Tag: Theory


Supermarket – Our Next Savanna

We are living in the future and we find it boring. The best place to gather evidence for this claim is the supermarket. To begin with, try and have a fresh look at the word:  Supermarket, it is such an utterly futuristic word, yet we use it mindlessly. If only the supermarket wasn’t such a mundane part of our life, we would realize how exceptional this environment really is.

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OOMouse versus Magic Mouse


Recently were introduced, the OOMouse


…and the Magic Mouse. Both tools are developed to browse the ones and zeros more easily.

It almost seems unfair to compare them, so I won’t. But what I would like to compare instead is both companies’ mission statements:

Open Office: Our mission statement is to create, as a community, the leading international office suite that will run on all major platforms and provide access to all functionality and data through open-component based APIs and an XML-based file format.

Apple: Apple ignited the personal computer revolution in the 1970s with the Apple II and reinvented the personal computer in the 1980s with the Macintosh. Today, Apple continues to lead the industry in innovation with its award-winning computers, OS X operating system and iLife and professional applications. Apple is also spearheading the digital media revolution with its iPod portable music and video players and iTunes online store, and has entered the mobile phone market with its revolutionary iPhone.

The first reads in one word: “community” (building and sharing together). The second reads: “ego” (look how good I am). Now look again at their mices.

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Back to the Tribe

The World Without Technology

I remember the smoke the most. That pungent smell permeating the camps of tribal people. Everything they touch is infused with the lingering perfume of smoke — their food, shelter, tools, and art. Everything. Even the skin of the youngest tribal child emits smokiness when they pass by. I can hold a memento from my visits decades later and still get a whiff of that primeval scent. Anywhere in the world, no matter the tribe, steady wafts of smoke drift in from the central fire. If things are done properly, the flame never goes out. It smolders to roast bits of meat, and its embers warm bodies at night. The fire’s ever-billowing clouds of smoke dry out sleeping mats overhead, preserve hanging strips of meat, and drive away bugs at night. Fire is a universal tool, good for so many things, and it leaves an indelible mark of smoke on a society with scant other technology.

Besides the smoke I remember the immediacy of experience that opens up when the mediation of technology is removed in a rough camp. Living close to the land as hunter-gatherers do, I got colder often, hotter more frequently, soaking wet a lot, bitten by insects faster, more synchronized to rhythm of the day and seasons. Time seemed abundant. I was shocked at how quickly I could dump the cloud of technology in my modern life for a cloud of smoke.

But I was only visiting. Living in a world without technology was a refreshing vacation, but the idea of spending my whole life there was, and is, unappealing. Like you, or almost anyone else with a job today, I could sell my car this morning and with the sale proceeds instantly buy a plane ticket to a remote point on earth in the afternoon. A string of very bumpy bus rides from the airport would take me to a drop-off where within a day or two of hiking I could settle in with a technologically simple tribe. I could choose a hundred sanctuaries of hunter-gatherer tribes that still quietly thrive all around the world. At first a visitor would be completely useless, but within three months even a novice could at least pull their own weight and survive. No electricity, no woven clothes, no money, no farm crops, no media of any type — only a handful of hand-made tools. Every adult living on earth today has the resources to relocate to such a world in less than 48 hours. But no one does.

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Ecology – A New Opium for the Masses

Marxist philosopher Slavoj Žižek discusses the ‘naturalization’ of capitalism and how ecology became a new field of capitalist investment. He also argues that the ultimate consequence of recent developments in biogenetics will be the ‘end of nature’ – anyone cares to introduce the good man into nextnature thinking? According to Žižek ecological apartheid will divide our urban society. Capitalism is not in control of nature and due to techno-scientific interventions the essence of the ecological order will be lost.

Written by Slavoj Žižek, Via Lacan.com, via Volume.

Marco Cicala, a Leftist Italian journalist, told me about his recent weird experience: when, in an article, he once used the word “capitalism,” the editor asked him if the use of this term is really necessary – could he not replace it by a synonymous one, like “economy”? What better proof of the total triumph of capitalism than the virtual disappearance of the very term in the last 2 or 3 decades? No one, with the exception of a few allegedly archaic Marxists, refers to capitalism any longer. The term was simply struck from the vocabulary of politicians, trade unionists, writers and journalists – even of social scientists… But what about the upsurge of the anti-globalization movement in the last years? Does it not clearly contradict this diagnostic? No: a close look quickly shows how this movement also succumbs to “the temptation to transform a critique of capitalism itself (centered on economic mechanisms, forms of work organization, and profit extraction) into a critique of ‘imperialism’.” In this way, when one talks about “globalization and its agents,” the enemy is externalized (usually in the form of vulgar anti-Americanism). From this perspective, where the main task today is to fight “the American empire,” any ally is good if it is anti-American, and so the unbridled Chinese “Communist” capitalism, violent Islamic anti-modernists, as well as the obscene Lukashenko regime in Belarus may appear as progressive anti-globalist comrades-in-arms… What we have here is thus another version of the ill-famed notion of “alternate modernity”: instead of the critique of capitalism as such, of confronting its basic mechanism, we get the critique of the imperialist “excess,” with the (silent) notion of mobilizing capitalist mechanisms within another, more “progressive,” frame.

