The 26th Biennial of Design in Ljubljana, BIO 26 – Common Knowledge, focuses on interrelations between the multidimensional information crisis and citizenship, and it explores the role and potential of contemporary design in the shaping of knowledge and truth, and in the recalibration of our Infosphere.
The current debate on “fake news” and the growing overload of data and information that is accessible at any instant and is spread by both people and bots alike is challenging the ways we perceive, process, and understand reality, ultimately shaking our trust in information itself.
How and where do we receive our knowledge? Which sources do we trust? How can we be sure of the information we use to build our store of knowledge? Although we have access to more information than any generation before, we are increasingly challenged in our effort to make well-informed decisions. In today’s knowledge society, we have to deal with manipulated news and alternative facts. Citizenship and governance both appear to have been shaken to their very foundations in this post-truth era.
Data smog, infobesity, infoxication, and information glut are all fitting metaphors that describe the avalanche of information we experience on a daily basis. Information overload occurs when the amount of input into a system exceeds its processing capacity. This infoglut confuses people and makes it harder for them to agree on “common knowledge.” That makes healthy debate difficult and destabilizes our sense of trust. The fading of traditional news media outlets coupled with the proliferation of social media information bubbles only serve to exacerbate the problem.
The Future of Truth and Misinformation Online, a report from the Pew Research Center released in 2017, highlights several problems and concerns that experts identified related to trust, facts, and democracy. Among them is the fact that information overload crushes people’s attention spans. Their coping mechanism consists in turning to entertainment or other similar lighter fare. Quality, credible journalism has been decimated due to tectonic shifts in the attention economy. These factors and others make it difficult for many people in the digital age to create and share the type of “common knowledge” that supports better, more responsive policy. A lack of commonly shared knowledge leads many in society to doubt the reliability of everything, causing them to simply drop out of the civic participation process, further depleting the number of active, informed citizens.
The notion of “common knowledge” is ambiguous and highly contingent on context. It relates and refers to what people know and what other people know; more broadly, it refers to what people think and how they structure their ideas, feelings, and beliefs. Furthermore, the term “common knowledge” carries a sense of communal or shared knowledge.
There are enormous implications involved. How do we form and build relationships of trust out of the information and knowledge we receive, the relationships that serve as the building blocks that shape our view of the world? How do we act as responsible citizens and how might we safeguard democracy? What is truth? What is a fact? Who gets to decide? And can people agree to trust something like a “common knowledge” that they can share and act on?
These questions predate the digital era. In 1938, the science fiction writer H. G. Wells imagined a “World Brain” that he called the “Permanent World Encyclopaedia.” His vision was to create a knowledge system that would be free and accessible to all and would contain all of humanity’s intelligence. With his utopian ideas, he believed that common access to the same facts and information could help citizens everywhere make better decisions and avoid conflicts based on a universal information resource. Today, Wikipedia and the internet as a whole could be seen as a tangible manifestation of his predictive vision—but, contrary to his hopes and convictions, we are far from world peace.
Under these circumstances, designers can be called upon to offer insights and provide positive change to help us navigate these troubled waters. At its best, design serves as an interface between complex, incomprehensible systems and structures and us, making them accessible, legible, and usable.
The information crisis is sweeping and systemic, even historic, and will certainly require a collaborative effort by and from multi-disciplinary agents and professions at all levels of society—from government to industry to the citizenry. Interdisciplinary by nature, design can offer creativity and strategies, and serve as an interpreter and translator within a range of complex contexts.
BIO 26 – Common Knowledge will be organized around a central exhibition of already existing projects that will be presented at MAO, and six major commissioned experimental projects by multidisciplinary teams selected through a designathon process. These will be displayed at and with partnering institutions central to knowledge production and dissemination, such as a museum, library, university, and news and media organization, as well as a botanical garden, retirement home, and similar.
Working with content, structures, and stakeholders, the 26th Biennial of Design in Ljubljana, BIO 26 – Common Knowledge, hopes to find ways, unearth projects, and explore concepts and systems that can serve to turn this disruptive chaos in and of information into creative knowledge clusters.
Aleš Pustovrh received his PhD in open innovation in 2014 at the University of Ljubljana, Slovenia. He studies new forms of innovation, emerging innovation systems, and business models connected to them at this university. His activities are not limited to academic research on the topic because he is also systematically working with startup companies and large corporations trying to achieve accelerated growth. As such, he is one of the founders of the ABC venture accelerator and a partner at a venture capital fund. In both his academic and other activities, he remains closely connected to southeast, eastern, and central Europe, using these diverse environments and experiences as inputs for his research. With this focus, he has collaborated with several institutions from these regions, including the University of Trieste, Italy, where he worked for eighteen months.
Amelie Klein is a curator at the Vitra Design Museum in Weil am Rhein, Germany, where most recently she opened the international traveling exhibition “Victor Papanek: The Politics of Design.” Her previous international exhibitions include “Hello, Robot. Design between Human and Machine” and “Making Africa—A Continent of Contemporary Design.” Klein was nominated twice for the Art Magazine Curator Prize, an award granted for the best exhibitions in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. She completed a master’s degree in design criticism at New York’s School of Visual Arts as well as an MBA at the Vienna University of Economics and Business, Austria. She was the design editor for the Austrian daily newspaper Die Presse in Vienna and deputy editor-in-chief of its weekly supplement Schaufenster. Her writing has also appeared in publications such as Metropolis, Abitare, Domus online, and Stylepark.
