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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 ‘Symbolic-Overdrive’

  • the_Matrix_530

    Next Nature Movie #6: The Matrix

    In the last few decades there have been numerous films that take the struggle between mankind and its increasingly intelligent and autonomous technology as a leitmotif. Ranging from Stanley Kubriks magnificent artwork Space Oddysee 2001 (1968), which is better defined as a posthuman than a nextnature film, to Disney’s cartoonish Tron (1982), to the Terminator series (1984, 1991, 2003).

    The notion of technology becoming competitive with the people who created it, is clearly a thankful movie subject. Pity though, the issue is always projected in the future – at distance from our everyday lives – as this limits the opportunity to reflect upon the co-evolutionary state people and technology have been caught up for a long time already.

    Apparently this is a movie law difficult to get around, and one that directors Andy and Larry Wachowski willingly accept. Yet they do something brilliant. They have a philosophical idea that they want to get out, but they are aware their idea is difficult to sell. If they had made it too explicit their movie would have been an art house film, or a giant flop. So they took their idea and wrapped it up in a sci-fi story, in an action packed blockbuster.

    The subtle premises of The Matrix (1999), is that the people subjected by the machines aren’t aware of the artificial intelligence that is ruling their lives. Like the prisoners in Plato’s Cave they’re blind to the simulation drawn before their eyes – a situation only stirred up with the arrival of the manga style dressed Christ–like savior Thomas Anderson, aka Neo, aka The One, played by a perfectly casted Keanu Reeves. Postmodernity in the overdrive? That’s not giving enough credit.

    Through their syncretic cocktail of ingredients from western and non-western philosophy (*), art and religion, the Wachowski brothers manage to achieve exactly what they want. Like a Trojan horse, they’ve planted something into your mind, the seed of doubt, even if you have no idea it’s there, yet it’s there. That voice in the back of your mind that something is wrong. That feeling you got left with after seeing the movie that it wasn’t just about computers and artificial intelligence but about something else, something more important, something you’re familiar with but just can’t put your finger on.

    The Matrix is a philosophical film that has cut through an entire generation, which now thinks differently about the technology in their surroundings than any generation before them. They’re aware that there may never be a day that technology awakes, becomes conscious and – politely or impolitely – introduces itself to us. They’re aware that this doesn’t withstand that technology is a strong all-pervasive force in our lives: A force that is not only driven by us, but in turn, also drives us. What is the Matrix, you ask? Something closer to reality than you think.

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    (*) Prior to the start of the filming the Wachowski brothers required the principal actors of the film to read three books: ‘Simulacra and Simulations’, by Jean Baudrillard, ‘Out of Control’ by Kevin Kelly, and ‘Introducing Evolutionary Psychology’ by Dylan Evans.

    Passed: Alphaville (1965), Space Oddysee 2001 (1968), Tron (1982), Tetsuo the Iron Man (1989), Terminator 2 (1991), Ghost in the Shell (1995), Technocalyps (2006).

  • terminal_tom_hanks_530

    Next Nature Movie #9 – The Terminal

    Viktor Navorski is an Eastern European traveler – portrayed by Tom Hanks, who in the movie ‘Cast Away’ already played a man stranded on an uninhabited island – that finds himself in the unique circumstance that a war broke out in country while he was traveling to New York. This makes him a man without a country, or one that the U.S. cannot recognize, thus he is denied entrance to the U.S. However, as he can’t be deported either, the Security Manager tells him he has to remain in the airport until his status can be fixed.

    Forced by the circumstances, Victor soon unfolds himself as a situational designer that cleverly repurposes the airport terminal as his living environment. In contrast, the rationalistic security manager desperately tries to cope with the parasitic element that has entered within the system. Guess who wins? Spoiler alert: It’s a Spielberg movie.

    Like in Jurassic Park, director Steven Spielberg shows us that, while people are experts at domesticating their environment with rationalistic systems, the systems we create can easily outgrow us up to the level that we start to perceive them as a next nature that has to be re-domesticated (again). The huge airport terminal set was built for this movie alone. Unsure if they have ever re-used it for a Big Brother-type of reality TV series – oh boy, did we just invent a TV format there?

