|I N F O - E C O
D A Y - by - D A Y (1995)
Doors of Perception 3: On Matter
A meeting between info and eco communities
Doors 3 `On Matter' was about the interaction of big stories, spectacular new technologies, and small actions to exploit them. There was a Launch Event which compared the latest long-term eco-scenarios and meta-trends in information technology. These big stories fed into 12 professional design workshops whose results were in turn presented as part of the Doors of Perception 3 Conference in Amsterdam's music centre, Paradiso. Parallel to the workshops and conference, there was an evening series, called `Open Doors', featuring presentations of new multimedia tools and applications by top developers and artists.
Doors of Perception 3: Launch Event
The Launch Event for Doors 3 `On Matter' introduced the combination of big stories and small actions that were to be the focus of the week's events. Speakers gave an analysis of global, info and eco scenarios, and then explained the purpose of the design workshops.
After the Launch Event of Doors 3, 180 professionals from a variety of disciplines and countries reconvened as twelve workshop groups at the Design Institute's building. Intense social creativity will be needed to achieve sustainable lifestyles based on a strategy of de-materialisation, and these workshops were given the brief: 'explore eco-info scenarios, focus on practical applications, and visualise them'. The workshops were divided into three categories: Feedback; Caring for Matter; and Info-Eco Communities. Workshop results were presented at the conference's final session, entitled 'From Info to Action', and included discussion by panels of experts for each category. The final results of the workshops will be published in this website on 1 February 1996 - but in summary their tasks were described as follows:
Part One: Info-Eco Scenarios
What role can information technology play in de-materialising products and services? About 700 people packed into Paradiso for the start of the two-day Doors of Perception 3 conference. To put the event as a whole into context - what does `Factor 20' mean, and how big a jump will be needed to achieve it? - the day began with John Thackara, chair of the conference and director of the Netherlands Design Institute. Thackara's keynote was followed by Rob Coppock who was the first director of the `2050 project', a state-of-the art look at the future by three major think-tanks.The next speaker, Wouter Van Dieren, initiated and edited the new Club of Rome report `Taking Nature into Account'. Van Dieren's book emphasises the economic context and such dry-sounding issues as taxation - which are nonetheless central to a serious discusssion of sustainability. Sascha Kranendonk, representing the Wuppertal Institute for Climate, Environment and Energy, next explained that any strategy for de-materialisation must focus on material *flows* rather than on discrete products; de-materialisation is as much about information-dense logistics, she said, as it is about turning hard products into software ones. Mohammed Salih , an expert in the politics of sustainable development at the International Institute of Social Studies, then reminded us that although ecology may be about global processes, any solution must respect political and cultural rights at a local level. To end the morning, the marketing director of Greenpeace International did a presentation of their high-impact television advertising and mass media campaigns. Whether one-way comunication of this nature was in any sense interactive - not to mention effective - was a question offered to the audience as it broke for lunch.
In designing vast information networks, have we made ourselves blind to vital signs that tell us about the health of the planet? Have we forgotten that human intelligence is bound up with having a body? If the planet needs us to speed up information, and slow down matter, what does this mean for the relationship between nature and information? These were questions put in advance to speakers in the second session of Doors 3, 'Mental and Material' (a title, we should acknowledge, taken from the French anthropologist Maurice Godelier's brilliant book of the same name, published by Verso). First to respond was
Friday evening of Doors 3 featured some of the world's most accomplished innovators in digital media. Joost Elffers, a pioneer in paper and digital media publishing, kicked off the evening. Elffers brought the house down with an hilarious discourse on the relationship between cheese and Dutch culture. Whether any of this translates well as a web document, you must decide! Subsequent presentations were made by Payson Stevens, oceanographist and multimedia artist, who won the Presidential Design Award in 1994. Charlotte Davies, co-founder of SOFTIMAGE, created `Osmose', a virtual space exploring the inter-relation between exterior Nature and interior Self. Kai Krause invented PhotoShop and the add-on program 'Kai's Power Tools'. Mark Dippé is special effects supervisor at Industrial Light and Magic, of films including `Jurassic Park'. Joachim Sauter of ART + COM in Berlin, is one of the creators of TERRAVISION, a system that uses a virtual representation of the earth as an interface for network information. Mark Pesce developed the VRML software, a virtual reality interface to the WWW. He will present with DJ Ronan Hallowell.
Information technology allows us to communicate with each other via machines. Does this foster the collective intelligence we will need to achieve a sustainable future? How do planetary, biological and technical systems compare in their capacity to foster the sharing of vital information? These modest questions were tackled with enthusiasm and confidence by the Collective Intelligence panel of speakers. Their chairman was Derrick de Kerckhove, director of the McLuhan Program in Toronto, advises advanced companies about aspects of the body and network intelligence. Derrick introduced a wonderful paper by Pierre Levy whose book 'L'intelligence Collective' considers the 'anthroplogy of cyberspace'. Levy is confirmed as an important new philosopher. Dr Kapila Vatsyayan, academic director of the Indira Ghandi National Centre of the Arts in Delhi, comes from a culture whose collective intelligence is 5,000 years old, but her powerful intervention was enhanced by a sharp insight into the potential of information technology to be transformed in unexpected ways once it is appropriated by so-called 'developing' cultures. Webmaster Kristi van Riet, producer of DOME, and Josephine Grieve, MOO inhabitant and programme manager, Netherlands Design Institute, are both active in on-line environments; but their presentations, running back to back as they did, highlighted how varied are the attitudes to be found in these virtual non-places. Especially controversial is the question of whether assumed identities of MOO inhabitants handicap or enable meaningful communication. Larry Keeley, president of the Doblin Group in Chicago, daily interacts with the collective intelligence of global corporations and entertained the conference hugely with his polemic about the riches to be found in filth. Tom Ray, initiator of the 'Tierra' project, is exploring artificial life and digital biodiversity. The session concluded with a late apprearance by PictureTel, from a conference on globalisation in New York, of Vandana Shiva, director of the Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Natural Resource Policy, India, and author of `Staying Alive'.
The final session of the conference featured a highly-charged presentation of the results from the 12 design workshops and included panel discussions. Each group had spent three or four days working flat out.