate (London and New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2011), 69. 

  11. Paul Ricoeur, Time and Narrative, Volume 2, trans. K. McLaughlin and D. Pellauer (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1990), 100. 

  12. Jussi Parikka, ‘Archival Media Theory’, in Wolfgang Ernst, Digital Memory and the Archive, ed. Jussi Parikka (Minneapolis and London: University of Minnesota Press, 2013), 1 — 36; 14. 

  13. Bloom, How Pleasure Works, Loc. 3219. 

  14. Ned Beauman, Glow (London: Sceptre, 2014), Loc. 404. 

1.2. Networked Collective Memory

Article by Patty Jansen (participant Summer School 2015 in Rotterdam)

The past has become remarkably adjustable. The digital network allows users to actively and simultaneously produce and reproduce their and other versions of a collective past. Collective memories are open to entire communities and their form has become as fluid and in flux as their traditional concept inherently is. A generative multi-memory is created, in which the browser is used as a collective memory-tool, providing the possibility to react and upload real-time. We can write our past for the future to come from our homes, in our chairs, at our desks. By circulating images and image sequences online, the image repeats itself and comes back again. The collective memory is embedded in the spreading and repetition of these creations. They become a collective memory tool and simultaneously, a collective representation. Users insert a bit of themselves into the production and send it across the web for others to use and commemorate. Here, memory is literally figuratively on the move; images and videos are posted on various websites to show the user’s concern with the collective memory. As the concept of collective memory is in flux, networks are constantly in flux, they do not fall silent. Geert Lovink already stresses this point in Networks Without A Cause1 (2011); the web has no memory, it does not store — how are we able to understand all of this information when its context is always in transition? Memory and commemoration, official and individual memory now co-exist in the ever changing network. Can we make sense of the merging of these ever changing concepts in order to design our past and present into the future?

Mediating Memory

Ironically, one of the most fundamental aspects to the abstract and complex concept of collective memory is that its context is always developing and open to meaning. Where memory relates to our identity, collective memory relates to our national or community identity. “We are in need of a narrative that binds us in a uniting feeling, a togetherness — the feeling that we are not alone in this.”, Carolyn Kitch writes in Mourning in America: ritual, redemption, and recovery in news narrative after September 112 (2005). This nation identity can survive and evolve overtime, Kitch explains, meaning content-wise, it can and will change, if only because of the ever changing collective. However abstract it may seem, collective memory does takes on corporeal form in means of memorials, museums and lives on in the minds of the people who feel aligned with this specific memory. The collective memory depends heavily on mediation: it needs production and performance, since we cannot actually possess this moment in history we try to remember (Neiger 2011)3. We need to mediate to remember. This is where Pierre Nora's concept of Les Lieux de Mémoire comes to mind; the places of memory, such as physical monuments, which are built with its main purpose to prevent the loss of our shared memory and in this way, stand apart from history. In On Media Memory: Collective Memory in a New Media Age (2011), Motti Neiger3 (a.o.) points out that collective memory is mediated through rituals, ceremonial commemorations and mass media texts. Examples are a nations half mast flag as a sign for mourning which is performed on specific dates to commemorate specific events or performed right after specific events to show grief and respect, the 'Dodenherdenking' on the 4th of May in the Netherlands, where two minutes of silence at eight o'clock in the evening is contributed to commemorate those who died for 'our' freedom in the WO II and the special supplement of the Dutch newspaper Algemeen Dagblad in July 2014 to commemorate the victims of the MH17 airplane crash. Another significant example of such mass media texts is the awarded section of The New York Times during the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, called A Nation Challenged which ran till December 31 2001, but will remain indefinite on and played an important part in the nation's mourning process by portraying victims in a very personal and honouring way. This section is a very good example of what we call public memory — an intersection of official memory by institutions and vernacular memory, which represents almost literally the voice of the people — you could say, the individual experience of a collective memory. The web has shown to be open to combinations of official and vernacular memory such as for example the german online magazine SPIEGEL where online users can submit articles on German history (Donk 2009)4 and TIME Magazine's Portraits of Resilience from 2011 where survivors, family members, US officials and the President share their personal stories of 9/11 on video. However, more and more users circulate and share their own creations of a certain collective memory.

A nation challenged 'portraits of grief' (2001), The New York Times


On the web and digital interfaces, a memory is generated which moves back and forth between past, present and future. It shapes a complex memory, where in the shaping we lose memory by deleting, uploading, producing and reproducing over and over again and at the same time, gain a collective memory in the form of these processes and the relations they render. Quoting Media Theorist & philosopher Wolfgang Ernst5 on his concept of processual memory: “The web provides immediate feedback, turning all present data into archival entries and archival entries into data — a dynamic agency, with no delay between memory and the present. Archive and memory become metaphorical; a function of transfer processes.”, which Ernst describes as an economy of circulation — permanent transformations and updating. There are no places of memory, Ernst states, there are simply urls (Ernst 2013). In other words; digital memory is built from its architecture, it is embedded in the network and constituted from how it links from one to another. The dynamics of the network, history and the collective have fallen into each other, something we can start to rethink through Manuel Castells’ concept of the space of flows where humans, computers and the network are connected, manifesting eventually into something physical but how, where and when is determined by the network itself (Castells [1996] 2010)6. “History is first organized according to the availability of visual material”, Castells writes, “then submitted to the computerized possibility of selecting seconds of frames to be pieced together, or split apart, according to specific discourses.” (Castells [1996] 2010)6. Both Ernst and Castells connect the notion of the network to time: the way a certain medium produces time, is the way experience and memory are generated. Historical static time, the narrative, the chronological ordering we all seem to depend on, meets digital media temporality. In Castells' theory this is also influenced by the maker and its interpreter: “The user-producer and user-consumer organise information, perception and expression by their impulses, distorting the historical ordering of chronological events and become arranged in time sequences based on these impulses.” (Castells [1996] 2010)6. Castells describes this as a culture of the eternal and the ephemeral; it reaches back and forth the sequence of our cultural history of events but at the same time it is transitory because each arrangement and sequence depend on the context and purpose it is constructed (Castells [1996] 2010)6. We are not in a culture of circularity, Castells concludes, but we find ourselves in the midst of undifferentiated temporality of cultural expressions (Castells [1996] 2010)6. What Castells tries to point out here, is that even in a time-based medium such as the digital network, present discourse in the Foucauldian sense is still just as highly influencial. Network collective memory does not only concern time, it is time projected on time, over and over again.

Networked Collective Memory

Ernst describes the idea of a digital museum and archive cautiously as 'non-places'. From Nora's places of memory7 we are now moving towards digital non-places of memory. In the context of networks, these nonplaces of memory can be seen as processes of memory; a generative memory with its meaning, collective and mediation always on the move. For example, the images and GIFs of 9/11 have had the opportunity to grow over the past fourteen years. When we compare it's size and content to a much more 'fresh' and 'smaller', yet still very political trauma like the crash of MH17, we can see that a development of size and content has taken place overtime. Not only has the web become a primary medium to our contemporary existence over the past decade, the content has also evolved in a much more symbolized content, instead of only news reporting and photo's of the wreckage or places where the disaster took place. There is the collage image, which appears in large amounts on the web, but in content do not differ very much but still have very subtle user-additions. These collages often follow banner, GIF and movie-like aesthetics; shorts texts and strong symbols. In many examples, the burning towers, the American flag and the American Eagle are combined into one picture. Variations contain photo's of rescue workers, the Statue of Liberty and two towers wreckage. Blurring and opacity techniques have been used to bled the different symbols coherently into one picture and gives a dreamy, timeless and movie-like touch. There is a repeated use of images in these collages, which stirs a feeling of recognition. The more it is repeated, the more repetition it shows in itself. This falls back on network dynamics; “Spreading leads to more spreading,” Anna Munster writes in An Aesthesia of Networks (2013)8, “The more things go viral, the more they become networked. It folds back on itself in order to replicate, it builds on itself towards one point but simultaneously generates something new; platforms, sensations and unpredictable relations.” — and a new form of collective memory, as I might add. The image is shared and picked up by the collective: the one image is influenced by or created from the other image. And while it is picked up, a little bit of the user is rendered into these images and send along the web. The image, in this sense, is always in transition and refers back to the collective of its creation. Statements are added to keep the memory close, to invoke it. We Will Never Forget, We Will Always Remember, we try to ensure ourselves that we still possess this memory we try to keep near us, even more so in the overwhelming quantity of the web. What is created here, is a collective monument spread along urls, always open to individual additions, interaction and loss and where the actual mediation, the actual collective memory, lies in the repetition and sharing of this mediation. We are looking at a digital Lieu de Mémoire — obviously, we are in need of a new definition.

Google Search by Image, screenshot (October 29 2015)

Designing Time

We have only just tackled the idea of the places of memory and now we have to move our attention to memory developing and fading at a much higher speed in a network that renders relations and experiences in a way we are only beginning to understand. In both concepts, time is everything. Collective memory sets out to connect people from the present to people and events from the past in order to built future memory. Digital time, in comparison to static time as presented by historical writing, is an inherent temporal concept. There is the possibility to publish immediately and what is uploaded can be altered minutes later, sometimes lost forever. With the possibility of the public to be co-writers, designers and editors of collective memory, another memory is generated, which is constituted solely out of the sum of uploads, repetition, edits and deletions of its users; a transformative memory with its context always being processed. As designers and researchers, it becomes apparent that it is just about time we design our relation towards time. Are we makers, interpreters, conservators, archivists, observers, constructers, are we all or maybe we seek to forget? As designers and researchers, we have to distinguish ourselves from the memory creating crowd in order to envision and shape future 'better times'.

  1. Lovink, G., (2011) Networks Without a Cause: A Critique of Social Media, Cambridge and Malden: Polity Press. 

  2. Kitch, C. (2003) ”Mourning in America”: ritual, redemption, and recovery in news narrative after September 11', in: Journalism Studies Vol. 4 (2) pp. 213 — 224. 

  3. Neiger M., Oren Meyers and Eyal Zandberg (eds) (2011) On Media Memory: Collective Memory in a new Media
    Age, Basingstoke and New York: Palgrave Macmillan. 

  4. Donk , A., (2009) 'The Digitization of Memory: Blessing or Curse? A Communication Science Perspective', pp. 1 — 17. Presented at the Media in Transition Conference “MIT6: Stone and Papyrus, Storage and Transmission”, April 24 — 26, 2009, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Boston. 

  5. Ernst, W., Jussi Parikka (ed.) (2013) Digital Memory and the Archive, Minneapolis and London: University of
    Minnesota Press. 

  6. Castells, M. [1996] 2010 The Rise of the Network Society (2nd ed.). West Sussex: Wiley and Blackwell. 

  7. Nora, P. (1989) 'Between Memory and History', in: Representations No. 26, pp. 7 — 24. 

  8. Munster, A.(2013) An Aesthesia of Networks: Conjunctive Experience in Art and Technology, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. 

1.3. Future Fiction

Future thinking is an integral part of human culture. Future imaginations of the Great Escape, Ideal Beauty or Immortality are as old as human beings yet the way to approach them continuously changes. If once beauty was regarded as the beauty in front of God, it later has been symmetry or rather asymmetry while it soon might be the pure inner beauty that counts.

The perspective below provides an overview of the most relevant aspects of future thinking, starting out with the religious belief, which was gradually ousted as gatekeeper of the future by science during enlightenment. At the same time it introduces the transition from the era of science to the post-science era, a period in which scientific expertise is ridiculed, the omnipotence of technology vanishes and knowledge becomes a product.

The post-science era is not turning its back on knowledge but combines it with the sensual. This process might be fueled by the inflationary usage of sensors and transmitters that constantly detect the mood and spirit of the people. Feelings get a value: culturally, politically and in particular economically.

Future Fictions (2014), Theo Deutinger and Stefanos Filippas

Theo Deutinger and Stefanos Filippas developed the timeline Future Fictions for Z33. The wide field of future thinking housed a variety of experts and agenda's over the years. Theo Deutinger and Stefanos Filippas map this domain in a large wall print in which the perspective contains a timeline. They thus take you on a ride through the history, present and future of future thinking. Three extended periods — religion, science and post-science — mark our relation to future thinking, while seven categories attempt to group a wide collection of future visions.

1.4. Dongdaemun Design Plaza

In February, Failed Architecture conducted a short but intensive research workshop (within the Open Set Seoul Sessions framework) on Seoul’s Dongdaemun Design Plaza, designed by the controversial London-based architect Zaha Hadid. Shortly after the workshop, Zaha Hadid passed away at the age of 65, leaving a remarkable legacy. Her building, and the discussions with the workshop participants, inspired Failed Architecture’s René Boer to write the following reflections on the ‘DDP’.

The curved shapes of exit number 1 of the Dongdaemun History and Culture Park underground station are an odd sight in Seoul’s straightforward transport system, and indeed lead to one of the oddest novelties in the South-Korean capital. Passing through the glass doors of exit number 1, you suddenly emerge into the spacious world of Zaha Hadid. Curved, concrete surfaces create an attractive and well-maintained plaza a few meters below street level, characterised by a visual consistency that is rare in a city like Seoul. The irregular contours of the plaza and a large, concrete bridge direct your gaze towards a large structure of an undefined but exciting shape, which is entirely clad in metal plates. It’s the world’s ‘biggest atypical building’, according to one of the signs. So atypical in fact, that it’s hardly a building.

Dongdaemun Design Plaza

It’s indeed more of an ‘architectural landscape’, as Zaha Hadid described it, where the undulating shapes of the exterior and the surrounding public space easily merge into the structure’s irregular interiors. From any position in the surrounding landscape, it’s these architectural motions that lure you into the DDP’s main structure. Receptionists will bow upon your appearance, after which a bright white corridor, that turns out to be a large, spiral staircase, entices the visitor to ascend into the building. At the top, it spits the visitors out again into the crisp, blue-sky afternoon of Seoul’s cold winter days, after which you descend on another curvy surface towards the park. Following the park’s landscaping, you pass through some irregularly shaped pavilions before being conducted back into the main structure.

At first, the DDP seems open and inviting, but the building immediately takes control. Its design is virtuoso but aggressive, leading and misleading its visitors. While Hadid claimed the building wants to ‘make people think’, it feels like a hamster wheel eliminating any opportunity for mindful wandering or independent thoughts. If the DDP hasn’t left you totally numbed, it’s most likely you will wonder about the possible purpose of this whimsical landscape. It’s supposedly a ‘design plaza’, according to its name, but it seems to predominantly consist of impressively designed in-between spaces. Sloping surfaces, empty interiors and curved staircases seem to outnumber spaces with a less transitional character, such as a small, mediocre design museum, some crowded gift shops and occasionally occupied event spaces. Overall, the DDP seem to be a highly instagramable spectacle, without much rationale behind its existence apparent.

This architectural exercise has been conducted at enormous costs. Hundreds of millions of dollars of public funds went into its realisation, and its maintenance costs are said to be exorbitant. While this money could have supported local architects or the city’s SMEs, it covered Hadid’s considerable fees and went straight into the pockets of construction companies affiliated with Samsung, the mega-corporation that already dominates the South-Korean economy. Equally problematic is the DDP’s social impact. Its construction erased a highly symbolic sports complex, which was strongly tied to the city’s modern history and home to a large street vendor community. The displacement of the vendors to the outskirts of the city is probably only the beginning of the wider gentrification processes that the DDP is currently bringing about in Seoul’s Dongdaemun area. Although the complex contains two of the original stadium lights and exhibits on both the archaeological remains and the history of the area, the DDP’s architectural overdose has arguably crushed most of the subtle urban layering of the area.

In return for these financial and social setbacks, Seoul received a major landmark that became instantly famous across the country. While Korean-language hashtags referring to the DDP on twitter and instagram have broken all records, the DDP still has to acquire international fame. Its local popularity is largely the result of the complex’ high-quality public space and architectural features, which could either be interpreted as a refreshing improvement of standards in Dongdaemun or a total denial of the urban context. It does however entice numerous young Koreans in search for a funky place to meet and snap some pictures with their smartphones, but nowhere does it seem to transcend this role. As Jeong Hye Kim wrote on Failed Architecture before, the DDP was built to brand Seoul as a ‘design-capital’, but without a sustained relation with the city’s design community, it remains an empty icon, or a branding tool at best.

Now it’s here, there is no way back. The expertise of Korean architects has been disavowed and the social dynamic and complex history of the Dongdaemun area has been ignored or turned into a museum. The city of Seoul has been saddled with an incredibly expensive foreign object that was futuristic in 2014, and maybe still in 2016, but probably not in 20 years from now. As a toy or a brand, the novelty will wear off quite soon. The only hope for the DDP is probably a serious effort to program its superfluous spaces. Although the local authorities don’t feel like spending much more money on it, the Dongdaemun Design Plaza could, for example, become a real ‘design plaza’ by filling it with a proper institute for contemporary design practices with both local and global connections. Only in this way will Zaha Hadid’s future of 2014 be cherished in the years to come.

René Boer is an urban researcher, part of the Failed Architecture team and currently critic-in-residence at the International Architecture Biennale Rotterdam 2016.

1.5. Nostalgia for a future past

from: De Gids, volume 175, nr. 3 (2012)

What on earth has become of "the year 2000"? As a teenager growing up in the 1960s I pictured us in the new millennium, smoothly hovering along the streets, surrounded in radiant modernity by 'automatic' things. A world which was visualized by the Das brothers as if it was already there. That was the lure of the year 2000 – everything would be different then. The promises of the present, budding in a faltering technology, would magically become reality in the year 2000. With the futile panic of the millennium bug, this enchantment has evaporated like air from a deflating balloon. Our wild imaginations of the future shrinking away, we now look back. How cozy it used to be. And the future looked so much cheerier, back then.

impression Disney town Celebration, Florida

The 1960s and '70s were a time in which utopia was reinvented. After the War, our parents had rebuilt the world from scratch and decided it was time to finish the job permanently now. What had remained standing during the war was in many places enthusiastically torn down after all, or at best seen as obstacle of progress. Nostalgic lumber. I remember with horror how close a large part of the old Amsterdam Nieuwmarkt neighborhood – where I now live – came to falling prey to the tabula rasa approach with which the planners of the city's subway looked at the terrain above it. Still, their motives were optimistic, built on a vision of cheerful and hard working folks in a smoothly organized city which would facilitate life as a well oiled engine. "Away with all your superstitions", the social democrat governors and engineers of Amsterdam must have hummed while erasing the filigree of the city's medieval center, deemed unfit for modern life.

