Submarine cable map depicting 244 cable systems that are currently active or due to enter service by 2014. Courtesy of TeleGeography
Submarine cable map depicting 244 cable systems that are currently active or due to enter service by 2014. Courtesy of TeleGeography

Things will appear the same - unless you know how to look


21 February 2013

New technologies are changing our world and artists can help show us how by Honor Harger

When asked what the future would look like, the Finnish author and mathematician Hannu Rajaniemi said: “Things will appear the same – unless you know how to look.”

This might seem like a trivial statement, but in fact it embodies one of the biggest challenges that we face when navigating the future – that is, how to look.

My job as Artistic Director at Lighthouse is all about trying to show that digital culture is about more than just tools and gadgets – it’s about perceiving the societal transformations being brought about by technology. As an organisation, we think a lot about what exactly our digital world is, how it’s made, and where it is.

It seems to us that the more heavily encoded our world becomes, the harder it is to read. Our technologised society is becoming opaque. As technology becomes more ubiquitous and our relationship with digital devices ever more seamless, our technical infrastructure seems to be increasingly intangible.

We now refer to the vast server-banks that store our personal data as ‘the Cloud’. This has become a very pervasive – and I would say misleading – metaphor. That is perfectly summarised by the fact that a survey last year revealed that 51% of Americans think that bad weather affects cloud computing.

But all that is solid has not melted into air. On the contrary – our digital world is very much bricks and mortar. It is made up of immense physical infrastructure, such as Google and Amazon’s colossal data centres….

This is the edited text of a talk Lighthouse’s Artistic Director Honor Harger gave at the Digital R&D for the Arts Forum, Manchester on 6 February 2013. Read the full talk text here on Sync Tank: http://www.welcometosync.com/things-will-appear-the-same-unless-you-know-how-to-look/


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