[iDC] endless cycle or vicious cycle?

Malian Lahey mlahey at artic.edu
Sun Aug 20 04:49:29 EDT 2006

Dear IDCitizens,

I'm really interested to note the cycles that have been running through the
various threads.  For example; watching the third world repeat the mistakes of
the first world.  Seeing the logic-busting philosophy of Situationism applied
to a rigorously logical medium of mobile com tech, the vague sense of deja-vu
that accompanies the opening of new unconstrained paradigms like interactive
environment design (Big question: "will this free us or constrain
us?"...um..check out "the Victorian Internet" by Tom Standage).

Yes, we're all aware of the Marxian statement that history moves in cycles,
which unfortunately is taken in a most fatalistic way (phooey to scientific
determinisim, it's a sophism anyway!).  The fact is, everything moves in cycles
and it's up to us to determine the best way to slightly alter our role in our
current cycle, so that we don't end up repeating ourselves...a little like
jouncing the floor when your CD player is skipping.  I'm sure most of us are
familiar with the example of the pendulum used to illustrate the principles of
chaos theory; due to tiny variations in the motion of the earth, air currents,
etc., the pendulum never makes the same ellipse twice.  Yet how do we as
individuals use our miniscule relative force to alter the course of our society
in a way that betters our lot instead of worsening it?

Sunita Narain, the Director of the Centre for Science and Environment in India,
sums up the "developing" world's critique of the "developed"; "Let us be clear.
 The western model of growth India and China wish most feverishly to imitate is
intrinsically toxic...the industrialized world...remains many times behind the
problems it creates."  "[industrialized countries] argued for containment of
the waste but did not have the ability to argue for the reinvention of the
paradigm of waste generation itself."  What developing giants like India and
China must do, is to "leapfrog" the irresponsible stage of western
industrialism.  This is not optional; if they fail, the global economy could
collapse within two or three decades.

Of course, there is immense pressure merely to participate in the current
paradigm or cycle, and many non-Western businesspeople allow the damage to be
done so that they can reap immediate rewards.  It can only be hoped that the
success of the alternatives will shorten this phenomenon.

Ideally, we would not even be talking about "development" at all; A renaissance
of land-based, non industrial cultures would not only solve many of our
environmental problems but also many of our social ones.  To jog the cycle, to
leapfrog a paradigm, means letting go of the hope that incremental policy
changes or a new election will solve our problems.  As Derrick Jensen writes;

"What I propose as a 'solution' to this problem of the ascendancy of abstraction
is a return to the particular...insofar as possible, to percieve each of those
around us as subjects...Our hate is not a result of several billion years of
natural selection.  It's a result of the framing conditions under which each of
us are raised.  It's a result of the unquestioned assumptions that inform us. 
If we want to stop the hate, we need to get rid of the framing conditions. 
UNTIL WE DO THAT, WE'RE BOUND TO FAIL.  So yes, that is precisely my solution,
we need to get rid of civilization.

Maybe that seems absurd to you.  It doesn't to me.  It just seems like a lot of
work, done by a lot of people in a lot of places in a lot of different ways. 
But I'll tell you something that does seem absurd to me: the possibility of
allowing this inhumane system to continue."

The difference between between Narain's and Jensen's statements, can be
calculated as directly proportional to the leverage wielded over them by the
international corporate community.

The topic of Situationism applied to media art could be addressed together with
questions about freedom in interactive environments.  The strategy of opening
new fields always provides an exciting lack of precedent.  I would argue that
blocking, regulating structures must always develop alongside the strategies
for liberation in any field in order for hegemons to find them effective.  The
moment that any liberating strategy condenses, is the moment that its
antithesis takes shape as well.  Therefore I would say that it IS possible for
drift to happen within any technology (Architecture also being a technology,
like language or beauracracy) - keeping in mind that the game of disrupting
control inherently implies the existence of control in the first place.

I would argue that these games (the ludic element being, ironically, the most
essential element) are an extremely important part of any search for a new
paradigm.  Keeping our hand in, so to speak, we hold the enclosing,
quantifying, standardizing impulse of our society at bay and hence remain
individual and alive.  These games are the "border patrol" which protectively
creates a safe space for us to deeply question our reality - and invent new

It occurs to me that an effort must be made to replace the current linear
foundation of our technology with an algorithmic one more compatible with
living beings.  All algorithms not being equal, I think it's important that we
realize that an algorithm dependent on known quantities will always destroy
life.  Nature functions as an algorithm dependent on other algorithms, no fixed
quantities allowed.  Sogyal Rinpoche writes, "If everything dies and changes,
then what is really true?".  The question is, of course, a koan, in which the
answer is in the first part of the question.

Regards to all,

Malian Lahey

Florastrasse 2
7302 Landquart

+41 0794 342 969

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