Tracing Today's Footprint on the Future

Making connections as we do on the Internet for example, may not necessarily be the same as being witness to each other. The speed and scale of digital technology create an abundance of data and communication as never before. When not sharing time or space, when not having the possibility to physically touch and intervene, can we be witness to each other? And how does the abundance of media and data affect what we do here and now? How is it that we are witness to each other in a networked world? How do social structures change?

Since the 1980’s in Paradiso in Amsterdam and in a variety of other contexts ‘networked events’ are being orchestrated in which on-and off line audiences participate and engage. Social groups, government officials, hackers, scientists, business people, political activists and artists participate and explore how new technologies may contribute to make a better – more human, more just and more sustainable – world. The contribution of artists in these events is often unique. Unlike others they are capable of sketching today’s footprint on the future. Because artists engage with a feeling and deeper knowing in the place and time in which they live, they are sensitive to the traces we make today that set the scene for tomorrow.

Human experience in building and maintaining infrastructures, including immaterial infrastructures such as a judicial system or a market place, has been built for centuries. The ubiquitous presence of media and social networks around the globe is only a decade old. Nevertheless, essential qualities of these networks are already part of human experience. This artistic research aims to unfold issues we need to take into consideration when designing participatory systems that facilitate witnessing in their core. In this book 13 artists respond to the question ‘What happens when one is witness to the other?’ by making art work and reflecting upon it. Each contribution offers a different perspective. Some artists specifically address the networked world; others address today’s human condition.

The YUPTA framework, acronym for “being with You in Unity of Time, Place and Action”, has and is guiding the artistic research of Witnessing You and the larger research program on Participatory Systems at Delft University of Technology. When presence and trust are at stake, as they are in the emerging network society, not only time and place acquire new configurations, also the way we relate to each other and the possibilities to act we have, change. With the artists each of these dimensions has and is being explored. Specific contributions shed light on the 4 dimensions of change in time, place, action and relation, providing more insight in the factors involved.