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Archive for the ‘Identity’ Category

I have been thinking about “digital” (identity) for a while. Way back in 2003, I got infected by the digital identity virus at Microsoft in a research project related to the launch of the Belgian Electronic Identity (eID) card, a project that led to executive sponsorship of Mr. Bill Gates himself and meeting forward thinkers like Kim Cameron and many others smart people at Microsoft Research.

bill gates eID card

Later, as the project leader of the Digital Asset Grid (a prototype research project at my previous employer SWIFT/Innotribe), we were investigating distributed sharing of data by independent trusted nodes (one would call that blockchain these days).

Future Scenario from the Digital Asset Grid
Filmed & Produced by Heather Vescent

The project never survived the prototype stage, and although the project was really about sharing any kind of data (and not only personal data), it gave me a seat at the WEF Personal Data experts group. I stayed in touch with many of them and tried to follow the space.

cambrian_fig_1_1_large

Then in 2012, I wrote a blog post titled The Cambrian Explosion of Everything, still one of my most read and commented posts since the start of this blog.

I kept being fascinated by the subject and developed a metaphor where the user would own their data, as if the user would be encapsulated in a Buckminster Fuller sort of sphere, and would be able to share different facets of their outer sphere (their data) and be in control of who they share it with and in what particular transaction context.

BuckminsterFuller

That is, in essence, the VRM concept (Vendor Relationship Management), a set of tools that would give users the tools to manage their vendor relationships, just like vendor manage their customers with CRM (Customer Relationship Management) tools.

My thoughts have definitely evolved since then, especially because I always felt there was a mismatch in trying to mimic 2D identity concepts of the off-line world into the more complex 3D online world. The only thing people were trying to do was to create a digital equivalent of a physical real-world identity card, basically only a representation of an account number, or a social security number, or a government-issued ID.

Identity reduced to a number sitting on a chip of a smart card. It always felt so limiting, and with hindsight plain wrong.

I recently bumped into a presentation by David Birch of Consult Hyperion, and I was fascinated by this slide:

Dave Birch on Identity

The eID card was and still is nothing more than a “digitized” identity. The Belgian government recently decided to add a digital fingerprint to the card. Besides a privacy nightmare, this move won’t help: the card will remain static, dumb, stand-alone, etc and a misnomer in a multidimensional on-line world.

What if we pushed our thinking about true digital identity? What metaphors would help us understand what is needed? What is the new and future context for this?

Zuckerberg in prison on cropped window with white borders V3 with red effect cropped

Petervan Artwork © 2018 - Zuckerberg Prison Cell - Digital Mix

Some of my new metaphors are inspired by my recent artwork on prison cells and labyrinths. I am thinking about identity and data sharing in terms of “signatures”, “maps”, and “labyrinths”.

Labyrinth with two red lines - final

Petervan Artwork © 2018 - Labyrinth - Acryl on Canvas - 100x120cm

In essence, I believe we have to expand all dimensions of entities, data, and transaction context. In addition, we need to become more aware of a different type of scale. We have to start thinking about trillions of entities, sharing all types of data in real-time transaction contexts.

I believe that somewhere in 2012-2013 we lost the time window for VRM in its implementation as personal data stores in the cloud. There is so much data out there now (at FB, Google, your bank, your retailer, your hospital, etc.) that it is an illusion we will ever get back control over it. And even if we would be able to do that, the idea of a user taking the pain to pull the levers of control of their personal data locker is just ridiculous.

Open Banking and PSD2 may give us a hunch: what sort of new services would be possible to develop if banks (and by extension retailers, FB, etc) were forced by regulation to open and share their data. Not new services like a personal data store (PSD), but something more integrated with the daily experience.

For example, I don’t use my credit card to make payments, I use it to buy stuff. The credit card just works under the hood to give me a convenient buying experience. What would be the equivalent services enabling an experience like “I just buy stuff” when Open Banking and PSD2 live up to their promises?

We have to expand our dimensions

Many are confused by the privacy focus on personal data sharing. By now, I tend to agree that privacy does not exist online. I think privacy only exists in the off-line world and in the unspoken word/thought, not in what is being shared (intentionally or non-intentionally)

Privacy only exists Off-line

Privacy has to do with The Unspoken Data. In The Crisis of Intimacy in the Age of Digital Connectivity, Stephen Marche says:

“In an all-sharing world, what we don’t share will define us. The secret will be irrelevant because it is not on the network. It will be the part of us that matters.”

