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Archive for the ‘Worldviews’ Category

This is an essay (longer read) about maps. There is no big message, no purpose, no call for action, none of that. Just recording and documenting of some reflections about maps. I don’t know where it came from. Suddenly I had enough notes to try to make something coherent out of it. Hope you enjoy the trip.

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Modern Biking App Map – Notice point #27 – Denderbelle Lock

The theme of maps maybe emerged from my biking tours. Or from my recent tendency to do recordings: soundscapes – of probably better “silence-scapes” – of broken silence in nature. A sort of witnessing and documenting what was at that moment.

Maybe it emerged in preparing my upcoming performance for Finnovista in September: one of the themes is “learning” and I found that quality of observing says more about learning than teaching. So I used maps as a metaphor.

Maybe I am still intrigued by Simon Wardley’s situational awareness maps, which are all about observing, and mapping out position and movement.

wardley map

Simon Wardley - example of situational awareness map

Position on a map is often about geographical location and relations. But there is also the position in time: what was, what is, what can be. And like there is position of location, there is also position in time.

The time element hit me when I was bicycling along the river “Dender” and made a pit stop at the lock of Denderbelle. It’s a relatively small lock, and you can still walk over the doors of the lock to the other side of the river.

There I found this map on a tourism panel:

old map

Old map of the area Aalst-Dendermonde – before 1769

Before 1769, the Dender was a meandering river that was very difficult to manoeuvre for ships. It was Charles de Lorraine – at that time Duchy of Brabant, Austrian Netherlands – who gave the order to straighten the meanders and build two new locks. Today, the river feels more like a canal that goes almost straight from Aalst to Dendermonde. It has a very well maintained towpath along silent borders, which makes it a nice bike trip.

Close to the lock, there is still the old ferry house, now inhabited by an artist. There was a chain pulling the ferry from one side to the other. Even today you can still see the stairs on the shore where people boarded.

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Denderbelle ferryhouse – Anno 1915

Maps as documents of past ways of living. Thanks to Richard Martin and Mark Storm, I discovered the Maps of Days by Grayson Perry.

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Map of Days by Grayson Perry – 2013 – Etching 111.8 × 149.9 cm

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Video with the artist Grayson Perry

‘A self-portrait as a fortified town, the wall perhaps my skin. Each day I worked on it I finished by marking the point with the date to highlight the passage of time in the production of art to reflect the forming and reforming of one’s identity. The ‘self’ I think is not a single fixed thing but a lifelong shifting performance. My sense of self is a tiny man kicking a can down the road.’

Grayson Perry

The map is an awesome alternative way to document one’s life. Richard Martin arguments that the question “what is your map” probably gives better answers on who you are than asking “What do you do?” or asking for your linear CV or portfolio:

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’. Each time I look at the Map, either in a gallery or online, I question how my own version would differ from Perry’s. What words would I choose? What images?”

The same applies with the question “where do you come from?”. Should one say “a Chinese artist” or “an artist from China”? If you say “a Chinese artist” then you place the work of the artist in an ethnographic bubble, a cultural bubble. But when you talk about an artist coming from somewhere, you just connect the artist with a geographical starting point. I prefer the latter.

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Map of Total Art by Qiu Zhijie – Ink on Paper – c. 5m length!

The work of Qiu Zhijie is fascinating. Check out this video interview with him and curator Davide Quadrio about the exposition ‘Qiu Zhijie: Journeys without Arrivals’ that was shown from 1 april – 24 september 2017 in the Van Abbemuseum in Eindhoven.

One year later, this video still resonates with me, so I made a full transcript of it, some extracts below:

Qiu Zhije is an artist, and he is producer, teacher, student, curator. He is a Master with capital “M” in Calligraphy. He is one of the most respected calligraphers in China.

As from 2010, I started drawing maps. If somebody asks me who I am, I answer I am a cartographer. Drawing maps is close to art, organizing exhibitions, teaching and researching. It is also writing. I feel it is a very multi-faceted way to show my talents as calligrapher.

qiu map and child

For me, maps are a source of knowledge at arms’ length distance, knowledge you do not acquire on the field, but from the sky, like a bird’s eye perspective. Then you can move that knowledge on a flat surface, to understand the correlations between what belongs together. Things should not be understood individually, but in the context of their relation to each other. So maps have a lot of influence. Making maps is a way to re-establish the integrity of the world because they illustrate the correlations on how everything relates to each other.

