A recent piece in Gizmodo asked how we'll conceive of what technology is in the future. Gadgets or infrastructure? Gadgets have been our de facto network, stimulating connections to one another. Now we're seeing infrastructure like the Tesla Powerwall connect the public resources we all share. This begs the question of how we will think about the connection between gadgets and infrastructure. But what we really need to know is how the world will feel when gadgets and infrastructure connect.
What will the future feel like?
Feelings are an all but absent topic in most technological innovation conversations. Tech is about the features after all, not the feelings. Explainer videos routinely train us to focus on the features of a product and how those will be different than any other product on the market. Sandwich Video makes features conversations into cute content pieces. You get the impression after watching a few videos all tech makes us happy if it has great features. Following this logic we get an equation for tech and feelings that goes as follows: Features + Function = Happiness.
This formula draws back on the history of technology and of science fiction where a constant narrative of optimism has been present. This is not the techno dystopian narrative at the heart of contemporary resistance to technology seen in projects like #GoDark fashion. It's the optimistic liberation illustrated by the famous Apple 1984 ad. Projects like The Center for Science and Imagination at Arizona State University accelerate ways of focusing on this sort of techno optimism rather than the dystopia. And of course there is the always optimistic Kickstarter.
We seem to have a desire for technology to feel good.
Enter new media festivals where this desire can be tested. New media festivals present performances of the world as it will be when gadgets and infrastructure connect. Festivals like the Gray Areas Festival connects art, design, code, and physical spaces. The Fiber Festival connects audiovisual, digital, and music to physical surroundings. The festivals are completely immersive and like trial runs of what the future may feel like.
On one hand, we are growing comfortable giving over control of our choices to the efficiency of connected lifestyles. On the other hand, we have yet to test our emotions against a connected world because that world is not quite here yet. New media festivals are proxies of what is coming then, that allow us to begin exploring how the future will feel like.