Their utopia is now dystopia. Awake, the dream of radiant modernity appears as a dysfunctional suburb. The year 2000 – so long the gauging point of a great future – transpired to be a fleeting moment of intoxication, after which everything returned to normal. Not a dream but reality. It is like the philosopher Ernst Bloch remarked: "The here-and-now lacks distance, which, although alienating, produces clarity and overview.1 Therefore, immediacy, in which reality takes place, is experienced as essentially darker than the dream image, even from time to time without form, and void."

Not Yet

Bloch is the philosopher of utopia as guideline for acting hopefully in the grey reality of the now. His stressing of the importance and value of the present is remarkable and in his days – the first half of the last century, a bloody battle ground of utopias of various kinds – almost masochistic. Bloch is less concerned with a specific goal as he is with the way to reach it, the process that takes place in the now. The essence of his philosophy is to regard the world and any meaningful human activity in it as "noch nicht." These two words – "not yet" – are the most concise way to connect present and future. Bloch contrasts his thought with that of Freud, who according to him doesn't reach beyond "nicht mehr" – "no more." For isn't the Freudian subconscious the forgotten, the repressed, the "no-more-conscious" which has quite literally sunk below the threshold of consciousness? "All psychoanalysis," Bloch summarizes his critique on Freud, "is therefore by necessity retrospective." As phenomenologically inspired Marxist he sees the Freudian subconscious as an expression of a bourgeois "class beyond its expiry date, in a society without future." Aurora versus twilight: "The not-yet-conscious is the psychic imagination of the not-yet-existent in a certain time and in its world, at the frontier of the world." The imagination of man, daydreaming.

In all his future-prone idealism – and he is among many who made the mistake of defending Stalinism as 'realized utopia' – Bloch is primarily the philosopher of the dynamic now, of 'yet.' That distinguishes him from utopists who pin down the imagined future as something that is a fact for all intents and purposes – something that merely needs to be realized. It is the planners' hubris, the intractable ambition of designers, of modernism tout court. For designers and planners in the modernist tradition the design is a model, which once made is fixed – not a proposal but a prescription. Not a process but a product. The result is that the design's links with present and past are severed. The design is 'immediate' in the sense Bloch meant, and yet distanced. Real and yet unrealized. A modernist design is absolute. It exists beyond time.2

The modernist claim of objectivity and the ensuing procedures for design and social construction have been increasingly criticized from the 1960s onward. Functionalism – modernism's design methodology – reduces not only the built environment and the useful products that furnish it to their respective functions, but also the people in it. One is a pedestrian or driver, clerk or worker, traveller or resident, and design provides each of those functions with a tailored environment: bicycle paths, highways, office towers, factories, train stations, suburbs. The connections between all of this are a matter of logistics, not of sentiment. But sentiment is hard to eradicate. The defenders of the old tight city fabric with its small houses in the Amsterdam Nieuwmarkt neighborhood grounded their actions on a sentiment, which connected the past to the future while improvising the present. Working from a 'pre-consciousness' of a better world – not a grand design. Human dimension and human action versus the 'human function.' Theirs was the not-yet-crystalized imagination of the daydream – not that of the Das brothers. In the daydream, according to Bloch, "the important destination of the not-yet-conscious is revealed;" hope, a sentiment that demands people to "actively leap into the burgeoning world." There is a DIY element in this thought that makes Bloch topical once again in our times...


Since the fall of the Berlin Wall and the demise of the Soviet Union in the late 1980s, utopia has become suspect once again. Countless thinkers have declared and analyzed its end, and while they were at it also proclaimed the end of history, politics and, why not, the future itself. It seemed that, in the 1990s, at the threshold of the year 2000, we were not simply on the brink of a new era, but that the new millennium would herald the end of time per se. Perhaps Karl Mannheim, the knowledge sociologist, was right when – even before the war – he worried that "in the future, in a world in which there is never anything new, in which all is finished and each moment is a repetition of the past, there can exist a condition in which thought will be utterly devoid of all ideology and utopian elements"?

Mannheim's fears resound in a recent essay by cultural critic Kurt Andersen in Vanity Fair.3 He remarked that in the past twenty years – roughly the first two decades of the 21st century – there have been massive changes especially in the technological organization of our lives, but that these are hardly reflected in stylistic innovation, apart from a few really new digital gadgets. This is strange. Compare and contrast the attire and interior decoration of someone in 1992 with how the same person dressed and lived in 1972, and you'll see an almost total make-over. Try and do the same with images from 1992 and 2012 and you'll have great difficulty assigning each the right date. Andersen calls it the two Great Paradoxes of Contemporary Cultural History. The first is that the past older than twenty years seems to take place on a different planet while the recent past has been the spitting image of the present for the last two decades. The second paradox is that this freezing of stylistic innovation coincides with a public obsession with style on a scale never seen before. Strangely enough, he writes, this intensified consciousness of style does not lead people to look for new and unseen things, but to hark back to what has been there all along. It has been observed by others as well, that the past decades are marked by a penchant toward the past, a nostalgic hindsight. The year 2000 has become retro.

Andersen explains the current lack of stylistic innovation in part as a compensation for radical changes in other social arenas – the digital revolution, the ongoing reshuffling of world power and other disruptions; nostalgia-in-times-of-insecurity flavored with a hint of Decline-of-the-West. But he locates the main cause in the economization of culture, which is fatal for culture’s aesthetic and stylistic innovation: "We seem to have trapped ourselves in a vicious cycle — economic progress and innovation stagnated, except in information technology; which leads us to embrace the past and turn the present into a pleasantly eclectic for-profit museum; which deprives the cultures of innovation of the fuel they need to conjure genuinely new ideas and forms; which deters radical change, reinforcing the economic (and political) stagnation." That this vicious cycle is not broken is caused by the intensive commodification of culture. Self expression, this essential driver of style, has become a consumer product available for larger markets than ever, which consequently is provided as mass product by an ever growing Kulturindustrie, as Adorno termed it.

Thinking of Adorno – read through the lens of Baudrillard –, one may also see the stylistic stagnation as a perversion of functionalism, specifically when it comes to the design assumptions behind these mass products. For modernist functionalism is at the root of design; a design needs to be functional. But functional for what, for whom? Once, this functionality lay in the inherent usefulness of the product, the way it fulfilled a user's need. Nowadays, the focus has shifted to how the product is functional to its producer. Anything that keeps the wheels of industry turning is functional. Use as social function is narrowed (or dumbed) down to economic function, and revenue dictates the production process. So when a product sells well, its manufacturer's competitor will not think "how can we make something like this, but better?" but "how can we make this same thing, cheaper?" The all important function of a product thus becomes its potential to hitch a ride on the bandwagon of commercial success. Innovation stagnates while the market – read: the producer – thirsts after new products. What, in this mirror palace of self-replicating life-style industries, is more obvious than copying proven successes from the past, marginally adapting them and market them as new?

impression Disney town Celebration, Florida


The introduction, around the year 2000, of the Volkswagen New Beetle (1998) and the Chrysler PT Cruiser (2000), heralded the definitive demise of modernism. The only functionality of the design of these cars was a cheeky sentimental one. The PT Cruiser was a family car inspired by cool hot rods from the 1930s and 1940s, low-browed muscle cars in which American young men used to dare each other, cruising along Main Street or in hair raising short track races in the suburbs. The PT Cruiser placed this testosterone surrogate in the hands of the average office clerk to pose like a rebel without a cause and still have place for his two-and-a-half kid on the back seat. Convenient. Sales statistics showed that the car was especially popular with women, which was probably even more lethal for its robust image than the weak engine and the poor driving qualities. Production of the car, a huge success in its early years, was terminated in 2011. It had become outmoded.

The evolution of the Volkswagen Beetle to the New Beetle reflects the course of recent history; from diligent thrift to droll opulence. The New Beetle is technically closer to its current bigger brothers like Mercedes or Audi than to the bashful working man's car it once was. It's a lot fatter too. The Beetle and Cruiser can be filed as two of the earliest large-scale retro products of the new millennium. The start of a still rising swell of things that pretend they are of old, icons of a nostalgic longing for an idealized past. On the road they were followed by updated versions of the Fiat 500 'Topolino' and the Mini, cars once designed for the common man and now upgraded to toys for young and hip urbanites. Fitted with everything a modern car needs on the inside in terms of power, ease of use, safety and economy; pure styling on the outside. Remarkable in the design of all of these cars is its cuteness. A cartoonish charm of which the effect is comparable with the smile of nostalgic recognition triggered by old photos; how young and sweet and clumsy we were back then. And so authentic.

It is nostalgia of the sweetest kind. A longing for better days, softened by additions of luxury we would definitively not want to do without. The simplicity of the past with today's amenities. If you've ever driven an original Topolino, you'll recognize the incongruities. You can also call it a disorder of the imagination, the description given to the pathology of nostalgia by 19th century medicine.

Nostalgia is a word that, syntactically at least, does what it says: it seems to hark back to an august past but is in fact a relatively recent construction. The classical Greek sound denotes a problem that was only diagnosed in the 17th century. A Swiss doctor, Hofer, used the combination of νόστος (home coming) and ἄλγος (pain, longing) to describe the sometimes lethal afflictions and panic attacks he found with Swiss mercenary soldiers abroad. In the ensuing medical literature, nostalgia was classified as variant of melancholy and as such a suicide risk. In the 19th- and 20th century this psychopathology gives way to a more general description – a curable yearning for a geographic home changes into an incurable ache for times gone. Already in 1798 Kant had remarked that people who returned to their coveted Heim after years of absence were often disappointed; they had not so much longed after the place they had left, as the times they had lived there. Nostalgia is the woeful response to the fact that one cannot turn back time.

In her essay "Irony, Nostalgia and the Postmodern," Linda Hutcheon reminds us of this history of the term, departing from the thought that postmodern irony seems to preclude any idea of nostalgia. 4 Insatiable longing doesn't tolerate ironic distance and critique. But Hutcheon – a leading expert on postmodern irony – sees a parallel between the two concepts: their two-faced nature. They are both ambiguous, a term with paradigmatic status in postmodern theory. Irony says what it doesn't say; and nostalgia projects an idealized past onto a disappointing present. The effect of both terms – of both affects – is disrupting. Of course, as Hutcheon also observes, there is undiluted nostalgia, which radically rejects the present and obsessively tries to re-stage the past. Disney's Celebration, for instance, a gated community just outside Disneyland in Florida, is a decidedly un-ironic retro-utopia, a really existing fantasy modeled on a 1950s version of the American Dream. But the cars mentioned above seamlessly match nostalgia and irony. As Hutcheon remarks in another context: "...invoked but, at the same time, undercut, put into perspective, seen for exactly what it is – a comment on the present as much as on the past." In the postmodern version, that is, "nostalgia itself gets both called up, exploited, and ironized."

In our context, we are reminded of Bloch's critical view on psychoanalysis. For the rise of postmodernism coincides with a renewed interpretation of Freud's work, and it is not so hard to view postmodernism's fascination for his "necessarily retrospective" analysis as sign of our culture's uneasy relationship with the present. Nostalgia and irony are expressions of this unease: they undermine the here-and-now. "If the present is considered irredeemable," says Hutcheon, "you can look either back or forward." That is also the analogy between nostalgia and utopia; they both reject the present, albeit in opposite directions. Still nostalgia is not necessarily the reverse of utopia, as cultural historian Andreas Huyssen remarks.5 He infers a shift in our time of the "temporal organization of the utopian imagination from its futuristic pole toward the pole of remembrance." Utopia and the past, rather than utopia and the year 2000. If in other words we are imagining a future now, it is that of the past. A past in which we could still daydream expectantly about how nice life would be thirty to forty years from now. But that is a future without present, or – worse – one that considers the present as its repressed failure. The present of disenchanted baby-boomers who have abandoned their former utopian zeal and have left any serious engagement as 'so nineteen sixties' behind them. It is the present of "the prison of mere presence, in which we cannot even move nor breathe," as Bloch formulated it in his late years. This insight emphatically points us to the necessity of utopia, once again. Not as a model but as a prospect for action, as pre-consciousness of a deep rooted longing for a future which we have not yet realized. Or in the words of Huyssen: "The end of utopia, it turns out, is the end of the real."

  1. Ernst Bloch, Das Prinzip Hoffnung. Frankfurt am Main, 1959 (written in the US between 1938 and 1947) 

  2. Max Bruinsma, An Ideal Design is 'Not Yet'. Amsterdam, 1999 

  3. Kurt Andersen, You Say You Want a Devolution? Vanity Fair, January 2012 

  4. Linda Hutcheon, Irony, Nostalgia and the Postmodern. Toronto, 1998 

  5. Andreas Huyssen, Twilight Memories - Making Time in a Culture of Amnesia. New York, 1995 

1.6. From Cabin to Castle to Capsule:
The End of Design

Seoul-based web art group Young-hae Chang Heavy Industries hereby presents their powerful 'prose poem', which will also serve as an introduction to a workshop for the upcoming Open Set programme.

We live in an object-oriented, consumer-driven world, where big is beautiful, if not badass, and more is not enough. Small may be beautiful, too, but needs critical mass -- not just a big price tag. We're surrounded by much body fat and stuff, hoarding everything but the immaterial -- sorry, you can do that, too. Certain people in the know say that our conspicuous consumption, our logo-laden lifestyle, is the end of history. To shop until we drop. Curtain. But you know that. What you may not know is that humankind's shopping spree from cave to McMansion is the history of the end of design. Although we may be fulfilling our civic duty by buying things, in the process we're making a mess of the planet. It's time to downsize, or else. And some are. We see it all around us. More and more people are, for lack of upward mobility or as a spiritual or intellectual exercise in denial, living in tiny, often transient spaces with few belongings and little notice for design: the poor, the homeless, the incarcerated, the elderly, retirees, refugees, soldiers, boarders, squatters, artists in residence, minimalists, clerics, space-station astronauts, campers, nomads, long-haul truck drivers, orphans, Harry Potter, Cormoran Strike, Jack Reacher, philosophers, bohemians, Japanese . . . They are, unbeknown to many of themselves, design visionaries. What can designers contribute to this growing albeit mostly unwilling progressive movement? What can they contribute in a world where all of us, in order to survive, must radically reduce our footprint?

Young-hae Chang (KR) and Marc Voge (US), the two great experts behind YHCHI, were recent Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Center Creative Arts Fellows. YHCHI has done their signature animated texts set to their own music in 26 languages and shown many of them at some of the major art institutions in the world, including Tate, Centre Pompidou, Whitney Museum and New Museum.

1.7. The Joys and Sorrows of the Whole Story

The trend seems inescapable. Designers and artists are enthusiastically implementing new quantified data and research methods into their work, a development that has recently come to the foreground.

Research and investigative practices have become an integral part of the (artistic) design practice. With the exponential growth of information due to digitisation, and the ubiquitous access to it, it has become obvious as well as necessary to readily seek information, imagery and other data from many different sources. As such, digitisation not only influences the output of designers, it also influences their process intimately. In contemporary design practice we are increasingly encountering projects where designers qualitatively gather, map and frame research data. The core intention of this development is usually to give insight into and comment upon complex (social) subjects and themes.

Research activities in relation to design such as Critical Design1, Social Design2 and Generative Research3, are now more popular and present than ever before. Regardless of the medium or approach used, such investigative practices require a designer to employ some form of memory, and inherently many of the qualitative research results take the form of memories. However, many designers in practice do not consciously refer to the cultural and instrumental role of memories. A large part of the development of research becoming intrinsic to the design process, is attributable to the proliferation of digital media and techniques. And with the development of new digital techniques designers are now also increasingly incorporating digital research methods into their approach. If we want to say something about these methods, it helps to think of the digital medium as one continuous whole, with different forms of expression defining different forms of representational affordances4.

According to Murray, the digital medium holds four affordances; encyclopaedic (it can store and transmit in humanly accessible form more information than all previous media), spatial (we can visualise any type of model), procedural (it allows the creation of conditional behaviour) and participatory (requiring active participation from its users, as well as allowing them to interact with each other).

Each of these affordances can be seen as being part of contemporary projects and design practice. Under the influence of these affordances, creatives try to improve the quality of their work, opening up new modes of navigation and presentation, defining and shaping processes, initiating interactions with the audience and the storing of large amounts of data, in order to derive promising conclusions.

Contemporary approaches

Design studio Moniker, consisting of Luna Maurer, Jonathan Puckey and Roel Wouters, share a similar approach in their work. Through self-initiated projects and assignments they research the social effects of technology, how people use technology and how it influences daily life, among other things. Often they invite the public to be a part of their interactive, installation and performance projects.

We can also observe this in Place a Stone5, a monument on the Dam Square in Amsterdam for the victims that perished during the shooting on the 7th of May 1945, two days after the German capitulation in Holland. The monument is developed with the help of thousands of visitors through Every participant is invited to place his or her stone, and register the names of the thirty-one victims in this manner. In this case, it’s clear how Murray’s affordances map across this project: it is participatory, it uses a procedural system to spatially visualise the names of the victims (encyclopaedic) in unique memorial stones, created by the participants.

Moniker, Place a Stone (2016)

This is also the case with Red Follows Yellow Follows Blue Follows Red6, in which the audience is literally connected to the results of the research. In the project the audience is transformed into a troupe of actors. Every member of the audience receives a pair of headphones with a red, blue, or yellow cape and is asked to follow instructions. With this project Moniker researches the possibilities and pitfalls of the organisation of groups of people. In this project the affordances of the digital medium clearly show themselves: procedures defining conditional behaviour, participatory action from an audience creating spatial structures that allow the viewer to examine and study the effects of the interaction between the mob and the individual (encyclopaedic).

Moniker, Red Follows Yellow Follows Blue Follows Red (2016)

Strengths and weaknesses

As the digital medium is still developing, each of its affordances presents us also with potential risks. While the encyclopaedic capabilities allow us access to enormous troves of information, it also opens the door to unlimited data retention by governments and commercial parties. The procedural affordance is highly dependent on the entity that ‘scripts’ the behaviour. We’ve already seen examples of how systems, when in place, become hard to remove, while their behaviour is determined by whoever holds the power to change said behaviour. Should we assume this is and will always be done by a benevolent designer? Similarly the environments we navigate can be designed in such a way that they only show that which is of best interest to the creator (or host, as is often the case in social media). Similarly, the participatory affordance is often assumed to indicate equal participation, while there are no means intrinsic to the medium to ensure this.

