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robertogreco : cargocult   9

Alex Blandford — Government and the cargo cult
"As part of work with Parliament User Group recently, we’ve been trying to think about the institutional blockers to reform and “progress” (without the Soviet, vanguardist associations).

One of the ones that came up a few times was the issue of “we’ve always done it like this, so we shall continue to do it like this”. Inertia is a powerful force in large organisations, especially ones with an aversion to being seen to fuck up.

There is an obverse to this, especially in the case of Parliament and a lot of Local Authorities: “We’re not GDS, so we won’t do anything that they do”. Wishing to have a sense of individuality is not uncommon. We’ll do this thing - we’ll succeed. We’ll show them.

Both of these behaviours come from a lack of strategic understanding. Simon Wardley has put it around 1000x better than I could: “why does a general bombard a hill? It isn’t because 95% of other generals did the same thing”.

[video]

Understanding where your business/organisation is going is absolutely vital. Merely saying (in government especially) that you will do open source because GDS did it (but did they really) or that you won’t be focusing on user needs as you are internal only (no word of a lie, have had this chat) is doomed to failure, and likely an expensive and public failure.

Mimicry in this space is often called Cargo Culting; an allusion to a particular fascination of anthropologists in the post-war period (although it goes back a lot further).

You can read up on it at wikipedia including how it came to be used in this context. But my problem with this is that cargo cults and their formation have very little to do with the way that we use the phrase, and I am hugely uncomfortable with the ethnocentrism involved in using the phrase. It relies on an implicit assumption that people in “tribes” are somehow dumb and that they see an airplane and thus mimic it like children. There is a huge long list of reading on how we treat people in tribes like children, and rob them of a claim to complex thought. I’d like to think we can do better in our metaphors.

So I thought I’d try and reverse this a little bit. Taking the same broad brush strokes as everyone else, I’d like to consider Trobriand Cricket. It’s not quite in the same bit of the Pacific as the cargo cults, but it has a similar use of “western” ideas.

[video]

This game is a syncretic mix of cricket as introduced by missionaries to the Trobriand Islands (along with football), and the rituals of war on the islands. It includes teams whose victory dances for a catch include references to WW2 soldiers and military materiel. Many of the islanders are university educated.

Now. Unless we’re going to say that Norwich City’s canary branding is part of an animistic shaman cult led by Delia Smith, this all seems quite normal for sport. Or even life. You have a game, you change it to fit your local context. You understand your strategy. It is also worth pointing out that the Prince Philip Movement’s cult of personality around the Duke of Edinburgh wouldn’t look out of place in the comments section of a number of national newspapers.

Here’s where it breaks down though. The game was imposed by missionaries. The way that these people lived was changed irreparably by British colonialism. The power dynamics in this idea are huge. So changing the game becomes a response to colonialism. A way of maintaining some control against overwhelming power.

And there is where my discomfort is. What people in the Pacific were often doing was a response to the invasion of their land, and its use as a strategic assett in war. Many islanders died. The power relations and political history of the phrase have been shed so that it becomes a glib way of comparing someone’s actions to the old saying about the definition of insanity as being the repetition of something expecting a previous result to the previous time.

As I mentioned yesterday, ‘disruption’ can feel like an existential threat to the status quo. It is all around us, and the internet is going to change how you do your job. Or else someone who will change will put you out of business, or make your organisation seem too inefficient by comparison. Copying your work of the kid at the next desk won’t work. Learning together and open conversation might help. But treat this as a plea: don’t get sucked in by tired cliche. Shorthand is just that - a reminder of the nuance and complexity that has been left out.

Go out and explore that."
alexblandford  2015  cargocult  disruption  complexity  nuance  copying  mimicry  imitation  systemsthinking  organizations  power  anthropology  ethnography  gds 
october 2015 by robertogreco
#vaporfolk #hollyvoodoo. Sponsored by Amazon Readymades.
"With technology invented to fly us to the moon we write LMAO.

The internet tribe abandoned the global village when it started to resemble a shopping mall. After the digital natives were promised that their new ideas would lead to fame and success on global markets, they are now confronted with totalitarian networks and corporate structures. Consequently they turned their heads away from the screen. Facebook owns the copyrights to their ideas, shared infinitely to only disappear in the clouds.

Among all the possible realities imaginable, artists start to look for common ground in products, hardware and brands – commodities made from global materials. A form of recursive materialism emerges. The common ground between seven billion people is that we can all share a micro USB connector. An empty coke bottle will be found in the desert sands and nomads navigate the dunes with a Samsung tablet. Global materials seem to override all phantasies of unique visions and subjective expressions.

