What happened in the planetary event of the Near Future Education Lab: the challenge of the Future of Education has started

Some days have passed since the Education is a Commons event, and a summary is needed to be able to have an overview of the scenario which is opening up before our eyes, and about the single most important fact which emerged fro the whole event: Now is the Time to start re-thinking the education system!

First of all: participation. People from 5 continents joined in for an entire week of discussion, representing individuals, organizations, universities, companies, associations, activist groups and, obviously, education hackers from all over the planet.

the final hangout:

Here are some useful links:

the opening hangout:

The most discussed topics:

  • The education ecosystem: what is it? How does it emerge and manifest itself? How accessible and inclusive is it in its current form? What organizational models, if any, can be adopted to make it more accessible, inclusive and readable/usable?
  • Koinoo, K-Coins, badges and more: a mutualistic currency for the education ecosystem. Reputation capital. Transformation of the current definition of value to a p2p, ecosystemic, well-being oriented one, based on networked trust, participation, mutuality. Understanding the ecosystem and the networks through the currency. A new role for credentials.
  • Knowledge Commons, recipes, knowledge and meta-knowledge. Transforming Education into a protocol, like the Internet: an accessible, p2p, network-of-networks. Hypotheses for implementation. A new p2p layer of the Internet protocol stack.
  • Ubiquitous Education. Ubiquity through time and space (connect experiences, places and situations for knowledge anytime, anywhere). Ubiquity through contexts (each place is a potential space/time for learning/teaching/knowledge, through the commons and ubiquitous tech). Ubiquity through roles (each one can be teacher, student, researcher, entrepreneur… depending on the context). What about Divides (technological, cultural, age, gender…)?
  • the Open Foundation: the role of the open foundation to host, preserve and promote the Knowledge Commons, the Ecosystem, and the value model, enacted through the currency, and as a shell to enact the Wirearchy through which the ecosystem will work.

More discussions are taking place as we speak, and we are starting up the implementation processes for the whole thing: so please join the Facebook Group of the Near Future Education Lab and participate to the discussions and activities, or get in touch with us anyway you can: we want to do it with you!

Below you can find more resources about the event and the overall process:

Some fundamental Facebook Posts in the discussion:

The Near Future of Education

 Introduction

With students, designing the future of the education system. A fundamental action towards a shift to a participatory, inclusive knowledge society. This post describes the structure and methodology of our action.

Note: This post is the result of the conversation which we had at CyberResistance in Milan, at the Cantiere.

 The Future does not Exist.

In our approach to Near Future Design we try to create a state of suspension in which it is possible to explore multiple versions of future scenarios and to engage people from different cultures and backgrounds to enable them to become performers, able to express themselves in highlighting not just (technically/technologically) possible futures, but desirable, preferable futures.

Near Future Design: infinite futures

Near Future Design: infinite futures

There are a few steps involved in doing this.

The first step is to create a Future Map.

From our point of view, the building a Future Map involves the combination of a technical/technological activity together with an ethnographical/anthropological one.

The first one involves the comprehension of the current State of the Arts & Technologies: current technological advances, promising research, patents, new products, trends, etcetera. Given proper and reliable information sources, this task is rather simple, in that it requires to keep updated.

The second one is fairly more complex, as it requires the comprehension of the Established Narratives, the Strange Now and the Future Possibilities.

The Established Narratives describe our common understanding of consensual reality. Given a certain topic or domain, the established narratives enclose the forms of consensus which is accepted within relevant communities or cultures: “normal” things within the domain, as they are culturally, traditionally and commonly understood.

The Strange Now describes the emergence of recurring patterns, rituals and other behaviours. Although having become recurrent, these behaviours do not yet benefit from widespread social understanding, comprehension and encoding: they are commonly understood as “strange”, peculiar or curious.

The Future Possibilities describe what people in relevant cultures and communities perceive as possible, feasible and technically/technologically advanced and desirable regardless of their actual technological feasibility, present or future: they describe people’s perception of possibility, in the future.

All these elements are combined into a Design for the New Normal. Its objective is to merge the two types of results into the description of near future designs: the “things” which will be normal a short time from now; the next normality field.

The Near Future Design is represented in a series of ways and it becomes a Simulacrum: a state of suspension of disbelief in which the Design is implemented using a Transmedia Narrative whose objective is to make it as believable and likely as possible, so much that it becomes so entangled in consensual reality that it eventually becomes it.

In particular, this last phase, happens by means of imagination, performance and desire. It is a language-based operation, in which a linguistic landscape is created which allows for the emergence of new imaginaries: people become performers by apprehending new languages, which allow them to imagine new things and concepts and, in turn, to bring them to life, through desire. The performance of the future: people’s perception of what is possible shifts, as they experience a transmedia simulacrum which is so likely that they start using it, eventually making it become true and, in the process, express themselves on what is their desired, preferred future.

This is exactly what we are doing with the education system.

The Near Future of the Education System.

Together with the students at ISIA Design in Florence we are using Near Future Design techniques to design the Near Future of the education system. To do this, we are following the the full Near Future Design methodology outlined above, and we are enacting the transmedia simulacrum in two ways: by enacting a transmedia narrative which will be started shortly, in the following phases of the action, and by adopting the model we’re designing, performing it and using it ourselves, to experiment it on the field according to an agile methodology, by designing it, implementing it, releasing/using it in its beta version, and by redesigning it according to a series of iterations, forks, merges.