The DAG/Holochain/Solid/etc projects of this world won’t solve this. I don’t know what would solve it. I don’t know whether there is a problem to be solved.

“It can not work because we can’t own information”, says also David Brin.

The more critical question is “What kind of world do we want to live in?”, as in Apple’s CEO Tim Cook’s speech to the EU in Nov 2018.

He talks about “Human-centered technology” in the era of surveillance and misinformation. It is a call for regulation of the platforms and their relation with (mainly) personal entities. I believe we have to expand this.

The Cambrian Explosion of Identity has ramifications beyond platform-human relationships.

In an upcoming series of blog posts, I will expand the following dimensions:

  • Identity
  • Entities
  • Relationships
  • Transactions
  • Type of data
  • Context
  • Motivations
  • Governance
  • Entropy of information

Hope you’ll stay on board for the series.

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A relatively short essay on what may capture your identity: about titles, maps, codes and signatures.

What’s your title ?

Your title is what is on your business card. It is what you put in the about us section of your website, or in the profile information of your social media. But how much of that is made up?

Darth Vader business card

That title is more a promotional thing. The good side of things. In that sense somewhat related to fakeness, or to rationality as defined by Nicholas Taleb in his latest book “Skin in the Game”.

Crafting your title is a form of ego design optimisation. In many cases that optimisation only makes sense in context of the organisation you work for. Titles also somewhat assume you do work, you do have a job. No job, no title.

Those titles are also ephemeral. You change titles as you change jobs.

But they are fairly meaningless. You will learn that people are only interested in what you can give them access to (money, investment, contacts, brain picking, etc). You risk becoming nobody without your corporate title and business card.

What is your map?

A better way to think about your identity – or “onlyness” as coined by Nilofer Merchant – is to think about your identity map.

Richard Martin already did the homework on this topic, especially when highlighting the Map of Days (HD PDF) by Grayson Perry.

map perry

Fragment from A Map of Days by Grayson Perry

 

“In the Map, Perry presents his complex personality and plural identity in the form of a walled city. Streets, buildings and other locales represent personal traits and behaviours, indicating a self-exploration that embraces both the positive and the negative, that poses questions, as well as providing answers, binding together truth and fiction.

 At the centre of Perry’s map is a labyrinthine garden, in which a figure walks, off-centre, pursuing ‘a sense of self’.  

I am getting somewhat obsessed by labyrinths and mazes these days. Some fans also refer to my labyrinths as brains or intestines 😉 If I could fabric 3D labyrinths that fit into a skull, that would be a good metaphor for the complexity of identity as well.

Labyrinth on landscape cropped

Petervan Artwork 2018 - Digital composition - Labyrinth on landscape

What’s your code ?

Some people refer to “code”.

Code is very similar to patrimony, very close to narrative, very close to structure.

Some refer to code as to formula. Others – like Christopher Alexander in the Timeless Way of Building – talk about “pattern languages”. The code of a house, of a building so to speak.

There is also “code” in fashion.

BTW: the Balenciaga show has a fantastic soundtrack. You can fine it here.

But the danger is around the corner: that the code becomes a gimmick, nothing more than a formula, getting formulaic, turning into meaningless clichés, and ultimately loosing spontaneity and becoming irrelevant.

What’s your signature?

I believe “signature” is a richer concept. There is no face anymore, no title, but there is a signature, your unique way of creating, executing and communicating.

There is a recognition that you are part of, influenced by a bigger set of interactions and community. Like Celine Schillinger did on her latest website. She labeled that page “Together”, a list of partners in crime.

In painting, artists and critics refer to somebody’s “signature”. They don’t talk about the handwritten signature on the bottom of the painting.

In the past, painters put their signature on the painting when done. These days this is not-done. That handwritten signature becomes a disturbance, distorts the coherence of the image. The signature distorts the signature of the image.

No, they talk about “touch”, “writing style”, and “symbolic script”. In dance one refers to the “choreographer’s writing”,…

What is the signature of your work? When you architect something, will your audience immediately recognise it as yours? Not because it resembles like a copy-cat of previous work, previous collections, but because it carries your unique signature?

