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flaneur musings by teodor mitew

The best memes are never funny

This is Episode 4 of Naive and Dangerous, the podcast series about emergent media I am recording together with my colleague Dr Chris Moore. In this episode we discuss memes and the phenomenon of meme warfare. We start with a historical overview, beginning with ancient Sumer and the gods Enki and Asherah symbolizing the ur-memes of chaos and order, and then move onto the Egyptian god Kek and the emergent phenomenon of Kekism. We then move on to a definition of memes as frames influencing our perception of reality, and the emergent phenomenon of swarm-driven meme warfare as a dynamic contest over perception. Have a listen.

Space: ‘What is more beautiful than an Earth in a vast Cosmos?’

This is Episode 3 of Naive and Dangerous, the podcast series about emergent media I am recording together with my colleague Dr Chris Moore. In this episode we discuss space and various imaginaries associated with it. We start with Copernicus and Carl Sagan, and then move through the music of the spheres, cosmos and chaos, the space of creation myths and sagas, space as machine, space travel, the myth of the final frontier, parallel universes, lovecraftian space, and finally, Lagrange points. Have a listen.

On digital artefacts

I recently recorded 3 short YouTube lectures on developing digital artefacts. Previously, I’ve outlined how I use the concept of digital artefacts in my piece on teaching digital media in a systemic way. In brief, the digital artefact assessment framework I developed gives students the opportunity to work on projects with real-world implications and relevance, that is, projects with nonlinear outcomes aimed at real stakeholders, users, and audiences. The only criteria for a digital artefact are that 1] artefacts should be developed in public on the open internet, therefore leveraging non-linearity, collective intelligence and fast feedback loops, and 2] artefacts should have a clearly defined social utility for stakeholders and audiences outside the subject and program. Below is my lecture outlining the key aspects of the digital artefact development process.

Fail Early, Fail Often [#fefo] is a developmental strategy originating in the open source community, and first formalized by Eric Raymond in The Cathedral and the Bazaar.  In the context of teaching and learning, FEFO asks creators to push towards the limits of their idea, experiment at those limits and inevitably fail, and then to immediately iterate through this very process again, and again. At the individual level the result of FEFO in practice is rapid error discovery and elimination, while at the systemic level it leads to a culture of rapid prototyping, experimentation, and ideation. Below is my lecture outlining the use of the #fefo philosophy in developing digital artefacts.

Fast, Inexpensive, Simple, Tiny [#fist] is a developmental strategy developed by Lt. Col. Dan Ward, Chief of Acquisition Innovation at USAF. It provides a rule-of-thumb framework for evaluating the potential and scope of projects, allowing creators to chart ideation trajectories within parameters geared for simplicity. In my subjects FIST projects have to be: 1] time-bound [fast], even if part of an ongoing process; 2] reusing existing easily accessible techniques [inexpensive], as opposed to relying on complex new developments; 3] constantly aiming away from fragility [simple], and towards structural simplicity; 4] small-scale with the potential to grow [tiny], as opposed to large-scale with the potential to crumble. Below is my lecture outlining the use of the #fefo methodology in developing digital artefacts.

Comparative hierophany at three object scales – book chapter

This is the print version of an essay of mine to appear in an upcoming book I am co-writing with a few colleagues, titled 100 Atmospheres: Studies in Scale and Wonder. The book is coming out in July 2019 from Open Humanities Press, and it will be available in 4 different versions: as a standard paperback through Amazon, as free download through the Open Humanities Press site, through Scalar as an interactive space, and through Big Fag Press as a limited edition hardcover. Exciting!

Zeitgeist

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Cyborgs: “Does it bother you that I’m not completely human?”

This is Episode 2 of Naive and Dangerous, the podcast series about emergent media I am recording together with my colleague Dr Chris Moore. In this episode we discuss the notion of the cyborg and the tension between being a cyborg and being a human. We start by unpacking the various meanings injected in the concept of a cyborg, using recent movies such as Alita Battle Angel and Ghost in the Shell as a starting point. As is our habit, we engage in extensive speculative analysis of the cyborg trope, from contemporary cinema, to cyberpunk, early science fiction imaginaries of robots, the assembly line, and ancient mythology. In the process we develop a definition of cyborg/humans and manage to have a lot of fun. Have a listen.

The Medium is the Message

These are the slides for the first two topical lectures from the subject BCM112 Emergent Media that I teach this session. In the first lecture I discuss Marshall McLuhan’s framework of understanding media, and the trajectory and dynamics of the process of convergence. I concentrate on the ways convergence affects industries, technologies, and audiences, establishing the parameters of the internet paradigm. In the second lecture I examine how ‘the medium is the message’ manifests itself in the process of digital production. I explore the kinds of experiences and production processes made possible by the emergence of a digital network economy.

Cognitive mercantilism

In his Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism Robert Jay Lifton gives the following interesting definition of the language of a totalist environment [p.429]:

The language of the totalist environment is characterized by the thought-terminating cliché. […] [B]rief, highly reductive, definitive-sounding phrases, easily memorized and easily expressed […] become the start and finish of any ideological analysis.

In other words, the preponderance of thought-terminating cliché phrases such as ‘agree to disagree’, ‘it’s all relative’, ‘this is hate-speech’, ‘these are the facts’, ‘[authority figures] all agree’, ‘this is [x] privilege’, ‘that’s your opinion’ is a symptom of being in a totalist environment.

A totalist environment is characterized by fully synthetic thinking, itself a function of a dynamic milieu control of information. In an environment of dynamic milieu control, certain information inputs – phrases, words, images, feelings – are branded as undesirable and banned from circulation. This in turn means that any and all thoughts associated with these information inputs become undesirable and dangerous.

In effect, synthetic thinking, as modulated by milieu control, acts to remove undesirable wrong-think and wrong-speech from all downstream communication feedback loops. Importantly, this is a self-reinforcing mechanism which, over time, generates an equally synthetic, and total, image of reality.

When consistently performed at scale over a given time-space, the causal chain of milieu control >> synthetic thinking >> synthetic reality leads to the emergence of cognitive mercantilism. Cognitive mercantilism is the systemic and dynamic formatting of the cognitive processing of a given local reality [i.e. a country], as directed by the actors in control of the communication mechanism of that local reality [i.e. the state].

This is how this maps to the historical process so far:

local mercantilism [tribal/feudal state] >> colonial mercantilism [empire/colonial state] >> [pseudo] liberal colonialism [we are here] >> cognitive mercantilism