Teaching has always been an important part of my life. By teaching I keep learning. I continue to actualize and renew myself. Although teaching takes a lot of time, it is never a loss of time. On the contrary, it allows me to learn. That’s why I define teachers as those who organize the process of learning”. I like to teach about things I don’t know much about. I like subjects that I am highly interested in, so we can dig deep to know more.

His work is extremely free of themes, but also so encyclopedic. And so easy to connect with the idea of museum as a collection of objects and things. At the same time, his work is also able to crush this idea of objects and really enter into a world of fantasy.

Maps are models. Maps mark the land, they are landmarks. They document the “land-scape”, as a sound-scape documents the sounds.

Artist Andrew Pekler even created a sonic map of phantom islands.

Andrew Pekler

Phantom Islands – By Andrew Pekler – online experience, turn sound “on”

Andrew Pekler explains:

“The sweet spot for me is when a piece I have made can be simultaneously heard as both a field recording and as a completely composed, synthetic construct,”

Making maps is a sort of learning, a form of in-the-field-research and observation. Sharing with others what I am seeing, give context, some sense of coherence of position and direction/movement, and with some suggestions for maneuvering.

But in my case it is making pictures, writing and composing and creating a body of work from each trip. Field recordings, sound- and image-scapes like maps, at times creating a bizarre alienating, almost David Lynch kind of atmosphere, trying to resonate at another and additional level than the pure cognitive.

In that sense, I feel my current (art)work is getting closer to my real self, helps me to untether my soul, act as a witness, getting closer to alertness. With crispness, organic textures, precise rhythms,…

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Natures Heartbeat – Online animation of earth’s heartbeat

In that sense, I am still doing the same as during my time as event curator. But the work is becoming more a documentary, a map, a set of interventions, interruptions and provocations that hopefully lead to higher states of alertness and aliveness.

Some kind of heartbeat that maps your open mind, heart, and will into a broader context.

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PS: Mark Storm suggested I add the Buckminster Füller Dymaxion Map. He is right! How could I – as a true Bucky fan – have missed this one? 😉

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Also an interesting link via Mark Storm on this Bucky topic.

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My tempo has become so slow and peaceful that it starts to be incompatible and dysfunctional with the rat race of so called “normal” life of deadlines, busyness, and fragmentation of everything, especially time.

So it’s about time I write something about time.

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Baby Swaddling photo series © Sharon Ann Burnston 2005

“Swaddling bands white as snow are wound around the 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.”

 From Han Kang’s “The White Book”

the white book

About a year ago, I visited an exhibition about Chronos/Kairos and synchronicity in the 13th century castle of Gaasbeek, in the heart of the “Pajottenland” – sometimes also referred as Breughel-land, because Breughel painted a lot of his paintings here – a region west of Brussels, where I spent the first 25 years of my life.

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Pieter Breughel the Elder
The parable of the Blind Leading the Blind – 1568

The little chapel at the horizon still exists and it is the chapel of Sint-Anna-Pede, a hamlet of the little village Itterbeek, west of Brussels. During my early twenties, I literally lived 100 meters away from this chapel.

In the instruction for the book about the aforementioned exhibition “Kairos Castle”, Luc Vanackere, the director of the castle, writes (my rough free translation):

“Some time ago, I read a an interesting text by Joke Hermsen about “waiting”. She mentioned Heidegger, who said that “asking means being prepared to wait”. Waiting is not easy in an era where everything has to move fast. We suffer from a collective shortage of time and seem to be chased by Chronos, the god of the measurable, linear time. TicTac, busy busy. Mandatory deadlines, continuously buzzing smartphones, traffic jams and too slow computers. Everyday frustrations, all well recognisable.

Much longer ago, I was in primary school. When the big holiday period started in July, it looked so endless. A sea of time, immense literately. A broad intermezzo, a “time-in-between” when nothing should or must, but where everything could, where boredom settled in as a not so unpleasant feeling. A listlessness creating space for sharp observations. A slow motion where the tumult of time quieted everything down and small things got enlarged….

“Time-in-between”, the time of the right moment when new insights are born and epiphanies are possible. The “Kairotic intermezzo” breaks radically through the dictatorship of Chronos, and stands for transformation, inspiration, passion, and creativity.

