Imaginary Life

The power of informal networks.

Lighthouse Relief volunteers, Joanna Ågren and Jonny Bradford, have really proved that a few determined people can make a massive difference to so many. They have helped move 48 people out of refugee camps and into apartments to begin a new life. For every social media post, the informal network raised up to 20,000 SEK that went directly to buy provisions for refugees, mostly via the mobile app Swish in Sweden.

See the Facebook page in Swedish, and the blog, in English. Their testimony shows how much of the help in Greece actually came from independent volunteers – private individuals mobilising themselves, without any formal help. These volunteers took it upon themselves to go to Greece, often not knowing what they can do to help until they arrive and meet other volunteers on the ground (including the refugees). In addition, the response of the local Greek population is very moving.

The official refugee camps were not humane places, not well equipped. They are lacking in food, supplies, amenities, not to mention medical care. They are policed and fenced in, and many of the refugees fear being imprisoned indefinitely in these camps.

While governments in Europe spend extraordinary amounts erecting fences along their national boundaries, not one government penny has been spent helping the refugees flee war-torn Syria and Iraq. Not one penny on food and supplies in Idomeni or the shores of Lesbos. Even worse, our governments’ response has been to add to the challenges the refugees face, blocking them from applying for asylum- which, until very recently, was deemed to be a very basic human right.

The blanket decision to demote and declassify all non Syrian and Iraqi nationals to “migrant” status (as opposed to refugee) blatantly ignores all the international humanitarian laws and mandates that have been set up since the second world war. This is not a “refugee” crisis, but a crisis of neglect, an ethical crisis. The inability of the EU to respond rationally, with problem-solving solutions and long-term planning, is only increasing the crisis incrementally by the day.

How many days can a person go without adequate food and shelter? The official hotspot camps set up by the military are full to bursting. At the same time, Jonny and Joanna estimated that around 40 percent of the refugees they saw in the camps in Greece (official and unofficial) are children under the age of 12.

This week’s blog post is the story of one family’s journey from Syria, written by a refugee, Mohammed Abdi, who helped Joanna and Jonny translate at Idomeni. I urge you to spend 5 minutes reading it. May his testimony serve to dispel any doubt you may have in your mind about the urgency of the crisis, and the responsibility the international community has to avoid an atrocity of wilful neglect.

Thanks for reading.

idomeni

Radioshenyen: @shipadrift April 2012

radioshenyen: @shipadrift April 2012

“We are first of all, as friends, the friends of solitude, and we are calling on you to share what cannot be shared: solitude. We are friends of an entirely different kind, inaccessible friends, friends who are alone because they are incomparable and without common measure, reciprocity or equality… without a horizon of recognition, without proximity, without oikeiotes…”

“Her face was like someone texting a lover.” “I am (something), (something) and (something). I am lost.” Its the first thing I think about when I wake up: this voice, accented with GPS codes, so distant and fragmentary, this ‘reader’ of ancient history and Twitter feeds. I was going to say ‘this disembodied voice’ but I dont know what embodiment means anymore. She’s as real to me as anything else is, when the mind stops being lonely. Her skin is a colour so beautiful – a soft light brown – even if her skin is basically a map.

I guess its ok to refer to a ‘her’ – ships are traditionally female. But they don’t, traditionally, write. Ship adrift is an art project that drifts across the boundaries of business, sculpture, software code, robot literature, virtuality and time. The physical ship is a full scale model of the ship featured in Joseph Conrad’s Heart Of Darkness, perched atop a London building overlooking the river, where it will remain for one year as a top-end (single room) hotel. Meanwhile the virtual ship is drifting around the world according to wind directions recorded at the London site, picking up web traffic along the way (local Twitter feeds, GPS-tagged wikipedia entries, mobile phone fragments) and generating a ghostly literature out of it. (You can listen to James Bridle talking about the wider context here and read ship adrift’s Twitter feed here.)

The Twitter feed is one of the most beautiful things I’ve read and an example of an emerging literature: literature that is algorithmically driven and the product of software code. The traditional – naive – notion of AI has been to create something human-like, both in physical form and in expressive recognisability. @shipadrift eschews such trappings. It’s voice is a twitter feed of unbearably sweet brokenness, its body a web page, its skin a map. Nothing in the world of literature speaks to me the way this virtual ship does. Its very grammar – a kind of anti-grammar of apparent randomness and error, but incredibly poised – takes me into a place where context is so stretched as to be virtually unfindable.