This, in turn, comes to bear upon projects in different ways. For instance, to what type of criticism do we open ourselves up if we adapt these methods with a poor understanding of their strengths and weaknesses? While there is merit in incorporating more contemporary digital methodologies into the research of designers, we should tread carefully. Computer programs and algorithms are governed by our expectations and lead to very limited conclusions.

The question then arises of whether any truths can be gained from data that is collected very subjectively. Isn’t this risky? Self-created initiatives that can never be an essential representation of reality are blindly carried through. We run the risk of regressing into only commenting on reality, instead of being an active part in shaping it.

We should also acknowledge the flagrant violation of privacy we’ve seen over the past few years in regards to the collection of people's data. First it was governments and commercial entities, now it is also designers and artists who want to gain insights into behavioural patterns, interests, and developments within society. The most innovative techniques are introduced to direct and analyse society, yet the retention and registration of data isn’t democratic at all. Data represents a value. In the hands of the designer, artist or initiator they run the risk of becoming a handsome tool for neoliberal capitalism.

Nevertheless interesting and refreshing designs come out of this contemporary method of operation. However, the impact and reach of such artistic research is frequently limited when it comes to the audience at large. An extensive part of these initiatives travels no further than the art and design circuit and remains at a distance from the audience that could possibly profit from the outcomes. Part of this may have to do with the individual and inwardly focused nature of the type of research activities and knowledge production that designers currently do. We should strive to ensure that projects using these techniques reach a large audience, increasing awareness of and reflection on their impact, as well as strive to create knowledge that is democratic, and involves many different types of people. As such, the research activities of designers should not only be aimed at the realization of new work, but also at knowledge creation that is open, shared and created collaboratively and co-operatively7.

Promising approaches

And yet, it would be a loss if the creative mind ignored this overload of information. Society has become a digital society after all, with a daily reliance on social media channels and a phone full of software.

This is a development that the artist Constant Dullaart uses intelligently in his work. He prefers an approach in which he does not use online data literally, but tries to subvert the processes of its collection. The motivation for his project The Possibility of an Army8 is that the sale of likes and followers on social media has become the order of the day for celebrities, companies and even news media and political parties. Dullaart feels this is a strange development and should be halted. “The possibility of an army” is a virtual “army” of 20.000 fake accounts on Facebook who massively like, share and follow unknown persons or companies, in order to generate celebrity. With the project Dullaart reflects critically on the sale of popularity on social media, fake accounts and the distorted value that people attribute to the numbers of likes or followers.

Constant Dullaart, The Possibility of an Army (2015)

Why would creatives limit themselves and convulsively cling to deficient initiatives, if they can also respond from a distance, or from a sober perspective on scientific developments?

We encounter a promising development in artist Floris Kaayk who chooses a more playful approach to medical science. He recently launched the project The Modular Body9, an online scenario in which a scientist grows his own cells into organs and limbs. These ‘modules’ come together until the so-called creature ‘Oscar’ is born. Numerous fake videos show the clichéd image of the ‘spectacular medical discovery’ including the well known laboratories, white coats, schematic representation (for lay-people), ethics about ‘the rights of Oscar’ and of course the vlogger. The message is clear. News about medical science is usually a mix of science fiction and entertainment, instead of a development that truly allows us to progress.

Floris Kaayk, The Modular Body (2016)
Floris Kaayk, The Modular Body (2016)

Nuances in human existence

In the end, working within the digital environment brings many benefits to designers. The scale that is attainable by one individual is immense, both geographically as well as in terms of volume. Similarly its breadth allows designers to reach out to any subject matter expert. Its speed allows for immediate realisation of a project, that can be updated, adjusted and improved as the audience reacts to it. Yet at the same time, there are a number of pitfalls. Building on the results of others, without knowing the context of those results is seductive but not desirable. Its speed opens the door to miscommunication and misinterpretation. The question that should continually be in the back of our minds is whether the registration and retention of all this data as well as the procedural and participatory scripting of behaviour does justice to the nuances of human existence? Our arbitrariness, imperfections, emotions and complexities of social ties are simply hard to express in data. Reality is much messier and not to be captured in a few numbers after all. Data forms only a limited part of our reality. Does registering and analysing the limited observable part have any use?

This leaves designers with quite some considerations to take into account when working and researching in the contemporary digital environment. We should not naively gloss over the intricacies as well as the implications of technology. Wild projects and large-scale research can be done, but don’t underestimate the negative impact what it might bring about. The large scale at which we are now able to work forces us to consider how to deal with collectivity and what parts of our work remain present within the collective memory that we, as design-experts, shape. We must not only feel responsible for our own work, but also for what our works means to the practice, as well as society.

  1. Dunne, A., & Raby, F. (2013). Speculative Everything: Design, Fiction, and Social Dreaming. MIT Press. 

  2. Bruinsma, M. (2016). Introduction of The Utrecht Manifesto. Design Issues. Vol. 32, No. 2, pp. 37 – 42. Massachusetts Institute of Technology. 

  3. Stappers P.J. & Sanders E.B. (2013). The Convivial Toolbox: Generative Research for the Front End of Design. BIS Publishers. 

  4. Murray, J. H. (2011). Inventing the Medium. Principles of Interaction Design as a Cultural Practice. MIT Press. 

  5. Moniker (2016). Place a Stone. Participatory memorial in Amsterdam. and 

  6. Moniker (2016). Red Follows Yellow Follows Blue Follows Red. Participatory performance. 

  7. Press, M (2016). The resourceful social expert: Defining the future craft of design research | BIRD, Design as Research: Positions, Arguments, Perspectives. Board of International Research in Design. Birkhäuser.  

  8. Dullaart, C. The Possibility of an Army (2015) 

  9. Kaayk, F. The Modular Body (2016) 

1.8. A Short Dossier, Open Set 2016

Essay by Aidan Celeste (participant Summer School 2016 in Rotterdam)

In Ariadne Quarter

Log on to the Kunstblock website and switch the language from Dutch to English. By doing so, Google Translate adopts in Ariadne Quarter for het Witte de Withkwartier. Ariadne led Theseus away from a minotaur and its labyrinth by placing a line of thread at the front of the gate. While the myth celebrates blind love and dexterity, the plot revolves around the figure of a designer, one who hacks a complex maze with a simple tool, as a gift, and saves our hero from reaching a dead end.

An online query for #rotterdam provides a list of staff reports and press statements that dictate the narrative of its rebirth, the global minotaur, and its role as a port city. Historically, I’m also supposed to tell you that Rotterdam was flattened in the Second World War and instead of using the past to rebuild and restore, the past is used as a good reason to play with the future of architecture. Rotterdam is now going on seventy-five years and the playful idea of a fictional quarter such as Ariadne’s can read a lot like a tarot card of a small city and its international ambition. Much like the interpretation of Google Translate, this could also be an involuntary error that leads us astray. However, to play along with this vision of Rotterdam, how does our own automata of thought, intuitive memory, fare against the demands of history?

In het Witte De Withkwartier

The artist duo Bik Van der Pol invited Open Set for a personal account of the arts in the same quarter. Their interpretation started with the expo ‘WERE IT IS AS IF’, the second step in a programme celebrating the 25-year legacy of our mutual host, Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art. The intervention allowed each artist to survey the institute's history and compile a checklist of artefacts that are now on display on the second floor of the same building. Each object of art is neatly placed on a circuit of metal shelves and used by a series of guest speakers to tell their own story about the centre. The viewer can listen to the tour and/or walk around each circuit across two distinct halls, one on the left side of the building and the other on right, and thus go on to examine an array of objects at a glance, or zoom in for a close-up at will.

Except for a tradition that obliges every visitor at a museum to step away from the object of art and non toccare, there is no glass barrier or vitrine, nor a formal label that is ready to dictate the meaning of each and every object on this display. The artists Bik Van der Pol refuse this mode of conduct. Instead, the setup of the exhibition is simple and its title is made to propose a condition for interpretation. This provides an explicit gap of information, one that can be filled with a personal account; first of an object, and then of an object of art curated by a guest speaker. True, it is still frustrating to stand there and not know what it is you’re looking at, but it is in this gap that memory can take over history. In contrast to our brief encounters as outsiders, the three speakers invited to give a tour hang on to this memory and articulate its legacy with a personal account of each expo at every interval.

The three guests are selected by the centre, and as a collective, create a shared memory of a place that we mostly know through hearsay, this exhibition, and an ad hoc list of resources. However, what would a curator from Worm, Showroom Mama, V2_Institute, or CBK Rotterdam produce in response to, say, the single bottle of red Perseverance (Atelier Van Lieshout) from the opening ceremony of Tent in 2014? If dialogue is not sufficient, it is still possible to interpret the impact of one specific exposition by presenting another object of art from the Kunstblock’s memory. If not from its real history, it could be an imaginary object, or another version of the same concept made elsewhere that can nevertheless elicit another future. As an ad hoc group of artists, designers and DIY tinkerers from all over the globe, plurality and collaboration are one of the many ethical parameters we questioned in a set of workshops with Open Set and the other institutes on the Kunstblock.

Once the exhibition is open to the public, and picked up as a conversation or as an organised tour, ‘WERE IT IS AS IF’ becomes an intermediary for memory. What the artists provide is an interval. This allows ample space for exploitation and encourages a personal interpretation geared towards a new idea of the future as opposed to an empirical presentation about its past. It is from the privileged position of working with the arts that design can also tamper with historical fact and instead, establish a place for non-fiction.

The tour through the exhibition ‘WERE IT IS AS IF’ by the artistis Bik Van der Pol

It is a Prototype

In design terminology, ‘WERE IT IS AS IF’ is the ultimate error of the institute’s archive. It is not a finished product or a complete history. It has missing parts, mock objects, details that are still not identified, facsimiles, notes on paper, programmes, ephemera, and all sorts of innocent documents reproduced for the occasion. It is in its vulnerability that memory emphasizes one aspect and forgets the other, such that any other personal testimony is essential in order to identify what is significant. In effect, this is how the artists Bik Van der Pol provoke a legacy, or a myth, that is indebted to the institute’s history as much as the work of its artists, its curators, and their memory in concert.

Workshop 'Staging the Message. Strategy, Method and Language Use', by Els Kuijpers & Rick Poynor

To explore this tension between fact and fiction, Open Set focused on how workshops can use memory to exorcise the past and develop ideas into the future. Dr Sebastian Groes (UK) introduced the memory palace, a classical technique from the Renaissance that served scholarship as a conceptual aid to categorise, retrieve information, and heighten the illusion of clarity. It is a very useful method of coping with a barrage of media over the web, a labyrinth that we are all familiar with in this day and age. Other speakers, such as Rick Poynor (UK) and Els Kuijpers (NL) focused on the tension that results from interrupting the pre-set models of how such a labyrinth can work against narrow classifications. Their approach applied the dialogic process of editing to a collection of images for the purpose of creating a visual narrative without a single destination. However, with all our misgivings about the readymade limits of design platforms, hyperlinks, online apps, and the ever so easy distinction between linear history and its dialogic counterpart, some of us opted to break our own automata of thought with a voluntary error against memory.

A selection of these prototypes are listed below.

Prototype 1. Produced for a workshop by Thought Collider and Dr. Alexandre Mottae. Designed by Aidan Celeste, Lori Dersak, and Laura Ettedgui

Prototype 1: The climbing frame in this picture was designed to be installed in a public playground and to introduce instability into a repetitive obstacle course. The monkey bars are uneven and impossible to swing through from start to finish. If you do volunteer to take part, the only option is to try, fall off, and decide whether to fall off again, or to go on to the safer choices in the playground. The narrative implies that the error is useful for building resilience and can be dealt with with the most minor of accidents.

Prototype 2. Produced for a workshop by Rejane dal Bello, Bruno Setola & Liza Enebeis. Designed by Cristina Noguer and Jonathan Castro

Prototype 2: The performance was designed to greet a sci-fi scenario with an alien encounter. In order to do so, Cristina Noguer and Jonathan Castro decided to focus on their intuitive skills and build empathy through music. Once their noise stirred a reaction from the guest playing the role of the alien, the musicians made further eye contact to let the alien turn the performance into something easy to listen to and establish a peaceful ‘welcome’.

Prototype 3. Produced for a workshop by Els Kuijpers & Rick Poynor. Designed by Cristina Noguer, Alexandra van der Eijk, and Pallavi Gupta

Prototype 3: The moving image features a sequence of images that were clipped together as a diorama and used explicit glitches that pixilate the transition between each frame.

The diorama pictured above depicts the Anthropocene era and its fallout. It was created by the participants to inspire empathy among humankind and cooperation between the arts and the sciences. Romantic notions of science are usually played down, or at least, are less evident than they are in the arts. By explicitly presenting a fictional scenario of this era and its fallout, the Anthropocene is presented as an ethical choice we have to make as opposed to a technical problem we have to solve.

The audience, including myself, were somewhat stunned by how immersive simple techniques can be. For instance, as opposed to the complicated presentation of a visual story in a dialogic format with multiple points of focus, the diorama presents a linear sequence of images that are a bit less specific and thus, still open to a different reading.

Bio: Aidan Celeste is interested in collections and how we organise information with a personal encounter. In the past two years he has participated in several festivals and programmed a series of art house films in Malta and at the odd cinema abroad. He recently moved to the Netherlands to study curating with emerging media. In Rotterdam he joined V2_ as an archivist in training and was invited to assist the senior curator in the development of ‘Data in the 21st Century’, an exhibition about our everyday relationship with big data. During this project he coordinated its production and curated a select list of projects, including HIT (2016), a performance by the artists Max Dovey and Manetta Berends. Celeste’s interest in curating is twofold. He is a trained archivist with a loyalty to the artist’s original intent, and a curator who wants to exploit the object of art with the audience and their own interpretation.

2. Interviews

2.1. Utopian Education

Interview by Jenna Kang (participant Open Set Seoul Sessions 2016)

FFrom February 20-22, I participated in Annelys de Vet her workshop as part of Open Set Seoul. Annelys is a Belgium-based Dutch designer who developed a participatory design method in order to realise her Subjective Atlases. As course director of the Design Department, she works at The Sandberg Instituut in Amsterdam.

On the first day of the workshop, students were given the assignment to visualise data about the Kookmin University campus. It was a version of Kookmin University Unmapping the World. After each student’s presentation, we talked about Utopian Education. On the second day, we discussed details about how to build an ‘idealistic school’ in the form of two teams. Lastly, two teams shared and presented a view of each school’s rules and subjects after which we wrapped up the workshop.

The workshop was related to the theme of Memories of the Future from Open Set Seoul this year. We started by questioning and doubting the status quo of the current education system after which we visualised our utopian education. A large number of students from Kookmin University and Sandberg Instituut took part in Open Set. It was easy to compare the educational systems of Korea and the Netherlands. I became more curious about Annelys’ way of working and her way of seeing the world. I interviewed her about her work and thinking.

Why did you choose to be part of Open Set this year with its theme of Memories of the Future?

I was invited to be a tutor in this context. I feel that my work and way of working, has strong connections with the theme of this Open Set session. In my practice I find ways of mapping identity and using design in order to conduct a dialogue and visualise an identity, which is also about belonging and imagining different futures.

What were your initial thoughts on Unmapping the World?

In a former cartographic institution in Portugal, I witnessed an amazing collection of historical maps and realised how the European history of mapping coincides with 17th and 18th century colonial practices. I realised that this mapping practice actually equals Western Colonialism, in a sense that there is a Western way of thinking and mapping the world. There are so many ways of describing the world. What I saw there was the ultimate form of top-down mapping, and not a bottom-up way of mapping. I strive to think beyond traditional status quo within mapping practices. Not to re-map things within the same methodology, but to re-think the methodology with which we map the world, and thus un-mapping. Unlearn what we know.

Why do you think you’ve had such a good response from people with the Subjective Atlases?

It’s not just a project, it’s a way of working, a design methodology. In a way, I offer a model of working, based on the invitation of another cultural organisation. The local organisation invites other people to contribute. During a workshop we organise together, we investigate with the participants what identifies them and how to express that.

What values would you like to share and capture?

There is a lot of humour involved in the project, and the atlas itself. It is beyond ego, not about design as a style. It is really about design as a way to bridge the gap with the other. Design as a tool for intercultural dialogue.

Subjective atlas of Mexico (2011), Annelys de Vet

Would you be happy if someone else used your methodology of the Subjective Atlas?

Yes. I like to see design as a virus, in a positive way. As something that can spread itself. Of course I assume I will be informed or asked, and that things will be done with respect if someone uses my methodology. I see possibilities of people copying it, but they should also find out their own angle, or their own context, or look me up in order to collaborate.

From your interview with Kristian Mandma in the Subjective Atlas of the EU, comes the notion that design is like storytelling. Could you tell me more?

Design is storytelling. What’s interesting in thinking about storytelling is that a story is a more relational thing than a design is per se. A story relates things. There’s a storyline. There’s a beginning. There’s an end. There’s a meaning. There’s a context. If you think about a design as a story, you are triggered to think about it in a more contextual and relational form. If you think more about the layout, typeface, structure, you are thinking of design more as a form, or as a way of structuring information. If you think about design as storytelling, there’s another way of making decisions within the design. In relation to the Subjective Atlas, even though the book is a product of a process, 'It's a tool or strategy in order to have this dialogue regarding identity, to share this with others and come together, a way of giving room to this discussion. More than this book being the best design book, it's a tool within this structure.'

Personally I got to know your name first through Droog Design, can you talk about your products for Droog Design?

For Everything There is Season (Tea Towel Series)
You can consider the tea towel series a bit as a “Subjective Atlas” in a way of thinking and seeing. The set forms a calendar of twelve months. Every tea towel is for one month. It captures a series of words. It maps certain phenomena with words that relate to cultural, natural and geographical aspects of each month. For instance, we have a saying in Dutch: “April doet wat hij wil”, meaning “April does whatever it wants” which refers to the unpredictable weather conditions this month. So in April, we can have freezing cold and stormy weather, while the next day can be a summer day and hot. So I made an overview of words to describe the weather conditions that we can have in April. One can consider it as poetry in the house. Altogether the 12 tea towels narrate about Dutch culture.

My Cup of Thought
What happens often while you drink coffee — is that your philosophical thoughts about the world, environment and politics develop. While drinking coffee, you are usually with others and talk about these thoughts. The cup and saucer is a set of words, such as ‘The illusion of doubts’. If you turn around the saucer, it becomes ‘The illusion of politics’. All the words in the cup relate to democracy and the masses (How mass opinion is being shaped) The combination of words becomes a philosophical statement. They are serious, and yet light-hearted, triggering your thoughts while sipping coffee.

