Archive

Harriet Wolstenholme

For task 2, our group scenario envisioned Australia in 2050 as a ‘Sustainable Superpower’ with high surveillance and no border control. Our scenario design originated from the growing issue of climate refugees, in an attempt to respond on a humanitarian level by accommodating for such people in Australia. As stated in my previous blog post about the Anthropocene with focus on climate refugees- scientists predict the number of people displaced by natural disasters could range from at least 50 million to 200 million by 2050. It is therefore fundamental to the welfare of humanity that we begin to seriously consider how to help these people affected by accommodating for more people in Australia in the event of extreme displacement.

Hypothetically speaking, after a series of natural disasters that devastate surrounding Asian countries, Australia opens its borders to refugees providing aid shelters for those displaced from their country to stay in. This then transfers from an initial temporary service to a state of permanent citizenship. Due to the no border control and consequential significant population increase, we wanted to design a form of dwelling and lifestyle that would encourage people to move away from coastal areas and occupy more rural, inland areas. Nomadism was something that we decided to look into as a central point of research as focus to this idea.

Author Paul Memmott in his book “Gunyah, Goondie + Wurley: the Aboriginal Architecture Of Australia” discusses the complexity of Aboriginal-designed dwellings in a science of ‘ethno-architecture’ of which ranges from minimalist structures that articulate well defined places and spaces, versus various types of permanent houses and villages. The architecture of Aboriginal houses built prior to the British invasion was dependent on climate, natural environment, resources available, family size and specific needs of the Aboriginal people of that area.

We wanted our product to fit somewhere in between this idea of semi-permanent living whilst remaining sustainable, practical, and affordable for immediate use rather than requiring to be built and established in a fixed environment.

British-based designer Lucy Orta is a contemporary artist who has investigated into the ideas of mobility and survival through sculptural works, which examine the complex relationship between architecture and the human body. Her 1993 sculpture ‘Refuge Wear- Habitent’ notably demonstrates a well-considered manifesto of the human body, and its relationship to a certain space including that of it’s own. Orta developed the Refuge Wear series in coincidence with certain homeless people whose movements she had followed over a number of years.

Images of Lucy Orta's 1993 sculpture 'Habitent' from her 'Refuge Wear' series.

Images of Lucy Orta’s 1993 sculpture ‘Habitent’ from her ‘Refuge Wear’ series.

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Perhaps it is an unrealistic vision for 2050, but nomadic, sustainable dwellings such as Lucy Orta’s ‘Habitent’ are prime examples of a potential direction the human sheltered experience could take, not only as a sustainable form of living, but as a method of accommodating incoming climate refugees in emergency instances- very probable scenarios for the future of Australia.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Korff, J, 2014. Aboriginal Houses, Creative Spirits, viewed 22 October 2014, http://www.creativespirits.info/aboriginalculture/land/aboriginal-houses

Memmott, P. 2007, Gunyah, Goondie + Wurley: the Aboriginal Architecture Of Australia, University of Queensland Press, Queensland

Studio-Orta, 2014. Lucy Orta, viewed 22 October 2014, http://www.studio-orta.com/en/lucy-orta

Studio-Orta, 2014. Refuge Wear- Habitent, viewed 22 October 2014, http://www.studio-orta.com/en/lucy-orta

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The future is something people are constantly predicting based on past and current issues and trends in social and geological patterns. Whether it is considered optimistic or pessimistic, it is fundamentally a great unknown, allowing potential for imagination and possibility. For this blog post I wanted to gain an insight into a perspective on the future related to issues surrounding technology and global warming. I decided to interview my mother, a 55-year-old mother of two and dentist, as I thought her life experience and fist-hand account throughout a significant time period in terms of technological developments and environmental change would bring an interesting understanding in terms of foreseeing future scenarios based on past scenarios.

The first question I asked being: “Do you think humanity’s future is optimistic or pessimistic?” my mother predicted a very positive future in relation to health, technology, and education; whilst a particularly worrying future in relation to climate changes and world peace.

For a woman of her generation, my mother could be considered a technology enthusiast, constantly up to date with the latest Apple gadgets and always interested in how technology works. If there were one aspect of technological development that I would debate as having a negative impact on society, it would be related to human interaction with technology in replacement of human interaction with humans. With this in mind, I posed the question: “Do you think human interaction with technology has effected human social interaction in a positive or negative way?” My mother responded with a more optimistic point of view: “I think as long as people are interacting with each other, it doesn’t really matter which media they are using. There were a lot more one-way conversations in the years of letter writing. Interaction is the most important thing. Being able to Skype a loved one on the other side of the world allows the world to become a much smaller place.”

