Is it Happening?
By the 1970s the dream of Cybernetic society that had haunted the 1960s seemed to be on the verge of being realized. In France at the end of the 1970s two academics, Simon Nora and Alain Mine, wrote a report for President Giscard d'Estaing which declared the 'computerization of society' and the advent of 'telematics', meaning the coming together of computers and telecommunications (Nora and Mine, 1980). Among other things, this led to the installation of Minitel, the networked public computer information system. In the late 1970s the possibilities offered by telematics inspired a number of artists to put together projects involving computers and telecommunications networks.
One response to the Nora/Mine report was also a report, in this case commissioned by the government of Quebec from the philosopher JeanFrancois Lyotard on the state of knowledge in the Western world. The result, La Condition postmoderne, was published in French in 1979 (with an English translation in 1984). It can be considered not just a riposte to Nora and Mine's futurological prognoses, but also a response to the world made possible by systems thinking and the technologies it had fostered. The first chapter defines the field quite explicitly as 'knowledge in computerised societies' (Lyotard, 1984: 4), and as such is concerned with the transformation of knowledge into information necessitated by the 'proliferation of information-processing machines' and their effect on the 'circulation of learning' (ibid.).
Later, in 1985, Lyotard curated a massive exhibition at the Centre Pompidou in Paris, Les Immatériaux, which aimed to show the cultural effects of new technologies and communication and information. Les Immatériaux