Life in the Digital Age

Is your life better or worse (or both?) thanks to the Internet? How’s your relationship with your smartphone? What degree of intimacy have you reached with your tablet? If you woke up tomorrow in a world with no Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube, or Google, would you feel despair, elation, indifference, or all of the above? And (you can tell us, it’s okay) when’s the last time you texted while driving?

“I fear that we are beginning to design ourselves to suit digital models of us, and I worry about a leaching of empathy and humanity in that process,” writes virtual reality pioneer Jaron Lanier, who has become a vocal critic of the digital culture he helped create.  During the museum’s program Prophets of the Digital Age: Jaron Lanier, Clive Thompson, and Michael Chabon in Conversation with Kurt Andersen, Lanier discusses his change of heart in a provocative dialogue with the ardently pro-digital Clive Thompson, author and Wired magazine columnist, who had his own conversion from Internet skeptic to supporter, and Michael Chabon, Pulitzer Prize–winning novelist, who is both pro-technology and a committed nostalgist. The conversation is facilitated by novelist and radio host Kurt Andersen.

Prophets of the Digital Age is co-presented by The Wolfsonian and Intelligence Squared London and takes place at Pérez Art Museum Miami on Saturday, March 22 at 7pm. The free program (advance registration required) is part of Power of Design 2014: Complaints, a multi-day, multidisciplinary ideas festival organized by The Wolfsonian in partnership with WLRN and The Miami Herald Media Company.

This is the inaugural year for Power of Design, which comprises approximately twenty events and related happenings March 20–23. Power of Design includes moderated discussions, talks, performances, exhibitions, and more, along with satellite programming by collaborators. The majority of events are at The Wolfsonian. Among the many highlights are a talk by political humorist Andy Borowitz; a panel on cities with Brazilian architect Jaime Lerner, local star Andrés Duany, and others; panels on air travel and watchdog journalism; a hands-on program for children led by designer Todd Oldham; and a complaints choir featuring FIU students. In addition, The Wolfsonian is awarding a $25,000 grant to a local not-for-profit organization to solve a local problem (see the article on Solve This Miami! in this issue).

Complementing these events, there is a robust online component to Power of Design, including an open forum digital complaints/solutions tool on the festival’s website. The poster exhibition, Complaints! An Inalienable Right, curated by Steven Heller, appears as a daily poster on the festival’s blog, and will be on view at The Wolfsonian beginning March 20. Additionally, the Power of Design Complaints Line at 305.535.2633 exists for anyone who wants to call in a complaint…so what are you waiting for?

Organizations creating programming in conjunction with Power of Design include the Spanish Cultural Center, which has organized an entire season around the theme of complaints—its MicroTheater Miami initiative presents original short works in English and Spanish February 27–March 30. Along those lines, Miami Beach Cinematheque is screening films related to the notion of complaints during the weekend of Power of Design.

“Power of Design is not intended to celebrate complaining, but instead to look at where complaining can lead us—our approach to the theme has been to turn it around, and create a solutions think tank,” explains Cathy Leff, The Wolfsonian’s director.

Tickets for Power of Design are $1,000 for the full weekend; in addition to the dialogue, selected events are free and open to the public. Advance registration is required to attend Prophets of the Digital Age.

Power of Design 2014 is conceived, curated, and presented by The Wolfsonian–FIU, in partnership with WLRN and The Miami Herald Media Company. Sponsors include the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, an anonymous donor, Northern Trust, and Terra Group and its president and CEO, David Martin. Generous collaborative support is provided by Intelligence Squared London; FIU School of Architecture; FIU School of Music; FIU Honors College; Centro Cultural Español; and Miami Beach Cinematheque. Fontainebleau Miami Beach is the official hotel. Prophets of the Digital Age hosting provided by Pérez Art Museum Miami.


Captions (click below to enlarge):

Jaron Lanier
Photo: Lena Lanier

Clive Thompson
Photo: Catalina Kulczar

Michael Chabon
Photo: Ulf Andersen – Getty Images

Kurt Andersen
Photo: Thomas Hart Shelby

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Life in the Digital Age
Life in the Digital Age
Life in the Digital Age
Life in the Digital Age