Please Step Out of Your Vehicle;
Technology, Mindfulness, and the Radicalization of Togetherness


A tree makes a beautiful transmission tower, especially if the tree is old, broad, and easy to climb. For sometime we’ve been hosting dinners, across the country, wherein our table conversation has been recorded and broadcast throughout the neighborhood that we’re eating in at the time. In late December, San Jose, John scaled the tree outside of Zach and Kuniko’s house, with a weird jigsaw puzzle of PVC pipe in hand, coaxial cable trailing it. (Months later, as Gabriel and I parked outside the house, Gabriel mentioned a theory of a friend of his, that trees are affected by the use of psychedelic drugs by the humans around them. Gabriel thought this tree had seen a lot.) John climbed the old tree. It was very dark. The light from the front room of the house kicked off the sides of his sneakers as he scaled further up the trunk. I was impressed when he reached a perfect section of tree limbs to place the antenna, about twenty feet off the ground, in such a short amount of time. He’d continued to climb trees well after I’d stopped, I thought to myself. (I was secretly proud, when months later, I was complimented on my spontaneous tree climbing acumen.) Placing the antenna securely in the tree, nestled between strong limbs, John descended. We followed the coaxial cable back into the front room of the house where Zach had cobbled together two long tables for us to eat dinner at. On the mantle of the fireplace the coaxial ran into the transmitter, a digital recorder was wired up to its input jack, recording the room.

These gatherings, which we had been calling Revolutionary Table Dinners, had occurred in a number of people’s homes, from Portland, Oregon to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, since late in 2006. The idea was to augment the role of ones typical dinner conversation, both literally and figuratively. In the literal sense: the conversation at the table is recorded and simultaneously broadcast around the neighborhood via a short-range radio transmitter that we’d bring along. Dinner guests would write out notes inviting neighbors to listen-in prior to our eating, and distribute them around the block before the meal. Figuratively: in each home in which we would eat, the conversation itself would be augmented more so than it might on a typical night, as we would propose a topic, or ask our host to do so. Each dinnertime conversation topic would be relevant to the house in question and loosely focus on the idea of how one may encounter notions of “revolution” within their everyday lives. Vagaries abounded, with nuggets of information and insight appearing and, often, quickly diverging with each new dish to come to the table, each new glass of wine poured. The dinners were thoughtful, pretentious, quiet, raucous, inquisitive, and at times, contentious; in May of 2007 I lost a friend to a dinner. After I hadn’t heard from her in the weeks after the meal I was worried, wondering if she was feeling all right. Apparently I’d argued my points to vigorously. According to her, I’d been an ass.

The transmitter that we bring along to these dinners is not that powerful, but if you were scanning the dial one night, a block or so away from its source, you’d find it. It’s this technological immediacy that I find endearing; if you hear it, we’re close by. Come and find us. It is also inexpensive. Anyone could have a radio station for their block for well under two hundred dollars. (If you were willing to learn a little soldering, far less than that.) Every block should have their own radio station. Imagine a summer day, late in the afternoon. It was hot earlier, and as the sun begins to set lower on the horizon you and a friend ride your bicycles, a small boombox strapped to the handlebars, from neighborhood to neighborhood in your town. From one street to the next, without even having to change the frequency, you pick up the sounds of hip-hop, home gardening tips, issues to be addressed before tomorrows city council meeting, Smoke on the Water. And, if you heard something you really liked, something that you wanted to learn more about, you could knock on anyone’s door and ask, “Who’s the DJ on right now?”

