The Letter in ART

art, poetry, technology

I am reading a book on vispo coincidentally with the annual ELO conference – Electronic Literature Organization. I really dont know what vispo is/was but I did a deep dive into concrete poetry recently (visual poetry) and vispo appears to be a continuation or derivation of that.  It also seems to coincide nicely with my current explorations into creative coding via letter generation. 

As a young child I was captured by the magic of letters, symbols and alphabets far before I could read. And for me they did, and continue to have, a meaning beyond information (reading). A letter, for me, is imbued with meaning beyond being a letter of the alphabet. I have no idea why this is the case – but I know I am not alone in this since so many people have associated letters with numbers and symbols, archetypes and so forth. 

On the first page of the Vispo book I am reading, Nico Vassilakis writes “letters lose their chemical word attraction, their ability to bond to one another; to cohere into words.”  This is where I am right now in my creative code exploration of letters. What are letters as atoms – apart from words. Back at my apartment I have a book that looks at letters as if they were letters or chemical compounds.

This is an example of Systems Poetry – overlapping the grapheme with the chemical.  

There is a question about reality. What is real about the letter? We can get into all sorts of thorny issues here, and category mistakes and what not. This is a metaphysical question.  But when I play with letters in creative code, this is the core. What is real about the letter?

This reminds me of the imaginal realm. Is the imaginal realm real. Can it be shared with another consciousness or is it purely subjective.   There are interactions between letters, addressed by kerning or spacing with artists like Aram Saroyan. And Crag Hill’s second essay in this Vispo collection touches on this. Then we move from the word to words – to the relationship between words, to the empty space, or the page.  Mallarme used white space as silence – another quote from page 69 of the vispo collection in Mittenthal’s essay. 

There is also the breath, and the constraints provided by a typewriter – as explored by Charles Olsen. We can imagine the new constraints of css, or of pixels, of curves and points of  OpenGL, of computer protocols, APIs, and forms. This is the breath of the computer, or of the cyborg (the human+computer). 

In looking at lettering I am inspired by

Jesse Ferguson and letters of different sizes and rotations, of The Lions and letters integrated with illustrations, of Anatol Knotek which reminds me of my experiments from last week, of Petra Backogja which reminds me of concrete poetry, of the absolutely beautiful and magical Oded Ezer’s the message a movement of hebrew letters from 2D space to 3D space and into movement and animation (4D), of Bill DiMichele and Cecil Touchon and Jim Leftwich and experiments with tiles and matrices that I also am experimenting with,  of Troy Lloyd who appears to reference Braille, Fernando Aguiar who brings text off the page and into life with translucent prints and natural environments, of James Yeary who makes me think of Sigils and James Joyce, and Derek Beaulieu  – because I see how I can make something in this structure, of Gareth Jenkins and the creation of new letters and accents.

These are my inspirations this morning. 

Ontological Remodelling

consciousness

I am stealing this word from Dr Jason Fox.  I am watching The Meaning Crisis with him and a few others at the coterie and this morning we discussed episode 7.Episode 7 focuses on Aristotle, but also on the distinction between being and knowing. I always came to being and knowing via Heidegger, and thought about being and existence and knowledge as knowing. In this episode of the meaning crises being is more like becoming, something that perhaps acts out of its own vital forces.

This could also be construed as process vs product. But lets stick with being and knowing. John Vervaeke talks about the modal confusion. That in our world, and advertising in particular, confuses knowing mode – all cars are similar, replaceable, etc with being mode, happiness or maturity or love. Like if you buy this car then you will have maturity. But maturity is not a having it is a being. 

Satisfying a desire (having) does not give rise to meaning (being).  Maybe this could be the psychological fallacy or the psychoanalytic fallacy.  Going back to the idea of akrasia – the notion is that if only we knew what was best we would do that! And that when we dont it is because we have a weakness of will – satisfying desire over reason.  

I am interested in psychotechnologies – how can we address divide? Some thoughts are how do we reconcile desire with reason perhaps, desire with meaning. It is not just resisting our desires but cultivating desire for those those things that will help our being. Every being is different so desire is different there is no rule that all people should desire one sort of thing. 

