Some enhanc-ed evening

AV Festival 06 is the UK’s newest, and largest international festival of digital arts, music, games, film & new media. With the theme of Life, it explores what happens as expectations rise that we might be able modify and improve our bodies and/or minds. More than 90 events will take place in NewcastleGateshead, Sunderland and Middlesbrough, between 2-12 March. I am moderating a symposium, on Friday 10 March in Middlesbrough, which analyses the artistic, ethical and social aspects of robotics, nanotechnology, biotechnology and information technology as they aspire to modify humankind. Dr Tom Shakespeare is a keynote speaker in our session; it also includes discussion panels on the social and ethical critique of enhancement technologies, and the geopolitics of food production. For more information see the website (click through a couple of screens to find the programme) or ring the information line on +44 191 260 3875 or email info@avfest.co.uk to request a guide.

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Is sprawl good, after all?

I have always assumed that sprawl is a Bad Thing. For Jane Jacobs, in ‘Dark Age Ahead’, urban sprawl is something that “murders communities, and wastes land, time, and energy”. Sprawl is frequently blamed for environmentally-damaging transport intensity, the collapse of communities, even obesity. But James Woudhuysen, for one, thinks density has been over-sold, and that land in many countries is under- not over-used. The author of “Why is Construction So Backward” is a speaker at an intriguing seminar in London on 3 March. He appears with Ken Yeang (international architect and author “The Green Skyscraper”) and Tristram Hunt, historian, broadcaster and author of the excellent Building Jerusalem: The Rise and Fall of the Victorian City. The seminar is organised by Austin Williams, Director of the Future Cities Project.

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Doors 9 discussion in New Delhi

As part of our preparations for Doors 9 in India next year (March 2007) there will be a small round table meeting of art curators and cultural producers in New Delhi in the afternoon of March 10. Representatives from funding agencies, cultural missions, art galleries, event spaces, museums, schools of art, architecture and design, prospective sponsors and others wishing to discuss possible activities with us next year are welcome to attend. Please contact divya@cks.in. On 15 March, we’re also organising a creative communities holi party as a means for creative groups and individuals to meet. (The first Doors holi party in 2005 was the concluding highlight of Doors 8 ). This year’s holi party will be produced by Centre for Knowledge Societies in collaboration with the Global Arts Village, Khoj, Studio Us, Kids at Home, AIE, and numerous creative individuals to whom we are very grateful. The party is in Chhattarpur, New Delhi, from 11 am. Admission is limited to people bearing a printed invitation. To request one of these invitation cards, send an evocative email telling us about yourself and your interest in Doors 9 to: holi@cks.in

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In search of fuzzy time

The Guardian is flogging an absurdly over-the-top watch on its website. Because the watch is radio-controlled, accuracy is guaranteed to “within one second in a million years”. The watch also boasts five daily alarms, a 1/100 second stopwatch, and world time. The Guardian promises that “you should never be late for a meeting or over-run on your parking meter ever again”. Wisely, the paper does not promise that you will stop being a sad person.

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Out of order?

Many of you probably know about Michael Darnell’s website Bad Designs – but it’s always growing, and always worth a re-visit. If there are other bad design collections out there, please let us know: we want to organise a Worst Design In The World Oscars. Meanwhile, because this blog likes to bring good news and not just whinge constantly about the iniquity of material things, my partner Kristi came across a glorious German mail-order catalogue called Manufactum whose English edition is now online. Their motto: “the good things in life still exist”.

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Corrupted by cool?

Have cultural producers and designers become the stooges of property development? Guy Julier has invited me to stir things up in a talk at the inauguration on 2 March of DesignLeeds, a new research and consulting centre at Leeds School of Architecture, Landscape and Design. Invitations are available from Jean Horne: Telephone +44 113 283 3216. Email j.horne@leedsmet.ac.uk

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Longer? smarter? stronger?

Transhumanists believe in efforts by human beings to “reshape their inherited physical, cognitive and emotional identities by extending lifespan and enhancing human capacities”. I admit to a prejudice that transhumanists share this enthusiasm because they are all bald, bearded, and barking. But not all transhumanists are death-fearing loony-tunes and word reaches me from Lucy Kimbell of a seriously heavyweight event called “Tomorrow’s People: The Challenges of Technologies for Life Extension and Enhancement”. Speakers will discuss the prospects for human beings to live longer, smarter, stronger and happier lives. The closing plenary should be entertaining: it features techno-uber-optimist Peter Schwarz from the Global Business Network, and Lord Rees of Ludlow who studies the threats posed by asteroid impact, environmental degradation, global warming, nuclear war, and unstoppable pandemics. The organizers are especially keen for artists and designers to participate if their work investigates, and invents, the future – if we have one. Said Business School, Oxford 14-17 March 2006.

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Walking & mapping across continents

The subject of car-free mobility sounds necessary but unappealing. But news reaches me of a sublime-sounding event called The Walking Project. It’s an exploration, on foot, of desire lines – the paths made by people who walk across fields in South Africa – and across vacant lots in Detroit.

Collaboratively developed with US and South Africa-based artists during a series of residencies in Detroit and KwaZulu-Natal, many of the participants created poems and stories and renditions of walking songs. The project “examines how changing patterns of movement can alter attitudes and perceptions; how people make their own paths; and the influences of culture, geography, language, economics and love, The Walking Project asks how and why people’s paths cross and how taking a different path might alter a life”.

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“Alert and doing fine”

Harry Whittington, 78, was “alert and doing fine” after being shot by Vice President Cheney. The same could be said of US bloggers for whom the story has been a much appreciated gift.

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