The Factory of the Mind

Everything began like this, with a Facebook post:

“The Third Industrial Revolution? Yes! Meaning that we’re seeing a new kind of factory: this time not for bodies, but for minds”

Always on, Always working.

We’re moving towards a dimension of continuous work.

Life becomes work.

Within cognitive economies we have entered a domain in which the working condition is permanent. Off moments do not exist. Off moments become opportunities to create (and, thus, to produce), not to switch off from work.

Even switching off is encoded:  meetings, social media, pictures. And coffee culture. 24h challenge marathons. HackathonsThe culture of sleeplessness. I never sleep, I always create.

But sleeping is useful. Neuroscientists know better, Sleep recharges and, more important of all, it enables dreaming.

Zombies of the 21st century

The second industrial revolution saw bodies under stress. The third one is about minds.

It is in the mind, in perception, that the encounter/conflict takes place.

Therefore factories move. We don’t need physical factories to contain and to encode bodies anymore, we need cognitive factories to contain and encode minds.

Contain and encode minds: let’s try to understand what that might mean.

In pop culture, zombies are monsters of the 20th century, correlated with mass phenomena: mass production, mass consumption, mass death.

Zombies are not aristocratic monsters like Dracula, nor freak superstars like Frankenstein. They are the monsters of everyday life.

What is the zombie of the 21st century?

Zombies and immaterial production celebrate the logics of the colonization of the mind and of the central nervous system. – Lars Bang Larsen

The living dead walk the world and have a genetic relation with restlesness. They are “pure motor instinct”, as described by Romero in the “Night of the Living Dead“.

In 1956, Don Siegel’s “Invasion of the Body Snatchers”, in which a space plant duplicates human beings and extends its reach all over the world, much like the World Wide Web, exposes the violent normative power of the American way of life (during McCarthysm). It’s 1978 remake, by Philip Kaufman moves the discourse to highlight the role of technologies and networks: the snatchers occupy telecommunication networks and start a planetary action for the circulation of bodies, in the transition from the industrial era to the one of immaterial labor. Production ends, replaced by a regime of mediation and reproduction.

In these visions the imperatives are about socialisation and re-invention, together with the scenarios of self-canniblism (self-management, self-evaluation, self-regulation, self-consumption).

Art and creativity become the norm.

In “The Experience Economy: Work is Theatre and Every Business is a Stage”, James H. Gilmore and B. Joseph Pine II, observe the evolution of art’s and creativity’s normative power.

Most product designers focus primarily on the internal mechanics of the good itself: how it performs. What if the attention centered instead on the individual’s use of the good? The focus would then shift to the user: how the individual performs while using the good.

and

The emergence of the Experience Economy coincides with, albeit not coincidentally, heightened interest in creative thinking. It also introduces a real need for greater improvisational skills in the workplace.

Both art and creativity, become norms, expected, needed, both from the point of view of the industry, and from the perspective of the user, of the individual. Both become performers, in stage acts (the authors describe them in terms of theatre genres), in which both parties take active, constructive, creative part in a creative action.

The myth of the otherness of art becomes commoditised, leading to the reproduction of subjectivity: experience is the new source of profit, and the object of production is the experience (and, thus, the performance) of the user.

Conscience as a social product

The premise to this approach is psychological: the ability to alter consumers’ perception of reality is a central theme.

In 1962’s “Industrialization of the Mind”, Hans Magnus Enzensberger explores the condition of human beings with the rise of the cultural, cognitive and creative industries. He started out from the analysis of the issues of consciousness and awareness.

No illusion is more stubbornly upheld than the sovereignty of the mind. It is a good example of the impact of philosophy on people who ignore it; for the idea that men can “make up their minds” individually and by themselves is essentially derived from the tenets of bourgeois philosophy: secondhand Descartes, rundown Husserl, armchair idealism; and all it amounts to is a sort of metaphysical do-it-yourself.

Marx: what moves within our mind is a product of society.

