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NextD Journal RERETHINKING DESIGN

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Intervals-Ideas-Initiatives Derrick De Kerckhove Ph.D. Director of the McLuhan Program in Culture & Technology University of Toronto Co-Author: McLuhan for Managers / New Tools for New Thinking

GK VanPatter Co-Founder, NextDesign Leadership Institute Co-Founder, Humantific  Making Sense of Cross-Disciplinary Innovation

NextDesign Leadership Institute DEFUZZ THE FUTURE! www.nextd.org Follow NextD Journal on Twitter: www.twitter.com/nextd Copyright © 2003 NextDesign Leadership Institute. All Rights Reserved. NextD Journal may be quoted freely with proper reference credit. If you wish to repost, reproduce or retransmit any of this text for commercial use please send a copyright permission request to journal@nextd.org


NextD Journal I ReRethinking Design Conversation 6

Intervals-Ideas-Initiatives

1 GK VanPatter: Great to have you join us in conversation Derrick. I know you have a new Global Village Square project and your new business book McLuhan for Managers has just been published. There is so much to talk about we might not get to it all in one conversation! Before we get to the Global Village Square let me ask you more broadly about where you and your program are philosophically right now. You have been writing about the subject of connected intelligence for some time yet so much has changed in the world since Brainframes (1991) Skin of Culture (1995), Connected Intelligence (1997) and The Architecture of Intelligence (2000) were first published. We have seen the arrival and realization of at least part of a connected economy, the collapse of the so-called dot-com bubble, and the backlash against linking globalization to connectivity etc. Help us understand where the idea of connected intelligence is today in light of all that has occurred? How do you adapt yourself and the McLuhan Program to such change? Derrick De Kerckhove: All the above is true, but the vagaries of the electrification of the world are nothing unexpected. When literacy took over Greece, oral culture remained powerful for centuries as Harold Innis studied. When the printing press changed the social and intellectual organization of Western Europe bringing down the heretofore unchallenged power of the Christian church, there were huge swings between literate and oral modes of behavior, to say nothing of the 200 year wars. Today the wars in the global scene are of the same order of occurrence. However, instead of arising from the alphabetic explosion of knowledge and fragmentation of the collective identity of the church into the private and singular identities of the citizen, they come from the implosion of the world on itself via electricity and communications. People who live in completely different brain frames are obliged to live and act in full view of each other via media and forced to take stock of their profound differences. So they are once again battling each other, even as powerful economic and political interests keep the fire burning. A new social ground has not yet been reached and globalization is perceived not entirely wrongly - as the evil force of imperialism under its new guise. However, globalization is only the downside of a relentless drive to global unification. Everybody is obliged to live under the same roof. When globalization changes into globalism, it will be something like what Aeschylus makes happen in the Orestiad: the Erynnies are turned into Eumenids, the avengers into well-meaning entities. And, by the way, the fall of the dot.coms is just an episode in a much longer story. And it was predictable, just as predictable as the rise and fall and rise again of the spiraling variations of our electronic ingenuity. Today, for instance, connected intelligence finds its most eloquent manifestation in blogs. This is the new identity, typical of connectivity, and of electricity. The person is published along with his or her network and the dominant concerns of the moment all at once on line for anyone to see and enjoy. We are studying blogs, social software and groupware at the McLuhan Program as the most interesting continuation of the momentous adventures of language, self and electricity.