Here below is an image which describes the structure of our initial design, further detailed in the next sections.

Near Future of Education structure

Near Future of Education structure

Assumptions

Assumption number 1: decent education has an really high entrance/access barrier.

If you have a lot of money, you don’t have a problem with the current education system. If you can afford the hundreds of thousands of dollars which are needed to attend the best (and not-so-best) schools in the world, you really do not feel the crisis. You have laboratories, personalised courses, a good student/professor ratio, tutoring, mentorship, auditoriums, libraries, equipment, etcetera, you have it all.

Too bad that not many people have all of this money. And even of the ones that do, most of them rely on Debt to obtain access to these schools, and debt – as we have learned – comes with an awful lot of implications.

Assumption number 2: current education models are mostly competitive rather than collaborative.

Competitive models may be adequate for the industrial era, but they are not for the networked, information/knowledge/communication era, which is based on collaboration, universal access and inclusion. All of which are critical to the creation of social capital and the ushering in of a sharing economy.

Assumption number 3: knowledge as a common.

Not only because, as Rifkin puts it, it allows for marginal costs to tend relentlessly towards zero, with all that this implies, but also (and most of all) because, as Bauwens frames it, in the framework defined by Contributory Commons (provided by the Civil Society) and Ethical/Solidary Economy (the Reframed Corporation), an Information & Knowledge Common is enabling and empowering, and should be defended as a strategic asset.

Assumption number 4: perceptive, cognitive, attention and strategic models for education.

The ways in which we learn, collaborate, work, design and relate have radically changed. From a perceptive and cognitive point of view, and from the perspective which sees the emergence of novel modalities in which multiple disciplines converge, different roles become entangled, serendipitous actions become strategic and, in the passage from atoms to bits and back, the production of knowledge and information becomes a performance which is cultural and linguistic, and which is polyphonic, interconnected, emergent in nature.

Assumption number 5: need for a new definition of “value”.

From the P2PValue project page:

Commons-based peer production (CBPP) is a new and increasingly significant model of social innovation based on collaborative production by citizens through the Internet.

In this framework a novel definition of “value” must be found, encompassing the well-being of the ecosystem, and in a mutualistic sense, progressively loosing the definition of “value” determined by the market sale price of products and services, and embracing one which is mutually determined, at a peer-to-peer level.

On top of these 5 initial assumptions, the State of the Arts & Technologies and the Strange Now analyses have provided indications about 11 axes in which we have dimensioned our proposed design. You can read more about the 11 axes of transformation on the NearFuture Education Lab’s blog on Nòva24.

The Foundation

Why create a Foundation to explore the Near Future of Education?

There are multiple answers. Two are the most important ones: to enact a strategic shift, and to host, protect and preserve the Knowledge Common that is at the center of ecosystem.

First: to enact a strategic shift.

a strategic shift

a strategic shift

In the current situation, a hierarchical organisation of things and processes is in place: governments and companies deal with each other to establish policies and strategies which are applied to, in this case, schools and universities and, by them, to students and other participants. This has major political, social and economic implications. And, maybe most important of all, is not flexible, resilient and capable of adapting to the transformation of cultures, societies and the environment, or to take into account people’s and communities’ desires, visions, expectations and emergent behaviours.

The transformation we propose is dedicated to creating an environment, a space.

The environment is the Knowledge Common, which is protected and preserved by the Foundation.

The Foundation itself is open, accessible and permeable: anyone can get in, but it is not necessary to get in to make use of the Knowledge Common.

Multiple forms of interaction and interrelation with this environment are possible, such as contributing to the Common, using the knowledge contained there within, producing recipes to it, a particular form of meta-knowledge (and, thus, that is part of the ecosystem itself) which shows how the various parts of the Common can be used together, combined, assembled together with other relations, elements, or even with other recipes.

These forms of interaction can come from inside/outside/edge of the environment/common.

The Foundation, open and accessible to everyone, preserves the Common.

The Currency

The Knowledge Common has a value, which constantly grows.

This value is measured using K-Coins, Knowledge Coins.

K-Coins are a mutualistic currency, which is used to measure how much a person or organisation contributes to the value (well-being) of the Environment/Common.

K-Coins are mutually assigned: if subject A perceives that subject B contributes to the value of the ecosystem (by participation, contribution, production, meta-production…), A can assign K-Coins to B. In other words, K-Coins are proportional to the Reputation which one has in relation to their active participation to the well-being of the Environment/Common.

(some additional info on the ways in which we are designing the K-Coins may be found here: http://p2pfoundation.net/Near_Future_Education_Lab )

Agile Ecosystem: pull, fork, watch, merge

All the things we have seen so far (and the next to come) represent knowledge, as well.

The Future Map, the definition of the Foundation (its statute and regulations, for example), the K-Coins definition and the software needed to make them work, the collaboration and relation tools… everything that we describe here is part of the Knowledge Common that constitutes the core of the Environment, of the Public Space, that we are describing.

As such, they can be freely accessed and used.

Using the Git metaphor, they can be watched (to know how they’re changing), pulled (to use them), forked (to modify them, creating your own version) and merged (to take the results of multiple contributions and to assemble them into a new version).

