Friday, May 15, 2009

This Complex Web

I've spent the last two days at Manchester's Futuresonic Social Technologies Summit, running back and forth down Oxford Road, as I've had some critical things to do in work. I always seem to get some kind of "conference anxiety" three-quarters few the second day of events such as this - as the "input" level reaches critical, without any chance to "process" what you've heard. There were a number of themes at this years conference, and there are some good overviews on the site blog. Environment 2.0 is one theme - and a little like New Writing Worlds last year - there's a real tension between optimists and pessimists. That "global warming" is a key theme across all kinds of different conferences these days is a good thing, yet so intractable appears the problem, and so immense the disaster, that how on earth are artists, technologists, academics et al to respond? The optimists believe that technology will save all. Funnily this year there was less of an "open source" evangelism than you usually find at Futuresonic, a few pockets aside, but perhaps more worringly a certain complacency from the mainstream that social media and a more participatory culture will somehow solve larger issues. I'm a pessimist in this company since I don't find technology an answer on its own. Part of me wants to stand up and shout "you just need to start doing things right!" But of course institutions get things wrong, frequently - or, have too many vested interests to start with a clean piece of paper. I'm a recipient of technology's benefits, I guess - this blog is part of that - yet I'm always wanting to challenge the orthodoxy. It seems obvious to me that if technology is too far ahead of what people want and need then it will fail, just as surely if the need is too far ahead of what technology can do to fix it. There was subplot or two during the conference, around the digital economy, (and again pessimism v. optimism). Plenty of energetic start ups, but with a sense that to get one success, you need a thousand blooms. This is supply side economic oversupply at its worst. I'd hazard a guess that how technology and innovation will get us out of the current recession will not be through this excessive oversupply (of mortgage products, motor cars or Web 2.0 apps) but through a better and closely application of technology to peoples real needs. Plenty to think about.

On Wednesday night I went along to Cube gallery for the Futuresonic art strand, and its an impressive show. I also liked the reading of the Climate Change report outside of the gallery. I'm hoping to have a second, more extended look tomorrow, before seeing Philip Glass solo at the RNCM tomorrow night. Lots of people are taking better photographs than I ever could here.

Its a busy weekend, with Chorlton Art Festival also requiring a visit at some point.


Flat Out said...

i saw philip glass tonight - fantastic - hope you enjoy it...

Adrian Slatcher said...

I'm very much looking forward to it - Glass at the RNCM, seems hardly believeble!