Eric Kluitenberg public lecture “Returning to Earth. Beyond the Network Society: A Plea for Ecological Design”

The Institute of Art History open lectures series Space, Media, Mediation will continue on Friday, April 17th at 5PM with the lecture of Eric Kluitenberg. The lecture entitled Returning to Earth. Beyong the Network Society: A Plea for Ecological Design will take place at the hall of the Academy of Sciences (6 Kohtu St).

This talk will start locally: In the initial series of Interstanding conferences in Tallinn (1995-’99), organised under the banner ‘understanding interactivity’, our focus was on questions how Estonia would absorb being thrown overnight into the new (global) context of the information and network society, while still hovering ambivalently in-between the break up of Soviet Union and the entry into the European Union. The Interstanding series, initiated in 1995 by Ando Keskküla took the new networked frontier of the internet as its horizon and questioned what this new ‘expanded field’ meant for culture, politics, civic society, and of course art and design, locally right here in Tallinn / Estonia, but also internationally, across the borders that the internet seemed to evaporate so easily.

It would be an understatement to say that Estonia has true and well ‘arrived in the network society’. It is today one of the most densely networked countries on the planet, a remarkable feat for a small country that had to absorb such radical political, social, and economic changes after becoming independent again. However, once again we are faced (collectively) with a drastic change of context, a shift in our understanding of how we relate to each other, to our resources, to our environment. This new context is constituted by the expanding ecological crisis, which is no local, regional or even European matter. In his most recent work and lectures science and political philosopher Bruno Latour implores upon us that we have to face ‘earth’, as the crisis now unfolds on a planetary scale, and we cannot extricate ourselves from it. The dreams of an exodus into space are over, they have been proven an unrealisable fantasy. We have to, as it were, ‘return to earth’ and reconsider our relations with this planet if we, as a species (and many other species along with us), are still to have a minute chance of making it, of surviving.

In this talk I will make a plea that is directed at artists and designers in particular – not the ones usually addressed in discussions of ecological politics – for an active engagement into the question of ecological design. To make this plea, however, I first need to redefine these two words (‘ecology’ and ‘design) from the ground up. To do this I will draw on the expanded concept of ‘ecology’ as proposed by philosopher, psycho-analyst and activist, Félix Guattari and his model of the three ecological registers: the material environment, the social relations, and subjective experience. Then I will address this plea for an ecological design not just to humans, but also to non-humans, building on Latour’s ideas on the ‘Politics of Nature’.

Once we thus better understand our place on this planet it can become possible to start thinking about how as artists, designers, theorist and activists we can engage the urgent questions of ecological design.


Eric Kluitenberg is an independent theorist, writer, and educator, working at the intersection of culture, politics, media, and technology. He was head of the media and technology program of De Balie, Centre for Culture and Politics in Amsterdam (1999 – 2011), and taught theory of interactive media and technological culture for a variety of academic institutions, including the University of Amsterdam, the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences, Academy Minerva Postgraduate Studies in Groningen, and was a scientific staff member of the Academy of Media Arts Cologne. Currently he teaches media and cultural theory at the Art Science Interfaculty in The Hague.

In 2013 he was a research fellow at the Institute of Network Cultures, Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences.

Publications include The Book of Imaginary Media (2006), Delusive Spaces – essays (2008), the theme issues of Open, Journal for Art and the Public Domain, Hybrid Space (2006), and (Im)Mobility (2011), Legacies of Tactical Media (2011), and Techno Ecologies (2012).

Currently works on the preparation of an international anthology on Tactical Media co-edited with David Garcia, to be published by MIT Press in 2016.

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Posted by Ingrid Ruudi