After my post on narrativity and cross-media events I recalled an interview with the artist Shannon Spanhake where she said:
â€œRecently, I have been experimenting with this idea of what I call as “pokemon pedagogy.” The marketing of â€œPokemon â€œwas really brilliant, you can make your own playing cards by doing well in the video game, you could get pointers for the video game by watching the cartoon on television, the cartoon advertised discounts on the toys, the toys came with teaser bonus cards to win the card game, and the card game motivated the need for the video game. This is very interesting because it offers so many levels of access which all become interdependent. Each entity has its own narrative, and also as a whole it is a continuous narrative that takes different forms and mediums to complete the entire story.â€œ
It occurred to me that perceived cohesion among elements within a cross-media event is a lot like noticing similar characteristics among members of a family. As we all know, sometimes members of a family share similar physical attributes â€“ like hair color, or body type, and sometimes the visual cues are less apparent but similar behaviors help identify members of a group. The members of the group obviously carry their looks and behaviors into other relationships where the same aspects produce different effects in different contexts. We seem to excel at being able to understand how one form (a person, for example) can have many traits, and how different situations favor specific characteristics more than others – but that all of these traits and situations involve the same person. To me, this is the difference between a concept of self (personal attributes) , and a concept of identity (which attributes are prominent in different interactions). I am not aware of any other animal that can think in this way. Pokemon Pedogogy, and other cross-media projects, model, teach and develop this innate ability.
We are able, in other words, to understand that objects have different potentials in different contexts, and we seem to have a very strong will to develop and essentially play with this ability. And as we play, we learn. I also note how this same will, to put elements together and create complex forms and systems out of whatever we can reach, seems to be accompanied by the inevitable unforeseen consequences of our tinkering. Our ability to think abstractly seems to coincide with our often disastrous effect on our environment. Where other life forms seem holistically connected within broad, ‘cross-media’ cycles of interactions and cause s and effects that seem to produce a sort of planetary homeostasis, our actions often seem profoundly out of sync with the ‘needs’ of the other life forms we share this environment with. We seem to be destroying our planet the way a group of unsupervised children would make a mess out of wherever they happen to be.
I wondered why, given what we percieve as natureâ€™s efficiency, coupled with the fact that we are clearly natural products of this world, that such a condition would continue. I thought about comments suggesting that we, as a species on this planet, are essentially a virus that will ultimately be eliminated.
I again considered how clumsy and childlike our collective behavior is and thought about how the behaviors of a mature human race might differ from our current immaturity.
I thought again about narrativity, and self-similarity and fractals, and Pokemon Pedagogy, and how distinct forms can be understood as aggregates of elements exhibiting complementary potentials in relation to each other. I imagined iron filings in a sealed, clear plastic container and how they suddenly organize themselves into specific shapes when a magnet is placed nearby. Similar elements bound by similar physical laws will create distinct forms under specific conditions.
When we perceive â€˜uniqueâ€™ shapes (a brick, or an ARG, for example) we are observing (and as such, a part of) the most significant relationship of a set of elements to the forces in that environment, to us, at a given moment â€“ and it is entirely possible that other people, plants and animals in that â€˜sameâ€™ environment at that â€˜sameâ€™ moment would be experiencing (and participating in) other distinct shapes comprised either out of that identical elemental set or some subset mixed with another set, etc, as the most significant, simultaneously. As an example, when participants in ‘i love bees‘ held up a banner at a political convention some people connected that banner to the game, while others connected it to some other understanding of the event, while others didn’t see it at all. What is so interesting to me is that we can understand this simultaneity of differing shapes (and behaviors count as aspects of these ‘shapes’) from similar element sets. Again, Iâ€™m not sure whether any other living thing on this planet can. This seems to be a matter of our unique consciousness, which is inextricable from our unique physiology.
I returned, again, to how much we seem to have screwed up the planet yet how nature, as we understand it, is so highly efficient. What could possibly be the â€˜pointâ€™ of our presence here?
Our ability and passion to consciously understand and actively manipulate all manner of relationships on this planet is, it seems, killing it, and we seem to know that, yet we continue to do it. Strange. I thought about our complex consciousness.
I thought about self-similar, symmetrical patterns. I wondered if self-similar elements would be â€˜naturallyâ€™ drawn and held together, and their subtle differences would make them, together, have a greater â€˜understandingâ€™ of their environment. Their similarities would permit them to ‘compare’ their respective experiences and â€˜learnâ€™ from the experience of other, similar, elements. I thought about single and multiple cell organisms, and I thought about different members of a surgical team and how they must have enough in common (self-similarity) to be able to successful engage in different tasks at the same time to accomplish a specific, yet highly variated goal.
It occurred to me that, perhaps, when multiple layers of self-similar, interacting elements accrue into significantly complex symmetrical patterns (symmetry seems important, perhaps it is the root of being able to compare sense data, as symmetry creates points of comparison within a self-aware structure), they seem to become self-aware. Demonstrating behaviors in response to their environment that suggests a will to develop and preserve their form. From plants turning toward light to animals hunting and playing â€“ all seem to be networks of interacting self-similar elements in complex symmetrical patterns. Is there a relationship between â€˜depthâ€™ of self-similarity among elements, symmetry, and degree of consciousness? Are more complex aggregations of self-similar elements more likely to integrate a wider variety of other elements? Will more complex aggregations of self-similar elements have more in common with more â€˜exteriorâ€™ elements? Could a highly complex, self-aware and sufficiently large enough aggregation of self-similar elements engage in behaviors to essentially expand itself by actively incorporating other elements with which it has similarities? Do you see where Iâ€™m going with this? What would be the point of such a structure?
