10-12 March 2000
|To live in the turn of the
twenty-first century global information society would seem somehow at the same time
necessarily to inhabit technology. We are not only surrounded by technology, we are
attached in the household to technology - to brown goods (televisions, stereos, VCRs), to
white goods (kitchen electronics). At work we enter the world of 'grey goods' (computers
and fax machines). As we move from home to work or from work to work, we dwell in - cars,
trains, buses and planes - technology. Technology becomes not just attached to our bodies,
but, increasingly, part of our corporeality, with drugs and implants and genetic and
Yet we persist in thinking in terms of inhabiting and technology as irreconcilable opposites. 'To inhabit' continues to connotes dwelling: it connotes private space, a certain fixedness in time and space, it connotes locality. 'Technology' for its part connotes movement: it connotes public space, its geography is global. Inhabiting connotes the home, the neighbourhood, technology international airports, Brussels, financial districts in New York and Tokyo. Inhabiting connotes 'place', it points to a classicism, a settled, habitual at-home-ness. Technology connotes the silicon valleys and silicon alleys. Inhabiting is community. It is identity. Technology says, along with architect Rem Koolhaas, 'who needs identity'? Inhabiting is the Amazon, Shitamachi districts in Tokyo, London's Peckham and West Ham; it is large stretches of The Queens, Paris's Malakoff, echt Berlin Kreuzberg. Technology is the generic city: Singapore and Shanghai. It is London's Shoreditch and City, Roissy and La Défense, the Jardins in São Paulo. Inhabiting is roots, technology rootlessness; inhabiting community, technology rampant individualism; inhabiting is memory, technology futures markets and the future. Technology is modernization and hypermodernization, inhabiting the reaction to the latter from radical Islam to radical ecology. We persist in this dichotomous thinking of inhabiting on the one hand and technology on the other. Thus we tend to persist in thinking of inhabiting technology as some sort of strange oxymoron.
Why do we persist with these oversimplified dualisms? Certainly, the interrelations of technology and habitation are more complex than this. Can we still be satisfied with high-tech visions of a global society, a speed culture and a virtual city on the one hand, and more communitarian and anthropological notions of inhabiting, dwelling or the re-assertion of 'place' on the other? Should we not instead be looking at how we indeed dwell in technology, how we inhabit technology. How we reside in technology - in, for example, the new 'wearable technology', the new interfaces of full screens and eye-screens, from portal to portal, from content to e-commerce on the Internet. Should we not consider how technology inhabits us?
Yet inhabiting technology has yet to emerge as a theme in contemporary culture. It is indeed the issue at stake in this meta-colloquium, this gathering together of 100 experts in London's Institute for Contemporary Arts in March 2000, this meeting of diverse culture specialists, which will not so much thematize, as problematize such technological dwelling. These culture specialists will be drawn from the worlds of theory (philosophers, anthropologists, sociologists), architecture, curatorship, design, from biotechnology, planning, engineering and the digital media.
We will address inhabiting technology in terms of four dimensions: space, time, materials and corporeality.
The conference will consist of these four 'streams' - on time, space, materiality and corporeality.
Speakers include Rem Koolhaas, Daniel Libeskind, Paul Rabinow,
Golrianna Davenport (MIT Media Lab), Hans Ulrich Obrist, Marilyn Strathern, Karin Knorr
Cetina and many others.
The outcomes will be a special double issue of Theory, Culture &
Society, also published as a book in the TCS Book Series, a CD-ROM, and availability of
this digital material on the Internet at the ICA
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