And how does your signature reflect your sense for ethical, aesthetical, and spiritual advancement?

robert motherwell the voyage

Robert Motherwell – The Voyage – 1949

New American Painting Calalogue2

In the beautiful 1959 “The New American Painting” catalogue (PDF) of MOMA, Robert Motherwell said on page 56:

“I believe that painters’ judgments of painting are first ethical, then aesthetic, the aesthetic judgments flowing from an ethical context …

Without ethical consciousness, a painter is only a decorator.

Without ethical consciousness, the audience is only sensual, one of aesthetes.

When are you more than a decorator? When do you touch your audience beyond the cognitive, sensual and aesthetical? When do you resonate at an ethical and almost non-conscious level? What is your signature?

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This is a short (and bit weird) morsel on not understanding a clue anymore, to have the feeling to encounter a completely foreign world.

I happened to me several times last months, that I read or meet something/somebody and I really don’t have a clue what they are talking about.

  • A friend shares with me her business plan for a new app, and I have no clue what it is about, even not after having (tried to) read the associated white paper
  • The book “What Algorithms Want” by Ed Finn
  • The “God is in the Machine” post by Carl Miller
  • The 1000 dimensions of algorithms in James Bridle’s “New Dark Age
  • Eddie Harran’s (aka Dr.Time) Temporal Labs, Research lab investigating time’s impact on humanity

From the “God in the machine” post:

We sat there, looking at the computer, his creation laid out in multi-coloured type. “This is all to do with complexity,” he said contemplatively. “Complexity of input. Complexity of analysis. Complexity of how outputs are combined, structured and used.” 

 “Truth is dead,” he sighed. “There is only output.”

 After some 1-1 conversations with some of the authors, it looks like I missed a whole generation of aesthetic language that is only found in apps, games, and Netflix-ish series like Black Mirror, Mr. Robot, Tangerine, Ratter, and Skam.

black mirror

Black Mirror – Season 4 – 2017

It feels like digital incest. Trying to hide from your virtual self. A virtual loop of digital identities and personalities. Not knowing what is real and what is fake or sliced/looped faith.

It also makes me think of this extract from Bill Gates’ review of Capitalism without Capital:

It took time for the investment world to embrace companies built on intangible assets. When we were preparing to take Microsoft public in 1986, I felt like I was explaining something completely foreign to people. Our pitch involved a different way of looking at assets than our option holders were used to. They couldn’t imagine what returns we would generate over the long term.

It feels like I cannot imagine what these new aesthetics can mean on the long term, and how they are already influencing now Generations X, Y, and Z.

I am missing the @swardley’s situational awareness map, about movement and position. Where is the anchor? What is edge and what is commodity?

Visit Roger Raveel museum 28 Sep 2018

If you are still in for it, here are two soundscapes of my visit to the Roger Raveel Museum;

Still with me? Where am I? What’s next? Where is this going? How fast? How? When? With whom? Who is cheating? Who’s not?

Are we entering a digital matrix? Where real and surreal blur into an new perception?

Tell me if your understand.

Are we all lost?

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The Unspoken Data

This list of unspoken data is intended to be read in conjunction with my post on “The Selfish Data”

I want to get rid of the delusion that our social profiles are real and that we “don’t have anything to hide”. We are also a container, owner, custodian of many thoughts, concepts, ideas, habits, etc that we wish to protect, to keep intimate, to keep inside, to keep secret. Maybe that’s the real objective of privacy.

These are the data you take with you in your graveyard. They are not passed on to next generations like a selfish gene.

 

The unspoken dreams

The unspoken frustrations

The unspoken fantasies

The unspoken weird thoughts

The unspoken desires

The unspoken memories

The unspoken secrets

The unspoken shadows

The unspoken wounds

The unspoken joys

The unspoken likes/unlikes

The unspoken emotions

The unspoken jealousies

The unspoken failures

The unspoken loves

The unspoken trusts/distrusts

The unspoken masks

The unspoken narratives

The unspoken journal notes

The unspoken games

The unspoken phobias

The unspoken fears

The unspoken spaces

The unspoken dominances/submissions

The unspoken psychotics

The unspoken obscenities

The unspoken forbidden areas

The unspoken losses

The unspoken hates

The unspoken skin problems

The unspoken health concerns

The unspoken pathologies

The unspoken pardons

The unspoken little physical pains

The unspoken disorders

The unspoken shames

The unspoken lusts

The unspoken bodies

The unspoken vanities

The unspoken delusions

The unspoken disorders

The unspoken scandals

The unspoken doctrinal inconsistencies

 

Feel free to add more in the comments section of this post. If appropriate, I will add them to this initial list.

