Carlo Ratti


Cities are, by definition, plural, public, and productive. They are created by society itself (barring exceptional cases like master-planned Brasilia or Chandigarh) and they function as culture’s petri dish for progress. Living in space and creating space can go hand in hand. We propose to employ design in a systematic exploration and germination of possible futures, exploring how ubiquitous computing – i.e. the increasing deployment of sensors and hand-held electronics in recent years, what we call Senseable City – is opening up a new approach to the study of the built environment. Design can investigate and intervene at the interface between people, technologies and the city – developing research and applications that empower citizens to make choices that result in a more livable urban condition.

The aim is not to portray what is to come. We call it futurecraft: we pose future scenarios (typically phrased as What if? questions), entertain their consequences and exigencies, and we share the resulting ideas widely, to enable public conversation and debate. It’s important to extrapolate from the present condition and to place ourselves, as designers, in a fictive but possible future context with the intent of realizing or precluding that future through public discourse. Designer’s work is meaningless unless it ignites imaginations and provokes debate: design by mutation is intrinsically collective. Designers produce mutations, some of which will grow, evolve, and develop into tangible artifacts that cause global change – driven to realization by the energy of the crowd.

An architect and engineer by training, Carlo Ratti practices in Italy and teaches at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he directs the Senseable City Lab. He graduated from the Politecnico di Torino and the École Nationale des Ponts et Chaussées in Paris, and later earned his MPhil and PhD at the University of Cambridge, UK. Carlo holds several patents and has co-authored over 250 publications. As well as being a regular contributor to Project Syndicate, he has written for the Le Monde, El Pais, La Stampa, Corriere della Sera, Scientific American and The New York Times. His work has been exhibited worldwide at venues such as the Venice Biennale, the Design Museum Barcelona, the Science Museum in London, MAXXI in Rome, and MoMA The Museum of Modern Art in in New York City.

Carlo has been featured in Esquire Magazine’s ‘Best & Brightest’ list and in Thames & Hudson’s selection of ‘60 innovators’ shaping our creative future. Blueprint Magazine included him as one of the ‘25 People Who Will Change the World of Design’, Forbes listed him as one of the ‘Names You Need To Know’ and Fast Company named him as one of the ’50 Most Influential Designers in America’. He was also featured in Wired Magazine’s ‘Smart List: 50 people who will change the world’. Carlo was awarded the Renzo Piano Foundation prize for ‘New Talents in Architecture’. Two of his projects – the Digital Water Pavilion and the Copenhagen Wheel – have been included by TIME Magazine in the list of the ‘Best Inventions of the Year’.

Carlo has been a presenter at TED (in 2011 and 2015), program director at the Strelka Institute for Media, Architecture and Design in Moscow, curator of the ‘BMW Guggenheim Pavilion’ in Berlin, and was named ‘Inaugural Innovator in Residence’ by the Queensland Government. He was the curator of the ‘Future Food District’ pavilion for the 2015 World Expo in Milan. He is currently serving as Chair of the World Economic Forum Global Agenda Council on Future Cities, and he has been selected as Special Adviser to the President and Commissioners of the European Commission, to advise on urban innovation.

Natalie Jeremijenko

Creative Agency and the Space Race of the 21st Century: Towards a Museum of Natural Futures

Reimagining and redesigning our relationship to natural systems to improve human and environmental health, increase biodiversity, build soil, and improve air and water quality is the Space Race of the 21st Century; i.e. the most complex systems design challenge we face, and one that current and emerging interactive technologies provide the opportunity to address. This assertion is intended to reframe the discourse of contemporary environmentalism in terms of creative agency that transcend market and regulatory incentives and disambiguates from “sustainability” which in research universities internationally seem to have been institutionalized as non-academic.

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Jeremijenko directs the Environmental Health Clinic – facilitating public and lifestyle experiments that can aggregate into significant human and environmental health benefits. She is also an Associate Professor in the Visual Art Department, NYU and affiliated with the Computer Science Dept and Environmental Studies program.