If a certain subject grabs and modifies, let’s say, the Future Map, or the statute of the Foundation, they can use it for their own purposes, but the results remain part of the Knowledge Common, together with their relation with the original version.

This fact has enormous cultural, political and practical implications.

First of all determined by the possible co-existence of multiple versions of everything.

This implies, for example, that if I have a certain vision of the Future Map, of how the future of the education system could be, I could just fork the currently adopted Future Map, modify in ways which reflect my point of view, and put it back up for merging. Then other people will be able to make their own decisions: merge it, fork it on their own and use it, or else. In any case, I would be able to use my own Future Map for my own purposes (in this case, to aim at a certain objective in the transformation of the future of the education system).

In all this, K-Coins allow everyone to express (currency as a means of expression) themselves about their perception of my contribution to the Common, contributing to my reputation and, thus, augmenting the value of the environment/common itself.

This possibility for measure also achieves a virtuous effect: since everyone’s reputation is connected to their active contribution to the well-being of the Knowledge Common that constitutes the environment, and since the K-Coins measuring it are mutually assigned, everyone will be engaged into making positive contributions, thus augmenting their value, thus incrementing their reputation and possibilities/opportunities within the ecosystem.

How Does all this Work?

The Foundation will work as a Wirearchy.

In Wirearchy a social network (in our case it will be a combination of a peer-to-peer social network, and of a meta-social network, operating in piggy-back with major social networks such as Facebook and Twitter and in mode physical modalities) hosts conversations, relations and interaction.

From these, the communities of practice emerge: people and organisations interested and involved in certain topics, domains and issues, and making experiments, hypotheses, researches…

Work teams can emerge from all this, eventually including some or all members of the communities of practice as well as participants from the rest of the social network, or even from beyond its (fuzzy) boundaries. Work teams actively work on the domain/theme/issue, eventually arriving at the definition/creation/implementation/deployment of a certain information, knowledge, object, product, service or else.

In this ecosystem, any form of production includes two elements: knowledge and other things (such as objects, products, services…).

All knowledge produced becomes part of the Knowledge Common.

All the rest may be sold, offered, used or else, at the discretion of the producers.

The knowledge produced and put back into the Common defines the “value” of the “project” within the ecosystem, through the number of K-Coins that other people assign to it – from their point of view and if they desire to do so – evaluating how it contributes to the well-being of the ecosystem.

Recipes

Within the ecosystems, a series of subjects produce recipes.

Each project, course, study program, how-to, tutorial… each of these things is a recipe, may contain and use recipes and may be contained in one or more recipes.

Recipes are like the ones for cooking: they contain ingredients, and the instructions on how to combine them to obtain a certain result.

Recipes, as forms of (meta-)knowledge are part of the Knowledge Common.

There can be recipes about what is the education path to become a Designer, an Engineer, a Cultural Anthropologist. Recipes about how to build chairs, drones, particle accelerators. Even recipes about cooking.

A certain recipe may indicate that, before attempting to do something, I should learn something: Recipe to create object X could state that “you can use software tools Y and Z, physical tools K and T, and you have to follow course A, preferably with Mr. B, and it would be better to join Lab C, and you would need the collaboration of at least 1 person who has followed course D and E, and who is proficient in using tool Y”.

Recipes can be produced by multiple subjects: I, for example could produce a recipe about “what you need to learn and do to become a proficient Communication Designer”.

Other people could create similar recipes (starting from scratch, or forking my recipe, for example): other designers, people who think they know what it takes to become a Communication Designer, and more.

One peculiar type of subject which could desire to have its say about this could be, for example, the Italian Ministry for University and Research (the MIUR), or any other governmental institution in other parts of the world. Actually, all of these types of subjects basically occupy their time creating “recipes” – under the form of official study plans, policies, regulations and more. We recognise these plans, rules and regulations as valid and mandatory on the premise that we trust these governmental entities and institutions, and that we acknowledge them the role of the maintainers of the systems in which sciences, humanities and research can thrive and prosper.

It’s a matter of trust, and reputation.

What could, then, happen in the ecosystem which we’re describing?

It may become true that Mr. X’s recipe on “how to become a Robotic Engineer” is valued more (in K-Coins) than the one from the MIUR, other Government Agencies, or even than the one from Stanford, or even MIT. Because…? It can happen for multiple reasons, of course. One of them is that, in the ecosystem, more people have recognised more value (by attributing K-Coins) to Mr. X’s recipe. This would mean that the education ecosystem recognises Mr. X’s recipe more valuable than the one by the Ministry, or by Stanford, or by…

This possibility is disruptive: what could a Ministry of Education, or Stanford, or MIT do in this case? They could produce a better recipe, or adopt Mr. X’s, or fork it or… many more things. Sure is that that they would have to act, in order to bring more well-being to the ecosystem.

Let’s look at some scenarios.

How can I teach in this Ecosystem?

I could offer a course/lab/training-on-the-job/something using the social network, or by participating to a Community of Practice or Work Team (and possibly recognising the need for such an offering), or because I really enjoy teaching a certain subject/practice, or because I have the tools/spaces/conditions to offer it, or else.

In my offering I can use elements from the Knowledge Common, optionally forking them and creating my own versions, which are put back into the Common. I can use recipes, and produce recipes of my own, to be used in the course or outside of it (“my course is needed to learn how to build object X, as described by recipe Y”). The offering can also be included in recipes by other subjects, which deem it as being fundamental for achieving a certain purpose.