 

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Some days ago, a Google video “The Selfish Ledger” leaked: a futuristic thought experiment on how total data collection could reshape society. I believe it is a very interesting perspective on data collection that can lead to as many utopian as dystopian scenarios as you want.

There was an excellent coverage in The Verge, well done, so read that one first maybe. The same Verge article also includes a good context video here.

What I would like to offer here is a somewhat broader perspective on the whole issue.

The use of the word “Ledger” reminds me of course of the 2012 Digital Asset Grid project – in essence a collection of distributed ledgers of all sorts of data (not only personal data), a blockchain without blocks and without chains – that was already incorporating concepts like the intention economy of Doc Searls. With some goodwill one could interpret the “Resolution” concept in the Google video as some sort of intention.

In 2012 there was maybe a time window where Personal Data Stores could offer an alternative to the almighty GAFAS of this world, but that time has long been gone. The Google video also shows how outdated the GDPR legislation is. Today is not anymore about users giving consent, but about data having its own life and will. I could paraphrase Kevin Kelly’s “What does technology want?” into “What do my data want?”. Not that I believe that my data wants anything at all, but it gives you a zest of Google’s thought experiment.

google ledger

The key snippet from the video is where the human becomes the custodian – not the owner – of the data ledger, and can pass it on to next generations. The video suggests that data has it’s own intention, an intention to survive and pass on information to next generations. Like the Selfish Gene of Richard Dawkins (a book from 1976 ! that is also referred in the Google video). The Selfish Gene was published more than 40 ago, and since then the ideas of Dawkins have been quite critized.

The Google film also has a bit of the same alienating atmosphere, uncanny valley feel of Andy Curtis documentaries. Of course the documentary “The Century of Self” is the most relevant in this context.

It’s a series of 4 videos, together more than 3 hours of footage, but I strongly encourage you the watch it with the Google video as reference point.

Curtis depicts “how those in power have used Freud’s theories to try and control the dangerous crowd in an age of mass democracy.” and refers a lot to the PR techniques developed at the time by Edward Bernays, who was using the corporate PR techniques, but now for governments wishing to influence the behaviour of their citizens.

Curtis also cites the words of Paul Mazur, a leading Wall Street banker working for Lehman Brothers in 1927:

“We must shift America from a needs- to a desires-culture. People must be trained to desire, to want new things, even before the old have been entirely consumed. […] Man’s desires must overshadow his needs”

The Google video seems inspired by that desire to train people to desire, whether that is buying stuff or realising resolutions. Still very much looking at the user as a consumer, which is an insult IMO. It also starts feeling very much like the Sesame Credit score, the Chinese government social rating system, a private credit scoring system developed by Ant Financial Services Group, an affiliate of the Chinese Alibaba Group, where in essence behaviour in line with the party line is rewarded, and behaviour not in line with that norm is punished. The critical question is of course who sets the norms and what are the intentions of those issuing these norms.

Also, what many discussions about personal data seem to omit, is that the data that are intentionally or unintentionally shared by users are only a very small snapshot of somebody’s data “ledger”. A lot is not shared at all: I would refer to these data as “The Unspoken”. The ideas, thoughts, concepts, models, desires, fears, etc that are unspoken, because they embarrass you, or because they have not yet been integrated in your personal narrative of who you are.

The Unspoken data are related to unspoken dreams, frustrations, fantasies, weird thoughts, shadows, memories, etc. In many cases personal secrets that you are too afraid to share as they expose your vulnerabilities. I have started making a list of The Unspoken that you can find here, and I kindly invite you to complement this list if you feel so. Who said again that “If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.”?

On another dimension, I have been reading quite recently a couple of books that at first sight may seem unrelated to the subject at heart here.

