Human Entities: Culture in the age of semi-autonomous machines
Public talks organised by CADA in partnership with the Lisbon Architecture Triennale
By 2050, 75 per cent of humanity will be urban. Meanwhile our mobile phones, wearable sensors and the connected homes and cites that we inhabit are all collecting data on an oceanic scale. Networked computation is becoming ubiquitous and, as billions of things come online, the boundaries between humans and machines are fast becoming blurred. As new technologies increasingly work in relationship to others, not only does the data between them proliferate but its sheer scale and the complexity of our entanglement with our environment point to a radically new relationship with the world.
How do we imagine daily life shaped by an increasingly dense infosphere? How do we imagine sharing everyday life with semi-autonomous machines?
Inspired and spooked by such transformative times, CADA hopes to make some of the assumptions behind these technologies comprehensible and concrete. Human Entities 2016 is a series of public talks, curated by Jared Hawkey and Sofia Oliveira, that focussed on technological change and its impacts – the ways technology and culture shape and influence each other. Conceived to question our evolving relationship with technology, Human Entities has an emphasis on the exchange of views and personal experiences aiming to search for new perspectives through participation, thought and creative production.
#1 Wednesday 13 April: Adam Greenfield (US)
Another City Is Possible: Practices of the Minimum Viable Utopia
After dispensing with the sham that is the so-called “smart city”, I’ll be discussing commons-based alternatives to the currently dominant conception of technologized urbanity, specifically four aspects involved in the production of networked urban environments from the bottom up: people making data, people making things, people making places and people making networks.
Adam Greenfield is author of Everyware: The dawning age of ubiquitous computing (2006), “Against the smart city” (2013) and The city is here for you to use (forthcoming from Verso). Previously Senior Urban Fellow at LSE Cities, Adam now co-teaches the Bartlett’s MArch Urban Design cluster “Architectures of Participation” with Usman Haque.
Adam’s talk will be followed by a Q&A session moderated by Sandro Mendonça (Professor, ISCTE Business School and columnist at Expresso newspaper). Thank you Filipa Tomaz and Sandro Mendonça
#2 Wednesday 27 April:
Alice Benessia (IT)
Do we really want and need to be smart? Can we?
Sara M. Watson (US)
Liquid Data: The Power of Seductive Metaphors
Emergent information and communication technologies (ICT), such as the so-called Internet of Things (IoT), constantly redefine the texture of our culture, society and lifestyle, raising a number of fundamental epistemic, normative and ethical issues, in a constant co-evolution. These technologies are constructed, named, offered, and ultimately regulated, according to and through specific techno-scientific imaginaries, here defined as collections of visual and verbal metaphors that are created and communicated both in the specialized literature and in the mass media for the public at large.
Wonder, power, control and urgency can be defined as standard imaginaries of techno-scientific innovation: the fundamental axes defining an ideal space in which the multifaceted vision of the IoT can be projected and analyzed, in terms of what we want (wonder), we can (power and control) and we need (urgency) to be smart. Within this ideal space, we will examine together a variety media available on the web and produced by some of the key actors of the IoT revolution.
This exploration leads to an open-ended reflection on the underlying aims and contradictions of the ICT enhancement, in relation to the possible decline of some of the fundamental attributes of our integrity and agency.
Sara M. Watson
Liquid Data: The Power of Seductive Metaphors
By examining the dominant metaphors we use to talk about data, Sara M. Watson dissects the industry-centric bias at the core of our cultural understanding of data today. She argues more embodied data metaphors can better animate public consciousness and, in turn, shape policy positions, technology designs, and business models going forward. The power of metaphorical framings feeds into her recent work as a research fellow at the Tow Center for Digital Journalism, examining the rhetoric and ideology of technology on the public imagination. Sara argues that a constructive approach to technology criticism can improve the broader cultural discourse about technology, not only commenting on the technologies we have, but influencing and shaping the technologies we want.
#3 Wednesday 4 May: !Mediengruppe Bitnik (CH)
Artist talk: !Mediengruppe Bitnik
Artists’ group !Mediengruppe Bitnik will present recent works exploring internet subculture, surveillance and bots. They will talk about their recently completed work Random Darknet Shopper which directly connected art spaces with the darknet via an automated online shopping bot. With a weekly budget of $100 in Bitcoins, the bot went shopping on the deep web where it randomly chose and purchased one item and had it mailed directly to the exhibition space, creating a landscape of traded goods from the darknet. Bitnik will also present Same Same – Watching Algorithms, a software bot which replaces all imagery on the website of the art space Cabaret Voltaire with algorithmically similar images.