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What is Next Nature?

With our attempts to cultivate nature, humankind causes the rising of a next nature, which is wild and unpredictable as ever. Wild systems, genetic surprises, autonomous machinery and splendidly beautiful black flowers. Nature changes along with us.

Posts Tagged ‘Back to the Tribe’

  • jet_powered_barbecue

    Jet Powered Barbecue

    At first sight it seems plain wrong to roast your burgers on this utterly technological machine: barbecuing is supposed to be a nostalgic low-tech activity that brings us back to nature and sooths our inner caveman.

    Yet although we, 21th century people, consider barbecuing a more natural way of cooking food than our everyday microwave, at some point in our human history – most anthropologists estimate around 250,000 years ago – cooking food on fires was a radically new technological achievement: a handy technique to extend our stomach and predigest our food before it would enter our body.

    Cooking is perhaps the greatest example of how that what was once a technological achievement may be naturalized over time – up to the level that we don’t recognize it as technology anymore and think of it as part of our nature. Think about it next time you place a burger on the grill, or in the molecular food printer for that matter.

    Image source.

  • Lowtech Plastic Surgery

    Lowtech Plastic Surgery

    So this is what you get when artists Lucyandbart practice their low-tech plastic surgery techniques on visitors of the MU gallery in Eindhoven. We are clueless on whether it was actually their objective to end up in the blend between tribal Africa & Beverly Hills. Peculiar image of the week.

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    Amazon Tribe lacks concept of Time

    A study, in Language and Cognition has shown that time does not exist as a separate concept for the Brazilian Amondawa  – an Amazon tribe first contacted by the outside world in 1986.

    The Amondawa language lacks the linguistic structures that relate time and space. There is no word for “time”, or indeed of time periods such as “month” or “year”. Furthermore, the people do not refer to their ages, but rather assume different names in different stages of their lives.

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  • NN_spread_mcluhans_tweets_530px

    Featured Page #08: McLuhan’s Tweets

    During the coming weeks, we present a selection of our favorite pages from the Next Nature book. This week a page that is an homage to Marshall McLuhan, who is one of the most inspirational intellectuals for us. What would he have tweeted, had he been able to engage with this ‘social’ medium in our time?

    As the new media theorist would say, “the medium (is more important than) the message.” Twitter may be text, but it’s really an oral and auditory system in disguise: instantaneous, encompassing, and social. As McLuhan would argue, micro-blogging is just another symptom of a society moving back to the tribe. The quotes on this page are adapted from “The Playboy Interview: Marshall McLuhan,” © Playboy Magazine, March 1969. Here are a few:

    ElectricMan – Marshall McLuhan
    For the past 3,500 years, the effects of media — whether it’s speech, writing, printing, photography or television — have been overlooked by social observers …
    42 years ago

    ElectricMan – Marshall McLuhan
    Most people cling to what I call the rearview-mirror view of their world.
    42 years ago

    ElectricMan – Marshall McLuhan
    Now man is beginning to wear his brain outside his skull and his nerves outside his skin.
    42 years ago

    ElectricMan – Marshall McLuhan
    Man becomes the sex organs of the machine world just as the bee is of the plant world, permitting it to reproduce and evolve to higher forms.
    42 years ago


    Featured here are pages 424-425 from the book Next Nature: Nature Changes Along with Us. More information about the book can be found here.

  • how_a_day_is_spent

    How People spend their Day

    No, you aren’t looking at a graph of the Earths geological layers. The layers in this visualization represent an average of how thousands of Americans spent their day.

    The data was collected by the American Time Use Survey, which NY Times translated into this interactive map that allows you to see the differences between various groups like employed, unemployed, men, women, Black, White and Hispanic.

    Would be fascinating to compare the graph with a day in the life of a caveman – the hunting & gathering type. Surely there would be less time watching TV & movies back then, but how about household activities? Traveling and Socializing? We wonder how the border between work and leisure worked for them and whether they were active during the same ‘office hours‘.

    Related: Time pilots us, Office Rebellion, Supermarket – our next savanna.

  • kerosine_vs_led_530

    Rural Energy: From Kerosine to LED

    While for most of us, happy blog readers, access to electricity is taken for granted, things are quite different in developing regions of the world. In India for example, over 65% of the population still lives in rural villages where electricity supply is very limited. If an electricity grid is at all available, it is typically very unstable.

    Since electricity is known to be an engine for development, it makes sense to bring electricity to the rural villages of India, however, these rural areas cannot rely on the top down grid-electricity solutions. Local energy generation and concepts for distributed energy networks are more promising.