  • Nora Bateson’s “Small Arcs of Larger Circles: Framing through other patterns”. A book about how thoughts, ideas, concepts and patterns are inter-relational and are passed from one generation to another.
  • Michael Singer’s “The Untethered Soul”: about the timeless philosophical question “Who am I?” and more importantly, which “I” are we talking about here. The “I” of our thoughts and emotions, or the “I” that is witnessing them?
  • Keith Johnstone’s “Impro: Improvisation and the Theatre”: highlighting how people try much too hard not being obvious, and how many people think they are only interesting of they have something different to show, share, say.
  • Venkatesh Rao’s “Tempo: Timing, Tactics and Strategy in narrative-driven decision making”, describing virtuoso how “tempo” is an always present but less outspoken aspect of our relationships between people, corporations, etc
  • Han Kang’s “The White Book”, with an essay about swaddling white bands around a newborn baby: “The womb will have been such a snug fit, so the nurse binds the body tight, to mitigate the shock of its abrupt projection into limitlessness. Person who begins only now to breathe, a first filling-up of the lungs. Person who does not know who they are, where they are, what has just begun. The most helpless of all young animals, more defenceless even than a newborn chick.”

The Google video is also inherent of Silicon Valley’s solutionism delusion; that if there is a problem to be solved, there is an app or an algorithm for it. This is finite game thinking as compared to infinite game thinking, as well described by James Carse.

I like Nora Bateson’s quote here:

The problem with problem-solving is the idea that a solution is an endpoint.

 And further in her book:

I see a great deal of misunderstanding—a great deal of information floating around, and even more being generated in the form of big data, little data, medium data. But not much in the forms of the warm data of interrelationality.

“Warm Data” is information about the interrelationships that integrate elements of a complex system. Information without interrelationality is likely to lead us toward actions that are misinformed, thereby creating further destructive patterns.

“Warm data”, I like that. I prefer that way more than selfish data.

 

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Alea iacta est

My sabbatical has come to an end, and I left SWIFT on amicable terms mid Jan 2018.

I also decided to drop the whole idea of Petervan “Productions” and killed the related website. It just simplifies a lot. The “Productions” branding of my work confused people more than anything. I am not in the event business; my work is more about artistic experiences. I am not running a company. Just a guy on his own, cranking out some stuff that sometimes people find interesting (or not).

I will continue my journey now as a free agent to do “interesting” stuff. Here is an open invitation: let’s talk about what “interesting” means and surprise each other!

“What I want to do is make situations where we’re all slightly at sea because people make their best work when they are alert. I’m now 68, so I might have another 15 to 20 years left – talking about my history. So, given the little time I’ve got left on this planet, I would really love to focus on some of the new things I’m doing.” (Brian Eno)

I am not 68 yet, but I feel the same desire not to talk about the past but to focus on the new things I discovered during my sabbatical, and to help you make your best work.

"Celui qui tombe" by Yoann Bourgeois
Dance performance with music “My Way” by Frank Sinatra

 

The Artschool project

I am really enjoying my time at the Art Academy in Ghent (KASK), and love the freedom and feedback from my mentors Chris, Koen, Inge, Marie-Ange, and Annique.

prison window Gober

Prison Window – Art installation by Robert Gober - 1992

 

I also found a theme to work on for the rest of the academy year. The theme is labeled “Hot dogs tonight” and the inspiration was an art installation “Prison Window” by Robert Gober.

I will work on a series of very abstract artworks and installations based on a minimalistic geometrical interpretation of that window. Here is my basic shape to start from, and a first painting exploring this meme:

prison cell basic shape

Petervan concept interpretation of Prison Window – 2018

 

prison V1 9 Jan 2018

Petervan artwork – Hot Dogs Tonight #1 – 2018 – Acryl on canvas – 120x40cm

 

I did an impromptu Skype presentation about this project to a friend in San-Francisco, and I was amazed how the work seems to be an open invitation to have a conversation about what it means to be a full person and not only a reputation or influence. Ping me if you’d also like a run-through of the plans for “Hot Dogs Tonight”.

This project can keep me busy for quite some time, and to make sure the thing does not become an obsession or pain in the neck, something that I have to do, I will still produce in parallel some more figurative work.

The Poem project

Several poems written over the last couple of months, but for this edition of Petervan’s update, here is a really a short one, just two lines:

I dreamt I was reading a book of dreams,

and forgot where and why I was

red-pocket-leather-journal-the-book-of-dreams_1

 

Five trends for humanistic advancement

I found it a good moment to condense my sabbatical thinking into a couple of levers that could enable high quality advancement for a humanist future.