This is about that mysterious moment when our soul is unguarded and spreads out its wings. Kairos manoeuvres virtuoso between two worlds: the measurable and the immeasurable, the known and the un-known, backing out of our knowledge, covertly showing us a glimpse of the possible”

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Le moulin de l'oubli – art photography by Gilbert Garcin - 1999

In the trailer of last year’s film https://www.driesfilm.com/ the Belgian fashion designer Dries Van Noten  says:

“The word fashion I don’t like, because “fashion” means something which is over after 6 months. I would like to find a word which is more time-less”.

And during the film there was a sequence about the difference between art and the fashion industry, basically suggesting that (the art) industry has finality, in the sense that if your product/collection does not sell you can close shop.  It is a subtle balance in such a time-full context to create artistic tensions that sell.

And then, last week, I finally got to read the book “Tempo: Timing, Tactics and Strategy in Narrative-Driven Decision-Making” by Venkatesh Rao

tempo cover

A deep read – quite sure I only grasped half or less of it – adding the dimension of “Tempo” that Rao defines as:

“the set of characteristic rhythms of decision-making in the subjective life of an individual or organisation, coloured by associated patterns of emotion and energy”

He talks about calculative rationality vs. narratives rationality, about archetypes and doctrines, situational awareness, and much more.

In my opinion, he is looking at a Kairotic dimension of patrimony (about which I wrote already several times on this blog) and in that sense the book helped me to better articulate the concept of patrimony to include:

  • Models of archetypes
  • Models of tempo
  • Models of doctrine
  • Models of stories, narratives
  • Externalization of narratives
  • The legibility of the patrimony as an externalisation

All this is about narrative-driven decision-making, and the sentence that brings it all home is:

“All our choices are among life stories that end with our individual deaths.”

Many different life stories, often constructed confabulated after the facts to make sense of our own life, cascading one after the other, in hopefully an upwards learning spiral, but with 100% certainly always ending in the ultimate entropy of death.

Rao makes reference to the Double Freytag Triangle and the Freytag Staircase:

double freytag triangle

Freytag staircase

That’s why – 60 years into my staircase – I believe it is important to externalise some of these learning, stories, narrative, insights, interruptions, provocations, and interventions in physical artefacts, and store this information beyond death for future generations.

For sure, the new-born baby at the start of this post did not know she was at the bottom left of the Freytag Staircase, and indeed did not know who she was, where she was, and what had just begun, and that in the end she needed to create artefacts.

 

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This trend is part of my five trends for human advancement. For an overview and background, check here:

A lot of change initiatives only scratch the surface of the systems they try to change. They are tactical, short term and full of platitudes. I would like to suggest an almost Jungian analysis of organisations and ecosystems.

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Rusty port next to Museum Modern Art Antwerp – Petervan Nov 2017

Trained as an architect, I have been (and still am) seduced by the term “Patrimony” and the respect of patrimony and the ability to combine patrimony with contemporary. Early feedback suggests that the term patrimony may not be the best. It contains the Latin “Pater” and makes people think of something “paternalistic”.

In an earlier post, I already suggested that the Dutch word “Erfgoed” maybe captures it better. “Erf” means inheritance, value that can be transmitted across generations. “Goed” stand for “good”, both as 1) something tangible, an art-i-fact and 2) something good, of value, of worth, wealth and culture to be carried forward.

Patrimony is structural memory carried forward from previous generations. Like Jungian humans, also organisations may have an ego, a conscious, a personal unconscious and a collective unconscious. Patrimony is about the collective unconscious.

To have fully humanistic organisations, we must be prepared to interrogate and influence at the level of patrimony. And combine patrimony with contemporary. Not as a shock or provocation, but more like adding milk to coffee (with thanks to Niels Pflaeging)

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Petervan Productions 2017 - Live model - charcoal and acryl on paper

The same applies to straight and curved lines. As a non-practicing architect from the seventies, I was trained in straight lines. That’s what my hand had internalised. When later in art academy I was doing live model drawing, I could sense how unnatural natural curved lines were to my hand, and probably also to my brain. It reminds me of an intro of an art exhibition by art curator and critic Hans Theys, who described the straight lines in coffee bars along a high street in Borgerhout, an area mainly populated by Muslim immigrants: tables, chairs, lights: all were straight, hard, and women de-facto not allowed. What a nightmare it was/would be to live in a world that was only designed by men, without (internalised) curved lines.

