Open Doors
  Who Is Who  

Doors of Perception 7, Amsterdam - 14, 15, 16 November 2002

The Doors Team recommended the following books at Doors 7:

Albert-László Barabási

Linked: The New Science of Networks

Janine M. Benyus

Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature

Italo Calvino

Six Memos for the Next Millennium

John M Carroll

Making Use: scenario-based design of human-computer interactions

Linda Loppa

Backstage – MoMu

Sjoerd Cusveller, Oene Dijk, Kirsten Schipper

Remaking NL: Cityscape, Landscape, Infrastructure

Anthony Dunne and Fiona Raby

Design Noir: the Secret Life of Electronic Objects

Ken Goldberg

The Robot in the Garden

Paul Hawken, Amory B. Lovins, L. Hunter Lovins Natural Capitalism: The Next Industrial Revolution
Brenda Laurel Utopian Entrepreneur
Paul Levinson Digital McLuhan: a Guide to the Information Millennium
Lev Manovich The Language of New Media
Stuart L. Pimm The World according to Pimm: a Scientist Audits the Earth
Rumi Whoever Brought Me Here Will Have To Take Me Home
Richard Schechner Performance Studies: An Introduction
Thomas Seelig, Urs Stahel, Martin Jaegg Trade: Commodities, Communication and Consciousness
Michael Sorkin, Sharon Zukin (eds) After the World Trade Center: Rethinking New York City
Peter Weibel, Timothy Druckrey (editors) Net Condition: Art and Global Media
Edward O. Wilson Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge

Trade: Commodities, Communication and Consciousness
Edited by Thomas Seelig, Urs Stahel and Martin Jaeggi
Scalo, Zurich. Published: 2001. ISBN 3-908247-47-0

How do we interpret a world in which everything is fluid, flexible, and flowing faster than ever before? In what ways can we accurately reflect the reality of ‘global’ trade, the quasi-religious power of consumerism, and the spectral flows of information which determine today’s economic and political landscapes? That was the starting point for this book, and for the exhibition (staged at the Fotomuseum Winterthur and the Nederlands Foto Instituut, 2002), behind it. Photographs by over 60 artists, photographers, advertising agencies, magazines, and corporate reports, are complemented by texts ranging from philosophy and economic theory, to quips from politicians and pundits. The effect is of a kind of devil’s scrapbook, a visual journey through a diverse collection of images from the blandly banal and seductively glossy, to the unnervingly revealing and deeply moving. The first pages illustrate urban landscapes (Los Angeles, Tokyo), followed by the weirdly sanitised images of American malls and corporate HQs by Marc Räder. They are followed by idealised images of consumer ‘lifestyles’: bodies in a club, bodies on a beach, and bodies bedecked in jewellery at Cannes. These lead into a dense assortment of images depicting all of life – from food to sex - as commodities, accompanied by David Bosshart’s assertion that, “shopping has become the most fundametal act in all areas of life” (David Bosshart). Then the focus changes to production, from high-tech cleanrooms to child labour on the fraying edges of the global economy. Distribution follows, then the dissenting voices of Greenpeace, its tiny boats taking on Goliath-like whaling ships, and protests during the WTO conference in Seattle (1999). Finally, refuse and recycling are pictured, with images of ‘garbage kids’ in Manila juxtaposed with textual references to the psychic waste of a world in perpetual motion, in which “failure is the great modern taboo,” (Richard Sennett), and life is rendered meaningless by a system in which, “the object, which lasts, matters more the subject” (George Bataille). So the book itself embodies a kind of sinister flow from appearance to reality, from a Western urban vision bathed in consumerist delusion, to the impoverished, polluted reality of rotting, useless excess in the dumps of the Philippines.
Review by Jane Szita

Utopian Entrepreneur

Brenda Laurel
MIT Press, Cambridge, MA (Mediawork Pamphlet Series). Published 2001. ISBN: 0-262-62153-3

