~e; re:configuration

From brian carroll <human@electronetwork.org>
Date Mon, 15 Oct 2001 14:40:47 -0600

  hello ~e-list. have had a few weeks to reflect upon both
  moving and the severely disturbing events that are now
  unfolding, and this has prompted, for the better, a re-
  evaluation of the goals and aims of the electronetwork.org
  project, in part, and as a whole.

  as a whole what has become clearer is that the goals of
  the project center around education, not any particular
  issue, institution, nor agenda. yet, prior to the 9/11
  tragedy, the only way these ideas about electromagnetism
  being of cultural and intellectual value in society has
  been through competing with other ideas, often in a mode
  of confronting systems and organizations, to try to enact
  some sort of change. the success of such a strategy is
  only in getting some attention, often negative, and also
  hostility, as the way things are configured make it such
  that one version or another of what is real and of value
  succeeds over another. as an individual, working alone,
  this tactic proved itself unsatisfactory, as the goal
  became against institutions, rather than attempting to
  work outside of them. this was necessitated though as
  no insitutional opporuntities for support have been
  found after years of searching, and at a certain point
  an antagonistic vantage became the default for ~e.org
  trying to compete with other institutionally legitimated
  ideas of how things are, should be, and will always be.

  thus, if not already stated, a sense of backtracking has
  occurred, both through reflection and common sense, that
  the goals of raising awareness could be at war with the
  different ways of seeing the same phenomenon (divided
  in various sectors and disciplines), or trying to find
  a way to communicate, to provide a basis and groundwork
  for a different way of perceiving electromagnetic phenom,
  but not through direct struggles with established systems
  by debasing their competencies, but rather through an
  educational lens, operating outside of the traditional
  structures. and it will take time. as does learning, as
  it becomes more evident that Education is a prerequisite
  to other things. that is, finding a common language, a
  common basis from which to cooperate, both inside and
  outside institutions, in public and private, as people,
  organizations, businesses, and governments. things are
  not going to change until they change. and to change,
  to transform a well-entrenched way of seeing electro-
  magnetism through a centuries old paradigm, requires
  developing a solid, peer-reviewed set of assumptions,
  hypotheses, and debate about these basic issues.

  rather than looking backward, it is more as if it is
  a type of 'thinking backward', wherein specific actions
  or goals or ideals, in their specificity, limit the
  ability for others to find a foundational similarity
  beyond the separation of knowledge into disciplines
  and subdisciplines. electromagnetic knowledge exists
  in every discipline (in health, art and architecture,
  archaeology, geology, physics, engineering, sociology,
  anthropology, political science, etcetera) yet it has
  yet to be seen as its own thing, its own organizing
  factor, in generalist terms. meaning, that the content
  of electromagnetism is a subset of every discipline,
  but always a detail to be retrofitted into the older
  model of understanding, that is, the empirical past.

  what has become a focus is Marshall McLuhan's statement
  of 'the medium is the message', which is what may be
  what has happened in the extreme, wherein the mediums
  of disciplines, say architecture for example, becomes
  the logical and formal basis for content, which it may
  rightly be in some respects. but that the content is
  not the organizing factor of knowledge, as much as is
  the institution of architecture. and the thought, and
  gut feeling, that is now pervading this complexity is
  that of a rather simple inversion, or clarification,
  or extension of McLuhan's koan. the meaning is the
  message. or something approximate. this is to say
  that the organizing factor revolves around content,
  and not the forms that it may take, in some cases.

  such vantaging would enable 'electromagnetism' as
  content to be the organizing factor for various
  disciplines, the supra-category, for purposes of
  research, study, learning, and development of a
  basic understanding, and exploration of what this
  means in artistic, scientific, and technological
  realms. and beyond. but currently this is not how
  things work, how the University works, and any one
  individual cannot change this. but an idea can...

  electromagnetic education.

