Making Sense of Technology

Alex Hantson, Feb. 14, 2016

As the closing session of Lift16 on Friday, February 12, Making Sense of Technology featured three speakers established in the United Kingdom who explore and question our relationship with technology.

"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic” wrote Science-Fiction author Arthur C. Clarke. What are the implications of such ambiguity? Is it a good thing? Shall we avoid this magical metaphor? The quote illustrates how people make sense, or not, of digital technologies. Based on three talks by designers and cultural theorists, the session will address how users and designers understand how the digital behaves and creates meanings in society.

For the French speakers among you, don't hesitate to have a look at the latest newsletter published by Nicolas Nova, in which he elegantly shares the key take-aways of his session.

 

Nicolas Nova - Introduction to Making Sense of Technology

Nicolas Nova, principal at Near Future Laboratory and professor at HEAD Geneva, was the moderator of the closing session. In this short introduction, Nicolas Nova invites us to take a step back from technology and look at the hidden effect it has on us, from amazement to, sometimes, horror.

 

Tobias Revell - The Internet of Damned Things

Tobias Revell, artist, designer, co-founder of Haunted Machines, exploring myth, magic and hauntings in our relationship with technology.

Our interfaces with consumer technology grow ever ‘smarter.’ They take on the appearance of being magical or enchanted, performing inexplicably complex actions and behaviours that delight and surprise. However, there is a sinister side. The same technologies that can appear friendly and productive can be become hostile and destructive. The design of products and services meant to ease the experience of users by streamlining and burying complexity is a dangerous precedent in which we open our lives and homes to the trap of malicious intent and thoughtless consumption.

Want to see the slides? Watch it on Klewel!

Read the transcript of this talk.

 

Natalie Kane - Uninvited Guests

Natalie Kane, C&P officer at FutureEverything and researcher at Changeist, co-founder of Haunted Machines, a project which reflects on narratives of magic pervading technology.

This talk presents the extent to which algorithmic mediation and networked systems can create the capacity for ‘ghosts’, where they exist as technological phenomena and are summoned, and how narratives of hauntings can allow us to unpack potential futures for these technological spectres. As we hand more of our human ‘stuff’ over to systems that are marketed to make us smarter, more efficient, and supposedly more in control of ourselves, we neglect where they remove our control of our own representation, agency and power.

Where do these opaque systems create ghost ‘others’, left behind to become a subjective record of how we once lived? By bringing in a focus on near futures and narrative design, this talk looks at our future ghost stories, and potential ways out of hauntings. Where can we invoke spectres ourselves in order to understand the frictions that occur when you place your innovation into an existing technological system?

Want to see the slides? Watch it on Klewel!

Read the transcript of this talk.

 

Joël Vacheron - 1983: a blackened window on the world

Joël Vacheron, journalist, sociologist, editor of VERITIES, interested in the impact of innovative projects on the production of recurrent narratives and aesthetics in everyday technologies.

Enter the new round 
Enter the next phase
Enter the program
Technofy your mind
—Cybotron, Enter, 1983

The first mobile phones, the raise of personal computers, the first track of Techno music (Cybotron’s clear) or the highly-mediatised Strategic Defense Initiative (purposely called Star Wars), a series of things and events took place in 1983 that induced a forthcoming paradigm shift. Among these, the 1st of January was, is ARPANET’s official transtion from NCP (Network Control Protocol) to TCP/IP (Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol). This talk considers 1983 as a pivotal moment, wittingly a year before 1984, that helps to explore some disruptive representations of digital networks.

Our goal is to consider the signs of this information breakthrough through a couple of visual illustrations that epitomize the notion of « prefigurative aesthetics ». To put it shortly, it consists of visual art projects, « that existed in a space completely independent from the art world » (David Em), that attempted to embody utopian impulses in bringing the future into concrete designs. Joël's case studies have popular music as a starting point and focus on the works of David Em, a pioneer in digital art that personify the figure of the « Architect », and Rammellzee, a renegade graffiti artist that would be the figure of the « Bricoleur ».

In their own (and seemingly opposite) ways, the works of these two artists prefigure a range of concepts that are still closely fastened to our ways of considering internet. On one side, the models created by David Em, in particular the Earthrise used on the cover of Herbie Hancock’s Future Shock, are pioneering manifestations of the « virtual worlds » that are still avidly mobilized nowadays (think vaporwave, Video Games,…). On another side, Rammellzee’s cryptic languages expresses the chaotic and unpredictable dimension of the networks and his radical DIY can be related to actual innovative ways of making things (think Fab Lab, 3D printing, etc.).

Want to see the slides? Watch it on Klewel!

Read the transcript of this talk.

 

Find all pictures from this session on our Flickr page.

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