A proposal for a monastery of the 21st century
Remote contribution to the PARADOX conference: Paradox Seminar Weekend Event at Arcosanti, Arizona October 24-26, 1997
Published: d'Land e-culture, Luxembourg, 47 Jahrgang, 8 September 2000, p. 7.
Also published on the Internet in 1997.
1. There are fundamental misunderstandings relating to the development of new information technologies. First, those technologies are broadly perceived as a means to save labour-time, generate more economic value, and lead the world from a industrial society to a so-called "knowledge society" which is in fact purely market-driven and profit-maximising. The underlying assumption is that the revolution consists merely in a translation from analogue to digital form which will bring extraordinary economies of scale.
2. While everyone speaks of Multimedia, they inevitably treat these developments as if it were a one-stop phenomenon relating to a single medium. Computers, for example, are actually devices for linking a great number of modalities: typed to printed, oral to typed, typed to oral, etc. This helps explain why the rhetoric of the "paperless society" completely missed the mark.
3. A fundamental consequence of this multi-modality is that computers challenge us to do much more than simply translate from one medium to another. They require a complete reassesment of interpretation in all its forms. Giving individuals power to express their own position means an extraordinary increase in the number of positions and new needs to establish criteria for distinguishing between these positions. The rhetoric speaks of computers in terms of quantity (number of GBytes etc.), while the new area of study is actually in terms of quality. We need electronic equivalents for authenticity, reliability, excellence. This means more work, not less work.