But the internet tribe moves to the outskirts of physical production, reusing artifacts from the world of corporate mythologies. They work with concepts of the “Archaic” instead of “New”, choosing to be ‘poorsumers’, transforming ideological waste into something magical. For them, art is a poetic freight and the trade system a collective parable of desire. By imitating commodities in almost shamanic rituals, a higher form of cargo is summoned: be it future wealth, success or even art.

Zsófia Keresztes, Angus McCullough, Alexandra Hackett (A.L.C.H.), Andreas Ervik, Stephanie Syjuco, Michele Gabriele, Pau Sampera, Peter Moosgaard, Bernhard Garnicnig

Opening: 3.6. 18:00
Exhibition: 5.6.–27.6.
Lust Gallery, Hollandstrasse 7 1020 Wien

“An approach to the now which looks widely, sharply, and especially at global materials ripe for use by our village of disenfranchised consumers.” (Quote and image of “Prototype: Axe” by Angus McCullough)

In cooperation with Making.Artistic.Technology (http://artistictechnology.at/) and the Palais des Beaux Arts Wien (http://www.palaisdesbeauxarts.at/). Supported by the Austrian Federal Chancellery.

#walmartsurrealism #hyperethnicity #vaporfolk #brandart #matrixbotanica #productshamanism #favelachic #holycargo #ritualfakes #ancientonline #poplatch #postdigital #ersatzculture #saintpepsi #refundutopia #parableofdesire #neomaterialism #summonwarhola #hollyvoodoo #digitalnaïve #artsypovera"
petermoosgaard  bernhardgarnicnig  pausampera  angusmccullough  alexandrahackett  andreaservik  stephaniesyjuco  michelegabriele  zsófiakeresztes  globalization  technology  art  vaporfolk  hollyvoodoo  capitalism  screens  digitalnatives  cloud  hardware  poorsumers  magic  cargocult  wealth  success  latecapitalism 
june 2015 by robertogreco
Supercargo - Subversive Mimickry
"How do we cope with the unknown, invisible yet overwhelming economic forces? As the shaman hides behind a ghouls mask, to become one with the unknown. To gain control, he first camouflages himself. This peculiar appropriation of codes can be used to gain influence over oneself and overwhelming power. Be is it nature, capitalism or art history. The strategy derived from the Cargo Cults is that of subversive Mimickry, a forgery of signals. It represents a tool to confront given economic realities, the overwhelming influences on the artist in form of capitalist imagery. The global market inside your head.

The strategy of mimickry in a functional environment is now tested. In this case, the signal always functions to deceive the receiver by preventing it from correctly identifying the mimic. Supercargo is then introduced into the common circulation of goods."
petermoosgaard  mimicry  cargocult  supercargo  2015  subversion  capitalism  shamanism  nature  imagery  markets  deception 
april 2015 by robertogreco
Supercargo: an interview with Peter Moosgaard — pasta and vinegar
"Nicolas Nova: Can you tell us more about your supercargo tumblr? What's the logic behind it and how did you become interested in this?

Peter Moosgaard: I think it was about 2005 in south-tirol when i read about cargo cults on a trivial persuit card. i was studying digital arts at that time and got extremely bored with technology. Media arts and digital culture seemed too much about technological progress at that time. everybody was just celebrating technology itself, but technology is never just a cool tool. its pure ideology. the artistic approaches on the other hand were extremely lame. do you know ars electronica festival? it became more and more of a toy expo. i was intrigued by the cargo cults because they celebrated and mocked technology, culture, imperialsim at the same time. i thought, well maybe theres a strategy! when i was crippled by a major depression and panic attacs in 2013 i started the Supercargo Blog. i found myself completely unable to work, but could still surf tumblr, repost stuff etc .. posting became a daily ritual for me and it still is. i just try to put together sets of images with found material, maybe some day i will be able to work again.

NN: There seems to be a growing interest in this kind of projects, this sort of logic. I'm thinking about this Futur Archaïque exhibit in Belgium I mentioned, but also other art/design projects related to it. Why do you feel this is happening now?

PM: I think something like this is in the air, and its getting bigger. why, i dont know .. maybe its an archaic revival in connection with digital media. Terence McKenna described that conclusively decades ago, and i think he is still right. as advanced these technologies are, they set us back into a mystic perception, a general attraction to archaic forms. we just have to adapt to immense data income every day, logic has to be set aside simply to cope with a hypernervous global culture. it all becomes archaic and mythological. it is just a necessary strategy. another more mundane explanation would be, that people are just getting fed up with the slick, sterile utopia apple is trying to sell us.

NN: Do you see this relate to this "post-digital" art scene that we see popping up these days? A need to go beyond the digital?

