Theses and Questions as Starting Points
For years the world has been engaged in a process of profound of widespread change. In this connection the INST-Projects have been and continue to be offered as transdisciplinary platforms, not only to endure this upheaval, but to take part in shaping it. To make participation possible INST makes available a unique public, which is created basically through the seven-language Homepage, the documentations of projects and the presentations of projects in more than 40 countries (2004/2005, 2006/2007). The Homepage is used every month by at least 100,000 unique users from more than 140 countries.
For the Conference "Knowledge, Creativity and Transformations of Societies," to be held in Vienna from 6 to 9 December 2007, some 7000 participants from up to 100 countries are expected to gather for the purpose of examining and explicating important, central questions about the role of knowledge and creativity in social transformations and thus about the importance of the arts, sciences, research and education. Contributions dealing with fundamental isues are expected at the Conference, but also a number of presentations, which will advance proposals from the point of view of the speaker's particular professional discipline, from the perspective of an interdisciplinary Polylog or also on the basis of findings in dissertations, other studies and transdisciplinary projects as well as from personal experiences.
Lamentable General Conditions for the Arts, Sciences, Research and Education
The point of departure for all of the questions is the profound sense of dissatisfaction throughout the world. On the one hand, catchwords such as Innovation, Research and Knowledge are playing an ever greater role before the (political) general public. At the same time, however, unfair and unjust general conditions are being created. In addition, laws that are designed to treat non-commercial organizations the same as commercial undertakings (University and Organization Laws, Basel II) as well as the requirements of advance financing without any possibility of estimating costs and connected with a potential reduction in the number of members who can afford their membership financially represent a catastrophe for scholars and artists from economically weak countries and in general for the cultural sciences. Other problems include the legal uncertainties in the social laws created for the purpose of increasing the income of the state, the necessity of having to organize projects and calculate costs, as if they were industrial productions, the headhunting for top researchers from Asia, Africa and South America, while at the same time there is growing hostility against "foreigners," products that are being shown preferance (primarily from farm production) and the transfer of technology. All this has little relevance with the goal of optimizing the gaining of experience and insight, knowledge, research and the arts. Instead, all of these regulations, this red tape, have resulted only in unnecessary paperwork, not only wasting time and serving as a deterrant to progress, but also squandering (public) funds as well as damaging many regions. In addition to wasting time and money, these policies represent another problem: they also serve as a material attempt to influence or, as the case may be, to change attitudes (points of view), even if basic arguments contradict these new guidelines, and the harm they cause is readily evident.
The Conference as Polylog and Platform
In the context of the circumstances described above, the Conference "Knowledge, Creativity and Transformations of Societies" is to be understood as a platform for posing questions about future models of the arts, sciences and research as well as also about other areas of knowledge production such as schools, museums, politics, etc. As in the past, the Conference is seeking collaboration with UNESCO, the European Council, the European Union, with cities, regions and also national states, in order to make understood as widely as possible that the handing down of knowledge through signs and pictures has brought the revolution of knowledge into the history of humanity. To develop the capabilities to read, to interpret, to develop models out of the interpretations, and from those to derive plans of action and convert them into deeds - these are the central educational requirements in the framework of a revolution of knowledge. This same finding is also reflected in the UNESCO-Strategie for the years 2002 to 2007. However, UNESCO does not command the financial means or the staff to transform this idea into action. Nevertheless, by developing this Strategy, it has performed one of the most important actions for changes per se by bringing to the public a basic concept, which is to play a fundamental role in the framework of the INST conference. Also this Strategy of UNESCO shows clearly the central and comprehensive significance of education, the arts, sciences, research and culture for the furtherance of global development.
Negative Developments and Contradictions
Despite the positive aspects to be found in the statements of UNESC, UNO, the European Council and the European Union, there are often measures, which stand in opposition to them. These negative activities include planning and waging wars, the transnational activities of various secret services, which do not even hesitate about kidnsapping people in third countries, the refusal to recognize international law (or even debate it), the inciting of conflicts - this last usually through the misuse of culture.
