Radical Animal: play, innovation, sustainability, human nature

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My presentation to Winchester Art College, 24 Feb 2012. For more on "Radical Animal", go to http://www.patkane.info

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Radical Animal: play, innovation, sustainability, human nature

  1. 1. Radical Animal: play, human nature, innovation and sustainability/ Pat Kane www.patkane.info
  2. 2. SPOT THE HANDHELD, NETWORKED, VIRTUALISING PORTAL... Top: Carved Balls from Towie, Aberdeenshire Bottom: Playstation 3 controller... and ritual/game object from Skara Brae
  3. 3. SPOT THE HANDHELD, NETWORKED, VIRTUALISING PORTAL.... Skara Brae objects Communicator dreck Used 4 religion, games, fortune telling? Used 4 comms, info, connection, play
  4. 4. JOY OF PLAY * JOY OF MAKING/CRAFT/POIESIS JOY OF SELF-MASTERY * JOY OF SOCIABILITY Laughing Baby Ethan
  5. 5. JOY OF PLAY * JOY OF MAKING/CRAFT/POIESIS JOY OF SELF-MASTERY * JOY OF SOCIABILITY Minecraft – Earth (imagine from POV of Ethan, now 18...)
  6. 6. ...& The RUIN OF PLAY According to a recent Greenpeacer eport,  Make IT Green: Cloud Computing and its Contribution to Climate Change , the electricity consumed by cloud computing globally will increase from 632 billion kilowatt hours in 2007 to 1,963 billion kWh by 2020 and the associated CO2 equivalent  emissions would reach 1,034 megatonnes. Guardian, 2010 During the last 15 years the civil war conflict in Congo has cost the lives of more than 5 million people and 300.000 women have been raped. The war will continue as long as armed groups can finance their warfare by selling minerals to companies supplying mobile phone manufacturers. http://www.bloodinthemobile.org
  7. 7. Thou art the thing itself...Unaccommodated man is no more but such a poor, bare, forked animal as thou art KING LEAR But is “accommodated” man just a joy junkie, all-too-easily seduced by his neuronal appetites for pleasure and absorbtion – lost in “playbour” and status consumption? Yet Edgar points to the radical animal... EDGAR: [Aside] And worse I may be yet: the worst is not /So long as we can say 'This is the worst”. But is “accommodated” man just a joy junkie, all-too-easily seduced by his neuronal appetites for pleasure and absorption – lost in “playbour” and status consumption? We have no choice other than to deal with the “unnatural nature of being human”, our infinity of semiotic, abstracting and conceptual possibilities, within a materially and ecologically finite world... But how?
  8. 8. 1. UNDERSTAND THE SOCIO-BIOLOGY OF PLAY AND INNOVATION PROPERLY 2. LEARN FROM THE WEB, AS A HOMOLOGY OF OUR NATURAL CONDITIONS OF PLAY AND INNOVATION – A 'GROUND OF PLAY' 3. CONSIDER AS A POSSIBLITY THE “PLANETARY BOUNDARIES” APPROACH AS THE NEW “RULES OF OUR PLAYGROUND” 4. EVOLVE A “PLAY ETHIC” THAT FOREGROUNDS PASSIONATE MAKING, DIVERSE CRAFTING, SOCIAL CO-PRODUCTION How can a RADICAL ANIMAL live sustainably on a NEEDING-CONSERVED PLANET?
  9. 9. 1. UNDERSTAND THE SOCIO-BIOLOGY OF PLAY AND INNOVATION PROPERLY Brian Sutton-Smith, in his 1997 masterwork The Ambiguity of Play. A non-reductive socio-biological definition of play as "adaptive potentiation". … . all those experiments, simulations and virtualisations – games, jokes, stories, constructions - that we recognise as play, but which clearly serve an evolutionary purpose: namely, to aid our complex mammalian flourishing. Play is "the stylized performance of existential themes that mimic or mock the uncertainties and risks of survival and, in so doing, engage the propensities of mind, body and cells in exciting forms of arousal” (S-S) We establish zones where we take reality lightly, and joyfully: and we do so in order to master the tensions and challenges of sociable living with other complex, communicating and interiorised human beings.