The industrialization of the mind (and in the mind) is a process of the last 100 years which just cannot be explained through the analysis of its technologies.

The term “cultural industry” is vague and inaccurate, and embeds a paradox.

Conscience can be induced and reproduced by industrial means, but it cannot be produced.

Conscience is a social product, and the result of dialogue. No industrial process is able to replace the people who generate it.

The industry of the mind does not produce anything, but the dynamics of infiltration and transmission which are necessary to the formation of the perception of what is possible, desirable, preferable: in the formation of the perception of the future.

Which is a form of power, but also its weakest spot: it benefits from that which cannot produce on its own, people’s creative productivity.

The industrialization of the mind begins from education.

While we debate about curricula, education systems and university reforms, the technological systems which will make all of these things obsolete and irrelevant are right around the corner.

The education system as a mass-media, the most powerful of them all, and a multi-billion dollar business.

The possibility to control that which is accepted or refused, perceived as present and future, is a primary subject for political debate.

Material exploitation must disguise itself to survive, and immaterial exploitation has become its necessary corollary. Exploitation has not been abolished: our perception and awareness of exploitation has.

Prosumers in the era of remix

The focus shifts from consumers to producers. Prosumers, some time ago. Makers, now.

There is no doubt, from the point of view of the architectures of power, on who runs the business.

It is not the intellectuals for sure (designers, coders, creatives, engineers, artists, writers…) who control the industrial complex.

Nonetheless present time allow for a certain degree of ambiguity, as the industry of (in) the mind can enforce control only by acquiring the services of the few ones who, effectively, create something.

The majority of creative products are derivatives. Wether we are speaking about music, interfaces, apps, hardware, software, fashion or else, there are a few drivers and even fewer enabling innovations: the majority of the rest is the result of derivation, remixing, recombination.

In the long term, this is not enough to feed the industry.

This results in the need for “new things”, and the consequent dependency on those who radically innovate: in other words, on potential troublemakers.

All sorts of techniques, from the crudest to the most sophisticated, have been developed to this end: physical threat, blacklisting, moral and economic pressure on the one hand, overexposure, co-optation into star cult or power elite on the other, are the extremes of a whole gamut of manipulation.

These are all short-term, tactical solutions, used to resolve this paradox: managing the unmanageable people who are able to introduce alternatives. If it is not possible to control the producers, it will not be possible to control the consumers (now under the form of prosumers, makers or the other kinds of performative consumers, the subjects who consume by performing/expressing themselves, producing).

Enzensberger:

The rapid development of the mind industry, its rise to a key position in modern society, has profoundly changed the role of the intellectual. He finds himself confronted with new threats and new opportunities. Whether he knows it or not, whether he likes it or not, he has become the accomplice of a huge industrial complex that depends for its survival on him, as he depends on it for his own. He must try, at any cost, to use it for his own purposes, which are incompatible with the purposes of the mind machine. What it upholds he must subvert. He may play it crooked or straight, he may win or lose the game; but he would do well to remember that there is more at stake than his own future.

And, thus, we can go back to the beginning, to the factory of/in the mind, and to our contemporary zombies: the creatives.

Industrialized, they find themselves immersed in a recombinand cognitive assembly line, whose every element is dedicated to their self-cannibalism, through creativity: continuous innovation; the search for the billion dollar startup.

Obviously, it isn’t a matter of being able to controlling the future, but of being able to control the perception of the future (which implies the possibility to control the present, time): what is considered and perceived as possible, desirable, preferable.

It is a matter of education, conscience, awareness and performance. Of understanding where our perceptions come from, from which infiltrations in the social game of dialogue.

Short term innovation, and beginning from scratch

The control of time, and of the perception of the future.

Many important issues are at stake. For example the possibility for the many different types of innovation, and of the capability to create shared practices and methods to produce usable knowledge and wisdoms.