But also many developments in civilized everday life bear destructive elements in them. To this category belongs the minimizing of the importance of the Arts and Humanities (Cultural Sciences) on all continents as well as the attempt to subordinate them to the current economic and/or state power. Languages are made subject to rules, which have nothing to do with the requirements of communication (for example, the "Reform" of the German language, the regulation of the French language, the transliteration projects in Africa to make them conform to the patterns of other language, the eradication of languages in South America). These regulations are, however, not only connected with minimizing the importance of these disciplines and Research Centers, but also of the importance of the affected languages. Thus these languages are limited as a means of understanding in international communication, and in the regional/national realms these regulations become the real cause of high unemployment. On the other hand, the language reform in China, for example, has contributed to making the sign system usable in the framework of the modern media, and also the open language usages of Kiswahili have contributed to making this language a bearer of the (urban) development in parts of Africa.
The upheavals in the world have also brought changes in the legal system. These include progress in the development of an international organization of law, of an African court, but at the same time the refusal of important states, to go along with these steps attempting to establish an international system of law. Yet not only powerful states turn against these efforts to develop new approaches to the way the law is organized. For example, in drafting a new constitution in Austria, the ruling party attempted to push through its own abstract social and/or ideological principles. The best coordinated rules or laws, however, are only socially relevant, when they correspond to the realities of life. And the realities of life are contradictory and changeable. They are only adaptable to a limited degree for being written in a one-sided way to suit and promote special interests. But also models that are oriented toward the future such as the European Constitution fail, when they are designed to promote the programs of an elite group and have nothing to do with the real shaping of our changing world, which not only demands social justice, but also the possiblities of each nation being able to enhance its own (cultural) development or, as the case may be, participating in the shaping of the world on the basis of social justice.
The Lack of Cultural Policy
Although all of these measures such as language regulation, scientific policy, models of systems of law are ultimately cultural/political, the lack of cultural policy in the transnational processes is striking. It is precisely in this area that commercialization has been able to establish itself only to a limited degree, even if the current term "Cultural Industries" is intended to suggest that reproductive industrial production could serve as the basis of (profitable) creative cultural production. The goal of using this terminology is to ascertain the potential or, as the case may be, the actual strength of this sector, which indisputably has also grown. However, in the reality of production, distribution and public discourse, this approach leads to a drastic worsening of the conditions of creative work, whose actual importance always lay in creativity and as another form of creating value rather than in reproductive work. In this connection a contemporary cultural policy means to create conditions to understand creativity, innovation and another application of knowledge as the central factors of social development and to learn how to convert them into action.
One of the most serious basic problems of the present time still remains, as it always has, the terrible poverty throughout the world, accompanied by the lack or the total absence of health care and in the majority of third-world countries even any kind of suitable infrastructure. Without minimal conditions for protecting life, there is in many countries such as Africa, Asia and South America, but also for many people in Europe and the USA no possibility of participating in knowledge. Here is a point where new beginnings are required. The question of what can be done to improve this situation is precisely the kind of topic being sought for presentation in the framework of this conference.
The Importance of Independent Knowledge Production
Another fundamental question to be asked concerns the importance of an independent and varied production of knowledge, which has been the basis for the importance of universities and research since the Middle Ages in Europe and in modern times globally. Additional topics should include discussions of the contemporary character of transformations and the essential factors comprising them, of the necesary conditions for creative activity and of the importance of concepts for social processes. Now is precisely the right time to observe how neoliberal politics push through an ideology that is far removed from the real circumstances of production and distribution, an ideology which leads more and more to conflicts, which in part have already led to violent conflicts. Concomitant with that problem is the effort to restrict the production of knowledge by undermining the independence of individuals and cooperative production units, by polarizing groups, by dictating themes and methodologies, by devaluing those who are producing knowledge by interdicting and incapacitating them (nothing else, for example, represents a majority of the Calls, the study of which always involves a great deal of work and thus also a considerable waste of time and money). And this form of political policy is also connected with high unemployment among academics, because it not only undermines social security, but also codifies traditional structures of production and even carries them over capriciously to other areas.
The Unifying and the Hindering of Cultures
This is legitimized by the conflicts provoked again and again on the basis of alleged cultural differences by the neoliberal political policies, which are not connected to reality. In actual fact, however, people everywhere with all their variety and distinct cultures have a common practice of eating, drinking, loving, living, reading, writing, listening, making music, seeing, sculpting, etc. In global terms there are still innumerable forms of common activity - especially in the area of the arts and sciences. Those who call upon their own culture as a reason for conflict with others, who try to market and instrumentalize it, are also usually those, who advocate restrictions in their own cultures. These apologists of their culture are at the same time also the hinderers of their culture. They debase their own culture by employing it as an instrument for money, power and force.