One of the points JV discusses is the agent and the arena – that this is one of the ideas that Aristotle introduces. That once we have axial age psychotechnologies of reason we can then do the following operation: We have a world, an arena, that we can understand how that world works via reason. We can construct a narrative about it, with rules and laws etc. Then we can identify ourselves as an agent (perhaps this can be thought of as adopting particular personas), to act within the arena – the world.

This analysis made me think of games – a pre-axial age technology. Games, children’s game or adult games embody this arena/agent relationship – and it is a psychotechnology. Aristotle innovation perhaps is the meta turn that indentified this structure within games and looked at areas of human existence, nature, physics, politics in this framework that creating the beginning of sustained investigation into these areas.

Today there is a resurgence in gaming it appears. At least video games and VR games provide a new medium through which to write games. Is this psycho-technology perhaps different from something like chess or ring around the rosy. I would say yes, because they allow the proliferation of NPC (non-player characters) with their own becomings that interact in the game. It is a move from the agent-arena to the agent(s)-arena and considering some things that were previously construed as objects (as having/subject to knowing) as beings. 

Back to ontological modelling… the meta question is how do you shape your being. The modal confusion exists to “meaning.”  Meaning is not a thing you have but a process or perhaps a quality of a process.  What is ontological modelling.  Dr Fox put it out there in response to how to approach radical changes in life (divorce, illness, death etc), but perhaps engaging with meaning is a constant ontological modelling. We are shaping our becoming, and the meaning question is a question of ontological modelling – what sort of meaning do we want to have?

 

 

Points and Lines

art

https://editor.p5js.org/msrobot0/embed/4Nv9jd6b0

I have never had a good relationship with creative code. It is the one place where the blank page intimidates me. However, recently I listened to a lecture on coding and meditation and found a way in.

The first prompt was imagine a point and two lines and then all the different ways you can connect between the two lines, straight, curved, squiggly, zig zag. Squiggly and zigzag in programming means you are also adding other points, but lets not go there yet.

I found this very generative. How many signs and symbols are drawn like this: constellations, the alphabet and numbers, stars, hearts, even … sigils.

I decided I wanted to have a user type in and transform the letters into essentially sigils. I had an idea of how I would do this with Bezier Curves, and possibly with python, but when I got into the weeds things changed. 

I decided to use p5js, a javascript library for processing. I have never really used p5js but all the kids are doing it and so I will do that instead of do something else like use TikTok. 

The next thing I did was throw out bezier curves. Maybe I will return to bezier curves but for now I am using CurveVertex

What I am doing? Well when I started out I wanted to get an intuition for how the lines curved. So I drew two random points and then connected them with a curve. It was a line. Then I drew three lines, and so forth. Then I wanted to add dynamic points so I added points a list. I wanted to add constraints (like events and constraints), so when the lists got too long I’d remove the first point – this makes the lines appear to move continuously. Then I wanted then lines to appear to have richness, so I added additional curve vertices. In one version I added key press events so you can toggle between random or 0-9 vertices, speed up and slow down the framerate, and add additional vertices. 

How does CurveVertex work?

Well it uses a spline method called Catmull-Rom. I have zero idea what this means. I am super tired right now. But I am interested to try this method out with bezier and other curving algorithms.  Tomorrow – when I am not completely exhausted maybe I can talk about how to use CurveVertex

 

 

 

Cardinality of Art and Walter Benjamin and other stuff

art, capitalism, consciousness

I am listening to a the fabulously generative podcast Game Studies Study Buddies – in particular the episode on Surrealism.  

It is making we think about art, individuality, the unconscious and perhaps Walter Benjamin. I am into the first three, not so much Walter. 

Follow this thread. 

Is art that prioritizes self expression still art?

Photography is the beginning of art as self-expression which is a rupture from traditional art as a mode of communal participation and perhaps self transformation (feeling and integrating new feelings).  At this moment art becomes about the decisions or mind of the photographer (ie the artist), what photo do I take, rather than my technique in creating art.  Art becomes about personal expression, rather than universal participation. It also becomes about selection, ie decision making ie taste, and is the beginning of the curation as art / the mixtape/ sampling (perhaps brilliantly temporally locally realized by Hans Ulrich Obrist).