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2 GK VanPatter: Does your study of blogs, social software and groupware include designing new systems or looking at those that already exist? Are you studying the technology itself or are you more interested in how humans use these technologies? Derrick De Kerckhove: All of the above again. Faithful to the notion that the medium is the message, I focus on the technologies to try to predict their effects on the people. I know that we are changing our collective mind, but I still don’t quite know how. So I approach the problem with hands-on strategies. I want to develop a “grammar of connectivity”. I have tried to practice the art in software development, and in large-scale installations. I have enjoyed very much thinking up the architecture of a groupware (Hypersession) that I use with my students to good results. At a more theoretical level, I am, of course, looking for the features of consciousness that correspond to networked media. Everything that happens on a screen is an extension of our mind. But networked screens extend and multiply mind by mind. Groupware is a formal way of doing that. You could say that it is a kind of industrialization of mind that Hans-Magnus Enzensberger had already observed in television. But it is geared at problem-solving, not at motivating people to consume. However, groupware is yet again very different in principle from social software, such as blogs, for instance. Blogs are spontaneous social configurations that rise and fall according to use, not imposed patterns of mental behavior. To my knowledge, blogs are among the most advanced manifestations of a new, hypertextual way of “being-in-the-world”. I study blogs, I don’t practice them. At least, not yet. I need for a while to retain the perception and the status of an outsider, a “poker”. As for installations, I am presently working on this global architectural project, the Global Village Square, that will allow people to meet face-to-face in full view and hearing, as if in a public square, across any distance, from city-to-city anywhere in the world. It is also an epistemological project in the sense that one of its main goals is to change the way people think about globalization.

3 GK VanPatter: I see numerous things to connect with here Derrick. Bear with me for a moment while I try to turn a bit of a corner here. In this series we are looking at how Design with a big D is changing in the 21st century. We are doing a lot of listening and seeing many kinds of design related activities being undertaken by thought leaders from outside the traditional disciplines of design. In undertaking this cross boundary exploration we are always very interested in the notion of connections and chasms; discovering where there might be connections and bridging the chasms that sometimes exist between disciplines. To help explain where this is going I will link in one more piece of the puzzle that involves an email from a complete stranger. You may recall this story Derrick. Last year I received an email at our Understanding Lab practice from some one who had seen you present at a conference in Europe. That emailer happened to notice similarities between what you do in your connected intelligence work and what we do in the realm Page 3 of 11


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of innovation acceleration dynamics. Until then, it really never occurred to me that any link existed there. It was a connection that I needed some help making. It appeared that coming from very different backgrounds, sometimes using different terminologies and tools, often with slightly different intentions, we were evidently working across the same geography. Since then I have noted in your book entitled Connected Intelligence that, from time to time, you conduct workshops, to help people work together and address various problems/opportunities. In this conversation you are speaking of a problem-solving focus and the development of architectures and grammars. I can also see that systems thinking plays a role in your work. Now you are talking about the design and development of a Global Village Square initiative. It is sounding more and more like you are actively involved in the design/development business there Derrick! Help us understand what role the activity of design plays in what you do today? Derrick De Kerckhove: I sometime feel as if I have been adopted by the design community. It began with a totally unexpected invitation to ICSID 89 in Nagoya by Francois Burkhardt who was then head of design at the Centre Pompidou in Paris. I not only met with many fascinating designers, Andrea Branzi and Ezio Manzini from Domus Academy, John Thackara who was then still director of design at the Royal College of Art and Kenji Ekuo and many others, I also began to think about design as tool for cultural analysis. Differences between Japanese and American or Canadian cultural biases could be expressed in design. I was especially taken with the Japanese concept of MA, their notion of space-time continuum based on the interval, which differed very markedly from western fixation with the object itself. McLuhan had taught me to pay attention to the interval, the space between. Maybe the idea of chasm that you express here could be informed by a closer look into McLuhan aphorism. The interval is where the action is. I was also interested in Japanese fascination with city-crushing monsters like Godzilla, and with transformers, these toys that mutated from an ordinary vehicle into armed robots. The observation of design is a good indicator of cultural adaptation to technology, thus design is for me a tool of discovery. Applied to understanding the nature of change, design is a pattern-recognition device. It not only uses but also creates and distributes patterns of behavior just as much as it does by modulating dĂŠcor. Today the realm of design has been hugely expanded. Design used to apply to an industrial practice and require a specific set of tools. Since the tools have been quasi dematerialized by digitization, design has expanded beyond its traditional territory to include everything that involves planning and simulation. It becomes fluid and closer to thinking. Traditionally design was concerned with objects and buildings and landscaping. Today, with the appearance of interactivity and hypertextuality, it includes negotiating the kinds of relationships users have with programs and screens. When the design addresses the protocols and functions that the user will access, for example, a paintbox program on your standard PC, then it becomes meta-design, that is, designing the conditions for design.

