Human Design or Evolution lecture series stirred conversation about future human bodies
"Do we change the world to suit us or do we change ourselves to suit the world?" designer Fiona Raby asked during the Human Design or Evolution lecture series, held at Aalto Media Factory.
The 4-part lecture series, which gathered nine international speakers and also included two workshops, explored the role of artists and designers in developing future human bodies.
"We use design to shape the imagination. It's all about providing alternatives and something we might not otherwise imagine", Fiona Raby said.
The designer's own Evidence Dolls project (from 2005), for example, made shoppers confront genetic manipulation in a real "Would I buy this?" sort of way.
"Design asks questions that allow others to get involved. This is particularly important in the science context, where complex details are difficult to see and understand. The speculative process of imagining things is important because technologies are complicated — not black and white. There are trade-offs, and design lets us see that", Raby concluded.
Raby described her work as being about strategic thinking more than research or a final product. Design makes it possible to scan what kinds of directions could things take.
From simulation to tolerance
Professor Riitta Hari from the School of Science's Brain Research Unit also talked about simulation: seeing handwritten letters, even if written by someone else, activate the brain's motor cortex.
"We can understand each other because our brains aren't as private as we think."
Smell artist and designer Sissel Tolaas discussed similar issues in her talk. Tolaas works with smell that "conveys information about navigation, tolerance and awareness". For Adidas she researched new and used sneakers to create a smell logo for the brand.
"My projects are always about adding information beyond what you see. It's never just a perfume added on top. With me customers see that you don't have to hide reality. You can use it", Tolaas noted.
Wired and hacked bodies
The lecture series ended with a talk by Stelarc, an artist most famous for having an extra ear implanted on his arm. The third ear will eventually be connected to wifi in order for people to be able to listen in on Stelarc wherever he is.
"Increasingly people are becoming portals for others over the internet. This opens interesting possibilities, but of course, a wired body can also be a hacked body."
According to the artist, things small enough can soon be incorporated into our bodies to detect tumors, for example. Nanoscale sensors and machines will be able to colonize the body.
"We don't have an adequate internal system for the body at the moment. Currently bodies are infected by micro-organisms, and if they don't breathe for a few minutes they die. How are we going to design future bodies? Or do we just accept this very inadequate body?"
Text: Vuokko Aro
More information at humandesign.mlog.taik.fi