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robertogreco : ursulaleguin   43

Unschooling Unpacked – A Semantic Musing | Growing Minds
"IN DEFENSE OF UNSCHOOLING

Unschooling on the other hand represents my resistance to the dominant model and the resulting dominant mindset of compulsory schooling and all that it represents.

For me, schooling is THE most potent agent of continued colonialism. It is the master’s tool to keep the master’s empire intact. It is where we learn to live in and uphold empire. It is colonizing by nature: the pedagogy; the coercive nature; the content and mindset that speaks to white-heteropatriarchal-capitalist power, planetary destruction, creative destruction, competition, adultism, epistimicide, cultural extinction and language extinction.

And so unschooling is resistance: It is by nature decolonizing, it is more in tune with nature, open to all knowledge systems, embracing of the multitude ways of learning, nurturing, cooperative, culturally regenerating, child honoring and consent based!

Of course there are and always will be the dissenters and disruptors that emerge from the industrial schooling system, swimming against the tide and resisting the effects of schooling (lf you’re reading this then you’re most likely one of the dissenters!). But by and large, as we all exit the schooling system, we exit with our minds colonised into a particular understanding of the world, of what constitutes knowledge and learning and how learning looks. This is not something we can simply shrug off. It takes considerable work to deschool from this and potentially a lifelong process of deschooling. In the meantime communities, children, families and the earth suffer.

While I was working on this piece I was going to suggest that maybe our native unschoolers, as the next generation, can shrug off the word as Wendy proposes. But then I got a massage from Ben Draper that debunked that thought. He writes about the influence of those schoolish messages that now show up for him as a father, even though he grew up relatively free of the coercive schooling institutions. The influence of the school mindset extends to even those that have lived and learned outside of it!

Finally, schooling epitomises social injustice. Its compulsory nature takes away the right of a child to have any say in her education. It is adultism in action, laying the foundation for the other kinds of oppressive practices, like racism; classism; sexism; cissexism; heterosexism and ableism. It would make sense that schools should be the agents of change instead of agents of entrenchment. They aren’t. Unschooling begins with social justice. First for the child, which by its nature requires us to investigate and then resist the systems that perpetuate the multitude of societal oppressions that is supported by the schooling structure.

And that is why I can’t give up on the word unschooling. That is why it resonates with me. That is why I am comfortable with the word schooling being there. It needs to be there. In the same way that colonization makes up the bulk of the word decolonization – which serves to name that system that fundamentally changed our psyches and cultures and societies and continues to do so, I want to understand it , name it rather than erase the source of how I came to be. Similarly, I don’t want to erase the role and responsibility of schooling in how I now think, act and feel and that thanks to schooling I am in need of constant introspection to safeguard myself from reverting to patterns of thought and actions dictated by my constantly lurking schooled mindset. Schooling has a significant historical and contemporary role to play in how society functions. It is ever present and therefore the need for the word unschooling is ever present. For me.

Maybe John Holt didn’t envision this word unschooling to represent decolonization and social justice in this way, But I am claiming it for myself. That is the nature and evolution of words.

As long as schooling is around and it influences how we see children, learning and is instrumental in creating and upholding this unjust society , I will be using this word uschooling. Despite Ursula K Le Guin’s warning that “To oppose something is to maintain it”.

I fear I am unable to take heed of her words just yet."
2018  unschooling  deschooling  zakiyyaismail  education  howwelearn  learning  children  johnholt  language  english  homeschool  resistance  colonialism  decolonization  ursulaleguin  opposition  adultism  agesegegation  cissexism  injustice  socialjustice  ableism 
november 2018 by robertogreco
Ursula K. Le Guin: A Left-Handed Commencement Address
"So what I hope for you is that you live there not as prisoners, ashamed of being women, consenting captives of a psychopathic social system, but as natives. That you will be at home there, keep house there, be your own mistress, with a room of your own. That you will do your work there, whatever you’re good at, art or science or tech or running a company or sweeping under the beds, and when they tell you that it’s second-class work because a woman is doing it, I hope you tell them to go to hell and while they’re going to give you equal pay for equal time. I hope you live without the need to dominate, and without the need to be dominated. I hope you are never victims, but I hope you have no power over other people. And when you fail, and are defeated, and in pain, and in the dark, then I hope you will remember that darkness is your country, where you live, where no wars are fought and no wars are won, but where the future is. Our roots are in the dark; the earth is our country. Why did we look up for blessing — instead of around, and down? What hope we have lies there. Not in the sky full of orbiting spy-eyes and weaponry, but in the earth we have looked down upon. Not from above, but from below. Not in the light that blinds, but in the dark that nourishes, where human beings grow human souls."
via:anne  ursulaleguin  hierarchy  patriarchy  power  millscollege  commencementaddresses  1983  society  victims  darkness  domination  control 
july 2018 by robertogreco
Critical Design Fictions CSPL 225
"Design fiction involves the deliberate use of diegetic prototypes to suspend disbelief about change. Through practices of estrangement and defamiliarization, and through the use of carefully chosen design methods, this course experiments with the creation of provocative scenarios and imaginative artifacts that can help us envision different ways of inhabiting the world. The choices made by designers are ultimately choices about the kind of world in which we want to live--expressions of our dreams, fantasies, desires, and fears. As an integrated mode of thought and action, design is intrinsically social and deeply political. In conversation with science fiction, queer and feminist theories, indigenous discourses, drag and other performative interventions, this course explores speculative and critical approaches to design as catalysts for imagining alternate presents and possible futures. We examine a number of environmental and social issues related to climate change, incarceration, gender and reproductive rights, surveillance, emerging technologies, and labor."



"Readings include: Anthony Dunne & Fiona Raby, SPECULATIVE EVERYTHING: DESIGN, FICTION, AND SOCIAL DREAMING and Patrick Parrender (ed.) LEARNING FROM OTHER WORLDS: ESTRANGEMENT, COGNITION, AND THE POLITICS OF SCIENCE FICTION AND UTOPIA, along with selections from Carrie Lambert-Beatty, Julian Bleeker, Paul Preciado, Bruce Sterling, Darko Suvin, Samuel Delany, Elizabeth Grosz, José Esteban Muñoz, Ursula LeGuin, and Octavia Butler, among others.

Examination and Assignments:
Participation and collaboration, short assignments in conversation with readings, midterm and final projects. Students will design and prototype a series of objects, scenarios, and characters as devices to explore alternate presents and possible futures."

[see also:
https://www.are.na/barbara-adams/
https://www.are.na/barbara-adams/channels
https://www.are.na/barbara-adams/speculative-design-1519962911
https://www.are.na/barbara-adams/misc-design-1519956499
https://www.are.na/barbara-adams/sensory-ethnography
https://www.are.na/barbara-adams/ethnographic-design-films
https://www.are.na/barbara-adams/design-methods-1519961030

http://www.wesleyan.edu/academics/faculty/baadams/profile.html
http://newsletter.blogs.wesleyan.edu/2017/10/23/taylor-07-teaches-design-thinking-workshop-at-wesleyan/
http://wesleyanargus.com/2018/02/02/fellow-barbara-adams-talks-design-ideas-minor/
http://www.wesleyan.edu/ideas/faculty.html
http://www.wesleyan.edu/ideas/index.html
http://www.gidest.org/barbara-adams/
https://www.bloomsbury.com/uk/design-as-future-making-9780857858399/
https://nssr.academia.edu/BarbaraAdams ]
barbaraadams  design  designfiction  2018  classes  anthonydunne  fionaraby  patrickparrender  carrielambert-beatty  paulpreciado  brucesterling  darkosuvin  samueldelany  elizabethgrosz  joséestebanmuñoz  ursulaleguin  octaviabutler  speculativefiction  speculativedesign  scifi  sciencefiction  utopia  julianbleecker  dunne&raby  wesleyan 
may 2018 by robertogreco
OCCULTURE: 66. Gordon White in “Breaking Kayfabe” // Ursula Le Guin, Dragons & the Story Shape of the 21st Century
"If ya hit the ol’ play button on this one, it’s probably because of the name in the title. Gordon White is in the house. Mr. White as he’s known in the metafiction that is our current cultural narrative. But Mr. White is no reservoir dog in this story. He’s the Humphrey Bogart of High Magic, the main mage behind the oh-so-popular Rune Soup blog and podcast. You’ve read it, you’ve heard it. And if ya haven’t, well, you’re in for quite the trip on this here starship.