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    Passed: Modern Times (1936), Brazil (1985)

  • Art-Captures-The-Lives-And-Sounds-Of-A-Thriving-Wildlife-Ecosystem-In-A-City

    Bird + Subwoofer

    The Bell Isle Zoo is one of the examples of the decay of the once great city of Detroit. Situated on an island in the Fleming Channel, the zoo was shut down years ago because of lack of money just as many other landmarks in and around the city. The deserted area around the zoo became a popular spot for teenagers to hang around and race their cars. Meanwhile the zoo itself, secretly transformed into a new ecosystem with a surprising variety of wildlife. Especially a great number of bird species.

    Artists Paul Elliman & Nicole Macdonald found out about this natural world inside the manmade ruins and reflect on this by documenting everything through audio and video and by creating artistic projects.

    One of these reflections can be seen at Casco in Utrecht. A big subwoofer is installed next to a TV that displays the sound of the bird phonetically. The sound of the bird is lead through the subwoofer and is transformed into a deep bass. It’s a reaction on the two worlds living so close together. The teenage kids riding around in their cars pumping out loud music through their car stereos and the birds that try to adapt to their new neighbours.  The only question that arises is; ‘Do you call a bird-sound-emitting-subwoofer a tweeter?’

    This installation as well as audio and video fragments of the zoo can be found at Casco until the 3rd of October.

    Subwoofer installation from the expo ‘Teach me to Disapear’ at Casco, Utrecht

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    Search Stories

    Once upon a time humans told stories by painting on cave walls, showing plays in an amphitheater, pressing text on paper and shining light trough pieces of film. Today we tell our stories with Google.

    ‘Googling’ is part of everybody’s daily life, and millions of things are searched for and found every day. While searching seems so simple, fast and formal; when all your searches are connected you get a rather accurate sketch of your personality or social situation.

    Check out some of the touching, funny and sad videos on the Search Stories video channel on Youtube, or make your own. I recommend watching Dog, Graduation and Brother and Sister.

    If we have to believe Google, “Every search is a quest. Every quest is a story. These videos show that anyone can do anything when paired with the power of search.”

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    Matt Ridley – When Ideas have Sex

    At TEDGlobal 2010, author Matt Ridley argues how, throughout history, the engine of human progress has been the meeting and mating of ideas to make new ideas. According to Ridley, it is not important how clever individuals are, what really matters is how smart the collective brain is. Resistance is futile.

  • Reading the Body: Finger Length Ratio Predicts Athletic Ability

    Reading the Body: Finger Length Ratio Predicts Athletic Ability

    The human body is increasingly recognized as a biometric source of information for a wide spectrum of issues, including security, psychopathology, personality and health. Earlier we reported that job interviews might be replaced by brain scans within five years and denoted this news as a modern technological incarnation of occult palm reading. Now it turns out that palm reading itself has found a new incarnation – it’s in the ratio of your fingers.

    John T. Manning, emeritus professor in psychology of the University of Central Lancashire and the University of Liverpool, has developed a new theory about how finger length relates to human biology and behavior. In the BBC series ‘Secret of The Sexes’, Manning successfully uses finger length ratio as a predictor for athletic ability.

    A significant part of theory is focused on the so-called: ’digit ratio’, which concerns the full length ratio of only two fingers: index finger (2D) vs. ring finger (4D). In women the length of both fingers is usually about equal (2D:4D digit ratio = 1.00), while in men the ring finger is usually slightly longer (digit ratio = 0.98): a tiny sex difference.

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    Pixel Terror in New York City

    Unsure whether this video by Patrick Jean should be interpreted as an allegorical vision of the utterly transmuting effect the digital has on the physical, or that it is just an awesome video. It certainly is the latter.

    Thanks: Elise van den Hoven – Speaking of bringing atoms and bits together!

