Spurse Rocking the Boat Reading1-4

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 FeedForward Fieldwork 6: Just Systems and Environmental Justice GROUP 1. Becoming with... “If a factory is torn down but the rationality which produced it is left standing, then that rationality will simply produce another factory. If a revolution destroys a systematic government, but the systematic patterns of thought that produced that government are left intact, then those patterns will repeat themselves in the succeeding government. There’s so much talk about the system. And so little understanding. “ Donella Meadows (Thinking in Systems) Where is “Live Feeds” at so far”? We are now at week 6 of our 11-week program of research at the Lab, marking an important transition of inquiry, from topics about waste and systems, to topics about justice, power and decision-making. Over these past weeks of collaboration, debate and experimentation, we realize that what we have been evolving as a body of research is what we’re calling “an ecology of action”. Whether coincidental or not, this research has brought us smack in the middle of a politically charged arena of inquiry, and we can really feel their implications pushing against the bigger question that the Lab is posing: how to we confront comfort? For us, it is clear that comfort cannot just be about individual comforts -- our very way of life in the highly industrialized parts of the world uses up most of the worlds resources and makes most of the world’s pollution. Our comforts, as a way of life, are a serious problem. But there is more. This problem is at the scale of our worldview. If Meadows is right, the problem is not only the outcomes of this system -- pollution, injustice, destruction of environments and cultures -- but the very ways we think about “solutions” themselves. The fact is, our current worldview is underlying the system that produced this condition, and we need to radically shift our basic set of concepts and tools -- especially in regards to “the political.” So what is your group’s “ecology of action”? “I think that learn to be worldly from grappling with, rather than generalizing from, the ordinary” (Donna Haraway) One of the things that we realized in working on these questions is that when we begin to think of alternatives and action we begin thinking and acting from a very individual place. And this is true even when we think of collaborative ideas. Everything starts with independent singular individuals. But what we say when we began to research the systems that make up our world is that there really is no “individual” to begin with. The reality is that you are never an independent and singular creature. Donna Haraway, says this quite beautifully: “I love the fact that human genomes can be found in only about 10 percent of all the cells that occupy the mundane space I call my body -- the other 90 percent of cells are filled with the genomes of bacteria, fungi, procists and such, some of which play in a symphony necessary to my being alive at all, and some of which are hitching a ride and doing the rest of me, of us, no harm. I am vastly outnumbered by my tiny companions; better put, I become an adult 
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Transcript of Spurse Rocking the Boat Reading1-4

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    FeedForward Fieldwork 6: Just Systems and Environmental Justice

    GROUP 1. Becoming with...

    If a factory is torn down but the rationality which produced it is left standing, then thatrationality will simply produce another factory. If a revolution destroys a systematicgovernment, but the systematic patterns of thought that produced that government are leftintact, then those patterns will repeat themselves in the succeeding government. Theres somuch talk about the system. And so little understanding. Donella Meadows (Thinking inSystems)

    Where is Live Feeds at so far?We are now at week 6 of our 11-week program of research at the Lab, marking an important transition ofinquiry, from topics about waste and systems, to topics about justice, power and decision-making. Over thesepast weeks of collaboration, debate and experimentation, we realize that what we have been evolving as abody of research is what were calling an ecology of action. Whether coincidental or not, this research hasbrought us smack in the middle of a politically charged arena of inquiry, and we can really feel theirimplications pushing against the bigger question that the Lab is posing: how to we confront comfort? For us, itis clear that comfort cannot just be about individual comforts -- our very way of life in the highly industrializedparts of the world uses up most of the worlds resources and makes most of the worlds pollution. Our

    comforts, as a way of life, are a serious problem.

    But there is more. This problem is at the scale of our worldview. If Meadows is right, the problem is not onlythe outcomes of this system -- pollution, injustice, destruction of environments and cultures -- but the veryways we think about solutions themselves. The fact is, our current worldview is underlying the system thatproduced this condition, and we need to radically shift our basic set of concepts and tools -- especially inregards to the political.