Questions to Be Asked at the Conference
In the framework of the conference we will, to the contrary, ask questions about the history of knowledge in its variety of different forms, about new conditions of communication for languages, about new possibilities and tasks for the arts, about the fear, which social change brings with it. We will also examine the urbanization of the world, which brings ideas into the cities, but also ideologies, which result from the fear of the tribal traditions, of the (patriarchal) hierarchies of the agrarian society and the feeling of subordination in the realm of industrial production. Also in this context questions are to be presented about new possibilities, new models, new cooperations, new distributions, new publics. Accordingly, it must be asked whether or not the conception of the enemy, of confrontation, of using military force to implement "democracy," of elections in the manner of (civilized) tribal feuds could be replaced by common innovations and their implementation - and if the flooding of all areas with (social) democracy would be possible.
The Humane Model of Europe
Most people understand Europe as a peace project, whose greatest capability for integration consists in making possible economic and social wealth by creating new work. In such a project of transformation there should be room for work for everyone. However, to accomplish this desirable goal, requires a new understanding of knowledge production, its implementation and its social importance. Here in the framework of the conference the question should be asked about the variety of models, but also about the point of view, the proposals, etc. of the people from Asia, Africa and South America, who in a globalized world are entering more and more into a (new) reciprocal relationship with Europe.
Europe from the Perspective of Africa, Asia, South America
Europe is to play an important role in the framework of this conference - not only its history, its conflicts, its models (specifically also in terms of the form of its constitution), but also with respect to the perspective of Africa, Asia and South America. For this reason these continents have deliberately been placed at the top of the list of the various section groups. The questions to be asked and examined will be about how they see and understand themselves, about their relationship with their history, about the changing connections to colonial, to imperial Europe, to Europe as a peace project - about the old and new conditions as well as desired changes.
Power and Impoverishment
Hisotry has shown that a multiplicity of influences and interactions always leads to prosperity - as in old Greece with its manifold connections to Africa and Asia. Impoverishment resulted from violence and war. Robbery brought no luck or happiness. The best armed imperial countries still declined and collapsed. No invention of weapon technology, no matter how efficient, could prevent the decline of a powerful state over time. And the "best" inventions today are only designed to enable the destruction of our planet. The failure to disarm (by breaching several of the most important treaties of the 20th century) raises this probability, since more and more states are striving to gain this technology, in order to prevent being attacked (if not for reasons of aggression).
The Tradition of the Polylog
The premise for impoverishment and destruction through use of force is always the abuse of power. The conception of this conference is, however, the Polylog. Its aim is focused on the traditions of the arts, sciences, research and education and on the development of new beginnings in many areas. In the INST-Tradition of the "Encyclopedia of Multilingual Cultural Sciences," of the development of new methodologies (transdisciplinarity), of new forms of communication (the seven-language Homepage with its "peer reviewed journal" TRANS, as well as also the meetings held in 50 countries to date), this Conference also intends to contribute once again to the development of knowledge production. And precisely in this context the individual forms of the current ways of producing knowledge in the various lands are especially to be questioned. The Conference particularly affords a ready platform to those, whose important work and findings have been forced to the periphery as a consequence of undesirable trends.
Possibilities and Condisitons of Participation
Participation in the Conference from all continents is possible in the coordinating group, as Sections Leader (registration begins now), as presenter (registration begins in September 2006) or as participant, to gain information and contribute to the discussions. For the conditions please find the information on the Conference page: www.inst.at/kctos Also there you will find additional information about the organization of the conference, the sequence of events, the locations, the rooms, the equipment, the evaluation of the results, the names of the Section Leaders and presenters, the section groups and the sections.
The Character and Documentation of the Conference
The INST Conference "Knowledge, Creativity and Transformations of Societies" is therefore an open, complex, public, global process, which begins with the proposals for questions to serve as starting points, Sections Groups, Sections and Presenters. The high point results from the meetings, presentations, discussions and the networking that will take place from 6 to 9 December 2007 in Vienna (in the Plenary Session at the Congress Center, in the sections at more than a dozen locations). And then will follow the documentations of the results (Hardcover Book + CD + DVD) and their presentations in more than 40 countries.
The Richness of the Conference
The richness of this conference process derives from its multiplicty of cultural bacgrounds, the forms of communication, the public, the methodologies, the the variety of languages used - and above all from the quality of the people who participate in this form of knowledge production.