27 October 2007

The future of presence

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Movement
The Dott07 festival, curated by John Thackara, and taking place in the English city of NewcastleGateshead, is now in its last few days. One of the events was a series of debates on a variety of topics, such as energy, food, health, movement, and schools.

The debate on movement started from the assumption that the movement of people and goods around the world consume vast amounts of matter, energy, space, and time – most of it non-renewable. Question that arise are: Should sustainable development therefore be concentrated in cities, where economic progress can most feasibly be de-coupled from transport intensity? Or are there ways to ensure that rural communities have access to services by using transport resources more smartly? And could new forms of sustainable tourism be enabled by access to territorial and cultural assets that already exist?

The session began with a keynote from Anthony Townsend, research director at the Institute of the Future in Palo Alto, California, who has now posted his entire presentation online.

“What I want to talk about is not the future of mobility but rather, the future of presence. By ‘presence’ what I mean, is that if movement or travel is a means – then presence is the end. And so I want to broaden the discussion of mobility to include technologies and practices of telecommunication – ways of being “present” at remote locations.”

Townsend believes in the future of virtual worlds, telerobotics, and high-definition videoconferencing. But does presence really always require such high-end technologies?

Townsend’s talk was followed by a review of Dott 07’s Move Me project, which explored the potential to transform transportation resource efficiency in one village, Scremerston, in Northumberland, and by a review of three Dott 07 projects – Sustainable Tourism, Welcomes and Mapping the Necklace.

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