PM: Yes the postdigital aspect was always very important in my work. i started making postinternet stuff before it even had a name. i tried to see art and technology from the viewpoint of the simple consumer. basically because i myself had no skills at all, no programming skills, no crafting skills etc .. and i find everybody can relate to that everything else is not subversive/emancipatory in my eyes. in my view we´re more and more trying to work like machines, like computers. but how would a simple human do that, not trying to imitate a machine? the postdigital has many forms, and with "supercargo" i took my simplistic position. use only poor materials, embrace capitalist mythology, make a second hand utopia. its a free party from now on!

NN: Lots of these projects are fascinating because they interrogate us about the nature/culture debate. From your perspective, as an astute observer of such projects, what do they tell us about our relationship to technology?

PM: Culture, art and technology are basically utopia factories. you can relate and research (maybe subvert) that in form of simple products. messianic devices, artwork masterpieces, they are part of a larger system. they all have their histories, rules, all these invisible forces manifest in products. the way i see it, we are living in a time governed by cybernetics alone. it was allways in the interest of cybernetics to describe organisms and technology alike. to make a supersystem for processes be it biological or cultural. that is frightening in the end. anyway, maybe through cybernetic thinking we can realise that technology isn't artificial at all. we are just a material processing species, like bees producing honeycombs. i find it interesting to look at the material world again, as we are absorbed in informational worlds. Mcluhan said that every new medium absorbs the old media as its content, therefore making it visible AGAIN. Look at todays TV Shows, they became an artform after the internet absorbed TV. Now the World itelf is upon total simulation. The physical world is becoming visible for the first time i think, and material world will be a cult- a fetish.

NN: It's interesting to see Cargo Cults as the new sort of belief, beyond the Western/non-Western distinction, a sort of general perspective on things with a strange relationship to consumerism and material culture, what's your take on this?

PM: As written in the Supercargo Manifesto: Surprisingly the local performers of the Cargo Cults succeeded: By remaking western technology with bamboo, they attracted actual planes full of tourists and anthropologists. People got interested in the exotic parades using western imagery. The John Frum Movement (“John from Merica”) suddenly had an audience, soon bringing actual stuff (cargo) to the island. The cargo shaman once said: You build your plane too and wait in faith. the waiting is the hardest part. According to some shamans the planes awaited will also bring weapons to throw off colonialist oppressors. The cargo cults are strange mockups of imperialism, at the same time keeping old traditions. But is the cult for real or just performance? It does not matter, no difference, it is about the act. The Tale of the Cargo ringing true on so many levels. The cult of the cargo is our world exactly: We perform meaningless routines we call work,in hope for future cargo. With a technology that could navigate us to the moon, we write LMAO. The western world itself is a giant cult of imitating things that somehow work: dressing in suits, using buzzword-vocabulary, mimicking old forms of art. who knows why.. The longing for godlike goodies on the horizon, the usage of things we don´t understand: a big parable of desire. The waiting, the waiting is the hardest part!"
petermoosgaard  nicolasnova  cargocult  performance  2015  consumerism  materialism  cybernetics  culture  art  technology  marshallmcluhan  television  digital  physical  anthropology  imperialism  mediaarts  digitalculture  post-digital  supercargo 
february 2015 by robertogreco
What Math?
"Mathematics is not about answers, it's about processes. Let me give a series of parables to try to get to the root of the misconceptions and to try to illuminate what mathematics IS all about. None of these analogies is perfect, but all provide insight."
math  education  mathematics  science  learning  understanding  cargocult  teaching  tcsnmy  unschooling  deschooling  training  pedagogy  via:rushtheiceberg 
december 2010 by robertogreco
handa gote
"the research and development of czech performance group, handa gote, is based on
art  diy  handagote  performance  dance  cargocult  glvo  edg  srg  sound  assemblage  theater  post-dramatictheater  craft 
october 2009 by robertogreco
Principles of the American Cargo Cult
"I wrote these principles after reflecting on the content of contemporary newspapers and broadcast media and why that content disquieted me. I saw that I was not disturbed so much by what was written or said as I was by what is not. The tacit assumptions underlying most popular content reflect a worldview that is orthogonal to reality in many ways. By reflecting this skewed weltanschauung, the media reinforces and propagates it.
society  culture  politics  economics  us  sociology  religion  wisdom  psychology  media  debate  logic  cargocult  philosophy  life  critique  rhetoric  fallacies  crisis  catastrophe  fail  ruins  via:rodcorp 
march 2009 by robertogreco
Cargo cult - Wikipedia
"A cargo cult may appear in tribal societies in the wake of interaction with technologically advanced, non-native cultures. The cult is focused on obtaining the material wealth of the advanced culture through magical thinking, religious rituals and practices, believing that the wealth was intended for them by their deities and ancestors."

[via: http://a.wholelottanothing.org/2009/02/the-mobile-design-cargo-cult.html ]
cargocult  society  culture  religion  science  anthropology  psychology  politics  technology  richardfeynman  cult 
february 2009 by robertogreco

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