If technology and design are connected anywhere during this Dutch Design Week, then it is at Manifestations. Curator Viola van Alphen didn’t have an easy job. Her exhibition is a series of sub-exhibitions that tell the story of the future that, if we are not careful, will design us rather than the other way around. “We are the most critical part of DDW.”
Manifestations is a joint project of Van Alphen’s ViolaVirus and Eindhoven’s MADlab. “Manifesations shows the future: virtual realities, limitations in our human perceptions, the technological upgrading of our bodies, and how we can keep control.”
The diversity within Manifestations is huge, but the common thread is also clear. Everything revolves around the question of where our data handling is heading to in our controlled and monitored world. What we experience? Getting lost in a virtual fairy tale desert, a psychiatric clinic for robots, Furbies with separation anxiety, exoskeletons, body heat sensors that mine bitcoins, Internet of Women-Things, implantable health trackers, Transform Your Future, Hyper Reality, Monochrom Hacker Culture, Social Artificial Intelligence, Dystopian movies, Invisible Boyfriend, Credit dating app, Nervous anti-terror Systems, Predictive Police, Tutorial for Terrorists… Viola van Alphen: “Manifestations shows the most innovative developments in the world of this year. With all this, a visitor ultimately is in better shape to design his own future. Regain Control of Your Devices, let’s make our future before the future makes us.”
Can we still trust our own senses?
Can we still trust our own senses? Van Alphen is not so sure. “And certainly not if they are linked to all kinds of data analyses so they can run wild. Everyone that takes a good look around, will see the signals. We have no idea who’s going to do what with our data. Since I’ve heard that the tax people are monitoring people who send negative tweets extra carefully, I will think once more before I’m going to complain again about the services of the national railway system. What kind of information about myself is kept on my customer loyalty card? Which data profiles ar responsible for my health insurance rates? These are all issues that we can think about once more before we say yes.”
The shape of Van Alphen’s basic question varies from day to day during the week. For example, a psychiatric institute is being built for robots who have become mentally ill. We also see a body suit that generates heat, with which a little Raspberry Pi computer can mine bitcoins. “Isn’t that nice? Money out of body heat! Just like in The Matrix.”
How can we hack this technology to connect better with the day-to-day realities of women?
Many of the examples are shown during the presentation of the Young Talent Awards, on the first Saturday of the DDW. Thirteen 2016 graduates of Dutch and German art academies were selected by Van Alphen, all according to her standards of quality, which means: paying close attention to the innovative nature of the presentations and works. “And for the first time since I start doing this kind of work, the majority is women, no less than ten out of thirteen!”
This fits well with one of the highlights of the Manifestations week: the brainstorm of the Internet-of-Things-Women. Van Alphen: “Most IoT devices are focused on product sales. Without us knowing it, they keep track of all our consumption patterns, this is part of their business model. But how can we hack this technology to connect better with the day-to-day realities of women? How can we help people socially with new technology? ”