  • save-the-planet-ice

    Nature as a Commodity

    Nature conservation organizations – like the WWF and Greenpeace – typically present nature as a commodity that has become increasingly scarce and will be used up altogether if we don’t act quickly.

    Although this depiction intuitively makes sense, it seems to conflict with the idea of nature as pristine & untouched, which is promoted by the same organizations: How is it possible to perceive nature as untouched and consumed at the same time?

    Presumably, the ‘do not consume nature’ campaigns should be interpreted as a critique on individuals and corporations who use up environmental value as a commodity. From that perspective things makes sense again, however, there is more to say about the tension between nature as untouched versus nature as a commodity.

    Possibly this tension lies at the very root of our current environmental crisis. Exactly the romantic desire to perceive our natural environment as pristine, untouched and undefined, makes it trouble-free (read: cheap) to consume: No ownership, no responsibility.

    Should we, in order to save the environment, begin to define it as in terms of value, ownership, e.g. as a commodity?

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  • ECO Currency – A Proposal to Balance Economical and Environmental Value

    ECO Currency – A Proposal to Balance Economical and Environmental Value

    Imagine we would have an alternative monetary currency for environmental value. Would the rain forest still be destroyed if there existed an ECO–currency to express its value and pay farmers to let the trees stand? Designers of the Next Nature Lab are investigating how we can link economy with ecology. A proposal on how we can link economy with ecology.

    The starting point of the ECO–currency(*) project is the hypothesis that an important factor in the ongoing environmental crisis is the disconnect between the economical ecology and the environmental ecology. With the latter we mean the ecology of plants, trees, animals, and other organic material. Whereas the economical ecology is defined by our financial system of market, money, goods and other economical exchange. Our second working hypothesis states that we could address environmental issues by linking the economical sphere and the environmental sphere in a better way than that is currently the case.

    Comparing the two ecologies: The rain forest is a stable, self-sustainable and threatened ecosystem, whereas the financial system is a unstable and threatening ecosystem that feeds on the biosphere.

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  • bitquit2

    From Analog to Digital, back to Analog

    Bitquid is an installation by Jeroen Holthuis which shows digital information transferring in an analogue way, through the use of fluorescent liquid.

    Nowadays the use of internet is so common, that people don’t realize what low level communication is going on between two different places in the world. The Bitquit installation, which was presented at the STRP Festival 2009, shows what it takes to communicate one single image, very effectively. It is interesting to see that there is a shift of “coolness” between digital and analog. It seems like we want to go back to analog features again.

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  • Transparency Suit

    Image consumption has never been as cool as in this brand new clip by Studio Smack, which was created for the upcoming Graphic Design Festival.

    The ‘Transparency Suit’ visualizes the unseen flow of information around us into a second skin, a suit that reveals a new field of visual code that increasingly defines who we are. Welcome in the Society of Simulations. Any resemblance with the Matrix is purely not coincidental.

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  • US Judge Rules Gene Patents Invalid ‎because they are Natural

    US Judge Rules Gene Patents Invalid ‎because they are Natural

    Did you know that about 20 percent of your body isn’t really yours? It has been patented by some corporation you probably never heard of. You can’t patent gold, you can’t patent gravity or the speed of light. And yet, 20 percent of the human genome has indeed been patented, in what critics argue is a slippage of the patent and copyright system. Times are changing, however.

    Genome patents began about 30 years in the U.S. (following an important 1980 ruling), and have been ongoing in other nations, as well. In a recent ruling though, a US federal judge has overturned the patents on two genes linked to breast and ovarian cancer on the grounds that they are not man-made, but products of nature.

    The BRCA1 and 2 genes were patented by the company Myriad Genetics, that charged women more than $3000 to test for genetic mutations. The American Civil Liberties Union and individual breast cancer patients took the case to the federal court. They argued that the patent stifled medical research. The ruling could have implications for another 2000 human genes which are currently under patent.

