Utopia - Dystopia by Inaba Williams // MTWTF.

Design gives technology purpose. Designers harness technology to create uses that often times alter the way we see everything around us. The design of novel objects, spaces, interfaces, and humans reveal we are not bound to the current state of things and other worlds are very possible.

The exhibition’s title Utopia—Dystopia refers to the prevailing mindset that technology is leading us toward either a great human-android revolution or social collapse. While the utopian and dystopian images we continuously encounter create the feeling that one or the other will soon occur, neither extreme is imminent so long as designers build futures that give technology purpose in the face of growing uncertainty and vulnerability.

This exhibition presents four areas where designers will play an important role in shaping our view and use of technology in the years to come.


Identity.
To be human is to be enhanced by technology. What are the right steps to exceed the limits of the human body in order for people to become their future selves?

Territory.

With the help of technology, nature itself can be designed. Can we make nature resilient to the harmful effects of technology, rather than the other way around?

Interface.
There is no longer a point of overload. Our processing capacity is limitless. How does this alter the way we design interfaces with technology?


Action.
Automation reduces the number of actions we perform. As actions become more frictionless and disconnected from the laws of physics, what kinds of human gestures will designers propose to accomplish physical tasks — from waking up to finding a spouse?


The Exhibition.
We hope the space of the exhibition and its images, movements will prompt discussions about what kinds of environments designers will create for us to gain perspective about the future uses of technology.

Thirty-one video displays suspended from the ceiling are arranged into three clusters starting from the entry to A/D/O. Mirroring the multitude of hope- and fear-inducing images streaming around us, the exhibition consists of animations using dozens of photographs. The animations are organized into four themes, each with its own narrative and video format.

Located closest to the entry are animations showing technology applications to use for our identity, including wearables, body extensions, and life protection, like near-death, “condition black” gear.

Further into the exhibition is an animation showing territories where nature and advanced technology coexist. Places like the Cold War missile silos now repurposed as a post-apocalyptic community for the 1% are meant to reveal our belief (valid or not) that nature will endure the most extreme effects of technology.

Compared to the glacial pace of the Territory video, the images of interfaces on the opposite displays appear rapidly to the viewer. Because we can process so much information at one time, interfaces are designed not just at the scale of a screen, but also that of entire rooms.

The final cluster present a looping video of daily activities that have shortened in time and movement as a result of automation. It’s an evolutionary timeline of the gestures required for a basic human task: waking up, eating, getting from A to B, and exchanging goods. By integrating pixels from one image to the next, the video transitions blend the objects together as they move in smooth conveyor belt-like fashion from left to right.

Imagery by Inaba Williams and MTWTF.

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