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Cultural Innovation International Prize _ PostDigital Strategies for the Anthropocene

 

PostDigital Strategies for the Anthropocene will be presented at the

Climate, culture, change

Activity programme and prize award presentation ceremony of the 2nd Cultural Innovation International Prize 2016-2017

to be held the 20 – 21 June 2017 at the CCCB

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“Postdigital Strategies for the Anthropocene” is a project that applies the concept of Postdigital Strategies* to the understanding of the Anthropocene. Specifically, it proposes the design of actions to involve audiences with climate change and turn them into active and empowered agents. The aim of the project is to propitiate a posthumanist vision of the Anthropocene and, at the same time, to foster new relationships between institutions, audiences and the technosocial milieu. This new relationship is meant to shift the Cultural Institution into a Space of Transformation*. This is a space of encounter for collectives of human and non-human agents as well as the controversies emerging from the concretization of the concept (Anthropocene). The institution becomes at the same time an agent actively involved in the social and environmental construction that characterizes this concept. The audience becomes an active agent, empowered by the acquisition of an operative knowledge emerging from the appropriation of the technological milieu for the development of local actions aimed at the improvement of the ecosystem.

We are increasingly aware of the role that data processing plays in the understanding and management of our environment. Computing technology has become ubiquitous and embedded in daily life. In this way, it is producing new possibilities for the design and control of our environment. Our milieu is becoming technological and this arises expectations, fears and controversies. On one hand, there is a techno-utopic confidence in the computing capacities of an almost omniscient machine, constituted by networked sensors and processors, believed to be able to solve the pressing problems that can bring our civilization to collapse. On the other hand, there are growing fears about the surveillance capabilities of a system in which we are inadvertently integrated and reduced to a set of computable features, potentially becoming passive and manipulated by the milieu itself. Numerous controversies spawn from the tensions between the continuous need for innovation and production that characterize our economic system against the need to modify our behaviour in order to develop more sustainable ways of life. In front of this situation, the Postdigital Strategies stand as a proposal to appropriate technology, inspired by artistic practices, in a way where the users will intervene in the functioning of these technologies by acquiring an operative knowledge. From these actions, it will be possible to unveil the complex ecological meshwork we are involved in. Through this process of involvement and discovery, the audience becomes an agent able to start actions that eventually could be amplified towards a significant environmental change.

These strategies, result in the development of projects related to citizen science. Projects such as http://www.mosquitoalert.com/en/, http://www.fenodato.net/, http://natusfera.gbif.es/, and others involve citizens beyond mere data collection and into the open fabrication of sensing devices and in producing awareness about the material conditions in which data are constructed. However, there are comparatively few projects that involve audiences in data use and interpretation. Our proposal is aimed to provide the audiences with tools that empower them in data collection, data interpretation and in the critical and operative use of the epistemological models resulting from their involvement. Whit this goal in mind, we propose the creation of a platform and the realization of a series of workshops to be held concurrently with the exhibition “After the end of the world”. From these activities there will emerge new forms to understanding, narrating, and acting in this new geological era in which we are all immersed since participants will be engaged in the processes that they devise and hence can also change.

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The term Anthropocene was proposed in 2000 by Nobel laureate Paul Crutzen and Eugene Stoermer, in the article Have we entered the Anthropocene? Here, they defined a new geological era in which humankind’s activities had increased its capacity to transform the environment to the point of becoming a new geological force, and altered to the need to harness research and engineering to create a sustainable global environment.

The Anthropocene situates us in a world where the natural environment has been modified by human technological capacity, with practices such as extensive agriculture, industrialisation, colonialism, the atomic age, urbanisation and the subsequent increase in human population (which grew from one to seven million between 1804 and 2011), changing the composition of the soil and the atmosphere, causing the redistribution of some plant and animal species, and the mass extinction of others. These changes are aproaching limits that threaten the continuity of our ecosystem. One of these limits is climate change. The concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has increased from 280 parts per milion in the industrial era to 400 ppm in 2014, the recognised limit of acceptable climate risk. This increase is giving rise to consequences such as an accelerated melting of the ice sheets in the Antartic, rising sea levels, and the disappearance of coral reefs. Studyng and addressing this complex situation with which the Anthropocene present us calls for more than a single scientific discipline, and the involvement of all human and non-human agents.

Since its advent, “Anthropocene” has been a scientific term, with a comission to examine the Anthropocene that studies the uniform deposit of artificial materials on the earth’s crust to propose recognition of this geological era to the International Commission on Stratigraphy. But it is also a political term, highlighting the way in which the administration of resources linked to capitalism is leading us inevitably to the collapse of our civilisation. It also is a philosophical term, which has become part of the thinking of authors such as Braidoti, Stiegler and McKenzie Wark, who move between the critique of the current social system and the proposal of a post-humanist vision that can throw light on this complex situation, at the same time alerting us about the problems of excessive confidence in constructivism.

