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
November 1995, Amsterdam

* Doors 3conference
* Launch Event*
Open Doors*
Ticket Information

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.
Doors `On Matter' was opened by John Thackara, director of the Netherlands Design Institute and chair of the conference. Thackara was followed by Ezio Manzini, director of Domus Academy, Milan, who has played a key role in explaining the 'Factor 20' concept to designers around the world. The next speaker, Laura Balbo, a former member of the European Parliament, talked about the relationship between abstract, global stories - such as 'the ecological crisis' - and the everyday lives of people living in real communities - and how necessary it is that we avoid confronting people with doomsday stories or feelings of guilt if we want them to join our 'campaign'.
The conference should have featured a scientific take on the Factor 20 story at this point from Leo Jansen, director of D.T.O. (Sustainable Technological Development), a five-ministry research task-force. Sadly, Janssen was unwell but we are including information about his important work anyway. A sustainable world will not only involve less waste of matter - it will entail far more human labour input. So it was important that Eric Britton, director of EcoPlan International, the Paris-based centre for technology and systems studies, should be a speaker. Britton has been running a fascinating two-year distributed discussion called 'ReThinking Work' in which an online 'virtual book' has allowed a number of experts to carry on their discussion in between their face-to-face meetings. This is a model that the Design Institute will de developing, too, from 1996 onwards.
Gloria Brown-Simmons, a NASA/JPL-CALTECH expert, is Manager of Visualization Programs, The GLOBE Program, an international environmental science/education program initiated by the White House. Her presentation was a vivid reminder that in these fast-moving times, even the most far-fetched 'concepts' often turn out to be up-and-running projects if only you look around. In Gloria's case, she was able to demonstrate global feedback in action. Globe is a live example of capturing different kinds of data about the planet's behaviour, making it graphically clear using design, and then distributing this high impact information around the internet so that people - in this case children - in specific localities can start to be aware of the consequences of their day­p;to­p;day lives on global processes.
The final part of the Launch Event was a report back from workshops that took place during 1995 in Milan, London and Melbourne, as part of the 'pre-season' of Doors 3. The first event to be reported - by Marco Susani, Research director, Domus Academy and François Jegou from Design à la Long Terme, Paris - was a three-week design workshop in Milan on the subject of 'design of services'. This event started out with the rather patronising aim of designing services 'for' old people; but by the end it had become clear that the future task of designers will be to help old people design services for themselves. Gillian Crampton-Smith, professor of interaction design at the Royal College of Art in London, then presented the results of a one­p;week design workshop in London on telematics and work. Finally, Chris Ryan, professor and director, Design Centre at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, told the audience about the week-long summer school held earlier in the year in Melbourne, at which five teams of design, travel and telematics experts had investigated how information technology might be used to replace or ameliorate the impact of mass tourism on ecologically sensitive sites.



THE 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:
Feedback workshops
We need to be confronted with the consequences of our actions for the health of the planet. How might we use satellite-feeds or information networks to re-focus attention on our bodies and on the earth?
The panel includes: Gillian Crampton Smith, professor, Royal College of Art, London
John Browning, editor of Wired, UK
Hanneke Vermeulen, an Amsterdam eco `hacker', now involved with the service provider, XS4ALL. Caring for Matter workshops
The ecological vision emphasises the material presence of the planet itself; how might we use new information tools to enhance our sense of, and responsibility for, matter and place?
The panel includes: Chee Pearlman, editor of ID Magazine, New York
Willem Velthoven, director and editor of Mediamatic
Dick Rijken, an expert at the Netherlands Design Institute
Niels Peter Flint, from O2 International, Denmark
Connie Bakker, eco-design consultant and producer of the Doors 3 workshops. Info-Eco Communities workshops
Information technology will be a vital tool in the community-level innovation that will be needed to achieve a `Factor 20' way of life. But what is a 'community', and to what extend can information technology stimulate collective action among people - or enterprises - that exist in different places?
The panel includes: Angela Dumas, professor of design management at the London Business School, and research director at the Design Council
Michael Schrage, a research fellow at MIT's MediaLab and Sloan School of Management
Jogi Panghaal, a designer, who works in some of India's 600,000 villages
Rop Gonggrijp, a renowned hacker and critic of on-line communities



THE CONFERENCE

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.

Mental and Material

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
Lidewij Edelkoort who advises governments and companies about the significance of coming cultural trends. She was followed by reManuel de Landa who has just completed `A Short History of Matter'; this follows critical acclaim for his first book, `War in the Age of Intelligent Machines'. DeLanda talked about the dynamic qualities even of apparently 'inert' matter, and of the way everything on the planet contains information, even if we are culturally blinded to much of it. Paola Antonelli , who is the new curator of design at New York's Museum of Modern Art, talked about her first show at MOMA, `Mutant Materials' - a perfect example of the way designers and materials scienctists have already started to collaborate to deliver the lightness, longevity and high functionality that a sustainable manufacturing economy requires. Antonelli was followed by Oliver Morton, special projects editor, and formerly science and technology editor of The Economist - and by the time he stood up to speak, newly-appointed editor of WIRED in Britain. Morton talked with great authority and clarity about the inter-relationship of matter and information at DNA level. Claude Fussler, vice president for the environment at the multinational corporation DOW, Europe, next analysed the market implications of sustainable lifestyles. Karin Spaink, author of `The Penal Body', introduced Donna Haraway's `Cyborg Manifesto': "Cyborgs are quite ordinary people (at the most, they think more)". As a Dutchman living 10 feet below sea level, landscape architect Adriaan Geuze knows - and lives - the ambiguity of the words `natural' and 'man-made'.

Doors 3 Session 3: After Dinner

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.

Session Four: Collective Intelligence

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'.

From Info to Action

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.

 

updated 1995
url: DOORS OF PERCEPTION
editor@doorsofperception.com