Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg
Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg



September 5 2013
Studio Theatre, Brighton


Lighthouse's digital culture conference, Improving Reality, returned for a third year this September. Talks included tours through worlds that artists are growing rather than making, critical revelations of the systems and infrastructures that shape our world, and narratives of radical alternative futures. Here are the talks from Session Two - Re-Imagining Reality.

Back to the index.

Our increasingly technologised world, with its attendant infrastructures, is in a constant state of flux. This session, introduced by novelist, science writer and editor of Arc, Simon Ings, explored how artists, designers and writers are imagining how our infrastructures may evolve.

We learned what writers might reveal about our infrastructures, using tools such as design fiction. We were led on tours through worlds that artists are growing, rather than making, using new materials like synthetic biology and nanotechnology. We saw how artists are imagining new realities using techniques from futurism and foresight.

Paul Graham Raven – ‘What is our relationship to our infrastructure?’

Paul is going to talk about infrastructure, about what we mean (or think we mean) when we say that word, and about why infrastructure is not so much invisible as illegible: omnipresent, ubiquitous, but almost always Someone Else’s Problem. He will compare the Someone Else’s Problem problem to the “hypnosis of normality” which Anab Jain (designer at Superflux) suggests design fiction is intended to dispel. Paul proposes that the tools of design fiction and critical theory can, and should, be turned outward upon the complex, interdependent and surprisingly fragile metasystems on which our lived reality is utterly dependent.

Maja Kuzmanovic – ‘How do we rehearse an uncertain future?’

The process of reimagining requires being aware of what is, what has gone before and attempts to answer the tricky questions of “what if…” Maja will talk about how FoAM create real life labs to explore these questions using methods such as ‘future pre-enactments’ and alternate reality narratives, attempting to transform speculative fiction into embodied foresight. As the loops between imagination and reality can be either tightened or unwound, reimagining becomes a heuristic process of perpetually walking into a swarm of possible futures, immersing ourselves in what might be and finding ways to thrive in conditions of uncertainty.

Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg – ‘What do we mean by better design?’

We assume design will make things ‘better’, but what do we mean by better? Longer-lasting? Cheaper? Sustainable? Hi-tech? Whose ‘better’ ultimate shapes our common future? Now synthetic biology is attempting to transform biology – and life with it – into a design and engineering discipline, finding ways to ask these questions is as important as ever. Daisy will talk about her work within synthetic biology, asking: can we use design to shape our future, rather than perpetuate the present?

Tobias Revell – ‘Can design be an antagonistic platform?’

The panel, moderated by Simon Ings, spoke on language as an infrastructure, ‘natural’/’unnatural’ technologies and fiction as reality. How can we use design as protest, or to respond to conflict, how can we create alternatives? Why shouldn’t infrastructure be Someone Else’s Problem?

To Session Three.

Improving Reality 2013 was part of Brighton Digital Festival 2013. It is run by members of Brighton’s arts and digital communities, administered by Wired Sussex in association with Lighthouse and supported by Arts Council England and Brighton & Hove City Council.

With thanks to Brighton Festival and Dome.

Improving Reality



Sign up to our mailing list to receive regular email updates on exhibitions, events and other news.