Silicon Valley veteran and techno-humanist Brenda Laurel – aided and abetted by designer Denise Gonzales Crisp – cleverly combines several genres in this slim, but impressive, publication. Partly a confession (“I was a Utopian entrepreneur. . . ” ) of her own experience in setting up Purple Moon (a company making computer games for girls), partly a McLuhanesque polemic on the existing economic and business status quo, and partly a handbook for doing business in socially positive ways, the book avoids abstraction by staying thoroughly grounded in Brenda Laurel’s own down-to-earth way of seeing the world. The result is genuinely touching, both funny and sad. It also seems destined to become an important source for future historians studying the dot.com boom and bust. Describing the failure of Purple Moon, she writes: “Here’s one of the perversities of dot-capitalism: if Purple Moon had not actually produced any real products, I’d probably be ‘post-economic’ today. Just as the dot-economy started spinning straw into gold, Purple Moon was spending real money to make real products to go onto real shelves in real stores. In investment terms, that was a big mistake.” Subsequently, Purple Moon was bought for a pittance by Mattel, but Laurel emerged stronger and wiser for the experience, with a mission to transform the way we see making money through technology. Ultimately, what actually happened to Purple Moon was less important than the script for utopian entrepreneurism which Brenda Laurel devised from the experience. The crucible of failure has allowed her to forge a compelling theory. As she writes herself, “Stories are tools for knowing and judging. Change the stories, and you change how people live.”
Review by Jane Szita

Performance Studies: An Introduction

Richard Schechner
Routledge, London & New York. Published 2002. ISBN 0-415-144620-6 (hbk); ISBN 0-415-14621-6 (pbk)

In this elegant and comprehensive introduction to the emerging field of performance studies, this book defines performance as, “any action that is framed, presented, or highlighted.” It encompasses not only theatre, dance and music, but also ritual, play, sport, healing, the media, the internet, and the whole range of everyday performances we all carry out in a range of social, professional, gender, class and race roles. Theories of performance are, in fact, nothing less than theories of behaviour. It is an all-inclusive definition, and this book is correspondingly encyclopaedic, full of quotations, definitions, biographies, poetry and pictures, an extraordinary wealth of material which, luckily, is extremely well-organised. While stressing the universality of the “all the world’s a stage” theory, it also makes clear, useful, and thought-provoking distinctions between performance types; so, while an actor in a play is performing “make-believe” actions, a person enacting a social role – whether the US President or a car salesman – is engaged in “make-belief”: creating (or trying to create) the very social realities he or she enacts. Similarly, while play and ritual are both central to performance, they reflect quite different impulses: play is, loosely speaking, spontaneous, whereas ritual is rigid. This book covers an immense swathe of cultural ground, from classical theatre to digital billboards and mass tourism, uncovering much important information about the way we present ourselves, and raising some fascinating psychological issues along the way. For example, it tantalisingly hints at the extent to which we all rely on ‘flow’, in the performance sense of the ability to merge ourselves with our roles. As Yeats wrote, “How can we know the dancer from the dance?”
Review by Jane Szita

Six Memos for the Next Millennium
By Italo Calvino
Vintage, London, 1996, ISBN 0-09-973051-0

This collection contains the text of six lecture themes which became obsessions with Calvino before his death in 1985. These were lightness, quickness, exactitude, visibility and multiplicity, and Calvino regarded them as vital virtues for literature (and life) in the 21st century. Looking back over 40 years as a writer, "my working method has more often than not involved the subtraction of weight," he writes. Arguing that "heaviness" is the natural condition of life, Calvino believes an essential escape is offered by "a different space". By which he means a world not of dreams, but of a different perspective and logic, a "lightness of thoughtfulness" rather than a "lightness of frivolity." In his pursuit of a language like "a weightless element that hovers above things like a cloud or better, perhaps, the finest dust or, better still, a field of magnetic impulses," Calvino offers inspiration for all those who work with materials as insubstantial as words and ideas.