Gordon’s mind is a cabinet of curiosities and we pull out quite a bit of them here, including how we can rearrange our reality, the magic of fiction, artistic impulses, Game of Thrones, a game of tomes, and if ya ever wanted to hear Gordon White speak in pro wrestling terminology, well, there’s a bit of that too.

So let’s do this damn thing already and cast this pod off deep into the primordial chaos, where the protocols of the elder scrolls read more like a legend on a map of Middle Earth than they do a plan of global domination."
gordonwhite  fiction  fantasy  novels  art  makingart  magic  myth  mythology  belief  creativity  ryanpeverly  nonfiction  stories  storytelling  change  homer  bible  truth  ursulaleguin  2018  occulture  westernthought  carljung  josephcampbell  starwars  culture  biology  nature  reality  heroesjourney  potency  archetypes  dragons  odyssey  anthropology  ernestodimartino  religion  christianity  flow  taoism  artmagic  artasmagic  magicofart  permaculture  plants  housemagic  love  death 
february 2018 by robertogreco
The Wave in the Mind, Talks and Essays on the Writer, the Reader, and the Imagination – The Creative Independent
"This book contains science fiction author and legend Ursula K. Le Guin’s essays and musings on process. For one of TCI’s weekend events, we had a male computer voice read “Introducing Myself,” one of the essays in this book, in which satirically proposes that Le Guin is a man."

[recording of computer voice reading and image of the pages here: https://thecreativeindependent.com/weekends/introducing-myself-by-ursula-k-le-guin/ ]
ursulaleguin  gender 
february 2018 by robertogreco
The Carrier Bag Theory of Fiction by Ursula K. Le Guin
"In the temperate and tropical regions where it appears that hominids evolved into human beings, the principal food of the species was vegetable. Sixty-five to eighty percent of what human beings ate in those regions in Paleolithic, Neolithic, and prehistoric times was gathered; only in the extreme Arctic was meat the staple food. The mammoth hunters spectacularly occupy the cave wall and the mind, but what we actually did to stay alive and fat was gather seeds, roots, sprouts, shoots, leaves, nuts, berries, fruits, and grains, adding bugs and mollusks and netting or snaring birds, fish, rats, rabbits, and other tuskless small fry to up the protein. And we didn't even work hard at it--much less hard than peasants slaving in somebody else's field after agriculture was invented, much less hard than paid workers since civilization was invented. The average prehistoric person could make a nice living in about a fifteen-hour work week.

Fifteen hours a week for subsistence leaves a lot of time for other things. So much time that maybe the restless ones who didn't have a baby around to enliven their life, or skill in making or cooking or singing, or very interesting thoughts to think, decided to slope off and hunt mammoths. The skillful hunters then would come staggering back with a load of meat, a lot of ivory, and a story. It wasn't the meat that made the difference. It was the story.

It is hard to tell a really gripping tale of how I wrested a wild-oat seed from its husk, and then another, and then another, and then another, and then another, and then I scratched my gnat bites, and Ool said something funny, and we went to the creek and got a drink and watched newts for a while, and then I found another patch of oats.... No, it does not compare, it cannot compete with how I thrust my spear deep into the titanic hairy flank white Oob, impaled on one huge sweeping tusk, writhed screaming, and blood spouted everywhere in crimson torrents, and Boob was crushed to jelly when the mammoth fell on him as I shot my unerring arrow straight through eye to brain.

That story not only has Action, it has a Hero. Heroes are powerful. Before you know it, the men and women in the wild-oat patch and their kids and the skills of the makers and the thoughts of the thoughtful and the songs of the singers are all part of it, have all been pressed into service in the tale of the Hero. But it isn't their story. It's his.

When she was planning the book that ended up as Three Guineas, Virginia Woolf wrote a heading in her notebook, "Glossary"; she had thought of reinventing English according to a new plan, in order to tell a different story. One of the entries in this glossary is heroism, defined as "botulism." And hero, in Woolf's dictionary, is "bottle." The hero as bottle, a stringent reevaluation. I now propose the bottle as hero.

Not just the bottle of gin or wine, but bottle in its older sense of container in general, a thing that holds something else.

If you haven't got something to put it in, food will escape you--even something as uncombative and unresourceful as an oat. You put as many as you can into your stomach while they are handy, that being the primary container; but what about tomorrow morning when you wake up and it's cold and raining and wouldn't it be good to have just a few handfuls of oats to chew on and give little Oom to make her shut up, but how do you get more than one stomachful and one handful home? So you get up and go to the damned soggy oat patch in the rain, and wouldn't it be a good thing if you had something to put Baby Oo Oo in so that you could pick the oats with both hands? A leaf a gourd a shell a net a bag a sling a sack a bottle a pot a box a container. A holder. A recipient.

The first cultural device was probably a recipient .... Many theorizers feel that the earliest cultural inventions must have been a container to hold gathered products and some kind of sling or net carrier.

So says Elizabeth Fisher in Women's Creation (McGraw-Hill, 1975). But no, this cannot be. Where is that wonderful, big, long, hard thing, a bone, I believe, that the Ape Man first bashed somebody with in the movie and then, grunting with ecstasy at having achieved the first proper murder, flung up into the sky, and whirling there it became a space ship thrusting its way into the cosmos to fertilize it and produce at the end of the movie a lovely fetus, a boy of course, drifting around the Milky Way without (oddly enough) any womb, any matrix at all? I don't know. I don't even care. I'm not telling that story. We've heard it, we've all heard all about all the sticks spears and swords, the things to bash and poke and hit with, the long, hard things, but we have not heard about the thing to put things in, the container for the thing contained. That is a new story. That is news.

And yet old. Before--once you think about it, surely long before--the weapon, a late, luxurious, superfluous tool; long before the useful knife and ax; right along with the indispensable whacker, grinder, and digger-- for what's the use of digging up a lot of potatoes if you have nothing to lug ones you can't eat home in--with or before the tool that forces energy outward, we made the tool that brings energy home. It makes sense to me. I am an adherent of what Fisher calls the Carrier Bag Theory of human evolution.

This theory not only explains large areas of theoretical obscurity and avoids large areas of theoretical nonsense (inhabited largely by tigers, foxes, other highly territorial mammals); it also grounds me, personally, in human culture in a way I never felt grounded before. So long as culture was explained as originating from and elaborating upon the use of long, hard objects for sticking, bashing, and killing, I never thought that I had, or wanted, any particular share in it. ("What Freud mistook for her lack of civilization is woman's lack of loyalty to civilization," Lillian Smith observed.) The society, the civilization they were talking about, these theoreticians, was evidently theirs; they owned it, they liked it; they were human, fully human, bashing, sticking, thrusting, killing. Wanting to be human too, I sought for evidence that I was; but if that's what it took, to make a weapon and kill with it, then evidently I was either extremely defective as a human being, or not human at all.

That's right, they said. What you are is a woman. Possibly not human at all, certainly defective. Now be quiet while we go on telling the Story of the Ascent of Man the Hero.

Go on, say I, wandering off towards the wild oats, with Oo Oo in the sling and little Oom carrying the basket. You just go on telling how the mammoth fell on Boob and how Cain fell on Abel and how the bomb fell on Nagasaki and how the burning jelly fell on the villagers and how the missiles will fall on the Evil Empire, and all the other steps in the Ascent of Man.

If it is a human thing to do to put something you want, because it's useful, edible, or beautiful, into a bag, or a basket, or a bit of rolled bark or leaf, or a net woven of your own hair, or what have you, and then take it home with you, home being another, larger kind of pouch or bag, a container for people, and then later on you take it out and eat it or share it or store it up for winter in a solider container or put it in the medicine bundle or the shrine or the museum, the holy place, the area that contains what is sacred, and then next day you probably do much the same again--if to do that is human, if that's what it takes, then I am a human being after all. Fully, freely, gladly, for the first time.