Red76 was asked to come to San Jose in the fall of 2007 as part of a commission to work with the CADRE Media Laboratory at San Jose State University, specifically on a project which would look into the possibilities of Second Life; the online platform in which one can create a Simulacrum of ones self – visually, or possibly, having the embodiment of a fox’s head and tail, and the body of a stripper, solely in ones movements and choices1. The player (?) can interact with millions of other users, in real time, build structures, and navigate a world constructed by countless others interested in a myriad of ideas and theoretical constructs. Users can buy land, and trade and sell their property and goods. All of this – this virtual manifestation of interaction, this endorsement of the ever-malleable sense of self and personal identity (and personal responsibility?), this fluid acceptance of a monetary construct with a seeming disregard towards the flow of capital - in light of the philosophies that Red76 is usually pegged as endorsing, made any association with Second Life seem wholly antithetical to our groups mission. It seemed that CADRE understood this very well. As did I. (It sounds exactly like all the ways we’ve screwed up in the real world, right?) Naturally, I was interested. Having dinner with my friend Michael in Seattle soon after discussions on the project began, he told me I was an idiot and a sellout. Things were looking good.

When it comes to online communities my back arches a bit. I am already quite suspect of how many people bankrupt, or all too often, profit off of, the activity surrounding real world communities. Their online counterparts seem just as susceptible, often far more inclined, to proffer the idea of “connectivity” as a vehicle for cashing in. The public, wooed by the possibilities, avoids the conversation wherein they have to come to terms with how their very involvement within the mechanism turns their conjoined activity into the cog that makes the wheels go’round and the cash come in2. With this in mind, the thought of generating gatherings within Second Life in a hermetic sense - for Second Life, of Second Life - didn’t appeal to me. A desire to collectively consider what the platform had to offer that could be extracted and repurposed, rather than singular and in unto it self, seemed more appealing. But, one thing that is hard not to come up against is the emotional divide between those that embrace technological activity, and those that shun it (or at least feel that they do). At our dinner in San Jose the table seemed begrudgingly at odds between those “In,” and those “Out,” of world - be that Second Life, World of War Craft, Facebook, or even their cell phones for that matter – while we all simultaneously agreed that it is both ridiculous, and increasingly bordering on dangerous, to think that there is either an inside or outside at all3. The thought of a model that desires to “bring people together,” seemed inherently futile to some if you could not feel, hear, see, or just sense the presence of those involved. For others, the medium seemed as if it was the starting point for them (everyone) to really get involved4. One got the feeling that, for these people, the thought of the activities constructed within Second Life being enacted in the real world seemed anathema at first, only because the very thought of those activities in the real world brought about so many vulnerabilities: the possibility of really getting hurt, feeling it.

Though these are all relevant concerns, it’s certain that we’re going to have to meet in the middle or be trampled by the coming storm of technological advancement. The whole-hearted embrace and the panicked scream and shunning; neither are the way to go. As we are increasingly beholden to our gadgetry it is ever more important to discuss and engage technology in reference to how it allows us to communicate. Though it may seem like Chicken Little to so say, it is extremely dangerous not to engage this thought vigorously. Consider this simple example: a few months ago I received a letter from an old friend who had moved away from town. A hand-written letter. I cannot remember the last time I received an “actual” letter that didn’t come in the form of a Christmas or Birthday card. It was great to receive. I loved remembering what it was like to get a letter in the mail, opening it expectantly. That said, I still haven’t written Daniel back. In the time between the arrival of his letter and now I have written hundreds of e.mail’s. None of them eliciting a response in me near similar to that of Daniel’s letter. Now, I do hesitate to state any sort of value judgment here, though it is difficult not to. My story is quite common. What’s more important to the situation is black and white in nature: How often do you receive letters in the mail? And how often do you send e.mail? The answer is mostlikely to be, “Not too often,” and, “Quite a lot.” The nature of these two forms of communication is radically different. The forms, in and of themselves, define the correspondence – and the means in which we corresponded with one another formally, greatly defines how we interact within one another informally. So, with long, hand written letters you have a society engaged in long thoughts, sentences, paragraphs. This is not to say these thoughts, because of their length, are inherently more intelligent. But a strong case could be made that more intelligent thought is benefited from prolonged exposure to ideas. With e.mail’s and text message, time is of the essence. Correspondence is short and to the point – We’ve got more to do! Thoughts fly here and there, each one with the same amount of urgency, or the same amount of disregard, as the one previous. Though it is too soon to come to any definitive judgment, I can’t tell you how many people I now encounter – especially those in their early twenties, who can barely form a complete sentence. More importantly in this whole scenario is that the means in which we communicate singularly (face to face, person to person) greatly informs the means in which we choose to communicate to the group, the whole of society.

