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Liveable futures

Noa Zuk and Ohad Fishof Residency

Noa Zuk and Ohad Fishof Residency


Interdisciplinary artists based in Tel Aviv, Ohad Fishof and Noa Zuk joined the Humane Technologies team of collaborators at OSU in arts-driven research investigating 21st century life and livability. Zuk & Fishof have collaborated for over a decade and work in a diverse range of fields including Dance, sound performance video and installation. In February 2017, they participated in group discussions and Fishof gave an artists talk.

Contemplating the future.

Contemplating the future.

How often do we contemplate the future? In this sense, I'm not referring to our shopping list, or our student loans, getting promoted at work, starting a family, finding a soulmate, or preparing for retirement. I exclude these types of future-oriented concerns because most of us feel that we have some modicum of control over their outcomes. We can see a path by which our individual agency can make an impact. So, when I ask the question about contemplating the future I have in mind the things that are progressing in labs and research institutions all over the world, things like autonomous vehicles, robotics, bioengineering, the Internet of Things, human augmentation, and artificial intelligence. I don't believe we think much about these futures, but in many ways, they are potentially the most transformative and could affect our lives as much as the futures with which we do contend. As a professor of design, my objective is to prepare students to be conscientious problem solvers and creators of the physical and informational environments that surround us. This week my students in Collaborative Studio 4650 provided a real word guerrilla future for the Humane Technologies: Livable Futures Pop-Up Collaboration at The Ohio State University. The design fiction was replete with diegetic prototypes and a video enactment. I will unpack some terms. The term guerrilla future stems from what Stewart Candy (2010) calls guerrilla interventions. 

augmented reality glasses


“Its aim as a practice is to introduce… possibilities to publics that otherwise may not be exposed to them, or that, while perhaps aware of the possibilities in question, are unable or unwilling to give them proper consideration. It is about enabling people to become aware of and to examine their assumptions about futures -- possible, probable or preferable -- by rendering one or more potentials concrete in the present, whether or not they have asked for it.” [Emphasis added].

Our goal was to present a believable future—in 2024—when ubiquitous augmented reality (AR) glasses are the part of our mundane everyday.  We made the presentation in Sullivant Hall's Barnett Theater, and each member of the team had a set of mock AR glasses. The audience consisted of about 50 students from ranging from the humanities to business. 

In contrast to the gallery show, academic or corporate workshop, which attracts voluntary participants, guerrilla futures are uninvited. The objective is to bring awareness of future thinking to a wider audience and perhaps to engage them social debate. The second term to unpack is design fiction which is a research methodology for designers whereby we create believable artifacts from the future as well as other media to craft fictional futures. If these props are experiential, it is possible that the audience could become cooperative participants and agents in the intervention.

the artificial intelligence


The presentation lasted about 30 minutes after which we pulled out rolls of white paper and markers and divided up into groups for a more detailed deconstruction of what transpired. The discussions were lively and thought-provoking. Though it is too early to have completed an exhaustive analysis of the event, it seems universal that we can recognize how technology is apt to modify our behavior. It is also interesting to see that most of us have no clue how to resist these changes. Julian Oliver wrote in his (2011) The Critical Engineering Manifesto

“5. The Critical Engineer recognises that each work of engineering engineers its user, proportional to that user's dependency upon it.”

The idea of being engineered by our technology was evident throughout the AugHumana presentation video, and in discussions, we quickly identified the ways in which our current technological devices engineer us. At the same time, we expressed to varying degrees, our powerlessness to change or effect that phenomenon. Indeed, we have come to accept these small, incremental, seemingly mundane, changes to our behavior as innocent or adaptive in a positive way. En masse, they are neither. Kurzweil stated that, 

‘We are not going to reach the Singularity in some single great leap forward, but rather through a great many small steps, each seemingly benign and modest in scope.’

History has shown that these steps are incrementally embraced by society and often give way to systems with a life of their own. An idea raised in one discussion group we labeled as effective dissent, but it seems almost obvious that unless we anticipate these imminent behavioral changes, by the time we notice them it is already too late, either because the technology is already ubiquitous or our habits and procedures solidly support that behavior.

the design team

There are ties here to material culture and the philosophy of technology that merits more research, but the propensity for technology to affect behavior in an inhumane way is powerful. 