When I asked my mother if she had heard of the term ‘the Anthropocene’ she was unfamiliar with it, however she was well aware of the current predicament with global warming and climate change. I proposed the question “Do you think all of the current attention on global warming is necessary?” she responded: “I think it is necessary, however it is a difficult situation when the worst offenders such as China and India are developing countries and the economies of the world are dependent on them continuing to do this.” I have always viewed older generations as people who are generally unconcerned with issues like global warming because unlike my generation, they were never exposed to such a topic when attention has only been drawn to the problem in more recent decades. I was pleasantly surprised with my mother’s response, which reflected her engagement with such issues also on a political and economic level.

I concluded the interview by asking “How do you envision the future for 2050?” and my mother replied “I would see the world continuing to become a smaller place with technological improvements and hopefully a continuing improvement in quality of life.”

Overall my mother’s view of the future was fundamentally positive in terms of technology developments, however their still remains concern for future generations in relation to global warming and world peace.

I wanted to conclude with this video from the 1920’s, as I thought it was a good example of future forecasting and an interesting perspective from almost 100 years ago.

Bibliography

1920’s- What the Future Will Look Like, video recording, Youtube, viewed 20th October 2014, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=czr-98yo6RU

G Wolstenholme (2014, pers. comm., October 21st)

The Anthropocene. To those who are unfamiliar with the term, it refers to the current geological epoch humanity has entered into as a consequence of our global footprint, particularly since the Industrial Revolution. While as a species, we have become a phenomenal global force, during this process our accelerated use of resources is disrupting the natural cycles of biology, chemistry, and geology by which elements such as carbon and nitrogen circulate between land, sea and atmosphere. This brief 3-minute film ‘Welcome to the Anthropocene’ is a great summary of how humanity has reached our current geological age in the past 250 years.

Possibly the most significant aspect of our newfound influence is our effect on the climate. Climate change has become a greater problem than ever before, with rising temperatures and sea levels resulting in dramatic environmental consequences. Such impact, not only evidently destroys our natural resources, but is actively impacting upon individuals particularly as wet climates continue to get wetter, and hot climates continue to get hotter resulting in extreme cases of severe flooding and drought. Climate refugees fall under this bracket, as people who are forced to leave their homes and communities due to the effects of climate change and global warming.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Antonio Guterres says 36 million people were displaced by natural disasters in 2009, the last year such a report was taken. Scientists predict this number will rise to at least 50 million by 2050. Some propose it could be as high as 200 million.

Guterres has said on the matter:“Although there is a growing awareness of the perils of climate change… its likely impact on human displacement and mobility has received too little attention.” It is therefore imperative that now, more than ever as a unified species that we respond to this need on a humanitarian level.

An extremely relevant example of climate refugees now are those living in coastal cities, which are actively being affected by rising sea levels. Due to increasing temperatures related to global warming, glaciers and ice caps are consequently melting resulting in rising sea levels and flooding. The impact of such effects has the potential to make land completely uninhabitable with the future projection of it being completely under water.

For instance, about half the population of Bangladesh lives less than 5 meters (16.5 feet) above sea level. In 1995, Bangladesh’s Bhola Island was half-submerged by rising sea levels, leaving 500,000 people homeless. Scientists predict Bangladesh will lose 17 percent of its land by 2050 due to flooding caused by climate change. The loss of land could lead to as many as 20 million climate refugees from Bangladesh.

This is where the need for humanitarian aid and response comes in. Based on the current predictions of where our global epoch is heading towards, it is important that we prepare for what the future holds now before it is too late.

For example, the island nation of Tuvalu has struck an agreement with New Zealand to accept its 11,600 citizens in the event that rising sea levels overtake the country. In Bangladesh, where flooding is prominent the nonprofit organization Shidhulai Swanirvar Sangstha, (meaning self-reliance) is building schools on boats.

Turmoil in Bangladesh during extreme floods.

Turmoil in Bangladesh during extreme floods.

It is initiatives such as these that we need to get behind in aims of responding to global crises that are predicted for the future.

