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    Now playing SpaceCollective
    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
    Featuring Powers of Ten by Charles and Ray Eames, based on an idea by Kees Boeke.
    At this moment in the Internet's history I am one of many, I would suspect, who often prefers to receive the world on demand, to leave touch with my immediate surroundings in order to surf the information of my choosing. This is a very particular and unique kind of information acquisition, it's accelerated and intentional. I've asked several friends in the cognitive sciences what to call this variety of mental processing, it's not intellectual perse, not rational necessarily, cerebral? These synonyms all have connotations that disqualify them as adequate terminology, so instead I'll call it "severed head." This particular state of being is characterized by the feeling that your body is trailing behind your head at all times, only to be felt when some mentally stimulating idea triggers a release of adrenaline. A fine feeling indeed.


    Coop Himmelblau's Soul Flipper

    This way of absorbing the world is very different from the world experienced by the body as a whole. And being a severed head myself, I often prefer Google search results to more physical sources of information. Recent experiences, however, have re-covered my appreciation for the latter.

    Hana Van Der Kolk and I are like a lesson in fate. The strangeness of her recognizing me from the internet, unwittingly becoming my neighbor, finding out that not only are we both daughters of Dutch psychologists, but in the most remarkable twist of fate, it turns out an uncle of mine helped Hana's parents immigrate to America. So when Hana asked me to be in her next performance the answer of course had to be yes (and my solo would be nothing less than an incessant repetition of this positive affirmation).

    It was notoriously hard to describe Hana's choreographic style to inquisitive friends. A blend of minimalist dance and performance art? With long pauses and pop songs? I think she said it best by calling it a mix tape, and I called it a collage, a blend of performance techniques. At it's core though, it was the performance of an altered state, and getting there required a perception of "the whole body at once," a task comparable to listening for the sound of one hand clapping.

    After assigning us mental scores, Hana began to choreograph clichéd group activities, painfully simple solos, and duets that begged to be narrativized. The whole process was particularly interesting because Hana was in the position to direct us while reminding us not to plan or think.

    This was a bit of a struggle, every clarification was like dancing around the mind's tendency to take information and smother it with intellectual constructions. It began to seem like the whole thing was an empirical study of how this strange clump of matter and chemistry that we identify as the human body might communicate complex sentiments without interference from "higher" brain functioning.

    By the time the performance rolled around, I was eager to check this hypothesis with an audience. It was nerve racking, and slightly ironic, to present the work to a group of people harboring the very analytical agenda we were trying to debunk. It should also probably be noted that in addition to being told throughout my life that I "think too much," I'm not a seasoned performer, so the whole experience was like being in a foreign country with a bare minimum of vocab words at my disposal. It demanded complete dedication to those few words to facilitate this still unfamiliar relationship between body and mind.

    The performance ended, and the only thing I knew for sure was that the audience had been audibly shifty in their chairs.

    I soon learned though, that without any kind of character motivation or explicit direction, the performance not only hit certain narrative cues, but exceeded them. People were raving about transference, friends who I would never have expected to enjoy such a performance were trailing behind Hana to congratulate her, and on the third night I shed the most perfectly timed, completely uncalculated tear. It appeared that the intimacy Hana set out to cultivate was oozing from our unconditioned bodies with supernatural clarity.

    I've often vouched for the internet as a unique channel for achieving intimacy, and a superior instrument for streaming thoughts without physical interference. But Hana's method was a reminder of the body's refined capacity to transmit and receive hi-fidelity information. I have never experienced a performance so devoid of intellectual burdens, so painfully simple and yet gut-wrenchingly complex.