These same people may decide to replace a certain element of their recipe with my offering, should they be convinced (and, in this, reputation helps) that mine is better.

Eventually, I will give the course/lab/stage/practice… and the people who have participated (students, recipe-adopters, be that to become an engineer, complete a project, to learn something so that I can then teach it, to learn something for no purpose at all…) may decide to assign me some K-Coins for my positive and active participation to the well-being of the Ecosystem.

From this moment my offering would benefit from increased reputation.

How can I create a project in the Ecosystem?

This scenario works much in the same way like the previous one.

The major difference is in its augmented degree of generality.

To engage a project you have to learn something, use knowledge and information, assemble a certain number of recipes, and more. All to produce, as described, more knowledge and some objects/products/services/other.

Thus, it would work out in the same way.

The social network/communities of practice/work teams scheme could be used to start a project. The project would use elements from the Knowledge Common (be them single elements or recipes…), combining them with courses, laboratories and relations with other people and organisations which would have to have access to knowledge and recipes (either directly or by “going to school”) and, possibly, a certain level of reputation.

In this scenario: the value of reputation in the ecosystem becomes self-evident, as enabler, facilitator, multiplier, accelerator of the action.

How can I learn something in the ecosystem?

You always learn in this ecosystem.

One of the strengths of this approach is the explicitation of this fact: in different moments and contexts of their life subjects will act as “learners”, professors, laboratories, entrepreneurs, producers of recipes, and more.

I could decide to learn in multiple ways: by choosing a certain recipe (based on the reputation of its creator, or for some other reason); by choosing a certain course/lab/other offering; by joining into a project in which I would need to learn a certain thing or adopt a certain recipe.

Or I could even identify that no-one is currently offering a certain course/lab/training/other, and by using the social network/communities of practice/work teams to try to make it available (and this would also be an opportunity for someone to actually create the offering).

If all else fails, I could try to learn by myself in some way, and, maybe, even offer the course myself.

In all this, the usual mechanism applies: of all the contributions which I used (the course, lab, recipe or else) I would be able to assign K-Coins to attribute to them reputation, based on my perception of how they contributed to the well-being of the ecosystem and of the Knowledge Common.

Conclusions

We’re building all of this and, in the next few months, you will see much more happening.

As stated above: this process which we’re building is the first contribution to the Knowledge Common itself.

You all can (and should) contribute to it in any way you can: by participating, designing with us, helping us to communicate, to get in touch with people, groups, organisations, institutions who could be interested in these kinds of developments.

In four words: to make this happen.

More news really soon.

In the meanwhile follow us and join in like this:

The Third Infoscape: Michel De Certeau, Gilles Clément, Marco Casagrande and the re-creation of our cities

What do Michel De Certeau, Gilles Clément and Marco Casagrande have to do with the idea of Smart Cities?

What is the Third Infoscape?

How can we grasp the potential revolutionary character of our daily lives, educate our gaze to capture unforeseen opportunities and experience our cities as living beings, to which we all participate and onto which we can all contribute to transformation and change?

The ideas of Microhistory, of Third Space, of Third Landscape, of Third Generation City and of Urban Acupuncture will help us to try to give answers to these questions.

Let’s start from History.

History

When we study History, we tend to imagine studying “large history”. The history of the great people and great events/trends which transformed the course of time, wars, societal transformations. Changes which happened on a large scale, treaties, alliances and agreements which shaped the lives of entire populations.

This is, of course, not the only way in which we can research and study history. The term “History” itself is an umbrella term enclosing a rich variety of different approaches.

Among them is the really interesting possibility to study Microhistory,

“the intensive historical investigation of a well defined smaller unit of research (most often a single event, the community of a village, a family or a person)”

This might seem somewhat less relevant than history, as it could resemble an effort to focus on things which are of smaller importance, almost case studies that would, then, need to be framed into a wider context to be significant.

But if we think about it, this might well not be the case.

History is, of course, the result of the progression of large-scale transformations to the structures of human societies, their relationships, their disputes and agreements.

But these large changes do not happen in a vacuum. They happen within human societies, which are made of human beings, and by their relationships, cultures, imaginations, desires and expectations.

So it is possible and valuable to view the study of History also as the possibility to “ask large questions in small places or contexts”, as hypothesised by Charles Joyner [1].

To try to explore the conditions in which these large scale events and transformations actually took place, through people and the mutation of their daily lives, of their cultures and desires.

And that’s precisely what happened when historians started to understand that certain “political events and social realities” could not be explained adequately by existing macro-historical models, as highlighted, for example, by Giovanni Levi [2].

In essence, historical histories did not account for the experiences of all members of the event, society, or culture being studied.  As a result, microhistorians have made a point of viewing people not as a group, but rather as “individuals who must not be lost either within the historical processes or in anonymous crowds”. [3]

Microhistorians have attempted to formulate a history of everyday life. [4]

Everyday Life

In his “The Practice of Everyday Life” [5] Michel De Certeau transformed the study of “everyday life”, shifting it away from the study of popular cultures and from the research about the social and political struggles which happen with the daily forms of resistance to the regimes of power, in an attempt to outline the way individuals unconsciously navigate everything, from city streets to literary texts.