  10. 10. NEOTENY “ Neoteny is the evolutionary biological principle that the infant features of a species can evidence themselves in the adults of their descendants” ( www.neoteny.org ) Let’s compare Italian autonomist-Marxist Paulo Virno on Neoteny … and educational psychologist Brian-Sutton-Smith… 1. UNDERSTAND THE SOCIO-BIOLOGY OF PLAY AND INNOVATION PROPERLY
  11. 11. <ul><li>the language faculty leading to… </li></ul><ul><li>our instinctual non-specialization - makes us polyvalent, generalised, obessive learners </li></ul><ul><li>Neoteny - “ a chronic infancy is matched by a chronic non-adaptation, to be mitigated in each case by social and cultural devices” (Virno) </li></ul><ul><li>We don’t ‘fit’ into an ‘environment’, we ‘make’ our ‘worlds’ - “ We w restle with a vital context that is always partially undetermined, a world in which a stream of perceptual stimuli is difficult to translate into an effective operational code” (Virno) </li></ul>Paulo Virno on neoteny 'Natural-Historical Diagrams: the 'New Global' Movement and the Biological Invariant&quot;, in The Italian Difference , edited by Alberto Toscano, Re-Press, 2009. http://3.ly/virno The human animal is the potential animal - we are in an &quot;unfinished state&quot;. Four causes… 1. UNDERSTAND THE SOCIO-BIOLOGY OF PLAY AND INNOVATION PROPERLY
  12. 12. 1. UNDERSTAND THE SOCIO-BIOLOGY OF PLAY AND INNOVATION PROPERLY Our instinctual non-specialisation? Means we’re ideal flexible labourers - all that matters is the “habit not to have habits, to react promptly to the unusual” Our neotenic forever-youngness , always ready to learn and adapt? Means we are now subject to &quot;permanent formation… what matters is not what is progressively learning (roles, techniques, etc) but the display of the pure power to learn&quot;. VIRNO’s Adorno-esque conclusions, in the age of post-Fordism That we fluidly make our worlds , rather than live in our environmental niches ? That serves the &quot;permanent precarity of jobs ”, nomadic in the transnational labour market “ we’re all doomed, Captain Mannering!” … yes, if Virno is right about the ease by which our “mannering” may be “captained”….
  13. 13. 1. UNDERSTAND THE SOCIO-BIOLOGY OF PLAY AND INNOVATION PROPERLY Neoteny in Sutton-Smith is much more optimistic <ul><li>One evolutionary function of play is the continuation of &quot;neonatal optimism&quot; throughout the life-span. </li></ul><ul><li>The &quot;unrealistic optimism, egocentricity and reactivity&quot; of the growing child, all of them &quot;guarantors of persistence in the face of adversity&quot; , characterise many of our adult play behaviours. </li></ul><ul><li>Play brings a sense of joyful indefatigability and energetic resilience, which – like the pleasure of sex for procreation – is evolution's &quot;salute&quot; to the human animal for maintaining a &quot;general liveliness&quot; , in the face of the challenges of existence </li></ul>
  14. 14. 1. UNDERSTAND THE SOCIO-BIOLOGY OF PLAY AND INNOVATION PROPERLY Virno is inconsistent on the role of neotenic play in our species being… Multitude: between innovation and negation (2008) Says that language defies our empathic ‘mirror-neurons’ - the Nazi saying to the prisoner, ‘This is not a man’. The joke says, ‘this is not not a man’ - it negates the negation, puts us in a space of sheer possibility, from which ‘innovative political action’ may occur Jimmy Carr’s ‘amputee Soldiers and British Paralympic team’ joke…
  15. 15. Play, potentiality and the constitution of the Net But how can playful potentiation, all that neotenic openness, do both things - - but also trap us in a velvet cage of cliché and compulsive behaviour? [Compared 2 the Situationists, critical theory’s in a mess with play…] Intellectually, we need to keep our vista on play’s effectivity in the world as broad as possible - Sutton-Smith suggests seven “ rhetorics of play”, stretching from modern to ancient, autonomous to heteronomous… but there may be many others… - be an everyday linguistic reservoir for political innovation?