The work of art in the of mechanical reproduction, Benjamin’s work, only makes sense in the context of capitalist culture.  The “value” of the work of art only makes sense in this context. How value changes between cardinality and multiplicity (or mass production) only makes sense in a society with use value and exchange value and commodity fetishism.  But lets play along, what is art in the age of mechanical reproduction, well everything becomes aestheticized (such as politics), because it becomes personal and perspectival rather than embodied in a medium. We could also say this is the beginning of conceptual art because art is about decisions or instructions.  Even in the case of abstract expressionism or mediums that look more traditional, the value is always in … look at this new way I the artist am expressing myself/reinterpreting this thing etc.  There is now value in doing this first.

Now I am jumping the gun. Walter attempts to ground some real value in the original vs the mass produced object in the notion of aura. This seems metaphysical – I’ll talk about this later. But in an attempt to stay grounded with Kant in the Island or reason, or land or reason, I forget in the geography of Kant if speculation is an island or the water, but I digress. Back on reason, the original work of art has original spacial and temporality that make it Art, rather than the spacial and temporal coordinates of the reproductions. Expanding this to modern art, we now have one dimension, temporal. All that matters is that you are THE FIRST. 

I do think by going radically into the personal we can get at something universal. I love rich artist works by people with a fully developed personal mythology – I think of Jacolby Satterwhite, for example. And there is something universal in the complete realization of a personal mythology. As if, the entirety of a personal mythology achieves something universal.  If we look at ART of the past there is a participatory aspect, there is an embodied aspect, there is a communal aspect (thinking of lascaux and the sistine chapel, or even bardic oral traditions like Homeric epics or Icelandic sagas), I have also experience Satterwhite’s work like this at Pioneer works and The Rubin Museum. Benjamin’s concept of aura maybe is trying to capture this idea of participatory and embodied art, I really I am not into this cartesian/kantian Time/Space analysis. I want to lean into the metaphysics of what aura can actually be.  

So back to listening to this podcast, and surrealist tools to get at the unconscious, is this just radically personal?  Is the unconscious or obsession with the unconscious radical narcissism? I would say the unconscious or connection with the unconscious is the most universal part of a human.  I would say perhaps neurosis is personal and what happens when neurosis is removed is something universal. Like all happy families are the same and all unhappy families are unhappy in their own way – to paraphrase Tolstoy.  Surrealist games and a deep communication/connection with one’s unconscious would perhaps connect not only with the particulars or uniqueness of each individual, but also with the universals of all humans. Surrealist games are participatory and communal. What is revealed in a surrealist game is not the product of one artist -but of the group playing the game.  The creator of the game gets credit, perhaps because someone needs to get paid, in money or cultural capital.

So what is Art in the age in mechanical reproduction, if art is not some fetish created by capitalism, but a participatory experience that provides something like connective tissue for the world (humanity, nature etc)? I have no idea, it cannot be just the individual ability to make a unique or idiosyncratic decision but for universal decisions and visions revealed. Perhaps it is something coordinated and emergent. But yeah photography is the beginning of our individualistic culture – realized in instagram – and perhaps TikTok – which I don’t understand AT ALL. 

 

Mundus Imaginalis

consciousness

Mundus Imaginalis is a term invented, I think, by Henry Corbin, the scholar of Islamic Philosophy and mysticism.  It describes the space of imagination separate from the space of reason and the space of somatics.  I understand the rules of somatics, it is kinetics & kinesthetics & physics. I understand the rules of reason it is logic and computation (perhaps some others). This maps to body, mind, and But what are the rules of the imagination? 

Henry Corbin talks about the the Mundus Imaginalis as described by Islamic Theosophists as the eighth climate.  This ‘space’ is populated with geography or as Corbin calls it topologies. There are mountains and islands, as there is an individual who makes a journey… the stranger or the wanderer.  We could perhaps call it the quester – which brings us into the imaginal realm of the tarot or the symbolic realm of geomancy or other divinatory practices. 