A strong focus on efficiency innovation is common in current times. Much more than the one on enabling innovations. They have different time cycles and modalities. Enabling innovation usually need longer time frames, and different operative modalities, which struggle with the ones of the cognitive industry, always on a rush and pulverized, competitive, focused on simple, localised ideas which allow for venture capital investments that are oriented at exit strategies.

On top of that, the research for enabling innovations is progressively becoming encoded through a singular vision of the future. On a techno-deterministic vision of technology, or even on the singularity: artificial intelligence, robots, nanotechnologies, biotechnologies, colonisation of space. Which, of course, is not something negative in itself. What is negative is the absence of critique, and of the lack of a pluralistic, polyphonic vision on what the future can be. It is consumerism, and the status quo perpetuated through positivistic and techno-deterministic utopias. Technologies become spectacle and, thus, hyperreal, forcing alternative models out of the stage. The search for efficiency forces the focus on the modalities of problem solving: even holistic and ecosystemic methodologies are transformed to serve efficiency and the production of more effective business models which are based on the emergence of a self-cannibalistic creative class.

The evolution of philosophies yields space to efficiency and to the possibility to maintain current lifestyles, enacting novel kinds of colonialisms and the resulting comfort zones.

The result comes under the form of short term strategies, of the impossibility to deal with uncertainty and of the progressive encoding of new normalcy fields – of novel consensual realities – characterised by diminished social certainties, of lessened shared social unconscious spheres, which can all more easily become the target for the influence of power players.

Who decides what a “smart city” means? Who decided the future of work? And other examples.

Following the money is always a good exercise in trying to find answers to these questions.

Plural holistic and long term visions are progressively disappearing. And so is the perception of the possibility for a plurality of futures.

History and Aesthetics

The impossibility of history is directly connected to this.

The perceived structure of time has changed. We are now in a state of continuous present, of continuous flow.

We constantly start from scratch.

All this can be framed into a discourse which is about perception and, thus, of aesthetics.

Beauty is a complicated matter. Just as the Future.

Being able to decide (or even only to suggest) what is beauty and what is future constitutes a great power.

We live in times in which the architectures of power have learned to liberally draw on this modality. By doing that, they create a funnel, in which beauty and future loose modalities and possibilities: they progressively stop being a polyphony, and become mono, singular.

This condition and progression can be inverted by a few things. Among these are enabling innovations and art (which is different from creativity).

Both enabling innovations and art enable different, other, possible, emergent, dissonant visions of “consensual reality”, of “beauty” and of “future”. Possibilities which are plural, emergent and performable, through the construction of dialogues.

Both have different times frames and cycles than the ones of work, creativity, competition, and even of current currencies.

The scenario can change whenever novel platforms for identity (and, thus, for representation, in a social context) enter into the game.

Networking is not enough anymore, as it is not enough to have open source tools, open data, 3D printers, etcetera. Because whomever controls the platform also controls the framework which is used to define oneself. Wether it’s Telecom, Facebook or Energy Company X, it makes a small difference. Even Energy Company X will tend towards becoming a platform for identity: it is the difference which will mark the transition between the energy companies who extract, refine and distribute energy, and the ones who control the information of people who produce their own, and share it.

Sometimes it is possible to hear the objection: “If you don’t like Facebook, abandon it!” And, obviously, it is not that simple. One does not simply leave an identity system.

How-to

How can we imagine framing and resolving these issues. What is the zombie of the 21st century, and how can we perform a shared transition towards a more reasonable and empowered control of time and of the perception and performance of possible futures?

It not simple, and it is not a technological feat. And it is not singular.

With all probability it is a process which can only begin at the level of the education system, by integrating in schools and universities a critical vision of the world, along with an ecosystemic (and, thus, possibilistic, even in terms of the possibility and opportunity of conflict) one. An education system whose interest is not on building a system of consensus, but of co-existence. Of the capability for the perception of the value of diversity and of civil confrontation and conflict, not on techno-utopian and singular visions of the future.

In all of this, the roles of governments, organisations and companies can change: not, anymore, evangelists and advocates of visions and approaches, but enablers of ecosystems who construct their own, and who learn how to make them co-exist.

