by Jun Murai
IWE '96 Japan Committee Chairman
Associate Professor, Faculty of Environmental Information, Keio University
The Internet has established itself as the infrastructure of human intellectual activity in the form of a worldwide network of computers. But as an environment, it is not entirely separate from the world's various regions and countries. It has its roots in and is part of the historical continuum of these regions and nations and their unique languages and cultures. Thus the two environments, the world and the Net, exhibit the same great diversity.
In the Japanese Theme Pavilion we shall examine how to best give expression to this environmental diversity. The axial concept of the Pavilion is the senses, and it is closely linked to the historical development of computer networks.
When I began my research on such networks, computers were just beginning to become user-friendly. Since then, I have been involved in the question of how we can design and implement a network whereby computers could become instruments that will enhance human communication. Thanks to the development of digital technologies, diverse forms of information are now processed and transmitted, and it is all integrated via a variety of media. Multimedia communications networks are now a reality.
What is their value?
Thanks to multimedia communications networks, we can now perceive, transmit and receive information more efficiently and vividly than ever before. But when we consider these networks, we should be careful to not overlook the important role that all of our senses might play in the sending and receiving of information. It would be an error to think that we must limit such activities to the senses of sight and hearing. Here is where the theme of our Pavilion comes in. The role of the senses on the Internet could be of historical significance in its development. During this expo we will imply and share our senses together in unprecedented ways, and hence experience the world in new ways, too. A variety of new and interesting experiments and experiences await us.
The contents of our Pavilion should also prove to be new to the Internet. They will consist of the experience and discoveries of people from a variety of fields and disciplines. Until now, the Internet community has been made up mostly of people from the engineering sciences. The people we are inviting to participate in this project should add significantly to the enrichment of the Internet community. In this regard, we might think of our Pavilion as an intellectual laboratory for the creation of new forms of knowledge.
Take, for example, the linked senses project, which takes to heart our theme of the senses. The Internet is inundated with information from all over the world. People from all over the globe make use of it, and they are creating new modes of communication and information exchange. But in order to integrate and enhance this communication and exchange, we need to be clearly focused in our goals. The linked senses project takes an ancient Japanese poetic form, and makes of it a network of interpersonal and collaborative creation. Linked senses could prove to be a unique and significant contribution to human creativity.
The Theme Pavilion will grow and mature over the course of the year. What new senses and modes of communication it will give rise to is as yet an unanswered qwuestion. I sincerely hope that all of you will stay aboard as together we discover and create sensorium.
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