Monday, September 10, 2007

Exploring Categorical Shifts

Following the trend of new isms--"volitionism", "devolitionism", "devescentialism" and so on as I have conceived them--I have an increasing sense that the human environment is categorically inhibited, that it doesn't provide a complete view, even of what a given set of people or participants ask.

Being bound to a single category, even a category of category-lessness, entails enslavement to a life without qualities, or at least breadth of qualities; caught in one name, such as "cafe" it is too easy to lose what a name means, so cafe is a place for life that, because its potentials are seen as fulfilled, does not fulfill the life of changing identity or potentials.

Even if life does not concern thought in a high-minded sense as a parsing of the environment in an active and interpretive manner, to escape the life informed by such an approach is to lose touch with the spirited life, or an environment that participates with the inner self.

Moving within such a field of categories (of which I have found scanty evidence, apart from philosophy and notions of networked environments), the self would necessarily become flexible and adaptive, yet to the extent that life takes the form it holds dear.

The conclusion then is that in a life without social networking there is a need for networks that in spite of this create a sense of locality, and hence individual reality. This is a step beyond internet-surfer as a kind of mind-body dualism, and closer to the notion of an engaging, transformative landscape. Ultimately in such a place, objects interpreted in a valuative sense, such as Motist artwork, poetry, and metaphorical machines, become like monuments or points of interest in a kind of metropolis allowing inter-modal transference or conduction.

In a simple sense, this is like saying that entire zones of the internet could be themed almost like today's popular PC games. In another sense there is a deeper implication that the systems of ordering and processing such zones may reflect the values of those who use them. This implies a more complex articulation, which does not take the interface for granted.

Even in the physical world, there are ways in which zones of a city could be networked to improve the experience. Much is lost by reducing buildings into simplistic blocks, that are not integrally related by function or in a way by which they participate with one another. Ultimately to improve the relatedness of the human landscape is to improve the value of the landscape to individuals.

There are simple ways to do this that are only surfacial; the way a given viewpoint sights down an avenue, the clustering of buildings with commercial purposes; or are simply about ancillary function, such as selling popcorn at a movie theatre. In a systematic sense currency has been universalized on different levels of community (both money and electricity). Granted, there are ways in which, for example, people at a gym would not appreciate generating electricity for a bookstore, but there are other more interesting ways in which one community can work more sufficiently for itself, or for another.

Although much writing and artwork is available on the internet for free, very little of it is used to change the human landscape. Too often what is on the shelf or the wall is a product, and not necessarily with intrinsically superior value. In fact, with the advent of digital paper displaying images or eventually motion, entire wall surfaces might be transformed to display an appropriate texture, landscape, or textual statement.

We should not even assume that the surface must be flat; curved or angular surfaces may have a different potential to utilize changing pictures. The paper or other digital material may even be produced with a different surface texture (for example as hairs, rough as stone, or with a strong gloss). This would improve the familiarity and authenticity of these structured zones.

Although some of this might be subsumed in the field of haptics, which relates more directly with virtual environments, there are benefits in considering the experience we take for granted in terms of considerations that oftentimes are relegated to entertainment districts. It isn't that life precisely should be a playground, but simply that some textures and structural considerations have an enormous psychological impact which influences how people think about their lives. There is evidence enough in avant-garde architecture; these buildings are valuable not simply because of radical structures, but because they make an impression.

It is my belief that moving away from unitary aesthetic into a kind of inter-unitary aesthetic would result in a landscape in which aesthetic values are appreciated in more empirical terms; the schism between great buildings and great art, and any human dissapointments would be reduced; experience would be more accomodating of what the mind implicitly asks.

On a higher level, a level where I feel I must tread carefully, aesthetics becomes associatively systematic and begins to derive inspiration from philosophy. I then begin to consider how systems effect the human landscape. If there is no conjunction between buildings, or even subtly related function, it becomes difficult to conceive of things as even related. Every location becomes a chasm that doesn't speak a common language.

Its true that the internet has done much to connect data, but it has failed to connect experience; people only gain association by the assumption of a second non-place where they coexist. What I am implying here is a renewed locality, not to information, but to the information experience. The flexibility of electronic format in fact permits reading to be lived. Just as the Chinese game of Go must have begun as a strategy game for the military, so too today's computer games and virtual environments may follow a reverse path and gain academic and everyday value. Part of this is recognizing that games are not something apart from life; if the individual has a sense of what is relavent to him or herself, there is a game that can accomodate this, and ideally, an environment that will accommodate the game.

Arguments against this are founded on the belief that life is more relavent as it is. In fact, media and a landscape that accommodates the media aesthetically and personally (in a way where it has relavence, and not simply commercial relavence), permit experiences in which writing, visuals, and networking would be accommodated, even according to an active and socially oriented form of living.

Embracing the two extremes of workaday life and global web suggest a compromise in which information becomes integral to the human landscape.

For related materials (an albeit less extreme but nevertheless radical approach) see XANADU.COM about possible futures of the web.

Its my belief that philosophy in relation to systematics, and some form of dynamic artwork, could play strong roles ultimately in such a place.

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