Jeremijenko’s practice develops the emerging field of socio-ecological systems design (or xDesign) crucial in the Anthropocene, using attractions and ongoing participatory research spectacles that address the C21st challenge to reimagine our collective relationship to natural systems. This integrates diverse strategies to redesign energy, food and transportation systems that can contribute to the common good, increase soil, aquatic and terrestrial biodiversity and improve human and environmental health.

In 2014 VIDA Art and Artificial Life International Awards Pioneer Prize was awarded to Natalie Jeremijenko “for her consistently brilliant portfolio of work over the past two decades” – a prize only awarded once before to Laurie Anderson. She was also granted a Most Innovative People award in 2013, most influential women in technology 2011, one of the inaugural top young innovators by MIT Technology Review, and 40 most influential designers.


Androids, Replicants and Chimeras: Alternate Embodiments / Uncanny Agencies

What it means to be human is perhaps not to remain human at all. To become other is an irresistible urge. What a body is and how a body performs is a historical, cultural and technological construct but because it is also in the realm of contingency it is also highly contestable. It is a time of alternate anatomical architectures. Of hyper-human constructs that are a hybridization of biology, technology and virtuality.

Technology is attached and is inserted, as flesh is extracted and circulated. Body parts are exchanged. Hearts and hands are relocated and reanimated. A face on one body stitched to the skull of another, becomes a third face resembling neither. Your face, appropriated and animated by an alternate nervous system becomes the affect of the other. A body with implants is a body that can be hacked, re-wired and re-purposed. There are few reasons to perpetuate the body as it is – surviving in a slim spectrum of light, radiation and gravity, not very robust and with a limited longevity. Prosthetic Flesh becomes Fractal Flesh and Phantom Flesh.

It is necessary to shift from seeing the body as a site for the psyche to the body as a structure. Not as an object of desire but as an object to redesign. There is a need not only to expose but to simultaneously extend the body’s interaction and task envelope. The body now performs remotely, involuntarily and with profound indifference, absent to its own agency. An indifference that allows something other to occur, that allows an unfolding- in its own time and with its own rhythm. The body becomes physically split with an extruded sense of self. A radical emptiness permeates the human horizon, but it is an emptiness generated not by a lack but rather through an excess of expectation.

Liminal spaces proliferate and generate the uncanny, the ambivalent and the uncertain. The anxious body becomes a floating signifier, becoming whatever it wants to become – in a multiplicity of forms and functions. Bodies are split and distributed. The problem is no longer possessing a split personality, but rather of having split physicality. In our Platonic, Cartesian and Freudian pasts these might have been considered pathological and in our Foucauldian present we focus on inscription and control of the body. But in the terrain of cyber complexity that we now inhabit the inadequacy and the obsolescence of the ego-agent driven biological body cannot be more apparent. A transition from psycho-body to cyber system becomes necessary to function effectively and intuitively in remote spaces, speeded-up situations and complex technological terrains of information overload. Can a body cope with experiences of extreme absence and alien action without becoming overcome by outmoded metaphysical fears and obsessions of individuality and free will? Embodiment, identity and agency need to be interrogated and algorithms of aliveness and affect need to be re-formulated.

Stelarc explores alternate anatomical architectures. He is an artist whose projects incorporate prosthetics, robotics, biotechnology, medical imaging and the internet. He has performed with a Third Hand, a Stomach Sculpture, Exoskeleton and a Prosthetic Head. Fractal Flesh, Ping Body and Parasite are internet performances that explore remote and involuntary choreography. He is surgically constructing and stem-cell growing an ear on his arm that will be internet enabled.

In 1996 he was made an Honorary Professor of Art and Robotics at Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, and in 2002 was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Laws by Monash University, Melbourne. In 2010 was awarded the Ars Electronica Hybrid Arts Prize. In 2014 he initiated the Alternate Anatomies Lab. In 2015 he received the Australia Council’s Emerging and Experimental Arts Award. Stelarc is currently a Distinguished Research Fellow, School of Design and Art (SODA) at Curtin University. His artwork is represented by the Scott Livesey Galleries, Melbourne.