  the study of electromagnetism, to be adopted, would
  need basic research into why it is unique and does
  not fit within the limits of the old model of things.
  if basic research were to be conducted, on such common
  cross-disciplinary topics such as space-and-time,
  aesthetics, and culture, using basic but new tools
  for any discipline today, such as GPS, Radio Scanner,
  EMF detector, and other devices, that a grounding of
  electromagnetism in the everyday could be established
  enabling learning and understanding through questioning
  these basic everyday occurrances that are otherwise of
  no value and irrelevant as they do not fit the current
  paradigm. yet, there is a political dimension to any
  such research, as there are debates and power struggles
  over any information contesting or revaluing the import
  of electromagnetic information. as it threatens to both
  disrupt the current way of being, and also, call into
  question some fuzzy areas, such as cancer studies,
  the role of energy in geopolitics, and whatnot that
  could make such efforts into an either-or counter-
  productive attempt at changing the way things are,
  for the better, hopefully, in this regard. thus,
  such basic research would not delve into these
  issues or areas, and try to debate the larger,
  more complex, and highly-charged areas within which
  electromagnetic knowledge exists, and is fiercely
  protected, to keep things as they are, under control.

  instead, basic research into lightspeed, electromagnetic
  waves and information in the air, and a new cartographic
  mapping would bring some presently unconnected aspects
  into view, which could be useful for encouraging the
  further exploration of electromagnetism as it relates
  to understanding the nature and artifice we live within
  which is both constituted and constructed via this new
  but seemingly irrelevant and purely scientific reality.

  in educational terms, children in preschool and kinder-
  garten could learn about certain aspects which picques
  the wonderment of children at an early age, preparing
  them to further explore these issues in their growth.

  kids in gradeschool could have a balanced view of
  electromagnetism, not just in science class, but also
  with a humanities understanding, knowing more about
  the stories of the development of their local and
  global cultures and environments, explaining in part,
  why things are the way they are (such as with radio,
  television, telephony, and the computer). the stories
  of art, from early paintings of infrastructure, to
  current electronic and network artforms, in addition
  to artifacts such as electrical transmission insulators
  could help bring 'down to earth' that phenomenon that
  speeds around us as an unbounded but magical technology
  that only few understand (and then, only in part). in
  a sense, the opportunity exists to rationalize this
  influence of electromagnetism to provide for further
  understanding, and development, of future systems.

  in the highschool level, both science but also with
  the growing importance of telecommunications and
  technical and artistic designers shown via the value
  of computers in schools, could both attend to the
  vocational aspects of digital literacy, and provide
  work for those who are ready to specialize in their
  chosen fields, as internetworkers, by tying in these
  desires with the multimedia and IT training schools
  that have cropped up like weeds in most every city.

  in college, students could further pursue and expand
  their knowledge of electromagnetism, both as a specific
  endeavor, via 'electromagnetic studies', or within
  other disciplines by having a basis in understanding
  the new electromagnetic aspects of our daily lives.
  and these could be applied to any discipline, via
  the expanded use of research tools in various fields
  of study, such as GIS as a cross-disciplinary tool,
  or using computing and media skills (in such things
  as DVD production using digital video and audio to
  present ideas, conduct research, and also provide
  empirical content which can become a basis for
  furthering knowledge of any specific discipline).

  in part, to pursue this goal of raising awareness of
  electromagnetism will require what is most likely a
  three part strategy, upon which grants will be based
  for their fulfilment.

  the first part requires retooling the electronetwork.org
  website, and this will occur by transferring it to a new
  server, securing it from hacking as much as possible, and
  rebuilding parts to automate aspects such as the database
  and links directory using open-source software, such as
  PHP and mySQL. so too, by reevaluating the goals of the
  project, the design will require a change, to drop parts
  of the current prototype and build others. the aim of
  this build-out will be to gather together those from
  various disciplines whose work focuses on electromagnetism,
  and put them in one place, so the larger congruity of
  the content can be seen as an logical organizing factor
  and hopefully, meaning can be found in seeing these
  parts as a whole, that is, the content, the meaning,
  and the various messages that abound, albeit diversely.
  this is the concept of electronetworking with others
  around electromagnetic content and its meaning & value.