Bibliography

Doherty, B, 2012. ‘Maldives Warns of Climate Refugees’, The Age, viewed 10 September 2014, http://www.theage.com.au/national/maldives-warns-of-climate-refugees-20120106-1poog.html

Lagan, B, 2013. ‘Australia Urged to Prepare for Influx of People Displaced by Climate Change’, The Guardian, viewed 10 September 2014, http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2013/apr/16/australia-climate-change-refugee-status

National Geographic, 2014. ‘Climate Refugee’ viewed 10 September 2014,
http://education.nationalgeographic.com.au/education/encyclopedia/climate-refugee/?ar_a=1#page=1

Refugee Council, 2012. ‘Climate Refugees?’, viewed 10 September 2014, http://www.refugeecouncil.org.au/f/int-env.php

UNHCR, 2014. ‘Climate Change, Natural Disasters and Human Displacement: A UNHCR Perspective’, viewed 10 September 2014, http://www.unhcr.org/4901e81a4.html

UNHCR, 2014. ‘The Storm Ahead’, viewed 10 September 2014, http://www.unhcr.org/pages/49e4a5096.html

Wahlquist, A, 2014. ‘Climate Change Refugees a Reality’, The Sydney Morning Herald, viewed 10 September 2014, http://www.smh.com.au/national/climate-change-refugees-a-reality-20140212-32hvu.html

Welcome to the Anthropocene n.d., viewed 15 September 2014, http://www.anthropocene.info/en/home

Welcome to the Anthropocene, video recording, Youtube, viewed 15 September 2014, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fvgG-pxlobk

With the rapid development of technology in present day society, and the continual ease and accessibility of it; it has transformed from an initial entity of convenience as an appliance- considered focus, to an active portion of an individuals daily makeup- arguably both physically and metaphysically. As a nation, we are at a point in history where very few people have genuinely considered the new social realities created by technology and the impact of such realities for the individual and society. “They take us from an interaction that is based on the notion of technology as a tool that is separate from, and totally under the control of, the human mind to an understanding of embodied human subjectivity generated in and through an engagement with the technologies experienced in our everyday lives.” (Cranny-Francis 2013) While the original computer networks were never designed as a human communication medium, they have come to penetrate society for communication purposes in various forms- from mobile phones, to internet banking, hand-held computers to “intelligent” agents and voice-recognition at human-machine interfaces.

Metaphysical interaction between humans and technology exists via avenues such as social networking sites. Web-based virtual communities have been defined as social aggregations that emerge from the internet when people carry on public discussions long enough, with sufficient human feeling, to form webs of personal relationships in cyberspace.” In this day and age with networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, people are continually becoming involved in an abundant number of relationships through technology, but sometimes the quantity of these associations leaves people feeling qualitatively empty. Perhaps overcoming a sense of isolation is one of the greatest appeals of online communities and virtual worlds. The 2013 critically acclaimed Spike Jonze film ‘Her’ presents a futuristic take on modern-day relationships, following a man who falls in love with an operating system- a prime example of the metaphysical interaction that takes place between humans and technology based upon isolation and emotional dependence.

Conversely, human interaction with technology on a physical level has also come to a dependent style of relationship, particularly within avenues of medical research and the use of technology as a bodily aid e.g. prosthetics. Melbourne-based artist Stelarc experiments with the limitations and capabilities of the human body when fused with technological mediums. One of his most notable works was the ‘Ear on Arm’ project, that involved the artist getting an ear surgically inserted into his forearm that was internet enabled, making it a publicly accessible acoustical organ for people in other places.

Stelarc has explained his reasoning behind such works: “It manifests both a desire to deconstruct our evolutionary architecture and to integrate microminiaturized electronics inside the body. We have evolved soft internal organs to better operate and interact with the world. Now we can engineer additional and external organs to better function in the technological and media terrain we now inhabit.”

With future-envisioned examples such as these, one must question the future of humanity and technology and whether it is true that technology has taken over not only our physical, but metaphysical and psychological makeup. With technology continually advancing, one must consider where to draw the line, and place certain boundaries between humans and technologies to prevent this takeover from taking place.

 

Stelarc 'Ear On Arm'

Stelarc ‘Ear On Arm’

Written by Harriet Wolstenholme

References:

Cranny-Francis, A. 2013, Technology and Touch: The Biopolitics of Emerging Technologies, Palgrave Macmillan, Australia

Stelarc, 2014, Ear On Arm: Engineering Internet Organ, Stelarc.org, viewed 20th August 2014, http://stelarc.org/?catID=20242

Stahl, B, ed. 2007, Issues and Trends in Technology and Human Interaction, Idea Group Inc, Calgary, Canada