To drill down, click the appropriate link. There is also a self-contained version on the site of Humanworks Design. Thanks to Rudy for having me.

Any of the trends described could evolve in a good or bad direction, but as an optimist, I chose for the path of “advancement” vs. the path of decline and degradation.

The Performance project

The organisers of FinnoSummit kindly invited to do the premiere of my performance as the closing keynote for their Miami event on 9 Oct 2017.

To give you an idea of the storyline and subject covered, here is a link to the slides:

 

The keynote performance also includes self-composed and performed live music, poetry, soundscapes and other artwork. To have an idea about some of the soundscapes, here is a snippet of a very long self-composed ambient that I use while the audience walks into the room, purposefully called “Opening Walkin”: http://soundcloud.com/peter-vander-auwera/opening-walkin The snippet is about 40 seconds long, the real thing lasts for 29 minutes.

Thank you Andres and Fermin for letting me do this.

The Pigs & Chickens Project

This is just a moniker for my garden project. I know of a friend who years ago left corporate life to start a pig farming business. True story 😉 But my wife said no to pigs, so we’ll have chickens instead.

Tattooed Pig Jamie

Tatooed Pig Jamie by Belgian artist Wim Delvoye - 2005

 

Besides spending more time in my kitchen garden and orchard, I plan to be more in nature in general. So expect some more pictures of my bike rides in the country of the Flemish Primitives.

The Studio Oxygen project

Being in nature is also about taking in more oxygen. I am running a small on-line collective that (un)regularly comes together online to discuss a seed that I have planted. Sometimes we’re ten people in the call, sometimes nobody shows up. The conversations are very unstructured and open-ended, like with no agenda, but they generate all sorts of inspiring thoughts and ideas, and people seem to like these sparks of inspiration and refer to them as “oxygen for the mind”.

Oygen Bar

So I plan to experiment with some formats to create a platform letting people share the interesting stuff and ideas they are up to.

What’s next?

During Jan – Mar 2018, the plan is to work on:

  • Pigs & Chickens Project
  • Hot Dogs Tonight
  • Studio Oxygen
  • More artwork
  • Whatever feels interesting and comes naturally into my flow

 

IMG_2735 (1)

Petervan artwork – Early pre-study for concert hall – Jan 2017 – Acryl on sketch paper – format A4

 

That’s it for this edition. If there is something worth reporting, next update is for Apr 2018. Looking forward to hearing from your latest adventures as well.

And if you have an idea to do something interesting together, please contact me.

Warmest,

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Pol Kurucz hr1

Normal-hr-1 From the Normals-series by Pol Kurucz

A couple of days ago, I was standing in line in the supermarket. In just five minutes time, the mother in front of me was instructing her two lively kids: “be normal”, “be silent”, “behave”. She probably said it 2-3 times in that short period.

I smiled, but also felt some push-back at the same time: why limiting these kids in their normal expression so early in their life?

My wife also invites me from time to time to “be normal”. That invitation provokes protest in me. I think that is because I associate normal with boring, not exciting, not special.

Do we want to be special because we want attention? Normal does not get attention. Being normal – not special – seems to be an insult/attack for my identity. Maybe it is my shadow. My shadow as in “what I do not want to be”, or “what I do not want to be labeled as”. Like not wanting to be labeled as “stupid”, or “manipulator”, or “dishonest”, etc.

The older I get, the more I become aware how distracted I get by putting energy in ignoring my shadow, in proving that I am not stupid etc. A similar energy loss btw when trying to prove the validity of my non-shadow label, role or title. But that is another post.

How can I integrate normality in my identity? Should I? Should I integrate that normality? Should I even try to focus on my identity? In an interesting podcast with Raf Stevens (in Dutch), André Pelgrims says that:

“Ego is the urge to build up identity”.

Have we spent the majority of our lives in building identity? Have we never matured? Have we not integrated what needs to be integrated? What/why is there to be proven?

Mind you, in all this, the focus is still on ourselves trying to “build identity” (with our without shadow) rather than the motivation to accomplish on the outcomes we wish to create.

The identity builder is a noise generator.

Do we humans create, design, make, blog, tweet, facebook, etc because we are hungry for attention, we want to prove something, or because we have something new to say, a new insight to share, a novel hypothesis to be tested? Or do we just inject noise into the stream to get our part of the attention?