Making Use: scenario-based design of human-computer interactions

By John M Carroll
MIT Press, Published: 2000, ISBN: 0 262 03279 1
04 October 2002

We believe this to be the most insightful book on the design process since Donald Schon’s The Reflective Practitioner of 1983. Professor Carroll combines humility with scarily deep knowledge about the ways we are learning to design information systems. “Information systems often change our activities in ways that we do not need, or want”, Carroll writes; “the problem lies in the software development process”. He describes the real world, where design should take place, as a “swamp” - but explains that design scenarios “also provide designers with a scaffolding to get a view of the design process from a bit higher up”. This book is not a light read, but every page contains an insight and, as a whole, this masterful book provides a platform for an understanding of the design process in a world of complex systems and constant change.
Reviewed by: John Thackara

Linked: The New Science of Networks

Albert-László Barabási
Perseus Publishing, Cambride, MA. Published 2002. ISBN 0-7382-0667-9

“Everything touches everything,” said the great Argentinian novelist Jorge Luis Borges, while in the words of John Donne, writing some four centuries earlier, “No man is an island.” Today, interconnectivity, one of those great truths which the mind seems to grasp instinctively, is no longer a matter of poetic or religious intuition only, but is hard scientific fact. We are all connected, through our biology, sociology, economy and religious and cultural traditions, inhabiting a world of networks. As contemporary scientists map this interconnectivity, they reveal a weblike universe, uncovering striking correspondences between different ‘maps’. Whether this new cartography represents the Internet or the ecosystem, the economy or genes in cells, the resulting maps follow a common blueprint. A series of simple, but far-reaching, natural laws govern the networks that surround us. In this lively and intriguing book, Albert-László Barabási traces the history of connected systems from early graph theory in the 18th century to cancer drugs based on our modern understanding of cellular networks, and identifies the correspondences between the work of network mapmakers active in a wide range of disciplines today. As he examines the networks behind such complex systems as the cell or society, he identifies the nodes and links, revealing the architecture of complexity and its universal organising principles, which affect everything from democracy to disease. Ultimately, this is a visionary book, which predicts that the new century will be about understanding complexity: “To achieve that, we must move beyond structure and topology and start focusing on the dynamics that take place along the links. Networks are only the skeleton of complexity, the highways for the various processes that make our world hum.” We have the maps, now we must capture the “dynamic interplay,” the flow within and between networks which makes them work, replacing a static idea of complexity with a fluid, active one.
Review by Jane Szita

Backstage – MoMu
Ludion, Ghent and Amsterdam.
Published: 2002. ISBN 90-5544-423-5

A ‘museum of fashion’ is an essentially paradoxical concept. On the one hand, as Shakespeare noted, “The fashion wears out more apparel than the man,” so clothes, worn for a season or two, or even for just one special occasion, frequently outlive their wearer. On the other hand, fashion exists only through repetitive self-destruction, in the perpetual flow of continuous consumption. How to preserve a phenomenon, which, by its very nature, is in a state of constant flux, asking to be consumed, rather than contemplated? This question is the central theme of the catalogue of the first exhibition of the revamped Antwerp Fashion Museum (MoMu), a satisfying study in photographs and essays of the museum’s collection, the spaces containing it, and the philosphy of its curatorial team. As Linda Loppa, chief curator, writes, MoMu’s garments are viewed as a ‘living’ collection, to be seen not in isolation, but as the result of design ‘flows’: sketches, patterns, fabrics, techniques and processes. So there is no ‘permanent’ exhibition, and the clothes are not kept under glass, which would distance the observer. Moreover, multidisciplinary influences are brought into focus, so a first gallery project by British designer Hussein Chalayan uses video to show how ‘morphing’ inspired his Ambimorphous collection (2002-2003). As another musuem professional, Judith Clark, writes: “What would it be like to be the Laurence Sterne of fashion curators, to be free to lose the thread?” Not for nothing, it seems, did the Financial Times, earlier this year, refer to Antwerp as, “the thinking woman’s Milan”. MoMu is, in part, the city’s attempt to understand its own extraordinary, and unprecedented, style status since the ‘Antwerp Six’ redefined fashion so successfully in the 1990s. The city has continued to churn out talent at a giddying pace and in abundant variety – united, perhaps, by an underlying Belgian theme of sober, serious surrealism, and a love of traditional craftmanship – and Backstage helps to document that process. For jaded fashion victims (and even more jaded, jeans-wearing anti-fashion types), this book is an intriguing reminder of what Dirk Lauwerts, in a marvellous essay on the eroticism and mysterious banality of dressing, calls, “clothing, that great adventure of every human life.”
Reviewed by Jane Szita

