A collective exploration of how to use silence to cultivate meaning in our lives
The time is right for a new conversation on tech. One that takes us beyond Silicon Valley culture, innovation hype and AI-fear. One that anchors tech in society with human answers to technological progress.
With more than 200 meetups, summits, open-air talks, installations & social events, this is what Techfestival offers. More than 16.000 people from 35 countries fly in to make the meatpacking district of Copenhagen a 5 day collective space for discovering truths about the relation between humans and technology.
We were invited to do an eight hour summit on Techfestival and we wanted to create a collaborative exploration of silence. Silence not only as the absence of sound but also as the absence of data in a hyper technological world. We wanted to look for and learn how to use spaces of silence - how to be conscious and cultivate meaning disconnected from the information flux that flows through us continuously. Our approach was to give form to a room, wherein a group of brave participants could explore silence through a number of silent experiences during the day, and share their reflections in a book we made in hand as a final collective ritual.
We built the logic of the day on a Gilles Deleuze-quote from the book Negotiations, that hung in our office bathroom in the weeks prior to shaping the summit. What stuck with us in this passage about expressing yourself as a human being, was the following bit:
»What a relief to have nothing to say, the right to say nothing, because only then is there a chance of framing the rare, or ever rarer, the thing that might be worth saying.«
We all express ourselves a lot verbally, visually, online, but what would happen to our way of expressing ourselves if we shut up sometimes and considered whether what we expressed was important or not? That is what we were interested in, and what we wanted to explore and embody with the creation of the book collecting the reflections on silence in our time.
Our phone is something we use for expression daily, and it is a good symbol for the modern technologies that surround us. It is a tool through which we augment reality and extend communication, but also a tool for avoiding things and people around us. The nature of the phone is becoming prosthetic - an extension of our brain in our hand, and it is helping and disturbing us all the time. Reality is that it is hard to experience silence with a phone on you. We wanted to put our phones aside in order to have the right conditions for discovering silence.
So with all phones sealed in envelopes for the day of the summit, we engaged with the participants in a handful explorations of silence, such as a sound improvisation on upright bass, an interactional performance, a color meditation, repetitive writing of personal insights and the creation of what we named the Book of Silence. During the day we hade a couple of conversational reflection sessions on the experiences and the role that silence could play onward in living a delightful, meaningful and fulfilling life.
Every copy of the Book of Silence is build from one handwritten page from every participant, with the single most important reflection from the entire day. The one word or sentence they wanted to share with the rest of the participants, to take home and keep as a physical representation of a day with a lot of silent reflection on the meaning of silence in our time. It is a collective exploration collected and manifested in book form, that illuminates our reflections on silence in life, that we can consult, when all the noise and information catches up with us again
The reflections and stories that were shared throughout the day were very personal and versatile, but also seemed to grow from the same roots, and resonate with many of us: Silence as we experienced it was a very spatial and material sensation. It cleaned up our interactions with each other. It slowed down time. It offered time for reflection, waiting observing. As someone put it, silence is one of the things that make us human. The digital technologies have a tendency to separate us from each other rather than gather us, because technology is becoming the primary way of expressing ourselves.
So what can we say about the relation between humans and technology? That it is multifaceted and complex! We need to be aware of maintaining a healthy relation to technology, so that it does not come in between the human relations, but rather help us come together. Technology is about understanding the world and people in it.
Offline version of the book: bespokecph.com/silence