Member 2755
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Will Renny (M)
London, UK
Immortal since Sep 27, 2010
Uplinks: 0, Generation 3

all about everyone
My name is Will, and I am a creative geek. I work as a freelance digital creative strategist. Sometimes I design things.
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    From allabouteveryone
    Fictional Futures: The New...
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    Where forward thinking terrestrials share ideas and information about the state of the species, their planet and the universe, living the lives of science fiction. Introduction
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    Strange Loops And Negotiated Spaces

    Douglas Hofstadter, in his 2007 book 'I am a strange Loop', claimed that the soul (meaning the self, or what we refer to as 'I') is nothing but an illusion; an illusion that exists because it hallucinates itself. The illusion stems from the brain's need to create an internal representation of its surroundings, and part of this representation necessarily includes the brain itself (the 'I'), a manifestation of the self, from the self.

    Now, 'I' cannot confess to having read the book, only a few excerpts, (it's on the reading list, the long, long, never ending reading list) but I found the idea very compelling (I only came across it recently) - that the idea of the self, that vision of the self which defines us back to ourselves, is an illusion created from an illusion. It's a hallucination created from a need to represent our own awareness of ourselves from an already metaphorical representation of reality.

    For me this ties back to my own thoughts on our reliance on fiction and fantasy as tools with which to comprehend ourselves. Hofstadter believes our souls (I think Hofstadter's use of the term soul is not necessarily meant in a religious capacity, but rather to reference the idea of the reverential inner-self) are, in a way, immortalised, through their existence in other people's minds. He likens this fractured existence to shards. I think that what he was getting at is that one's soul has an emotional resonance and that resonance can live on in the minds of many others, perhaps almost exponentially, depending on the resonance.

    Hofstadter also talks about recursion. In mathematics, recursion is a method of defining functions in which the function being defined is applied within its own definition. In this way it is self reflexive or self referencing. He applies this idea to people and this is really what a strange loop is: a recursion of the self; out of the act of defining itself it comes to exist.

    So, here's a bit of a tangent: I've been thinking about how technology is increasingly being applied to augment the space surrounding us. Emergent ways to make use of our mobile devices are in effect evolving those devices into extensions of ourselves, while at the same time also creating a filter to the world and other people around us.

    The notion of recursion seems very apt as a means to understand how technology is used as a sort of refracted mirror, enabling us to posit ourselves in different modes. The residual identities we leave online, existing in multiple places, are, I suppose, the lucid, vitual shards of our souls, although I'm not sure at all that Hofstadter would agree with that cumbersome squishing of his elegant concept.

    Recursion is not just a self-inflected exercise though. Our sense of self would not exist without others to also reflect ourselves back. So, back to my tangent. I was thinking of how technology is used to augment the space around us.

    I came across Fit Lab's (Future Interaction Technologies) site and there was an interesting project page describing something called Negotiated Interaction. Negotiated Interaction is, in the site's own words:

    'an alternative means of allowing users to interact with content and services in their environment such that the actions they make, movements, gestures, etc., and feedback they receive are continuous, with the user and system negotiating their interactions in a fluid, dynamic way.'

    The project, which is being run in conjunction with Glasgow University, aims to explore and evaluate a more fluid, negotiated relationship with technology, in relation to how we navigate spaces. The aim is to create something more akin to a fluid conversation.

    The idea of Negotiated Interaction is quite poetic I think. The description on the site likened it to a dance, where one partner intuitively takes over from the other, over and over again, in a constantly shifting, physical stream. The project is part of a wider evolutionary phase from the relatively dumb point and search tools to smarter, more intuitive behavioural learning systems (something Hofstadter would no doubt recoil from).

    Taking the idea of shards existing as traces of ourselves in the world and possibly resistant to time. What if those shards were able to be brought more into view? Perhaps manifesting themselves as spectral visions and ethereal noises. Impressions of a space reflected back onto it, resonating from the walls, the trees, and triggered by our own physical presence. Readable, as if in conversation, a sort of negotiated dialogue with a space, through the experiences of others.

    If we could negotiate our physical experience of the world with the experiences of others who have moved through that space, then have those experiences brought to bare in intuitive, relevant ways to ourselves, our perception of that place could become a strange loop of itself, hallucinatory glimpses of the space reflecting everyone's experience of it back to us, in ways that poetically define our understanding of that space, and in some way ourselves, through the multiple experiences of others.

    The strange loop of hallucination onto hallucination can be used to cast a veil of otherness onto the familiar, as well as similitude to the unfamiliar. This is perhaps not a bad way to help our understanding of one another, or what spaces mean to us; a loop of experience with the trails of personal lives emanating into the distance and each new space offering new shards of the souls of those who have passed through.

    Spaces themselves could resonate with their own hum of self awareness, as seen through the eyes of the people who inhabit them, with each new experience of that space being a means for it to recursively redefine it's own identity and therefore how we might navigate through it.

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