After the World Trade Center: Rethinking New York City

Michael Sorkin and Sharon Zukin (eds)
Routledge, New York & London. Published 2002. ISBN 0-415-93479-6

After September 11, 2001, New York City changed forever.
This collection of essays from 17 New York urbanists, edited by social critics Michael Sorkin and Sharon Zukin, considers the nature of the change, and attempts to re-vision the city’s future. Providing a panaromic portrait of the city and its eminence as the “capital of capital,” the accounts do not let us forget that something was rotten in the Big Apple even before Ground Zero. The attack is analysed as exposing, rather than causing, the current economic and social crisis in which the city finds itself. Taken together, the essays see the disaster as an opportunity to recreate the city in a more genuinely democratic mould, taking into account the full diversity of its communities, and balancing the influence of big money and the city’s traditional power brokers. Inevitably, even while the book strives to look towards the future, it remains in part a lament for a lost age of innocence, however delusive that might have been. The elegiac theme undercores the enduring importance of the Twin Towers as a symbol, and is extremely suggestive of the (often unconscious) significance of buildings in our urban landscape: “Sometimes sinister, sometimes beautiful, sometimes just banal, they were icons of New York City – the best-known buildings in the world, the Everest of our urban Himalayas,” writes Michael Sorkin. Even through their indelible absence, the Twin Towers continue to inform the way we interpret the cityscape.
Review by Jane Szita

Whoever Brought Me Here Will Have To Take Me Home
Rumi (translation Coleman Barks with John Moyne)
Penguin, London. Published1998. ISBN 0 14 019576 9

That America’s best-selling poet of recent years should be a 13th-century wildcard Sufi mystic called Rumi, founder of the brotherhood of the Whirling Dervishes, says something about the spiritual longing and anti-clericalism of our times. Perhaps it also reflects our modern hunger for lightness — a quality which his poetry embodies. Spiritual lightness is its subject — the union of the soul with the infinite in the mystic oneness of all things — and stylistic lightness (economy of expression, refusal to adhere to poetic forms, the use of ‘trivial’ detail) is its trademark. It achieves a remarkable buoyancy of mood — a kind of ecstatic lightheadedness seldom found in Western religious literature, with a few exceptions such as St Theresa of Avila. Rumi dwells on the minute, everyday experiences of life — a child’s laughter, the touch of a hand, leaves moving in the breeze — as manifestations of the great universal truth. He breaks rules, leaves endings open, jumps from one subject to another — but then these are not polished, finished artefacts in the Western sense of ‘poems’. Rumi’s work is more a stream of consciousness, a dialogue with himself, a fluid medium. As he wrote himself,
"There is a way between voice and presence Where information flows."
Reviewed by: Jane Szita

The World according to Pimm: a Scientist Audits the Earth
By Stuart L. Pimm
McGraw-Hill, New York. Published: 2001. ISBN: 0-07-137490-6

How to take Earth-saving action when environmental damage is so notoriously difficult to quantify? Enter Stuart Pimm, calling himself "an investment banker of the global, biological accounts," who attempts to put our impact on the planet into the only terms our market-driven culture can understand: figures. In doing so, he creates a kind of ecology-by-numbers. Actually a conservation biologist, Pimm compares and adjusts the figures obtained by scientists in a variety of fields, while explaining what these numbers mean in plain, but highly readable, English. Moreover, he does all this while undertaking a global tour of the Earth’s many ecosystems, circling the planet from the air to cover the volcanoes of Hawaii, the rainforest of the Amazon, the boreal forests of Siberia and the world’s oceans. The figures, arrived at through an elegant process of calculation and cross-reference, are predictably alarming: for example, we are forcing species into extinction 100 times faster than the natural ‘die-out’ rate, we are using 50 per cent of the world’s fresh water supply and consuming 42 per cent of the world’s plant growth. Yet far from becoming a doom-and-gloom read, the book conveys Pimm’s sense of optimism, his appreciation of the Earth and its resources, and his conviction that much can be done if we act now.
Reviewed by: Jane Szita