    Getting back to my life as usual has been like filing back into an anatomical hierarchy whereby my body is once again second in command. And as I sit here, a collection of limbs obediently stationed in front of a computer monitor, I'm imagining a sc-fi future in which the body is obsolete. In my mind, however, it's a mere perception that's been left behind, making way for a popular view of the body as an instrument of communication well worth being tuned.


    pre-performance rehearsal, more photos of the performance here
    Mon, Jan 25, 2010  Permanent link

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    Thu, Dec 17, 2009  Permanent link

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    Utopia has taken up residence in my frame of reference again, possessing me with glee, anguish, and a pronounced sense of forking paths. This past weekend I counted at least 6 references to Utopia, a trend that suggests a general awareness that major changes are afoot. What else is Utopia, after all, but the suggestion of radical change.

    I just had a very long conversation about climate change, about technology, about losing 90% of all species on Earth in some sort of inverse Arc scenario, where Noah throws the animals off the boat to make room for more people.

    The appeal of Utopia seems to be a byproduct of our current condition: we are at a stage where we are simultaneously losing whatever semblance of control we, as humans, had on the future, AND ushering in an age of advanced human decision making. To the shigrin of outdoor enthusiasts, we have transformed the Earth's surface to accommodate our uniquely human compulsion to invent. Ironically this seems to accelerate the rate at which innovation must take place to avoid collapsing under the weight of a significant evolutionary shift.

    Whether we are perched on a cataclysmic precipice or a moment of profound opportunity is a matter of perspective, but it's clearly a moment when human beings need to once again step into a void, and a void always demands imagination. These are the conditions, I suspect, under which Utopia becomes a worthwhile preoccupation.

    Tue, Nov 24, 2009  Permanent link

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    Tue, Oct 27, 2009  Permanent link

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    The reason we have poverty is that we have no imagination.
    quote from Alan Watts via Dmitri
    Sat, Oct 17, 2009  Permanent link

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    Individualism is a subject the fascinates me and the comparison between societies based on individual versus collective models, IE capitalism vs communism has been a lingering yet underexplored interest for a while. Some of favorite Space Collective posts have been those that suggest a loss of individual identity resulting from the collective effort towards a world-wide intelligence, or consciousness if you prefer. On the other hand, I'm reading an incredible essay by Peter Sloterdijk called Cell block, Egospheres, Self-container about the studio apartment as a transition away from the traditional domestic family home model to that of technologically modified self-reflection module, where the human being becomes an "auto-completing" organism.

    Sloterdijk writes:

    In order for the realization of self-pairing to take place, the media that can be identified as ego-technologies are a pre-requisite. It is these contamporary media that sustain self-fulfillment and allow for their users to constantly return to themselves and eo ipso to the pair formation with themselves and their "surprise" inner partners. (97)

    and:

    This corresponds to a condition anticipated by Elias Canetti of "a society in which every person is depicted, and prays before his own image" But here the individuals, with the help of numerous media, make images of themselves with more than one meaning. (99)

    There's an interesting connection here between the person as singular without need for a partner and as a multitude of characters just waiting to get aquatinted...with themselves. Under closer inspection though, this may not be in opposition to the collective loss of individuality, in fact, perhaps it is through the extensive realization of the self as multiples (which Sloteridjk suggests will take place through continuous mediated self-reflection and adustment) that the individuals gets broken open and more effectively joined with the collective.

    Now I'm going to turn thoughts into actions as i Prepare for this:



    post-post-disclaimer:

    I've realized the only way I can post on SC is if i sit down to finish in a limited time, i hope for more refined articulation of these thoughts to come later.
    Sat, Oct 10, 2009  Permanent link

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    by KEVIN BEWERDORF

    Here's some snippets from an interview with Kevin Bewerdorf. The full interview is here. I'm almost speechless about how truly awesome it is to hear these words coming from an artist.

    There seems to be a genuine interest in some of your recent work in locating or describing how the spiritual could interface with the digital. For example, Spirit Surfers surf club and the "Stock Photography Watermarks as the Presence of God" photo essay on Art Fag City. Is that accurate and, if so, what conclusions have you come to (if any)?

