Ana Viseu on Tue, 14 Sep 1999 22:58:40 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> Road Stories for a Flesh Eating Future

On Thursday, September 9, 1999, Arthur and Marilouise Kroker, two of
Canada's most prestigious Media Theorists, gave a talk at the Design
Exchange in Toronto. This is an account of this event. 

Marilouise and Arthur Kroker's talk revolved around the feeling that
technology is accelerating and leaving the body behind. In this two-hour
presentation they brought up the issue of digitization and virtuality and
what it does to the human body (the human body being a metaphor for a
larger body, society and culture). However, instead of a formal talk giving
only hard core facts, they made a performance where they told some "Road
Stories for a Flesh Eating Future". 

One of the stories talked on the replacement of our body by its digital
representation (of which, btw, Matrix's statement 'we are nothing but a
representation of our digital self' is a good supporting example). To give
some background to this issue the Krokers summarized Carl Wiser's (Xerox
Park) view of computer technological development in few words: First there
was the mainframe computer (one computer, many users), quickly we went to
the personal computer (one person, one computer), the third stage is
ubiquitous computing (many computers share each of us). Ubiquitous
computing is similar to other ubiquitous technologies such as writing and
electricity, that are everywhere without being seen. According to Wiser,
the CALM technology (developed by Xerox Park), is a good example of
ubiquitous computing. CALM tech. is a technology that make us feel at home,
that is invisible and everywhere, making us numb to their existence. Calm
technology is "the Prozac to human attention" and it reconfigures the
senses, not only their ratio.

This is not the only example of technologies that try to colonize human
perception. The Krokers also bring out a technology being developed in
Britain, entitled Soul Capture that will improve human computational
abilities. Or the artificial tongue being developed in Texas that is being
programmed to recognized tastes… of course, "the problem starts when the
digital tongue starts to talk: 0,1,0,1". 

One of the most thought provoking statements was that of an engineer who
proudly announced that at the speed in which technology is evolving in
20/30 years the human race can actually disappear and our civilization will
still go on. Which in an Era of techno hype is obviously a blessing. 

The performance was followed by a period of questions and answers to which,
I must say, Arthur Kroker was incredibly prepared, with a sharp answer to
every and any comment or question. But personally the question that stroke
me as being the most stimulating, and at the same time the only that did
not get a straight answer was that of a man who said that he worked in a
firm that had recently started updating with technology. Therefore, he had
to quickly master the technology. But, he didn't know how, and he was
scared. Scared because it is not an option, it is a must. He said that in
order to learn, he went to talks like the one we were just attending.
Nevertheless, as he sat there the only thing that comes to his mind was "I
don't get it". He wanted to know how to learn technology. 

Although in itself the issue of learning technology can be seen as a
trivial issue,  for it involves the same aspect of any other learning
situation, this question is interesting because it comes from someone who
is out of the so-called 'technology circle', and it may be a good indicator
of how a big part of our society feels, those who are out of the technology
hype. Technology is now a burden imposed by some on many.

The performance ended with Arthur Kroker saying that he, like Heidegger,
believed that technology was something we could ignore or refuse, because
technology is our DESTINY.


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