Introduction: Didacticism has been embraced by eco artists with the passion of past artists who adopted Romanticism or Impressionism. Unlike these historic approaches, the new Didacticism is ideally suited to documenting the severity of environmental conditions, exposing the perpetrators of environmental offenses, or transmitting strategies to resolve them. While utopia may not appear on didactic agendas, striving for improvement does. Toward this end such artists offer statistical evidence, or strategic designs, or tactical interventions to benefit ecosystems and their diverse populations. Such tasks are not suited to soulful explorations (Romanticism) or spontaneous observations (Impressionism). They require rigorous research.
In early 2012 Superflux developed the concept for a project that epitomizes these characteristics of didactic eco art. "The Internet of Things Academy" (IoTA) is part of Sony’s Futurescapes project. SUPERFLEX is collaborating with the Forum for the Future to facilitate the generation and exchange of new information. The artists explain the unique feature of this initiative, "Much as different plug sockets or memory cards can make life difficult, a wide range of proprietary 'makes' of hardware and software are often an obstacle to creativity. We envisaged IoTA as an updating of the 20th-century telephone switchboard, enabling end-users to link different products and components, creating systems that better suit their needs."
The project will accommodate different types of users – from those with no experience to advanced 'hackers'.
The artists explain, "As part of our design process, we are conducting a series of iterative tests and small-scale experiments, to understand how various users will use the site. ...As the user starts a new project, and adds information about what they want to make / build, we are exploring ways in which it might be possible/useful to nudge them to think about not just what they want to build, but why they want to do it, and what change will result from that project."
Thus, people with no professional credentials are encouraged to participate in a design process and become agents of change at a global scale.
Why is this initiative so timely? It is estimated that by 2020, there will be more then 50 billion connected devices, adding to the 2.5 quintillion bytes of data we are already producing daily today. There are 16 billion photos on Instagram, 350 million photos areuploaded on Facebook daily, 100 hours of video uploaded YouTube every minute. And thats just from digital data, not the connected deivces we envision forming the IoT world: tables, chairs, bikes, and bridges or even cows, cats and dogs.
SUPERFLEX responded to these projections by commenting, “All this explosion in data has meant that we are witnessing an abundance of data spectatorship, and a lack of understanding of how to turn data into knowledge we can think with. And use. That lack of understanding makes us weak and vulnerable. Essentially powerless to a certain vision of the future.” IoTA will facilitate how the public makes data, builds hypothesis, and utilizes this information.
For example, suppose a farmer in the Southeast of England wants to monitor the acidity and moisture levels of his soil. A regular IoTA user helps him build this device and writes the code. The farmer then takes the data from the new device and shares it with other farmers around the world.
Here’s a film showing early sketches of this web platform.