It is a geography that does not follow quantitative measurements of things like distance, everything about the geography is qualitative.  Movement from place to place involves a transformation in the state of the questor, not in the location of the questor. Maybe we can imagine the state as the imaginal state or the emotional state or the spiritual state. The state the questor is in allows her access to different realms. It is an inner journey.  The map is almost like a map of a memory palace and I wonder what the relationship of these topos are to other ‘imaginal’ topos like those in astrology (the houses of hellenistic astrology and the nakshatra of vedic astrology).

How do we perceive this realm? It is the realm of symbols translating between the somatic (or material) realm and the intelligible realm, but it is not a mere translation engine.  Corbin talks about imaginary vs fantasy. There is a question that some may ask  – how do we know we are accessing the imaginary realm? I am not sure how valid this question is? The imaginary realm the realm of truth and falsehood? It is the realm of subjective experience and either you have the experience or you do not, either you are in a state or you or not.  We can map the three realms to the body or instinct, the self or subjective reality, and the world or objective reality. 

What does image mean? It comes from Latin

imāgō f (genitive imāginis); third declension

  1. imageimitationlikenessstatuerepresentation
  2. ancestral image
  3. ghostapparition
  4. semblanceappearanceshadow
  5. echo
  6. conceptionthought
  7. reminder
  8. (rhetoric) comparison
  9. (art) depiction

When we talk about images we often think of visual representation, but it is any kind of representation. We could have sound images or perhaps computational images, participatory images (theater/ritual)

The realm of imaginal is the realm of analogy, I would also say the realm of metaphor and symbolism. And, as Corbin states, there is a mapping from the material to the imaginal, the passage through the imaginal realm is inner not outer.

There is the sense, from Corbin, that our imaginal faculties are atrophied. That cultures with rich angelic hierarchies have access to greater imaginal depths for example.

Really how do you improve this imaginal faculty. I am reading a book Corbin writes and there is an analysis of the the imaginal and the realms of the 12 Imams – there are 12 months, 12 apostles – there are many symbols associated with 12. I have no idea what this means for the structure of the imaginal plane or how the 12 Imams map to this. I imagine other visionary works like Blake, or the divine comedy, or Ezekiel.But what is the structure of the imaginary?

Where Physics Comes From

book

I am reading this book “Distilling Knowledge” by Bruce Moran. It was recommended to me by Emma who is in a creative group I participate in. It is an analysis of alchemy as a science in its own right.

The interpretation of alchemy is always changing but some snapshots include
– Alchemy as being the marriage of internal state and external experimentation. The success of alchemy depends as much on the state of the the individual as on the external state. IE alchemy depends as much on the subjective state of the alchemist as on the objective result of the process.
– Alchemy as marriage of matter and spiritual. Objects in the world exist in different spheres if you will, we can call them contexts or world views, like a material body and an ethereal body. Alchemy is about the combination of these different spheres.
– Chemistry/Alchemy also seemed to have been the first “lab” science – I dont know if this is true or if I read this correctly, but it seems very provocative. 

Then there is the more mundane stuff that I was familiar with, the relationship between alchemy and chemistry (the academic discipline), alchemy and metallurgy, and alchemy and art (making paints / glazes etc). 

I underlined a line on page 89 “the best way to know the body and to understand its functioning was by means of chemistry”… and then I put a note at the front of the book. 

What are ways that we understand the body? Well there is biology, the study of the organs etc, and there is perhaps physics, how the body moves, how electron gradients permeate cell walls, and chemistry  different chemical reactions (enzymes etc) in the body. I suppose I had always known about this, but I had not really thought about it.  There is an enormous discussion of the doctor making cures (chemistry) and diagnosing illness (perhaps biology). The chemical lens was the last lens, after spirit, physics, and biology. It makes me consider what other lenses are there are is it useful to discard a lens after a while. Like once you are done priming the canvas and affixing it to the frame you dont need the vices to old the canvas and frame in place any more.  Scaffolding (and psycho-tools) are helpful at a stage and then become a hindrance. 