Regarding your thoughts on education, why did you want students to imagine Utopian Education in the workshop?

Initially my idea was a bit different about the workshop, but on the first night and day, we had so many conversations about education — both in Korea and in the Netherlands. My first question during the workshop was to map the students’ environment, but I felt that what the students brought back wasn’t so imaginative, it didn’t trigger or open up thinking. There was not enough abstraction, fantasy and passion included. So I decided to reformulate my question to let the students imagine their education with more passion. The moment when I asked students about what would be the utopian form of their education, immediately I heard enthusiasm and vulnerability in the voices, and fantasy. I realised that that was the right question, which was actually inspired by a quote from Oscar Wilde, “A map of the world that does not include Utopia is not worth even glancing at, for it leaves out the one country at which humanity is always landing. And when humanity lands there, it looks out, and, seeing a better country, sets sail. Progress is the realisation of Utopias.” The university is already there, but not the utopian version. And that is what we mapped during our workshop.

Subjective atlas of Hungary (2011), Annelys de Vet

Can you talk more about education at The Sandberg Instituut?

My ideal form of education is education without tutors. Students form the education. They do what they feel is important to do. But if there are no tutors or institute, this won’t take place. Even though it is my utopia, at the same time I accept the fact that in order to achieve this, we need tutors and institutes. What I do as department head is figuring out the right balance, where students feel super motivated to initiate and tutors are there to guide them in this self directed process. We as a team support them in their initiatives. Students have to realise that they are studying for themselves, and not to conform to the institute, or to please the tutors. They have to define what they want to learn. In that sense we do not offer a program, we offer possibilities, and it’s up to the students to build their own program with it. They define their own urgencies and curiosities — which is in the end the most difficult part. This methodology confronts students with themselves, they can’t lose or hide themselves behind a program. We educate agenda-makers, and not agenda-followers. We educate them for a self-initiated design practice in which they make individual decisions and collaborate strongly. As a school we give them opportunity to grow in this kind of role.

As a graphic designer, you used to do client-based work. Why did you stop doing this?

In a way, it’s unclear where client-based projects stop and end, but what is important for my practice is to be involved in the full process of a project. I cannot just give form to other people’s information. Additionally I don’t think in terms of a client and a designer. I think in terms of partners in crime. You have different positions and talents, and those are the conditions to collaborate. Everyone has a different role, but a shared responsibility. I choose to work in those kinds of constructions. I am interested in creating content, relating content, and seeing this in a bigger context.

Do you feel a responsibility to contribute to something bigger than yourself?

Yes. Absolutely. I hope all the students also feel the same thing. As a designer you have to realise that what you make is part of a discourse, it has an effect and affect. It’s part of a dynamic and often a system. As a designer, you have to realise which system or ideology you are serving — and if this is what you are willing to do. I do often hear designers say, “oh, I have so much freedom in this assignment”, and of course that is nice, but if you ask further, “who is this client?”, “what does this client stand for?”, and “do you as a person, want to contribute to this kind of mentality?”, then they might reject the freedom they were offered, and see it in a whole different light. Sometimes they want to stick too much to this creative freedom and creative possibilities, and they don’t think of the fact that it’s serving a certain capitalistic or neoliberal system, that they do not want to be part of. Designers need to think on a relational and contextual level, far beyond form and style.

2.2. Civility in a Mediated Society

interview by Noortje van Eekelen

The challenging and exceptional projects by Lancel/Maat invite the public to experiment and play with social technology. As a team, the artists Karen Lancel and Hermen Maat, design objects, projections and digital networks to create meeting places in city public spaces. With these initiatives the audience is welcome to reflect on their perception of the public space, experience of body, identity and social cohesion. Lancel/Maat’s universally shown meeting places are located in dynamic urban public spaces such as museums, squares, and theatre halls. You might recognise their sophisticated installations and performances of the past few years. Works such as E.E.G. KISS, Saving Face and TELE_TRUST are so impressive that you want to know more about the expertise behind them. Our following interview explores Lancel/Maat’s artistic approach and their speculations regarding emerging future scenarios and possible alternative environments.

E.E.G. KISS | The End of Privacy Festival (photograph by Anna van Kooij, 2016)

We all know E.E.G. KISS, Saving Face, TELE_TRUST and Master Touch. Could you tell something about the social attitude and motives behind Lancel/Maat? How far does it go?

We design objects, projections and digital networks to create reflective Meeting Places in city public spaces and the digital domain. In carefully hosted, techno-social Presence Rituals, we invite our public to experiment with social systems and to reflect on their perception of the city, and their experience of body, intimacy, presence, identity, privacy and social cohesion.

With Saving Face you allow an audience to collectively combine their faces into an amalgamation of moments, identities. Could you explain a little more about the new kind of environment that emerges from these aggregated interactions?

First About the project Saving Face:

  1. Tele-presence technologies extend our bodies beyond biological boundaries in time and space, but prevent us from touching (Arjen Mulder) 
When we meet in the public domain, we trust each other based on reciprocal body language, face-to-face connection, and touch. However, in today's social structures, these sensory experiences are increasingly replaced by identity scanning technologies. In the digital public domain, we are faced with the paradox of ‘the higher surveillance, the lower trust’. How do we experience our bodies and identities, technically being measured and turned into fixated, controllable ‘products’? How does this interfere with our identities as social constructs, constantly appearing and disappearing when interacting with others? Can touch based perception play a role in 'tele-matic trust'? Can I touch you online?
  2. Touching is the new Scanning The artists deconstruct and turn around control technologies, to facilitate intimate meeting experiences: “Saving Face is an experimental technological bio-feedback system for a poetic meeting-through-touching ritual. With the help of a personal Touching Face Scan, participants caress their own faces, to connect online with family, friends and strangers worldwide. In Saving Face, we are digitally tangible and visible for each other, in a relational process, a ‘social sculpture’; to endlessly meet, caress, mirror and merge.”
  3. Saving Face is a Smart City Meeting Ritual, and exists of 1. Come close 2. Caress your face 3. Merge and Mirror.
  4. Saving Face uses your face as a tangible social interface The ritual includes an interactive city sculpture with a camera and face-recognition technologies, connected to an urban screen. In front of the camera, you are invited to caress your face. By caressing your face you ‘paint’ your portrait on the screen, where it appears and then slowly merges with the portraits of previous visitors. The portraits merge further through every face-caressing act of following participants, co-creating transparent, untraceable, fluid, networked identities. Each composed identity is saved into a user generated database, to be printed as a Saving Face Passport.
  5. In dynamic public spaces such as museum hall or city square, all co-created identities appear on screen as ’digital personas’, sharing with us our contemporary public domain. When traveling to various geographical and cultural contexts, SF playfully connects — both online and offline — different personal historical and cultural backgrounds. Participants in cities worldwide ‘Tele-Touch’ each other to meet.
  6. The portrait on screen is part of a social process. Within the tradition of the composed and 'morfing' portrait, the artists orchestrate 'a social process to create a portrait'. This process connects the physical ‘realness’ we feel when touching our faces to the interaction with a virtual identity. Each identity on screen appears as a digital ‘persona' in our contemporary public domain. As a alternative social construct, it constantly appears and disappears in the process of merging with others. We imagine ‘The right to be forgotten’ could be realized by creating multiple identities. We would disappear by merging with others. This would absolutely confuse a control system.
Saving Face | Bauhaus Dessau (2012)

We regularly see a great variety of works from you as Lancel/Maat. Projects such as E.E.G. KISS and Saving Face have received a quite some international attention. Were they difficult to produce? Can you tell us more about your way of working?

  1. We develop our works as artistic research. In our Meeting Spaces and Meeting Rituals we deconstruct automated control technologies (surveillance, social media, brain computer interfaces, quantifying biometric technologies) to rethink and inspire sensitive and reciprocal relations based on intimacy, relational presence, tacit knowledge, digital synesthesia, bio-synchronisation, sensory and aesthetic perception.
  2. In an iterative process, we deconstruct disrupted communication models and social systems. This process is both social and technical. It is inspired by audience dialogue; developments in media-theory, art science and technology. The works are labor intensive. They exist of long preparation periods of research and sequences of presentation stadia. Each presentation is like a stepping stone in the development of the final visual an interaction concept.
  3. But even when having finalized the visual and interaction concept, the works keep changing. Each cultural geographical context evokes a specific tension and meaning. For example, when showing our interactive, full body DataVeil on a square in Istanbul, audience reactions are different from showing in Banff Canada. And kissing in E.E.G. KISS is a different challenge in Amsterdam then in Hong Kong.
  4. Furthermore, each public presentation space creates a different context. For example, at Venice Biennale 2015, IASPIS Stockholm, De Appel Amsterdam and Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, our work is part of a museological experience. But at Media musea, festivals and conferences we show our work in the context of media history and it’s societal impact; for example at ISEA Hongkong, Helsinki an Istanbul; Zentrum fur Kunst und Medientechnologie, Ars Electronica Linz. And while showing our work in dynamic city centers the visual orchestration changes again; as well does the audience viewing behavior, for example at Festival ad Werf Utrecht, NABI Art Center Seoul and Connecting Cities Berlin, Dessau. At Art Science & Technologie exhibitions such as TASIE Beijing the audience focuses on experience of social systems, technology and innovation. And for Rijksmuseum Amsterdam, we created a specific ‘Saving Face’ version called ‘Master Touch’, to question and sensitize the reflective mode of the museum visitor.
  5. So on many levels each presentation is context specific, and inspires the dialogue. The research and dialogue takes place in a varied partner network. Many of the works are co-supported by art funds, such as Mondriaan Fund, AFK, Stimuleringsfonds. Not only we work with art related institutions, but also with Universities, research groups, sponsors. Our works emerging from the artistic research are further conducted at Delft University of Technology in the context of Lancel’s PhD trajectory (Promotores: Prof. dr. Frances Brazier, Dr. Caroline Nevejan). For the research we collaborate with programmers, often at (artistic) media labs such as V2_Lba, STEIM and Waag Society. Various research steps within one project can take place at artists in residencies, for example TASML Beijing, Digital Synesthesia Group Vienna, IASPIS Stockholm and Bannf Center Canada. E.E.G. KISS was also tested at TNO; and sponsored by Fourtress and Philips in Eindhoven, invited by Baltan Laboratories. 

  6. Many of all various steps in these processes are invisible in the end. At one hand, we would love to open up this information, and all the specific exciting findings in the research; for example in books and blogs. At the other hand, this would be very elaborate. More importantly, we appreciate the seeming effortless quality of the works, as if in fact the act of interfering in systems is a ‘light’ and accessible gesture. We hope this ‘lightness’ inspires and communicates the possibility as well as the individual power and responsibility to interfere.

It strikes me that you as artists predominantly research the interactions between humans and technological development? How do you view the tension that currently exists between the ever present memory and the "right to be forgotten”?

We are interested in the connection between physical, embodied memories and digitally, networked memories.

  1. First about memory in relation to our bodies. Our bodies incorporate memories. The body can be seen as a container, or a carrier, of memory. Our memories are embodied. Our embodied memories ground our individual and collective understanding of ourselves in the world around us. They direct the way we collectively make sense of our performance and relationships. They shape our individual gestures, habits, and (un)conscious reactions. Our embodied memories are foundations for our scanning mutual trust - through spoken words or with a handshake. Now, how do embodied memories emerge? Neurologist A. Damasio1 describes how memories emerge from emotional interaction during reciprocal communication and mirror behaviorbehaviour. This process builds on sensory perception of face-to-face connection, body language, being close and touch.
  2. How do digitally, networked memories work? Today, technology spectacularly extends our bodies beyond biological boundaries in time and space. We meet in multi-layered infrastructures, based on various, merging forms of on — and offline communication. In these merging realities2, we meet each other in labyrinthic, fragmented realities. “New forms of intimacy, privacy, togetherness and loneliness emerge”, writes Sherry Turkle in her book ‘Alone Together’. In merging realities, we extend our physical memory by Google, Wikipedia and Social Media. We store our memories in commercially contexted databases. Acts of social interaction and identification are placed outside our bodies, into digital control systems and networks. Scanning, controlling and trusting each other (and ourselves) is partly performed by automated technologies. We meet and remember as ‘users’ and ‘participants’ via screens, smart objects and interfaces. So I ‘Like’ you on Facebook, but where is ‘Hug’ button? Biometric scanning (such as Quantified Self) creates an even more distant intimacy with our own bodies. We measure our heart rate, sweat and brain activity — but how can we share a networked kiss? How will I remember the tension of coming close — and touching your lips?
  3. How do networked technologies influence the trustfulness of our bodies as containers of memories to relate to? At one hand, technology extends our memory space. Most of our life events are saved in databases. More and more memories are always present. At the other hand, memories are taken out of the interactive process Damasio describes. Instead of emotional interaction during reciprocal communication, we make memories appear in a technological process. Memories appear by clicking around. By clicking, my memories can appear or anonymous memories. I can see your history, within a misleading context, for example with in a prison context. I can learn about your prison history as if you are still in prison today. Digitally networked memories are always now.
  4. In future, what will be our emotional interaction with technologically, popping up ‘always present’ memories? And how will this influence our relation with our world around? In short: What happens with the ever present memory and our understanding of the world around?

In previous works we compared the ‘ever present memory’ to the working of a post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSS). In PTSS, disturbing, painful life events that happened in the past seem to be ever happening again, for ever ‘now’. They seem to happen again in the presence — but no longer within the right context. Someone suffering from PTSS, is haunted by memories. In ‘The body keeps it in mind’ (2005), our work in former Yugoslavia, we researched how war events for ever color the streets of the city, for it’s today’s inhabitants. In ‘TraumaTour’ (1999 - 2008) we compared PTSS with feelings of safety and control experienced by our digitally ‘networking bodies’. In dynamic city public spaces worldwide we created spatial, screen based, dirsuptive networked orchestrations. We invited the audience to participate as ‘co-researchers’ in works called ‘Agora Phobia (digitalis)’ and ‘StalkShow’. We felt truly touched to see the audience exploring their confusion between their present bodies, memory and data.

E.E.G. KISS | De Brakke Grond (2015)

What projects we're going to see in the future from you? And where do you see challenges in achieving this?

  1. Currently we feel ‘the right to be forgotten’ shows a somewhat defensive attitude. Of course we see the problematic moral implications in a democratic society, when we need to judge and balance between 'privacy' and ‘piracy’. The problematized “right to be forgotten” can concern the intention to become truly ‘invisible'. To achieve this, going offline, can be the best strategy — although this will be increasingly difficult and eventually a luxury.
  2. But more often, “The right to be forgotten” concerns the wish to design one’s own visibility. Can we turn around this defensive attitude — and create radical, alternative techno-embodied realities? 
In E.E.G. KISS we do no longer protect our private data. Instead, we create with these data new rituals allowing for public intimacy and relational rituals. E.E.G. KISS invites for a shared neuro-feedback kiss ritual in today’s merging realities. In this way, we aim to create a shared sensitive public space, response-ability for the power of synchronizing through touching, breathing, kissing, dancing, sharing presence. Worldwide, we invite our audiences for this on going artistic research; and to participate in a communal, networked E.E.G. KISS. We are convinced that artists are key in the research and design process for these new participatory ‘trust-systems’.

What are possible alternative environments that could be introduced in the future? How would these environments be linked? In what way would we manipulate them?

We research social systems in a mediated society; systems merging humans and technology. There will be a lot more seamless invisible as well as status expressing technologies developed in the near future. For us as artists it will be a challenge to deconstruct, visualize and rethink the implications of the use and design on and in our bodies. Instead of looking for prosthetic interfaces, we focus on alternative possibilities for mirror processes, brain interfaces and neuro-feedback. How do archived data permeate our personal lives, and behavior?

Current bio-feedback technologies (such as brain computer interfaces) allow us to create networked set ups, to artistically design and reflect on the communal, networked experience of social and biometric devices. It allows us to orchestrate public feedback-system rituals for data-reflection.

In E.E.G. KISS we ask: Can I kiss you online? Can we transfer a kiss and it’s intimacy online? Can we measure a kiss and what kissers feel together? Can we trust our E.E.G. KISS? And in terms of ‘The Right to be forgotten’: Do we want to save our private kisses in a transparent database — to be used by others?

  1. Damasio 

  2. Today, all “we enter a world of ‘merging realities’”, C. Nevejan and F. Brazier write in their ‘Participatory Systems Initiative’ statement (University for Technology Delft). They describe a complex of (social) relational systems of networked men and computers. 

2.3. 20 years MBCBFTW

from: INTERVIEW | Olia Lialina, 20 years MBCBFTW
by Nadine Roestenburg (researcher at Institute of Network Cultures)

Twenty years ago, my father came back home from work and brought the first computer into our living room. It was a big beige box with a flickering screen on which we could type and paint. Around the same year, in 1996, the Russian pioneer Olia Lialina created My Boyfriend Came Back From the War (MBCBFTW), an interactive web narrative that tells the fictional story of a couple trying to talk to each other after the war. The launch of Netscape 3, which made it possible to split the browser in independently controllable frames, inspired Lialina to explore the boundaries of the browser and create an ambivalent dialogue. MBCBFTW has become an icon in the history of internet art, and has inspired international artists and non artists to create their own interpretations. Lialina has been collecting all these interpretations (unfortunately some have been lost) in the Last Real Net Art Museum, an online museum that is at the same time a critique on the first internet art exhibitions organized by museums.

In the retrospective exhibition at MU, thirteen of these interpretations are on show, ranging from an interactive burger story, to a t-shirt, to works that tell real traumatic stories. For the occasion, MU has also commissioned two new works by Foundland and Constant Dullaart, presented as homages to Lialina’s iconic work. Together with a completely emulated version of MBCBFW, on the good old-fashioned PC towers with Windows, this exhibition is a tribute to the World Wide Web and presents a new approach to keeping history alive. The day before the opening, I asked Olia Lialina some questions about the exhibition and her practice.

My Burger Came Back from the War, Guthrie Lonergan (2012)

You have been collecting, preserving and monumentalizing web culture of the 90s for quite some time now. What made you start this?

I started collecting web pages when I started to teach students. I wanted to explain and compare things that were happening on the web to things that happened before but I couldn’t find the old web pages. In 1999 I became aware that the people who were online weren’t aware of their own history.