This is not to reject the heartache wonders of Roberto Bolano or Jane Austen or Derrida: I am simply recognising that algorithmically generated literature is coming of age. It has attained a space of complexity and form of presentation that can trigger immense emotional affect. (Imagine. for a moment, if Jane Austen had been an SMS platform protocol. Imagine if your text life, your love life had been immersed in such sweetness!) The best chess players are no longer computers – the best chess players are teams of computers and humans working together. Literature will soon be home to a similar collaborative effort.

“Claude Shannon recognized that whether or not a certain effect is considered noise depends on one’s position in the listening chain. Noise is interference only from the sender’s point of view. From the point of view of the receiver it may be considered a part of the information packet that is transmitted along a channel. When we hear the earliest sound recordings of Tennyson reading Charge of the Light Brigade, for example, the watered down and scratched out sound conveys the enormous passage of time, just as the static sound of Neil Armstrong’s voice on the moon tells us something about his physical distance from us and the newness of space technologies in the 1960s. It would not be difficult to think of countless other cases in which the presence of the medium mixes in with the intended message to produce some whole new effect, not intended by the sender, but taken as information by the receiver. In these cases, noise is not simply an extra third thing to be discounted. It has entered into the message and become part of it. To speak technically, the signal now has an “equivocation,” which is to say that two messages pass along the same channel. The sender may not have intended this, but the receiver may welcome it.”

When I read @shipadrift It makes me want to go there myself. ‘Er, Where is that?’ I hear you ask. Well that’s something I will have to look into more deeply, though doubtless, when I find it, there will be echoes of everything I’ve loved in the past. To the extent that we relax, and trust ourselves, we become our own maps. Meanwhile – for knowledge’s sake you understand! – I’ve decided to do a bit of good old fashioned networking… if you’re interested you can check out some of the bot auteurs I’m now following on Twitter. (I defy anyone not to fall in love with the one that scours the internet for references to chocolate…)

I’m also considering opening a few Twitter accounts and a blog without telling anyone and just disappearing – writing, but to no one – in that zone. I think its something that used to be called ‘science’. Or ‘cruising’. But in the wonderful world of knowledge was there ever a difference?

With love

shenyen //////////////////////////////////

Fragmented by choice?

Consume less, live more?

Interesting article in the Guardian about choice and marketing. And a great quote from Professor Tim Jackson, the author of Prosperity Without Growth: “We buy things we don’t need with money we haven’t got to make impressions that don’t last on people we don’t care about.” In his book, he describes how the never-ending spiral of over-consumption has led us into never-ending spiral of debt and cultural decay in Western society. And moreover, how “We do not have investment structures, investment markets, investment conditions that are suitable to lay down the infrastructure to allow people to make better choices.”
But marketeers take note: its not all do-goodiness in his message. It’s proven that consumers who are faced with too much choice, make no choice at all. In fact, the biggest luxury of our age is to be totally relieved from the stress of choice making. To check into a Japanese Ryokan, on the top of Mount Koya, to be served a set breakfast and told when to take a bath, and what to wear; what could be a better remedy to the stresses of modern day life?

Read more

The Corporation

Film trailer from 2007: “The Corporation is today’s dominant institution, creating great wealth but also great harm. This 26 award-winning documentary examines the nature, evolution, impacts and future of the modern business corporation and the increasing role it plays in society and our everyday lives.”

Design for life

Many thanks to Designboost 2009

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“It is hard to listen what the technology can do if one does not know what the technology is capable of. We should not segregate geeks from creatives. We need to percolate the programmers, information architects, interactive designers and UI designers together with the graphic designers, art directors and copywriters, from product design across all aspect of ‘communications.’ Technology, design, and brands, are tools for people, not vice versa. Most of today’s marketing communications is nothing more than a time-bandit; It steals our time, so we had better make it give us some genuine value in return.”
Jari Ullakko, Creative director.

“Design for life is evolving to be genuinely sustainable design with the total life cycle in mind. Overall accountability will soon be a necessity, and companies will no longer win sustainability awards for white paper CSR preparedness. In this way, there is a desperate need for cross disciplinary sustainable thinking to be accessible and applicable through a clearly defined set of process tools, right from the early stages of product development, through to smart customer and vendor loyalty strategies.”
Uffe Ljungberg, Risk analyst and Quality control.

“Design for life? It is a friend who accompanies you everyday, that might be able to help you, comfort you, and let you be who you are. Design for life is the design of the connections and interactions between people, and between people, places and things, that creates a positive feeling every time you meet it. Quite simply, design for life simplifies or improves, humanizes and personalizes the experience of everyday life. It is the ultimate expression of humanity.”
Catja Löfgren, Creative strategy and Insights.