    The ruling is a huge step forward for encouraging more real research into genetic testing, rather than locking up important information. Yet we do anticipate some future troubles in response to the statement that you cannot patent something natural. If the discussion on ‘what can and can’t be patented’ comes to the question ‘what is natural and what isn’t?’, we can expect some fierce debates on what it exactly means to be natural – especially as we are living in a time in which things that the made and the born are fusing and our notions of nature and culture are shifting accordingly.

    Obviously, within the NextNature.net quarters we are eager and prepared to have this discussion. In the end it might well turn out that one can patent bananas, carrots, hurricanes, global warming and engineered microbes, but not computer viruses, financial systems and razor species. Perhaps a way out would be to turn the definition around and say: Nature is that which can not be patented?

  • Kapitaal

    So you thought augmented reality is something new? Guess you are so attuned to the already existing augmentation of reality that you don’t even notice it anymore. The short film Kapitaal gives you a clear impression of the enormous amount of visual stimuli that plague us every day. Due to the immense scale of the visual bombardment, the commercial effectiveness has become utterly dubious.

    Created by the wondrous Studio Smack.

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  • 8-bit Icon Watch

    8-bit Icon Watch

    Remember that aggravating 8-bit pixeled watch icon that used to replace your mouse cursor whenever your Apple computer was ‘taking time’ to finish a task? Displaying a wristwatch to show your computer was busy always felt like an odd metaphor – likewise for the sand clock icon on Microsoft computers – yet once it was replaced by the animated rainbow warp, people immediately missed it.

    Luckily for all you pixel-nostalgics out there, the icon watch now boomeranged into the physical world. To be worn as a wrist clock for 8-bit retro time telling. Get yours and keep this lost symbol of the pixel era alive. Pass it on to your children!

    To order your Icon Watch, please visit our store.


    The Icon watch is made of an ABS and stainless steel body with a polyurethane band. Designed by & Design. Size: Case: 1.25h x 1.25″w; Band: .75″w.

  • Cough in your cellphone, not your sleeve

    Cough in your cellphone, not your sleeve

    Coughing into your cell phone could soon save you a trip to the doctor’s office. Thanks to software currently being developed by Star Analytical Services, people may soon be able to install an app that can diagnose cold, flu, pneumonia or other respiratory diseases by analyzing the sound of your cough.

    The premises of the software is simple: Trained health workers are already able to distinguish cough types by sound, so why not create software that does the same?

    If the idea is successful, it could save patients across the world a trip to the doctor’s office. Instead, they could simply cough into their cell phone and receive a diagnosis a few seconds later.

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  • nano-ink-blood-sugar-level-monitoring-tattoo-530x404_

    Nano Tattoo to Monitor Diabetes

    Now here is something for the NANO Supermarket: Massachusetts-based Draper Laboratories have developed a special injectable ink with nano–particles. This ink eventually could replace painful blood glucose tests which diabetics need to do on a regular basis.

    Squishy nano spheres, embedded in the ink, consist of three different parts: a glucose detecting molecule, a color changing dye and a glucose mimicking molecule. Those three parts continuously move around in the sphere, approaching the surface the glucose detecting molecule either latches onto the mimicking glucose molecule or a glucose molecule making the color of the sphere change either to yellow or orange. The sampling process repeats itself every few milliseconds and is therefore much faster then most current blood testing systems.

    Will the next step be to let our skin tell when we’re irritated or happy?

    Via Discovery.

  • Shell logo evolution

    Shell logo evolution

    Corporate logos constantly have to adapt in order to survive. In the case of the Shell oil company this results in an image that ironically resembles the ones we know from the biology classes.

    Still one wonders how the biomimicmarketing of the seashell came into existence. The reason is rather straightforward: “The word ‘Shell’ first appeared in 1891, as the trade mark for kerosene being shipped to the Far East by Marcus Samuel and Company. This small London business dealt originally in antiques, curios and oriental seashells.”

    Perhaps in due time, when all the oil is gone, the multinational could return to selling antiques, curios and oriental seashells again. No?

    Via Shell History. Related posts: Razorius Gilletus, Coke Mutation, Survival of the Bankrupt companies, Fata Morgana.