Humanistic advancement will flourish only if we develop our ability to see, sense and share the patrimony and curved lines of our organizations, institutions, and ecosystems. It’s Jungian in the sense that the maturation happens when we are able to internalize, accept and incorporate the organizational collective unconscious of cross-generational heritage, symbols, memories and narratives. Including the suppressed shadows, memories, and femininity of our organizational patrimony.

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“Pop is not the same as populistic”, says Winy Maas from MVRDV Architects at minute 14:19 in this wonderful talk about innovating in the future of architecture. This sentence got me thinking about roles, styles, and staging. This post is a follow-up on “Is being normal boring?”

Winy

The talk is about design and architecture, but you will notice it’s really about a different way of living, of reflecting about our world. Also check out The Why Factory: a global think-tank and research institute led by the same professor Winy Maas. You can also find some awesome research publications there.

Winy talks about things such as:

  • Porosity and air
  • Transparency, mirrors and infinity
  • Individualism: Is it about staging, making a statement?
  • The stair and activating our roofs
  • Activating new circuits
  • Block attacks (around min 32 – 33)
  • Infrastructure follows your composition
  • From Small to Big
  • From Individualism to Collectivism
  • From Egoism to Wegoism (W)EGO
  • And about pop and populism

Pop is about the (style of) the performer. Pop is about belonging to a tribe. The tribe of the style of the performer. Pop is about selfies. Pop at its worst or most extreme is probably like Netherland’s rap “artist” Boef performances who films himself on stage, and his fans filming himself filming film.

Boef

Rap "artist" Boef performing live

A strange loop of pop. A strange kind of loop. Like an endless mirror.

Instead of that endless empty mirror of pop, I prefer the mirror of Claudio Monteverdi, not only for the magic polyphonic music by the Huelgas Ensemble on this record, but for the way Monteverdi was staging as an artist.

monteverdi

The Guardian described his work as “the extra chronological disjunct here is enjoyably disorienting”

“Enjoyable Disorienting” ! Wow !

It has to do with self-image or self-picture. Picture as in Alva Noë’s Strange Tools. Picture of a role. It has to do with role. Being somebody or nobody. With or without role. Anonymity.

The anonymity I am thinking about is one of role-lessness. The anonymity of being normal. The anonymity of Buzz Aldrin, who was the second man walking on the moon. Being in the front, or blending in the background, like the fashion designer who just says hello at the end of the show and then disappears. Who is the composer and who is being staged? Without the composer, all the rest does not happen.

strange tools

Art and philosophy are strange tools (of staging), says Alva Noë in his excellent book (Amazon link): he explains the difference between choreography and dance:

  • “Choreography, as we have seen, is not dancing, it is an engagement with dancing as a phenomenon”
  • “Choreography, and all the arts, are organizational, or rather, as we shall see, reorganizational practices”
  • “Choreography makes manifest something about ourselves that is hidden from view because it is the spontaneous structure of our engaged activity”

Roles and titles. Role-ness or title-less. Is the focus of our energy the work itself or the attention for our confabulated stories – crafted after the facts – to make/fake sense of why we do what we do? Titles are usually confabulations. That’s why it is probably better to drop them altogether from our bios, business cards and alike. They are an explanation after-the-fact. To make/fake sense for and about ourself. The attention is on self, not the other, not the audience, not those who come to listen.

Too many labels. No Brand. “No Logo (Naomi Klein): taking aim at the brand bullies”

Painting the role. Painting the knight, the farmer, the father, etc and not the man. Filming the filming rapper or not. Rembrandt and Cranach are not in the same kind of business. They made different kind of pictures.

Lempertz-939-1011-Old-Masters-Lucas-Cranach-the-Elder-studio-of-PORTRAIT-OF-MARTIN-LUTHERRembrandt

Cranach on the left - Rembrandt on the right

Painting the man (as a mask – or the physical container) and painting the person is a different kind of business. Staging the speaker and staging the person is a different kind of business. Staging content is not about letting see what others already see. It is about letting see what you see and others do not see yet.

