[ISEA2011] Paper: Erik Conrad – Space alive!


New technologies signal transformations of both individual and cultural consciousness.  Technologies can transform and/or extend our sense of ourselves: a hammer allows me to strike something with force that would otherwise injure my soft flesh; a bicycle allows me to travel much faster and farther than I could on foot with the same energy; writing allows for the transmission of ideas without the presence of my body.  During the transformation of self, a reciprocal transformation of environment occurs.  Material, space, time and energy are transformed as well.  What we believe to be possible co-structures what is possible to be believed.  The complex entanglement between the lived and the imagined makes it difficult to conceive of change.  Established ways of thinking are difficult to break, made no easier by the fact that the foundations on which they rest are often obscured or concealed.

In a 1977 paper describing experiments with what he termed, “responsive environments,” Myron Krueger states, “The design of such intimate technology is an aesthetic issue as much as an engineering one.  We must recognize this if we are to understand and choose what we become as a result of what we have made.”  The computer is a product of several disciplines (computer science, engineering, etc.) that are built upon certain fundamental assumptions about the world.  I would like to suggest, that this is not the world in which we would like to live.  Computing need not be abandoned, but it may create a richer world if we combine computers with a different set of underlying assumptions.  Here I would like to look at recent advances in science that suggest a different relationship between body–thought–organism–environment, combined with the process philosophy of Alfred North Whitehead, and consider how this new understanding might change the ways in which we live–imagine the present.  This includes how we can use computational media as a tool for thinking in the resultant transformed space.  This new space of thought, everyday “responsive environments,” are no longer conceived of as a intelligent spaces, but space alive.