When you thicken the plot with transgressive traders your spicy vision of
> the future takes me to Neuromancer scenes from Chiba City – only now I'm
> supposedly in your "Strait Metropolitan Municipality" and certain parallels
> are difficult to imagine. And this difficulty might be a clue to what you
> try to define as "*Mediterranean versions of innovation." *Why is sci-fi
> narrative so frequently set in Asian and not in Mediterranean narrow
As much as I like to tell stories, when I say these things I mean them
Just as science fiction can be used as a method to investigate past,present
and future, to come up with new designs.
How does innovation happen?
Of the many books and researches and publications out there, there are not
many which deal with space-time-psychology of innovation going beyond a
logic of "work", and of "production", from a "transgressive" point of view,
from a point of view of "desire".
It is debatable how and if one would prevail over the other.
It is debatable how all crises are crises of imagination, and of desire.
If we look and try to understand what are the most powerful innovations,
the ones which bring deeper, wider transformations, we would see that they
are the ones which make more things possible. The ones which augment the
A knife is used to cut things. Of course, I can use it also to stab, as a
screwdriver if I don't have one, as a wedge to hold things in place, etc.
But if you look at it, if you look at its affordances, it serves "cutting".
There's no doubt.
What's the use of the Internet? All! Nothing! It's not like it serves to a
"thing". Instead, it augments possibilities, by creating a new space, a new
context, a new possibility for interconnection.
To operate on this other level you need an amount of "transgression" and of
"desire". The logic of "production" and "work" are just not enough.
For this, you need different qualities of "space", and "time", and
If we try to address this kind of issue, we find ourselves in a deadlock:
these "other" kinds of space, time and relation do not have the same
measures than the other ones.
One are quantitative, the other qualitative. One is certain, the other
possibilistic. One is linear, the other networked. One is productive, the
And, on top of this, there is also uncertainty in understanding what side
we are on, as it is not a digital logic, 1/0, but, rather, a gradient:
process X is part A and part B, not A OR B. So the two modalities would
also need to be combined.
From a methodological point of view, this is a nightmare, because the tools
and methods and measures you would need to define, describe and enact your
experiments, controls and results are not accepted by institutions,
research centers, governments, etc.
Once, at an event by the EU Commission, I made a philosophical experiment
that started with: "How could Anonymous participate to a Horizon2020
This could be the beginning of a scifi novel. But it is also a formal
method for investigation of reality. For example on the topic of Digital
Identity which is central to EU's Digital Single Market strategies etc.
In this, the Digital Identity which is at the center of strategies and
designs *has nothing digital about it*!
Digital Identities are individual, collective, nomadic, temporary,
anonymous, ubiquitous and combinations of all these modalities. We know
this for certain by observing digital practices: I can make an account for
myself, share it, throw it away after a while, give it to someone else, use
anonymity, connect it to ubiquitous phenomena etc.
All of these modalities have cultural, psychological, anthropological,
political, aesthetic implications and more.
The Digital Identity promoted by institutions, instead, is a bad copy of a
The two are different according to the degree of "possible" which they
enable. And, correspondingly, according to the degree of "control".
Going beyond the narrative of my beloved small streets, in my opinion,
these aesthetics (and here I strongly refer to greek origin of the term,
aisthetikos, which means perception, sensible) are needed
*methodologically* because, as of now, they represent one of the few which
enable an augmentation of "possible".
When Rem Koolhaas, in 2014, talked at the high level group on Smart Cities
at the EU Commission, he asked what is the "role" for "trangression" in the
Of course there is none. Of course it is a paradox ("role" for
"transgression"). Of course Rem Koolhaas is a fox, a wolf , who is able to
come up with a communication and a quote whose purpose is to be quoted.
But at the same time this quote works so well because it is under our eyes:
because we "see it".
Whether we're talking about urban regeneration, or smart cities, or
robotics or may other things, there is a single direction: many different
projects, but a single direction (or, at least, it is one which is funded).
Which is established by industrial complex. And which corresponds to a
single aesthetics (perceptive) domain.
If I say "robots for elderly care", EU Commission is happy.
It is an aesthetics, which is convenient for industrial complex, for
consumption. It is a service, which you can purchase.
But that is not the only aesthetic.
We could address "loneliness" and "separation".
Instead of having an "elderly" alone with their robot wiping their intimate
parts, we could imagine an intervention on "loneliness", in which we save a
billion euros for robots and we aim at a more interesting society in which
"elderly are of everyone".