This is the great opportunity of our times.

[this article, in modified form, appeared in Italian on CheFuturo!, here: http://www.chefuturo.it/2014/10/come-sopravvivere-alle-nuove-fabbriche-della-mente-proviamo-a-ripartire-dalla-scuola/ ]

Near Future Design at CyberResistance in Milan

AOS will be at CyberResistance, on April 3, 4 and 5 2014, in Milan, at the Cantiere, for a participatory conversation about Near Future Design, starting from the Near Future Design of the Education System which we are building with our students at ISIA in Florence.

Near Future Design, from our point of view, is the possibility to create powerful, strategic, coordinated transmedia narratives, realizing a simulacrum, a state of suspended disbelief whose objective is to shift people’s perception of what is real and possible, and engage them into a performance to create new, preferred, desirable futures.

We will start from the Near Future Education Lab which we are bringing up together with the students at ISIA Florence: the design of a commons-based, peer-to-peer, emergent, permeable model. This model will be started by founding a Foundation operating under wirearchical organizational models, through a crowd-funding campaign, by forming a wide network of international cooperants and by establishing a network of partnerships to access the funds for its implementation.

To learn more about our perspectives on Near Future Design, you can read this article: Near Future Design, the perception of a New Possible, and a novel role for Design.

You can look at the CyberResistance program here: http://www.cantiere.org/art-04368/cybres3v.html#plan

And here is the Wiki for the event: https://n-1.cc/dokuwiki/1487601/doku.php in which you can participate and take action.

cyberResistance-2014 flyer

cyberResistance-2014 flyer

Reinvent Reality at FADfest, a conference on Open Design and Shared Creativity, Barcelona

Reff, RomaEuropa FakeFactory

Reff, RomaEuropa FakeFactory

We will be joining in the conversation at Open Design / Shared Creativity Conference in Barcelona, on July 2nd and 3rd to present a scenario for radical innovation, based on a radically open process.

In 2008 we created REFF, RomaEuropa FakeFactory, a meta brand ( an open source brand, a brand which anyone sharing an ethical approach can use, with the results benefiting the whole p2p network of individuals and groups who participate in the brand itself ) which we created to confront Italy’s difficult scenario for what concerns public policies for arts and creativity.

When we created it, we chose to give it a peculiar form: an institution.

A Fake Institution, more precisely.

As Orson Welles might have said: “fake” is real.

Meaning that reinventing reality can become a tool for constructivist action onto society.

This is precisely what we tried to do with REFF: to create a p2p ecosystem dedicated to the systematic reinvention of reality through critical practices of remix, re-contextualization, re-enactment, mash-up.

We used these terms – which are classically associated with media – in real-life, in the space of the city and of the networks of relationships which describe our societies.

The structure of the initiative has been natively peer-to-peer, meaning that the whole “system” was designed as a tool for expression of a network of peers, used to add meaningful layers of information and opportunities for action to our ordinary reality.

This, in our perspective, is a wonderful definition for Augmented Reality, and AR has, in fact, been a great tool for REFF, which used it as a metaphor for its practices.

And this is, for us, a highly effective scenario to create opportunities in our near-future, beyond the scenarios of crisis: bringing the scenarios opened up by technologies to networked models which are deeply rooted into our cities and our communities, in which basic definitions of our societies – such as public space, production, distributionrevenue, governance, policy-making, decision-making and many others – can be redefined to become natively networked processes, and create new schemes for sustainability, sociality and development.

This is the point of view which we will present at FADfest, at the Open Design / Shared Creativity Conference.

Open Design / Shared Creativity Conference is an international forum that seeks to explore and debate the emerging landscape of openness and exchange that is taking shape around practices such as open code, creative commons licensing, co-creation, de-localisation and collaboration.