Like Monteverdi, who was already looking back from some distance at the previous century – already inventing a kind of neo-Renaissance gloss that simultaneous confirmed him as a master of the old polyphony and blazed into new baroque sounds and styles

Whether it is in painting, or making poetry, or architecting an experience, I believe we have to approach all of them like artists. By practicing and getting better at the art of staging, staging like in choreography. This goes beyond pop, roles, and style. A different kind of business: the business of stagecrafting. Or is this yet another strange loop of labeling when I just want to get rid of labels, roles, and titles?

 

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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.

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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.”

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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.”

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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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We use models and metaphors to make sense of our organisational structures, understand them, make predictions, apply change.

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Bee hive - via Bridging the Gap

Some well known models are:

  • Ants in colonies
  • Bees in hives
  • Apes in jungles
  • Humans in neural networks
  • Organisations as machines
  • Hierarchies, wierarchies, holocracies

Models are not reality. Models are an abstraction of reality. Same for metaphors. They help us tell and understand a narrative.

We are not apes, ants, or bees. We are humans. As Jonathan Haidt explains at length in his book “The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom”, I am struck by all the noise humans put on the system: “We are all hypocrites” and “We are the rider (the conscious/the ratio) ànd the elephant (the unconscious, feelings, instincts, genes). Most models assume the rider is in charge. The rider is not in charge.”

Structural change leads to structural behaviour change. Structural change needs high quality connections and flows.

“A high quality connection is one where information transfer is rapid, reliable, and noise free” says Tom LaForge.

But in real life, this information transfer is NOT noise free. Maybe in some nirvana love relation, but usually not at/for/within work.

Noise comes from the motivations of the elephant (the unconscious), some examples:

  • Reciprocity
  • Prestige
  • Self serving biases
  • Power
  • Hypocrisy
  • Arrogance and entitlement

In most re-orgs, people look at the motivations and incentives for the ratio, the rider. They ignore the elephant. They forget the rider is not in charge.

High quality connections need something else than speed, reliability of noise-freedom.

There should be some dimension/ambition/alignment of “Spiritual, moral and aesthetical advancement”.

In this category, we find standards and appreciation for:

  • Care
  • Tradition
  • Craftsmanship
  • Beauty
  • Proportion
  • Sacredness
  • Infinite games

See also my own post about Kevin Kelly’s qualities created at the transaction, which is more about qualities of resulting products and services than qualities of structure: https://petervan.wordpress.com/2017/04/19/sine-parole-19-apr-2017/

And then there is governance

hierarchies

Simple Google search on organisational hierarchy

The simplicity of the hierarchy works well on a slide or a hand-out. You can document it in a spreadsheet, or box-diagram and so on. But all these representations do is framing the conversation in an illusion of simplistic 2-dimensional structures. It’s the specialty of management consultants to think and present in two dimensions. It’s making it easy for executives to understand.

But if you are used to a 3-dimensional view of reality, you can’t understand why the flatlanders don’t see what you see. As long as you are primed in 2D you won’t see what the other dimension sees.

A better picture/metaphor for an organisational structure would be something like this.

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Relativity – 1953 Lithograph by M.C. Escher – 294mm x 282mm

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Ricardo Bofill – La Fabrica – Old cement factory – Barcelona, Spain

It’s messy. At many moments you don’t know anymore where you stand. The perspective changes all the time. You get disoriented.

There is somewhere a general definition for Robots:

Robot = sensors + mind/computer/algorithm + body (hardware).

But humans are not just: senses + brains + body.

Computers are not like brains. Brains are not like computers. Our human models are different from machine models. Machine understanding is different from human understanding.

Humans are not just nodes on a network/grid that can be governed by coded social contracts, blockchains and AI. If you do that, humans are just cogs in another machine. Humans become cogs in a network.

The obvious case is of course Uber, which is an economy of extracting value vs. the so-called sharing economy. For Uber, all the drivers are already cogs in a network for the sole benefit of the monopoly.

Being cogs in networks is an insult for humans. But we are just getting started:

But does it still matter at all these days? We already are in a new world of “Alien knowledge, when machines justify knowledge”. Check out this fantastic long read by David Weinberger

Alien Knowledge

Via David Weinberger - Illustrations by Todd Proctor / YouWorkForThem

“The paradigmatic failures seem to be ones in which the machine justification has not escaped its human origins enough.”

Organisations are not models/buildings/boxes. They are like rivers with information flows. Building skeletons, where the structure of the building guides traffic and connections.