Such societies exist.
For example, among many other places, in the Mediterranean, where social
solidarity is more marked and present.
Where it is way more difficult to die alone in an apartment.
Where my uncle, cousin, nephew, neighbor, are much more likely to knock on
my door if they don't see me for an entire day.
In my neighborhood in Rome, when I know that I will be away for more than
3-4 days, I have to alert the people at the bar, my neighbors etc, because,
otherwise, they will knock down my door if they don't see me. There's
people walking elderly people with a broken hip for free, chatting, going
shopping at the market, ringing their bell for "hi! do you need something?
Do you want to go out for a gelato?"
It is not sustainable. There is no business plan. There are no robots and
nothing you can buy.
It is culture, values and aesthetics. It requires different kinds of
interventions, measurements, evaluations, and presence.
How can you innovate it? How can you replicate it in other places? How can
you scale it?
There are multiple ways. But first of all, you need different definitions
of "replication", "scalability", and "innovation". Which are more
transgressive. Which bring with themselves other measures.
It's like Gardens compared to the Gilles Clement's Third Landscape: it is
not that the Gardener must disappear. It is that it is a different type of
gardener. The one of regular gardens uses rake and shovel as his tools. The
one of Third Landscape's moving gardens, the gardens without a form, uses
wind and knowledge as his tools.
> Whether written by an insider or an outsider, the account will
> always give a partial view. That is why I see necessity for expanding our
> view with more than accounts conjured within human neural nets, to uncover
> the neglected aspects, to discover new patterns, etc.
Absolutely, we can do this and whatever else you want.
But we must realize that this is, first of all, a relational issue, and of
the aesthetics that relationality brings about.
As Bateson said: learn to recognize the beauty of that which interconnects.
In describing the third landscape, Clement uses a peculiarly similar
expression, as he describes the planetary garden as an interconnection
tissue, and he describes how a new aesthetics must be suggested to
recognize its value.
> Preservation will not suffice, we will need to establish a dialogue with
> our creations, consider the viewpoint of art and technology itself –
> technology is observing us closely and it seems like soon enough digital
> neural networks will know more about us than we do. How do we incorporate,
> interbreed the experiences of the heritage of inventions with the
> innovations yet to come?
For me this is a problematic statement: "it seems like soon enough digital
neural networks will know more about us than we do"
can we really separate the two?
on the one hand, an example: an AI used by the HR unit of my company fires
me from my job. Is it (or will it be) possible to know and understand "why"
it fired me?
The question is far from banal, and researchers like David Weinberger are
only staring to explore the implications which come about when the answer
On the other hand: bubbles.
Bubbles are the result of machine's understandings of our world, as they
modify it (through modeling what we perceive) to, well, adapt us to it (if
AI thinks that I like "A", it shows me "A"; since "A" is all I see, I like
"A", or if I don't like "A", "A" is all I see and, thus, I will use it,
making AI think that I like it; loop).
This is not scifi already, as there are multiple examples of this existing
The bubble, the filter bubble, exits also in the physical world.And it
determines in progressively stronger ways that which we see, know, who we
relate with, and where we go.
We are not amazed anymore by news of "Google Maps accidents": people
believe more the digital directions than what they see with their own eyes.
It's an hallucination.
But whose allucination?
This is a complicated and complex question.
Because if it is us humans who are the destination of the hallucination, it
is also true that algorithms are hallucinated.
It is "them" that, to "live better", fabricate a vision of the world and
they enact it, through us.
There is a passage of subject.
We may be becoming the extension of the nervous system of algorithms.
We are progressively more periferics, extensions, prostheses.
These software agents combine to express their needs ("I need you to do X",
for example, to click here, to go to my advertiser's restaurant...) and
transform the world and the relations we perceive to ensure that the
desired (by them) behavior is the one with max probability.
Post-truth, fake news and related phenomena can exist for this reason.
*[**MUTATION**]* *Art is Open Source *- http://www.artisopensource.net
*[**CITIES**]* *Human Ecosystems Relazioni* - http://he-r.i
*[**NEAR FUTURE DESIGN**]* *Nefula Ltd* - http://www.nefula.com
*[**RIGHTS**]* *Ubiquitous Commons *- http://www.ubiquitouscommons.org
Professor of Near Future and Transmedia Design at ISIA Design Florence:
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