    Well, the internet has hardly changed our physical lives at all, but it has drastically changed our spiritual lives. I think this perspective goes largely undiscussed when the web is viewed through less pertinent but more common sociological and technological lenses. While the internet is a physical body of wires and chips, the web is a shared non-physical realm of experience that requires many aspects of spiritual faith to interact with. We post and commune on a plane of information that we cannot touch or see. We tend to wander the web in private, confronting the massive database alone each day. We are inclined to use the web for the satisfaction of our emotional and intellectual needs rather than for our physical needs. We make pilgrimage to the same web sites at regular and repeated intervals, paying homage to them by contributing or partaking, and then we move on to our other daily needs like eating and sleeping. But all the while, we have faith that this plane of information we have become so dependent on is tangible enough to provide a worthwhile connectedness. For many of us, the web has become almost sacred, its ritual use is the embodiment of our spiritual needs. So I suppose that my conclusion is this: surfing the web can be a fulfilling spiritual experience and a direct interaction with a transcendent reality.

    In the accompanying text to your latest collection of music, Babes, you stress the virtues of struggle and mere survival in making music. Is this something specific to music or could you extend this stress to creative work, in general?

    Struggle has not been a very popular theme in the American art of my lifetime. My generation is better summed up in the word "whatever," an attitude that opposes all forms of struggle. I think we are headed for a digital middle ages when struggle will become more relevant. The surge of awareness that the web has caused in us is sweeping across the marketplace like a leveling tsunami, and we're starting to drown in this sensation of information surplus. Not much seems to be rising to the surface and an endless number of self corporations are toiling away in obscurity. The general confusion and helplessness that many are experiencing over what is to be done with this massive flood of information are indications that the digital middle ages have already begun, and that these times will be about great suffering and struggle for all artists and consumers. I'm not sure how long this plague will last, but luckily after a flood there is usually a blossoming.
    Thu, Sep 3, 2009  Permanent link

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    Biopunk (a portmanteau word combining "biotechnology" and "punk") is a term used to describe:

    1. A hobbyist who experiments with DNA and other aspects of genetics.
    2. A techno-progressive movement advocating open access to genetic information.
    3. A science fiction genre that focuses on biotechnology and subversives.

    Thu, Jul 2, 2009  Permanent link

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    The human element of the future is an oft neglected subject, while Ray Kurzweil draws up graph after graph indicating a future we never thought could be so certain, people are left to cope with an unmoored sense of humanity and what Peter Singer would call the "yuck factor", our immediate response to something morally challenging.

    This evening I saw We Live in Public a documentary about Josh Harris, one of the first people to conceive of internet TV in the 90s, who forewarned CBS that internet TV was gonna take over. After selling off his company Harris took his .com millions underground to build a society where 100 people would "live in public" - their every move streamed live on the internet. The experimental living quarters had all the fixings, a pulpit, communal sleeping pods, an interrogation room and a gun range.



    While Harris' intentions were clearly skewed towards provocation I'd prefer to linger more on the idealistic undertones, or the possibility of extending people so far beyond their limits that they began to blend into each other. Familiarity, while in some cases bred contempt, also contributed to a breakdown of selfhood as everyone adjusted to the idea that their lives were not sacred or theirs to keep, they were for everyone to see.

    Relinquishing privacy meant the weight of your identity was shared by those around you, you were on equal footing with the other inhabitants - you were shared between and among them, divvied up into sound bites and images strewn across a vast network of monitors.



    Unfortunately, any findings from this experiment were blotted out a bit by the director's cautionary intentions, but the idea of simulating the future of the internet IRL, as a strategy for thinking about how humanity corresponds to a technologically modified environment, is an intriguing strategy.

    In a much earlier post I talked about founding an Internet Nation, similar to the NSK state, but actualized as some sort of rudimentary experience. Ultimately, I think this was Harris' intention, but his framework was too loyal to the totalitarian myth of the state (and ultimately too unconsciously tied to his difficult childhood experiences).

    It may seem like a non-sequiter, but I'm reminded of Bunuel's The Exterminating Angel, in which a bourgeois dinner party leads to the breakdown of western civilization when the guests discover that, for some inexplicable reason, they can't leave the room. They revert to their most savage selves as they run out of food, lose their minds and betray each other like players in a game of Clue.



