My experience at Improving Reality

(clockwise l-r) John Armitage, Jananne Al-Ani, Daniel van der Velden of Metahaven, Susan Schuppli, Lawrence Abu Hamdan, Holly Herndon, Nathan Jurgenson, Nadia El-Imam.

On September 4 I participated in Improving Reality, Lighthouse’s annual conference on contemporary culture. You can read more about the program, other participants etc here.

What follows is a brief description of my own reflections and some things that happened as a result of this experience.

My presentation & reactions to it

Some of the reactions on Twitter

Personal reflections

I hadn’t realised just how bored I am of events focused on the limited parts of the human experience that can be reduced to transactions…or monetised. We really need to create more space for relevant and interesting work at the intersections of culture and technology. Because it helps us understand and process things for which we don’t yet have language, or are only beginning to sense.

Jannane Al Ani’s stunning aerial photos reveal how nothing is truly invisible, even the vanishing of people leaves traces. See for yourself.

They are very different but Jannane’s presentation and Holly Herndon’s video below brought to mind something I have sensed for some time now, but had not yet been able to articulate well. It’s related to where we look for clues in trying to understand something complex, and how we go about making sense of it - what activities this entails.

To me Holly’s video manages to communicate on a visceral level the consequences of living under surveillance in a way that no rational arguments ever will. Soon after the event I showed it to retired NSA Technical Director Bill Binney and the ensuing conversation was an interesting one to say the least… but I’m saving it for another post.

It’s something I will be exploring more actively in the new year- how we can encourage and support more of this in the Edgeryders space. Jeff’s post, Get Back in The Box, is one example that I have really enjoyed.

Perhaps others in the community might be interested in getting involved in this? If so the Making Space group could be a good place to start.