In my first WYRDPATCHWORKSHOP talk, I propose that we should already start realizing and conceptualizing our everyday lives as already taking place inside a patchwork: An emotional and psychological one. This is a position that addresses the ideas of patchwork from a “softer” perspective than is usual today (most authors focusing on the techno-social, ecological and political level).
I strongly believe that this “softer” (psycho-emotional) position is becoming more and more relevant — consider the importance of psychological resilience, a skillset and talent that is decidedly “soft” when compared to engineering and climatology, but influences many key aspects of human behavior and experience. To be more specific, the goal of psycho-emotional disciplines today is to give us tools that give us the ability to retain focus under stress, to sustain flow states for intense work, to apply rationality even in the face of a chaotic situation and (in the extreme form of mythopoetics) to allow us to achieve spiritual stability.
This is not a technical view of patchwork, as is evident by my frequent use of seemingly woo woo terminology. But even though I have no idea HOW?? we should start this “patch life” project, I certainly feel there already exists a pretty juicy answer to WHY?? we should start.
INTRODUCTION – THE WYRD PATCH
Every Microcosm, every inhabited region, has a Centre; that is to say, a place that is sacred above all.Mircea Eliade’s Images and Symbols (1991)
As this project of approaching the patch is called WYRDPATCHWORKSHOP, I think I should start by pointing out that the wyrd (the causal web of action and reaction, the global wyrding of the Anthropocene) is never far away in our everyday conversation. For me personally, the patchwork idea somehow broke through all the other everyday shocks, shifts, new paradigms and theories all of us encounter.
My first intuition from contact with the patchwork idea was that it is a deep tool that allows us, as humans of the 21st century, to step on to the stage of reality. How this entrance to history is done is simple: The patchwork tells us how to call a piece of reality our own, our Axis Mundi (or an Omphalos). A place that we can really call home — a patch of the world to develop and cultivate. I believe this is a very strong motivation in itself for many people interested in the patchwork idea today, because it provides a connection to what’s going on in the world that’s been missing.
To start creating a patch, one should start with finding a place where you can actually “have a think”. A patch begins when you can sit down and calmly consider your surroundings, as well as about what’s actually under your feet and above your head. Because it is so early in the debate, I hope we can catch its development soon enough to instill a sense of “slowing down” and “stepping back to consider the situation” into the patchwork idea itself.
I also think that patchwork is already a reaction to the fragmentation (or collapse) happening to our civilization. I think we need to step back, because our species seems to face a series of bottlenecks — and the “soft” bottleneck that is most important for the WHY?? of patchworks is what professor Harare calls “the hacking of our hearts” (otherwise known as the emotional-algorithmic apocalypse). When we think about our current politics and what it means to be good people, we tend to forget how much stuff is already working behind the scenes of our world. In our struggle to collectively be the creative and productive humans with nice families we all want to be, we don’t stop consider how our behavior is already modified and canalized.
Under such circumstances, something like building our own HQ or FOB (a basic patch) would be very useful as a measure against our current manipulative environment. Basically just a place where we can prepare and study, creating things and situations that should ready us for stuff we cannot yet imagine. Given how much of this stuff is already happening, I think our environment will feel like a different planet (ecology and migration will take care of it by themselves, not to mention everything else). And it’s not just about the beings and systems that are changing the outside world — it is also important to take into account the phenomena of our inner worlds as well. My list of the 6 most critical tools for this project follows.
Patch tool 1:
TOPOPHILIA – THE LOVE OF A SPACE
Patchworking reality and our existence within it can now be seen as an antidote to how our culture and society made us disregard most of the spaces we move and live through. Topophilia is the key to cutting through that bullshit — you have to love a place in order to really take care of it and appreciate it. I think there is a deep understanding growing among people that we no longer live in the Matrix. This late 20th century paradigm states that there exists some kind of parasitic/cybernetic/cultural-economic layer behind our so-called “Everyday Reality”. In the first decades of the 21st century, the borders between this Matrix and Everyday Reality have been blurred and cracked open by something much deeper and heavier — a series of shifts in the underlying ground of being that is the naturalistic platform on which both Matrix and Everyday Reality operate. This underlying layer (Nature/physics/whatever) is shaking. As a result, Matrix is losing control and Everyday Reality is losing its capacity to support even a basic quality of life. The ground of being is showing us its earthquakes and storms, affecting whatever else is built on top. In this regard, we are in the same boat as the systems that aim to manipulate or destroy us. So even if some type of non-anthropic intelligence and complex agency could arise, it will find itself in a very similar predicament. This shift, I believe, has created a boomerang effect on most of my generation and now, after years of living in an illusion of slowly fighting the Matrix and cultivating the Every day, we are looking for something more substantial — not just real physical roots and anchors, but also digital, emotional, civic and technological ones. Something we can really touch and have power over.