The Language of New Media

By Lev Manovich
MIT Press, Cambridge MA, USA. Published: 2001. ISBN: 0-262-13374-1

Aesthetic theories of new media have suffered from exaggerated claims about their novelty, and vague, overused terminology; but Lev Manovich is guilty of neither of these sins in this erudite, original and elegant account. Central to the book is his analysis of today’s dominant cultural form, the database, which represents the world as a list of items: "Creating a work in new media can be understood as the construction of an interface to a database." Because the database is essentially a list, which refuses order, it is the natural enemy of narrative, which shapes reality according to the logic of cause and effect. The strength of Manovich’s book is the solid grounding of his material in cultural history. In particular, he relates new media to the hundred-year evolution of cinema, whose vocabulary has become "the basic means by which all computer users react with data." So the avant-garde cinematic technique of montage has reappeared as cut-and-paste, and the loop, which enabled cinema, is also essential to computer programming. The essential question he identifies is, how can our current obsession with cataloguing huge amounts of data — making databases — lead to new kinds of narratives? Manovich makes some compelling arguments for a next-generation cinema — "broadband or macromedia" — which will add multiple windows to its language. So, while new media strengthens existing cultural forms and languages, it simultaneously opens them up to redefinition: "new media transforms all culture and cultural theory into an ‘open source’."
Reviewed by: Jane Szita

Remaking NL: Cityscape, Landscape, Infrastructure
By Sjoerd Cusveller, Oene Dijk, Kirsten Schipper
S@M, Amsterdam. Published 200. ISBN 90-802463--3-6

There's a (probably apocryphal) Dutch saying which goes: “God made the world, but the Dutch made Holland.” After reading this book, however, it’s clear the proverb ought to be, “God made the world, but the Dutch are making Holland.” For this a scrapbook of new attempts to refashion that most artificial of places, the Dutch landscape. It includes both factual, ongoing projects and tentative future scenarios, reflecting the work and vision of architects, landscape architects and urban planners in a collection of interviews, case studies and stunning graphics. Once, “making Holland” meant clawing back land from the sea, and surrounding it with dykes. But now the Netherlands is adapting its typology to changing enviromental conditions. That means allowing agricultural areas to return to wetlands, letting rivers flow freely again, and creating new 'nature' areas. In cities, business districts are being reclaimed for residential developent. This is a catalogue of remarkable ideas, from high-rise flats for pigs (to contain the smell of pig-farming) to floating cities (surrounded by flooded rivers), to island airports (with Schiphol airport itself transformed into a city). Your map of the Netherlands may soon be completely out of date.
Reviewed by: Jane Szita

Net Condition: Art and Global Media
By Peter Weibel and Timothy Druckrey (editors)
MIT Press. Published 2001. ISBN: 0-262-73138-X

"Culture . . . is just bad science," said artificial intelligence guru Marvin Minsky, in the most memorable quote (cited by Timothy Druckrey) in this book. Art, and humanistic disciplines like philosophy and sociology, may be seen by a technocratic élite as ‘unscientific’; yet, this anthology argues, culture can act as a critical defence against the anti-democratic pressures of science, technology, media and consumerism. A collection of social theory and practical art, this book is a response to a technological acceleration and media saturation which have proved almost overwhelming for ‘cultural’ practitioners. Coupling theory and practice in this way is essential, say the editors, for, since the rise of global neo-liberalism and mass-media multinationals, "media critique and social critique can no longer be separated." Their starting point: an art project called Net Condition, which took place over two years (1998-2000), and in a number of cities, using TV, Internet, advertising billboards and other media environments rather than traditional channels. Together, they document a migration of art into media space. The many installations, websites and other works generated by the project form what might be called the ‘practicum’ part of the book; some of them come across better than others — at least many can be experienced online. There is a wide range of approaches, from the satirical Cult of the New Eve, which turns the rhetoric of biotechnology against itself, to Verbarium, an interactive text-to-form editor (type in a text, and it builds a three-dimensional, vegetable-like image which joins a collective ‘garden’). These are punctuated by pages of theory, which assess technology’s impact on a number of fronts. Essays include such pivotal works as Manuel Castell’s analysis of the network society’s impact on the individual and collective, and Rishab Aiyer Ghosh’s discourse on ‘cooking-pot markets’ as a model for ‘free’ Internet resources. The end result is a sort of primer of new media art and theory which seeks to rescue ‘culture’ from its endangered status among the technocracy.
Reviewed by: Jane Szita

