OK, I think I’m finally ready to announce the big news that, along with Chinese über-blogger Isaac Mao, I will be co-curating this year’s Ars Electronica Symposium on September 5th in Linz, Austria. I’m honored to be in the company of past curators including Joi Ito who organized last year’s New Cultural Economy Symposium and John Maeda who curated the 2006 Simplicity Symposium.

This September’s symposium will differ a bit from past years. For, in addition to serving as the intellectual anchor to the five-day digital arts festival, the symposium also marks the 81st and final day of 80+1: A Journey Around the World. Based on Jules Verne’s Around the World in Eighty Days, 80+1 will offer the residents of Linz an experiential tour of the world not with the railway, steamboat, and colonialism that figure so prominently in the original novel, but rather new media, networked art projects, and emotional empathy. The 80 day global networked art festival will be housed in a state of the art reflective steel building in Linz’s main square, the Hauptplatz.

Around The World in 80 Days depicted and celebrated industrial globalization at its dawn, when the opening of the Suez Canal meant that ships no longer had to travel around the Cape of Good Hope in order to deliver Indian spices to Europe, and the invention of the steam locomotive made a trip across the United States last days not months. Verne never passes up an opportunity to point out that none of this would have been possible were it not for European colonialism.

80+1: A Journey Around the World, on the other hand, will examine how industrial globalization has had an impact on our planet and our society by focusing on twenty places and twenty topics through the creative perspectives of 20 digital art projects based around the world, and transmitted in real time to Linz’s main square. From an interactive Second Life modeling of China’s massive Three Gorges Dam to Melissa Fatoumata Touré’s innovative comparison of water usage in the Malian village of Koulouninko and Linz, these art projects all use networked tools to create direct links between their communities and Linz, this year’s cultural capital of Europe.

Isaac and I have decided on the theme of “Cloud Intelligence” for this year’s symposium as a lens through which to think about how globalization will evolve in the 21st century. On the one hand, we know that the 20th century model of industrial globalization is not sustainable. Gas prices will rise, sea levels will rise, and the gap between rich and poor could very well continue to expand. On the other hand, we are also equally confident that the world will continue to feel smaller (and more overwhelming) as communication technologies evolve, more information is made available online, and a larger percentage of the world’s population gain access to that information.

The End of Oil will demand that we live and work within a local ecology, but technological progress will mean that every human – and every refrigerator, car, and dishwasher for that matter – will be permanently connected to the internet. What are the ramifications at a global scale? And how can we create online tools and communities that lead to a sustainable version of globalization? A “Globalization 2.0” if you must.

These are some of the larger questions that we will attempt to answer with very specific case studies from a talented cadre of presenters who are all working on the most fascinating projects that deal with new media and social change for the 21st century. (More on them later.) For now, make sure to keep your eyes on the 80+1 website, subscribe to the feed, and follow us on Twitter. If you are interested in getting even more involved, check out our participate page.

Tomorrow I will publish my interview with one of the 20 artists, Gabriela Golder, who is putting together a networked cross-cultural collection of lullabies from around Latin America and the world.

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