But let’s continue. So we have the laws of the universe, the biological (evolution), physical, chemical, and of course with me being me I consider, what would it be to consider the computational body. What would it be to look at the body as a set of computations?  I am not sure what that means exactly. It is something more precise than dynamic system. Something that unfolds in time according to a particular methodology. And it is likely that different parts of the body operate by their own computational law. What does computation mean but to process an instruction set. And this is what happens when a ribosome makes an enzime according to a strand of rna. But it also happens when chemical interactions take place. Where does chemistry start and computation begin? I don’t know.

As a coda to this I thought I would include the following….  Today I am also reading an Artist Book recommended to me by a (past) lover –  it is inspiring and beautiful … and coincidentally the name of the artist is Chimes – greek for chymes (alchemist).

 

Erotics of Programming

art, consciousness, philosophy

I have talked about erotics for probably my whole adult life. It is probably because I read a lot of greek philosophy as an undergraduate at university.

But I was unclear about the meaning. Erotics for me was about love, sexual love in a particular sense, or love that gives rise to passion. But I never really thought about it.

I used to describe my feeling towards programming as erotic- that I found programming erotic. What did I mean? Did I mean it was embodied? Yes, yes but his would be somatic. Did I find it arousing? Perhaps, I do find find programming exciting in this visceral (somatic) way.

Then I came across that famous Sontag quote “We need an erotics of art.” What the hell does that mean?

This week I watched the 4th episode of the meaning crises by John Vervaeke, and there was a brief discussion of erotics that began to unlock this question for me. 

The discussion mentioned that erotics was related to care.  There is an ethics of care that arose out of feminist thought. It is a form of normative ethical theory (ie value ethics) that prioritizes interpersonal relationships and the specifics of individuals. This is not what is meant by erotics and care. Care here is what you care about, a person or thing. 

This jailbroke erotics for me.  We need a care of art – like people need to actually care about art, not use it for virtue/cultural signaling… But lets move even further. 

But care is not enough to understand erotics. Erotics for me is something connected to physical love, to embodiment/somatics, and to passion.  I think this is key to understanding erotics – it is an embodied care. 

What is passion?  I always think of the Passion of Jesus, which is Jesus’ anguish on the cross. And then I think of limerence, that feeling when you are (or think you are) falling in love and cant stop thinking about the beloved. But lets talk about the Passion of Jesus. The word passion, from latin ‘passio’, has connotations with emotion, and perhaps comes from the greek pathos. Pathos is related to suffering and death, but also any strong feeling. To think about this psychologically, passion is to be in the grips of an emotion. It was first used in relation to sexual desire I think by Shakespeare in Titus Andronicus, a very gruesome story involving rape.

I don’t know if we can connect passion to eros. These are in conflict, and from googling on the internet Socrates/Plato does discuss this in dialogues I have read and I have since forgotten. 

There is also the notion of libido, that Freud introduced for psychology. libido is more of a sex drive, and eros is more of a life force – vitality. In order to have vitality, to create, sex (biologically for humans) is involved.

Erotics is a vital caring, it is a generative caring, it is a participatory caring. I care with my whole self, not just with my mind. The passion of jesus is reinacted during the easter as a participatory ritual. Erotics as I imagine it is participatory. 

When I write code, I am participating in the code, I feel what it is to care about one thing verses another, it is more than just a product of my mind.  Part of that has to do with my body (somatics), because participation involves the body, but it is not only the body. For an erotics of art, it is about participating in an artwork, and feeling what it is to care. 

These videos I am watching with a group are about a so called “meaning crises.”  I can translate this as not knowing what to care about, which I definitely struggle with.  And if care is about eros, then that is something we need to reintroduce back into society.  Perhaps an impossible to do in world experienced through zoom.

Negative Capabilities

consciousness

In one of my discord servers there has been a discussion on what it means to be generative – create new ideas, rather than analytical which ends its life in optimization (operations research). Dr Jason Fox, who runs the server, wrote a fantastic piece on something called negative capabilities, a term coined by the poet John Keats in a letter!