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Beyond that, there is the very much wider metadesign of the standards, conditions and protocols of programming. In 2000, I was a member of the jury that gave the top prize at Ars Electronica in the net art category to Linus Thorvald for having designed Linux as a spectacular environment for stimulating creative design activities all around the world. In this expanded understanding, design can be said to play a role in my own work the Global Village Square is, of course a creature of design. And so are my several attempts at software architecture. And I suppose it is indeed in systems thinking, albeit very modestly, that I operate, but without enough training to respect its vocabulary.

4 GK VanPatter: Wow! You are sounding like a seasoned, insightful design veteran there Derrick! Yes, we are familiar with the notion of valuing intervals. It reminds me of a similar notion found in the innovation dynamics business known as “boxes and lines”. In that model, boxes are capabilities or ideas and lines are the connecting links between. The idea is to get western business organizations to value the lines between the boxes as much as the boxes themselves. In our innovation acceleration work we seek to move out of the “objects”, boxes, silos mindset and intentionally work on strengthening what we call the connecting cross tissue. In that work it is often the connecting of the dots across diverse ideas being generated by diverse disciplines that we are most interested in. Helping humans make those connections rapidly is essentially what we do in our face-to-face Innovation Acceleration Workshops. In a way we are working on what you described above as “designing the conditions for design”. In our work we would change that slightly to “designing and creating the conditions for innovation”. Much of this springs from the notion of building on the value of intervals and diversity. The connection that you make to McLuhan’s aphorism idea is also very interesting for me to think about. I had not thought of NextD exactly that way. I guess asking the question “Who will lead design in the 21st century? is our version of an aphorism. In any case the aphoristic notion of constructing incomplete knowledge streams that others make connections to and focusing on dialogue creation seems to fit well with what our underlying intentions are here. I want to ask you more specifically about your workshops. How does the idea of connected intelligence become materialized in the team-based connected intelligence workshops that you conduct? Derrick de Kerckhove: That is a good question: the intended purpose of a CI workshop is to produce a concrete and doable project, expressed in a digital format presentation. But I found that in many face-to-face situations this finality presented constraints that did not produce interesting results. Either people rushed into producing a banal powerpoint, or the big egos of some participants took over and turned the rest into slave labor. Paradoxically, I have obtained better results overall by transferring connected intelligence on line as with Hypersession. But Hypersession also has its limitations and presents the same kinds of constraints to free-reigning imagination as most kinds of groupware. I am presently exploring the connectivity of blogs to see what kind of free-flowing connected intelligence can be designed into them. Page 5 of 11


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5 GK VanPatter: Very interesting. As per my comments above, the challenges that you describe around managing team dynamics in real time are of great interest to us. Again this relates directly to what we do in the realm of innovation acceleration. Regarding the behavioral condition that you describe, where big egos try to dominate, do you utilize a particular set of tools to address such behavioral challenges or should we assume from your description above that you have addressed this by introducing a technological solution? Are any cross-disciplinary innovation process, behavior or communication skills taught in your workshops? Derrick de Kerckhove: The work on line is very different from the face-to-face one. The way I found to get around difficult characters is to emphasize different roles for each member of the subgroup and to circulate them in different configurations at appointed times.