    Marcel van Heist, designer and recent graduate at the Next Nature Lab at  Eindhoven University of Technology went to India with the goal to introduce distributed energy solutions in rural areas. After investigating the established Kerosene based energy models, Marcel came up with an alternative based on solar powered LED lamps built from locally available materials. Here’s how.

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  • warfare-united-state-army

    Neither Warfare nor Dumplings Are Innate to Human Nature

    In Ngogo, Gombe and elsewhere in Africa, bands of male chimpanzees regularly make organized raids on neighboring troops and batter their enemies to death. These grim, warring chimps have been held up as a compelling argument for the role of violence in humanity’s evolutionary past. The premeditated violence of male chimp society forms the basis of naturalist E.O. Wilson’s argument that warfare, just like social grooming and opposable thumbs, is a trait that humans and chimps have inherited from our common ancestor. War, in his view, is an innate and unavoidable aspect of human nature.

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  • NN_spread_tomorrows_fossils_530px

    Featured Page #03: Tomorrow’s Fossils

    During the coming weeks, we will present a selection of our favourite pages from the Next Nature book. This week the thirs one in this series: Tomorrow’s Fossils.

    Ode to the car in 40 years’ time? A future Museum of Obsolete Objects? Inspired by Stonehenge while living in England, Jim Reinders, an experimental American artist, originally built Carhenge in Western Nebraska as a memorial to his father. Created in 1987 with the help of his family, it is now a free tourist attraction. It uses 38 vehicles, including a 1962 Cadillac, to mirror the position of the rocks that comprise Stonehenge.

    England’s ‘natural’ past, an idealized place of agrarian idyll and legendary deeds, is transported to contemporary America. Reinders argues for the mythological resonance of the automobile, both as a continuation of past traditions, and as a progenitor of myth itself. As much as we live exclusively in next nature, we look to old nature, and old culture, for context. Will vintage gas-guzzlers prove as enduring as Stonehenge’s boulders?

    Past Perfect
    Certain technologies, already obsolete in our time, may be as inscrutable in the distant future as long-extinct species are to us. When presented as a natural part of the geological record, a cellphone or a Playstation controller becomes a rare oddity. The skeletons of videogame and cartoon characters are just as disorientating, conjuring a life (and death) for the patently fictional. Yet these imagined artifacts recognize the same premise: the fossil record of our species will not be distinguished by our bones, but by our technologies.


    Featured here are pages 56-57 from the book Next Nature: Nature Changes Along with Us. More information about the book can be found here.

  • YouTube Preview Image

    Archaeologist Finds Ruins of ‘Friendster’

    Last month internet archaeologist Dr Maxwell Fry stumbled upon the perfectly preserved ruins of an online community called ‘Friendster’. Remember, that predecessor of Facebook, which might share the same fate? Surely, future archaeologists can’t wait to dwell on your ‘timelines’ dear tribe members.

    Created by The Onion. Via Beyond the Beyond (repost).

  • Australopithecus couple

    Humans Caused Mass Extinctions Before There Were Even Humans

    Humans and other hominids have a reputation for bringing about mass extinctions. Homo erectus has been blamed for the disappearance of many African carnivores, our ancestors likely caused the Pleistocene extinctions, and modern humans are currently embroiled in the midst of the sixth great extinction event.

    New evidence indicates that hominids have been causing significant extinctions far earlier than ever thought. Australopithecus afarensis, of Lucy fame, has been implicated in the disappearance of 23 species of carnivores that prowled Africa around 2 million years ago. Omnivores and small to mid-sized carnivores all bowed out at the same time tool-using A. afarensis showed up, leaving only hyper-specialized carnivores such as lions and hyenas.

    Lars Werdelin, of the Swedish Museum of Natural History, theorizes that Australopithecines were such efficient scavengers that they knocked out any species that relied on part-time carcass theft. Groups of A. afarensis with stone tools likely were enough to scare away civets or large, predatory otters that competed for meat. This finding is all the more the remarkable becuase Australopithecines’ brains and bodies were only slighter larger than those of modern chimpanzees. Human-style social living and tool use, it seems, have made us top competitors from the beginning.

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    Ronald van Tienhoven – Techno Animism

    Once upon a time animism ruled people’s beliefs: both organisms and objects were imbued with a conscience. Artist Ronald van Tienhoven states that as technology closes the gap between organisms and objects, a new form of techno-animism arises.

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    Gordan Savicic – Facebook Suicide

    Slowly but steadily the digital environment is becoming the primary living space where we interact and define ourselves. According to Gordan Savicic however, some things are still missing… like committing suicide.