I recently met somebody who planned to hire a cheap student to create and post her regular noise. Her “Professional Noise Creator”. Addicted to attention. Addicted to taking space from others. It’s a power game. As articulated so clearly by André Platteel of Your Lab in this great blog post (in Dutch):

“Often when we try to find space we look for it outside ourselves. Then we are busy creating space outside of ourselves. To check out whether we can create freedom of movement. Whether we can get more space/freedom from others. Whether we can dominate another in a strategic game and lock them in them so we can get more freedom of movement. That whole game is based on the idea that we are independent of others and the world. Where we are fearful all the time that our space is being suffocated or taken. That’s why we tend to take as much space from the other. And have a feeling of freedom and power.

IMG_4571

Stairway space in Gaasbeek Castle - June 2017

“I know that game very well” continues Platteel.  “Played it so long when I was a marketing advisor. Using smart marketing tricks to make your own commercial space as big as possible at the cost of your competitor’s space, using smart marketing tricks. When all the time you try to be smarter than the others. I started to notice that in the consulting, it is not only about taking as much space as possible, but also to assert power. When it is not about listening to one another, but about being (perceived) smarter, more concise, faster, fitter, stronger. In fact taking more and more space at the cost of others.”

IMG_4649

Petervan Productions 2017 – Blue Sky, Parasol, and Flight – June 2017

I believe the desire to be special (and thus not-normal) has to do with the desire to be visible. A lack of visibility seems to give me less power.

Banksy

If invisibility is a superpower, than maybe also anonymity. I have these moments where I want to disappear in complete anonymity, like a monk in a monastery, detached from any social contact. The antonym of anonymous is “named”, “known”, “identified”. A desire to be un-named, un-known, un-identified. Without identity. And do-my-thing. Without the need for attention and visibility. But even that is a make-up, a mask.

Just the act of saying “I want to disappear in complete anonymity” is the superego acting in the background. Because it assumes I am special, famous, non-anonymous. And I have to escape it. It’s an “evolved” form of narcissism: feeling superior rather than feeling special.

Narcissicm was well described in a post by Umair Hague about why America can’t learn from the world (be aware I take the sentence out of its original context, which is a bit of manipulating or content-mixing of course):

“Narcissism. The belief not just that one is special — for we all are unique, different, remarkable. The belief that one is superior, above, beyond. Better in fundamental ways. That is never true. Not a single one of us is better in any fundamental way. The genius is poor at loving. The lover is poor at creating. The creator is poor at managing. And so on. We all have flaws. But the greatest flaw of all is to be blind to the grace and beauty of the idea that we all have flaws — and so to believe there is nothing to be learned from anyone else. Trump is a narcissist, sure — but he is only a reflection of American narcissism in this way.”

The first job of a leader is to learn. Only then can a leader do their second and third jobs — care and love. Leadership is nothing more — and nothing less — than realizing human potential. You can do it as a parent, boss, friend, partner. You probably do. That is what care and love are in concrete human terms. The difference between them is that care brings a person towards their potential, and love expands that potential.”

art academy

Art Academy 12 year old kids playing with tissues – June 2017

Feeling special, feeling superior. Being part of the ego-tribe. Even worse is the word contempt: the feeling that a person or a thing is beneath consideration, worthless, or deserving scorn.

In that sense I am also a reflection, a feedback loop of society. It’s the only thing that is great about Trump: he makes you more aware of your own shadows of narcissism, contempt and bullying. The ways you definitely do not want to stay in life. Being aware of these shadows, and finding a way to accept them, to integrate them I your whole being, and focusing on that other – different, better – palette of songs to sing. Breaking out of that rigidity of defence and taking others’ spaces.

To quote André Platteel again:

“Then there is no rigidity anymore of values that we can hang on to. Then there is nothing to be defended anymore causing us to exploit our power in a false way. To make another smaller and feel more free ourselves. Then it is not needed anymore to hide and feel our more expanded selves. Or to blow yourself up to make yourself bigger than you are. But just be, who you are in this moment.”

Maybe that’s when being normal becomes exciting and a source for internal happiness and stillness? When identity is not a burden anymore?

Also surprised what thoughts a simple invite to be normal can provoke? Share your surprises and insights. Please.

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I am in the business of cultivating high quality connections and flows to create immersive learning experiences and structural change. Check out: https://petervanproductions.com/

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