You can already see the effect of this metamorphosis in communication in regard to the state of today’s news coverage. To paraphrase Leslie Moonves, president of CBS, what function does a nightly news program serve if the public is getting updates at work on their computers, on their cell phones, throughout the day? It’s simple to say that now the public is more informed, but that is not entirely true, the public has access to more information, available in small doses, ready for consumption, but now the analysis of that information is widely dispersed and often devoid of the nuance that elicits true collective dialogue. The aggregate, which in the past would have served as the hub, the distribution point, for that information is now so widely dispersed as to create an information vacuum; a popular universe wherein news goes to die. The Fourth Estate serves as our de facto watchdog, the public’s surest means of representation when ultra-politics goes by the wayside. What happens now when everyone is his or her own news outlet? Who’s listening when ten million voices are speaking at once, all with different, and at times opposing, things to say? Currently this point weighs most heavily when it comes to the reporting of the Iraq War. While not the most even handed when the war began, with the mainstream media too afraid to be cast out as traitorous and unpatriotic, the coverage of the war, at this point in time, is at least “fair and balanced.” But it seems too little too late. No one is listening. We are so inundated every second of our day with “news,” coming from all directions, that the public can’t help but have their collective head spin. It is none too surprising that the country at large seems generally apathetic when it comes to their complicity in the war, and its current state, when the news they receive is equal parts Housing Crisis, War, Paris Hilton, and shots of Britney Spears appearing crotchless and dumbfounded while exiting a hummer. When everything is newsworthy, nothing is important, nothing lasts, everything is ephemeral, expendable, and the same as what came before it. A truly dangerous situation when US soldiers are dying, or are killing countless Iraqi citizens for the privilege to come back home with their bodies, if not their souls, intact.

It’s often said that we are at a stage wherein we have democratized the news, but the truth of the matter is we’ve democratized content and data. “News” is the process of filtering information, not the content therein. When all “news” has equal footing no news holds any weight. Take for instance June 5th 2007: Paris Hilton is met by the LAPD at her home and carted to jail. A media circus ensues. All three broadcast networks cover her arrest as their top story on the evening news. All the cable networks follow suit and have a field day, of course. On the same day an event occurred that I was waiting to hear about on the news. A major event concerning… something. I can’t quite remember what. I waited through the entire program for coverage of this incident in question. Nothing. At the time I remember beginning to write an e.mail to CBS to tell them how ashamed I was of their coverage: giving nearly a quarter of that nights program to Paris Hilton and not even mentioning this thing that was so so important. And that’s it. That’s what happens. I remember all about Paris Hilton. I remember the cops aimlessly waiting for her to leave her house, milling about her cloistered driveway. I remember her crying in the back of the police cruiser. I remember that the photo on the front page of the New York Times the next day was taken by Nick Út, the same AP photographer who took the photo of Kim Phúc, the little girl whose clothes, burnt off by a US Army Napalm attack on her village, ran down the road screaming, naked. But I don’t remember the absence of news that day. I believe it had something to do with Alberto Gonzalez lying to congress and attempting to get John Ashcroft to sign off on an illegal wiretapping scheme just hours after Ashcroft had gotten out of Gall Bladder surgery. An incident that even ultra-conservative, and baseball enthusiast, George Will called something akin to, “a thriller set in a banana republic.”

