The last week of February Parsons Paris students and faculty engaged in a week-long collaboration with students at Sciences Po’s Programme d’Expérimentation en Arts et Politique (SPEAP). As part of SPEAP’s year long “Make It Work” initiative, students, advised by professor and renowned French philosopher, Bruno Latour, are developing initiatives to highlight COP 21, the upcoming International Climate Summit in Paris this fall. Latour set the parameters for a co-operation between SPEAP and Parsons Paris at his lecture.
SPEAP is organizing an international Theater of Negotiations, a mock conference or negotiation simulation will take place in May, six months prior to the actual COP. SPEAP will invite students from 40 different countries, to explore climate change issues by looking at how we define negotiation itself; so thematics such as: What is a territory? What kinds of currencies could be used to effectuate change? Or how to communicate–visual and sound–were to be studied at the Parsons Paris workshop.
Strategic Design & Management Director Kakee Scott spoke to all the students about on The Commons, a themactic explored at Parsons Paris last fall, as well as new ways of seeing resources and the idea of ‘hidden work’. Benjamin Gaulon, Director of BFA Art, Media & Technology and MFA Design + Technology, and AMT faculty member Chris Sugrue presented on design technology tools looking to Critical Engineering and Interactive Systems. Director of Trans-curricular Strategies, Bridget O’Rourke collaborated throughout the week and presented on unexpected outcomes and synergies resulting from our specific collaborative process. Donato Ricci, faculty member at both Parsons Paris and Sciences Po, acted as primary coordinator for the collaboration and ongoing facilitator. Intriguing possibilities emerged as well as a good deal of debate over the various models. As the week developed, participants had a peek into SPEAP’s process, through a series of negotiations, with all the dynamics and challenges of reaching a consensus on charged issues.
Day 1: Setting the stage
The week began with an overview of the 25 year history and current state of climate negotiations from insider, Francois Gemenne. Gemenne spoke to the roles played by the personalities and personal relationships of participants, different styles of coordination, secretive and exclusionary practices, and a loss of urgency, in frustrating the negotiation process.
Presenting an alternative to this type of negotiation, artist and activist, Jonas Staal, presented his project, New World Summit, which gathers disparate bodies of people to give voice to “offstage,” unrepresented and undocumented people. Attempting to bring in some of the most marginalized groups, those marked as “terrorist” are invited and included, a response to the undemocratic, opaque agenda of war on terror.
Day 2: Design workshops
Design workshops began with physical movement alongside each other, seeking how to see and move “in-between” spaces with dancer Myriam Lefkowitz. This was followed by idea dominos where every participant considered an important element to the negotiations and played dominos to mix and match their ideas and strategies.
Day two also included a visit to the site, Théâtre Nanterre-Amandiers, where the event will occur, for context mapping, individual group ideation, feedback and concept development.
Day 3-5: Breakout groups
For the remainder of the week SPEAP and Parsons Paris students worked in small groups to explore key ideas and themes such as what would a survival kit look like? How to use signage? should we have visuals and sound keys? Can you negotiate in time rather than currencies?
Students wrapped up their works in progress and created final presentations integrating the purpose and intentions of their projects, their development process, and the various elements of the systems proposed. Experiential and material prototypes were presented in concert. A final discussion addressed what they had learned through the collaborative design activities and through prototyping approaches that could carry through to the ongoing program.
Our group – Elwyn Crawford, Jozef Soloff, and Robin de Mourat – addressed the notion of currency, and through the course of the week designed a method and infrastructure for modeling critical economic pressures within the conference, (including lobbying, investment and speculation) through the case value of Time. Our aim was to engage the public audience in the negotiation simulations, while both aggravating and democratizing the staged proceedings.
Within this Time based currency, the public and delegates would exchange and invest time to be “spent” during negotiations. Delegates enter with a bank of time with which to speak and negotiate. It must be used prudently, for they are dependent on the audience for investment, or influxes of time. The value of time would inflate the negotiations as they progressed towards the end, and along the way it would also fluctuate depending on the confidence that a resolution would be reached. If no resolution was eminent, then the value could inflate exponentially. Pooling realtime confidence opened up possibilities for live feedback and chronological modeling.
Interactive data visualization coded in Java in the Processing Environment by Elwyn Crawford (MFA D+T 2016), Grégoire Benzakin (SPEAP), and Robin (Paris Media Lab). The value of the time currency emanates from the center, time progresses through the four day negotiations around the circle and shows the value held by each delegation, given inflation and confidence as it becomes a scarcer resource through the negotiations.
Text by MFA D+T student Elwyn Crawford and mobility student Zef Egan.