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Sign for the infamous bar on Erstagatan, Stockholm.

“Life is an unrepeatable disappearing thing, and design needs to enter the same space. Newness should not be defined in terms of novelty or market niche but in terms of the drama of this disappearance and unrepeatability, colour-coded with compassion and naturalness. I am a Buddhist monk flipping rhythmically between the forest and the cosmopolis. I am designing all the time.”
Tenzin Shenyen, Writer and Monk.

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“Don’t worry about destinations, practice arriving well. /Both the express train and local train arrive on time. /Carry a drop of water to the ocean; wash it clean. / A pattern of drops on my son’s back where he can’t reach. / Nothing exists, and everything proves it. / Freedom is the ability to do anything, not merely what I want. / Pluck a petal and leave the flower whole. / Open hands: giving/receiving. / We can wake the miracle that sleeps within each moment. / There is a sort of kindness that needs me to not do much. / Design for Life = doing enough.”
Jerry Gordon, Teacher and Improviser.

“I don’t want to live in a Wall-e world. I want to say to all the CEOs of all the companies that you must put the earth first and not just your wallet.”
Alexander Ljungberg-Perme, Student. Age 12.

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Designboost entrance 2009, Malmö

“Today, everyone expects design to be good. And so design must develop to be more and more about layers of experience, than just the aesthetic result of an isolated object. Increasingly we see that the advertising budget is being spent on designing enabling tools and overlapping interfaces on and offline. Brands will focus on value adding services – and we will see more ideas like ‘Nike+’, where you choose to use a brand long term because of the intelligence it adds to your life, human and technological. We will see more sincerity and transparency because there is no other way.”
Anders Davén, Digital concept architect.

“Imagine that designers, together with their clients and other partners, manage to create truly beneficial products and services that are seamlessly intrinsic to our lives. Then imagine our society having to rely only on branded services to deliver basic healthcare and infrastructure, but with a disclaimer: break the ‘terms and conditions’ and you are out. Responsibility, integrity and genuine value beyond CSR messaging is a discussion taking place in the digital realm right now. Corporate social integration will extend to all areas of life at the pace we extend the term design and what it should provide. My logic: The better you deliver – the greater the responsibility. What are we doing when create ’excellence’? What are we really achieving when we enter the political space of social responsibility?”
Johan Hjerpe, Concept director.

“I believe that design shapes our collective memories, it speaks about who we are as a community, what we value in our everyday experiences and our dreams. I don’t believe in exclusivity in design, nor fashion. I believe in emotional design. We create reality for ourselves, every minute, every day. And it is our duty as designers, artists, and workers of all kinds to make this world an inspiring environment that encourages life itself to thrive.”
Pavel Fiorentino, Photographer and Journalist.

“Design For Life is ‘The Anatomy of IS.’ It is an existential template that develops and guides our everyday work helping us to interpret what is happening around us. Designing life is an act in the present. The future is a cacophony of could, should, would, will, won’t, might and on and on. Design for Life is doing what you can within the present moment that you inhabit.”
Michael J. Salovaara, Teacher and Poet.

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“Last time I stayed in a hotel and I turned the shower on, somebody had pointed the shower head towards the wall ensuring I didn’t get a cold morning shock in a new place. 
A nice but well thought out gesture. In a similar way Design for Life is about putting the user needs at the forefront of the creative process to integrate possible future living in the design concept. Some would rightly argue that has always been the design mantra, but increasingly, there is a playful element to the concept reaching beyond functionality and aesthetics, because Design for Life is conceived from and for people.”
Jonas Andersen, Trends analyst.

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“Design for Life is a paradigm shift that has already happened. We are living in critical and exciting times where we have the possibility to shape more meaningful collaborative platforms that will focus on realizing visions rather than just launching isolated products and fragmented messages. These will be provided by the sources we trust and choose – the people in our lives who we interact with on a daily level.”
Tanya Kim Grassley, Strategist.

Everyone is so old

I was just zapping channels on TV and stumbled upon a recent take of the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
They are still good. But they are not the gorgeous bodies anymore that come to my mind when I think about them. They are just a couple of steps away from the Stones…Physically speaking, that is, not artistically. You know what I mean?

A couple of weeks ago there was an occasion where I met some more or less distant members of my family that I didn’t see for years. Strange to see people you have a certain picture of in your mind again, much older than you thought they would be. And then today I caught a reflection of myself in a shop window and thought that old guy looks familiar.

And then again, when people appear in the news all of a sudden after a long media silence, I’m surprised. Or I’m just surprised because I thought they passed away ten years or so ago.

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