Emilia Tapprest and Victor Evink
12 – 15 May 2022
Teatro San Leonardo, Bologna
Zhōuwéi Network is a critical worldbuilding research project focusing on the relationship between embodiment, datafication and power, adopting as a fundamental paradigm the notion of ‘ambitopia’: a speculative imagination beyond the dystopia-utopia binary. Zhōuwéi Network represents three types of datafied societies set in 2041, elaborated on the basis of the most recent development in the field of digital technologies and driven by alternative visions of common good: Dolphin Waves, Dragonfly e Project Gecko. In all three cases, algorithmic automation and the use of data extracted through systems of digital mediation constitute the main vectors that organise the lives of human communities. The modalities according to which digital technologies operate this process of reconfiguration of forms of human life follow diverse directions and generate results that are radically different from each other.
Dolphin Waves (New York City, 2041) explores what surveillance capitalism could evolve into after automation and climate change have ended the era of industry, consumption and paid work. Legal reforms around data ownership obliged big tech platforms to compensate users for harvesting their data. As data harvesting from XR play proved valuable to integrate human imagination, the final frontier, into hybrid AI, the resulting paradigm could be described as ‘Ludified Surveillance Capitalism.’ Fuelled by the AI arms race, sparcades (fully automated play and wellness campuses) became the new pinnacle of cultural aspiration. New York's 'Dolphin Waves', the original model for this concept, popularised an early generation of fully immersive virtual reality, based on a combination of sensory isolation and a neural interface. Dragonfly (Netherlands, 2041) depicts a design-driven post-democratic government focused on safeguarding a sustainable, inclusive environment and collective happiness. In response to the radicalisation and outbursts of violence that had been building up for more than a decade, unconventional, post-democratic approaches became irresistible. ‘Posthumanist Ecosystem Design,’ developed by an international data science NGO called 'Dragonfly' as a development tool for politically fragile states, applies ecological systems thinking and AI to complex socio-environmental issues as one interconnected whole. The approach managed to rewire memetic bubbles into a stable societal fabric, using a flexible combination of matchmaking, coaching and exercise, carried out by personal AI coaches. With Project Gecko (different locations, 2041) we imagine something that emerges out of the turbulent experimentation phase of the 2020s and '30s, which saw an explosion of decentralised autonomous micro societies aimed at radically reinventing democracy for the 21st century. Project Gecko accentuates the importance of inner healing for participation by adopting conscious movement as the foundation for its distributed data sharing. The name 'Project Gecko' refers to its easily attachable sticky sensors, reflecting the principle that the presence of tech should be visible and optional.
Zhōuwéi Network explores how different ideological underpinnings produce affordances for distinct affective undertones. The subjective experience of taking part in a particular world is here approached through the notion of ‘affective atmospheres’. An affective experience can be understood as an embodied state which is more diffuse than emotions and feelings. It precedes conscious thoughts, and in this way forms a basis from which other states and actions emerge. Similarly, an atmosphere surrounds, or envelopes, yet can be hardly localised. Atmospheres have been described as ‘half-entities’ because they are prompted (or given rise) by actual properties of the world, while also being determined by an experiencing subject. This way, affective atmospheres provide an interesting link between the material layers of a given system and the circumstances and pre-dispositions of different subjects to experience them in certain ways. In this way, Zhōuwéi Network explores some of the fundamental questions raised by the digital mediation of forms of human life, in their complexity and multiplicity, both on the socio-political and affective level.
Curated by Felice Moramarco.
Realised with the support of the Embassy and Consulate General of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Italy, I-Portunus, Mondriaan Fund e Stimuleringsfonds.