  part two will require enabling basic electromagnetic
  Research and Development to occur, from a content-based
  perspective. that is, to provide a groundwork for the
  educational and cultural exploration of electromagnetism,
  while being inclusive to the scientific complexity of
  such attempts. (that is, a mystery never solved, and
  a basic understanding that is always in question). to
  do this, support will need to be found for conducting
  such research in a local environment, much like an
  archaeologist who conducts a dig in a grid, to find
  the layers of information buried below the ground. in
  the case of EM research, it would be the opposite to
  some extent, digging in the air above, through the
  technologies which utilize electronics to sense, and
  to capture data streams and coordinates in any given
  space, and from this, to hypothesize about its meaning.
  such an effort would both produce documentation that
  would be copyright free as educational research, but
  which could be applied to others' efforts, to conduct
  similar but extended or different research, to try
  and crack this paradigmatic egg and find out more
  about what it is. the idea of this research is to
  pursue a type of open-source educational content,
  which is basically a diagram of 'the big bang to
  the internet', a flowchart of sorts, upon which
  different mediums could be used to communicate,
  and explore, various aspects of its relevancy to
  daily life. for example, with basic knowledge of
  electromagnetism established through reseach, so
  that others can participate and collaborate in
  expanding this initiative through various forms,
  such as posters, paintings, sculpture, software,
  compositions, DVD films, children's books, etc.
  for example, if the cultural aspects of electro-
  magnetism could be clarified enough for the every-
  day person, then a museum exhibit, say, online and-
  or offline, in various locales, could bring together
  the meta-museum aspects of the content, by collaborating
  with history museums, company museums (such as Bell),
  fine arts musuems (for more ancient EM content such
  as the iconography of electricity in early religious
  paintings, or in more modern works exploring electric
  lighting, or today's digital canvases), bringing such
  things together as artifacts and old technologies,
  local documents and stories, and artworks new and
  old which show a more 'whole picture' and integrated
  view of electromagnetic culture, bringing in the
  humanities side of thing, to balance the scientific,
  which by itself often makes people shy from thinking
  about electromagnetism at all, as it is so abstract.
  in creating such basic research and developing both
  electromagnetic content and hopefully awareness, the
  idea of 'electromagnetic studies' would be formed
  and displayed in a public and interactive setting.

  the third part, which would require the previous two
  and take things further, would be to establish an
  electromagnetic studies institute, multidisciplinary,
  transparent, and open-source for providing content
  for electromagentic education in many fields and
  in many disciplines, entirely copyright free for
  educational fair-use. where the cost of both the
  distribution and reproduction of the content would
  be optimized and borne by the users of the content
  via digital reproduction, such as downloading digital
  files and reproducing them locally, or purchasing a
  DVD at cost so as to copying it for educational use.
  this content could include texts, software, video,
  audio, posters, imagery, and books among other things.
  in this way, by establishing 'electromagnetic studies'
  and an insitute to have conferences and collaborations
  at, a place to bring together various researchers and
  interests and disciplines in a public setting, would
  in turn enable the chance that 'electromagnetic studies'
  could eventually become integrated in the traditional
  University setting, just as 'american studies, queer
  studies, and media studies' and others have found
  validation for their intellectual importance in
  understanding today's world we exist within. if
  electromagnetism's relevance as a whole could be
  defined, and the science balanced with humanities,
  it too could become an area of concentration for
  those of us whom otherwise fall through the cracks
  if pursuing things far beyond the great limits
  imposed upon electromagnetic knowing today, as
  it is of another paradigm, requiring a different
  empirical understanding to ground its relevance,
  and in turn, to bring together what is now apart.

  these are some thoughts, some reflections, and a
  statement of the goals and pursuits of the project.
  it is hoped that when writing these ideas out, with
  a new computer (which hopefully will soon exist) and
  tools for visualizing this idea in a more cogent and
  succinct way, that a grant may be found and support
  to pursue this public effort and work, so that it
  may indeed happen. yet, not by contesting systems
  that currently exist, but working outside of them
  and when given the opportunity, reasoning with
  others in public debates or collaborations, working
  together hopefully, to see this 3 part project born
  and grow and hopefully fulfil some of the goals
  stated above. any help or suggestions are as always
  greatly appreciated.

  brian carroll, ~e.org facilitator

  the electronetwork-list
  electromagnetism / infrastructure / civilization