  16. 16. I want to articulate the Net as a tool to serve the expression of human neoteny, a medium for life-long & generic faculties of potentiation … without falling into the idealism of noopolitics or cybernetics… … or falling foul of a critique of digital innovation and playfulness which links it directly to capital accumulation and the subtlest of social repressions Can I? Is it possible? Only one idea I have… The ‘ground of play’ links the constitutive and the constitutional 2. LEARN FROM THE WEB, AS A NATURAL 'GROUND OF PLAY'
  17. 17. 2. LEARN FROM THE WEB, AS A NATURAL 'GROUND OF PLAY' The ‘ground of play’ links the constitutive and the constitutional (and may be the deep species-being foundation of the internet (why it is “so amazing” (S.Cupitt)) If our degree of neoteny and potentiation is what makes us human… … then does the internet serve as a continuation & elaboration of those supportive early conditions of developmental play? Both ‘constitutively’ and ‘constitutionally’?
  18. 18. 2. LEARN FROM THE WEB, AS A NATURAL 'GROUND OF PLAY' <ul><li>Is loosely but robustly governed </li></ul><ul><li>Ensures a surplus of time, space and materials </li></ul><ul><li>Is a zone where failure, risk and mess is treated as necessary for development. </li></ul>A complex-mammalian ‘ground of play’--- Play, in terms of ethology, presumes a degree of developmentally-oriented governance or structural support!
  19. 19. 2. LEARN FROM THE WEB, AS A NATURAL 'GROUND OF PLAY' So the ' constitutive' power of play in humanity – that neoteny-driven potentiation that excites both autonomists and socio-biologists… … seems to also require a 'constitutional' dimension: a protocol of governance securing certain material and emotional conditions, to enable a rich plurality of playforms. We constitute ourselves through play - but we are constituted by the ‘ground of play’ also
  20. 20. PLAY-ETHICS IN A WORLD OF ECOLOGICAL CRISIS ARE NOT EASY.... TAKE STUART BRAND IN 60'S/70's BRAND EASILY FUSED DEVELOPMENTAL, HEALTHY, NATURAL PLAY (MERRY PRANKSTERS, NEW GAMES MOVEMENT, COMMUNAL LIVING)... ....WITH TECHNOLOGICAL, ABSTRACT, UNNATURAL PLAY (COMPUTERS & NETS, ARCHITECTURE/URBANISM, ALT. ENERGY, BUSINESS CONSULTANCY) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iTAuLsJDyWI LSD? 3: CAN WE PLAY WITH / WITHIN THE NATURAL BOUNDARIES OF THE PLANET?
  21. 21. STUART BRAND 1968 WHOLE EARTH CATALOG: “WE ARE AS GODS AND WE MIGHT AS WELL GET GOOD AT IT” (DIY, SMALL-IS-BEAUTIFUL, SOFT TECHNOLOGY) 2009 WHOLE EARTH DISCIPLINE: “WE ARE AS GODS AND WE MUST GET GOOD AT IT” (NUCLEAR POWER, GENE-TECH, TERRA-FORMING) IS HE NOW RIGHT? WRONG? BUT RECONCILING NATURAL AND UNNATURAL PLAY OF HUMANITY IS VERY DIFFICULT.. . NATURAL AND UNNATURAL PLAY COME TOGETHER IN ONE SLOGAN...
  22. 22. 3: CAN WE PLAY WITH / WITHIN THE NATURAL BOUNDARIES OF THE PLANET? 'Human activities increasingly dominate 9 crucial planetary systems. Add to the familiar ones--- climate, biodiversity, and chemical pollution --- atmospheric aerosols, ocean acidification, excess nitrogen in agriculture, too much land in agriculture, freshwater scarcity, and ozone depletion . To have &quot;a safe operating space for humanity&quot; on Earth requires adjusting our behavior to work within those systems. How we collectively step up to that responsibility will determine whether &quot;the Anthropocene&quot; (the current geological era shaped by humans) will be a tragedy or humanity's greatest accomplishment.” … BUT LYNAS' INNOVATION PLAYGROUND IS SECURED BY PRO-NUKES, PRO-GEO-ENGINEERING, PRO-”PROSPERITY”-AS-MATERIAL-ACCUMULATION HEROIC, “RATIONALIST”, INDIVIDUALIST, GREEN-BAITING DISCOURSE
  23. 23. 3: CAN WE PLAY WITH / WITHIN THE NATURAL BOUNDARIES OF THE PLANET? BELIEVES THAT WITH OUR WEB AND “NOOSPHERE” OF INFORMATION-PLUS-COMMUNITY-PARTICIPATION, WE HAVE THE POSSIBILITY OF “GIVING GAIA ITS MOMENT OF META-AWARE SELF-CONSCIOUSNESS” - OF BEING GAIAS BRAIN.. . BUT FLANNERY IS POST-INDIVIDUALIST – WE ARE “GREEDY APES”, TOO WEAK TO BE HUNTER-GATHERERS, NEEDING OUR SOCIAL CODES (AND DIVISIONS OF LABOUR) TO GET ANYTHING WORTHWHILE DONE – JUMPED-UP SUPERORGANISMS WHO HAVE TO ATTAIN A MODICUM OF PLANETARY ETHICS. ..