So what is the problem here? It is easy to make fun of Fukuyama’s notion of the End of History, but the majority today is “Fukuyamaian”: liberal-democratic capitalism is accepted as the finally-found formula of the best possible society, all one can do is to render it more just, tolerant, etc. The only true question today is: do we endorse this “naturalization” of capitalism, or does today’s global capitalism contain strong enough antagonisms which will prevent its indefinite reproduction? There are three (or, rather, four) such antagonisms:

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Fake for Real

Fakeness has long been associated with inferiority. Fake Rolexes that break in two weeks, plastic Christmas trees, leaky silicone breasts that cause cancer, imitation caviar. Even the ancient Greeks talked about the phenomenon of fakeness. In the Allegory of the Cave, Plato describes human beings as being chained in a cave and watching shadows on the wall, without realizing that they are ‘only’ representations.

Today, the walls of Plato’s cave are so full of beamers, disco balls, plasma screens and halogen spotlights that we don’t even see the shadows on the wall. A city child washes her hair with pine–scented shampoo. Walking in the forest with her father one day, she says, “Daddy, the woods smell like shampoo.” Do we still have genuine experiences at all, or do we live in a world of make–believe?

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Humans Are the Sex Organs of Technology

Written by Kevin Kelly, published in The Technium

I claim that technology has its own agenda. What is the evidence that technology as a whole, or the technium as I call it, is autonomous? Because without autonomy, one could argue, how can something have its own agenda? I have three parts to my answer.

First, I believe that a system can have an agenda even when it depends upon another system to remain viable. Let’s take the human mind and human culture. Obviously humans are animals, and just another creature of evolution. As a mammal, we must obey the rules of biology. We are part of the trajectory of living tissue: our flesh must breathe, metabolize, mate, excrete, and eventually die. The agenda of our bodies is exactly the agenda of any other animal body.

But we also claim that we are different than animals, and our effect on the earth seems to be proof of this. We build very large structures (cities) unlike any other in scale. The skyscrapers of termites and the reefs of coral are dwarfed by the skyscrapers and concrete reefs of New York, even relative to their size. We have transformed the surface and eliminated other species at a scale way beyond other species. We mess with the climate on a scale few individual species can. And of course we have made many new objects and “organisms” – which no other creature has. It is clear that humans have their own agenda, which the rest of biology does not have.

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Next Nature Interview

For the Venezuelan Magazine Platanoverde, Gabriela Valdivieso y Lope Gutiarrez-Ruiz interviewed artist/scientist Koert van Mensvoort and discussed some of the idea’s behind Next Nature and their implications on art, design, sex, religion and what it means to be human.

Who are the creators of Next Nature? Who is behind the project nowadays?
Sometimes I wonder. We are explorers, inherits of the courageous of the past, who sailed through unknown oceans, climbed mountains, or rocketed themselves into space. We are exploring Next Nature. Our project took off in 2004 with an essay I wrote in which I argued our established view on nature had become problematic and proposed the concept of culturally emerged nature. In the last few years together with designer Mieke Gerritzen I’ve organized various events in the Netherlands and Germany on the topic of Next Nature. We also created the -now outdated- Next Nature pocket book. Later we initiated the website www.nextnature.net which functions as a place to gather materials, ideas and examples. Currently the core people involved besides myself are, Arnoud van den Heuvel, Rolf Coppens, Hendrik-Jan Grievink, Mieke Gerritzen. For the coming year we are planning on organizing an event in Los Angeles in cooperation with the Art Center school of Design, Pasadena, which focuses on the question how we should design for Next Nature. We actively seek to discover how people from other countries and cultures perceive the theme and its consequences on how we design, build and live.

How would you define Next Nature: A theory? A position? An interpretation of reality?
It is a way of looking; an interpretation of reality.

What authors or artists have inspired the Next Nature concept?

Some philosophical inspirations came from Baudrillard’s concept of hyperreality (the idea that our world is filled with simulations of things which never really existed). If one thinks through the implications of hyperreality, one automatically arrives at something like hypernature or nextnature. Another influence is the unavoidable Marshall Mcluhan, whom I consider as a nextnature thinker avant la lettre. Read more

Fake Nature

Simulacra and Simulations

The simulacrum is never that which conceals the truth–it is the truth which conceals that there is none. The simulacrum is true. -Ecclesiastes
If we were able to take as the finest allegory of simulation the Borges tale where the cartographers of the Empire draw up a map so detailed that it ends up exactly covering the territory Read more