Natural Capitalism: The Next Industrial Revolution
By Paul Hawken, Amory B. Lovins and L. Hunter Lovins
Earthscan Publications Ltd, London. ISBN: 1 85383 461 0

Industrialism arose at a time when natural resources were plentiful, but labour was relatively scarce. Now we are living with a reversed situation, yet the majority of businesses use practises adapted to the old model. This book is a pragmatic yet inspirational blueprint for a new model: natural capitalism is not just a way to save our planet, but also a series of new business opportunities. Its priorities are to radically increase the productivity of natural resources while shifting to nature-inspired materials, designs and processes. Simultaneously, business needs to move to a ‘service-and-flow model’ — for example, providing illumination services, rather than just selling lightbulbs. Finally, companies must reinvest in natural capital. In summary, "The next business frontier is rethinking everything we consume: what it does, where it comes from, where it goes, and how we can keep on getting its service from a net flow of very nearly nothing at all — but ideas."
Reviewed by: Jane Szita

Digital McLuhan: a Guide to the Information Millennium
By Paul Levinson
Routledge, London. Published: 2001. ISBN: 0-415-199251-XN

Although he died in 1980, at the dawn of the digital age, Marshall McLuhan’s prophetic work in media theory has given the information era many of its defining ideas: not for nothing was he named the‘patron saint’ of Wired magazine. This book explains how McLuhan’s relevance extends far beyond his now tired metaphor of the "global village," and his even more tired aphorism, "the medium is the message", which has been distorted to imply that content is not really that important. On the contrary, Levinson points out, for McLuhan content was itself always another medium, as in his explanation that, "the content of a movie is a novel." This idea can be extended neatly to the net: the web has a multiplicity of media for its content, and the web user too — no longer a passive consumer, but now an active creator of content — has become the content of digital media. McLuhan did not of course live to see this manifestation of his ideas, but he anticipated it with his statement, "the Xerox makes everyone a publisher"(1977). Similarly, his explanation of the hypnotic power of the TV screen as due to its "light-through" quality — with the light shooting through the glass from inside, not bouncing off the surface as with projected films — can be readily extended to the computer screen, and fitted into a "light-through" tradition going back to medieval manuscripts and stained glass windows. Levinson reveals McLuhan’s far-sighted theory at work in many areas of society; for example, he analysed the proximity of work and play years before the computer united them. Even the texture of his writing foreshadows the web: he composed in "aphoristic bursts," and organised his books with a minimum of linear progression and chapter organisation — traits we would now recognise as hallmarks of "online discourse." He modelled his writing on the spoken word (or as he would have said himself, the "acoustic medium"), a major reason for the academic hostility which underlies persistent misunderstanding of his work. This book is a subtle, lucid and thorough application of McLuhan’s theory to our digital times, and it sends the reader back to the original with a renewed appreciation of his enormous contribution to our understanding of the power of media.
Reviewed by: Jane Szita

Design Noir: the Secret Life of Electronic Objects
By Anthony Dunne and Fiona Raby
August/Birkhäuser, London, Published: November 2001, ISBN: 3-7643-6566-8

