Proposal for Action Research for the International Festival of Technology 2017

Background

In the coming year TU Delft Feminists are undertaking (action) research to create a large scale event to reflect on the present and future of technology and climate change. It will be a similar event to that of 1928, when Delft Students created an opera with over 250 players to reflect on the impact of the Industrial Revolution. The context and story of the event will be explored through the narrative of two titans that gave technology to man: Prometheus – who stole fire from the Gods to give to man, but also cursed man with the gift, because of the Gods wrath at his stealing of it. And the ancient figure of Melissa, once the goddess of all living things in Mycenaean Greece, depicted as a bee goddess with swarms of bees around her. She also gave technology to man, but taught men how not ‘eat’ one another and how to use technology to live in harmony with the forest/ecosystem.   Members and project teams from all the faculties will take part in generating the content. The idea, form and story line of the event will be created by playing out scenarios together, along with making inventions in creative interdisciplinary teams.

Proposal Action Research for the International Festival of Technology

Concept

Complexity is not something we have to fear. It is desirable in ecosystems, in culture and in society.  The many layered, many angled nature of things is what makes a phenomenon, invention or a design rich and resilient. We also need to understand complexity to understand the effects of technology on the systems and cultures we introduce it into.

To demonstrate how we are able to deal with complexity consider the many roles a person plays in their lives. Even the roles we habitually deny ourselves , or that we attribute to other people, are internalized within  ourselves. When asked to, we can play these roles out, they are a part of us too and build up who we are.  Studies on diversity (Davis, 2016; Diversity Web) have conclusively proven the exposure to diverse groups and world views helps us empathize and create a more resilient and realistic response to real world phenomena.

In terms of the senses we feel, hear, see, taste and touch at the same time. Unless we are over stimulated we can all process these senses at once without conflict.  Although most of us favor one sense over another, usually sight, an embodied experience is often a more accurate representation of what is occurring.

Complex thinking, sensing  and approaches allow us to make cognitive leaps and connections and undermine (often dangerous) essentialism in our world view, and methods.  We are all extraordinarily able to act and think in a many layered, rich and complex way.

Complexity as a positive aspect and something that can even be understood and meaningfully interacted with is a recent trend in our attitudes to science and technology. The tendency in the past has been to reduce the amount of variables we consider in order to control an experiment for instance, under some circumstances, this still makes sense but in understanding what the impact of technology means and even trying to understand a system it doesn’t. Now we have tools and cognitive frameworks that allow us to be more inclusive in an effort to gain more accurate results..

When we create something, we do so from within an existing a framework, from within our own creation stories or roles that we have been assigned by society.  These are not objective or even natural stories or roles, but they can sometimes appear to us a such if we don’t think or reflect on it.  We can become more flexible and more able to think and behave in critical fashion if we are  encouraged to step into ‘other’  roles and stories.

Method

We propose to create the circumstances to allow people to question their attitude towards technology and science in a subtle, sense based and welcoming way to invite them to see that they too come from a certain framework and perhaps privilege one sense over another. We wish to do this in order to make that transparent and to shift and question fundamental assumptions. And to encourage a plural or diverse approach to understanding and inventing the impact s and functions of technology.

The way we propose to do this is twofold.  First of all, through an all-pervasive installation at the festival. We will make subtle changes to spaces that are designed to trigger alienation from familiar things and to introduce new perspectives, sensations and possible interactions with technology. This will be matched by periodic and surprise flash mobs where a crowd of people emerge that behave in a way that also challenges social and cultural assumptions in science and technology. Creating cognitive dissonance. For instance, a crowd of actors who are also people of color can begin to talk and introduce technology form a different cultural perspective.  All women science teams emerge to explain a new invention. This approach will allow an ongoing dynamic and level of excitement to the festival and will be designed to link the different activities taking place.
This performance-based student-initiative fits seamlessly with the intentions of the IFOT to not only show the shiny facade of technological progress, but also create awareness about the more complex darker sides. Like the Black Mirror-series, we create fantastic projections onto the world as the festival visitors know it, in order to wake up their imaginations and awareness. The several small but strategic placed interventions, we intend to make in the festival crowd, will create an overall impressive atmosphere, where all senses of the visitors are activated. We intend to use our interventions to connect the separate projects and activities of the festival into a whole ‘sense’ experience.

In order to develop the idea above we want to work with professional actors, cultural theorists on technology, and complex systems experts , among the student and faculty members, in quantum computing and urbanism. The mix of professionals outside the TU Delft-world combined with our academic knowledge and technology has proved to stimulate and inspire both parties immensely.

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