If you missed me on 90.1 KZSU Stanford ThermoNuclear Bar last week you can now check it out on SoundCloud, or read the transcript below. We talked about the occult, conspiracy theory, EsoZone, Portland, Psychetect, Mindful Cyborgs, the Indie Web.
Here’s a sample:
S1: Where do you see then your variety of your projects going? I mean we have talked about this earlier. I had said that Technoccult was one sphere, and Psychetect was another, Mindful Cyborgs was another. If you saw any relation between the three other than just you happen to be in the middle or do you see any sort of end-goal coming up for you?
KF: In terms of an end-goal, I think the purpose of all of these has always been to find some way to engage with other people in a way that’s meaningful for both of us. I guess, it’s kind of an abstract way of talking about it, but something like Psychetect is just a different way of expressing myself and hopefully of communicating with people. Things like Technoccult and Mindful Cyborgs are more directly communicative projects. I think the only thing that they all have in common is a general interest in thoughts and thinking and consciousness. I guess, the overriding idea of Psychetect is to kind of create audio representations of thoughts or of sort of mental spaces that I don’t feel like I can describe with words. There’s I guess an overlap with something like Mindful Cyborgs where a big part of what we’re talking about is what it feels like to think in a world where you’re always connected to the rest of the world via the Internet and everything you do is being measured by somebody.
I should also mention that PDX Occulture is still sort of around, and that though EsoZone is gone, Weird Shift Con has emerged to fill that void (though I don’t have anything to do with organizing it).
Coumunity, the online magazine of Thee One True TOPI Tribe, is up. I wrote an article for it about my experience co-orgnizing EsoZone and the way the lust for more attendees can ruin a beautifully small event:
In a community, the quality of connections between members always trumps the number of members. Unlike a network, which thrives on weak ties between ever larger numbers of people, a community thrives on strong bonds.
But it’s easy for community builders to lose sight of this, especially when you’ve gotten a taste of quantity. I know because I’ve been there. Community building is more important than ever, so I’m sharing my story so that hopefully a few others can avoid falling into the same trap I did.
I was the lead organizer of an occultural festival called EsoZone from 2006 -2011 (though I did take a couple sabbaticals along the way). The second annual EsoZone festival started on October 10, 2008. We had talks by Dennis McKenna, Antero Alli, Paul Laffoley and many more, along with performers like Orryelle Defenestrate-Bascule and Hecate.
It was a huge success. Around 300 people turned up, and there were write-ups in the local press as well as High Times magazine. People told me it changed their lives.
But it was also incredibly stressful.The digital projector died constantly. The schedule was constantly shuffled, partially due to the projector, partially due to other logistical nightmares. Some speakers and performers felt snubbed by the changes and problems. One group didn’t get to perform at all.
1) People use the average Joe’s poor mathematics as a way to control, exploit, and numerically fuck him over.
2) Mathematics is the subject in which, regardless of what the authorities tell you is true, you can verify every last iota of truth, with a minimum of equipment.
Therefore, if you are concerned with the empowerment of everyday people, and you believe that it’s probably a good idea to be skeptical of authority you could do worse than to develop your skills at being able to talk math in such a way that anyone can ask questions, can express curiosity, can imagine applying it in the most weird-ass off-the-wall ways possible.
This does not entirely mesh well with the actual practice of learning mathematics, because that is mostly time spent alone or in small groups being very very confused almost all the time, but it’s still the bullseye I keep in mind.
Digital hipsterism is purely anti-intellectual. Depth of research and well reasoned arguments are not valued, but merely the appearance of depth is regarded as the ideal. Criticism is dismissed by way of suggesting that the criticizer is ‘just being negative,’ that they should go and do something else ‘useful’ by creating a movement of their own, or that they simply aren’t sophisticated enough to understand the new paradigm being created.
Any critique of TED that focuses exclusively on the conferences’ guest lists has the grating tendency to veer off into the sweat-damp world of Alex Jones-style conspiracy theories. TED doesn’t represent a looming plot to establish any sort of menacing “New World Order.” It represents the world order as it exists now, one on the wane. With TED, an assortment of “Davos men”—a term coined by the late Samuel Huntington, referring to the handful of hyper-wealthy men who transcend national boundaries and see things like governments as scalable nuisances—have shifted the popular image of the elite from that of privileged, authoritarian “masters of mankind” to that of kindly wise men (and women) who just want to share their alchemistic “ideas worth spreading,” ideas that could turn our gloomy world of lead into a shimmering gold planet.
There’s something irritating, if not infuriating, about listening to exhortations to “do something” from people who are or were in the position to do exactly that. Perhaps, though, we should feel lucky that the TED class is so apparently lazy or incompetent. The problem of TED isn’t with who presents the talks or that the proposals found therein are seemingly, tragically beyond our grasp; the problem is the ideas themselves.
Taken individually, there’s nothing particularly dangerous or upsetting found in most TED Talks, certainly nothing that would warrant a mass run for the hills. Please, don’t lose sleep worrying that a speech on AIDS activism by Annie Lennox is going to kick-start a putsch. And please, do listen to Ken Robinson’s incredibly moving TED Talk on education reform—I dare you not to tear up a little. However, the numerous presentations seen and heard at TED are informed by the same larger vision: that scientific and technological advancements can fundamentally overturn the human condition, and for the better. History books are littered with human wreckage strewn in the wake of similar utopian thinking.