This approach leads to an interesting distinction among the strategies and the tactics.

The idea of strategies is linked to the one of institutions and to the structures of power, describing and producing the prescriptions (the codes) according to which the elements of reality should be interpreted. They are the official rules of society: the laws and regulations, the official usages of objects and spaces of the city. They are enacted by encoding, by putting objects and places on maps with precise legends (or codes), or by establishing boundaries and borders.

On the other side are the tactics, referring to people and the ways in which they continuously surf the strategies in unexpected ways, they navigate them according to their cultures, desires, urgencies and imaginations. People constantly perform the environment producing their own interpretations of reality, using objects and moving through cities in ways that are tactical and never fully determined by the plans of organizing bodies.

People fundamentally and continuously break the codes established by the strategies, enacting their tactics and, thus, re-programming the environment, and adding new codes onto it, established by acts of “making” and of “performing”, by unpredictably changing their trajectories while moving through urban space, by changing the way in which they use a certain object, and by mutating the way in which a certain space is used.

In the chapter “Walking in the City” De Certeau writes:

The ordinary practitioners of the city live “down below”, below the thresholds at which visibility begins. They walk – an elementary form of this experience of the city; They are walkers, Wandersmänner, whose bodies follow the thicks and thins of an urban “text” they write without being able to read it. These practitioners make use of spaces that cannot be seen; their knowledge of them is as blind as that of lovers in each other’s arms. The paths that correspond in this interweaving, unrecognized poems in which each body is an element signed by many others, elude legibility. It is as though the practices organizing a bustling city were characterized by their blindness. The networks of these moving, intersecting writings compose a manifold story that has neither author nor spectator, shaped out of fragments of trajectories and alterations of spaces: in relation to representations, it remains daily and indefinitely other.

And, later:

Their story begins on ground level, with footsteps. They are myriad, but do not compose a series. They cannot be counted because each unit has a qualitative character: a style of tactile apprehension and kinesthetic appropriation. Their swarming mass is an innumerable collection of singularities. Their interwined paths give their shape to spaces. They weave places together. In that respect, pedestrian movements form one of those “real systems whose existence in fact makes up the city”. They are not localized; it is rather that they spatialize. They are no more inserted whithin a container than those Chinese characters speakers sketch out on their hands with their fingertips.

According to these idea, strategies and tactics each produce distinguishable parts of the city. The first is top-down and is relatively static, relating to the institutionalised, bureaucratic, legal and administrative codes which describe the spaces of the city. The second is bottom-up, emergent, dissonant, in real-time, describing the desire and visions of the city-practitioners (the performers), written on the cities through their bodies and their actions within the city.

The first represents a top-down form of information and knowledge. The second is bottom up.

The first is mainly static, and highly readable through the apparatus of signage, visual encoding and images produced by administrations.

The second one is dynamic, everchanging, multiple, polyphonic, and is below the threshold of readability as it is drawn through the bodies of city-dwellers, and is ephemeral, lasting only a few instants.

According to De Certeau, this form unpredictable creativity describes a space, in which revolutionary potentials exist, in which individuals individualize culture, and turn elements of the popular in their own, reappropriating them.

This new space can be materialized, under the form of what geographer and urban planner Edward Soja calls the Third Space.[6]

According to Soja in the Third Space:

everything comes together… subjectivity and objectivity, the abstract and the concrete, the real and the imagined, the knowable and the unimaginable, the repetitive and the differential, structure and agency, mind and body, consciousness and the unconscious, the disciplined and the transdisciplinary, everyday life and unending history.

Third Space is a radically inclusive concept, in which the strategies exist together with the tactics which, thus, gain visibility and perceivability, enabling the contestation and re-negotiation of boundaries and cultural identities.

This is a process which is very similar to Homi K. Bhabha‘s theory of cultural hybridization, in which “all forms of culture are continually in a process of hybridity,” that “displaces the histories that constitute it, and sets up new structures of authority, new political initiatives… The process of cultural hybridity gives rise to something different, something new and unrecognizable, a new area of negotiation of meaning and representation.”

Thus, it is a space for open opportunity, in which possibility exists according to, in turn, the possibility to recognize (to see) it in the “other”, in the tactics that are expressed in space. Opportunity exists if our gaze can become educated to see the tactics and to learn to negotiate their meaning.

The Third Landscape

When Gilles Clément described the Third Landscape he described it as [8]:

The Third Landscape – an undetermined fragment of the Plantary Garden -designates the sum of the space left over by man to landscape evolution – to nature alone. Included in this category are left behind (délaissé) urban or rural sites, transitional spaces, neglected land (friches), swamps, moors, peat bogs, but also roadsides, shores, railroad embankments, etc. To these unattended areas can be added space set aside , reserves in themselves: inaccessible places, mountain summits, non-cultivatable areas, deserts; institutional reserves: national parks, regional parks, nature reserves.

Compared to the territories submitted to the control and exploitation by man, the Third Landscape forms a privileged area of receptivity to biological diversity. Cities, farms and forestry holdings, sites devoted to industry, tourism, human activity, areas of control and decision permit diversity and, at times, totally exclude it. The variety of species in a field, cultivated land, or managed forest is low in comparison to that of a neighbouring « unattended » space..