6 GK VanPatter: Ahh yes, I see. Since you are interested in behaviors and technology I will quickly mention this detail. You probably know that in the innovation dynamics business it is considered to be some-what of a non-sustainable side-step to move to technology solutions without addressing behaviors. For a number of reasons, organizations often attempt to get to innovation through this route. Of course some in the software business purposely construct meeting tools to circumvent anti-innovation behaviors. This is a whole conversation unto itself, but going in that direction would take us into a different orbit. If you are interested, perhaps we can discuss this in more detail off-line. Do you have a formal practice to engage in this realm of activity or is this something that you do from the platform of the McLuhan Program? Derrick de Kerckhove: The theory and its applications are still at the experimental stage, at the Program, but there are indications that a formal practice could arise out of the Program. Some of our foreign students, the McLuhan Fellows are bringing the ideas back home and developing them in Italy, France, Mexico, Japan and elsewhere.

7 GK VanPatter: Do you sometimes work with other disciplines in this realm and if so how? Derrick de Kerckhove: Presently, the closest areas are in group psychology and network theory, but while we keep informed of what is happening there, our direct contacts are scarce. I have been more interested in a recent field called Distributed Cognition that has much relevance to my work. The basis for DC is that cognition is not an isolated strictly individual phenomenon; it is shared, not only among people, but also with tools and environments. As for direct collaborations, I am in touch with the Ottawa research group in collective intelligence under the direction of Pierre Levy. Pierre is developing an international team of researchers with very different backgrounds. Among them is Steve Mann, an engineer who was part of the wearable computer research group at MIT. He is now back in Toronto and is member of the board

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of the McLuhan Program. We work with him on producing conferences, symposia and performances at his Deconism Gallery.

8 GK VanPatter: Lets try to come back to this, I would love to talk more about Distributed Cognition tools, environments etc. Again I see this very much relates to innovation acceleration. Some of our early work in the corporate realm involved global knowledge sharing systems inclusive of information fields and physical innovation acceleration environments. Perhaps we can do a follow-up conversation on this topic. Before we run out of time and space, can you tell us more about your new Global Village Square project? What it is exactly? Was it conceived to address a particular set of challenges that you identified and believe to be important or is it being created for some other purpose? Derrick de Kerckhove: The Global Village Square is a project of public global architecture combining real spaces and networks to allow people to meet face-to face in a natural and personal way as if they were in a public park. Just as is a park, the set up needs to be free and permanent. It is a public service at the scale of the Earth. It is a virtual, of course, but nevertheless very real meeting, a technical bridge between two - or more - cities to improve and privilege social, cultural and business exchange. Its purpose, besides serving the individual meeting requirements that ordinary folks would experience in a public garden or square, with benches and trees and fresh air and all, is to generate a larger notion of what the local/global contraction means. The literal message of the Global Village Square is a typical leisure resource for any reasonably appointed city; the deeper message is to change people’s sense of space. It is a tool for authentic democracy, as public squares have strived to be since the Ancient Greeks. As a first global public service, it strives to generate a global public mentality. It is a stimulus to expand or restore - the geographical mindscape of the average citizen, a first model to support a much needed global psychology. It is also a fun place for kids to do silly things and internationalize their sensibility. We are all well aware of globalization as a phenomenon that is taking over the planet. However, the word globalization frightens because it evokes the threat of world takeover by business and political oligarchies; its better half is globalism, a new kind of civism extended to the proportions of the globe and to our forced cohabitation with entirely different cultures (actually Canada, Australia and the Netherlands are well advanced in that political arena). What I want to do is to achieve by distributing Global Village Square in many cities of the world, including and especially those in trouble, is to help change the hard and crude perception of globalization into something that makes more sense. Globalism relates to civism, the ethics of the citizen sharing in the privileges of what his or her city has to offer. It is the feeling of what are our rights, privileges and obligations as citizens of a very large multicultural world society. The Global Village Square project is an integral response to localized acts of violence that are expanded by their media impact.