David Weinberger talks about models created by machines. Models that machines can understand and we don’t. It is very much as he concludes:

“It has taken a network of machines that we ourselves created to let us see that we are the aliens.”

If we don’t want to end up as cogs in networks, we need to aim for structural advancement at a spiritual, moral, and aesthetical dimension.

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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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The way we think about change, disruption, and transformation (or whatever you want to call it) is going to be completely different in 5 years time. The speed of change is so big that our thinking itself is getting disrupted. The underestimated and ignored exponential power in all of this is the “power of networks”. This post is a follow of the post “Fintech 2017 – Quo Vadis?”

I think we are in the middle of a network blitzkrieg, a big shift driven by network powers.

blitzkrieg

WW-II Blitzkrieg Stuka airplanes

But instead of the medium being the air and the devices the Stuka airplanes piloted by humans, the medium today is made of networks and the Stukas are replaced by hyper-connected computers driven my algorithms.

A lot of the reflection in this post are based on the following books and thinkers:

Kevin Kelly’s latest opus grande The Inevitable describes the 12 Inevitable Technological Forces That Will Shape Our Future:

  • Becoming
  • Cognifyung
  • Flowing
  • Screening
  • Accessing
  • Sharing
  • Filtering
  • Remixing
  • Interacting
  • Tracking
  • Questioning
  • Beginning

In The Seventh Sense, Joshua Cooper Ramo talks about a “connected-age sensibility” to be able to read and understand networks:

The Seventh Sense, in short, is the ability to look at any object and see the way in which it is changed by connection

Even as this new age advances, most of our leaders still think in terms of disconnected dangers

We have to cultivate a new instinct, one intended to make us more human, in a sense, not only more technical

Think of how often, at moments of anguish or revolution, it is the fragile-looking bubbles of philosophy or art or science that endure.

And in Whiplash, Joi Ito explains how “Change doesn’t care if you’re ready”.

This is the power of pull over push—it leverages modern communications technologies and the decreased cost of innovation to move power from the core to the edges, enabling serendipitous discoveries and providing opportunities for innovators to mine their own passions.

All these insights are of course based on big theme of “we are interconnected”. In other words, new network rules of power apply in the “we are connected” era and our leaders are not prepared for it. That became even more apparent during the main WEF Davos session on the Global Economic Outlook. I watched it live after just having read the Seventh Sense.

wef

These leaders offer a lot of lip service to the “we are interconnected” meme, but keep on playing the old zero-sum finite games and wars. Witness Fink from Blackrock at min 11:46 when he almost joyful says:

“regulation inhibits new entrants and that is not a bad thing”

But networks come with their own dynamics. In his yearly situational awareness post, Jordan Greenhall goes deep on “Deep Code”, and “Deep State”, and describes very well what I have labeled here as “Network Blitzkrieg”:

“The Deep State developed in and for the 20th Century. You might say that they are experts at fighting Trench Warfare.

But this is the 21st Century and the Insurgency has innovated Blitzkrieg.”

Jordan is describing a blitzkrieg for Collective Intelligence, being fought on four fronts:

  • Front one: communications infrastructure
  • Front two: the deep state
  • Front three: globalism
  • Front four: the new culture war

The main point Jordan is making is that the Deep State is fragmented, and so far not efficient in responding adequately to the network blitzkrieg of the Trump cohort. A lot of the challenges of the Deep State seem to be related to the problem of not being able to shift to a network blitzkrieg mode, from tight synchronisation to loose synchronization.

Last year, Venkatesh Rao (aka Ribbonfarm) did a great tweet-storm-like-post on this topic of synchronisation. He calls our age the age of atemporality.

synch

Illustration by Venkatesh Rao

“In tight synchronization, you’re on the same clock as everybody else, fit yourself into the same templates, report up the same chain, and communicate via standard protocols.

Welcome to atemporality. So long as you thrive on loose coordination rather than tight synchronization, it’s a beautiful thing.”