Negative Capabilities is the ability to live with uncertainty, doubt or paradox. This is one of the things lost today, particularly in cancel culture and in contemporary human life.  The desire to take time and consider a situation in all of its gory incomprehension is antithetical to life hacking, optimization, and even the dopamine hit that comes from acting (and social  media actions in particular).  There is no dopamine in dwelling in the quagmire of paradox. But perhaps there is an increase of depth or of capacity for feeling that may make our later dopamine hits that much more pleasant… 

 

Mythology and Psychotechnics

consciousness

I am part of a group that every week watches and discusses The Meaning Crisis. 

And this point in time we are in the middle of a meaning crisis. There is a mass reckoning with structural inequality and with perceived notions of unquestioned institutions such as the police. The protests in the street are an example of participation in history (see below) in response to a world that is very broken.

The meaning crisis is an attempt by cognitive scientist John Vervaeke to discuss the history of meaning making. This week we watched part 3:  a discussion of the developments of the psychotechnics of the ancient hebrews and ancient greeks. 

Here is a list of psychotechnics that I picked up

  • reason (from the socratics) – I have lots of thoughts about this and the development of logic and computation
  • patterns or relation (and the cosmos) – Pythagoras developing the notion of mathematics from arithmetic. The idea that numbers can be expanded to describe relationships between things and the world – such as the octave. This is probably the beginning of modeling. Also the notion of the cosmos vs the universe. The cosmos being an ordered beautiful thing – seeing the beauty in the world. 
  • historical time vs cyclical time – So with the development of exodus story we have the notion of history. We can break out of the perception that everything is a circle (thank you for returning us to the circles Nietzsche with the eternal return) What happens then … we can act! we can influence the future. I think this is the beginning of the science or need for decision making.  There is also a discussion in the lecture on participation – that in ancient cultures there is the notion of participation – this is what it means to be in a ritual.  Historical time allows us to be participants in the world.  So this is interesting participation vs observation.
  • real vs illusion – this we discussed in our group a bit. V mentions that people used psychotechnics to distinguish between the real world and some sort of false world. This I have a problem with, although members of the group had different interpretations.  Why does real vs illusion matter?  If you want to act in the world, participate in the world, then you want a mental map that helps you do this. If your map some how does not match the world, or if you find yourself going off course – then you have an illusory map. Perhaps this is the meaning. In this case you need a bunch of real maps not just one -and that is metamodern. And the reality of the map is related to what you want to achieve.  This notion of achievement and destiny or goal – like we are on a journey with a goal. This I suppose is the meaning crises.  Historical time presupposes a goal and there really is none beyond the journey and the extent to which you participate in the journey.  I do like the Hanzi notion that we want to experience greater depth and range and then integrate this into ourselves.
  • mythological space  – V talks about how these psychotechnics arose in a mythological world that we no longer inhabit. What is the mythological world? We discussed this a bit. But if you imagine the distant past as a world we were deeply embedded in (participating in via ritual), and via the scientific revolution we are engaged in the world as an observer -perhaps that has something to do with it. V talks about the notion that we have regressed to a world view that preceeds the axial age and historical time with the advent of the scientific revolution.  And that when we apply the psychotechnics of the axial age to the modern age it makes no sense, because we are not in the world in the same way. 

Have we left the mythological age? Probably. Have we returned to a previous age? Probably not because we still have the cognitive apparatus of mythological grammar. What is the sort of participation we have now? Is the ability to determine a deep fake similar or different to the ability to judge whether or not the divine right of kings is true or whether a statement is logically true or false? True or false are unhelpful categories. We just want greater clarity in order to act in the world with full participation. And this is perhaps the shift in pyrotechnics that we need. This capacity to look at a phenomena with many different maps and from many different perspectives to get a full understanding of how to act. This is so difficult in the modern world as there is so much information and things are moving so quickly and it is difficult to understand even what the most important thing in life should be. Also we are alienated from abilities to take care of ourself in a most fundamental way (food, shelter, support). We are looking for a higher meaning, but there is instability in our lower levels of support or a lack of understanding and transparency. Perhaps the we must now return to the beginning not necessarily to grow our own food, but do that too, but also to understand where food comes from the points of failure the precariousness of the network. We are looking for meaning in higher levels of the maslow pyramid but perhaps even if we are fed and sheltered, we have neglected the bottom of the pyramid in a substantial way.