The Third Landscape is the part of the natural environment that grows in-between bricks and stones, it is the grass that lives between train tracks, it is the natural space that finds its life in the cracks of the walls, or in the places of our cities to which we don’t pay much attention.

It is the natural space of our cities which has not yet been encoded. It is not found in the flowerbeds and hedges which our city administrations define through borders and limits: please keep off the grass, this is a bureaucratically instituted flowerbed.

From an ecological point of view, the larger part of the biodiversity in our cities is found in the Third Landscape [9].

From this point of view, the Third Landscape can be considered as the genetic reservoir of the planet, the space of the future…..

Gilles Clément’s “Planetary Garden” is one of the most suggestive answers to the mutation of the definition of urban space. Planetary Garden is to economic and urban globalization what urban gardens were to the cities of the 19th Century: the latter represented the closed or tightly schemed design of urban architecture and layout, while the former represents the connective, fluid, mutating texture of the globally interconnected city. The Planetary Garden is the garden of the global city.

The third landscape is a connective fabric composed of residual spaces that tend to take a liquid state, never preserving shape, resisting governance. Classical preservation or environmental conservation tools such as surveillance, protection and the creation of limits and borders cannot apply to the Third Landscape without destroying its characteristics, as Clément writes [10] “not property, but space for the future”. An idea of space that goes beyond the ideas of landscape as a place for identity, being used as an asset for local societies, and as a strategic tool for memory.

An idea of space that exemplifies the possibilities of the contemporary world: a multiplication of narratives; the holistic perception of ecosystems; the possibilities and richness offered by disseminated, interstitial, emergent, mutating, temporary, polyphonic environments; the end of dualistic approaches.

As John Barrell spoke about “the dark side of the landscape” [11] while pointing out the imposition of a point of view of a single social class, with Clément we could speak about a “light side”, for the Third Landscape is not an exclusive model but an inclusive one:

“a shared fragment of a collective consciousness”.

It is based on a planetary remix (brassage) which is at the origin of the current richness of ecosystems. [12] These dynamically mutating spaces embody the presence of multiple agencies forming the city from points of view that are architectural, political, economic, poetic, activist, industrial: new forms of nature that emerge by instantaneously creating interstitial ecosystems that flow with the story of the city, describing a realtime syncretic map that develops together with the creation of new areas for residences, industry, commerce, business, culture and entertainment, and with the death, abandonment and decay of the previous ones, as a geography of the mutation of the city. [13]

Clément talks about the necessity of training our gaze into recognizing and understanding the Third Landscape. This requires a new possibility for vision and knowledge dissemination in urban natural environments, a renewed sense of aesthetics, and a morphed sensibility for the possibilities for interaction and communication offered by our surroundings.

This is a potentially revolutionary point of view, as it alludes to the possibility to achieve the perception of these emergences, and the possibility to transform them into a form of shared knowledge.

A similar discourse could be imagined for the Third Space: what if the emergent history of tactics could become a source of shared knowledge? What if the progressive sedimentation of this knowledge, its continuous formation of everchanging and evolving ruins, layer after layer, could become accessible and readable, through sensibility and senseability, and through a novel form of aesthetics to stimulate both perception (attention) and awareness, to describe the progressive history of daily life: a stratified, accessible, perceivable, usable, continuously evolving micro-history?

The Third Generation City and Urban Acupuncture

What is a ruin?

A ruin is the progressive reunification of  objects and architectures to nature. As buildings grow older, the action of natural agents, of human beings and of the Third Landscape mutate them, bringing them into a different form: more organic, and systematically integrated into the natural environment.

In a way, nature and human beings ruin buildings, transforming them into ruins.

From a different point of view, the actions of human beings and nature bring buildings into a different state, transforming them into ruins, providing evidence of the history of humans’ and nature’s interventions on architectures, of the patterns according to which they have been used daily. From this point of view, ruins expose the history of the natural (and human, as integrated in nature) environment and of its daily life.

Ruins are, to all effect, a history and a source of knowledge and of information, enacted through the layering processes of the results of the actions of human beings and of natural agents.

From Marco Casagrande‘s definition [14]:

Third Generation City is the organic ruin of the industrial city.

Third Generation City is true when the city recognizes its local knowledge and allows itself to be part of nature.

And [15]:

The Third Generation City is the industrial city ruined by the people – human nature as part of nature.

Like a weed creeping into an air-conditioning machine the industrial city will be ruined by rumors and by stories. The common subconscious will surface to the street level and architecture will start constructing for the stories – for the urban narrative. This will be soft, organic and as an open source based media, the copyrights will be violated. The author will no longer be an architect or an urban planner, but somehow a bigger mind of people. In this sense the architects will be like design shamans merely interpreting what the bigger nature of the shared mind is transmitting.

This last definition is specifically interesting for all our discussion: the image of the layering of the subconscious, of the stories and narratives produced by people emerges as a novel (un)building material which is capable of preserving history and knowledge, by transforming spaces, whose authors will no longer be architects or planners, but people themselves.

The third generation city is envisaged to be an organic layer that promotes alternative modes of living as well as narratives, or “urban rumors”

The Third Generation City as a form of knowledge.

And, as in the Third Landscape, the need to educate our gaze to recognize this kind of stratification as a new kind of aesthetics, as a new form of perception for possibility and opportunity: an open space for the future.