Not, let it be said at once, an unaggressive or uncombative human being. I am an aging, angry woman laying mightily about me with my handbag, fighting hoodlums off. However I don't, nor does anybody else, consider myself heroic for doing so. It's just one of those damned things you have to do in order to be able to go on gathering wild oats and telling stories.

It is the story that makes the difference. It is the story that hid my humanity from me, the story the mammoth hunters told about bashing, thrusting, raping, killing, about the Hero. The wonderful, poisonous story of Botulism. The killer story.

It sometimes seems that that story is approaching its end. Lest there be no more telling of stories at all, some of us out here in the wild oats, amid the alien corn, think we'd better start telling another one, which maybe people can go on with when the old one's finished. Maybe. The trouble is, we've all let ourselves become part of the killer story, and so we may get finished along with it. Hence it is with a certain feeling of urgency that I seek the nature, subject, words of the other story, the untold one, the life story.

It's unfamiliar, it doesn't come easily, thoughtlessly to the lips as the killer story does; but still, "untold" was an exaggeration. People have been telling the life story for ages, in all sorts of words and ways. Myths of creation and transformation, trickster stories, folktales, jokes, novels...

The novel is a fundamentally unheroic kind of story. Of course the Hero has frequently taken it over, that being his imperial nature and uncontrollable impulse, to take everything over and run it while making stern decrees and laws to control his uncontrollable impulse to kill it. So the Hero has decreed through his mouthpieces the Lawgivers, first, that the proper shape of the narrative is that of the arrow or spear, starting here and going straight there and THOK! hitting its mark (which drops dead); second, that the central concern of narrative, including the novel, is conflict; and third, that the story isn't any good if he isn't in it.

I differ with all of this. I would go so far as to say that the natural, proper, fitting shape of the novel might be that of a sack, a bag. A book holds words. Words hold things. They bear meanings. A novel is a medicine bundle, holding things in a particular, powerful relation to one another and to us.

One relationship among elements in the novel … [more]
ursulaleguin  1986  marxism  economics  labor  work  capitalism  feminism  writing  stories  storytelling  heroes  virginiawoolf  elziabethfisher  lilliansmith  humans  human  hunter-gatherers  humanity  scifi  sciencefiction  fiction  literature 
january 2018 by robertogreco
HEWN, No. 250
"I wrote a book review this week of Brian Dear’s The Friendly Orange Glow: The Untold History of of PLATO System and the Dawn of Cyberculture. My review’s a rumination on how powerful the mythologizing is around tech, around a certain version of the history of technology – “the Silicon Valley narrative,” as I’ve called this elsewhere – so much so that we can hardly imagine that there are other stories to tell, other technologies to build, other practices to adopt, other ways of being, and so on.

I was working on the book review when I heard the news Tuesday evening that the great author Ursula K. Le Guin had passed away, I immediately thought of her essay “The Carrier Bag Theory of Fiction” – her thoughts on storytelling about spears and storytelling about bags and what we might glean from a culture (and a genre) that praises the former and denigrates the latter.
If science fiction is the mythology of modern technology, then its myth is tragic. “Technology,” or “modern science” (using the words as they are usually used, in an unexamined shorthand standing for the “hard” sciences and high technology founded upon continuous economic growth), is a heroic undertaking, Herculean, Promethean, conceived as triumph, hence ultimately as tragedy. The fiction embodying this myth will be, and has been, triumphant (Man conquers earth, space, aliens, death, the future, etc.) and tragic (apocalypse, holocaust, then or now).

If, however, one avoids the linear, progressive, Time’s-(killing)-arrow mode of the Techno-Heroic, and redefines technology and science as primarily cultural carrier bag rather than weapon of domination, one pleasant side effect is that science fiction can be seen as a far less rigid, narrow field, not necessarily Promethean or apocalyptic at all, and in fact less a mythological genre than a realistic one.


The problems of technology – and the problems of the storytelling about the computing industry today, which seems to regularly turn to the worst science fiction for inspiration – is bound up in all this. There’s a strong desire to create, crown, and laud the Hero – a tendency that’s going to end pretty badly if we don’t start thinking about care and community (and carrier bags) and dial back this wretched fascination with weapons, destruction, and disruption.

(Something like this, I wonder: “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas” by Ursula K. Le Guin.)

Elsewhere in the history of the future of technology: “Sorry, Alexa Is Not a Feminist,” says Ian Bogost. “The People Who Would Survive Nuclear War” by Alexis Madrigal.

There are many reasons to adore Ursula K. Le Guin. And there are many pieces of her writing, of course, one could point to and insist “you must read this. You must.” For me, the attraction was her grounding in cultural anthropology – I met Le Guin at a California Folklore Society almost 20 years ago when I was a graduate student in Folklore Studies – alongside her willingness to challenge the racism and imperialism and expropriation that the field engendered. It was her fierce criticism of capitalism and her commitment to freedom. I’m willing to fight anyone who tries to insist that Sometimes a Great Notion is the great novel of the Pacific Northwest. Really, you should pick almost any Le Guin novel in its stead – Always Coming Home, perhaps. Or The Word for the World is Forest. She was the most important anarchist of our era, I posted on Facebook when I shared the NYT obituary. It was a jab at another Oregon writer who I bet thinks that’s him. But like Kesey, his notion is all wrong.

Fewer Heroes. Better stories about people. Better worlds for people.

Yours in struggle,
~Audrey"
audreywatters  ursulaleguin  2018  anarchism  sciencefiction  scifi  technology  edtech  progress  storytelling  care  community  caring  folklore  anarchy  computing  siliconvalley  war  aggression  humanism  briandear  myth  heroes  science  modernscience  hardsciences  economics  growth  fiction  tragedy  apocalypse  holocaust  future  conquest  domination  weapons  destruction  disruption 
january 2018 by robertogreco
Jeet Heer on Twitter: "1. So, a few thoughts about Ursula K. Le Guin, Boasian anthropology & trajectory of 20th century science fiction."
"1. So, a few thoughts about Ursula K. Le Guin, Boasian anthropology & trajectory of 20th century science fiction.

2. Le Guin was the daughter of Alfred Louis Kroeber & Theodora Kracaw, two extremely distinguished anthropologists, in the tradition of Franz Boas.

3. Boas, of course, was a major figure in moving anthropology away from hierarchical judgements & trying to understand cultures on their own terms.

4. If we ask, what was the science of Le Guin's science fiction, the clear answer is anthropology: the ability to imagine & populate societies with rules very different than our own.

5. Le Guin's anthropological imagination of course went hand in hand with her feminism, since part of what she imagined was societies without contemporary gender binary.

6. On the whole, with a few noble exceptions, early 20th century American science fiction & fantasy was profoundly xenophobic, in ways both subtle & profound.

7. It wasn't just the bug-eyed monsters, but also that many SF writers had a hard time imagining future or alien societies that didn't just replicate norms of 20th century America.

8. Of E.E. "Doc" Smith, one of the great pioneers of space opera, @john_clute wrote that his work had "a lunatic insensitivity to lifeforms (i.e. Jews)...not found in small America circa 1930."

9. John W. Campbell, a foundational editor of sf who shaped field for decades, had a rule that no alien species could be smarter than humans (by which he meant white people, since he rejected stories with black heroes).

10. Even someone like Heinlein, more cosmopolitan than most pulp writers, struggled with diversity. He often had people of color in books but they thought, acted & sounded like middle class white Americans.

11. Le Guin was part of a great shift in science fiction, often called New Wave, which had many dimensions (literary, countercultural, feminist) but was also a move from xenophobia to xenophilia.

12. It's interesting that the move from xenophobia to xenophilia all involved writers who, at an early age, had encounters with non-western cultures.

13. Aside from Le Guin there was Paul Linebarger (a.k.a. Cordwainer Smith) who grew up in China & Alice Sheldon (a.k.a. Alice Tiptree) whose mom was a travel writer & who spent youth traveling in Africa & elsewhere.