The topos, the place, can now start becoming a part of the telos, the meaning of our lives. Places can reconnect to meanings again as standing by and for themselves. Topophilia asks us to look into the barrel of a radically reshaped resource cycle, dying ecosystems, a runaway attention economy and a series of socio-biological and techno-social revolutions and ask ourselves a question: Can we really expect ourselves to know how to react to all of this? Topophilia is a simplification of our predicament, of our crushing inability to proactively shape our world at large — topophilia is a love of a space, a refocusing of our efforts on understanding and taking accountability for a small piece of reality first, which then becomes our own patch. The wyrd aspect in this, I think, comes from the observation that processes that seemed extremely ephemeral (culture, language, the digital, technology) becomes tied down and localized. The patch specifies and chains presence and activity — you have to be physically present in the patch for it to fully be your patch. The patch is a place of reconnecting to you as a being and where you are at the moment + what you are doing at that moment. The effect of localizing and centering life in such a way is the key wyrd element. Once we acknowledge the soft forces of love and caring inherent in topohilia, we can start asking questions: How detailed should a patchwork be? Can a house be a patchwork, with each room seen as a different patch? A whole city block? A public space? A school? A workplace? How interconnected and layered should the patches be? I think the focus on the personal Axis Mundi of one human being as the basic patch could work to help us with the questions of scale (whatever ownership rights are applied or systems of space management we choose).
In order to make topophilia easier and to address the question of patch scale, I propose to base the patch on privacy and silence. Both are important values and experiences in themselves, but are also critical for the project of stepping back and thinking about our reality (mentioned in the introduction). By following simple codes of privacy and silence, we can start feeling the ambient nature of specific places and thus enhance the topophilia effect, also creating “awareness force fields” inside which it is easier to achieve meaningful intersubjective contacts and reach meditative states. I think these will provide the baseline for any patch to reach health and productivity. The reason I believe so is that the slowing down of all processes, infusing a space with an atmosphere of deliberation and concentration, allows us to relax, contemplate and step back. I believe this should be our first step — to think hard before choosing new options in life, to avoid stagnation as well as blind impulse. Also, from such a calm and concentrated space, it is easier to notice all the new things coming into our shared existence.
Patch tool 2:
Realizing the „paradigital“ at work
We should learn to accept that when humans eventually start building patches and interconnecting them into larger patchworks, we will already be bringing something with us to the patch — even if you throw away your smart phone, you are bringing the smart phone that is already inside your head. Not to mention the algorithms in our hearts and elsewhere. We are already infected by “the paradigital” and it will impact whatever we do. The challenge in our interaction with digital technology at the moment is “How do we move beyond the banal and the addictive?” How do we stop what the paradigital impact of these systems is doing to us without resorting to hasty response?
Today, our emotion and moral apparatus is being hacked by interest groups and more obscure systems. We have to realize how much our attention is manipulated and how we are becoming unconscious carriers of these processes. Maybe we will have to re-evaluate our expectations and involvement with the digital. It is probable that an effective patch will need to have some kind of digital layer, but we should never forget that there is a “paradigital” layer at work as well that requires our vigilance and understanding.
Patch tool 3:
Seeing patches as anthromes
Earth is under massive anthropic influence. By adding stuff to the atmosphere and to the oceans, we have already changed most of the biomes on the planet into “anthromes” (anthropic biomes). There is very little primal nature left, most of it exists heavily modified by us or despite us. A patch should always try by mapping the significant cultural and natural points that already exist at the location. Then, these preexisting characteristics should be approached as “more important than we thought”. This means knowing what type and quality of soil is beneath our patch, having a plan of what fauna and flora should live in this specific enthrone to make the most out of the patch and so on… The important thing is that there is no “untouched place” that we are starting to shape, and we are already cohabitants that have been shaping it all for some time. The specific data we should look for, I think, is the type that shows us a single human being can productively interact with a piece of nature. What can you actually do right now to make this specific patch more productive?
Patch tool 4:
Combining it all into “paradigital anthromes”
The way we changed most natural biomes into anthromes is happening at the digital layer as well — and the paradigital with it. So what we are actually inhabiting are “paradigital anthromes”, places where anthropy meets the digital. Enhancing this anthropic principle in the digital layer of reality, a humanization (or maybe “ape-ification”) that would make it more immediately useful and intuitive without aggravating the negative paradigital impact. This position could open a way for us to oppose information gate keeping, at least on a local level — you should always know more about your patch than someone living outside of it, which reverses the citizen-establishment axis of information asymmetry at least in one point.
Patch tool 5:
A brief whoop for reverticality
Lately, the West is mostly a “horizontally” culture — our lives are based on the idea that we should have more experiences that are interesting rather than a few experiences that are meaningful. We accept more money for less interesting work rather than less money for more interesting work. Of course, our current culture is impossible to live through without making such compromises — but reverticality is the idea that we can move this horizontally culture closer to a “vertically” culture, where the values are a bit different. reverticality is the attempt to bring back rich and meaningful stories, myths, meanings, values and senses into our lives without destroying the horizontally infrastructure we have already constructed.
From the view of reverticality, a patch could be seen as a series of vertical points that form a stack (a reference to Benjamin Bratton’s view of the stack) of “systems of meaning” that don’t have to interact with each other over patch borders (in the wider patchwork), but mainly create depth of experience for the people that are inside the patch. A kind of return to mythology without a return to irrationality.
Patch tool 6:
Patchworking as local geo-ontology
When we’re thinking about patchwork, we should also realize that once multiple patches start working together, they will shape reality in new ways at a basic geo-ontology level. The landscape will change and our species will change with it — that is why topophilia (and the basic silence and privacy that enhance it) are so important. We will have to accept that we are reshaping the planet in ways never seen before. The crucial step in this realization of “wider patchworking” is doing it because we want to do it (and knowing why we want to do it).