From an aesthetical point of view, the star backgrounds of old homepages caused the urge to preserve web culture. When I realized that the pages with star backgrounds were disappearing, I started to collect them so that I could show them to the students. But it’s not just about a teacher who can’t find old web pages, it is about the history that we will not be able to remember. Furthermore, there is no respect for what unprofessional designers made before professionals came. That’s why I started to protect and monumentalize their productions.

How did you see web culture and its aesthetics change through the years?

Web culture has been changing all the time. When you search for ‘design trends’ or ‘top 10 design trends’ in a specific year, you will find lots of articles that describe these trends. But these trends were always related to graphic design, for example typography or color combinations, and rarely to structure or layout. And of course, everything that was not made by design professionals was ignored. That’s why I started to make my own timeline. This timeline starts with the style that I call ‘Prof.Dr’. Starting in 1993, the earliest examples are very simple webpages by academics, in default styles: the links are blue, the visited links purple, the active links red, and you browse from top to bottom. I call it ‘Prof.Dr’ because when I started this in approximately 2006 it was the best search request to type in Google to find old pages, since the very first pages on the internet were build at universities. Up till now, I still don’t have a better search term. Because of all my writings about this code word, the term has sort of popularized and established as a name for this style and time.

The main ideological change is that you don’t make your own webpage anymore; it is made for you by a service that provides you with a template. This crucial change also affects aesthetics, which become more organized and corporate. Only for a very short time, about five years, people felt responsible to build cyberspace themselves. That is why these aesthetics, the star backgrounds and under construction signs, have become a symbol for self-made cyberspace. One Terabyte of Kilobyte Age, is the documentation of this self-made cyberspace with star backgrounds, animated gifs and MIDI background sounds. This ‘Geocities 1996’ style is a symbol of the blast of colors, animations and bright and loud productions, of the time when everybody was welcoming everyone to their pages and making their own corners of cyberspace.

In an interview with Josephine Bosma from 1997 you said that you didn’t like the discussion about the definition of How do you think about this today?

I still think that back then, the works of artists should have been discussed in more detail. Not just as a whole, as if it was a movement. It was not a movement. All these years it was always about the terminology. Talking about the terms, discussing them, protecting them. Looking back, twenty years later, I know I’ve spent quite a lot of time explaining the meaning of the words, or rejecting some. But I don’t regret it because all these discussions made the medium we are working with visible, which is the most important thing for net art.

My Boyfriend Came Back From the War (1996) | Olia Lialina, Boudewijn Bollmann

This exhibition is simultaneously being showed at HeK in Basel. Next to this, your work is also on show in the Electronic Superhighway exhibition at Whitechapel Gallery in London. This indicates that there is a high interest in exhibiting internet art. Can you describe how the interest in internet art, from an institutional and public level, has changed?

In my memory, it’s already the third attempt of contemporary art trying to embrace new media art. Still one can say that, with all the great intentions, there is no respect or understanding of net art. It’s important to keep the places that are specialized in new media art, although I don’t like the term new media art. Places like MU, HeK, really try to go into the details. They put a lot of effort in working with the right browsers and finding the right equipment to show the online projects in all their glory. They invest their energy in thoughts about the exhibition, and do not just make the works easily accessible for the public. In a recent article about Electronic Superhighway the journalist says that the exhibition ‘…ticked all the boxes in terms of canonic name-dropping, yet it felt rushed and cluttered, and seemingly conducted so as to get this kind of art “out of the way”, to move on to something else, and quickly send these works back to the specialist archives.’

New media art is getting popular for a third, short period of time. New Aesthetics and post-internet art have made it more accustomed to show the works in real spaces, which contributes to an increase in interest. I don’t know for how long it stays this time, but every time the wave of popularity brings something new. For this third wave it’s the increase of interest from the galleries who are supporting media artists.

For this exhibition you slowed down the internet connection and used old PCs from the 90s. Is it only about preserving the past or giving access to the memories of the past? Or do you also look back on those years with feelings of nostalgia?

I’m not nostalgic, I think I’m quite futuristic, because I still believe in a future where people are making the web themselves. If we want to show the online works in an offline space, we have to make the effort to show the works in the original way, otherwise it doesn’t make sense. It’s much more fun to look at the works on an authentic computer with the authentic connection, inside the original Netscape browser. When I was making the exhibition I couldn’t believe how beautiful the Netscape browser is. You can’t avoid the feeling of nostalgia, but there will also be people seeing it for the first time in their lives. And concerning 28,8 kbps connection, believe me, it’s a very special feeling to click on something that isn’t there immediately.

MBCBFTW is one of the early works that is often mentioned in the history of net art, and it has been appropriated and remixed numerous times. What has made this particular work so influential?

I am proud that people have been appropriating and remixing the work. I think it happened because MBCBFTW has a recognizable structure. Some works in the show are cold and formalistic, they translate the work into newer functions of the net, such as a blog, twitter, flash, or an animated gif banner. Other artists used the structure of MBCBFTW to tell their real stories. Freya Birren’s story is about her relation with her boyfriend who came back from Iraq. And one of the new works, by Foundland, is about mothers who realize that her sons left for ISIS. The structure seems capable to express difficult conversations. It’s also about not knowing whether you are watching a monologue or a dialogue.

Baby Come Home (2016) | Foundland, Boudewijn Bollmann

In your article Not Art&Tech from November 2015, you write that the computer of the future should be visible, and that this is the main topic on your agenda for media theory. Can you shortly describe what you mean with this, and why it is so important?

This is an allusion to the famous phrase “The computer of the future should be invisible!” by Don Norman. Everybody is repeating his words, and designing according to what he said. It was his idea that interfaces should vanish and that there would be no awareness of computers. The only thing left is you and the task you have to do. This is sort of accepted by everybody as if it’s beneficial. But I think there should be made an effort to introduce some other design paradigms where the emphasis is on the visibility of the computer. When you want computers to be invisible, you can’t demand an understanding of how computers work, or awareness, and media competency.

If you could travel through time would you go backwards to the 90s or forward to the future? Or any time else?

You can’t imagine how often I think of where I would go if I only had one choice. I then think of the Middle Ages, or sometimes of the beginning of the 19th century, to meet all the famous Russian poets like Alexander Pushkin and Mikhail Lermontov. Time traveling occupies my mind. I wouldn’t go to the 90s, with all the research and preservation I have done, I have made enough contribution to building this time machine. Therefore, nobody has to go back to the 90s, but still enjoy it.

In the same interview with Josephine Bosma from 1997 you tell that Alexei Shulgin introduced you to the internet. Your first impressions, such as work by Jodi and the nettime mailinglists, were not commercial but related to internet art. Today, this is quite impossible, since the internet is integrated much more into daily lives. Image you would be today’s Alexei Shulgin and you had to introduce me to the internet what would you show me?

First of all, I would try to keep you away from Facebook. I would show my favorite place of today: Concerning internet art, I’m a big fan of Jan Robert Leegte, his work is very interesting in understanding the structure of the web. I would also show the work of artists like Evan Roth and Cory Arcangel, and the work of my students. For the history of everything, I would show the works of Helene Dams, for instance I Can Has History?, the family tree of lol cats, this gives a good overview of what happened over the years. But I think I would give a different answer every month, as of February 2016: Random Darnknet Shopper, and all other projects by !Mediengruppe Bitnik; the amazing precious time machine into web history, to recognize the volume of the connected world; all projects of the last twenty-two years made by Tale of Tales; and the newest project by my student Simon Baer, Cannot Sleep with Snoring Husband, recommended to everyone who thinks that you can’t cry looking at 1 2 3 4 5

  1. Josephine Bosma, Olia Lialina interview Ljubljana, 5 August 1997, nettime 

  2. Olia Lialina, Not Art&Tech: On the role of Media Theory at Universities of Applied Art, Technology and Art and Technology, Universität für angewandte Kunst Wien, November 2015 

  3. Olia Lialina, Prof. Dr. Style: Top 10 Web Design Styles of 1993 (Vernacular Web 3), July 2010 

  4. Don Norman, ‘Why Interfaces Don’t Work’, in: Brenda Laurel (Ed.), The Art of Human-Computer Interface Design (1990: 218) 

  5. Jeppe Ugelvig, Taking a ride on the Electronic Superhighway, i-D, 5 February, 2016 

2.4. A Sense of What's to Come

interview by Noortje van Eekelen

Mike Thompson and Susana Cámara Leret focus on the exploration of the meanings and values that can be derived from alternative ways of experiencing built and mediated environments, motivated by emerging technologies. Thru their experimental, critical art and design research practice Thought Collider they work on self-initiated projects and they develop consultancy work for industry and academia to activate novel insights and innovation. Our conversation covers their artistic approach and the relation to the theme of this year's Open Set.

In The Institute for The Design of Tropical Disease, the designers appropriate tropical disease as a medium for art and design to address the complex relationships that stimulate disease transmission. (photograph by Gyalpo Batstra)
The Data and Ethics Working Group probe the processes and authoritative gestures that legitimise the collection of personal information and how informed consent is attained and defined. (photograph by Thought Collider)

I have quite a complete first impression of your work and background. Could you explain yourself a bit further? What is the ‘urgency’ of ‘Thought Collider’ at this very moment?

Our interest lies in exploring other ways of relating with our (built) environment, beyond the problem/solution paradigm. You could say that we’re interested in exploring alternatives to a given context, or what could be, by opening ourselves up to the uncertainty this creates. In this sense, we see our ongoing projects as their own worlds within which various questions and sub-explorations take place. Often these are interrelated. These micro-narratives allow us to remain focused, while zooming-out to consider the wider implications of reshaping existing systems and technologies.

In our most recent project, The Institute for The Design of Tropical Disease (IDTD), we attempt to shift the dialogue surrounding Tropical Disease from the pragmatic to the imaginative, acknowledging the manifold, intertwined factors that stimulate the spread of Tropical Diseases such as Malaria, Zika and Dengue. As witnessed recently with the hysteria surrounding the Zika virus, the vast resources targeted towards the eradication of insects largely underestimates the complexities surrounding vector-borne diseases. The Institute is therefore imagined as a virtual platform comprised of several overlapping research topics, to examine the rationale of technological developments, their application in the spread and control of such diseases, as well as the roles that creative experimentation and policy might play. This, as is the case with much of our most recent work, implies a blend of lab based "in-vitro" and public "in-vivo" research to break through traditional domains of knowledge production.

Do you consider design and art as good mediums to be critical? What does it mean to be critical as an artist? What are you responding to? Some form of political correctness in design? Or its seriousness?

Art and design offer other relational ways of understanding reality, for example, and particularly in the case of our work, as an alternative and compliment to classic scientific discourse. In that respect, we are responding to the processes that led to the production of information and ‘knowledge’ and its materialisation in everyday contexts. Therefore the "critical" aspect is more a matter of difference rather than of acceptance of set norms and structures. This in some manner explains the experiential focus of our work. We do not aim to merely speculate on technology, but to ‘explore things possible’ through a more open enquiry. This implies moving beyond the reductionist ‘right or wrong’ way of doing, towards an ongoing process of reflective enquiry, stimulated by creative, hands-on experimentation and experience with materials and technology.

You are both members of The Data & Ethics Working Group. What do you aim to achieve with the group? What is the ethical perspective of this group of researchers on the phenomenon of memory and data?

We do not intend to adopt a specific perspective on the handling and distribution of personal data, rather to publicly explore the boundaries of what can be considered acceptable or desirable to society at large. The group's work responds to implicit behaviours and exchanges which result from the ubiquitousness of current data-driven systems. The format of the collective is intrinsic to the nature of the work, as an international network that comes together to develop art-led experiments in response to a concrete context/theme. To date, we have posed questions such as: how is informed consent obtained and achieved when your body has become platform for the exploitation of biodata. How can people understand the value of their body’s information and actively engage in this exchange which we are exposed to regularly within everyday systems and services? Through public research acts and interventions our aim is to transform mundane acts of data exchange into performative acts, enabling participants to reflect upon their roles and rights within the information economy.

The Rhythm of Life offers participants the possibility to listen in on the electro-chemical messages transmitted by their bodies — in exchange for donating their personal biodata to scientific research (photograph by Gert Jan van Rooij)

As a society we have experienced over the last few years numerous examples of the effects of digital memories on our social fabric. If we were to move towards a more bio-based future, which of our current problems might resolve themselves?

First of all, the digital need not be detached from the biological, for example the binary system allows us to understand the carbon-based (life) system. Perhaps we can explore other frameworks that allow us to embrace the grey spaces in-between. So in this sense, we’ll hopefully think of kinship and the relationships that we are developing with other organisms and systems. One of the studio’s aims is to investigate the shift from a human-centered approach, to embrace interrelatedness and the ecological mind. Moving away from this linear, cause & effect modus, has many implications, for example within healthcare systems and services. This so-called shift towards a bio-based future could allow a different understanding of health and disease, as processes that lead to balance or imbalance within a system consist of ongoing exchanges between human and non-humanactors.

Others (for instance Vilém Flusser) have previously argued that bioscience can play a leading role in challenging nature, and introduce new relations between humans and nature. Do you see yourselves as part of this challenge?

We certainly need to reconsider the way we relate to other non-human organisms. In fact, more and more we are seeing the need to question what it means to be human when, biologically speaking, our bodies are hosts to so many organisms that influence how we eat, smell, think, feel, etc. We cannot simply detach ourselves from ’nature'. One of the starting points of IDTD was that we noted the eradication of mosquitoes as vectors as a core strategy in disease prevention, and yet this approach largely ignores other critical societal, economical, political and environmental factors that are known drivers of disease transmission. The life sciences play a role in exploring alternatives, but we are also interested in other ways of understanding life processes, for example within traditional indigenous knowledge systems, and particularly in their understanding of their local habitat and promotion of other means of co-existing with other non-human lifeforms. An example is traditional plant knowledge from communities in the Colombian Amazon. Their holistic understanding of the environment highlights other values such as cohabitation, as a basis for these relations, which could also challenge bioscience. We also touched upon this when developing Aqua Vita some years back, as we attempted to merge biochemical data with experiential data based on physical symptoms and emotions to map the evolution of the human body over time. It was not so much the daily collection of biological fluids for analysis that struck us, but rather the way in which the acts of collecting and reflecting on this data made us conscious of the daily changes within our bodies and the interrelated factors that influence these transformations.

What kind of future scenarios can you see emerging, based on the developments and the role of memory and the future? What are possible alternative environments that could be introduced in the future?

Perhaps we should first ask what is memory when the capacity to store is so vast? How will this influence the way we relate to others and our surroundings? We are moving towards a time where the perceived distance between the micro and the macro will seemingly vanish, meaning that we will interact across scales in a manner that will profoundly alter the way in which we understand our bodies, the bodies of others and our relationship with the environment. Memory is multimodal, so in this respect we are very interested in the role sensory technologies can play as experience-driven systems that could promote more embodied experiences as opposed to a fragmenting of the senses. For example we’re exploring smell-memory, as a means to retrieve episodes from the past in a present context, by using the associative power of smells. The exposure to a given smell can trigger vivid recollections of places, people, colours, sounds linked to a past experience. Therefore molecular reconfigurations experienced in a present context, could offer windows into individual past histories which also relate to collective identities. The future is therefore rooted in the present through these sensory experiences and via the acknowledgement of a shared past.

Rain Rain Go Away! Exploring the natural processes producing environmental odours that communicate rainfall to mosquitoes (photograph by Gert Jan van Rooij)
FATBERG is a critical design research project by Mike Thompson & Arne Hendriks, focused on the construction of a floating island of fat — the FATBERG (photograph by Hanneke Wetzer)

What projects are we going to see in the future from you? And where do you see the challenges in achieving them?

We don’t see a specific end to the projects that we create, as they are envisaged as long-term investigations. Some of our upcoming activities will be a direct continuation of existing work, others more sub-plots or spin-offs that emerge from on-going explorations.

In the short term, within IDTD, we plan on further refining Rain Rain Go Away!, a hybrid research artifact we recently developed to explore the olfactory conditions that communicate incoming rainfall to insects. We’re experimenting with specific molecules in collaboration with the Laboratory of Entomology at Wageningen University, by considering environmental triggers as attractants and/or repellents. There are additionally further lab investigations and field trips planned, moving into other corners within the realm of Tropical Disease that we have yet to examine, such as looking into the architecture of insect breeding grounds.

Aside from this, Mike and Arne Hendriks are currently in the process of designing and constructing a production facility and visitors centre for FATBERG at NDSM in Amsterdam Noord. From Summer 2016, the plan is to not only scale up the production of the island but also to develop a public programme and community of FATBERG builders to explore society's relationship with fat. They hope to be ready to cast the island into open water in the IJ in 2017.

Given the scope of these projects, the challenge is therefore in juggling these manifold and overlapping themes. This explains why we think of IDTD and FATBERG as platforms in their own right, as opposed to isolated projects. This way we create the necessary space to slowly build insights, while generating networks of knowledge and expertise that allow us to embed our work within society.

2.5. digging and redevelopment

interview by Noortje van Eekelen

The exploration of cultural formats where the audience gets involved in the curatorial process of research, questioning, and making feeds the curiousity of independent curator and creative director Joanna van der Zanden (NL), who focuses on cross-disciplinary (social) design projects. Until January 2010 she was artistic director of Platform21, the incubator of a new design centre in Amsterdam. From 2011 and 2013 Van der Zanden was appointed as artistic director of the Rotterdam Design Prize, a bi-annual Dutch design award that aims to stimulate debate on the role of design in a cultural and social context. We are interested in her perspective on Open Set’s current theme Memories of the Future and the way she approaches the phenomenon from her own experience and enthusiasm for the cultural field.
Reinventing Happiness (2014) | Geregisseerd Geluk. Theatre set within exhibition space. Visitors could audition
for a Happy play on depression. (Jeanne van Heeswijk & Paul de Bruyne)
Social Design Biennale Utrecht (2012) | Schuurtjes. Temporary work/research space to investigate possible possibilities
of the shed for informal meetings and economic exchange. (co-curated with Arne Hendriks)

In your practice you emphasise a social (and sustainable) perspective, related to your work as a curator. If designers are to employ memories into their creation of possible futures, how should we involve an audience?

Whether by an audience you mean the visitors of a show, or the end users of a product, in both cases a way to get them involved is to create open-ended products. Products that can be adjusted, repaired, hacked, finished off etc. Another way is to make use of specific local skills and to offer your designer's qualities more in a co-creative way (which is often referred to as being a social designer).