As gravity bound outcroppings of the earth we share the same elements and physical laws as every other thing on, in and around this planet. We are composed of those elements in unique, specific, self-similar, symmetrical patterns. We are earthly tendrils.
It occurred to me that the planet is indeed conscious, and we are that consciousness. As much as I am dismayed, saddened, puzzled, and disgusted by much of what we (including myself) do, it occurred to me that our trajectory may evolve from sloppy, egomaniacal, conflicted, fractured, individuated, symmetrical, self-similarity to greater appreciation and understanding of the complex causes and effects that literally connect us with other people (increasing the overall sense of self-similarity among our species), other species, and with the â€˜inanimateâ€™ systems (natural laws) that exist on this planet. I’m reefering to acknowledging genuine physical connections with a vast array of elements that will dissipate our ‘anthropocentric’ point of view and lifestyle.
Each step in realization of self-similarity with other elements (human, animal, plant, etc) will foster a hightened interaction and empathy with those elements, and that hightened interaction will produce a resonance that will incorporate that element into our evolving system. As we integrate more environmental elements and forms into our system our consciousness will expand.
Our ability to think abstractly and alter things on a massive scale â€“ which is currently cripling the planet, will turn out to be what aids earth’s evolution as something will need to build the bridges connecting the varied elements. I know that earlier I wrote about the seemingly holistic interplay between most other systems on this planet, and how we seem to be the odd men out of this configuration, which may lead a reader to think that the grand integration I’m proposing already exists and we’re screwing it up. My thinking is that things change, life continually evolves, nature is highly efficient, and we are natural beings. What this form I’m proposing will actually look like I can’t say, but my feeling is that we are a necessary part of whatever it’s going to be.
The fact that pretty much every other thing on this planet seems to exist in a vastly less conflicted relationship with it than us is, in my point of view, real, but temporary. Our tinkering, clumsy and seemingly detrimental as it often is, functions as a pedagogy for us, and, as we are part of this planet, for the planet, too. We learn as we go by fostering interactions among varied elements that reveal potentials that resonate as self-similar with other elements we have interacted with. Bridges are built and integration expands. My feeling is that other species don’t have the capacity for the abstract thought necessary for this step.
So our networking ability, coupled with our incessant tinkering, together with our presence all over the globe indicate that we are a potentially unifying, and essential, force on and for this planet.
Our consciousness is a mechanism for greater integration among various elements on our planet and at our young age we are making a mess of things, but that mess, coupled with our survival instinct and our ability to perceive subtle causes and effects across a broad spectrum of interrelationships (to think â€˜globallyâ€™ in a way other living beings on this planet donâ€™t) will cause us to expand the symmetrical, self-similar pattern of which we are a part, and that expansion will broaden ‘our’ consciousness as it connects otherwise disparate elements. This broad conscious form seems to me to be an (or the) earthâ€™s consciousness â€“ as it is utterly connected to all major phenomena on this planet.
Just consider how so many of our efforts are to understand this place and the vehicle of our understanding is often observations of subtle self-similarities and how our ability for abstract thought allows us to make such realizations in ways other species seem incapable of. I think, at least today, that this expansion is natural and necessary for our planet and is our role here. It wonâ€™t happen, in other words, without our participation. I’m imagining a green version of Asimov’s The Last Question.
Considering this just a bit further, when I become self-aware I am not aware solely of my own self â€“ which, to me, indicates that my self-awareness encompasses everything that I am aware of at a given moment (including my memories and anticipations). The fact that you are self-aware and aware of me and vice versa indicates that we are together in a certain pattern of self-similarity that has reached the point of a distributed self-awareness â€“ and that self-awareness is contingent on a vast array of self-similarity and that vastness manifests â€˜self-awarenessâ€™ in many forms (many people and things) simultaneously. In a sense what I’m describing as self-awareness isn’t self-awareness at all but, as I wrote at the top, a perception of identity within varied contexts. The system, if you will, is â€˜self-awareâ€™, and we are an aspect (an identity – ie, a specific role within the system at a given moment) of that high degree of self-similarity within the vast, symmetrical pattern. In order for the self-similar pattern to expand I imagine that we would need to develop a method for understanding our â€˜uniqueâ€™ perspective as being simultaneously â€˜uniqueâ€™ and an aspect of, and integral part of, the larger pattern simultaneously – what I’ve just been describing as identity. As Iâ€™ve written earlier, I think we already know this but haven’t put that knowledge into wide-spread, and explicit, practice, but I think things like Pokemon Pedagogy are examples of our evolving mind, and, by extension, our evolving relationship with our environment.
And to be clear, I am not proposing that we will raze the land, then murder every other living thing, and finally cover it all in asphalt and strip malls and assume our identities in this putrid new world.
I think as we evolve as a species we will get past our current egomaniacal, anthropocentric (self-centered), ‘contrary’ phase in relation to the rest of the planet and become a necessary force of integration â€“ utilizing who and what we are to work synergistically with our fellow lifeforms and physical laws. We will no longer be the outliers, but this will take time, and a concept of sequence and conflict and abstraction – all human attributes, will be necessary to achieve this broader, global aim.
But we will have to cultivate, tinker, develop and work on this potential holistically within our own minds as well as in our interactions outside of our selves in order not to wreck the place.