Skilluminati Research has been a very cynical project…until now. Change of policy: there are no sufficient excuses for inaction. There is no point to all this research if I’m not capable of using it for something real. What interests me now is Synthesis. How can we build a politics that takes all of this horrible shit for granted and still provides a master plan?
In 2011, Hope and Change are hollow brand names and representative Democracy itself is hollowed out, broken for decades. Distrust of government has gone from a fringe position to a bipartisan consensus. If you think all that adds up to a “Now is the Time” pep talk, you’re not hearing me at all. We are more fucked than ever. The situation is not “ripe,” it is fundamentally out of control and irreversible. …so what then?
5. Occupy to Self Manage. The “General Assembly” format employed by Occupy and the concept of the Unconference feel related, and it’s impossible not to feel like the Occupy movement is on the precipice of something. What can the Unconference learn from Occupy and vice versa? I don’t know, but this is a good starting point:
Greek and Spanish activists said that at assemblies initially people spoke with incredible passion of their plights and desires. Their voices often broke. Their hands shook. Each time someone rose to speak, something real, passionate, and persistent happened. It was enchanting and exciting. People were learning not only new facts and interpretations – and, indeed, that kind of learning was relatively modest – they were also learning new confidence and new modes of engaging with others. But after days and then weeks, the flavor of the talks shifted. From being new folks speaking passionately and recounting their reasons for being present and their hopes for their future by delivering deeply felt and quite unique stories, the speakers shifted toward being more seasoned or habituated folks, who lectured attendees with prepackaged views. The lines of speakers became overwhelmingly male. Their deliveries became overwhelmingly rehearsed. Listening to robotic repetition and frequent predictable and almost text-like ranting got boring and alienating. Sometimes it was even demeaning.
At the same time, new people, who were still far more prevalent, didn’t know what to do while they were occupying. We could assemble, they reported. We could talk and engage with each other. We could listen to others and sometimes debate a bit – the Greek and Spanish Assemblers reported – but, how long could we do that and feel it was worth the time we had to spend away from our families, friends, and jobs, not to mention from rooms with a roof?
This year’s EsoZone Portland was fairly cheap to operate, but there were a couple significant costs. Rent came to $1,000 – a tremendous value for the quality and location of the space. All the rent money goes back into p:ear programs, so it’s a great cause. A double win. We also had to shell out for event insurance, to the tune of nearly $400. We’re hoping to recoup as much of this as possible from your donations.
Your donations keep EsoZone a free and open event.
Beyond Growth co-founder Eric Schiller will give a presentation titled “Digital Hipsterism: Anti-intellectual Movements in Social Media” at EsoZone Portland 2011 on November 18. Here’s Eric’s description of the talk:
In this talk I will explore how social media technology has facilitated the creation of loose ‘internet cults’, and how they are used to influence their followers. I will analyze elements of the lifestyle design movement, Hacker News, and Reddit to further the thesis that social media portrays itself as a transparent means of communication yet in reality is anything but. Using the notion of ‘Digital Hipsterism’ to unmask the authoritarian and anti-intellectual core of these movements, I will demonstrate how depth of research and well reasoned arguments are not valued, but merely the appearance of depth is regarded as the ideal truth.
Eric is a part-time social critic and philosopher. When not writing snarky essays, he works as a freelance web designer and developer in Seattle.
Eric’s essay on digital hipsterism can be found here. You can read the Technoccult interview with Eric and his collaborator Duff McDuffee here.
Tom Henderson, author of the forthcoming book Punk Mathematics, will keynote EsoZone Portland 2011 on November 18th at p:ear. Admission is free. Tom’s talk is tentatively titled “Time, Space, and the Self are Illusions – So Do ‘You’ Wanna Go ‘Out’ with ‘Me’ ‘Tonight’?” He’ll cover:
Mining your history for strategy
Your eigenself and “you”
Using the howling void beyond your epsilon of consciousness for a good time
Tom has a masters in mathematics from Portland State University. According to the Kickstarter page for his book:
Punk Mathematics will be a series of mathematical stories. It is written for readers who are interested in having their minds expanded by the strange metaphors and implications of mathematics, even if they’re not always on friendly terms with equations. Better living through probability; the fractal dimension of cities and cancers; using orders of magnitude to detect bullshit; free will and quantum economics; and the mathematics of cooperation in a networked world on the brink of a No Future collapse.
EsoZone Portland 2011 will take place over the course of November 18th and 19th. It will include a few pre-scheduled presentations, workshops and performances along with ample free space for ad-hoc “unconference” sessions in the style of BarCamp or Bird of a Feather.
Above are some images from Soup Purse‘s occult music/audio sigilization work shop.
Some of the other stuff that happened last year:
-Workshops on Reichian therapy and the Hyatt method
-A comics jam (the results of which I was supposed to post online and still haven’t…)
-Discussions on all sorts of stuff, like subterranean weirdness, parasites and the “Skywalker syndrome.”
Come on down this year and contribute your own ideas and activities.
Last year Nolon Ashley hosted an “Astral Convention” at EsoZone, and I helped out by providing a soundtrack of binaurel beats (generated with SbaGen) and live Psychetect noise noodling. We’ll be doing the same thing this year. Details:
6pm PST, October 10th
If you can’t make it at that time, astral time travel as well.
Here’s the EsoZone blog entry from last year, I’ll update with any more information Frater Zir provides me: