Famous last questions
(editor of Archis Magazine,
programming member of Flow)
Behind much of what we have been talking about, there is this Modernist
Dream of liberation from the shackles of Matter, from the awkwardness of our
material order. It is about the mission to reduce the margin of
ineffectiveness and timeloss that surrounds every physical thing or body. In
the typical jargon of the ICT industry it is about ''going the last yard'',
how to design wireless networks between people and their objects. (The last
mile being the distance between the wired network and the desktop computer.)
Pervasive computing may also be the rosey scenario of the slumming economy
of IT services. Companies in this sector hope to play the role of equipping
the World on Demand (if they didn't go bankrupt before).
There is remarkably less talk about the other motivation, the desire to
control, to avoid the usual messiness of human interaction, to avoid life.
Derrick Dekerckhove writes in Archis about the evergrowing matrix that
covers the world, a net that spans the world in higher and higher resolution
and sophistication. Pervasive computing may be the next big step in pursuing
this kind of control. Perhaps the word ubiquity says it better: it is über
alles. It cannot be denied. It cannot be switched off. So there is something
very uncanny in all this talk on freedom. The haunted house is definitely
one with pervasive computing. It wouldn't surprise if, at one of the next
installments of Doors of Perception, we need to discuss our ''going the last
three inches'', where pervasive computing enters the brain and the deisign
of networks become the design of brainprocesses.
To avoid this trajectory we have to ask ourselves time and again: who is in
charge. Who owns the code. These questions are beyond the design dicipline.
Biologist In her lecture Janine Benyus talked about the tripartite division
of any living phenomenon: system, proces and form. If it comes to design,
form may be covered by the professionals. But proces, leave alone the
system, require civic engagement. Which brings me to the ultimate question
to Doors of Perception itself: is this event addressing a professional
community, or is it a forum for a crowd of civilians who share some very
important knowledge maps, skills and interests?