    So what is your groups ecology of action?I think that learn to be worldly from grappling with, rather than generalizing from, the ordinary (DonnaHaraway)One of the things that we realized in working on these questions is that when we begin to think of alternativesand action we begin thinking and acting from a very individual place. And this is true even when we think of

    collaborative ideas. Everything starts with independent singular individuals. But what we say when we beganto research the systems that make up our world is that there really is no individual to begin with. The realityis that you are never an independent and singular creature. Donna Haraway, says this quite beautifully:

    I love the fact that human genomes can be found in only about 10 percent of all the cells thatoccupy the mundane space I call my body -- the other 90 percent of cells are filled with thegenomes of bacteria, fungi, procists and such, some of which play in a symphony necessaryto my being alive at all, and some of which are hitching a ride and doing the rest of me, of us,no harm. I am vastly outnumbered by my tiny companions; better put, I become an adult

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    human being in company with these tiny messmates. To be one is always to become withmany. Donna Haraway (When Species Meet)

    And these entanglements and collaborations do not stop with our bodies -- we are fully involved in and withmany many creatures and systems -- both human and non-human. (It is just as important to note -- manymany creatures need us -- we have co-evolved. They need us not simply to leave them alone but to be veryactive in their lives). What does this mean for questions of Justice, Power and Decision Making? We think thatit makes a huge difference. And today we would like to dig into some of the some of the possible ramificationsof this. Again, Donna Haraway says it well,

    Becoming with is about the cats cradle games in which those who are to be in the world andare constituted in intra- and interaction. The partners do not precede the meeting; species ofall kinds, living and not, are consequent on a subject- and object- shaping dance ofencounters.

    Some Useful Terms and Questions:Symbiosis:How all living creatures and mutually dependent on other creatures. How all living creatures arethe landscape for other creatures lives. How all living creatures are subject to other creatures needs andinterests (sometimes good, sometimes bad, sometimes neutral). How all creatures have evolved fullyentangled with specific other creatures. Ask of us new ideas about individuality, collectivity and collaboration.

    Collectives:Everything is already part of multiple collectives. No thing starts from a clean, neutral,independent beginning. Life is collective, messy, and ongoing. What happens when we imagine thingsseparate (disembedded) from their collectives? How does this seeming neutrality of individuality undermine,deskill, and ultimately pacify community?

    Resource Thinking:The transformation of complex entangled things in discreet packages, and singularneutral commodities (e.g. Water, Air, Land, Intellectual Capital). It involves radical forms of rupturing actualecosystems, and negating actual communities. What does it take to avoid resource thinking today?

    Nature:A system to rupture co-evolving systems into the pure and the impure around whether humans arepart of them or not. In seeing us separate from the world, our ideal role becomes one maintaining a boundary,and staying in our world and leaving the world alone. But what happens if such a separation is impossible?Or never existed? What is ecology after nature?

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    FeedForward Fieldwork 6: Just Systems and Environmental Justice

    GROUP 2. The strange surprise of things and events

    If a factory is torn down but the rationality which produced it is left standing, then thatrationality will simply produce another factory. If a revolution destroys a systematicgovernment, but the systematic patterns of thought that produced that government are left

    intact, then those patterns will repeat themselves in the succeeding government. Theres somuch talk about the system. And so little understanding. Donella Meadows (Thinking inSystems)

    Where is Live Feeds at so far?We are now at week 6 of our 11-week program of research at the Lab, marking an important transition ofinquiry, from topics about waste and systems, to topics about justice, power and decision-making. Over thesepast weeks of collaboration, debate and experimentation, we realize that what we have been evolving as abody of research is what were calling an ecology of action. Whether coincidental or not, this research hasbrought us smack in the middle of a politically charged arena of inquiry, and we can really feel theirimplications pushing against the bigger question that the Lab is posing: how to we confront comfort? For us, itis clear that comfort cannot just be about individual comforts -- our very way of life in the highly industrializedparts of the world uses up most of the worlds resources and makes most of the worlds pollution. Our

    comforts, as a way of life, are a serious problem.

    But there is more. This problem is at the scale of our worldview. If Meadows is right, the problem is not onlythe outcomes of this system -- pollution, injustice, destruction of environments and cultures -- but the veryways we think about solutions themselves. The fact is, our current worldview is underlying the system thatproduced this condition, and we need to radically shift our basic set of concepts and tools -- especially inregards to the political.

    So what is your groups ecology of action?I think that learn to be worldly from grappling with, rather than generalizing from, the ordinary (DonnaHaraway)One of the key things we realized is that we do not take into consideration the effect of mundane objects. Wesee ourselves as the key actors in the world of politics and action -- the subjects, so to speak -- but have little

    sense of what shaping power everyday objects have. Are the things that we interact with so passive that wecan forget about them? What do things do when they are not reduced to human purposes? How do seeminglyinert things shape us? Are we made by our tools? In some very powerful ways things have their own powerthat is not reducible to any purpose and in very real ways things shape us. A hammer participates in shapingus, and joining us to practices, skills, worlds and possibilities in a very different way than does a credit card.

    But, most importantly things surprise us -- we expect one thing from something -- and we are swept up andtaken somewhere quite different.