Looking at the role of the curator, in what way can curatorship go through interesting developments in relation to retention and memory? Are there developments possible in the presentation, representation, storage or experience of successful artist work?

There are many. And to start with: first of all, the curator should allow the opinion of others as well: step outside of its own expert and historically correct vision and create more open platforms. The institutional frame of a museum often doesn't help, but even with small changes within a classical exhibition setting one could find new ways. For instance, the current show at Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam about the Amsterdam school missed out, in my opinion, on the chance to make it more contemporary. Many of the items on show are from private collections. They have these interior items in their own houses, sometimes inherited. Why not involve the views and stories of these collectors? Why not show photographs of how these items function in their homes, how they relate to more contemporary design products. What do these products mean to their owners? The show was only set up because it is 100 years ago. This is a typical 'let us remember' something excuse. But what is its meaning at the moment? What is its urgency? I have heard many times visitors of the exhibition say: how ugly! I find this really interesting. What is exactly ugly about it? What does it say about us, in the here and now? Was it perceived as ugly back in time also?

I often wonder in what way we could add new perspectives to historical artifacts. Extra layers? On the process, fabrication and materials, for instance? This could be done very suggestively, it doesn't always need to be educational. For example, looking at a porcelain cup of tea and at the same time viewing a photograph of the English landscape that was changed by the mining industry.

Another way, which I am working on right now, is to actually reconsider proposals from an earlier generation. Many of the societal and environmental ideas we are focused on right now have a connection with what was presented in the past, like in the seventies. Some of these artists, architects and designers are still alive. And why not get their ideas out of the drawer and together with the artists reconsider them, discuss and repurpose them. I love the idea of a living classroom in the museum. To use the museum as an inspirational space for today's and the future's societal issues.

Reinventing Happiness (2014) | Happy Together. Visitors could choose one of the DVDs selected
and recommended by employees of the Stedelijk Museum 's-Hertogenbosch and watch it.
Bosch Geluk (2016) | Staat van Geluk. Solo circus act performance within exhibition (Mees Borgman)

In previous talks you mentioned that designers are better served if they approach everyone as a creator, professional or amateur. Should designers even have the idea of an audience? Or should designers completely ignore their awareness of an audience in the development of their work?

This is a question I cannot answer for designers. There are so many different designers and design practices and each serve their own audiences, from a single collector to millions of users. It really depends on your goal. But what I think I meant with the quote is that many products are delivered as closed boxes. Not to be opened and adjusted by its owners. If we are talking about participative, more sustainable and social futures, the designer's (and manufacturer's role) has to become more transparent to allow genuine ownership. But if you cannot open it, you don't own it. And who is responsible for sustaining the life cycle of a product? Is it the designer, the user, the government?

What role would our memory play in the construction of futuristic ideas?

This is I guess a philosophical question and again very much depending on what your definition of a future is. Does the future have a memory? When we think of a future scenario is it at the same time already not also a memory? A future built on memories is probably a nostalgic future, no? Maybe the future that is not related to memory is best called Utopia, though this term is nowadays often mis-used. This is best described as something un-imaginable. And yes i would love to plea for the un-imaginable futures.

Bosch Geluk (2015) | Academie voor Beeldvorming making use of the flexible white cube space
within the exhibition as an artist studio.

What are your expectations for the development and future of social change, by involving designers and artists? How should we go about this? Where should we look for guidance?

Maybe we need a time-out, a pause. There are just so many great developments, actions, ideas and new start ups that I am afraid that we are too much focused on the new and latest. So start digging and redeveloping.  

2.6. Who Remembers E-Books?

from: The Digital Turn (edited by Barbara Junge, Zane Berlin, Walter Scheiffele, Wim Westerveld and Carola Zwick) Park Books (2012)

The ways of representing information and content are increasingly dominated by the interactive technologies of digital media. Today design professionals must navigate the constantly changing world of digital technology in order to give consumers a positive aesthetic experience. The interview bridges between design and adjacent professions, which is more or less the rest of the world.

We are living in a global village, inter-connected through digital networks and surrounded by virtual worlds. What kind of impact does this have on social conditions in our society, in your opinion? How does the always-downloadable information influence our social, political, personal lives?

A sheet with wrinkles can hold many drops of local water, where a tightened sheet makes all water run to the global lake. It happens with knowledge, fame, resources and advertisement. Where in the past it was relative easy to become a local or national hero. To be the best in a profession within someones lifetime, was a conceivable. Nowadays, with globalized sharing of knowledge, everything gets compared to global standards. That change has dramatic influence on personal and professional goals. Hero’s have become competitors within a decade. Local resources are drained by Palo Alto companies and local services must compete with global providers. Combined with an increasing rate of technological development, vanishing borders and diminishing profit, people have to redefine their values. Some do that better than others. It needs a flexible mind with skills and knowledge to recognize the challenge of these changes, redefining the meaning of have and have-nots. The gap between rich and poor transform into the knowers and the non-knowers.

Radio and TV changed the world. Internet and mobile phones did the same. These phenomena changed the society. What technology or phenomena do you think will be the next big thing?

Merge, Morph and Mold

The combination of virtual and real spaces is rapidly increasing: by GPS-enabled mobile devices such as mobile phones and netbooks, we are mobile and connected, social interactions are increasingly digital. How is the relationship between what we call ‘real’ and the ‘virtual’?

There is no difference. Not in a qualitative way. Whatever we have called reality during the realm of history, it is what our mind makes from observations, with some help of knowledge, skills and temper. The virtual representation, our image of the interpreted world, existed from the time that we were still animals. The spaces of memories and ideas, of plans and expectations, a game of chess, the imaginary world of spoken stories, books and movies and the abstraction of virtual webspace are just examples of recent additions to our collection of virtual worlds. The infinite mind.

Design happens in this place. Everything is possible, timeless and without limitations. It is the area where a universe of solutions can be moved by the swipe of a finger. It is the twilight zone between sleep and wake where answers for this interview like these come from. It is our infinite resource of insight, imagination and reflection.

The major disadvantage of this great tool is that it is so damn difficult to share the space with others. It is the eternal struggle of every designer to push this perfect thinking into a representation that can be shared, without the smallest amount of lateral damage to the original idea. Students who claim to have the perfect design in their heads, still need to wake up.

Recent discoveries about the way we thing, reveal the extreme difference between our subconscious system (extremely fast and free parallel processing, unreliable in statistics and logic) and our conscious system (analytical, slow, sequential and lazy). More than often, these systems have opposing interests.1

Do you think people will still write analogue letters in about 100 years?

Of course. We probably will use the same words writing, analogue and letters in 100 years time. What remains to be seen is if words still have the meaning of today. In the decades to come, many traditional interfaces to our tools will disappear from the level of conscious awareness. The meaning of the words will adapt gradually to new circumstances. Already it needs additional clarification when mailbox is used to indicate the physical red box to collect envelops. With electronic paper that understands our physical and mental intentions to communicate through text and image, the letter is still de medium that holds the message. A letter of intend can very well be an email. Any doubt and reluctance on these matters is the result of short term horizon. And still, the exclusivity of receiving a one-and-only instance of a handwritten message will endorse its value. Just as much as handmade furniture can compete with Ikea products under the right circumstances.

Petr van Blokland and participants during Open Set Summer School 2012

Our lives are increasingly affected by digital processes, and the computer will become more invisible. Interaction design is more and more the design of actions and of experiences.

Interaction design is what designers do by definition. What they should be doing. A designer who is just interested in the support of personal gut feelings, never did and never will create a communicating product.

Yet: what role do the material and material innovations play within the context of digitalization and miniaturization in design? Will they loose their importance?

Building with Lego is easy. It needs neither instruction nor manual. Kids can do it. Meanwhile, building with Lego requires creative thinking. The low resolution of the bricks does not support arbitrary shapes. Optimal design solutions must be translated into the nearest digitized form. When requirements are strict and resources are scarce, this transformation can be a difficult task. Easy tools, that offer limited choices, are hard to use when seeking for optimal result. The tough design process of typefaces for pixel screens is the literal example of this. As the amount of pixels get lower for reduced type sizes, it gets harder to create a good design. This a paradox. The digitized chess board is easy to explain in a couple of minutes. But it takes more than a lifetime to explore even the tiniest part of all possible chess games.

Miniaturization in design, increasing the resolution, reducing the size of the Lego bricks, will not solve the paradox. In high resolution, anything is possible, but only designers know how to select the best solutions. Designing page layout without a grid give more freedom, but does not necessary lead to better designed page. It takes more skills and effort to design by a free hand than it does in a snapping environment. The low resolution problem, rounding to the nearest grid line, is replaced by a much bigger problem: how to choose the right solution from infinity.

Making this to work, independent of resolution, typically is where the designer shows the difference with laymen and the unskilled. When time is not a restriction, anyone can compete with the trained athlete by running a marathon.

This leads to the challenge of education. Art and design schools are always target of criticism. As it should be. If the discussion is conducted using the same definition of the words. Unfortunately that is not always the case. Statements as “all designers should be programmers” and “image culture is the new typography” define the tone of voice, but they don’t create music. Without consensus about meaning everyone is right. The artificial contradiction between practice and theory, between image and typography and between design and programming is just as polarizing as the lazy vision that there are just left wing and right wing people and only good and bad religions. Design schools that emphasize on differences, don’t build coherent designers.

The problem is that terms like expressive power and self-critical reflection are used for testing the competences, but they hardly get developed in graphic design. Where performing arts, such as acting, dance, music and sports develop their skills and ability by mere repetition (rehearsal, exercise and training), this seems to be superfluous in graphic design. On the contrary: design students, who complain about pressure and deadlines, find themselves rewarded by a reduced curriculum. As if allowing a musician to play the B-scale only once. Or to let the Olympic candidate run a single track, to avoid tiredness. Skills and power develop by repetition. Graphic design students complain when they are asked again to design poster: “We already did that last year”.

If combined with the inability of many teachers to evaluate the process or to judge the results, the scale of the real crisis in graphic design education gets visible. Students should study. Designers should study. A design assignment of 8 weeks — without additional instruction and requirements how to plan such a beast — is just as insane as the assignment to “play the violin anyway you want, we’ll tell you afterwards if we liked it” or “run as fast as you can, then we will decide you qualified for the Olympics”. Educating musicians and athletes is a profession. Educating graphic design students often isn’t.

The real design school stimulates fresh designers to develop their skills, to increase their ability to design their future profession. Not just for their graduation exhibition, but for the 40+ years afterwards. This requires control over process and tools, the skill of transforming problems into working solutions, into functioning result. A designer has the skills to use all of recursion, taste, research, meaning and change seamlessly in the process. The design owns these tools by any aspect. Just a s the musician fuses with instrument and scores, and the athlete melts with training schedule and track. These skill can only be acquired by repetition and self-reflection on the process of learning. Taste and talent may facilitate a head start, but never will replace the need for hard training. Mid-term reviews give insight on the development of the students, but is gets even more interesting if the development of the review models is part of the given task. What is the best method to judge each others work? How to divide an assignment into parts, if the total requires more than a day to finish? How to disassemble? And how to reassemble the components into a working model? And how present all this?

A real design school does it the right way, improving the process of education there where it doesn’t work. Innovation in teaching is not necessary because it is required by the accreditation committee. It is, because otherwise design education is nothing more than a flat production process, creating fresh producers instead of fresh designers.

If not — how will the materials themselves change in the future? Ideally, in what form should they come and with what properties should they be equipped?

In a world where every product comes from a 3D printer, mass production blends with cottage industry. If every product is customizable (from personal websites to printed kidneys) there is no way to differentiate between a target group and a target person. So the notion that this is an important issue will gradually disappear.

Some people have an allergic reaction to the new media, maybe they are ‘prejudiced’, but apparently they miss something compared to the traditional media. What could that be, and how should we cope with it?

Many people fear the failure.2 Their value is in what they already know and already are. Their value is not in what they can learn or could become. It is fear of change itself that makes them respond with defense and conservation, independent of the topic or the medium. The same people would prefer personal contact over the former new scary media such as telephones. It is the difference between the kind of people who want stay in their notorious cottage and the elite of entrepreneurs, who explore the challenges of the future.

What role has a designer in this context? What should be part of his/her mission statement?

Designers — the creative minds in any profession — develop new areas for building new notorious cottages.


The way people read and write is changing rapidly. Messages have a short life and are more compact. Text is being replaced by symbols and images. Do we still need text in future?

Of course. There is common assumption that text is being replaced by symbols and images. But is that really true? The amount of generated text never has been as large as it is today. And what are words other than symbols? What are letters other than a modular construction kit to create new symbols on the fly? Except for Chinese and Kanji, all attempts to replace text based communication by images failed [isotype by Gerd Arns, C.K. Bliss] . Car, boat and tree are the easy ones to solve in a pictorial language. But how to visualize confidence, many reliable boats and failing pictorial languages in an unambiguous way. Which cannot only be read, but also be written? And how about inventing new words, not existing in any dictionary, yet with immediate understanding by anyone, such as noncomunnication [misspelling intended].

Asking the question “Do we still need text in the future?” is answering it: who could generate the question itself, just by using pictures with the same level unambiguous communication? The real question is: are people reading different? The success of e-book readers does not seem to support validate the question. How different is the reading of the traditional offset-print-on-paper-book and a digital Kindle page anyway, if the current excitement on fashionable new technologies has faded into daily life?

The media industry is experiencing a huge revolution because of mobile reading devices: paper is being replaced by screens. What influence do networked, time-based and interactive media have on the ‘knowledge transfer’ in our society and on our view of the world?

The replacement of paper by screens may be a temporary observation. Bending, foldable screens that can be bound as a stack of sheets could technically be called computer, but it’s more likely that this will be called a book by future users, similarly as the iPad is no longer referred to as lapcomputer. Downloading the content of classic books, newspapers and magazines in physical dummies is an example how computers will vanish. It is in the narrow window between availability and loosing interest where these issues are worth discussing. Todays reflection on the influence of radio in social life or the function of the telephone in corporate communication would be considered as sentimental activities.

Instead of discussing the medium itself, there is a much more important is issue. Any medium in history has been time based, but since most transformation are so slow, changes can hardly be noticed. Where two centuries ago the development of new tools took extensively longer than a lifetime, there was no direct need for innovation. A carpenter could learn the skills from parent or master, and perform the task for the rest of years. In the world of today, tools last for 2 years at best. Updates are more frequent than the time it takes to acquire the skills to operate them. There is no time to learn a tool, before it becomes obsolete.

A fresh designer, graduating from academy today, is supposed to be designer until retirement, 40 years from now. What will that designer be doing at that time? With a modest increase in the speed of 2.5 times, one should have an opinion in 1900 about the profession of today. No computers in existence then, but even more so: not even a notion that they ever would. In this reasoning, 10 years from now — the time it takes for a fresh designer settled and gain some experience — is similar to envision todays world in back in 1985, the year that phototypesetting transformed into Desktop Publishing. No internet, no social media, no wearable communication. And even with the most modest prediction, 2 years from now — the time that current students graduate — is like 5 years ago, when there was no sign of iPads. Anyone who claims the ability to predict the future longer than this period is analyzing the crystal ball. Yet, lecturers need to have this vision in order to prepare students for their upcoming 40 years of professional life.

The only answer is add layers of abstraction. Learn students how to learn. Teach them how to teach. Educate them how to design the design process.

The rhizome-like structure of the network is significantly different the conventional linear structure of texts in books. What does it mean for the process of reading?

Text is not linear at all, never has been. During reading, the reader remembers traces of earlier statements, lines of reasoning and possible developments of the plot. He or she is aware of upcoming images, the availability of captions and footnotes, the position in a paragraph, approaching graphs, the relative position to inherited headings and the promise of restful whitespace, all visual in the corner of the reading eyes. Reading never has been possible without building a mental network. Technological developments just add to the amount of network nodes that we can handled in our mental space, increasing complexity, changing in time and manipulating more data than ever before. But that is quantitative change, not a qualitative one. The increase in our processing capacity does create a difference, since it speeds up the iteration rate of acquiring skills and gaining insight. Where more information is available in every cycle, substantiated decisions can be made, which lead to shorter overall design time.

Not only the way to ‘consume’ content is changing, but also the way content is developed. In a connected world, consumers no longer passively consume but produce, share, and publish content.

Due to automation, the iteration cycle of alternative versions now includes the production of complete products and the testing by end users. It makes the design process much more transparent for the outside world. Yet, people who think linear, who are used to measure decisiveness by the linearity of the process, won’t get it. These are the hardest customers to convince that the quality of a designs comes from professional opportunism and artificial ignorance. When everything needs to be measurable upfront, no new insights can emerge. Consumers are a hybrid group, a mix of people who don’t get it and people who appreciate the ongoing struggle to make things better than they where before, including all the failures. It is the distinction between people who complain about the iPhone4 reception bug and the people that appreciate the tons of new functionality it offers.

This is not just the case for journalists, but also for designers. A strict distinction between ‘professionals’ and ‘amateurs’ is hardly possible – is the so called ‘user generated content’ a serious competition for designers? And do designers need to be editors as well?

Designers need to be anything. And in reverse, anyone improving skills and result must be handling a design process. How can a journalist be professional by not improving abilities and skills, any time developing to techniques to communicate the story? The mere difference is that designers made it a living naming these skills.

Texts need to be edited before they are published. A text prepared for a digital medium requires a different way of editing than a text for a classical print medium, due to different circumstances and opportunities. For example: compare the printed newspaper with the online version. The online version requires permanent editing. Do you think that the possibilities are well exploited? (Good examples, bad examples).

Text prepared for a classical print medium requires different ways of editing, due to different circumstances and opportunities. The distinction between digital and classic is only valid from todays perspective. Owning an iPad is only relevant to during this small window in time between availability and the moment most people possess one. After that it is no longer worth mentioning. Yet, the design problem this phenomenon creates is hard to tackle. Since the size of this window of newness grew shorter than the time it takes to educate a fresh design student, the question is what to educate. Values of today are relics by the time they graduate. Design schools that fail to adjust and generalize, deliver designers that only can solve problems that no longer exist.


Graphic design deals with the communication of content – it used to be especially on paper. How does digitization affect traditional areas such as illustrations, info-graphics, photography and poster design?

What is difference is there? What relevance is there to categorize with blurring borders?

The future of the printed media: what will become useless and superfluous, what will remain?

Slade cut type still exists today: in grave stone inscriptions.

