This week → Open Climate now! ⊗ Thresholds of artificiality ⊗ Collapse, renewal and the rope of history ⊗ Design for obsolete devices ⊗ Rewilding your attention
This week I took some time to completely redo the Membership with much more up to date and clearer information. Full disclosure, the look does copy Craig Mod quite a bit, hope you don’t mind, Craig. I’d like to especially draw your attention to the free accounts, the Supporter tier, and the Thought Partner offer which, mixes the classic membership and the one-on-one consultancy I’ve been doing.
In the newsletter itself, notice that from now on, links highlighted like this are ‘internal’ links to Notes and tags on the website.
Lots of answers last week to my query about where recent subscribers found Sentiers, and a couple of people asked to know the result. So: it looks like it was either The Sample which was itself linked to by 1440 Daily Digest and its 900k readers (thanks for the tip on the latter Jodi!), or via Strands of Genius which was curated by Matt Muir that week (thanks Matt for the very kind words and Mark for the tip).
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Presenting a very promising direction, the group of authors writing for Branch avocate and give a very thoughtful and solid rationale for Open Climate, a merging of interests between the Open and Climate movements who share a lot of values and ideals but somehow never seem to properly connect and benefit from each other.
Perhaps you’ll call me naive or assert that I’m just revisiting old ideas I should already know well but through the whole piece, I kept thinking of capitalism vs the commons, that so much of our collective problems rest in the enclosure, appropriation, and out-right capture of various commons by extreme capital. The authors are basically saying that the people who share common code and practices and the people trying to protect and reclaim the natural commons should work together.
If you start from a common planet, everything we live within and have created is in some way built from, with, or over common goods, spaces, and technologies. The iPhone, famously through Mazzucato, uses lots of publicly funded technologies, Uber runs on public roads, Big Tech in large part runs on the commons of Open Source software, as mentioned in their article. The real tragedy of the commons (a dangerous myth, btw) is not over-exploitation by communities, but rather enclosures by Capital. Communities and restrained markets can use the commons sustainably, unbridled capitalists don’t.
‘Neo-luddites’ don’t refuse technology, they consider it carefully, and there’s also a need for ‘neo-commoners’ who protect the commons and consider markets just as carefully.
Most of the authors in the mainstream literature on the digital commons focused on solving market failures around information sharing rather than about criticizing the voracity in which corporate capitalism appropriated the public domain. […]
[T]he ability to appropriate resources without paying for them is crucial for building surplus value. In the end, the story of the commons has not been one about movements working together towards the same goal, but rather about movements witnessing the same tragedy happening in different spaces. […]
[T]he commons also requires, firstly, to emphasize the urgency of planetary health from multiple communitarian standpoints, and secondly our willingness to listen, to share, to reach consensus, to trust, and to agree to work together for the commons. […]
We understand the need to broaden our agendas to encompass much more than IP reform and reconnect our concern for the commons with calls for environmental justice, bringing the needs of communities to the table as basis for negotiation, instead of abstract reasonings behind the definition of intangible property. […]
When we center climate action around those who carry the burden of environmental injustice on both a big (increasingly strengthened hurricanes) and small (daily street flooding during “normal” storm events) scale, we are able to see new applications for open technologies and methodologies. We begin to understand pressing ecosystem-wide changes that will occur not just to the environment, but to our societies at various levels.
This short article is part of L. M. Sacasas’ “Is this anything?” series of quicker posts. I think this one is definitely something. He weaves together Ong, Borgmann, Ellul, Illich, Arendt, and Latour, in an intriguing overview of what is artificiality, how it’s separate from nature and our planet. Sacasas is already assembling quite a few things so I won’t try to summarize it too much, have a read, but there’s a spot here that deserves to be explored further: being able to contemplate the human made world, the more than human world, the usefulness of the artificial, and whether/how ‘we’ can set limits, understand where there is need, and where ‘we’ overstep.
Lastly, although used there for another purpose, it reminds me of Bratton’s distinction between synthetic and artificial.
Illich, especially, sought to encourage the development of what he called convivial tools. Illich also supplied us with the eminently useful concept of thresholds or limits beyond which practices, technologies, or institutions become counterproductive and even destructive. This seems like a useful concept to apply to the question of artificiality. […]
What are the consequences of so structuring our necessarily artificial environment that we find ourselves largely indifferent to the rhythms, patterns, and textures of the non-human world? What are the physical consequences? What are the emotional or psychological consequences? At what cost to the earth is our artificial world purchased? […]
The story of a human retreat from this world, either to the stars above or the virtual realm within, can mask a disregard for or resignation about what is done with the world we do have, both in terms of the structures of human societies and the non-human world within which they are rooted. […]
It is critical that we recognize both the distinctive features of each realm while also reckoning with their myriad points of interrelationship and interdependence.
It seems to be a trait of a sizeable chunk of humanity to dwell on the negative, to be attracted to bad news. Here Gus, Amy and the rest of the FC team present an overview of the last month first in the common collapse-heavy tone, then in a more hopeful one. Both are entirely true, based on things that actually happened, but each makes a different selection and is written in a different way.