    Some Useful Terms and Questions:

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    Emergence:When things get together as systems they take on wholly new qualities and characteristicsirreducible to their previous qualities. This can really shock us. Especially if we thought things had a purpose.Things, and systems, are doing this all the time. How do we pay attention? How can we follow emergence?

    Non-linear Causality:We like to get from A to B. From clear problem to obvious solution. But nothing worksthis way. We like to call this unintended consequences. And to try to keep using a linear model of changebut be on the lookout for unintended consequences -- which we then believe we can minimize. But what ifsystems really are non-linear? How do we unplug from linearity in politics and action?

    Purpose vs. Affordance:We look at the world around us and see things that serve a purpose -- the hammeris to hit nails, credit cards to make transactions, trees to provide shade or perhaps lumber; but what if thingshad a life beyond their purpose? Shoes can become doorstops, credit cards can pick locks, and so on. Thisset of affordances is a start, but still, it is just looking at how things help us. We still do not know what a thingcan do. What is a thing politics? And why do we need it?

    Distributed Agency:If nothing happens alone or because of the action of one thing -- then how do we speakof responsibility? Is it not at the level of some form of system? Some set of entangled things in collaboration?How do we begin to see these agents beyond individuals and discreet things? How do we sense howdistributed and dependent action is?

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    FeedForward Fieldwork 6: Just Systems and Environmental Justice

    GROUP 3. Getting Skills and Losing them

    If a factory is torn down but the rationality which produced it is left standing, then thatrationality will simply produce another factory. If a revolution destroys a systematicgovernment, but the systematic patterns of thought that produced that government are leftintact, then those patterns will repeat themselves in the succeeding government. Theres somuch talk about the system. And so little understanding. Donella Meadows (Thinking inSystems)

    Where is Live Feeds at so far?We are now at week 6 of our 11-week program of research at the Lab, marking an important transition ofinquiry, from topics about waste and systems, to topics about justice, power and decision-making. Over thesepast weeks of collaboration, debate and experimentation, we realize that what we have been evolving as abody of research is what were calling an ecology of action. Whether coincidental or not, this research hasbrought us smack in the middle of a politically charged arena of inquiry, and we can really feel theirimplications pushing against the bigger question that the Lab is posing: how to we confront comfort? For us, itis clear that comfort cannot just be about individual comforts -- our very way of life in the highly industrializedparts of the world uses up most of the worlds resources and makes most of the worlds pollution. Our

    comforts, as a way of life, are a serious problem.

    But there is more. This problem is at the scale of our worldview. If Meadows is right, the problem is not onlythe outcomes of this system -- pollution, injustice, destruction of environments and cultures -- but the veryways we think about solutions themselves. The fact is, our current worldview is underlying the system thatproduced this condition, and we need to radically shift our basic set of concepts and tools -- especially inregards to the political.

    So what is your groups ecology of action?I think that learn to be worldly from grappling with, rather than generalizing from, the ordinary (DonnaHaraway)One of the major changes in our industrialized world is that we have been separated from most of the worldaround us and do not have skills that could allow us to interact with this world. We have become individuals

    who have skills suited to a narrow range of production (our jobs). And the rest we have to leave to others --experts.

    The resident lives in a world that has been made hard. He can no more beat his path on the highway than hecan make a hole in a wall. He goes through life without leaving a trace. The marks he leaves are considereddents - wear and tear. What he does leave behind him will be removed as environment has been redefined asa resource. Housing provides cubicles in which residents are housed. Such housing is planned, built andequipped for them. To be allowed to dwell minimally in ones own housing constitutes a special privilege; onlythe rich may move a door or drive a nail into a wall. Thus the vernacular space of dwelling is replaced by thehomogenous space of the Garage Ivan Illich (Dwelling).

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    While Ivan Illich says this quite precisely about our houses -- it is true of most of our lives -- and it is especiallytrue about the big issues facing us today. We have as a culture we believe that change can come aboutsimply by purchasing the right light bulb, protesting certain laws and refusing shopping bags. But is this realchange? What skills would real change require of us on a daily basis?

    Some Useful Terms and Questions:

    Resource Thinking:The transformation of complex entangled things in discreet packages, and singularneutral commodities (e.g. Water, Air, Land, Intellectual Capital). It involves radical forms of rupturing actualecosystems, and negating actual communities. What does it take to avoid resource thinking today?

