Contactless (by default)

The more we try to make things with integrity, the more involved and tangled we get in multiple relationships -- or more so, countless stakeholders. Now imagine you’re making a chair. If the chair is to be used by an old man, the chair must be designed so it will serve him right -- both physically and figuratively. The chair must be a proud one, just like his life. But, what if, if the old man’s daughter is taking care of the elderly man? The chair must be something that would be useful and accessible for the daughter. And what if the chair will be placed in a parlor that once used to be the man’s father’s room? Shouldn’t we give thought to the dead, and the struggles the deceased man had to go through to build that very house? Then comes the material. Where did the timber for the chair come from? Who planted what used to be a tree, and what living organisms surrounded the tree? Which birds sang atop the tree and what insects dwelled there? What type of viruses were there, and how were all these parties affected when the tree was cut down? How was the timber transported? Last but not least -- when the chair is no longer in use, how will it be dismantled or remade?

The process of manufacturing involves an abundant amount of “stakeholders”, which involve human beings, animals and plants, minerals and the dead per se. The process of manufacturing is about finding a solution after conversing and having dialogue with all these stakeholders, and in that sense, we can say that creation is an experiment of democracy.

However, human beings have come to enjoy, to a fault, the state of mass production and mass consumption that has continued to disconnect ourselves from the myriad of these stakeholders. This is exactly what has led to the global environmental destruction we face today, and wealth inequality. Now is the time, therefore, to rekindle the democratic potential that small manufacturing sites hold. What we need is not just to democratize technology, but to continue to build democracy through creation.

Chief Judge

Asa Ito

Director, Future of Humanity Research Center, Institute of Innovative Research, Tokyo Institute of Technology

Asa Ito is Director of the Future of Humanity Research Center at the Tokyo Institute of Technology’s Institute of Innovative Research, and Visiting Scholar at MIT (2019), specializing in aesthetics and contemporary art. After initially intending to become a biologist, she turned her academic focus to the arts while in her third year at university. She obtained her PhD in Literature in 2010, having studied aesthetics, fine arts, and culture at the University of Tokyo Graduate School of Humanities and Sociology. As author, Dr. Ito’s major works include Me no mienai hito wa sekai wo do miteiru no ka (How Do People Without Sight See the World?, Kobunsha), Domoru karada (The Stuttering Body, Igaku-Shoin), Kioku suru karada (The Remembering Body, Shunjusha), and Te no Rinri(Ethics of hands, Kodan-sha). Her work was recognized with the 42nd Suntory Prize for Social Sciences and Humanities in 2020.