With most of the event held in the virtual realm, a sense of conviviality was present at the physical gathering – aided by a series of interactive workshops, offsite meetups and a shared Telegram group.
The fact that technology facilitated this sense of belonging aligned with topics presented by speakers. One example is the Atlantic Institute. While it may not seem like extended reality (XR) technology would go hand-in-hand with a civic community that addresses systemic causes of inequality, the institute's Augmented and Virtual Realities Lead, Alice Wroe, is researching innovative ways to bring its fellows together digitally. A former creative director of Magic Leap, Wroe was joined by Tanya Charles, Program and Impact Lead, who presented an augmented reality artefact that acts as a shared, cross-cultural ritual for its fellows across continents.
There was also discussion around how we can live in cities that are in-built with intuitive technologies. Digital product and interaction designer Liya Safina is one of the minds working on Toyota’s Woven City, a city-scale laboratory that expects to house around 1,000 people by 2026. Building on our Research Cities microtrend, the development will not only incorporate green energy systems and autonomous transport, but will use technology to allow residents to give continuous feedback, allowing the urban environment to evolve over time. ‘It’s a city designed to be replicated – if it works,’ Safina explained, highlighting Google’s Sidewalk Labs project as an example of a project that fell flat due to concerns about residents’ data.
With Imagining Intercitizenships the theme of this year’s IAM Weekend, attendees were encouraged to envision experimental ways of reconnecting with Planet Earth. While many focused on human belonging, others floated the idea of building intercitizenships with non-human species.
This was the concept behind critical designer Ted Hunt’s talk: ‘What is it like to be a circadian organism?’ His case for embodying a harmony with all living things – using a bat as an example – was rooted in the fact we have become ‘critically disconnected from interconnection.’ Looking at what connects us to animal species instead of divides us, Hunt emphasised the importance of light, time and circadian rhythms, which are essential to all organisms but have been largely forgotten in society’s commodification of time. His research culminates in a smartwatch app called Circa Solar, which aims to slow down our perception of time and reconnect humans with natural rhythmic fluctuations. According to Hunt, our devices can still allow us to harmonise with nature, as long as we ‘employ technology to design nature back into ourselves.’
Unexpectedly, live-action role play (LARP) games can also offer a playful route to understanding non-human perspectives. The Treaty of Finsbury Park took the form of a video call between a plane tree, Canada goose, dog and beetle, among other anthropomorphic creatures who make up the biodiversity of London’s Finsbury Park. The project looks forward to 2025, when the park’s species have risen up to demand equal rights with humans, drawing up a treaty that requires human to better relate to the diverse species through a new invention called the Sentience Dial, which allows people to tune into the consciousness of the park.
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