22 November 2018

Error and humanity

In September, Lizzie Crouch was selected to be a part of the Future Innovators Summit, a program that runs as part of the annual Ars Electronica festival in Linz, Austria. She has reflected on the experience.

Ars Electronica is a unique organization that provides platforms for the exploration of topics at the intersection of art, technology and society through media art. Its annual festival takes over the entire city of Linz and entices people from around the globe to gather and explore an interdisciplinary theme through exhibitions, workshops, and symposia.

The Future Innovators Summit (FIS) brings together people from diverse disciplines and backgrounds to scrutinise sub-themes of the festival. The aim of the process is for participants to collaboratively generate creative questions that provoke and inspire people to move conversations forward, to create ‘missions for tomorrow’.

The festival theme for 2018 was Error: The Art of Imperfection. Writing about this rationale behind this, artistic director Gerfried Stocker and Ars Electronica co-founder Christine Schöpf posed the question, ‘An error is a discrepancy from what we expect, a deviation from the norm… but what is the norm and who establishes it?’ The FIS participants were split into groups and considered this question through the lens of either Future Humanity, Future Dignity or Future Sharing.

Several exhibitions explored the notion of Error. Pictured: Heavenly Bodies by Beatrice Haines
Who wants to be a self driving car? An 'augmented reality to help people empathize with self-driving vehicle systems'
POSTCTIY: A former Austrian Postal Service facility that is now the main venue for Ars Electronica's festival

I was a part of a Future Humanity group. We were initially challenged with the questions; ‘When we are facing a world where machines may evolve to be better thinkers and doers than humans, how does the meaning of error change? How do errors make us more human?’

Through facilitated workshops, and with inspiration from the other programs and exhibitions, it was interesting to tease apart these questions; to find differences between opinions and common threads that held our ideas together. Language was key to this process; how we communicated and listened, how we shared and interpreted, and ultimately how we crafted the question.

Interdisciplinary working has been at the heart of my own engagement practice; it is one of SensiLab’s values, and my recent roles producing science-art seasons has demonstrated the value of bringing people together who interrogate the world in different ways. However, I often sit in a producer or facilitator role during collaborations. It is rare that I am a participant in the process. FIS was therefore a great opportunity to reflect on, and share, my expertise.

It took a lot of time, debate, collaboration and many, many more questions, but the creative question we ultimately posed was, ‘How can we optimise diversity to navigate the future?’ How would you try to answer this?

The final creative questions crafted by the four different groups