 

psychotechnologist – writing and the computer

Maps and Metaphors

tech

The other day my friend Jennifer, from the MEP, gave me a tutorial on GIS mapping (geographic information systems mapping), I used arcgis and made a map of all the mints with my son who is obsessed with gold.  Jennifer and I then went through a series of story maps.  Story maps are like essays with maps, maps that tell a story or explain a point of view. They can show different perspectives or changes over time. We have medium for writing, and youtube for video, why dont we have something for maps, why are maps less of a narrative medium? We went through the story maps and described what we liked and did not like about each story and what we are going to include in our own story map that we are building.. stay tuned. 

I have been fascinating with mapping for a long time. In fact one of my early skills, before GPS, was reading maps, and my parents would say things to me like “Meredith, you are good at reading maps, where are we.” And it was true I was good at reading maps and I loved maps.  

As I grew and learned about the situationists and psychogeographics. I am still not entirely sure what  psychogeographies is, especially if both Guy Debord and Robert Macfarlaine are both psychogeographers, one a marxists using psychogeography as a way to live more ‘authentically’, the other writing poetic meditations on walking knowledge, nature, and history. But whatever, the journey is more important than the destination and perhaps psychogeography is about that.  

There is the idea of the Derive, what is my personal journey through the urban landscape if I am motivated by nothing other than the terrain itself (versus say my need to get to a meeting).  However this idea of a personal journey plus a map is also interested, because I am interested in the map as a landscape but really I am interested in navigating the map via routes. 

Then there is knowledge embedded in the land (this can be extended to physical objects, or perhaps psychic objects like memory palaces). There are some excellent discussion of this in books like Keith Basso’s Wisdom Sits in Places, or Sand Talk by Tyson Yunkaporta. We can understand why people walk pilgrimages – like in the Canterbury Tales or the Carmen de Santiago.  Knowledge and experience, knowledge and the journey are of a piece and they interact with the moving through the land (walking) and the land itself. 

All these things titillated me, but not enough to actually make a map until this past week when I fired up ARCgis. And suddently I was wondering why people dont make more maps.

But what is my meta interest around maps and here I drew inspiration from Conner Habib’s podcast with Peter Bebergal. The main take away here is that maps are metaphors. I don’t know if that is true, but maps are something, they are a gauze over the world that enable you to see things from a particular vantage point and isolate particular features. A hill in a topographical map, is something different in a nature map (like what is growing on the hill). So we see an item in many different perspectives, or perhaps we can call it world views.  Sometimes you need the right map to highlight the route you want to take. Like I want to see a topographical map of San Francisco not just a road map, because SF is hilly and I don’t want to deal with that. 


How is a map a world?  A map is a tool, it is a technology. It is a world building technology. It outlines a particular ontology – ie it outlines beings. What are the tools that outline a metaphysics, ie the assumptions of the world. The map exists in a metaphysical frame where there are different world views. Ie metaphysics create an environment for tools. Or perhaps tools create a world in tandem with a metaphysics. 

One thing I would like to note is the discussion on technology in the podcast. There was a discussion on the role of the consciousness of the user in interacting with a tool – this I think is non controversial, although there is the one perspective of tool building that commodifies sense perceptions in that they standardize inputs and outputs.  The possible range of measurements that come from a ruler with inches and feet will always result in inches and feet, and this ruler will look at everything in terms of length (or two dimensions). There was a discussion of the film My Friend Dahmer, and how Dahmer would have fake seizures, but then had a real seizure and would not stop – that is when the ‘complex’ took hold, when he became a serial killer. Tools are things we can use to displace these sorts of personal transformations, we can work on a tool before we work on ourself. 

Personal work makes a difference. The particular practices an individual undertakes, whether it is religious, athletic, meditative, or what not affects a person both internally and externally. Tools and technologies are a way to transform the world with minimal transformation on the self.  If we imagine ourselves in co-creation with ourselves and the world, this additional variable what are ways to act on the world in a low footprint way is an ecological perspective. 

Living in world can be a heart hardening experience, how can we preserve the softness in our heart?