ZeMKI member Prof Dr. Andreas Hepp gave a lecture on February 26, 2024 entitled “What do we know about our digital futures? Pioneer communities, artificial intelligence and sustainability!” at the University of Coimbra at the last conference of the “myGender” project.

Since the 1970s, our ideas of how we imagine technologized futures have been shaped by pioneer communities, especially from and with reference to Silicon Valley: The Whole Earth Network has, among other things, provided ideas on how to better organize coexistence with “virtual communities”—and the network has contributed significantly to the fact that “labs” are considered the place where “being digital” is emerging in the present. The Artificial Intelligence Movement has been talking about the possibility of a new human-machine symbiosis since the 1980s. The idea of a datafied society was advanced by the Quantified Self movement, that of a new, decentralized economy with close links to a redefined craft by the Maker movement. And today’s imaginaries of using technology for a more sustainable society can be traced back to the Whole Earth Network and are currently supported by the Solarpunk movement.

But what exactly are these pioneer communities? How do they relate to each other? What characterizes their imaginaries? And why do they have such an importance in newly awakened societal discourses about possible futures? In my talk, I will take up these questions and show that if we explore the imaginaries of technologized futures, we almost inevitably end up with pioneer communities.