Now, let’s end all this doomsday jargon, as there is obviously hope. And that hope resides in mindfulness. A Mindfulness in regard as to how we live our lives, and the means in which we gain, access, and respond to the information we encounter. The information that is most vitally important to us, as individuals and as a country at large. The possibilities of today’s available technology are staggering to say the least. Our problem is we treat the technology like babies play with toys, picking it up, putting it in our mouths, and generally only using it for its intended purpose by accident. While we are now all “journalists,” we are using the tools of journalism that heightens nothing, and only negates it potential energy. We need to be more mindful of how we use the tools available to us. An incident that I find quite telling, and inspiring, though only half effective, occurred in a computer lab at UCLA on November 14th 2006.

On the date in question Mostafa Tabatabainejad, a UCLA Undergraduate, was doing school work in the computer lab of Powell Library on the UCLA campus. A member of the library staff asked for him to show his school ID. Tabatabainejad had mistakenly left his ID at home, and informed the staff member of the fact. At this time he was asked to leave the premises. Tabatabainejad refused, stating that he had more work to do. Subsequently the campus police were called. By the time of their arrival Tabatabainejad said he would leave, but the campus cops would have none of it, stating that he was under arrest and coming with them. Tabatabainejad refused to go with the cops, saying that he would leave the library. During the next seven-minute interval the UCLA campus police tasered Tabatabainejad six times. After each tasering he was instructed by the police to get up, or that they would taser him again. Exhausted from the shock, unwilling or unable to rise up after the police command him to, he’s tasered again, and again, and again.

A fellow UCLA student had a camera phone and taped nearly the entire incident. A phalanx of students had quickly surrounded the officers, pleading with them to let Tabatabainejad go. The seven-minute cell phone video was disseminated through YouTube (as of April 23rd 2008 the clip has been viewed over 830,000 times). The power of one cell phone to be able to capture such an extreme abuse of power is exhilarating to say the least. But the aftermath was a bit of a disappointment. Though the video quickly spread around the UCLA campus, and far beyond, not much of an uproar was heard. Though caught on tape – and it is an incredibly disturbing video – the clip didn’t move many people to action. At the time, when I asked my friend Ava - a PhD candidate at UCLA, and an inventive artist and activist in her own right – what the reaction was to the incident on campus she said there was barely a response.

Due to the disturbing nature of the video, and the obvious overzealousness of the police caught on tape, I truly doubt that the public that saw the clip was not moved. But in this case, with so many outlets for distribution, the intensity dissipated. Nothing happened. With the wave of fatal taserings by Police across the US, Canada, and elsewhere recently, a video such as this, in another era, could have served as a rallying cry for action. But in this case, at this junction of traditional understanding media and its outlets and the production of The News, it had nowhere to go.

In the coming years it will be vitally important for us to learn how to use the tools available to us properly: that is, experiment with them, toy around, play with them, find new uses askew from their creators initial intent. As communicative technology becomes more and more invasive to not do so would be equivalent to self-censorship, at the very least, we would be giving someone else control of the collective volume knob. At this moment we are applying new tools to old models of distribution, and vice-versa, old tools to new models of distribution. If we are to truly expand the possibilities of emerging technologies we need to need to think of them as expansively as possible. In an environment that encourages this type of investigation, and extols experimentation conducted to benefit the whole of us, we are bound to come up with startling uses for the tools we use everyday. We need to rip up our available technology, tear it apart, and see how it fits into the lives we want to lead, not the life the technology is urging us to live. Without this sense of investigation, without this everyday mindfulness, without a desire to dig deeper, all of us, we might be deeply fucked. It’s true. Sorry.