This is necessary research for designers as well as the rest of us. The things that are going on in laboratories somewhere will, in gradual steps affect us. In this context, designers must be cognizant of these more elusive futures. They may wish to leverage them, but they must also be wary of them. Why wary? Because we make things. Design affects culture and culture, in turn, affects what we design. It has always been this way. It is always the designer's responsibility to be certain that there are no errors in the software or the material, to ask “what could go wrong?” But how often do we ask, what are the ramifications of our design, should it go right? What are the entailments to scalability and ubiquity and the systems, often complex and gnarled, that result from successful designs?  Because successful creation has the tendency to become ubiquitous, to influence behavior and to transform society, it becomes a design responsibility, but also one that pertains to virtually every other discipline. We need to pay attention.

Hopefully, design fiction and guerrilla futures can become a more widespread methodology to provoke discussion and debate and make us more active participants in what our future should be. Special thanks to the Humane Technologies Collaboration for allowing us to create this future provocation.

E. Scott Denison | Assistant Professor | Department of Design | The Ohio State University

Better Futures

Better Futures

With funding from the OSU Discovery Themes ACCAD will be the site of a Humane Technologies Pop-up Collaboration the week before spring break. With humane technologies as our foundation we will be focusing on the theme of Livable Futures.

Join us in creating artworks that fill ACCAD, the campus, Columbus, and beyond with messages of compassion, social justice, livability for diverse human and non-human life, and multi-sensory technologies for better futures! 

Humane Technology Pop-Up Collaboration: Livable Futures

March 6-10
All of our faculty and staff and GAs and many of our classes will be working on creative projects throughout the week. Like a hack-a-thon or a charrette the purpose of this week is to create a focused time outside our busy lives for creative collaborative action. Students from the environmental humanities and human rights research groups will join us as well as alumni guests who are taking time out from their work at google, Adobe and in their own design firms and they will enjoy connecting with you all. 

Throughout the week we will be sharing and documenting the prototypes and artworks and advancements made. All of our working spaces (the open collaboration rooms, SIM lab, Motion Lab, conference room...) will be busy and there will be more people around than usual. 

Rosalie Yu's visit kicked off the events and we have Ohad Fishof and Noa Zuk in residence next week as a warm-up for our Pop-Up collaboration March 6-10 and will have more visitors later in the semester.

Here's where you come in.

Let’s create visions of better futures and take creative action together. 
What creative humane technology interventions can you imagine and what solution stories can you create for better, more livable futures? All mediums and methods welcome.

We want to see your videos, poems, essays, performances, animations, posters, drawings, games, prototypes, sculptures, virtual environments and beyond. 

Pitch us your ideas throughout the week. Strong ideas that best capture or comment on livable futures will be supported with funds for supplies, exhibition online and in future gallery events, input, ideas and trouble shooting support. 

And if you'd like to add your efforts to our projects we will be demo-ing and discussing them Monday morning 3/6 9:30-Noon and you can stop by any time and see what we're working on. 

More info:

Humane Tech Pop-Up: Livable Futures
March 6-10, 2017
Humane technologies do no harm, they are creatively open-ended, socially connected and access the full multi-sensory capacities of human intelligence. Humane tech creates compassion and well-being, embraces complexity, enhances collaboration and is radically inclusive. With these humane working assumptions, we will focus this Pop-up on livability in the 21st century. 

Posthuman not Anti-Human
In her book on posthumanism, scholar Katherine Hayles critiques the fact that many visions of the future “point to the anti-human and the apocalyptic" and calls us to action showing that "we can craft other visions that will be conducive to the long-range survival of humans and of the other life-forms, biological and artificial, with whom we share the planet and ourselves."

Solution Stories
Activist Frances Moore Lappe calls us to create solution stories “Facing unprecedented challenges, we can choose to remain open to possibility and creativity—not mired in despair. Surely, the latter is a luxury that none can afford. We can create and enthusiastically share a solutions story today, every day. It is a revolutionary act.”  

Monday-Thursday Collaborative working sessions 9am-6pm

  • Monday 9:30-Noon Demos to kick off the projects and afternoon working sessions
  • Weds 12:45 in the Motion Lab object oriented ontologies embodied exploration
  • Thursday 9:35am in 320 Design Futures provocation (design and humanities students, others welcome)
  • Friday all day demo-ing and documenting results

Email zuniga-shaw.1 for more info