Digital technology and social networks have reached a point of maturity from which a new industrial culture is emerging, revolutionising the processes of creation, mediation, distribution and consumption. Taking design in all its expressions and forms as a starting point, the conference will be an important international forum of ideas, working platforms and specialised practices that are transforming the articulation of design with society, economy and culture.

Designers, architects, artists, editors, web activists, programmers, curators, lawyers and cultural analysts will explore over two days the reality and the potential of open design culture, from new business models to the most experimental creative practices.

Innovation and Art in Bolzano: REFF and the augmentation of reality

We will be in Bolzano on October 27th for the “Impronta del Digitale” the technological lab of the “Classe dell’Arte” a series of events and conferences organized by the Administration of the Province of Bolzano.

REFF RomaEuropa FakeFactory, Reality Pushers

REFF RomaEuropa FakeFactory, Reality Pushers

The main objective of the cycle of events is to confront with the contemporary issues of art systems and to investigate case studies and specific experiences. The meetings and conferences aim to promote a reflection on the mechanisms of contemporary art and cultural systems, to develop economies and social engagement.

In this Framework, the technological lab sees the direct intervention of artists, performers and experts narrating significant case studies and approaches which have been proven successful and meaningful. Talks will mix with workshops, while the presenters demonstrate both their methodological and conceptual approach, and explain the usage scenarios of technologies, frameworks and techniques.

REFF, RomaEuropa FakeFactory, has been invited to the session that will be held on October 27th at the Centro Culturale Trevi to present and discuss the innovative scenario created during the story of the project.

Specifically, REFF will present:

  • the concept of meta-brand as a framework for innovation in cultural practices, and for the creation of pragmatic opportunities for artists, researchers and cultural operators
  • the idea of the “fake institution” which was used by REFF to create a globally active cultural ecosystem dedicated to the practices of collaboration and radical innovation in art practice and cultural policies
  • the methodological “reinvention of reality”, a novel approach through which technologies, networks and ubiquitous publishing tools have been used to create artworks, performances, initiatives, collaborations and research projects whose main goal was to “augment reality” by enacting new operative spaces promoting freedom of expression, freedom of innovation and a wide range of innovative scenarios creating opportunities for all parties involved
The methodological and conceptual discourse will be interleaved with the presentation of the technological tools used to create these scenarios including:
  • advanced networking tools
  • radical social networking practices and tools
  • open source tools for ubiquitous publishing and augmented reality
  • radical open source tools for global knowledge sharing, education, research and collaboration processes
These tools have been used by the REFF group (and by its promoters at Art is Open Source and FakePress Publishing) to enact planetary innovation processes, spawning multiple projects and receiving institutional appraisal worldwide.
The presentations will be completed by a poetic scenario realized under the form of an interactive installation.
The REFF fake institution has been known to promote its global youth program on the possibilities to “reinvent reality” with the provocative distribution of an Augmented Reality Drug. The ARDrug, featured at multiple festivals and in schools and universities in multiple countries, is said to “change your perception of reality”, just as a classical psychoactive drug, and is in effect an open source software that can be used to create autonomous layers of digital information and interaction which are stratified onto the ordinary reality.
The REFF collective will materialize a “Reality Pusher laboratory” at the Centro Trevi, showing through an interactive installation the creation of the AR Drug.
More info at:

Sensible Data @ Live Performers Meeting 2011, Rome and Minsk

live performers meeting 2011

live performers meeting 2011

Art is Open Source will be at the 2011 edition of LPM, the Live Performers Meeting, an international event focused on visual cultures and live performance.

LPM started as a VJ meeting , but it soon evolved into something more. The fast evolution of the technologies and tools that can be used by artists and creatives widely expanded the scenarios of live visual performances, and now we are getting used to (and expect to) seeing electronics, devices, generative visuals, networked performances, projection mapping, architectural visuals, software art and body performance mixed with electronics.

