More people travel for pleasure today than any other time in history. Mass tourism is not a new term anymore and it seems it is not one we are going to forget any time soon either. The number of tourist only increases from year to year, everywhere around the world. Due to overcrowding however, the most beautiful and spectacular places of the planet become unpleasant to visit. With their presence, too many people turn a unique place into a deserted and meaningless territory. Since in recent years the digital domain becomes ever so large and all-encompassing, speculations suggest that it might in the near future be able to substitute many physical environments and needs such as shopping or communication. This post focuses on the link between the digital and physical in travelling and tourism – what are the dependencies between the two domains and how do they influence each other.
How does an idea go through a tool to become a project
Thinking is the most complex cognitive mental process, which consists of reflecting essential properties, features and regularities from reality. Through this process we can create models of the world and represent it according to certain objectives, intentions and desires. The main forms of thinking are observation, analysis and synthesis (rational discourse).
In those three forms certain knowledge also goes through different kinds of consciousness or media and with every step it is abstracted and therefore gains a different kind of meaning.
In the paper Entering a Risky Territory: Space in the Age of Digital Navigation Bruno Latour1 analyses the evolution of mapping and it’s radical transformation since the digital age. The reason for depiction, the means of gathering data and their representation has developed over time parallel to our society. Typically, following a scientific discovery, the newly aquired knowledge shifts the general understanding of our place in the world and artists are fast to grasp those new notions and interpret them subjectively. Later that change further reflects also on our everyday life. So if in his work Bruno Latour is focusing on the shift of pre-digital and post-digital age and the different notions it gives, the text The New Plasticity by Sanford Kwinter2 from 1986 follows much deeper the transition of knowledge from one area to another. The process starts with the publishing of the relativity theory and the revolution it caused in terms of new understanding of time and space followed by the interpretation in the arts, described by the paintings of Boccioni and the Futurists, and ends in architecture with the project for La Citta Nuova by Antonio Sant’ Elia and his visions. In both texts, as well as in many other interpretations, it is easy to follow the tendency of knowledge to morph its concept as it transitions through different medium. As Marchall McLuhan famously concluded – The media is the message. However, this conclusion leads to the question – now that we are equipped with such powerful tools, tools which are creating themselves just as actively as we are, how does that change our designs and understanding of our environment?
The new movie by Rupert Sanders, based on the hugely popular anime Ghost in the Shell by Musamune Shirow opens with a haunting preface. It is set in 2029 and observes as the boundary between human and machine becomes more and more blurred. In the time it has become customary for people to choose to “enhance” themselves by replacing a limb or an internal organ with a synthetic one, therefore also one with many new high-tech features. In that context, one private company works on blurring that boundary even further by creating the first “synthetic full-body prosthesis augmented-cybernetic human” – Major Mira Killian. She has an entirely robotic body except for her human brain. Therefore the story argues that by keeping the brain the soul, or the ghost, remains unaltered independent from the body, or the shell.
Now the obvious question this setup poses is where the boundary between human and machine really stands – how far can one go on altering and enhancing before one turns to a cyborg? All that further leads to the discussion what is it that defines a human at all.
As digital manufacturing enters the practise of artists, architects and creatives an appealing idea propagates – now you can just press a button and your crazy design gracefully enters the real world. Countless videos show in an almost magical way how fantastic shapes, without any fault or imperfection are effortlessly woven by a regular 3D printer or a more advanced robot arm. A milling machine creates a masterpiece all on its own and a 3D scanner gets all the perfect dimensions and all materials correctly – all of that at the click of a single button. Right.
Now there is nothing surprising about companies wanting to promote their products by demonstrating their flawless operations, but the perversion itself comes when even creatives support that utopian vision. There is this sense of pride when your design has been manufactured in a mystical technological way and it all goes as planned. No humans needed. Right?