Thus it is imaginable to acknowledge this process and, thus, to imagine the city as a whole, as a body, which includes both architecures and their emergent layering with the history and knowledge of the daily lives of human beings and nature.

This body would not be static, with continuous, emergent flows of knowledge and information taking place throughout it.

Thus enabling the visions of architect Vilen Künnapu‘s  theory of energy center architecture aiming in tuning the urban condition into a network of spiritual layers, and architect Marco Casagrande‘s theory or urban acupuncture in which the cities are treated punctually as energy organism towards an environmentally (and socially) sustainable development.

According to Urban Acupuncture, small scale interventions can be used to transform larger urban contexts. From this point of view, the sites of the interventions can be selected much in the same ways in which traditional Chinese Acupuncture selects the points in which to insert the needles: locations which are fundamental for the flows of information, communication and knowledge in the city.

City is viewed as multi-dimensional sensitive energy-organism, a living environment. Urban acupuncture aims into a touch with this nature and Sensitivity to understand the energy flows of the collective chi beneath the visual city and reacting on the hot-spots of this chi. [16]

Urban Acupuncture is connected with the perception of the city as a body, with narratives, emotions, information and knowledge as its main meridians for energy flows.

Urban acupuncture bears some similarities to the new urbanist concept of Tactical Urbanism. The idea focuses on local resources rather than capital-intensive municipal programs and promotes the idea of citizens installing and caring for interventions. These small changes, proponents claim, will boost community morale and catalyze revitalization.[17]

 

The info-body of the City: the Third Infoscape

As we have seen so far, the idea of Microhistory allows us to focus onto the personal stories of people, describing territories not only in terms of the large-scale events and trends which happen in (or to) them, but allowing for a multitude of points of view emerge, the histories of the daily lives of people, which can be observed to make sense of the larger phenomena.

These stories form the Tactics, described by De Certeau, which, together with the strategies, encompass the dialectic confrontation between the top-down and bottom-up encodings of cities. The first ones are static and prescriptive, establishing strict codes and boundaries. The second ones are dynamic and emergent, and describe the performative practices of city dwellers, in their reinterpretation and reappropriation of the spaces of the city. This is the Third Space, as described by Soja.

In a parallel with Clément’s Third Landscape, we have seen the ways in which the Third Space can be used as the space for emergent opportunity in the city, an inclusive, possibilistic and accessible open space in which it is possible to define new, emergent codes, at multiple levels and according to different directions. To do this, new forms of aesthetics and perceptions must be achieved, to be able to perceive the Third Space/Third Landscape, to see and interpret it as the open space for opportunity and for a possibilistic description of the future.

With the Third Generation City, we have seen how to integrate all these levels using the idea of the ruins, in which Tactics stratify on top of Strategies, transforming them. This layering represents the effects of nature and of human daily lives on the spaces described by the strategies, their histories and narratives.

This, in turn, describes the city as a body, in perpetual dynamic evolution, in which this emergent process describes the flows of expression, emotions, information and knowledge: the energies of the city.

On these flows, in ways which are similar to the ones we find in acupuncture, we can imagine to apply Urban Acupuncture, acting on the nodes of the meridians of these flows to liberate and enhance them and, thus, producing larger effects through small interventions.

All of this process we have just described relies, as we said, on the energies of the city which are represented by expression, emotion, information and knowledge, and on their possibility to flow freely, and to leave evidence of their (micro)history to be transformed into accessible forms of awareness, wisdom, insights, enlightenment and performance.

In current times, much of these energies assume digital forms.

We have learned to use mobile devices, ubiquitous technologies, social networks and other ubiquitous forms of communication to work, collaborate, make decisions, express our feelings, learn, communicate, establish relationships, and consume. [18] [19] [20]

It is, thus, possible to define, along the lines of the previous definitions, a (First, Second and) Third Infoscape. Where the First Infoscape would refer to the information and knowledge generated within nature; the Second Infoscape would refer to the information and knowledge generated in the industrial city (the second generation city, the city of infrastructures, of transactions, of sensors…); and the Third Infoscape would refer to the information and knowledge generated through microhistory, through the progressive, emergent and polyphonic sedimentation onto the city of the expressions of the daily lives of city-practitioners.

By making a parallel with the previous theoretical approaches it would be, then, possible to focus our attention onto the Third Infoscape, together with the First and the Second, to create a novel kind of sensibility, perception and awareness. And with this new form of sensibility it would be imaginable to form new modalities for observing and understanding our cities, and to perform new kinds of Urban Acupuncture interventions, based on the energy flows of the city, expressed through the digital domains which are now a fundamental part of our daily experience, inseparable from the physical one.

To achieve this, we would need to form a new aesthetic (referring to the concept of perception) sensibility, to see the Third Infoscape, and to recognize it as an inclusive space for opportunity, in the same sense pointed out by Clément when dealing with the Third Landscape.

These, among many others, are the topics which we are exploring with the Human Ecosystems project.

Human Ecosystems

Human Ecosystems

[1] Joyner, C. W. Shared Traditions: Southern History and Folk Culture, (Urbana: University of Illinois, 1999), p. 1

[2] Levi, Giovanni.  “On Microhistory.”  In Peter Burke, ed., New Perspectives on Historical Writing.  University Park: Pennsylvania State Press, 1991.

