guiding doc

last April 9th., 2010, we have had a Council-meeting on Home-Sense; the follow-up on the first meeting in Brussels. As preparation and general introduction I wrote the following text.

We can consider our immediate surroundings, sometimes called interior, our most important space. There we exist, in and from there we act, from there we communicate, in there we can and should feel free.
The proposed Internet of Things, as described in the EC-doc. dated September 2008, will have a significant influence on this environment, be it the private sphere or the more public.
If we consider the private sphere to be an important one, given the fact that man needs, besides Maslow’s first precondition, some privacy somewhere to ensure being able to act as a social entity, this still leaves the question on how to define, create and guard such an environment.
Nowadays we see many people withdraw in their homes, simply because of the basic need to feel protected, unwatched, free and ‘at home’ . As Peter Sloterdijk once said: ‘home is there to create habitation and triviality’ .
On the other hand home – in the classical sense – is no ‘ tabula rasa‘ : it contains history and memories, images, feelings. We keep remembering our former homes, especially the one(s) in which we grew up.

Based on technological progress we are able – and will be much more soon – to determine and shape our environment to our needs; which raises the question how to define our ‘homes’.
Some of the questions during the MIT-conference last December in Venice were:
• ‘will our phone be enough to feel at home?
• ‘can we live our lives in a distributed domestic space augmented with digital technology?’

All of this, I believe, requires two important guiding principles: trust and personalisation.
Trust in the fact that we can have a lasting influence on the (technological) possibilities to determine and guard our environment, be it our home or any other environment we regard a such; on a certain moment, in a certain space and place. Maybe here the classical term ‘genius loci’ will – if ever absent – return as paradigm, to act as guidance to determine the shape and amount of privacy we need.

So there we are: a world which, according to some, becomes more and more a world of surveillance, lack of privacy, increasing problems regarding basic human needs, social upheaval. If this implicates a withdrawal to the private sphere within our walls we might end up with the opposite of what we aim at: a world of mutual understanding and respect, openness to each other, freedom and social interaction, all based on trust.

Our build environment is one of the main prerequisites to ensure that the possibilities for creating a personalised environment are present. At the end 60’ties the Dutch artist and visionary Constant created New Babylon : based on the – afterwards to optimistic assumption – that man as a homo ludens did not have to work anymore and could feel free to be a creative nomad, living in huge superstructures above ground-level, taking up and shaping the space needed; to travel elsewhere when necessary and start all over again.
The social circumstances and settings required never became reality; the basic idea is still regarded as valuable and – part of it – timeless.