  24. 24. HOW TO FIND THE “GOOD PLAY” (LEG-GODT/LEGO) MAKE OUR RESPONSE TO CLIMATE CHANGE AS INNOVATIVE & FUN AS MASTERING THE WORLD THROUGH PLAY IS FOR ETHAN - CARNIVALS AGAINST CAPITALISM - WORLDCHANGING.ORG - BRUCE STERLING 'BEYOND THE BEYOND' - BURNING MAN ...ER, BIG TENT? 4. EVOLVE A “PLAY ETHIC” THAT FOREGROUNDS PASSIONATE MAKING, DIVERSE CRAFTING, SOCIAL CO-PRODUCTION
  25. 25. HOW TO FIND THE “GOOD PLAY” (LEG-GODT/LEGO) SCIENCE FICTION ECO-IMAGINEERS CORY DOCTOROW CAMERON'S AVATAR LOCAL FABRICATION, REPAIR, REUSE AND INGENUITY AS LIBERATION TOOLS FOR MARGINALISED COMMUNITIES BOMBASTIC, MILITARISTIC, SIMPLISTIC... BUT AN AUTHENTIC YEARNING TO LINK TOGETHER NETWORK/DIGITAL SOCIETY AND ECOLOGICAL CONSCIOUSNESS? HOW TO “GET GOOD AT PLAYING GOD” WITH OUR OWN BODIES & NATURE?
  26. 26. HOW TO FIND THE “GOOD PLAY” (LEG-GODT/LEGO) LIVING FOR THE CITY The egalitarian aspects of city life consistently provide the best sociological & physical supports for resource conservation and carbon mitigation... Most contemporary cities, in rich countries or poor, repress the potential environmental efficiencies inherent in human-settlement density. The ecological genius of the city remains a vast, largely hidden power... There is no planetary shortage of “carrying capacity” if we are willing to make democratic public space, rather than modular, private consumption, the engine of sustainable equality... Public affluence – represented by great urban parks, free museums, libraries and infinite possibilities for human interaction – represents an alternative route to a rich standard of life based on Earth-friendly sociality. Mike Davis, 'Building The Ark', NLR 61 HIDE & SEEK WEEKENDER, SOUTHBANK, LONDON URBAN PLAY HELPS CITIZENS RECLAIM THEIR CITIES EMOTIONALLY – AND THUS RAISES EXPECTATIONS FOR MORE DEMOCRATIC & SUSTAINABLE PLANNING?
  27. 27. HOW TO FIND THE “GOOD PLAY” (LEG GODT/LEGO) “ It is unlikely that the public can be persuaded to put their weight behind climate change policy if it is based wholly upon negatives—ie upon avoidance of abstract future dangers. Can we develop a more positive set of values around environmental ends? ” “ There can be no question of a “return to nature” as the guiding thread of environmental politics. We live in a world that in many respects is “on the other side of nature”—where human intervention into what was the natural world is so profound that there can be no way back. The political and philosophical implications of the retreat of nature are very con siderable.” ANTHONY GIDDENS … SAYS ARE REFLEXIVE SELVES – META-AWARE OF OUR CONDITIONS – ALWAYS SEEING THINGS 'IN PLAY'....
  28. 28. HOW TO FIND THE “GOOD PLAY” (LEG GODT/LEGO) “ We regard what is truly scarce as plentiful [Nature] And what is truly plentiful as scarce [Information]” Got lost in nature, a biophiliac - but was ALSO a great inventor/ tinkerer/engineer “ Scots are Salt of the earth AND of Machines” JOHN MUIR: A PASSION FOR NATURE DONALD WORSTER MICHEL BAUWENS, FOUNDATION FOR P2P ALTERNATIVES
  29. 29. Radical Animal: play, human nature, innovation and sustainability/ Pat Kane www.patkane.info

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