14. Cordwainer Smith claimed he dream in Chinese (Mandarin, I think). Mind you, he used his cultural sensitivity to dubious ends (he was a CIA expert on psychological warfare). Still, it informed his fiction

15. And Sheldon/Tiptree (also CIA!) had ties to Africa that were redolent of colonialism, as in this photo when she was a child. But her adult work was a critique of colonial hauteur.

16. Slightly tangential but Le Guin's anthropological science fiction was bastardized by Hollywood: both Return of the Jedi & Avatar are riffs on Le Guin's The Word For World Is Forest.

18. To conclude, if we want to situate Le Guin historically, she's part of the great shift in s.f. where there is a move to genuinely imagine alien cultures and to imaginatively live inside them."
ursulaleguin  2018  jeetheer  anthropology  sciencefiction  scifi  alfredlouiskroeber  theodorakracaw  franzboas  eesmith  alicesheldon  alicetiptree  colonialism  cordwainersmith  newwave  femism  johncampbell  fantasy  xenophobia  aliens  robertheinlein 
january 2018 by robertogreco
UKLG Quotes on Twitter – Ed Summers – Medium
"Sure, Twitter has its problems. Big problems. But once in a while we rise to the occasion. The passing of beloved writer Ursula K. Le Guin was a poignant moment where people shared their favorite quotes on Twitter. Here are the top 25 most retweeted ones. The details of how this list was generated are included at the end of this post."

[See also:

"Ursula K Le Guin died on January 24, 2018 and there was an outpouring of tweets that commemorated her life as a writer. The le-guin.txt file contains tweet identifiers for 251,287 tweets that mentioned the phrase "Le Guin" between January 14 and January 24, 2018. They were collected with the twarc utility."

https://archive.org/details/uklg-tweet-ids ]
ursulaleguin  quotes  twitter  2018 
january 2018 by robertogreco
Ursula K. Le Guin: New poetry, November 2006
"Crows

Crows are the color of anarchy
and close up they’re a little scary.
An eye as bright as anything.
Having a pet crow would be
like having Voltaire on a string."

[more poems follow]
ursulaleguin  crows  2006  poems  poetry  corvids  via:tealtan 
january 2018 by robertogreco
Worlds of Ursula K. Le Guin by Arwen Curry — Kickstarter
"Worlds of Ursula K. Le Guin, a feature documentary, explores the remarkable life and legacy of the groundbreaking 88-year-old author."
ursulaleguin  documentary  towatch  film 
december 2017 by robertogreco
Impakt Festival 2017 - Performance: ANAB JAIN. HQ - YouTube
[Embedded here: http://impakt.nl/festival/reports/impakt-festival-2017/impakt-festival-2017-anab-jain/ ]

"'Everything is Beautiful and Nothing Hurts': @anab_jain's expansive keynote @impaktfestival weaves threads through death, transcience, uncertainty, growthism, technological determinism, precarity, imagination and truths. Thanks to @jonardern for masterful advise on 'modelling reality', and @tobias_revell and @ndkane for the invitation."
https://www.instagram.com/p/BbctTcRFlFI/ ]
anabjain  2017  superflux  death  aging  transience  time  temporary  abundance  scarcity  future  futurism  prototyping  speculativedesign  predictions  life  living  uncertainty  film  filmmaking  design  speculativefiction  experimentation  counternarratives  designfiction  futuremaking  climatechange  food  homegrowing  smarthomes  iot  internetofthings  capitalism  hope  futures  hopefulness  data  dataviz  datavisualization  visualization  williamplayfair  society  economics  wonder  williamstanleyjevons  explanation  statistics  wiiliambernstein  prosperity  growth  latecapitalism  propertyrights  jamescscott  objectivity  technocrats  democracy  probability  scale  measurement  observation  policy  ai  artificialintelligence  deeplearning  algorithms  technology  control  agency  bias  biases  neoliberalism  communism  present  past  worldview  change  ideas  reality  lucagatti  alextaylor  unknown  possibility  stability  annalowenhaupttsing  imagination  ursulaleguin  truth  storytelling  paradigmshifts  optimism  annegalloway  miyamotomusashi  annatsing 
november 2017 by robertogreco
Arts of Living on a Damaged Planet — University of Minnesota Press
[via: https://www.instagram.com/p/BZeIyNcHxL6/ ]

"Arts of Living on a Damaged Planet: Ghosts and Monsters of the Anthropocene

2017 • Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing, Heather Anne Swanson, Elaine Gan, and Nils Bubandt, Editors

Can humans and other species continue to inhabit the earth together?

As human-induced environmental change threatens multispecies livability, Arts of Living on a Damaged Planet puts forward a bold proposal: entangled histories, situated narratives, and thick descriptions offer urgent “arts of living.” Included are essays by scholars in anthropology, ecology, science studies, art, literature, and bioinformatics who posit critical and creative tools for collaborative survival in a more-than-human Anthropocene.
Arts of Living on a Damaged Planet exposes us to the active remnants of gigantic past human errors—the ghosts—that affect the daily lives of millions of people and their co-occurring other-than-human life forms. Challenging us to look at life in new and excitingly different ways, each part of this two-sided volume is informative, fascinating, and a source of stimulation to new thoughts and activisms. I have no doubt I will return to it many times.

—Michael G. Hadfield, University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa

Living on a damaged planet challenges who we are and where we live. This timely anthology calls on twenty eminent humanists and scientists to revitalize curiosity, observation, and transdisciplinary conversation about life on earth.

As human-induced environmental change threatens multispecies livability, Arts of Living on a Damaged Planet puts forward a bold proposal: entangled histories, situated narratives, and thick descriptions offer urgent “arts of living.” Included are essays by scholars in anthropology, ecology, science studies, art, literature, and bioinformatics who posit critical and creative tools for collaborative survival in a more-than-human Anthropocene. The essays are organized around two key figures that also serve as the publication’s two openings: Ghosts, or landscapes haunted by the violences of modernity; and Monsters, or interspecies and intraspecies sociality. Ghosts and Monsters are tentacular, windy, and arboreal arts that invite readers to encounter ants, lichen, rocks, electrons, flying foxes, salmon, chestnut trees, mud volcanoes, border zones, graves, radioactive waste—in short, the wonders and terrors of an unintended epoch.

Contributors: Karen Barad, U of California, Santa Cruz; Kate Brown, U of Maryland, Baltimore; Carla Freccero, U of California, Santa Cruz; Peter Funch, Aarhus U; Scott F. Gilbert, Swarthmore College; Deborah M. Gordon, Stanford U; Donna J. Haraway, U of California, Santa Cruz; Andreas Hejnol, U of Bergen, Norway; Ursula K. Le Guin; Marianne Elisabeth Lien, U of Oslo; Andrew Mathews, U of California, Santa Cruz; Margaret McFall-Ngai, U of Hawaii, Manoa; Ingrid M. Parker, U of California, Santa Cruz; Mary Louise Pratt, NYU; Anne Pringle, U of Wisconsin, Madison; Deborah Bird Rose, U of New South Wales, Sydney; Dorion Sagan; Lesley Stern, U of California, San Diego; Jens-Christian Svenning, Aarhus U.
books  toread  anthropocene  annalowenhaupttsing  multispecies  heatheranneswanson  elainegan  nilsbubandt  anthropology  ecology  science  art  literature  bioinformatics  2017  morethanhuman  humans  transdisciplinary  interspecies  karenbarad  katebrown  carlafreccero  peterfunch  scottgilbert  deborahgordon  donnaharaway  andreasheinol  ursulaleguin  marianneelisabethlien  andrewmathews  margaretmcfall-ngai  ingridparker  marylouisepratt  annepringle  deborahbirdrose  dorionsagan  lesleystern  jens-christiansvenning  earth  intraspecies  annatsing 
september 2017 by robertogreco
Monstrous, Duplicated, Potent | Issue 28 | n+1
"On first read, I was dazzled and bewildered. Desperate to impress the organizer, who I thought brilliant, I strained over it line by line in hopes of insight. In the end, I mumbled through our meeting. I didn’t understand the Manifesto until I’d read it three more times. In truth, I probably still don’t. But for a young woman struggling to understand the world after Hurricane Katrina and a global financial crisis, Haraway beckoned. She offered a way to make sense of the things that seemed absent from politics as I knew it: science, nature, feminism.