After a period dominated by mouse and screen, the digital technology will return to the world of touchable things. What are the implications of this tendency on design disciplines such as graphic design, product design and textile and surface design and how will we deal with the need to redefine the traditional boundaries?

The purpose of boundaries cease to exist. Build by scared designer to protect their work from villains, the adjective graphic to design becomes a prison. Where reality happens outside, the graphic designer is locked in, pretending that the world is not changing and that life is as good as it was ever before. The result is that their role reduced to the choice button colors, where they used to orchestrate the suppliers and behave as the architect of the process. With boundaries removed, the acquisition of the wides range of skills is the only strategy for designer to survive. Multi-specialism is the only solution to communicate with neighboring professions.

How will the design process transform / is already transforming in response to these developments?

Anything that can be automated, will be automated, with the exception of arts & crafts. Any time in history people felt confident that their profession would never become obsolete, the statement proved wrong. But designers are in the lucky position that they can solve the riddle by careful definition. The statement design is anything that cannot be automated makes the profession invincible. A similar definition Design is anything that you do for the first time shows the independence even better. Designers who are scared to death for the destruction their job, may not have been doing design work at all. Even if they thought it was.

Do we need new typefaces for the new media? This question may be not relevant anymore, because new screens will be better and better, so we can deal with the ‘old’ typefaces. What is your opinion?

Of course we need new typefaces for new media. Just as much as we need new typefaces for old media. The technical requirements are just one component, one restriction in the infinite amount of choices that the designer has to choose from. The discussion on new typefaces for new media is more than a resolution issue. The development of Unicode, Open Type Features, multiple scripts, interpolating weights, cross platform compatibility, webfonts by @font-face, hyphenation in webpages, dynamic typography and international licensing — to name a few — are just as important in the development of new typefaces. Each of these need more resources than there is currently available.

Readability on the screen: when we know that the e-readers will be technically improved, the question also remains if we need new typographic rules at all. The old rules about line width, line spacing, etc, can also be applied for the new media. Can you think of reasons why we should define new readability-rules for the new media?

Of course we need new typographic rules for new media. Just as much as we need new typographic rules for old media. By definition no two design tasks are identical, otherwise they would have been called production. Different tasks require different solutions. Rules of thumb are models that need to adapt to new situations. The question is how much the media change is influence. It might well be that the variations inside one medium is much larger. How much of the media-discussion comes from our present focus. The discussion about difference between letterpress and offset printing faded over time. The discussion about historical difference in design for different messages remained, independent from the technique of printing.

Do we need a golden section (goldener Schnitt) or a Tschichold-method for the digital book?

We never needed the Golden Section, just as much as we don’t need Tshichold’s method. As valuable as models may be in thinking about solutions — we can only think in biased generalities, otherwise we loose track —, in practice people like to think that models do replace the real world of infinite complexity. We can so easily see patterns, even if they provable don’t exist, that we believe them to be true. Worshipping the golden section is a clear example of this. Instead of the believe that anything with a golden section must be beautiful, simple analysis of this fact shows the mistake. There are roughly three types of Golden Sections:

  1. True mathematical constructions, including all pentagrams
  2. Golden Sections that where deliberately added to a design [Le Corbusier]
  3. An approximation of the section, which can be found in any pattern and composition, once you start searching for it.

Types 1 and 2 are not so interesting. A flower with 5 leafs has the Golden Section. Not because it is so beautiful, but because a pentagram is totally based on Golden Ratio’s. A flower with 6 leafs has no connection whatsoever. Type 2 is not a proof of beauty but the presentation of an opinion. By far the amount of approximating sections exceeds the others. Whatever you seek you will find. Our pattern recognizing mind is extremely capable of doing that. But the interesting question is: how many digits accurate does the approximation need to be, in order to label it as Golden Section? Any tolerant (measuring on the middle or side of the pillars of the Parthenon?) there, disproofs the statement. Why isn’t 2/3 or 3/4 the ultimate goal of esthetics, as these values also apply to the range you get, when asking people to draw a point on a sheet of paper. Or if designers are challenged to come with an example of the Golden Section, many mention the ratio of A4. Unfortunately the A-range is based on the square root of 2, with not relation at all to the square root of 5 which is the fundament of the Golden Section. What we do need is designers who understand when and why certain method and models should be applied, independent from religious value or parrot behavior.

What is the relationship between the spoken word, video, and text? What role has text, or type in the future?

How would this interview work when spoken in video? Another area in the landscape of possible message carriers. Different, with overlap.

What is your definition of good design in the 21st century?

In order to know what good design is, we need to understand the meaning of plain design. And as with all words, the definition of “design” is fuzzy, very much dependent on opinion and context. Design is the modern lamp, the innovative chair, the new typeface, the car engine, the organization model, the bridge, the guided evolution theory, the interface, the layout and the fashionable jacket. Which one to take?

As undefined the word design is, so clear it is how to get there. Different from the linearity of the production process, the design process is surprisingly generic: all of the designs above are created through a process of iterations, wandering through a space of possible solution, getting better understanding with every step, backtracking to earlier ones if the current direction shows to be a dead end.

Every iteration, each step in the maze of possible solution brings more knowledge and better understanding of what the real problem is, to be solved. The design process make something that was not there before. And by repeating the procedure, it gets better all the time. Material, tools and requirements may change over time, the process is fundamentally stable in this definition. The good design simply indicated the difference between ok-design, good-design and exceptional-design, a value of relative measure to what extend the design fits the developed goals.

  1. Daniel Kahneman, The Riddle of experience vs memory, 2010 | TED  

  2. Milton Glaser, On the fear of failure, 2011 | Vimeo 

3. Reading List

3.1. research on history and future

— Mark Currie | About Time. Narrative, Fiction and the Philosophy of Time.
Edinburgh University Press (2007)

The book’s goal is to bring narratology up to speed with contemporary philosophical insights about time. In particular, Currie positions himself against the usual view that postmodern narrative is defined by its challenges to and revision of historical accounts of the past. He wants instead to focus on the future, arguing that central to contemporary fiction is an engagement with prolepsis, or the anticipation of future significance in the narration of present events. In Currie’s view, fiction’s advantage over philosophy when it comes to exploring the aporias and contradictions in our understanding of time is its capacity to do something with time rather than simply say something about it. Fiction can explore individual instances wherein time is lived differently, experimentally, even disobediently, by fictional characters, and this exploration can play out at the level of the story’s temporal organization. (quoted from the review by Sarah Henstra)

— Stephen Toulmin | Cosmopolis. The Hidden Agenda of Modernity
The University of Chicago Press (1990)

In the seventeenth century – the the times of Scientific Revolution, – a vision arose which was to captivate the Western imagination for the next three hundred years: the vision of Cosmopolis, a society as rationally ordered as the Newtonian view of nature. This vision perpetuated a hidden yet persistent agenda: the delusion that human nature and society could be fitted into precise and manageable rational categories. Stephen Toulmin confronts that agenda — its illusions and its consequences for our present and future world. "[Toulmin] has now tackled perhaps his most ambitious theme of all. His aim is nothing less than to lay before us an account of both the origins and the prospects of our distinctively modern world. By charting the evolution of modernity, he hopes to show us what intellectual posture we ought to adopt as we confront the coming millennium." (Quentin Skinner, New York Review of Books)

— Jan Assmann and John Czaplicka | Collective Memory and Cultural Identity
Duke University Press (1988)

Assmann defines cultural memory as the "outer dimension of human memory", embracing two different concepts: "memory culture" (Erinnerungskultur) and "reference to the past" (Vergangenheitsbezug). Memory culture is the way a society ensures cultural continuity by preserving, with the help of cultural mnemonics, its collective knowledge from one generation to the next, rendering it possible for later generations to reconstruct their cultural identity. References to the past, on the other hand, reassure the members of a society of their collective identity and supply them with an awareness of their unity and singularity in time and space — i.e. an historical consciousness — by creating a shared past.

— Jan Assmann | Moses the Egyptian: The Memory of Egypt in Western Monotheism
Harvard University Press (1998)

"Mnemohistory is reception theory applied to history", that the "proper way of dealing with the working of cultural memory is mnemohistory" and that "Mnemohistory investigates the history of cultural memory".

— François Hartog | Regimes of Historicity
Columbia University Press (2015)

François Hartog explores crucial moments of change in society's "regimes of historicity," or its ways of relating to the past, present, and future. Inspired by Hannah Arendt, Reinhart Koselleck, and Paul Ricoeur, Hartog analyzes a broad range of texts, positioning The Odyssey as a work on the threshold of historical consciousness and contrasting it with an investigation of the anthropologist Marshall Sahlins's concept of "heroic history." He tracks changing perspectives on time in Chateaubriand's Historical Essay and Travels in America and sets them alongside other writings from the French Revolution. He revisits the insights of the French Annales School and situates Pierre Nora's Realms of Memory within a history of heritage and today's presentism, from which he addresses Jonas's notion of our responsibility for the future. Our presentist present is by no means uniform or clear-cut, and it is experienced very differently depending on the position we occupy in society. We are caught up in global movement and accelerated flows, or else condemned to the life of casual workers, living from hand to mouth in a stagnant present, with no recognized past, and no real future either (since the temporality of plans and projects is inaccessible). The present is therefore experienced as emancipation or enclosure, and the perspective of the future is no longer reassuring, since it is perceived not as a promise, but as a threat. Hartog's resonant readings show us how the motor of history(-writing) has stalled and help us understand the contradictory qualities of our contemporary presentist relation to time. (summary)

— Andrew Hoskins | Memory Shocks
University of Glasgow (2015)

The science fiction author William Gibson, interviewed on his latest book The Peripheral, argues, ‘The one constant … in looking at how we look at the past, how we have looked at the past before, is that we never see the inhabitants of the past as they saw themselves’. And the more that the digital pervasiveness of ‘post-scarcity culture’ (Hoskins, 2013) folds the past into the present, the greater today’s ‘incapacity to conceive that bygone people lived by other principles and viewpoints’ (Lowenthal, 2012: 3). Yet, when today the more recent disturbing past suddenly emerges into public consciousness, living memory, and the highly visible and accessible representations of that past, create entanglements not easily ‘domesticated’ (Lowenthal, 2012) with the safety of historical distance. Thus, when the victims, perpetrators and individuals and organisations complicit in acts judged heinous by today’s mores are still present (and/or embedded into a society’s cultural fabric), to render such emergent shocks intelligible through those same mores, gives us memory’s perfect storm. (introduction)

— Sebastian Groes (editor) | Memory in the Twenty-First Century
Palgrave Macmillan (2016)

This book maps and analyses the changing state of memory at the start of the twenty-first century in essays written by scientists, scholars and writers. It re-contextualises memory by investigating the impact of new conditions such as the digital revolution, climate change and an ageing population on our world.

"Memory in the Twenty-First Century, edited by Sebastian Groes, is a remarkable achievement. Bringing together an interdisciplinary mix of scientists, cultural critics, philosophers, writers and literary critics, it ranges across a diverse set of topics, including memory as metaphor, anticipation, ecology, subjectivity and even memory's seeming antithesis, forgetting. Readers will find an equally rich range of references, including novels, films, poems and artworks, in addition to what seems like the entire scholarly repertoire of works on, about, and relating to memory across the centuries in Western culture." N. Katherine Hayles, Professor of Literature and Director of Graduate Studies, Literature Program, Duke University. (summary)

Presence, temporarity and uncertainty

— Bruno Latour | Reassembling the Social
Oxford University Press (2005)

Everyone seems to know with what sort of forces and in which sort of materials the social world is made. I have always been struck, on the contrary, by the huge gap between the vast variety of attachments with which people elaborate their different worlds and the limited repertoire we possess in social science to account for them. I found this gap widening even more when I began, thirty years ago, to provide a social explanation of scientific practice. While most people said such an enterprise was clearly non sense; while some of my close colleagues claimed it was, if not easy, at least feasible within the normal limits of the humans sciences, a few friends and I decided to take the enormous difficulties of this task as the occasion to rethink the notions of society and of social explanation. Starting from the new insights of science studies, we have since explored many other domains from technology to health, from market organisations to art, from religion to law, from management to politics. This alternative way of practicing sociology has been called Actor-Network-Theory or ANT. Although it has been widely used, it has also been largely misunderstood — in part because of the ambiguity of the word ‘social’. To clarify those misunderstandings, I thought useful to write an introduction to this small school of thought — or rather to propose my own version of it. In this book I show why sociology may be construed as the science of associations and not only as the science of the social. (summary)

The origin of this approach can be found in the need for a new social theory adjusted to science and technology studies (Callon and Latour 1981). It was at this point that nonhumans — microbes, scallops, rocks, and ships — presented themselves to social theory in a new way. As I will explain later, when reviewing the fourth uncertainty, it was the first time for me that the objects of science and technology had become, so to speak, social-compatible.

— Hartmut Rosa | Social Acceleration: A New Theory of Modernity
Columbia University Press (2013)

In Social Acceleration: A New Theory of Modernity, Rosa finds that spark in the curious paradox of contemporary society of how “we don’t have any time although we’ve gained far more than we’ve needed before” (xxxv). It is this paradox which leads Rosa to analyse what he takes to be the fundamental aspect of our modernity: the acceleration of social processes. (quoted from the review by Kye Barker)

— Zygmunt Bauman | Liquid Modernity
John Wiley & Sons (2000)

In this new book, Bauman examines how we have moved away from a 'heavy' and 'solid', hardware-focused modernity to a 'light' and 'liquid', software-based modernity. This passage, he argues, has brought profound change to all aspects of the human condition. The new remoteness and un-reachability of global systemic structure coupled with the unstructured and under-defined, fluid state of the immediate setting of life-politics and human togetherness, call for the rethinking of the concepts and cognitive frames used to narrate human individual experience and their joint history. This book is dedicated to this task. Bauman selects five of the basic concepts which have served to make sense of shared human life — emancipation, individuality, time/space, work and community — and traces their successive incarnations and changes of meaning. (summary)

— Wijnand IJsselsteijn | Elements of a multi-level theory of presence
Eindhoven University of Technology (2002)

Presence research is still at an early stage of development, and theoretical contributions are needed that integrate diverse insights relevant to understanding presence, emerging from different contributing areas. In this paper, we outline what we regard to be key elements of a theory of presence, addressing the experience at three distinct levels of explanation: phenomenology, mental processing, and underlying brain mechanisms. (summary)


— Franco Berardi | After the Future
AK Press (2011) pp. 18

The century-long obsession with the concept of the future has, at last, come to an end. Beginning with F. T. Marinetti's "Futurist Manifesto" and the worldwide race toward a new and highly mechanized society that defined the "Century of Progress," Italian media activist Franco “Bifo” Berardi traces the genesis of future-oriented thought through the punk movement of the early ’70s and into the media revolution of the ’90s. Cyberculture, the last truly utopian vision of the future, has ended in a clash, and left behind an ever-growing system of virtual life and actual death, of virtual knowledge and actual war. The future, Bifo argues, has failed us. Our responsibility now is to decide what comes next. (summary)

— B. Latour | How to Sort out the Many Ambiguities of the Concept of Anthropocene
BAK | basis voor actuele kunst (2015)

Bruno Latour discusses the use — and many ambiguities — of the hybrid, novel, and yet unstable concept of the Anthropocene as one informed by the disciplines of geology, philosophy, theology, and social science. Latour has articulated the Anthropocene as a “wake-up call,” radically reframing both the time and space we find ourselves living in. The final refusal of the separation between Nature and Human, which “has paralyzed science and politics since the dawn of modernism,” the Anthropocene is the most probable alternative we have to usher ourselves out of the notion of modernization at a point when “the dreams that could be nurtured at the time of the Holocene cannot last.” (lecture description)

— Celine Condorelli | Too Close to See: Notes on Friendship
OPEN Editions (2013)

The essay addresses the the practice of friendship, as a specific entry in relation to the large question of how to live and work together towards change, as a way of acting in the world. Being a friend entails a commitment, a decision, and encompasses the implied positioning that any cultural activities requires. In the context of self-organization, friendship is perhaps at its most evident in relation to a labor process, in how we work together. (introduction)

— Laurel Vlock, Dori Laube and William Rosenberg | Holocaust Survivors Project
Yale University (1979)

In 1979, a grassroots organization, the Holocaust Survivors Film Project, began videotaping Holocaust survivors and witnesses in New Haven, Connecticut. In 1981, the original collection of testimonies was deposited at Yale University, and the Video Archive for Holocaust Testimonies opened its doors to the public the following year (for a more detailed history of the collection see A Yale University and New Haven Community Project: From Local to Global). This project opens the memory boom (1980 - 2010) in the art, literature, media and cinema production. (project description)

— Manuel Lima | The Book of Trees: visualizing branches of knowledge
Princeton Architectural Press (2014)

The tree is a universal human symbol that transcends time and culture as a compelling metaphor for organizing knowledge. The book of Trees, Manual Lima’s follow-up volume to his critically acclaimed Visual Complexity: Mapping Patterns of Information, explores more than eight hundred years of the tree diagram - from its roots in antiquity through the illuminated manuscripts of European cloisters to its current resurgence as an elegant and functional structure for representing complex information. (summary)

— Daniel Rosenberg and Anthony Grafton | Cartographies of Time
Princeton Architectural Press (2012)

From the most ancient images to the contemporary, the line has served as the central figure in the representation of time. The linear metaphor is ubiquitous in everyday visual representations of time — in almanacs, calendars, charts, and graphs of all sorts. Even our everyday speech is filled with talk of time having a ‘before’ and an ‘after’ or being ‘long’ and ‘short’. The timeline is such a familiar part of our mental furniture that it is sometimes hard to remember that we invented it in the first place. And yet, in its modern form, the timeline is not even 250 years old. The story of what came before has until now never been fully told. (summary)

— William Gibson | The Peripheral
Berkley Books (2014)

The Peripheral is a science fiction mystery-thriller novel, which story is set in multiple futures. According to GQ's Zach Baron: “The Peripheral is an emphatic return to the science fiction he ceased to write after the turn of this century, set in not one but two futures. The first, not far off from our own present day, takes place in a Winter's Bone-ish world where the only industries still surviving are lightly evolved versions of Walmart and the meth trade. The second future is set further along in time, after a series of not-quite-cataclysmic events that have killed most of the world's population, leaving behind a monarchic class of gangsters, performance artists, and publicists in an otherwise deserted London.” For the designers this book is inspiring because it questions the language of the future. As the medium and tools are changing so fast the part of our lexicon is diying or its meaning being replaced. This development is projected on the features, functions, architecture and medium of goods, services and systems designers and artists are producing.”