    Both Harris' totalitarian default and Bunuel's demonstration of how civilization breaks down lead me to wonder what sorts of social structures have been left underexplored, and under what circumstances do human beings start to lose their wits.

    I once wrote a paper about the makings of civilization for a history class that argued four fundamental factors around which all civilizations are based: Religion, War, Commerce, and Science/Innovation. I argued that the variations in each civilization were largely dependent on which of those four factors emphasis was placed, and was pleased to see my general theory at work in Will Wright's Spore, where you have a choice of founding your intergalactic civilization on one of three basis': Religion, Military, or Trade.



    The question of how one might negotiate those pillars of civilization has preoccupied many a Utopian thinker, who often propose the abolition or significant modification of one or the other as the solution to the world's problems.

    I'm curious whether it's possible to develop such a model for the human mind. The basic building blocks that account for differences in human psychology, and consider which one might be a candidate for modification.

    In Olaf Stapledon's Last and First Men, my all time favorite book, Stapledon tells a sweeping tale of man through the ages and into the distant future. Each subsequent civilization of man has its own aspirations and preoccupations. One is particularly bent on building a supercomputer in the service of rational, scientific excellence; another is obsessed with the diversity of life and the genetic manipulation in the service of unique "types."

    At this particular juncture in man's history, we seem to be moving in many directions at once. The desire to absorb and synthesize the interconnectedness of all things: man, his creations, and the environment, seems both necessary and desirable. Indeed this demands a particular adaptation of the brain characteristic of 21st century wo/man.

    I suppose my question, at the moment then, is if the future trends towards even more communication between minds, to the point that perhaps, as Spaceweaver might suggest, we lose track of which mind is ours, or a moment when computers exceed human intelligence, how might one do a "paper prototype" of these futures to discover how it affects both the human mind and body? Or how might one come up with a system for composing the future?
    Thu, Jun 25, 2009  Permanent link

    Sent to project: Polytopia
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    Anyone who feels comfortable with tradition should feel comfortable with the future because it's a long standing tradition. It was during a lecture about the developmental stages of ancient civilization, as I looked around at all the students feverishly typing their notes on laptops, that I had the most acute sense that merging with computers, extending the lifespan, and migrating into space were absolutely logical evolutionary probabilities. While a large majority of the population might still think such a conviction outlandish, it's not at all new or novel, it's a conviction with plenty of historical precedent.


    Nikolai Fyodorov by Leonid Pasternak

    I recently visited the Museum of Jurassic Technology and watched a movie called The Common Task made by David Wilson, the museum's founder. The film was about 2 soviet men who had big dreams for humanity's future in space. The first, Nikolai Fyodorovich Fyodorov, wrote several articles during the mid 19th century that boiled down humanity's most significant tasks to: increasing intelligence, becoming immortal, and colonizing space. These ideas echo almost precisely the 20th century ambitions of futurist Timothy Leary, whose SMIILE acronym stood for Space Migration, Intelligence Increase, and Life Extension. In the 21st century the most outspoken proponent for the future, Ray Kurzweil, outlines a strikingly similar "common task". There is a long list of amazing thinkers and doers who've shared at least part of this vision throughout history, such as Olaf Stapledon, Arthur C Clake, Vernor Vinge, Eric Drexler etc.

    This task, it would seem, is a decidedly human ambition, it's a hunger that, century after century suffers setbacks as well as gains, but never ceases to occupy our thoughts.

    This image of the future has cycled through human culture enough times by now that, it would seem, people are warming up to the possibility of getting smarter, living longer, and venturing further into space, but it's still incredible how often people feel alienated by the idea of such a future, so, in an effort to soothe those anxieties I offer the following point of view:

    The future is as warm and fuzzy as your favorite teddy bear, and its been around since long before you were born.



    MIT's "Huggable" robotic teddy bear
    Sat, Jun 20, 2009  Permanent link

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