The Manifesto proclaims itself to be against origin stories, but its own is hard to resist. In 1982, the Marxist journal Socialist Review — a bicoastal publication originally titled Socialist Revolution, whose insurrectionary name was moderated in the late 1970s as politics soured — asked Haraway to write five pages on the priorities of socialist feminism in the Reagan era. Haraway responded with thirty. It was the first piece, she claimed, she had ever written on a computer (a Hewlett-Packard-86). The submission caused controversy at the journal, with disagreement breaking down along geographic lines. As Haraway later recalled in an interview, “The East Coast Collective truly disapproved of it politically and did not want it published.” The more catholic West Coast won out, and the Manifesto was published in 1985 as “A Manifesto for Cyborgs: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the 1980s,” though it has been known colloquially as the Cyborg Manifesto ever since.

In one sense, Haraway did what she was asked: she outlined the contemporary state of political economy from a socialist-feminist perspective. Her reading of the shift to post-Fordism was loose but lucid. The rise of communications technologies made it possible to disperse labor globally while still controlling it, she noted, scattering once-unionized factory jobs across the continents. The gender of industrial work was changing too: there were more women assembling computer chips in East Asia than men slapping together cars in the American Midwest. Automation was lighter and brighter: in place of hulking industrial machinery, our “machines are made of sunshine” — but this light, invisible power nevertheless caused “immense human pain in Detroit and Singapore.” Family structures were changing: mothers increasingly worked outside the home and headed up the household. The result was what Haraway, drawing on Richard Gordon, called the homework economy — a pointed term for what’s euphemistically and blandly called the service economy.

The Manifesto offered a new politics for this new economy. Prescient about the need to organize the feminized, if not always female, sectors, Haraway explicitly called leftists to support SEIU District 925, a prominent campaign to unionize office workers. She also criticized the idea of a universal subject, whether held up by Marxists (the proletarian) or radical feminists (the woman). A new politics had to be constructed not around a singular agent but on the basis of a patchwork of identities and affinities. How, then, to find unity across difference, make political subjects in a postmodern era, and build power without presuming consensus? “One is too few, but two are too many,” she wrote cryptically. “One is too few, and two is only one possibility.” Acting as isolated individuals leads nowhere, but the effort to act collectively cannot leave difference aside. Women of color, Haraway suggested, following Chela Sandoval, could not rely on the stability of either category; they might lead the way in forging a new, nonessentialist unity based on affinity rather than identity.

This is where the metaphor of the cyborg comes in. For Haraway, the cyborg is a hybrid figure that crosses boundaries: between human and machine, human and animal, organism and machine, reality and fiction. As a political subject, it is expansive enough to encompass the range of human experience in all its permutations. A hybrid, it is more than one, but less than two.

In place of old political formations, Haraway imagined new cyborgian ones. She hoped that “the unnatural cyborg women making chips in Asia and spiral dancing in Santa Rita Jail” would together “guide effective oppositional strategies.” Her paradigmatic “cyborg society” was the Livermore Action Group, an antinuclear activist group targeting the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, a nuclear-weapons-research facility in Northern California. The group, she thought, was “committed to building a political form that actually manages to hold together witches, engineers, elders, perverts, Christians, mothers, and Leninists long enough to disarm the state.”

What set the Manifesto apart from other reconceptions of feminism was its embrace of science. The cyborg was a figure that only a feminist biologist — herself an unlikely figure — could imagine. While by the 1980s many feminists were wary of biological claims about sexual difference, evading charges of essentialism by separating sex from gender (biology might give you a certain body, but society conditioned how you lived in it), Haraway argued that failing to take a position on biology was to “lose too much” — to surrender the notion of the body itself as anything more than a “blank page for social inscriptions.” Distinguishing her attachment to the body from the usual Earth Mother connotations was its famous closing line: “I would rather be a cyborg than a goddess.”

Who wouldn’t? The cyborg’s popularity was no doubt fueled in part by the vision of a bionic babe it suggested — a Furiosa or the Terminator — though it couldn’t be further from her meaning. Asked what she considered a true moment of cyborgness in 1999, Haraway responded, “the sense of the intricacy, interest, and pleasure — as well as the intensity — of how I have imagined how like a leaf I am.” The point was not that she shared some biological commonality with a leaf, or that she felt leaves to be kindred spirits (though she very well might have). What made her giddy was the thought of all the work that had gone into producing the knowledge that she was like a leaf — how incredible it was to be able to know such a thing — and the kinds of relationship to a leaf that such knowledge made possible.

Despite her frequent reminders that it was written as a “mostly sober” intervention into socialist-feminist politics rather than “the ramblings of a blissed-out, techno-bunny fembot,” many still read it as the latter. Wired profiled her enthusiastically in 1997. “To boho twentysomethings,” they wrote, “her name has the kind of cachet usually reserved for techno acts or new phenethylamines.” (More recently, the entrepreneurial synthetic biologist Drew Endy deployed the Manifesto in support of his bid to label synthetic biological products as “natural” under federal guidelines to increase their appeal to cautious consumers.)

Its Reagan-era coordinates may have changed, but the Manifesto remains Haraway’s most widely read work. The cyborg became a celebrity, as did Haraway herself, both serving as signifiers of a queer, savvy, self-aware feminism. Yet she has grown weary of its success, admonishing readers that “cyborgs are critters in a queer litter, not the Chief Figure of Our Times.”

Somewhat counterintuitively, it’s Haraway herself who sometimes seems the Chief Figure. There’s no Harawavian school, though she has many acolytes. She does not belong to any particular school herself, though many have attempted to place her. You can’t really do a Harawavian analysis of the economy or the laboratory; other than the cyborg, she’s produced few portable concepts or frameworks. Her own individual prominence runs counter to her view of intellectual work as collectively produced. Yet for thirty years she’s been ahead of intellectual trends, not by virtue of building foundational frameworks but by inspiring others to spawn and spur entire fields, from feminist science studies to multispecies ethics. Her work tends to emerge from problems she sees in the world rather than from engagement with literatures, thinkers, or trends, yet it manages to transcend mere timeliness.

Her new book, Staying with the Trouble, is a commentary on the most pressing threat of our era: catastrophic climate change. It’s hard to think of someone better suited to the task. Climate change requires ways of thinking capable of confronting the closely bound future of countless humans and nonhumans, the basis for certainty in scientific findings, the political consequences of such knowledge, and the kinds of political action that such consequences call for. If Haraway has long practiced such hybrid thinking, that also means the problem best suited to challenging her thought — to testing its mettle, and its usefulness to our political future — has decisively arrived."



"Under Hutchinson’s supervision, she wrote a dissertation heavily influenced by Thomas Kuhn’s 1962 landmark The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Kuhn had caused an uproar with his argument that rather than steadily progressing toward truth, the production of scientific knowledge was marked by conflict and upheaval. What scientists had once been certain was true would eventually be considered wrong. Each emerging framework was often incommensurable with what had come before. Kuhn called this phenomenon a “paradigm shift.” A classic example was the transition from Newtonian physics to Einsteinian relativity."

