ICT4S 2016, Amsterdam

(Image by Sally Reeder. source)

I’m super excited about participating in the upcoming ICT4S conference, which will take place in Amsterdam, August 29-September 1 (only an hour by train from my current location in Delft!) I’ll also take part in a pre-conference workshop titled ‘computing within limits‘. Here’s the one-pager letter of interest I wrote:

To be honest, the notion of biophysical or computational limits does not play a central role in my work, nor does it occupy a significant part in my thinking about the intersection of ICT and sustainability. Of course biophysical limits – the carrying capacity of the planet, etc. – are inseparable from the way I understand the necessity and urgency of promoting sustainability, but they do so only implicitly. They are there, and they set the other dynamics in motion, but rarely take centre stage.

With that said, limits are indeed front and centre in my work, albeit these are social, cultural and political limits, and they are there mostly to be overcome. These limits relate first to our capacity to understand the intricate, complex and emergent relationalities that underlie sustainability (and unsustainability); second, to the cognitive and cultural limits of our ability to think in more elongated terms – to consider mid- and long-range futures instead of focusing on short-term incentives; and third, to our ability to intervene in the constellations of power that undermine the availability and success of both small- and large-scale solutions to our ecological crises. In other words, I wonder how interactive media can help us grasp the complexity of the challenges we face, compel us to consider our relation to futurity, and promote our ability to act as agents of deep societal change. In this sense I see the questions raised by sustainability as crucial to the emergence of civic media and the designerly cultivation of a new political imagination, both of which are the focus of my current research.

I tend to believe that the only limits to technological innovation that respects biophysical phenomena are established by our own (cultural) imagination and (social) conditions of possibility. So whether we choose to mitigate or to adapt to the consequences of life in the Anthropocene is ultimately a question of how we may evaluate (and hopefully transform) our capacity to own the future. This viewpoint and its implications for design and research would be my contribution to the workshop. At the same time, I am very curious about the meaning and implications of “computing within limits” for a world where unfettered consumption, large subsidies for the energy industry, and clandestine international treaties with grave environmental implications are still very much the norm. I look forward to discussing these and many other interesting topics with other workshop participants.