They then show, in part by way of Kurt Vonnegut’s Master’s thesis in anthropology for the University of Chicago, that there are all kinds of shapes of stories, that humans especially love renewal and collapse but that really, both coexist and each of us can decide which we are contributing to. Or, as in the excellent Jane Goodall quote they close with: “What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.”
The labels we give to the past aren’t descriptors. They’re propaganda. They depend on who’s telling the story, and are applied post facto, usually for political purposes. […]
[T]he signals for disaster are everywhere we look, and so are endless examples of human progress, environmental stewardship, ecological restoration and extraordinary acts of kindness, all densely entwined and far too complex to resolve into a simple three act structure. […]
We can choose which strand of the rope we belong to. We can add to its grand weave, in the way we treat other people, in the daily work we do, in the decisions we make about where to put our energy, in the leaders we vote for and in the words that come out of our mouths.
In this excerpt from her master thesis, Anaëlle Beignon considers the history of planned obsolescence, what we misunderstand in the term as we over-consume, and reframes it as “premature ageing,” a process “drawn by external causes and not just by a predefined life cycle of the object.”
The main reason [for the replacement of a phone] was economical (a discount, or the renewal of their contract), the second one was the desire for more features and functionalities. Only then came the replacement of phones because of a breakdown or dysfunction. This example significantly illustrates the impact of the context over the breakdown of the object as a motive of replacement. […]
This would be an opportunity for emancipating ourselves from technological objects that can’t be understood, repaired or maintained because they are designed as black boxes. […]
Designing for obsolete devices is a strategy for considering differently products and people that are currently not the priority of the industry, and I believe that a critical understanding of obsolescence can open a lot of new directions for designers from all design fields.
First, I love that this article by Clive Thompson riffs on a blog post that riffs on a thread that riffs on a newsletter issue. Ideas building and evolving one on top of the other. Second, definitely something I’m doing more of, and for which I like having a nature-based name.
It’s like checking my reflection in the mirror and seeing stock-photo imagery. […]
The other problem with big-tech recommendation systems is they’re designed by people who are convinced that “popularity” and “recency” equal “valuable”. […]
If you want to have wilder, curiouser thoughts, you have to avoid the industrial monocropping of big-tech feeds. You want an intellectual forest, overgrown with mushrooms and towering weeds and a massive dead log where a family of raccoons has taken up residence.
- 🤩 🤯 📚 Woah!! So.much.to.read! Cyberfeminism Index “Cyberfeminism cannot be reduced to women and technology. Nor is it about the diffusion of feminism through technology. Combining cyber and feminism was meant as an oxymoron or provocation, a critique of the cyberbabes and fembots that stocked the sci-fi landscapes of the 1980s. The term is self-reflexive: technology is not only the subject of cyberfeminism, but its means of transmission. It’s all about feedback.”
- 🇺🇸 🗺 🛣 ✊🏿 (+ superb scrolling visuals and maps) What It Looks Like to Reconnect Black Communities Torn Apart by Highways. “Take any major American city and you’re likely to find a historically Black neighborhood demolished, gashed in two, or cut off from the rest of the city by a highway. This legacy of racist federal transportation policies continues to define the landscapes of urban spaces.”
- 🇦🇷 🤑 🐀 Capybara the rich!! Attack of the giant rodents or class war? Argentina’s rich riled by new neighbors. “[E]nvironmentalists question its very existence because it is built on the wetlands of the Paraná, the second most important river in South America after the Amazon. Now, however, nature is fighting back against Nordelta’s well-heeled residents. In recent weeks, the community has been invaded by capybaras, who have destroyed manicured lawns, bitten dogs and caused traffic accidents.”
- 🤯 👽 ⚫️ Black Hole Megastructures May Be Powering Alien Civilizations, Scientists Say. “[T]he novel hypothesis proposed by Hsiao and his colleagues turns “the idea of the Dyson Sphere inside out” by proposing an “Inverse Dyson Sphere,” or IDS, that feeds on the power of a “cold sun,” or black hole”
- 🇪🇺 🌳 The Seven Elements of the EU Green Deal You Should Care About. “What it will entail: In a world-first, the EU plans to introduce an import levy for steel, cement and aluminum produced in other countries with lower environmental standards. Importers will have to buy special certificates at a price linked to the Emissions Trading System — effectively a penalty for bringing in such goods, which will also include fertilizers and power.”
- 🤔 🤔 🤔 IP owned by a DAO, 🧵 by Paul Kohlhaas A GIANT leap for decentralized research was made today 🧬. For the first time, real-world biopharma research and IP was transferred and funded on-chain as an NFT via @Molecule_to @Nevermined_io @vita_dao A DAO now owns IP and funds biotech research at a leading lab…
- 🤯 👃 Replicating Our Sense of Smell Is One of the Hardest Problems in Tech. “The difference with Koniku’s “camera” is that the purple encasement contains tiny living nerve cells. They’re suspended inside a proprietary solution designed to replicate the mucosa, the layer of membrane high up in our nasal cavities. The cells contain specific transmembrane proteins programmed to recognize odor molecules, precisely as those in our nose would catch a whiff.”
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