Visualization Technology Enabling Integrative Conference Comprehension
TRANSCEND MEMBERS, 4 Jun 2018
Global Articulation of Future-Oriented Technology Analysis
Prepared on the occasion of the International Conference on Future-Oriented Technology Analysis (FTA2018): future in the making of the European Commission Joint Research Centre (Brussels, 2018)
1 Jun 2018 – Much is made of the future role of technology and artificial intelligence, especially in their relation to the evolution of the internet. Far less is made of their role in the organization of knowledge and, more particularly, in enabling higher degrees of comprehension — whether “globally” in the sense of world-wide, or “globally” in a more integrative sense, as distinguished separately (Future Generation through Global Conversation in quest of collective well-being through conversation in the present moment, 1997).
The question here is how the envisaged developments in visualization technology might be relevant to integrative comprehension of a future-oriented conference with an emphasis on technology. More specifically this gives focus to the question of whether the thematic preoccupations of the conference are applied to any degree in the dynamics of the conference itself. In that sense there is a case for understanding the FTA conference title otherwise, namely as assessing the technology enabling the future within a conference. This highlights the question as to whether presentations made are relevant to the enhancement of the dynamics of the event itself rather than hypothetically to those of wider society. However it is not a binary question of either/or but rather of both/and.
This question has been explored in a critical review of the programme of a conference similar to the FTA2018 event, namely the 1st International Conference on Internet Science (Internyet Nescience? Self-referential upgrading of obsolete Internet conference processes inhibiting emergence of integrative knowledge, 2013). This was held under the aegis of the European Commission, by the EINS project, the FP7 European Network of Excellence in Internet Science. The method of that review is applied here to the FTA2018 programme, prior to exploring new visualization possibilities.
The technologies of relevance to in-conference thematic visualization continue to evolve rapidly. Decision-making environments, notably of the European Commission, now tend to be internet enabled, with shared screens for plenary discussion and individual screens for participants (whether or not they use their own wifi-enabled devices). Interactive screen content may be disseminated to other locations. Preceding applications to in-conference visualization are discussed separately (Polyhedral Conference Representation as a Catalyst for Innovation: polyhedral animation of IPRA 2008, 2008; Complementary Knowledge Analysis / Mapping Process, 2006). The question of how themes may be appropriately “interwoven” is also discussed separately (Interweaving Thematic Threads and Learning Pathways, 2010).
Especially striking, despite such possibilities, is the marked tendency to portray conference programmes as nested checklists, or possibly a matrix of tracks, with little consideration of how this constrains and inhibits integrative comprehension — despite the ease with which they can be printed. This is even more noteworthy in the light of the widespread interest in the Triple Helix thesis (as a focus of the Triple Helix Research Group of Stanford University) regarding the potential for innovation and economic development in a knowledge society. This is framed by the Triple Helix Association in terms of a more prominent role for the university and in the hybridisation of elements from university, industry and government to generate new institutional and social formats for the production, transfer and application of knowledge. With its inherent 3D implications, it is of interest with respect to related FTA themes.
Arguments are now being made to extend the Triple Helix concept to Quadruple and Quintuples forms ( (Systemic closure: fourth helix — and beyond? 2017; (Elias Carayannis and D. F. Campbell, Triple Helix, Quadruple Helix and Quintuple Helix and how do knowledge, innovation and the environment relate to each other? International Journal of Social Ecology and Sustainable Development, 1, 2010, 1, pp. 41-69). At the same time much is being made of augmented reality and virtual reality technology and its implications. There is therefore a strong case for exploring how 3D variants of thematic structures can be displayed and comprehended — potentially with the use of virtual reality technology, as previously argued (Cognitive Osmosis in a Knowledge-based Civilization, 2017). Just as personal computer screens were held to be ridiculous in conferences a decade ago, an equivalent lag may come become evident with respect to augmented reality and virtual reality displays in a conference environment.
Such points are of some relevance in the light of the highly critical assessment by the media of the hearing process of the European Parliament with regard to Facebook, marked by the promises/apologies of Mark Zuckerberg at that time concerning the remedial future use of artificial intelligence (30 Questions that Facebook has yet to Answer, 2018). The review of that process included illustrative visualizations which might have been used (Democratic intelligence vs Artificial intelligence, 2018). A similar argument was developed in a critical review of the recent report to the Club of Rome (Exhortation to We the Peoples from the Club of Rome, 2018). Illustrative visualizations and animations were included in arguing Towards a higher order of coherent global strategic organization and Towards a geometry of systemic thinking and its symbolism.
The evident bias against such visualization contrasts with the early argument in 1968 of the political scientist Harold Lasswell (The transition toward more sophisticated procedures):.
Why do we put so much emphasis on audio-visual means of portraying goal, trend, condition, projection, and alternative? Partly because so many valuable participants in decision-making have dramatizing imaginations…They are not enamoured of numbers or of analytic abstractions. They are at their best in deliberations that encourage contextuality by a varied repertory of means, and where an immediate sense of time, space, and figure is retained. (In: Davis B. Bobrow and J. L. Schinartz (Ed.). Computers and the Policy-making Community; applications to international relations. Prentice-Hall, 1968, p. 307-314)
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