eSpehre: STRP conference about Living in the Cloud

Last Friday, November 28, I’ve been to the conference called eSphere: Living in the Cloud, a part of the larger program of the STRP festival here in Eindhoven. The conference was extremely interesting content-wise, but it was also held at the very place of the festival, among all those beautiful and mind-boggling installations, which of course created a very special atmosphere, of tangible magic, so to speak.

Aaron Koblin, the first speaker of the conference, talked about a new level of data visualization that we can gain via social web (and the Internet-of-Things type of tools in general). He presented a few of his own projects, and despite I knew most of the before (except the Arcade Fire one), it was a pleasure to see them all again, and to listen to his lively stories.

Kevin Warwick was the second speaker, of very different background and with a different story. He became a world-famous science celebrity after he voluntarily implanted a chip that connected his brain (and nervous system in general) with a machine, thus becoming the first official cyborg. Since this time, Professor Warwick has been eagerly expecting the moment when brain-to-brain communication between humans will become possible (I was surprised he didn’t show the images from the Avatar movie, where this brain-to-brain connections had been depicted in a number of interesting ways). But he did show many other projects, including the one with the robots growing their own brains – made of human neurons! Aren’t they cyborgs too?

In the afternoon the conference split into two tracks (which meant that anyone could see only a half of all the presentations, always a pity to realize in such events). I was actually moderating the second track, called The World is the Web, that presented four excellent speakers: Lorna Goulden from Philips Design (above), Christian van ‘t Hof from the Rathenau Institute, an artist Gordan Savicic, and Geert Lovink, a new media theorist and critic and a founder of the Institute of Network Cultures in Amsterdam.

I may actually write separate postings about their individual presentations later on; they are too nice to cramp them all into one piece. In fact, there may be only one regretful fact about this sidetrack (ok, two, if to add my generally incomprehensible moderation): there was too little time available to all these speakers (only about 15-20 min) and each brought a very rich story worth of an hour or two of careful listening and discussing. Oh, well, a typical messy vortex of all conferences.

Speaking about vortexes – this is actually me inside one of them, created in (or by) the installation Nemo Observatorium, by lawrence Malstaf.

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