Deyan Sudjic is the director of the Design Museum in London. His career has spanned journalism, teaching, and writing. Deyan was director of Glasgow UK City of Architecture 1999, and in 2002 he was director of the Venice Architecture Biennale. He was editor of Domus Magazine from 2000 to 2004, and was the founding editor of Blueprint Magazine from 1983 to 1996. Deyan has published many books on design and architecture, including The Edifice Complex (Penguin, 2006), The Language of Things (Penguin, 2008), Norman Foster: A Life in Architecture (Orion, 2010), Shiro Kuramata (Phaidon, 2013), B Is for Bauhaus (Penguin 2014), and Ettore Sottsass, the Poetry of Things (Phaidon 2015). His most recent book, The Language of Cities, was published by Penguin in October 2016. Deyan was awarded the Order of the British Empire in 2000.
Johnny Golding is a professor of philosophy and fine art, and a senior research tutor at the Royal College of Art, London. Golding’s work situates post-Newtonian analytics, new materialisms, and the erotics of sense as “radical matter,” a practice-led encounter with contemporary philosophy, art, and the wild sciences. She heads the doctoral research group Entanglement, an intensive PhD environment including twenty-one PhD researchers; she leads it together with the artist Emma Talbot, and last year led it with the artist Aura Satz. Golding’s latest works include: Entanglement: The Opera (RCA, January 2019), The Photograph of Thought (2019), Friendship (EUP, 2018), and Of the Thick and the Raw: Cannibalising the 21st Century (OAR, Oxford, 2018). Her recent texts and poetic-philosophic installations have been exhibited at the Venice Biennale and in Vienna, Bogotá, and Berlin.
Maja Vardjan has been a curator at Museum of Architecture and Design in Ljubljana since January 2013. Following her time as creative director of the gallery T5 Project Space and the architecture editor of the magazine Ambient, she now curates exhibitions in architecture and design. These have included Silent Revolutions: Contemporary Design in Slovenia (2011–2015), Under the Common Roof: Modern Public Buildings from the Museum’s Collection and Other Archives (2013), Saša J. Mächtig: Systems, Structures, Strategies (2015), and Stanko Kristl. Humanity and Space (2017). Since 2013, she has been actively involved in the transformation of the Ljubljana Biennial of Design, which is today conceived as a production platform for new approaches in design. She co-curated BIO 50: 3, 2, 1 . . . TEST (2014) and Faraway, So Close, the biennial’s twenty-fifth edition, for which she received the ICOM Slovenia award.
BIO – The Biennial of Design in Ljubljana is organised by the Museum of Architecture and Design (MAO), and is an international platform for new approaches in design. BIO was founded in 1963, making it the first design biennial in Europe. Witnessing the many shifts and changes of the last 56 years, BIO has seen design transition from its birth at the crossroads of industrialization and modernism to a discipline that permeates all layers of life and human endeavour. Today, BIO is structured as a long-term collaborative process, where teams of designers and multidisciplinary agents develop alternatives to established systems. BIO works as a testing ground, where design is employed as a tool to question and improve our daily life, among different and multidisciplinary design approaches that touch systems, production, services, scientific research, humanistic issues, unexpected conditions for the production of our habitat. The diverse array of topics resonates with both local and global demands, with comprehensive projects aimed at creating resilient structures that develop over time, beyond the duration of the Biennial.
BIO is organized by Museum of Architecture and Design (MAO) in cooperation with the Centre for Creativity, at the Museum of Architecture and Design. The project ‘Centre for Creativity’ is co-financed by the Republic of Slovenia and European Union from the European Regional Development Fund within the European Cohesion Policy for the 2014-2020 period.
Matevž Čelik, Director of Museum of Architecture and Design
Maja Šuštaršič, Head of Biennial of Design
Anja Zorko, Head of Centre for Creativity
Saša Štefe, Assistant to the Head of Biennial of Design
Alenka Klun, Public Relations
Nataša Celec, Marketing
Nikola Pongrac, Exhibition Coordinator
Natalija Lapajne, Educational Activities
Matjaž Rozina, Tadej Golob, Technical Realisation
Nikola Brajnik, Alenka Drobnjak, Maruša Kuret, Barbara Mlinarec, Katarina Nahtigal, Urška Špeh, Nuša Zupanc, Assistants
BIO 26 - Common Knowledge
Thomas Geisler, Curator
Aline Lara Rezende, Assistant Curator
Dušan Janković, Designathon Consultant and Host
Mojca Mihailovič-Škrinjar, design business consultant, Head of Processes
Bojan M. Ažman, Zavod Neuropolis, Web and Social Media Manager
Ljudje, Visual Identity
Klemen Ilovar, Janez Klenovšek Photos
Janez Škrabec, CEO, Chairman of BIO Organising Committee, Director Riko
Zdravko Počivalšek, Minister, Ministry of Economic Development and Technology
Dr. Miro Cerar, Minister, Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Prof. Janez Koželj, Deputy Mayor, Municipality of Ljubljana
Peter Čas, General Manager, Steklarna Hrastnik
Andrej Slapar, President of the Management Board, Zavarovalnica Triglav
Lucija Močnik Ramovš, Dean of the Academy of Fine Arts and Design, University of Ljubljana
Boštjan Botas Kenda, Vice-Rector of the University of Ljubljana for work in the field of art, University of Ljubljana
Mag. Franjo Bobinac, President of the Management Board, Gorenje, Gorenje Group
Julijan Fortunat, President of the Management Board, Salonit Anhovo
Mag. Lilijana Madjar, Director, Regional Development Agency of the Ljubljana Urban Region
Mag. Petra Stušek, Director, Ljubljana Tourism
Mag. Tomaž Berločnik, President of the Management Board, Petrol
Marko Kolbl, Director, Europlakat
Medeja Lončar, Director, Siemens Slovenija
Stojan Petrič, Kolektor Group