In previous posts and essays, Ribbonfarm even had a series on “Blitzkrieg”, where he described four categories of Blitzkrieg attributes:

  • Einheit (trust)
  • Auftragstaktik (clear mutual agreements), missionary tactical contracts
  • Schwerpunkt (strategic intent)
  • Fingerspitzengefühl (finger-tip skill) is the foundation

In The Future of Tipping, http://www.ribbonfarm.com/2014/12/02/the-future-of-tipping/,(a post about authoritarian command-and-control models to control the customer’s relationship to the brand, and hence tipping), he the four describes blitzkrieg attributes in John Boyd’s philosophy of warfare applied to business:

CEO sets clear intent (Schwerpunkt); HR develops strong trust culture (Einheit); operations focuses on developing strong, instinctive skills culture through tacit learning (Fingerspitzengehful); everybody manages/is managed through a cascade of mutually negotiated “contracts” that devolve as much autonomy as possible to lower layers (Auftragstaktik); the business relies on loose and agile coordination rather than tight synchronization/command-and-control.

Ribbonfarm, Jordan Greenhall, and Simon Wardley all focus on situational awareness, strategy, tactics, operations and doctrine. It would be great to have them together one day in one of Petervan Productions’ events 😉

Add to all this the lack of trust and Bruce Scheier’s insight that we are moving from the Internet of things (with a build-in computer) to Internet of Computers (with things attached to it), and you get a pretty dystopian but probably very realistic picture of the future something that James Bridle coined “A new dark age”.

drone-james-bridle

Drone shadow by James Bridle

James Bridle is a British writer and artist living in Greece. His work explores the impact of technology on society, law, geography, politics, and culture. His Drone Shadow installations have appeared on city streets worldwide, he has mapped deportation centres with CGI, designed new kinds of citizenship based on online behaviour. and used neural networks and satellite images to predict election results. A New Dark Age is an exploration of what we can no longer know about the world, and what we can do about it.

It is a “great” talk about Turbulence, Big Data, AI, Fake News, and Peak Knowledge, and like many if the authors mentioned above, he is alluding to a new digital literacy and legibility. A literacy that acknowledges that in our digital state, everything can be copied, except…. Trust.

Kevin Kelly asks, What can not be copied?” and his answer is “Trust. Trust must be earned. It cannot be faked”. Our hope is in what Kelly beautifully described as “generative qualities”.

These are qualities that are “better than free”. Qualities generated at the time of the transaction aka it is all about the experience what people pay for. In Kelly’s view, there are 8 generative qualities:

  • Immediacy
    • Access to beta version for ex, or when released
  • Personalisation
    • A film without explicit language
  • Interpretation
    • A manual, explanation of free DNA
  • Authenticity
    • A signature on goodies
  • Accessibility
    • Ownership sucks
  • Embodiment
    • White cottony paper bound book, it feels so good
    • The value of a paid ephemeral embodiment of something you could download for free
  • Patronage
    • It must be easy to do
    • The amount must be reasonable
    • There is a clear benefit
    • Money will directly benefit the creator
  • Discoverability
    • A work has no value unless it is seen

palantir

Saruman uses a palantir in Lord of the Rings

So what would be the defences against such network blitzkrieg?

One strategy would be to try to defeat the enemy with the same weapons. But that assumes we are playing finite games, and I feel we only can win this battle by playing infinite games.

We should not be naïve, and drop all our common-sense defences against data-, privacy-, surveillance- and cybersecurity attacks with state of the art defense mechanisms and tools, but another strategy in defending our humanity in the long term may come from those infinite games.

Or maybe our defense in this move from enlightenment to entanglement is in dropping the separation of body and mind, feeling and ratio, form and content.

fame-and-success-hilde-overbergh

“Fame and success” by Hilde Overbergh – 2016
Part of expo “REFRAME” in The White House Gallery

Art may be inspiring here. In a recent conversation between art curator Hans Theys and artist Hilde Overbergh in the context of the expo “REFRAMED”, Hans arguments that form and content are inseparable, and that his sole criteria for assessing art are:

  • Is it well made?
  • Does it touch me?

Very much like Kevin Kelly, this is about what cannot be measured, what cannot be represented in numbers, big data, and algorithms.

In a very recent post Kyle Eschenroeder (also on Ribbonfarm) said:

The confidence created by our palantír-ish technologies is a confidence in our measurements, not in ourselves. The more minutiae we measure, the less respect we have for taste or experience

Caring puts us in the posture of playing an infinite game rather than a finite one. This means favoring “improvisation over fixed rules, internal sensibilities over imposed morals, and playfulness over seriousness.”

So our defense against a Network Bliztkrieg may be in the subconscious, where we don’t care about the fakeness our realness of the news and our reality, but more about what makes us unique as human beings: the ability to play infinite games and truly care.

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