Julian Oliver is a brilliant artist!
He's also done a workshop like the one I'm doing now -
My name is Ale Fernandez. I live in Barcelona, Spain and I'm Chilean and Italian.
I am a web developer, artist and technical researcher.
I've lived in Scotland, Italy, Spain and England and career-wise I am interested in distributed systems and their applications to improvised performance and ecology.
I mean the Digital Revolution, or whatever is at the base the geekiness of ham radios, and at the top the equally geeky virtual worlds which start to take a strange grip on the real world - Second Life, Facebook, Myspace, Email, Instant Messaging, Texting and all the other ways we have added to the written and oral communication we had before. In a sense, all the virtual worlds are just an elite's pinnacle at the top of the incredible communications we're capable of as a global population, aided at this time by the relatively low cost of a ticket to get you in person to the other side of the world.
Slowly these machines have been able grow in complexity to the point where they are able to visualise our dreams, and that has become a strange addiction in an imperfect world. But how much of this can be useful in a realistic consideration of what is needed this millennium?
The truth is that we have overspent, defaulted and got late with our payment back to the planet. The punishment for this will be to have to slow down. It's not to scare or despair that I say this, but my approach to technology has to be from a long term ethical standpoint. Were it to become very expensive to travel, would we still have mobile phones? Would we be able to repair old computers if there were no new parts coming from asia, no new raw materials coming from the terrible mines in Africa? Those things have no reason to exist - they are a terrible self inflicted wound in our planet. Second Life alone uses a huge amount of processing power (This amount - as of 2006 - can be found in the book Second Lives - about modern society's relationship to virtual worlds). How much for facebook then, with it's millions of pages and applications?
But with all these problems I feel it's my crucial mission to make sure that in future we aren't stuck with the present day 'meeting' as the default way of getting things done when communicating using technology, not after so many thousands of years before that, where we had such a diversity that we've now replaced with corporate aims. I don't want this hidden digital revolution that has happened under our noses to end up like the religious world of the Caliphates in 13th century Baghdad - whose spiritual thought was so evolved, only to be destroyed tragically by the armies of Genghis Khan, and be lost. I don't want our closed mindedness to steer us into a corner.
But how can we make technology sustainable?
At this time, I feel the best way is to bring different kinds of people together. This is something I love doing and that I'd be doing even if I didn't believe there was a crisis - figuring out ways for people to express themselves and experiment with new things. So this 2 day workshop, Dream Machines, which will be the focus of this month's Dorkbot Bristol, is a second step towards that(Last Year's Locating Grid Technologies work shops were the first - we looked at videoconferencing and mixed media artistic uses. This series resulted in funding for a p2p enabled semantic web interface for the watershed's library of screen media):
In this workshop however, we'll explore how 3d engines can and are being used in all kinds of experimental ways, but this will be kind of a sideline to the practical skill in getting acquainted with and messing around with the technology directly. We have to learn it's limitations and then sidestep them through the wisdom you can only give when coming to something fresh for the first time. So we'll have dancers with world of warcraft gamers, The Movies directors with TV directors, Interaction artists with Noise artists(and many more such people, in any order) and a lot of mucking around with cheap hardware and free or easily available software that we can use to quickly work in realtime and across media, adapting this extremely advanced, but ubiquitous 3d technology to whatever people want to play with.
Then again, there's not that much you can do in 2 days. I'd like to get people in, experts in their own game, to learn to make a finished game or put together a show or installation. Or run a programme of game/art authoring courses for teenage kids taking inspiration from what is done in Brazil with Estudio Livre, or do more workshops focusing more on the Max/MSP/Pd side of things - the interaction that's easily accessible nowadays - the freedom to hook someone's nose up to a scanner that shoots bubbles into a projection behind them if that's what takes their fancy. And I could work more in the area of the real physical hardware - perhaps taking home made moving parts or robots and linking them to games or online applications so that they can use game AI, so that a remote person can control a prop, perhaps be their own little temporary physical avatar, and you can see your robot get taken over by your friend each time they change their facebook profile. This sounds like random experimentation while Rome burns, but we have to open ourselves up, break things up and put them together again in this time while it's still possible. I am sure real, essential, cheap and long term uses will come of this in a speedy way, even if it's just in that the different people might be able to come together and can maybe learn to understand each other better.