[See also: "Cthulhu plays no role for me"
https://www.viewpointmag.com/2017/05/08/cthulhu-plays-no-role-for-me/ ]
donnaharaway  2017  science  scientism  feminism  cyborgs  serviceeconomy  economics  academia  philosophy  1982  1985  california  ucsantacruz  queerness  biology  nancyhartstock  marxism  fredericjameson  hueynewton  angeladavis  historyofconsciousness  teresadelauretis  climatechange  anthropocene  naomiklein  blockadia  rustenhogness  kinstanleyrobinson  cyborgmanifesto  jamesclifford  histcon  alyssabattistoni  blackpantherparty  bobbyseale  jayemiller  historyofscience  radicalism  radicalscience  multispecies  animals  praxis  gregorybateson  systemsthinking  language  storytelling  politics  intersectionality  situatedknowledge  solidarity  perspective  thomaskuhn  epistemology  reality  consciousness  primatology  theory  empiricism  octaviabutler  sciencefiction  scifi  patriarchy  colonialism  racism  ignorance  objectivity  curiosity  technology  biotechnology  technofuturism  companionspecies  dogs  ethics  chthulucene  capitalocene  ursulaleguin  utopia  mundane  kinship  families  unity  friendship  work  labor  hope  sophielewis  blackpanthers 
may 2017 by robertogreco
crap futures — A Crap Futures Manifesto
"Challenge #1: reverse this statement

‘We must shift America from a needs, to a desires culture, people must be trained to desire, to want new things even before the old had been entirely consumed. We must shape a new mentality in America. Man’s desires must overshadow his needs.’

Paul Mazur, Lehman Brothers, 1927

Challenge #2: reclaim the means - stop obsessing with the ends

‘Modern anthropology … opposes the utilitarian assumption that the primitive chants as he sows seed because he believes that otherwise it will not grow, the assumption that his economic goal is primary, and his other activities are instrumental to it. The planting and the cultivating are no less important than the finished product. Life is not conceived as a linear progression directed to, and justified by, the achievement of a series of goals; it is a cycle in which ends cannot be isolated, one which cannot be dissected into a series of ends and means.’

John Carroll

Challenge #3: (as things become increasingly automated) facilitate action not apathy

‘[W]hen it becomes automatic (on the other hand) its function is fulfilled, certainly, but it is also hermetically sealed. Automatism amounts to a closing-off, to a sort of functional self-sufficiency which exiles man to the irresponsibility of a mere spectator.’

Jean Baudrillard, The System of Objects

Challenge #4: bring an end to this vacuous celebrity designer BS

‘My juicer is not meant to squeeze lemons; it is meant to start conversations.’

Philippe Starck

Challenge #5: interrupt legacy thinking and product lineages

‘All inventions and innovations, by definition, represent 
an advance in the art beyond existing base lines. Yet, most advances, particularly in retrospect, appear essentially incremental, evolutionary. If nature makes no sudden leaps, neither it would appear does technology.’

Robert Heilbroner

Challenge #6: rather than feed the illusion of invincibility, work from the reality of uncertainty and transience

‘Everywhere gold glimmered in the half-light, transforming this derelict casino into a magical cavern from the Arabian Nights tales. But it held a deeper meaning for me, the sense that reality itself was a stage set that could be dismantled at any moment, and that no matter how magnificent anything appeared, it could be swept aside into the debris of the past.’

J.G. Ballard, The Miracles of Life

Challenge #7: set aside the easier work of critique and take up the more difficult challenge of proposing viable alternatives

‘It is true that I can better tell you what we don’t do than what we do do.’

William Morris, News from Nowhere

Challenge #8: ask yourself (before putting things in the world): am I qualified to play God?

‘It’s not right to play God with masses of people. To be God you have to know what you’re doing. And to do any good at all, just believing you’re right and your motives are good isn’t enough.’

Ursula K. Le Guin, The Lathe of Heaven

Challenge #9: design ecologically

‘One merges into another, groups melt into ecological groups until the time when what we know as life meets and enters what we think of as non-life: barnacle and rock, rock and earth, earth and tree, tree and rain and air. And the units nestle into the whole and are inseparable from it … all things are one thing and one thing is all things – plankton, a shimmering phosphorescence on the sea and the spinning planets and an expanding universe, all bound together by the elastic string of time. It is advisable to look from the tide pool to the stars and then back to the tide pool again.’

John Steinbeck, The Sea of Cortez

Challenge #10: adopt a khadi mentality

‘True progress lies in the direction of decentralization, both territorial and functional, in the development of the spirit of local and personal initiative, and of free federation from the simple to the compound, in lieu of the present hierarchy from the centre to the periphery.’

Pyotr Kropotkin

Challenge #11: be patient for the quiet days

‘Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.’

Arundhati Roy

Challenge #12: start building the future you want, with or without technology

‘People ask me to predict the future, when all I want to do is prevent it. Better yet, build it. Predicting the future is much too easy, anyway. You look at the people around you, the street you stand on, the visible air you breathe, and predict more of the same. To hell with more. I want better.’

Ray Bradbury, Beyond 1984: The People Machines"
manifestos  crapfutures  paulmazur  desires  needs  anthropology  johncarroll  means  ends  jeanbaudrillard  apathy  action  philippestarck  celebrity  legacy  robertheilbroner  invention  innovation  evolution  invincibility  jgballard  uncertainty  transience  ephemeral  ephemerality  critique  williammorris  viability  making  ursulaleguin  ecology  environment  johnsteinbeck  khadi  decentralization  function  functionality  arundhatiroy  patience  quiet  raybradbury  future  futurism  technology  utopia  resistance  peterkropotkin 
november 2016 by robertogreco
Ursula Le Guin Has Earned a Rare Honor. Just Don’t Call Her a Sci-Fi Writer. - The New York Times
"The speech, and her outrage, went viral. “A writer in her mid-80s simply has less to lose,” she said. “An author in midcareer who defies the hegemony of Google and Amazon, and names their immoral or unfair practices as such, takes an immediate risk of vengeance from them and of enmity from fellow writers who are cozy with them. I’m taking the same risks, but what the hell. My work is out there — visible, existent.”

Many younger writers cite Ms. Le Guin as an inspiration, including David Mitchell and Neil Gaiman. In an email, Junot Díaz talked about “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas,” Ms. Le Guin’s parable about a society whose happy existence depends on keeping one small child locked away in misery. Most citizens of Omelas accept that deal. A few do not.

“That story is both a call and a practice for Le Guin,” Mr. Diaz said. “She has spent all these decades trying to chart a path for those who wish to walk away from Omelas — also known as the horror of our civilization.”

“The Complete Orsinia” is Ms. Le Guin in a quieter key. “The editorial challenge of the Library of America is to strike a balance,” said Max Rudin, the library’s publisher. “On the one hand to publish writers and works that are indisputably part of the American canon, and on the other hand to publish books that stretch people’s imagination of what great American writing is.”

In the introduction, she quotes from a 1975 notebook in which she wrote that much of her work was concerned with one central notion: “True pilgrimage consists in coming home.” The hero of “Malafrena” must leave his provincial farm only to find it again.

“There’s a difference between the circle and the spiral,” Ms. Le Guin said. “We say the Earth has a circular orbit around the sun, but of course it doesn’t. You never come back to the same place, you just come back to the same point on the spiral. That image is very deep in my thinking.”

“Orsinia” has another spiral: As Ms. Le Guin’s works are being put in the canon, she has largely stopped writing. “The fiction isn’t coming. You can’t get water from a dry well.” She still writes poetry, which is a consolation.

There remains that other big legacy-cementing possibility. Last year, Ms. Le Guin was given Nobel odds of 25-1. Her conclusion: “All I have to do in the next 25 years is outlive the other 24 writers.”"
ursulaleguin  2016  sciencefiction  scifi  literature  fiction  writing  historicalfiction  recognition  junotdíaz  nailgaiman  davidmitchell  gender  genre  dondelillo 
september 2016 by robertogreco
Anthropologists in Outer Space - SAPIENS
"Today we not only look at the stars, we send spacecraft to investigate outer space and plan for human habitation on other worlds. The United States and the Soviet Union first sent animals up in rockets in the 1940s, and in 1961 Yuri Gagarin became the first human to travel to space. By 1969, humans had walked on the moon. Soon after, anthropologists were discussing the problem of how to study emerging cultures of space—a place few people had even been to. In the 1970s, anthropologist and futurist Magoroh Maruyama organized a series of discussions on outer space at the annual American Anthropological Association meetings and the International Congress of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences. These meetings led to the publication of the 1975 book “Cultures Beyond the Earth: The Role of Anthropology in Outer Space.”