Although there are various diverging proposals when it comes to defining the concept of the Anthropocene, Stiegler dates its emergence to the Industrial Revolution. The Industrial era saw a new organology – a new relation between human beings and the technolgical system based on automation.

The appearance of this new technical system produced an epistemic crisis, undermining the traditional distinction between natura and culture. Nature was conceived as a given, the object of contemplation, while technological activity was regarded as something contingent an outside rational thought. Automation has produced non-human agents capable of forming a system and transforming living conditions, at the same time showing the world not as something in equilibrium but as a result of thermodynamic processes. The world emerged as neguentropy, the result of processes beyond our control and our will.

This system evolved towards the constitution of global capitalism and the algorithmic control tha characterises our present day environment. The automation of calculation processes has led to the development of information science and ubiquitous computing, a system based on the ability to abstract any entity in the environment to computable data that has increased its processing capacity and connectivity to the point of becoming embedded in the physical environment, modifying not only how we perceibe it and communicate in it, but also its confrmation and administration, increasingly carried out by artificial intelligent autnomous systems. Stiegler attributes to this situation, which I characterize as Postdigital, the destruction of the social environment, and the absence of rituals and shared dreams that allow us to project human thought into the future, allowing us to question the current situation and start producing new things. A world where the technological system becomes autonomous and self-producing, apart from our knowledge and consciousness, at the same time as it destroys the biosphere.

Postdigital Strategies connect with Stiegler’s proposal of a productive intervention. The emergence of a technical mentality, defined by Simondon as knowledge of the emerging system in use, allowing the appropriation of the apparatus of the present technological system towards speculative experimentation and the creation of novelty.

In this way. Postdigital Strategies approach the concept of hypermaterialisation proposed by Stiegler- A form of daily reality in which material applications transform everything into information subjected to contiuous transformation. Or to the concept, closer to artistic practice of Neomateriality, proposed by Christiane Paul. An objectology that incorporates connected digital technologies and subsumes processes to reveal the encoding processes, the data incorporated from humans and the environment, and show how digital processes see our world.

While approaching practices related to software studies and media archeology, the Pstdigital Strategies aim to reveal the form and functioning of the digital apparatus shaping our environment. Postdigital Strategies are activities that involve collectives in physical experimentation with new technologies for creative purposes. Activities that see the emergence of an operative knoeledge that allow us to understand the capacity foranticipation and action of ubiquitous computing, at the same time producing things that arecapable of interrupting the autopoietic functioning of the system. Activities that allow the people in question to become agents involved in the production of new things and the speculation about new forms of life.

These strategies are defined as ativities that experiment with the material components of today’s technological system, whit the following aims:

  • To criticise and embody the information processes and epistemological models that are mediating our understanding of the world. From the macroscope to the collaborative production of locally implemented and inclusive data diagrams.
  • To promote the creation of collectives of human and non-human that propitiates the inclusion of all agents and the understanding of the ecosystem we are involved.
  • The speculation about new possibilities, objects and processes, locally produced, which can be maximized towards a significant change in the biosphere.

 

Today we are seing the promotion of institutional websites and projects to showcase the global changes in our ecological system, visualizations sucha as Cameron Beccario’s “Earth Windmap” that enable us to follow climatology in real time all over the planet, or “Migration in Motion” by Justine E. Hausheer, which shows the movement across the globe of various animal species due to climate change, also the design of platforms where citizens can upload observations to databases for producing new visualizations.

But these models remain macrosystems, operating out of reach of our actions and daily lives, something that happens in a different sphere and to be analized by experts, where citizens are mere observers, ignorant of the role they play in this change and its conceptualization. This project aims to make the cultural institution a welcoming space where citizens can become active agents involved not just in mitigating climate change but also in understanding and conceptulizing Anthropocene.

Project developed by Sandra Álvaro.

Workshops by: Pilar Rosado,  Natalie Jeremijenko, Sandra Álvaro and Ramon Sangüesa

* Concepts developed in the Ph.D thesis: “Postdigital City. Aesthetics and Politics in the Space of Embodied Virtuality”: Sandra Álvaro, Universitat Autónoma de Barcelona 2016. ISBN 9788449068775

PostDigital Strategies for the Anthropocene is one of the teen finalists projects at the Cultural Innovation International Prize held at CCCB Barcelona

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The Cultural Innovation International Prize is a biennial competition organised by the Centre of Contemporary Culture of Barcelona (CCCB) with the aim of incentivising projects which explore possible cultural scenarios for the coming years. It functions as a new space for creation, production and diffusion of projects concerned with developing imaginative solutions for the cultural challenges of the twenty-first century.

 

The second edition of the Cultural Innovation International Prize focuses on the subject of Climate hange.

How can culture defy climate change? The second edition of the Cultural Innovation International Prize encourages projects that offer imaginative and effective solutions to one of the biggest global problems of the 21st century. The winning proposal will be featured in the activities included in an exhibition on the subject at the CCCB

more information:

About the shortlisted Proposals
Program of the event See the program of the event

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