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Here are a few pointers: 1. Globalization is the necessary consequence of electricity; it began with the telegraph and it is irreversible; its principal character is the implosion of the world on itself, everything being connected to everything else. 2. Every change of media ground generates its own clash of values (i.e. wars) and its own value system; the printing press generated 200 years of religious and civil wars; radio created WWII. 3. The worlds adaptation to electricity has already gone through two major phases, the first one analog, characterized by electrically amplified signals and one-way media such as radio that favored dictatorships and TV that pushed the consumer society; the second phase is digital, and fosters the growth of interactive networks; to come back to more normative times, we need to understand and develop the ethics of electricity. 4. Terrorism is the kind of warfare that corresponds to the society of networks - human and technological - and it is enabled by networks. Networks allow its perpetrators to organize themselves, and networks give it its psychological reach via broadcast media. As a form of warfare, it is economical: maximum world wide impact for largely localized action. Terrorists are still considered and treated as “the enemy”, and terrorism is considered by some as military activity. Ideally, a truly globalized would a place in where the word “enemy” doesn’t have any sense, but where, it would be replaced as it would be within the confines of a single city by the notion of “criminal”. 5. The Global Village is a unified field of human activities that requires a unified sense of space for the cohabitation of many different, often antagonistic cultures; cities of old used to provide that sort of spatial sensibility to all their inhabitants.

9 GK VanPatter: As I think about your Global Village Square project and your other work I am struck by several subterarian connections to the new universe of design. First and foremost, perhaps without being completely conscious of its language, you appear to be thinking about possibilities from a systems perspective. You seem to be conceptualizing a systematic, technology intervention initiative for one of the largest known systems; planet earth. Derrick de Kerckhove: Yes, it is certainly from a systems perspective that I think of the Global Village Square. My systems approach is what I call focused self-organization. When you intend to obtain a certain effect, you create a targeted modification in the urban environment and you let the people and the objects reorganize themselves around the change. The hope is that the presence of these nodes around the world would change people’s notion of space, even if they had only heard about the project. The idea is not to change the world but the idea that people have of the world. Once the global architecture was in place I would hope that a number of new associations would fall into place in a self-organized way.

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10 GK VanPatter: In your comments about globalism versus globalization you seem to be referencing an eventuality of wholeness, unification and oneness. I see concern and optimism there. I see intentionality not just observation and analysis. Does this represent a change from the way Dr McLuhan thought about the world? Derrick de Kerckhove: McLuhan used to say that adopting a moral stance was premature in a world given to such fast technological and sociopolitical changes. He was essentially correct during the sixties and seventies when we were still adapting to the first phase of electricity, the analogue, broadcast phase. But we are now well into the second, more mature phase of the social body’s adaptation to electricity, the digital networked phase (it is very likely, in that order of thinking, that the next and fully matured - phase will be based on quantum operations). I think that is critical now, that we have begun to experience the perils and the thrills of globalization, to develop that new moral stance, a new ethics similar to civism, but pushed at the global scale. What that changes is primarily a profound sense of tolerance for other cultural and religious values, just as tolerance of the inviolability of the private psyche was critical to achieve a mature stage in the literate cultures of the 17th-19th centuries in Western Europe. Political correctness is an example, albeit still rather timid, of this new ethics I call globalism.

11 GK VanPatter: Let me reference a couple of “Big Picture” design related quotes here that you might appreciate. In the international design community we have numerous thinkers writing about the reinvention of design in and for the 21st century. Some are very business focused, while others are almost spiritual. Below is an example from a new book entitled “The Design Way” / Intentional Change in an Unpredictable World by Dr. Harold G. Nelson & Dr. Erik Stolterman. “Design is an act of world creation. The world is becoming more and more a human artifact, a designed place. To be a designer is therefore to be a creator of new worlds.. It is a calling of enormous responsibility, with its concomitant accountability...As designers, we believe that we need to view the world from the systems perspective. The systems approach is the logic of design...Design is a process of meaning making because it is engaged in creation from a systems perspective, holistically and compositionally…” “We are captured by the realization that design is about the creation of a soulful world...What a remarkable challenge - to aid in the ensoulment of the world!…When we start to understand design as a process of ensoulment, when we become aware that every design process and composition ultimately contributes to a larger whole, we - as designers - begin to realize more fully our responsibility to the planet as a whole. We become aware that every design process, every composition, contributes to this larger design. To design is not to create things that make the world more fundamentally true, rather to create a world that has more meaning.” I wonder if intentionally endeavoring to create a more soulful world might underlie your connected intelligence work as well?