In the 1980s, anthropologist Ben Finney turned his eye to space. He combined his experience in the U.S. Navy and the aerospace industry with his anthropological research on how Polynesian people could have crossed the Pacific Ocean. In 1994 anthropologist Roland A. Foulkes drew from this earlier work by Maruyama, Finney, and other anthropologists in his essay “Why Space? An Anthropologist’s Response.” Foulkes even talked about possible names for the field of anthropology that studies space, suggesting astroanthropology, exoanthropology, aerospace-anthropology, or extraterrestrial anthropology.

The call for anthropologists to study outer space was revived in 2009 when anthropologists David Valentine, Valerie Olson, and Debbora Battaglia published a commentary in Anthropology News called “Encountering the Future: Anthropology and Outer Space.” Since “being earthbound is not a limitation” for humans, they argued, it shouldn’t be for anthropologists either.

Over the last decade, anthropologists studying space have written about dozens of topics, including the debate over Pluto’s status as a planet (Lisa Messeri, University of Virginia); how we respond to the threat of an asteroid hitting Earth (Valerie Olson, University of California, Irvine); the diaries kept by cosmonauts while they lived in space (Debbora Battaglia, Mount Holyoke College); new companies and communities in the private space-exploration industry (David Valentine, University of Minnesota); the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (Kathryn Denning, York University); and the science of studying extraterrestrial life (Stefan Helmreich, MIT).

There is even an archaeology of outer space. At Flinders University in Australia, archaeologist Alice Gorman studies the debris we leave in space, from old satellites orbiting the earth to spacecraft, robots, and even shadows on the moon. In her TED talk Gorman explains how the stuff we think of as useless “space junk” actually has value as part of our cultural heritage.

It takes imagination to think like this. Gorman uses her expertise in archaeology and anthropology to imagine how a piece of technology from our recent history could be an important artifact in the future. Work like this inspires me to wonder what human culture might look like in the future—in one hundred, one thousand, or even ten thousand years. This kind of future-aware anthropology draws from both science and science fiction. And in turn, science-fiction authors such as Ursula K. Le Guin, Octavia Butler, Samuel Delany, Phillip K. Dick, and Frank Herbert are all doing speculative anthropology when they use their knowledge of life here on Earth to write fictional works about people, cultures, and landscapes elsewhere and otherwise—on other worlds and in possible futures.

Science fiction has also been an inspiration for space scientists and astronauts. Dr. Mae Jemison, the first woman of color in space, was inspired as a child when she saw Nichelle Nichols playing Lieutenant Uhura on the bridge of the Enterprise in the original “Star Trek” television series. Science fiction also serves as a way of thinking about some of the anthropological problems of both Earth and outer space. What sort of worlds do we imagine might be out there around other stars? What kinds of life, culture, cities, spacecraft, philosophies, and religions might extraterrestrial civilizations have? I also like the idea of turning this extraterrestrial gaze back toward ourselves to ask, What would Earth look like to us if we were looking at it from another world?"



"Anthropologists have often studied what appear at first to be great differences between human communities living across this planet. There are long-standing and ongoing debates in anthropology about differences and similarities, universals and particulars—about how much we can really know or understand about other people’s lives, beliefs, views, and worlds. Anthropology of space can be another way of thinking about these questions. What might we see if we change the scale of the anthropological perspective, imagine ourselves from elsewhere, and look at Earth as a whole from space? For all our apparent differences, perhaps visitors from another world would look down at this small blue planet we live on and think that we’re all quite similar after all."
michaeloman-reagan  space  anthropology  history  future  2016  culture  carlsagan  scifi  sciencefiction  speculativeanthropology  archaeoastronomy  archaeology  astroanthropology  exoanthropology  aerospace-anthropology  extraterrestrialanthropology  magorohmaruyama  benfinney  polynesia  davidvalentine  valerieolson  debborabattaglia  outerspace  lisamesseri  astronauts  cosmonauts  kathryndenning  stefanhelmreich  alicegorman  spacecraft  maejemison  ursulaleguin  octaviabutler  samueldelany  phillipkdick  frankherbert 
february 2016 by robertogreco
Ursula K. Le Guin on the Sacredness of Public Libraries | Brain Pickings
"In a 1997 speech celebrating the renovation of Portland’s Multnomah County Library, Le Guin writes:
A library is a focal point, a sacred place to a community; and its sacredness is its accessibility, its publicness. It’s everybody’s place.

After an affectionate time-travel tour of the formative libraries in her life, Le Guin considers the universal gift of the free public library:

Knowledge sets us free, art sets us free. A great library is freedom.

[…]

Plunging into the ocean of words, roaming in the broad fields of the mind, climbing the mountains of the imagination. Just like the kid in the Carnegie or the student in Widener, that was my freedom, that was my joy. And it still is.

That joy must not be sold. It must not be “privatised,” made into another privilege for the privileged. A public library is a public trust.

And that freedom must not be compromised. It must be available to all who need it, and that’s everyone, when they need it, and that’s always.
"
ursulaleguin  libraries  freedom  community  accessibility  publicness  knowledge 
november 2015 by robertogreco
SF: Science Fiction, Speculative Fabulation, String Figures, So Far - Ada: A Journal of Gender, New Media, and Technology
"The British social anthropologist Marilyn Strathern, who wrote The Gender of the Gift based on her ethnographic work in highland Papua New Guinea (Mt. Hagen), taught me that “It matters what ideas we use to think other ideas (with)” (Reproducing the Future 10). Marilyn embodies for me the practice of feminist speculative fabulation in the scholarly mode. It matters what matters we use to think other matters with; it matters what stories we tell to tell other stories with; it matters what knots knot knots, what thoughts think thoughts, what ties tie ties. It matters what stories make worlds, what worlds make stories. Marilyn wrote about accepting the risk of relentless contingency; she thinks about anthropology as the knowledge practice that studies relations with relations, that puts relations at risk with other relations, from unexpected other worlds. In 1933 Alfred North Whitehead, the American mathematician and process philosopher who infuses my sense of worlding, wrote The Adventures of Ideas. SF is precisely full of such adventures. Isabelle Stengers, a chemist, scholar of Whitehead, and a seriously quirky Belgian feminist philosopher, gives me “speculative thinking” in spades. Isabelle insists we cannot denounce the world in the name of an ideal world. In the spirit of feminist communitarian anarchism and the idiom of Whitehead’s philosophy, she maintains that decisions must take place somehow in the presence of those who will bear their consequences.[2] In this same virtual sibling set, Marleen Barr morphed Heinlein’s speculative fiction into feminist fabulation for me. In relay and return, SF morphs in my writing and research into speculative fabulation and string figures. Relays, cat’s cradle, passing patterns back and forth, giving and receiving, patterning, holding the unasked-for pattern in one’s hands, response-ability, Octavia Butler’s Patternmaster series. My debts mount. Again and again, SF has given me the ideas, the stories, and the shapes with which I think ideas, shapes, and stories in feminist theory and science studies. There is no way I can name all of my debts to SF’s critters and worlds, human and not, and so I will record only a few and hope for a credit extension for years yet to come. I will enter these debts in a short ledger of my teaching and publishing. I start with Marge Piercy’s Woman on the Edge of Time, a typescript of my curriculum vitae that was part of a file for consideration for promotion in the History of Science Department at Johns Hopkins in 1979-80, and a bottle of chalky white out. I had written an essay review of Woman on the Edge of Time for the activist publication, Women, a Journal of Liberation and duly recorded this little publication on the CV. “The past is the contested zone”—the past that is our thick, not-yet-fixed, present, wherewhen what is yet-to-come is now at stake—is the meme that drew me into Piercy’s story, and I was proud of the review. A senior colleague in History of Science, a supporter of my promotion, came to me with a too-friendly smile and that betraying bottle of white-out, asking me to blot out this publication from the scholarly record, “for my own good.”[3] He also wanted me to expunge “Signs of Dominance,” a long, research-dense essay about the semiotics and sociograms developed in mid-20th-century primate field studies of monkeys and apes.[4] To my shame to this day, I obeyed; to my relief to this day, no one was fooled. Piercy’s temporalities and my growing sense of the SF-structure of primate field work made me write two essays for the brave, new, hyper-footnoted, University of Chicago feminist theory publication, Signs, and to title the essays in recognition of Piercy’s priority and patterned relay to me.[5] I could not forget—or disavow—Piercy’s research for Woman on the Edge of Time, which led her to psychiatrist José Delgado’s Rockland State Hospital experiments with remote-controlled telemetric implants, and my finding in my own archival research Delgado’s National Institutes of Mental Health-funded work applied to gibbon studies in the ape colony on Hall’s Island. The colonial and imperial roots & routes of SF are relentlessly real and inescapably fabulated. Later, living (non-optionally, in really real SF histories) with and as cyborgs, Piercy and I played cat’s cradle again, this time with my “Cyborg Manifesto” and then her He, She, and It. Cyborgs were never just about the interdigitations of humans and information machines; cyborgs were from the get-go the materialization of imploded (not hybridized) human beings-information machines-multispecies organisms. Cyborgs were always simultaneously relentlessly real and inescapably fabulated. Like all good SF, they redid what counts as—what is—real. The obligatory multispecies story-telling script was written in 1960 United States space research, when Manfred Clynes and Nathan Kline coined the word “cyborg” in an article about their implanted rats and the advantages of self-regulating human-machine systems in outer space."
speculativefiction  scifi  sciencefiction  donnaharaway  toread  speculativefabrication  isabellestrengers  alfrednorthwhitehead  knowledge  ideas  philosophy  anarchism  marilynstrathern  octaviabutler  manfredclynes  nathankline  cyborgs  joannaruss  samueldelany  evahayward  katieking  gregorybateson  historyofconsciousness  hiscon  herscam  jamestiptree  suzettehadenelgin  linguists  linguistics  johnvarley  fredjameson  suzymckeecharnass  ursulaleguin  worlding  cat'scradle  anthropology  ethnography  gwynethjones  heidegger  kant  multispecies  sheritepper  laurenoyaolamina  helenmerrick  margaretgrebowicz  dogs  animals  marleenbarr  marilynhacker  sarahlefanu  pamelasargent  viviansobchack  margaretatwood  vondamcintyre  ericrabkin  laurachernaik  sherrylvint  joshualebare  istvancsicsery-ronay  shulamithfirestone  judithmerril  franbartkowsky  2013 
october 2015 by robertogreco
Ursula K. Le Guin - Page - Interview Magazine
"URSULA K. LE GUIN: You want strong opinions? Anybody can write. You know, one of my daughters teaches writing at a community college. She teaches kids how to put sentences together, and then make the sentences hang together so that they can express themselves in writing as well as they do in speaking. Anybody with a normal IQ can manage that. But saying anybody can be a writer is kind of like saying anybody can compose a sonata. Oh, forget it! In any art, there is an initial gift that had to be there. I don't know how big it has to be, but it's got to be there."