LPM 2004

LPM 2004

LPM’s own history reflects this kind of evolution. Starting out from a community brought up by Flyer Communication around the FLxER VJ software, LPM was nor an ordinary festival, really assuming instead the characteristics of a true meeting, in which people met, discussed, experimented things together and in which the performative part of the event was halfway between a showcase of the things presented through workshops and face-to-face discussions, and a very happy party :)

The meeting mutated through time expanding the range of activities that were featured during the event, including live cinema acts, intensive workshops, software presentations, urban performances, and the ever present intense dance floor experience.

FLxER, the software created by Flyer Communication, evolved together with the meeting. Already innovative since the beginning (a VJ tool that you could use directly from the web, if you wanted to, accessing not only your own content, but also all the content of the community, organized through convenient interfaces and facilities), it is now including outstanding features dedicated to projection mapping, 3D graphics, integration with controllers and other devices.

And, most of all, preserving and developing a really live community of artists, software developers, hackers and more.

LPM 2007

LPM 2007

Each year LPM hosted the Digital Freedoms Week, an event started at the Linux Club in Rome in which open cultures and technologies, networked cultures, hacking and hacktivism built a discourse about the perspectives in which we all can use networks and technologies to promote our freedoms and to foster a more democratic, interactive, accessible world.

Each year the Digital Freedoms Week confronted a different perspective on the themes of open source, knowledge sharing, open access, privacy, intellectual property, and more, and we at Art is Open Source have always been really happy to participate to it with projects such as Degradarte and REFF RomaEuropa FakeFactory.

This year we will curate, together with our friend Arturo di Corinto, the section of LPM that is called

SENSIBLE DATA

sensibledata

sensibledata

directly from the concept page of the LPM website:

“This year the Digital Freedom Week @ LPM focuses on the domains of information.

Our lives, our forms of expression, the things we buy, our relationships and the things we learn, communicate and share are progressively (if not totally) changing into digital data that is transmitted over digital networks. Open access to data and information, and the possibility to determine how our information is shared and used are key factors to defend our freedoms and rights. Contemporary Visual cultures transform the fundamental role of data in our lives into new paradigms for aesthetics and interactivity, often poetically merging activism and beauty: database aesthetics, visuals produced using enormous sets of public/private data found on digital networks are only two of the forms of artistic expression that over time have produced wonderful sensorial experiences that have been able to both inform and activate the consciences of people worldwide.

This year DFW@LPM wishes to explore the themes of free access to data, information and knowledge: workshops, conferences and live performances will investigate on innovative and creative paths to promote freedoms-through-data.”

So, to make a long story short, we will be at

LPM 2011 in Rome (May 19th – 22nd 2011) at Nuovo Cinema L’Aquila

and at

LPM 2011 in Minsk (September 2011)

promoting and coordinating workshops, performances, discussions and presentations that deal with the ways in which arts, design, creativity and other practices can use open, accessible data sources to enact critical practices and, in a version that is a bit more “extreme”, how we can use currently available technologies to harvest informations from social networks, websites, networks and other possible sources of data (mobile phones, sensors, devices, tagging…) to both critically question the ideas of privacy, freedom of expression, accessibility, public/private space, identity, sexuality, and to understand how we can use these same “dangers” to create practices of reaction, of tactical forms of expression and to promote freedoms and self determination.

We believe that art and creativity have a very major role in this: making information “beautiful”, narrative, poetic, interesting, interactive, engaging (or even shocking and outrageous) and accessible have enormous effects on cultural, cognitive, political and emotional levels.

We are communicating an open call for participation and are also accepting suggestions for workshops and performances.

In this perspective, the best thing you can do is to register at the LPM website and then, after you added at least the basic info about what you’d like to do at LPM 2011, contact me or anyone from the LPM staff. In this way you will help us to share all the info we need to support you and your workshop/performance/exhibit/showcase.

Also feel free to ask for any information here or on the contacts.

Here below are some info material you all might like to view to know more about LPM and its 2011 edition. (in italian for now: expect more info in the next few days here on Art is Open Source, and directly on the LPM website)

LPM 2011 ROME – Press Release, Italian