3.2. research on the emerging environments

— Gerlinde Schuller | Designing Universal Knowledge: the world as flatland
Lars Müller Publishers (2009)

Knowledge is power. If one possesses a collection of the ‘universal knowledge’ of the world, one has ultimate power. Establishing comprehensive, global collections of knowledge already fascinated mankind thousands of years ago. Today, modern communication and information technologies offer quick and prompt collecting, high memory capacities and wide-ranging access. In addition, globalization and the Internet advance a mentality which moves away from the local and regional towards the international and universal. Collections of knowledge, such as archives, encyclopedias, databases and libraries, also follow this trend. They are engaged in a race against time in both the technological and creative area. Their clearly formulated aim is to establish for us a complete and up-to-date collection of ‘universal knowledge’. (summary)

— Norbert Wiener | The Human Use of Human Beings
Eyre & Spottiswoode (1950)

Wiener was the founding thinker of cybernetics theory and an influential advocate of automation. Human Use argues for the benefits of automation to society. It analyzes the meaning of productive communication and discusses ways for humans and machines to cooperate, with the potential to amplify human power and release people from the repetitive drudgery of manual labor, in favor of more creative pursuits in knowledge work and the arts. He explores how such changes might harm society through dehumanization or subordination of our species, and offers suggestions on how to avoid such risks. (summary)

— Vilém Flusser | Gestures
University of Minnesota Press (2014)

People express their being in the world through a sweeping range of movements — gestures. Flusser reconsiders familiar actions — from speaking and painting to smoking and telephoning — in terms of particular movement, opening a surprising new perspective on the ways we share and preserve meaning. A gesture may or may not be linked to specialized apparatus, though its form crucially affects the person who makes it. Fusser defines gesture as “a movement of the body or of a tool attached to the body for which there is no satisfactory causal explanation”. Flusser analyzes it as the expression of a particular form of consciousness, that is, as a particular relationship between the world and the one who gestures. The urgency of this text is related to the increase use of human gestures as the language and tool in the development of the emerged technology: we move from writing to typing and eventually to touching screens for zooming, scrolling, swiping, etc. (summary)

— Bret Victor | Simulation as a practical Tool
Worry Dream (2009)

Mathematics, as currently taught, consists of the manipulation of abstract symbols. For most people, the level of abstraction makes math unpleasant or unusable as a practical tool for exploring the problems of their lives. I believe that software makes possible a new form of practical mathematics, based on concrete modeling, simulation, and visualization. I believe it is possible to design a tool that enables people to pose and answer their mathematical questions in an entirely concrete domain, without having to invoke abstractions, symbols, or arcane rules. This tool would eventually displace many symbolic forms of math, in the same way that the pocket calculator has displaced manual arithmetic methods. This interactive essay is an early step towards justifying and motivating the development of such a tool. I take a typical school problem which is intended to be solved with equations and geometric reasoning, and present a solution using physical modeling and simulation. This inspires the posing and solving of more interesting problems. The simulations represent the problem concretely, without abstractions; provide a broader context, allowing a deeper understanding of the situation; easily handle problems which are difficult or impossible to solve analytically; and can be used to actively create, not just passively understand.

— Steve Rushton | Masters of Reality
Sternberg Press & PZ Institute (2012)

Masters of Reality brings together the first collection of texts by Steve Rushton. Second in a series of publications on contemporary art inaugurated by the Piet Zwart Institute, the book explores the interrelations between art, anthropology, social sciences, psychology, media, politics, and economy. Central to Rushton’s research is an investigation into the conception of feedback, social control, and the culture of “self-performance.” Through his writings and collaborative work with artists, he has developed and articulated a thorough analysis of the techniques and processes of information management and subjectivization in Western society since the second half of the twentieth century. (summary)

— Sven Lutticken | Life, Once more: An Arena in which to Reenact
Witte de With | Center for Contemporary Art (2005) pp. 17

In the 1960s, Guy Debord and the Situationist International conceived of spectacle as a theater perfomed by commodity-images, consumed passively by people who lead impoverished lives. What was not sufficiently emphasized in this analysis was the spectacular imperative for people to present themselves, to perfom themselves as commodities.

— Hito Steyerl (edited by Nick Aikens) | Too Much World
Sternberg Press (2014)

Hito Steyerl is rightly considered one of the most exciting artists working today who speculates on the impact of the Internet and digitization on the fabric of our everyday lives. Her films and writings offer an astute, provocative, and often funny analysis of the dizzying speed with which images and data are reconfigured, altered, and dispersed, many times over, accelerating into infinity or crashing into oblivion. (summary)

— Steven Heller | The Future of the Future of the Book
Print Magazine (2010)

The future publishers will be programmers, the future authors will be social and the future reader will be electronic. Books that are stitched or glued will become a different type of artifact in the post press world. That is Post Press. e-books and digital publishing: sites for James Bridle and Craig Mod. (interview with Scott Thomas)

— Andrew Robinson | Jean Baudrillard: Hyperreality and Implosion
Ceasefire Magazine (2012)

The model of the code does not represent a prior social reality. It creates a new social reality, which Baudrillard terms hyperreality. Hyperreality is a special kind of social reality in which a reality is created or simulated from models, or defined by reference to models — a reality generated from ideas. The term has implications of ‘too much reality’ — everything being on the surface, without mystery; ‘more real than reality’ — too perfect and schematic to be true, like special effects; and ‘para-reality’, an extra layer laid over, or instead of, reality. It is experienced as more real than the real, because of its effect of breaking down the boundary between real and imaginary. It is a ‘real’ without ‘origin or reality’, a reality to which we cannot connect.

3.3. research on learning

— Jerome S. Bruner | Toward a theory of instruction
Harvard University Press (1966) pp. 022 - 038: Education as social Invention

I shall take it as self-evident that each generation must define afresh the nature, direction, and aims of education to assure such freedom and rationality as can be attained for stances and in knowledge that impose constraints on and give opportunities to the teacher in each succeeding generation. It is in this sense that education is in constant process of invention. I should like particularly to comment upon four changes in our own time that require consideration in thinking about education.

— John Seely Brown | The Internet & the University: Forum 2001
The Forum for the Future of Higher Education (2002) pp. 065 - 086

Learning is a remarkably social process. In truth, it occurs not as a response to teaching, but rather as a result of a social framework that fosters learning. To succeed in our struggle to build technology and new media to support learn- ing, we must move far beyond the traditional view of teaching as delivery of information. Although information is a critical part of learning, it’s only one among many forces at work. It’s profoundly misleading and ineffective to separate information, theories, and principles from the activities and situations within which they are used. Knowledge is inextricably situated in the physical and social context of its acquisition and use.

— Carl Discalvo | An Uncomfortable Imagination
Kunstlicht (2014)

How does speculative design reproduce the risks of society? Carl DiSalvo identies two distinct approaches: one critiques through the reproduction of risks as hazards, while the other goes a step further to offer potential solutions. (summary)

3.4. research on connectivity, archives
and searching

— Janet H. Murray | Inventing the medium
The MIT Press (2011) pp. 253 - 288: Using Standardized Metadata to Share Knowledge

Whatever digital artifact we are designing — whether it is a marketing and retail space for a toy seller or a repository for data about stars at the farthest reaches of the cosmos — we can approach the task as an opportunity to advance the encyclopedic potential of the medium. The aggregation of media archives in digital form offers a historic challenge to the designer to turn an exponential increase in our inspiration and transmission capacity into a comparable increase in human knowledge by inventing and refining more powerful conventions of information organization.

— Joseph Michael Reagle Jr. | Good Faith Collaboration: The Culture of Wikipedia
The MIT Press (2010) pp. 137 - 168: Encyclopedic Anxiety

Wikipedia, and the collaborative way in which it is produced, is at the center of a heated debate. Much as reference works might inspire passionate dedication in their contributors, they also, seemingly, can inspire passionate disparagement. In 2004 Michael Gorman, former president of the American Library Association, wrote an op-ed criticizing Google and its book-scanning project; he was surprised by the negative online response to his piece, but this only prompted him to redouble his attack a few years later. In 2007 he focused on blogs and Wikipedia, decrying the effects of the “digital tsunami” on learning.

— Richard Graham | A History of Search Engines
Institute of Network Cultures (2014)

The book, entitled "Society of the Query Reader: Reflections on Web Search", contains 20 essays by various scholars, critics, theorists and artists from a wide variety of disciplines on the theme of Search Engines. Looking up something online is one of the most common applications of the web. Whether with a laptop or smartphone, we search the web from wherever we are, at any given moment. ‘Googling’ has become so entwined in our daily routines that we rarely question it. However, search engines such as Google or Bing determine what part of the web we get to see, shaping our knowledge and perceptions of the world. But there is a world beyond Google – geographically, culturally, and technologically.

— Andrew Hoskins | The mediatization of memory, Mediatization of Communication
De Gruyter (2009)

This chapter takes " mediatization " as the process by which everyday life is increasingly embedded in and penetrated by connectivity: the process of shifting interconnected individual, social, and cultural dependency on media, for mainte-nance, survival, and growth. Hoskins takes the emergent sociotechnical flux as the principal shaper of 21st century remembering through the medial gathering and splintering of individual, social, and cultural imaginaries, increasingly networked through portable and pervasive digital media and communication devices so that a new "living archive" is becom-ing the organizing and habitual condition of memory. So, memory's biological, social, and cultural divisions and distinctions seem increasingly blurred if not collapsed under the key active dynamic of the emergent media-memorial relation-ship: hyperconnectivity. And although counter-trajectories of a mainstream media still persist to challenge the fragmentary and diffused character of memory in post-scarcity culture, the openness of mediatized memory offers an alternative memory boom: an unfinished past and a vitalized future. (abstracts, Hoskins)

— Olia Lialina and Dragan Espenschied | Digital Folklore
Merz & Solitude (2009)

As the first book of its kind, this reader contains essays and projects investigating many different facets of Digital Folklore: online amateur culture, DIY electronics, dirtstyle, typo-nihilism, memes, teapots, penis enlargement …Technical innovations shape only a small part of computer and network culture. It doesn't matter much who invented the microprocessor, the mouse, TCP/IP or the World Wide Web; nor does it matter what ideas were behind these inventions. What matters is who uses them. Only when users start to express themselves with these technical innovations do they truly become relevant to culture at large.

Users' endeavors, like glittering star backgrounds, photos of cute kittens and rainbow gradients, are mostly derided as kitsch or in the most extreme cases, postulated as the end of culture itself. In fact this evolving vernacular, created by users for users, is the most important, beautiful and misunderstood language of new media. (summary)

— Bob Duggan | Is the Future of Museums Really Online?
Big Think (2015)

The question of whether museums (and the rest of the world) will go online is moot. The real questions are how and how soon. Will museums keep pace with the world around them and remain relevant to new generations raised on tablets? Or will they lag behind and hope for a nostalgic niche market similar to those who market vinyl albums to music lovers who can’t abide iTunes? Cooper-Hewitt’s transformation may or may not be a model for other museums, but at least it’s a model to keep the discussion and questioning going.

— Robinson Meyer | The Museum of the Future Is Here
The Atlantic (2015)

To people who photograph placards when they visit museums—a group to which I belong—the pen is a godsend. It anticipates a need and executes it; it is a straightforward, useful object. But it’s something more. The pen does something that countless companies, organizations, archives, and libraries are trying to do: It bridges the digital and the physical.

— David Anderson, Christoph Vogtherr, Maria Balshaw and Robert Hewison
What should our museums look like in 2020? | The Guardian (2015)

Four industry experts share their views on the past, present and future of museums.

3.5. research on translation and interpretation

— Walter Benjamin | The Task of the Translator
Selected Writings: Volume 1 1913 - 1926 (1921)

In The Task of the Translator, an essay written to accompany one of the many translations Benjamin wrote, Benjamin presents his theory of translation. A translation should not simply aim to convey information. In fact, translations often convey information best if they are inaccurate. Nor should it seek to read as if the work were originally written in the new language. It shouldn’t seek to be to the new language what the original is to the original language. In One-Way Street, Benjamin states that commentary and translation are to the text as style and mimesis are to nature. Translation should aim to continue the creativity and originality of the work. (review by Andrew Robinson)

— Alex Byrne | Recollection, Perception, Imagination
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (2009)

Remembering a cat sleeping (specifically, recollecting the way the cat looked), perceiving (specifically, seeing) a cat sleeping, and imagining (specifically, visualizing) a cat sleeping are of course importantly different. Nonetheless, from the first-person perspective they are palpably alike. (introduction)

— Johanna Drucker | Graphesis: visual forms of knowledge production
Harvard University Press (2014) pp. 016 - 063: Image, interpretation and interface

Even though our relation to experience is often (and increasingly) mediated by visual formats and images, the bias against visual forms of knowledge production is longstanding in our culture. Logocentric and numero-centric attitudes prevail. Vision has served knowledge in many ways across the sciences, arts, and humanities in theoretical and applied domains. Attention to style, iconography, and other formal properties is well developed in the fine arts, where concerns with connoisseurship and the social function of images drive the field. We also know that pictorial images reveal much about the history of visual culture and knowledge and that familiar art historical theories and methods are used for their analysis.

— Stavros Stavrides | Emancipatory Commoning?
Open! | Platform for Art, Culture & the Public Domain (2016) pp. 2

In the relation to the discource about redefining new commons, Stavrides emphasizes the importance of open communities of commoners. “In order to be able to support potential relations of social emancipation commoning has to be open to ‘newcomers.’ Not simply as new members in a community of already established rules and habits but as co-producers of those rules and habits. To keep alive the power of commoning we need to support its expansion: in new areas of collaboration (‘goods,’ ideas, services) and by including new people, new potential commoners. [...] ‘Commons’ are not actually ‘things,’ ‘goods,’ etc., but socially meaningful entities that are shaped in relations established through commoning.” In this prospect, art, may become a propelling force of commoning: by the ‘translation’ art can be reinvented through commoning as a means to learn from differences and play with differences as long as equality and solidarity are not cancelled.

3.6. Literature Thought Collider


— Anab Jain | Blowup: The Era of Objects
V2 (2011) pp. 6 - 14: Design Futurescaping

In 2009, Bruce Sterling hailed the arrival of ‘a networked, interactive, increasingly speculative futurity’ (Sterling, 2009: 28). In this, a world where ‘the imagination has become an organized field of social practices’ (Appadurai, 1990) — that which Sterling dubs ‘speculative culture’ — design futurescaping emerges a hybrid practice, unfolding at the intersection of foresight and critical design. First presented as a phrase at Lift 09 by Anab Jain, the ‘futurescape’ is cast as an analogue for the physical landscape; a heterogeneous topography of unevenly-distributed futurity; infinitely extendible; punctuated with features and landmarks.

— A. Dunne and F. Raby | Design Noir: The Secret Life of Electronic Objects
August/Birkhäuser (2001)

Dunne and Raby investigate the real physical and cultural effects of the digital domain, demonstrating that mobile phones, computers and other electronic objects such as televisions profoundly influence people's experience of their environment. Dunne and Raby's ideas have important implications for architecture and design In this, their first major book, they introduce their extraordinary new way of thinking about objects, space and behaviour to a broad audience.

— Stuart Candy | The Futures of Everyday Life
Politics and the Design of Experiential Scenarios (2010)

The great existential challenges facing the human species can be traced, in part,to the fact that we have underdeveloped discursive practices for thinking possibleworlds ‘out loud’, performatively and materially, in the register of experience. Thatneeds to change. In this dissertation, a methodology for ‘experiential scenarios’, covering a range of interventions and media from immersive performance tostand-alone ‘artifacts from the future’, is offered as a partial corrective. The beginnings of aesthetic, political and ethical frameworks for ‘experiential futures’ are proposed, drawing on alternative futures methodology, the emerging anti-mediumist practice of ‘experience design’, and the theoretical perspective of a Rancièrian ‘politics of aesthetics’. The relationships between these threedomains — futures, design, and politics — are explored to show how and why they are coming together, and what each has to offer the others.

— Tom Stafford | Why can smells unlock forgotten memories?
BBC Future (2012)

The toy cupboard at my grandmother's house had a particular smell. I cannot tell you what it was, but sometimes now, as an adult, I will catch a whiff of it. The smell brings with it memories I thought were lost, memories of visits to my grandparents' house, of my grandmother, and of playing with the toys from the toy cupboard. But why do smells have this power to unlock forgotten memories?

— David Robson | Why music has a hotline to our emotions?
BBC Future (2015)

Who hasn’t ever felt a song pulling at their heartstrings? Whether it is the feeling of euphoria in a club, or a lonely cry to a heartbreaking ballad, music can cut us to the core, expressing emotions more eloquently than words ever can.

film and video

— David Cronenberg | Existenz (1999)

Allegra Geller, the leading game designer in the world, is testing her new virtual reality game, eXistenZ with a focus group. As they begin, she is attacked by a fanatic assassin employing a bizarre organic gun. She flees with a young marketing trainee, Ted Pikul, who is suddenly assigned as her bodyguard. Unfortunately, her pod, an organic gaming device that contains the only copy of the eXistenZ game program, is damaged. To inspect it, she talks Ted into accepting a gameport in his own body so he can play the game with her. The events leading up to this, and the resulting game lead the pair on a strange adventure where reality and their actions are impossible to determine from either their own or the game's perspective.

— Michel Gondry | Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)

On a Valentine Day, Joel Barish feels the impulse of going to Montauk instead of working. After spending the cold day on the beach, he meets Clementine Kruczynski on the train station and they have a crush on each other. Joel and Clementine do not know that they were mates in the past. Joel has just erased Clementine from his memories when he found that Clementine did exactly the same, when their relationship ended. However, along his erasing process, Joel becomes astonished when he finds that he still loves Clementine and he does not want to lose her, fighting for keeping the memories of their moments together instead.

— Michel Gondry | The Science of Sleep (2006)

Following the death of his father in Mexico, Stéphane Miroux, a shy insecure young man, agrees to come to Paris to draw closer to his widowed mother Christine. He lands a boring job at a calendar-making firm and falls in love with his charming neighbor Stéphanie. But conquering her is no bed of roses for the young man and the only solution he finds to put up with the difficulties he is going through is escape into a dream world.

— Luca Turin | The Science of Scent
TED Talk (2008)

What's the science behind a sublime perfume? With charm and precision, biophysicist Luca Turin explains the molecular makeup — and the art —
of a scent.