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Footnotes

1 Since late Fall of 2007 the Portland, Oregon based arts collaborative Red76 has been working on a series of projects with the students of San Jose State University’s CARDE Media Laboratory. In taking the name ToolShed Days – a nod to the musical tradition of wood shedding; the process of going out, alone, to investigate your craft more deeply – the group has set about to investigate how one may utilize existing technological forms askew from the creators initial intentions. In this circumstance the goal being to highlight a means for the use of readily available, often free/or cheap, technology and media as a means to create new frameworks for historical inquiry and sociopolitical action. All the while the importance of creating hybridized platforms that suggest transparency, and the possibility for anyone – no matter their skill set – to hit the ground running and apply their interests and desires was key to the groups working process. As their tool of choice Red76 and the CADRE team went about considering alternative possibilities for the online collaborative platform Second Life. With this in mind three discrete projects were considered for this experiment under the ToolShed Days moniker: A mock recruitment center created as a geographically unspecific site to help in the strategic planning of counter-recruitment actions, the recreation of a now defunct Washington state quasi-utopian anarchist colony from the 1890’s, and a simple user-group site developed to connect Second Life Architect’s and Public Defense Attorney’s as a means to provide dynamic dramatizations for the defense of indigent clients.

The Befriend a Recruiter initiative, a collaboration between the Great Lake chapter of the anti-war organization Iraq Veterans Against the War, and Red76 is a platform to enlist individuals into taking part in a simple, yet highly effective plan: Befriend a recruiter. Stop the war.

The campaign’s goal is to galvanize the public to reach out to Army recruiters – by visiting recruitment centers, speaking with them over the phone, e.mailing, or chatting with them online – and speaking with them about their (mock) interest in joining the military. The conceit being that the accumulated voice of the individuals who take part in this simple gesture will force the hand of the Army, and clog its ability to adequately recruit to their desired quota for the war effort.

A variety of different plans were set into motion to help people take part and achieve this desired goal, as well as inform the public about the initiatives proposal. One of these tactics was to create a mock recruitment center within Second Life. One of the strengths of the platform is its ability to connect people simultaneously in real time around the world, in tandem with the means of creating virtual embodiments of oneself, and the creation of virtual structures. In this circumstance, as well as with the two other investigations within the ToolShed Days experiments, the desire was to create a virtual manifestation of real space to help contextually guide guests through a conceptual idea. The team constructed a simple building, very much like a storefront one might find in a suburban strip mall, say, on the outskirts of Tucson, Arizona. For the Befriend a Recruiter project the site within Second Life, a mockup of a U.S. Army recruitment station, effectively serves as a geographically unspecific locality in which veterans, counter-recruitment activists, and the public can meet, share ideas and stories, and plan for future actions. Simply, and cheaply, a dynamic forum is created, able to link the personalities, idea, and interests of veterans, anti-war activists, and fellow citizens from around the country.

Home, Washington, located on the Key Peninsula in the Puget Sound was founded in the late 1800’s by three men; George Allen, B.F. O’Dell, and Oliver Verity. These men, having built their own row boat by hand, took launch into The Sound from Tacoma, Washington looking for a site to create a new community whose core tenants would be Anarchism, Free Love, and the ability to choose your own role in life, unfettered by the laws of government or overt capitalism. The men and their families had been prior members of Glennis – a utopian colony that lasted a scant few years and dissolved in conflict and bickering. The interests of Home were to create a community wherein rules would be at a minimum, education would be at a premium, and cooperation fundamental.

The town, still in existence today, yet having drifted away from its inaugural desires, was a hotbed for rural experimentalism, pedagogical tinkering, and expansive thought; its history and desires are directly in-step on a continuous historical pathway that includes everything from the revolution and founding of our nation to the Haymarket Riots, the Red Scare, the Wobblies (IWW), the Beats, Hippies, Yippies, back-to-the-landers, train hopping crustypunks, and the current incarnation of anti-globalization Black Blockers, to name a brief few.

Second Home serves as a platform to investigate the history of Home, Washington as both a “real world” locality, as well as – quite importantly! – the physical and social embodiment of a system of ideas and passionate interests transmitted through the action and relationships of People. The project takes two forms, which develop into a circuitous relationship of investigation, group discussion, and the archiving of action and ideas. Second Life’s manifestation of the project is the Second Mutual Home Association; an imagined re-structuring of Home, Washington within the virtual world. Visitors are encouraged to explore the grounds after arriving at the dock on Joe’s Bay. One might scan through books and periodicals strewn around Jay Fox’s printshop, enjoy the view from atop Joe Cappela’s tree house, or take in a lecture at Liberty Hall. More importantly, anyone may join the Second Mutual Home Association themselves, giving them the opportunity to build on the land to their liking. Second Home acts as a dynamic, hyper-contextualized link to a past history of radical idealism but, all the more important, it asks the question, “what do those ideals mean to us today?”