If electronic products are mostly as bland as a Hollywood blockbuster, then Noir products reflect a more complex and ambivalent view of reality, in which things can — and do — go wrong, and the consumer is reinvented as an anti-hero beset by existential dilemmas. This is the scenario explored by designers and researchers Fiona Raby and Anthony Dunne in this book, as they uncover "the more complex reality hiden beneath the slick surface of electronic consumerism." Electronic objects are not, it turns out, smart, self-contained gismos: they leak radiation into the space and objects surrounding them, and into our bodies. Electro-magnetic radiation, the authors argue, forms a new kind of environmental condition which they call "Hertzian space." Although invisible (and therefore ignored by designers and architects), it is — unlike cyberspace — real, three-dimensional and spatial. Ultimately, they predict, Hertzian space will shape objects and buildings. Architecture will evolve to provide shelter from it, filter it, furnish views and allow for privacy. Currently, though, the electronic product is a neglected medium, offering a "pathetically narrow" range of emotions. The potential remains for "a new category of objects that provide complex aesthetic and psychological experiences within everyday life." What such objects might be is suggested by existing products like the Truth Phone, which detects when a caller is lying, and by Dunne and Raby’s own Placebo range of prototype furniture, which monitors, reacts to and offers (psychological) protection from Hertzian space. The placebo pieces were loaned to ordinary people, whose reactions to their poetic possibilities, as detailed in the book, indicate that Dunne and Raby are correct in their analysis of unfulfilled consumer needs for more subtle interactions with electronic products.
Reviewed by: Jane Szita

Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge
By Edward O. Wilson
Little, Brown and Company. ISBN: 0 316 64569 9

The new century will be one of ‘holism’, according to Edward O. Wilson. The pioneer of sociobiology and biodiversity, biologist Wilson has been called a ‘modern Darwin.’ In this book, he argues that the world and all its life-forms manifest consilience — organisation in terms of a small number of natural laws that underpin everything. Seen from this perspective, the ancient Greek idea of the oneness of all knowledge, rediscovered during the Enlightenment and then lost again, is due for a revival. "A united system of knowledge is the surest means of identifying the still unexplored domains of reality," Wilson writes. Moreover, a united system will keep us connected with the world and "our ancient heritage."
Reviewed by: Jane Szita

Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature
By Janine M. Benyus
William Morrow and Company, New York. ISBN: 0 688 16099 9

Velcro, an invention based on the grappling hooks of seeds, is an example of Biomimicry: the adaptation of nature’s designs and processes to solve human problems. Biomimicry uses an ecological standard to judge the ‘rightness’ of innovations, and provides a new way of viewing nature: instead of thinking in terms of what we can extract from the natural world, it teaches us to think in terms of what we can learn from it. From medicines discovered by the Navajo’s observation of bears to business concepts such as non-competitive ‘design for disassembly’ being tried out in Japan, this book catalogues a number of biomimicry approaches in energy, food, manufacture, computing, medicine and business.

The Robot in the Garden:
Telerobotics and Telepistemology in the Age of the Internet
Ken Goldberg (ed)
MIT Press, MA. Published 2001. ISBN 0-262-57154-4

The telescope, telephone, and television were developed to transmit knowledge from afar, while telerobots, controlled remotely, were invented in the 1950s in order to act at a remove. Both knowledge and action at a distance are being dramatically extended in terms of scope and reach by the Internet. In response to this increasing empowerment, The Robot in the Garden not only opens a critical debate on telerobotics, it also introduces a new subject: telepistemology – the study of knowledge acquired at a distance. Central to telepistemology are issues such as access, agency and authority - not to mention authenticity, for the Internet’s capacity to deceive is already well documented. The questions raised by such considerations are pondered in these pages by leading contemporary thinkers in philosophy, art, history and engineering, with a postscript by Maurice Merleau-Ponty. Through the interdisciplinary approach, an ambitiously broad take on the subject is made possible, and the questions raised emerge as fundamental to our future as a species. If technology continues to make more and more of our knowledge indirect, then how will we authenticate what we cannot observe? And if our relationships with people and objects continue to become progressivelyl more distanced, then how will our relationship with the world alter? Are we to be detached spectators, or informed actors? The beauty of being an informed actor is our ability to experience flow – to experience our world seamlessly and fully occupied - where does this come from, when we are no longer required to act? By addressing such questions, the contributors to this book take the subject out of the realm of nerdy sciencespeak and place it firmly in the philosophical tradition.

updated Sunday 1 December 2002
Address: Wibauthuis, Wibautstraat 3 • 1091 GH, Amsterdam
The Netherlands • T +31 20 596 3220 • F +31 20 596 3202
Doors of Perception 2002. We are happy for this text to be copied and distributed, as long as you include this credit: "From Doors of Perception: www.doorsofperception.com".
Want to send us your comments? Email flow@doorsofperception.com