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    Arne Hendriks – Incredible Shrinking Man

    The human population is expected to grow to 9 billion within this century. As a result we need more energy, more food and more space. If we continue our current consumptive patterns we soon need three planets. But what if we could turn this trend around?

    Artist Arne Hendriks explores the possibilities and implications of downsizing the human species to better fit the earth. Can we do it?

  • Munich Beer Hall During Oktoberfest

    Essay: Next What?

    In this essay, anti-civilization, anarchist philosopher John Zerzan critiques the concept of ‘next nature.’ He argues that rather than freeing us, our self-domestication through technology has created a disconnected, depressed and over-medicated population. Phenomena from global warming to workplace shootings are all symptoms of global human “progress” gone totally awry. If we abandon ‘technology’ in favor of ‘tools’, what are the next steps for humanity? 


    Next Nature “refers to the nature produced by humans and their technology.” The prevailing attitude of Next Nature is “techno-optimism.”

    What is the nature of this “nature” and what are the grounds for the optimism?

    I’ll start by citing some recent technological phenomena and what they seem to indicate about the nature and direction of our technoculture. We’re already increasingly inhabitants of a technosphere, so let’s look at some of its actual offerings.

    A virtual French-kissing machine was unveiled in 2011. The Japanese device somehow connects tongues via a plastic apparatus. There is also a type of vest with sensors that transmits virtual “hugs.” From the Senseg Corporation in Finland comes “E-Sense” technology, which replicates the feeling of texture. Simulating touch itself! Are we not losing our grounding as physical beings as these developments advance?

    In some nursing homes now, the elderly are bathed in coffin-shaped washing machines. No human touch required. And as to the mourning process, it is now argued that online grieving is a better mode. Less intrusive, no need to be physically present for the bereaved! There is an iPhone application now available called the “baby cry app.” For those who wire their baby’s room to be alerted when she stirs, this invention tells parents what the baby’s cry means: hungry, wet, etc. (there are five choices). Just think, after about two million years of human parenting, at last we have a machine to tell us why our child is crying. Isn’t this all rather horrific?

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  • coco-cola-drink-dispenser

    Organic Drink Dispenser

    Recently, while traveling in Africa, I spotted this all organic coco-drink dispenser. Opening the can was a bit more difficult than I was used to, but then again I didn’t need to insert a coin before collecting my refreshment! Isn’t it just great when you can rely on your environment to store your food? Peculiar image of the week.

  • YouTube Preview Image

    Surviving Progress

    Montreal filmmakers Mathieu Roy and Harold Crooks’ documentary feature, Surviving Progress presents the story of human advancement and reveals the risk of running the 21st century’s software — our know-how — on the ancient hardware of our primate brain which hasn’t been upgraded in 50,000 years. It is up to us to prove that making apes smarter was not an evolutionary dead-end.

    Thanks Linda.

  • high line new york

    Conservationists Turn Their Sights on Urban Habitats

    For city-dwellers, the closest ‘true wilderness’ to be found is usually the weeds sprouting in abandoned lots. Snow-capped, postcard nature might be beautiful but is often inaccessible. The Nature Conservancy, a US-based charity that buys up land to stop development, is debating re-focusing its conservation ethic on the concrete jungle. With 50% of the human population now living in cities, the Conservancy is worried that a wilderness-focused message is loosing its relevance for urbanites.

    Bill Ulfelder, the director of the Nature Conservancy in New York, sees the 22,000 acres of roof in the city as a vast potential habitat. “There’s a lot of talk about rooftop gardens and storm-water catchment,” Ulfelder says, “But this is also a great opportunity to put habitat back in the city. Let’s think about habitat for pollinators and birds.” A concentrated effort to bring wild organisms back into an urban environment may mean that we can soon welcome birds more exotic than the standard pigeons, sparrows, and redtail hawks. Let’s hope our kids still remember the word for ‘heron’ or ‘magpie’.

    Story via Grist. Image via Wallyg. Thanks to twitter-er Namhenderson for the heads-up.

  • 20,000 year clock

    Essay: Essay: Time Between Emergence and Design

    Previously, experiences of time emerged from nature as given – offering seasons, the rhythm of humans, plants and animals. Nowadays, people integrate nature-time, body-time, inner-time, clock-time, and global 24/7 systems-time. Human beings, in past, current and next natures, have to deal with emergence and design of time in order to survive.


    To think about how future new worlds are visualized, assumes that these images reveal how life in decades to come will be shaped. These visualizations offer insight into today’s imagination of next natures and next cultures to come. However, in these visualizations ‘time’ as a process of emergence and design, is often forgotten. This essay argues that time design is distinct in any next nature that will emerge.

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