As a tool to better help answer (or possibly, more thoughtfully ask) those questions the Second Home website contains a contextual archive of Home’s interests and history. Not an archive in the traditional sense - carefully thought out, organized, and astutely assembled to create a vision of a time and place - the Second Home archive gains strength by opening up the data retrieval process, letting the viewer makes sense of the connections. By creating tag filters to mine key sites across the internet, the archive unleashes not only the chaos of ideas and data that reside at the core of the web, but it also creates an archive as metaphor. What does an archive that desires to look into thoughts on anarchism and free thought look like? What is conveyed through the random grouping of various forms of media on a particular subject matter that deals specifically with non-hierarchical systems? Focusing on anything from 1960’s on-the-fly documentary footage of Jerry Rubin, hand-written texts of radical printer Jay Fox, and slowed down folk renditions of Anarchy in the U.K., the thought, “who is in charge? What am I looking at? And, what does this all mean to me and my ideals?” inevitably comes into play, using the Archive As Form as a pedagogical tool investigating a place, a movement, a time, and a nebulous array of people who believed, and still believe, that a better world was/is possible.

If one were to consider the previous two Second Life experiments as the assembly and implementation of virtual learning tools – tools in which interaction devoid of time, space, physics, and linear history apply, and are strengthen by those facets – the final consideration initiated by the group has as its aim the implementation of Second Life as a tool with immediate, and undeniably practical application.

Red76 member, and Portland area public defense attorney, Laura Baldwin assisted the team in conceptualizing how Second Life could aid lawyer’s who serve indigent clients. With this in mind the suggestion of utilizing Second Life as a means of recreation was discussed, and a simple user-group and website was constructed by the name of Defense Co-op. The goal; connect Second Life builders and public defenders to collaborate with one another to create dynamic content for the lawyer’s indigent clients. All too often the facts of a case come down to the word of the Police against the word of the accused. Through a collaboration of this nature a lawyer would be able to visually re-create the arrest of his or her client, creating, if you will, a video of the events in question, and providing a real-time document, along with his or her oral arguments, in defense of their client. With this experiment in mind all that really needs to be done is to propose a plan, find means in which to disseminate the proposition, and create a meeting place. The rest is up to the individuals involved. What other means of assistance could Second Life provide for? What other platforms could help in implementing and creating pro-bono, charitable activities wherein an existing technological platform can serve as a conduit for the sharing of unique skill sets?

With these experiments and the working process in which they took place in mind Red76 and the CADRE students will engage the public in a number of the collaborations core questions concerning technology and radical social action, for instance:

+ When we say technology what are we talking about?

+ Who is technology for, and do I have to pay for it?

+ What form would technology take were it based on principles of inclusivity and goodwill?

+ Considering we are arriving closer and closer each passing day to the framework of “Web 2.0,” wherein the technology we use will be nearly inseparable (if it isn’t already) from our daily activities, what steps can we take to ensure notions of organic human togetherness, privacy, and the idea of unbiased reporting in media?

+ What is the nature of individual liberty in our current media saturated world? And what level of agency can contemporary technological forms truly provide?

+ How can available technological forms be utilized to create more just social environments, and decentralize perceived sources of power?

Setting up shop on the street corners of San Jose Red76 will create an open-environment to ask these questions publicly, through the use of workshops, lectures, collaborative projects focusing on ad-hoc means of conceptual dissemination of propaganda, printed matter and radio transmissions, as well as dynamic introductions into the work that the team has completed over the year as a vehicle for the above questions to be asked.

We hope to see you there, share a beer and a hot dog, and start into a vigorous conversation that we feel is vitally important to the future political agency of our fellow citizens. No kidding.

