Distortion Series : Technosphere(s)

Jan 20, 2020

I visited the third event in the Distortion series at HEAD in Geneva, organised be the master on media design. The focus was on digital technologies and the ecological crisis from a perspective of design.

The event was structered as a mini-conference, giving 5 practitioners the possibility to show their process in a selected project. It was clearly aimed for students. Sadly, there were no organized possibilities to interact with the speakers, except for the after-event drink. I already knew Vanessa Lorenzo or was at least familiar with her work. She contacted me beforehand to discuss two upcoming projects of hers.

I made many notes but couldn’t distill anything of value for my own project yet.

Alexandre Monnin - The Closings Worlds Initiative

Monnin presented the Closing Worls Initiative. It’s a project that acts with on the premises that there are many legacy worlds, that are not adequat anymore - the long tail of technologies for example - and how these words can be shut down in a responsible manner.

On the other hand the projects works with real client on the prospects, that ecological changes make them or their products obsolete, for example in snow-less winters nobody will buy skis.

Their aim is to reclaim obsolescence: “How do we prevent more objects to appear, how do we make less things exist?”

Xandra Van Der Eijk - The landscape of unintended consequences

Van der Eijks work concentrated on seaweed as raw material for design, in example to color fabrics. She showed then, how the dam system in the Netherlands accidently lead to a new and thriving ecosystem.

Her projects were very strong on a material and aesthetic side, which were quite pleasant to consume and very interesting from a communication design perspective.

Stracuzzi is a grafic designer with a focus on ethical design. She investigated the melting ice in the arctic and how the bordering states want to lay claim to the sea floor. The most important thing in this battle is data.

She realised a project in which this battle as well as the ecological implications are physically shown.

Gaulthier Roussilhe - Framing digital practices into planetary limits

Roussilhe’s project was by far the most interesting to me. He investigated how the internet contributes to co2 level as well as the energy expenditure. Based on current data, he showed how the internet is responsible for quite a chunk of co2 especially the consumption of video.

He introduced then the idea of thinking in budgets of co2 and energy (W) instead of monetary values. Taking that idea head on, he further calculated the costs of a single visit to his website and as a reaction, limited visits to it to 5000 a month.

Vanessa Lorenzo - Hybrid(s)

Lorenzo investigated two different epistemological systems and juxtaposed them in a speculative design work. During a residency in South Africa she had close looks at the Near Earth Astroid warning system as well as the millenia old culture of using rocks as sound and memory devices, by the san people.

What I took from the event was, that designers are closely investigating what technology means in this time of ecological crisis. While some want to abolish unsustainable technology, others are imposing limits on what it is allowed to do. Some even try to expand the notion of what technology means.