[3] Iggers, George.  “From Macro-to Microhistory: The History of Everyday Life.”  In Historiography of the 20th Century.  Hanover, N.H.: Wesleyan University Press, published by University Press of New England, 1997.

[4] Brewer, John (2010). “Microhistory and the Histories of Everyday Life” in CAS e-SERIES, Number 5, 2010. Accessible at http://www.cas.uni-muenchen.de/publikationen/e_series/cas-eseries_nr5.pdf

[5] de Certeau, Michel. “The Practice of Everyday Life”, trans. Steven Rendall, University of California Press, Berkeley 1984. Accessible at http://danm.ucsc.edu/~dustin/library/de%20certeau,%20the%20practice%20of%20everyday%20life.pdf

[6] Soja, Edward W. Thirdspace. Malden (Mass.): Blackwell, 1996. Print. p. 57.

[7] Rutherford, Jonathan. “The Third Space. Interview with Homi Bhabha.” Identity: Community, Culture, Difference. London: Lawrence & Wishart, 1998. Print. P. 211

[8] Clément, Gilles. The Third Landscape. http://www.gillesclement.com/art-454-tit-The-Third-Landscape

[9] Clément, Gilles. Manifesto del terzo paesaggio. Macerata: Quodlibet, 2005.

[10] Gilles Clément. Le jardin planétaire. Reconcilier l’homme et la nature, Albin MIchel, Paris 1999.

[11] Barrell, John. The dark side of the landscape: the rural poor in English painting, 1730-1840, Cambridge University Press, New York 1980.

[12] di Campli, Antonio. Review of the “Manifesto del terzo paesaggio”, architettura.it, 2005

[13] Iaconesi, Salvatore. Leaf++. http://leaf.artisopensource.net/

[14] Casagrande, Marco. http://casagrandetext.blogspot.it/2013/10/third-generation-city.html

[15] Casagrande, Marco. Cross-over Architecture on Epifanio. http://www.epifanio.eu/nr9/eng/cross-over.html

[16] “Urban Acupuncture: Revivifying Our Cities Through Targeted Renewal,” – Kyle Miller, MSIS 9/2011

[17] Urban acupuncture’ touted for cash-strapped cities - David West, New Urban Network 7/2011

[18] Salvatore Iaconesi, Oriana Persico. The Co-Creation of the City in ECLAP 2012 Conference on Information Technologies for Performing Arts, Media Access and Entertainment, pp.62.

[19] Urbanverse, http://urbanverse.net/21st-century-cities-c-is-for-co-creation/

[20] Salvatore Iaconesi, Oriana Persico. 2012. ConnectiCity: Real-Time Observation and Interaction for Cities Using Information Harvested from Social Networks, in International Journal of Art, Culture and Design Technologies (IJACDT), Vol.2, Issue 2, pp. 14–29.

La Cura on BigData

BigData Cover

BigData Cover

La Cura was recently featured on the journal BigData Vol.1 Issue 3, with an in-depth article and on the journal’s cover (shown above). You can read the article about La Cura here in PDF (an HTML version of the article is available here).

Here is the abstract of the article:

When I was diagnosed with brain cancer, I opened up my medical records to the Web, asking for help. The response was incredible: a global source of crowd-generated information about how to cure my own cancer. This work explores the many issues involved in handling such a peculiar form of information (including privacy, preserving the complexity of the human being, the reliability of responses, and more) and the outcomes of the overall process.

La Cura on BigData, PDF preview

cite as:

S. Iaconesi (2013). “La Cura, An Open Source Cure for Cancer” in BigData, Volume 1, Issue 3, pp.124-129. doi:10.1089/big.2013.0028

“[Critique] does not aim to make possible metaphysics which becomes, in the end, science; its aim is to look as more as possible beyond and beside at the infinite work of freedom.” —M. Foucault, “What is Illuminism”

 

“Maybe today the most important objective is not to understand what we are, but to refuse it. We must imagine and build what we could be, to drop that political double bind which is constituted by the simultaneous individualization and totalitarianization of the structures of modern powers.

The conclusion might be that the political, ethical, social and philosophical issue today is not to liberate individuals from the State and its institutions, but to free ourselves from the State and from the individualization which is bound to the State. We must promote new ways for subjectivity through the refusal of that kind of individuality which has been imposed to us for so many centuries.” —M. Foucault, “Why Study Power: The Question of the Subject”

 

 

La Cura on Le Monde

La Cura, and an interview with Salvatore Iaconesi, was recently featured on Le Monde.

Here below are the images from the wonderful article written by Flore Vasseur (click for a larger version):

La Cura on Le Monde

La Cura on Le Monde

La Cura on Le Monde

La Cura on Le Monde

Download the PDF of “La Cura” on Le Monde

Here you can find more information. While here you can find the transcript of the article.

Here, in an interesting essay by Edouard Delruelle, using Foucault’s take on “Life as a form of art” and bio-politics, to explore many of the things which have been fundamental in creating La Cura.

« Ce qui m’étonne, c’est le fait que dans notre société l’art est devenu quelque chose qui n’est en rapport qu’avec les objets et non pas avec les individus ou avec la vie (…). Mais la vie de tout individu ne  pourrait-elle pas être une œuvre d’art ? Pourquoi une lampe ou une maison sont-ils des objets d’art et non pas notre vie ? »