Out of the Order

versatile vehicle to fix all kinds of problems, in Switzerland

Ars Electronica 2010 takes a car repair shop point of view on society. Something is wrong with the world, we see it everyday: economy is causing more troubles than it solves, our ecosystem appears to be exploited beyond its limits, and a general felt lack of influence on political processes makes us feel helpless. We need to fix that.

Fix what?

Repairing something means that it is out of order, out of a state how it should be, how it was designed. It sounds like an engineer’s or expert’s perspective, starting out from a blueprint and a good plan.
While this makes pretty much sense for devices, it is leads to interesting consequences when applied to society and also myself (“Repair yourself” is part of ars electronica’s programme).

It starts already at the most prominent crossing of technology and society, the internet: The way it was originally designed and how it is used today are pretty far from each other. Now, various parties would like to “repair” the net – one extreme wants to have far less checks and control to enable a free flow of information. The other extreme wants to turn the web into a highly regulated marketplace where companies authorize any transaction to ensure their profit share. Both parties think there are some mechanisms out of order at the moment, but they think of different “orders”.

Fix how?

Ideally, one would think of society as a (big) assembly of people who negotiate how they want to arrange their social rules, their interactions with the environment, etc. (some copyright by Habermas here). Of course, this is not how it works because we all have very different capabilities to express ourselves and convince others (you can also think of money as a convincing factor), resulting in different powers to form society.

But also when leaving that problem unconsidered, the current state of society is something that has been negotiated in countless discussions and ballots. What we see today has never been planned for. There are some blueprints for the process itself, and people might come with blueprints into the discussions. But the result is usually far from these blueprints, it’s something most people can live with, a compromise.

So, the result is the opposite of a plan, and even more, it gets continually altered, rearranged, “improved”, like a garden. Like plants and herbs, people also act autonomously. Can you repair a garden?

Since this year’s motto raises a lot of questions, you could consider it a good one. I’m really excited and curious about the answers the speakers and artists will bring along.

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