ZER01NE in Future Innovators Summit (Ars Electronica Festival 2018)


“What is humanity, basically? What becomes lost between humans and post-humans due to changes in technology? Could humans create perfection? How many errors does a language make? Could we reach a perfect conversation? We will rely more on technologies that could make us lose our humanity, while technologies are replacing many areas that used to be in charge of humans and machines sometimes become part of our body or mind—the question started from this point.”

ZER01NE creators Cho Hoyoung, Hwang Moonjung, Park Seungsoon, and Choi Youngjun participated in the “Future Innovators Summit (FIS)” held from September 6 to 9, 2018, at Ars Electronica Festival 2018. FIS is a community and forum that, since starting as an experiment in 2014, has invited experts from various areas such as young entrepreneurs, social workers, engineers, scientists, philosophers, anthropologists, psychoanalysts, artists, and designers to gather in the same place to share inspirations and experiences while exchanging creative questions beyond the boundaries between each area. This year’s FIS induced collective brainstorming on the subject of the festival, “Error—the Art of Imperfection”, and observed and recorded the process of interaction between the participants. Creator Cho Hoyoung told us a detailed on-the-spot report about FIS.

Q. How come four ZER01NE creators participated in FIS?
A. We received a suggestion from the Ars Electronica to participate in the event last June at ‘POST-CITY LAB/Seoul’, a workshop co-planned by ZER01NE and Ars Electronica. Personally, I had a good time joining the 2016 festival as a viewer. It was a special experience for me to be invited as a member of the discussion panel for this year’s FIS.

Q. We would like to know if there is a connection between Ars Electronica Festival and how FIS is run.
A. In this year’s FIS, 24 participants were divided into four groups (Future Humanity A/B, Future Dignity, and Future Sharing) and exchanged each other’s opinions and experiences on a subject for each group for four days. After viewing Ars Electronica exhibitions, each of us personally selected the most attractive work and expanded thoughts while searching for the connections between trigger questions on humanity suggested by FIS. Afterwards, we respectively made creative questions on the subject or new questions as a group to help us imagine about the future. On the last day, the groups tried to communicate with the public at the Final Presentation run by each group in each distinguishing way.

Q. What kind of people joined Future Humanity, the group you were in?
A. Matt Kemp, who develops a new treatment for premature babies, Mark Bolitin, a media artist and co-creator of an art technology company, Saar Szekely, a Hungarian-Israeli artist from Hungary and Israel planning social experiments along with performances and plays, Magdalena, a designer and a Google Academy scholar, and Illya Szilak, a writer and an interactive storyteller consisted the group. Naho Sugimoto set the directions for the discussion as a facilitator designated for our group, and UN official and humanitarian and refugee expert Kilian Kleinschmidt joined us as our mentor.

Q. It seemed that, when machines can have a deeper thought than that of humans, the concept of an error could be used as a method for defining humanity. The questions on humanity and errors discussed at FIS seem particularly interesting.
A. The question our group suggested on the main subject “humanity and errors” was, “If we could create the perfect form of communication, what would the world look like?” We set the human characteristic that each individual feels different about the same experience or conversation as an error and proposed an arbitrary answer to the question that what a perfect conversation would be. We compared the world to an orchestra, which seemed to look alike in a way that an orchestra plays the same scales but the sound of each instrument is subtly different and that it forms a harmony as a whole. Perfection is not a single concept defined in one way; it is rather an assemblage of diversity and differences. The error we defined is only a part of countless options perfection can be; it is just a collective concept of things not yet received by the human logic system (not verbalized). I think errors are defined by humanity. I personally ask questions to myself such as, “Aren’t errors the ones defining perfection?”, “Could it be that an error is a group of the cases of perfection rather than a case consisting perfection?”

Q. What was most impressive to you at this year’s FIS and Ars Electronica Festival?
A. The way the exhibition spaces of the festival were planned. The works and spaces were perfectly planned for each zone to allow the viewers to immerse themselves more deeply, with the high illuminance and open spaces controlled to a certain appropriate extent for inducing many people and for them to move around easily. I also felt the limitation in the depth of my expressions due to my poor English skills. I briefly thought if it was an error that I was there to participate in the event. However, I actively shared my experiences and thoughts by using sample expressions and felt great about playing the role of bringing out empathy and questions from many people in the process.

Q. It seems that this experience has influenced your own work in whatever way. What would be your impressions of having participated in the event?
A. I have many regrets, since it all happened in a short time. FIS gave me an opportunity to share various opinions through brainstorming about the subject and to ask many questions about my personal works. I faced unexpected meetings and experiences along with new possibilities, which I think could change my inner thoughts and the direction of my work in a subtle way.