“Stop searching, Start Questioning!”: The Society of the Query, Amsterdam, Nov. 2009

The Society of the Query conference was held in Amsterdam between the 13th and 14th of November 2009. It was organized by the Institute of Network Cultures lead by Geert Lovink. The conference aimed to generate reflection on the role of the search engine in our society, and particularly in our culture. What happens to our knowledge and culture when stored on online platforms and accessed through search engines? The dominant role of one particular search engine, Google, was one of the main themes of the conference, along with potential alternatives to web search and interface design, as well as Internet and search engine art.

One may be skeptical of the potential of such Humanities approaches to influence the course of technological developments. However, theory, critical thinking and art play a significant role in that they generate a cultural flow which could alter the course of technology developments  and potentially lead to a different direction.

The posts in this section are articles which I contributed to The Society of the Query blog.

Regulation through augmented urban furniture: the sentient trashcan

In the Too Smart City section of the exhibition The Sentient City which takes place in New York between September 17th and November 7th,  a series of artworks explore potential technological failures of augmented objects. The artworks embed concerns related to the loss of control of human beings in favor of technology, in line with Rich Gold’s witty and humorous critical interrogation into augmented spaces and objects, How smart does your bed have to be, before you are afraid to go to sleep at night? The exhibited pieces of sentient urban furniture, such as technologically augmented trashcans which would throw back at you pieces of trash which don’t match its intended content, are meant to generate reflection about the transformations and effects of living in an intelligent urban environment. Augmented urban furniture, such as the sentient trashcan or the smart bench have the capacity to become agents capable to regulate public behavior and impose sanctions. Public behavior is already regulated through urban design, rationalist and functionalist modern architecture towards passivity, uniformity, non-intervention and observation to replaced the previous ritualized modes of interaction in public space. Should sentient technological applications in public space be used to further regulate public behavior or to foster creativity and influence individual consciousness and public behavior towards imaginative and playful practices?