    Needs:The other half of the world of resources is the belief that the world of creatures (including ourselves)can be reduced to needs. These needs are thought to be neutral and universal substances: nutrition,housing, education, etc. The problem becomes one of delivering and receiving commodities. Once we acceptthis logic the very possibility cultural/ecosystemic self-determination becomes impossible -- and even worseinconceivable. The government continues to bet on democracy and development; we respond byemphasizing autonomy and the right to have our own life project (The Organization of Black Communities ofthe Pacific Coast of Columbia). How do we get beyond justice and equality as the equitable meeting of basicneeds? How do we become world makers and not need fulfillers? How does this entangled with distinctcommunities (both human and non-human)?

    Skills:If we are required to participate in our environment what skills would we need? If we wanted to askquestions of others (both humans and non-humans) what tools and skills would we need? These feel like theskills of inquiry, tinkering, active listening -- what does that concretely look like?

    Deskilling: The logics of a commodity driven reality we are being deskilled in ways that narrow ourimagination, curiosity and perplexity to the logics of needs. How do we resist this radical deskilling?

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    FeedForward Fieldwork 6: Just Systems and Environmental Justice

    GROUP 4. Building things to participate in building space and time

    If a factory is torn down but the rationality which produced it is left standing, then thatrationality will simply produce another factory. If a revolution destroys a systematicgovernment, but the systematic patterns of thought that produced that government are leftintact, then those patterns will repeat themselves in the succeeding government. Theres somuch talk about the system. And so little understanding. Donella Meadows (Thinking inSystems)

    Where is Live Feeds at so far?We are now at week 6 of our 11-week program of research at the Lab, marking an important transition ofinquiry, from topics about waste and systems, to topics about justice, power and decision-making. Over thesepast weeks of collaboration, debate and experimentation, we realize that what we have been evolving as abody of research is what were calling an ecology of action. Whether coincidental or not, this research hasbrought us smack in the middle of a politically charged arena of inquiry, and we can really feel theirimplications pushing against the bigger question that the Lab is posing: how to we confront comfort? For us, itis clear that comfort cannot just be about individual comforts -- our very way of life in the highly industrializedparts of the world uses up most of the worlds resources and makes most of the worlds pollution. Our

    comforts, as a way of life, are a serious problem.

    But there is more. This problem is at the scale of our worldview. If Meadows is right, the problem is not onlythe outcomes of this system -- pollution, injustice, destruction of environments and cultures -- but the veryways we think about solutions themselves. The fact is, our current worldview is underlying the system thatproduced this condition, and we need to radically shift our basic set of concepts and tools -- especially inregards to the political.

    So what is your groups ecology of action?A big part of our realization throughout this research is that we need to find new ways to participate in theworld. And as we starting looking at tools and systems one thing that became really clear is that things arealong bigger and more interesting than we usually think. Things are, in reality type of apparatuses --assemblages that are made up of all sorts of things, processes and ideas. And in some real sense all of our

    world is made up of these complex things -- our rainwater catchment systems, our gardens, our workshops...But more surprisingly we have come to see that Apparatuses are specific material reconfigurings of the worldthat do not merely emerge in time but iteratively reconfigure spacetimematter as part of the ongoingdynamism of becoming. Karen Barad (Meeting the Universe Half Way). Now while this can sound like aquite a dense idea -- it suggest something very fundamental -- assemblages and apparatuses participate inthe making of reality. They do not simply add to the stuff already in the world, but they change the fabric ofreality. So what does this mean for our actions?

    Some Useful Terms and Questions to Consider:

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    Assemblage:Things and creatures are best seen as composites of all sorts of very different things -- someparts are other critters, some are other objects, some are ideas, some are processes. And each thingcontains multiples of each of these. How do we see this? How do we work with assemblages? What newscales to we need to think and act at?

    Apparatus:Those very concrete things we will be seeing today -- tools to measure the waters, talk withmussels, collect rain water -- these are all apparatuses. And our real question is how are these things, thatwe made, now remaking us (and the world)? Are apparatuses how we communicate, and interact withother things, critters and systems?

    Non Human Agents:Yep -- the world is really busy as we sleep -- all sorts of things are making this world --critters, ecosystems, collectives, objects, tools, ideas... So how do we meet this stuff? (Given that it is co-making us?). Do these things have rights?

    Construction:Well -- if everything is active and entangled then it is best to say that we live in a world thatcannot be divided into Nature and the Unnatural. Nor is it useful to imagine that our role in this reality isone staying out of the way of things. We are all co-constructing reality. So what does it mean to make thingswell or poorly? How do we judge our apparatuses? How do we judge this garden, boat, river, or roof? How dothese judgments become further pragmatic action? Who gets to be part of these decisions? What is theirrole?