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Derrick de Kerckhove: My response to the first part is that, as more and more of our material processing moves from the traditional hardware world of industrial production, to the new software world of information, we are capable of more and more willed and targeted action on the world. The problem becomes not what can we do, but do we want to do. It becomes an issue of imagination and desire, not of power. Regarding the more soulful world question, Yes, that is what I meant by invoking earlier the most ancient magic practice applied to a larger realm of the known world, that of the Aborigines of Australia whose main task was and I believe, still is to dream the world. Their practice is one of connected intelligence, so is the Internet. But the soul of the Internet is still very immature, full of spam and fury. It will take a few more years to bring it to its full benefits. We now can dream the world we want to live in and realize that dream. This is already possible in a small measure in digital mode, but it may be just what corresponds best to the quantum mode. As the physicist Erwin Schroedinger indicated, in the quantum world things are not, they tend to be, meaning that they can be modified in their state of flux. We do not need to be victims of history, we can will that history.

12 GK VanPatter: In closing I want to ask you quickly about the future. Are you optimistic about the ‘electrification of the world�? In what or in who do you place your hopes today? Derrick de Kerckhove: The electrification of the world is not a matter of being optimistic or otherwise. It is a relentless takeover of human activities by the electronic principle. To counter it, you might as well try to swim against a tidal wave. It is dangerous because it fosters brutal accelerations. Sudden surge of power structures, both technological and political have whipped the social body into new associations and configurations, changing production and distribution behaviors in markets and retribalizing nations and societies. The sudden acceleration of human activities was difficult to master giving way to global social upheavals which led to the first and second world wars. In its present stage, under these electronic conditions, the world is imploding. It is still a very dangerous situation, with nuclear extermination of at least some major cities and countries more threatening than ever before including at the height of the cold war. The hardest question is how to reconcile epistemologies, that is how to reconcile the ways different cultures see reality and act on it. The shift from religious to secular is always accompanied by clashes between irreconcilable epistemologies. A traumatizing transition occurred from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance. It was impossible to reconcile the epistemology of the Christian Church with that of the secular individual. After two hundred years of religious wars, the secular mind took over and established tolerance, supported by the dominant information-processing device of the times, the printed word. Today, we are confronting another great change of mind, a similar situation, except that it is a contraction of time (instantaneity) as well as space (globalization). We are dealing not with a simple transition, but quite literally a juxtaposing, a forced cohabitation between religious and secular orders. The violence can take extreme forms. I place my hopes in a civilized development of the Internet and improved access, as well as in systemic approaches that allow people to feel that they are sharing physical, psychological, political and social space. We need to create epistemological conditions Page 10 of 11


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where people can experience other cultures ways of seeing and being in the world to get a relativized perception of their own reality. The Global Village Square is a world political project as well as it lays the ground for an architecturing of the planet itself.

NextD Journal RERETHINKING DESIGN

NextDesign Leadership Institute DEFUZZ THE FUTURE! www.nextd.org Questions: Please direct all questions to journal@nextd.org Follow NextD Journal on Twitter: www.twitter.com/nextd

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Intervals-Ideas-Initiatives  

NextD Journal | ReRethinking Design. GK VanPatter in conversation with Derrick De Kerckhove Ph.D.. Conversation 6, Intervals-Ideas-Initiativ...

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