2 Ted Purves: What strikes me, whenever I’ve read about it, is that no matter the fabric of the community, that community is within a single corporate property. It’s owned by Linden Labs.

James Morgan: It’s too big for the monitor though.

TP: They could pull the plug.

John Pierre Bruneau: Everything you make you have license to it.

TP: Yeah, but there’s no way out of it.

JM: You can export yourself. You can get out of it. That doesn’t mean you have someplace to put it. But that’s changing too. They really have adopted an open source attitude. And what they want to own, to get to the meat of it, is the protocol.

Joel Slayton: It means free makes money.

Sam Gould: Absolutely. It’s like Google. It’s free for us, but what are we giving up because of that? And there’s a lot that we’re giving up that we don’t even pay attention to.

(San Jose Revolutionary Table Dinner – December, 2007)

3 Joel Slayton: This whole discussion revolving around, not just Second Life, but this idea around networks, and social networks, and whether they’re technologically based or not, that there being a kind of objectification of the technology that puts it into a kind of an entity wherein there’s an outside and an inside, and that somehow it’s about moving back and forth between the two spaces in some sort of logical, coherent, way, I think that’s not a very accurate or interesting way to think about it per se. There really isn’t an in or an out within the technology. And the kind of slippage, the relationship between something being virtual and something taking place within the real work is totally transparent. I mean our entire economy runs that way, our communications run that way. Everything we do is both mediated, and mediated by, our contributions to that process. So, it’s sort of interesting to me to sort of ask how we raise the question up a level. How do you take it up one more notch and get a little bit of distance from it, and ask where is this really headed as a cultural manifestation in the world that our children are going to inherit, and their children are going to inherit, and how does one operate it that? Probably none of us have fallen in love over the internet, but I guarantee you that they have. It happens every day. So, in this case, you have a persons individual identity being seamless with the electronic/cyber thing, what ever you want to call it, the information space. So it seems like, “we’re going to attack it, we’re going to come in it, we’re going to come out of it,” and somehow it’s all going to balance out - it does seem to me like it’s going to work. It’s not a very effective strategy.

(San Jose Revolutionary Table Dinner – December, 2007)

4 Helena Keeffe: For me, I have a hard time even talking on the phone. Or text-messaging. I feel like when I’m missing the stuff like eye contact, and body language, the presence and smell of the room and all that, I’m severely handicapped in my ability to be social.

Kuniko Vroman: Ten percent of communication is written language. The rest is, like, tone, and body language, and…

Lynne McCabe: …Well, the pie breaks down to seventy percent is how you look, twenty percent is how you sound, and the other amount is what you’re saying.

HK: And I suppose Second Life allows for some sort of simulation of that…

James Morgan: … It pushes back into that pie…

HK: … through the development of an avatar.

JM: That’s the thing that’s compelling. You can have a shared experience. And it’s a visual experience.

LM: I’m totally onboard with what you’re saying, but there’s a lot of stuff that… research into early childhood development that talks about when children come out, babies come out, they’re completely hardwired to understand non-verbally, able to read what is going on with their caregiver. It’s the limbic system. And when children get into distress, when that connection between mother and child there’s a distress to the nervous limbic system. And that’s where tantrums, and that type of stuff comes out of, until this system is reborn. It say’s that in terms of evolution we developed that way, as a means to survive as a species. For example, it wouldn’t be safe with the baby in the cave if it started screaming when we were all trying to be quite, it can read that, and it knows, “I need to be quiet now.” So, we’re hardwired, from point go, to connect with people in a non-verbal, physical way. And I suppose - as I keep banging the same drum! – that my issue is, how do we continue to contain that innate sense of humanness? It’s all very well to say that we’ve evolved before, in our jaws, and this thing and that thing, but I don’t want to evolve from being able to read whether my baby needs me just from seeing how he’s looking at me.

(San Jose Revolutionary Table Dinner – December, 2007)