"LE GUIN: Yeah. Too much. This is not Tierra del Fuego, you know. I get bored with the parochialness of the East Coast. They think that the news doesn't get out here and that people out here live in rustic ignorance of real life. It's embarrassing that people can be so ignorant as East Coast people tend to be of the West Coast-and the whole Midwest-and, of course, so contemptuous of the whole South. So sometimes I have written some rather resentful and snarky things about the urban Northeast-particularly in literature-the notion that nothing is worth writing about except the suburbs of large Eastern cities. Blech. That gets nowhere with me."
2015  ursulaleguin  choiresicha  interviews  writing  oregon  westcoast  howwewrite 
september 2015 by robertogreco
Ursula K. Le Guin on the Future of the Left
"“The Left,” a meaningful term ever since the French Revolution, took on wider significance with the rise of socialism, anarchism, and communism. The Russian revolution installed a government entirely leftist in conception; leftist and rightist movements tore Spain apart; democratic parties in Europe and North America arrayed themselves between the two poles; liberal cartoonists portrayed the opposition as a fat plutocrat with a cigar, while reactionaries in the United States demonized “commie leftists” from the 1930s through the Cold War. The left/right opposition, though often an oversimplification, for two centuries was broadly useful as a description and a reminder of dynamic balance.

In the twenty-first century we go on using the terms, but what is left of the Left? The failure of state communism, the quiet entrenchment of a degree of socialism in democratic governments, and the relentless rightward movement of politics driven by corporate capitalism have made much progressive thinking seem antiquated, or redundant, or illusory. The Left is marginalized in its thought, fragmented in its goals, unconfident of its ability to unite. In America particularly, the drift to the right has been so strong that mere liberalism is now the terrorist bogey that anarchism or socialism used to be, and reactionaries are called “moderates.”

So, in a country that has all but shut its left eye and is trying to use only its right hand, where does an ambidextrous, binocular Old Rad like Murray Bookchin fit?

I think he’ll find his readers. A lot of people are seeking consistent, constructive thinking on which to base action—a frustrating search. Theoretical approaches that seem promising turn out, like the Libertarian Party, to be Ayn Rand in drag; immediate and effective solutions to a problem turn out, like the Occupy movement, to lack structure and stamina for the long run. Young people, people this society blatantly short-changes and betrays, are looking for intelligent, realistic, long-term thinking: not another ranting ideology, but a practical working hypothesis, a methodology of how to regain control of where we’re going. Achieving that control will require a revolution as powerful, as deeply affecting society as a whole, as the force it wants to harness.

Murray Bookchin was an expert in nonviolent revolution. He thought about radical social changes, planned and unplanned, and how best to prepare for them, all his life. A new collection of his essays, “The Next Revolution: Popular Assemblies and the Promise of Direct Democracy,” released last month by Verso Books, carries his thinking on past his own life into the threatening future we face

Impatient, idealistic readers may find him uncomfortably tough-minded. He’s unwilling to leap over reality to dreams of happy endings, unsympathetic to mere transgression pretending to be political action: “A ‘politics’ of disorder or ‘creative chaos,’ or a naïve practice of ‘taking over the streets’ (usually little more than a street festival), regresses participants to the behavior of a juvenile herd.” That applies more to the Summer of Love, certainly, than to the Occupy movement, yet it is a permanently cogent warning.
All we have, we have taken from the earth; and, taking with ever-increasing speed and greed, we now return little but what is sterile or poisoned.

But Bookchin is no grim puritan. I first read him as an anarchist, probably the most eloquent and thoughtful one of his generation, and in moving away from anarchism he hasn’t lost his sense of the joy of freedom. He doesn’t want to see that joy, that freedom, come crashing down, yet again, among the ruins of its own euphoric irresponsibility.

What all political and social thinking has finally been forced to face is, of course, the irreversible degradation of the environment by unrestrained industrial capitalism: the enormous fact of which science has been trying for fifty years to convince us, while technology provided us ever greater distractions from it. Every benefit industrialism and capitalism have brought us, every wonderful advance in knowledge and health and communication and comfort, casts the same fatal shadow. All we have, we have taken from the earth; and, taking with ever-increasing speed and greed, we now return little but what is sterile or poisoned.

Yet we can’t stop the process. A capitalist economy, by definition, lives by growth; as Bookchin observes: “For capitalism to desist from its mindless expansion would be for it to commit social suicide.” We have, essentially, chosen cancer as the model of our social system.

Capitalism’s grow-or-die imperative stands radically at odds with ecology’s imperative of interdependence and limit. The two imperatives can no longer coexist with each other; nor can any society founded on the myth that they can be reconciled hope to survive. Either we will establish an ecological society or society will go under for everyone, irrespective of his or her status.

Murray Bookchin spent a lifetime opposing the rapacious ethos of grow-or-die capitalism. The nine essays in "The Next Revolution” represent the culmination of that labor: the theoretical underpinning for an egalitarian and directly democratic ecological society, with a practical approach for how to build it. He critiques the failures of past movements for social change, resurrects the promise of direct democracy and, in the last essay in the book, sketches his hope of how we might turn the environmental crisis into a moment of true choice—a chance to transcend the paralyzing hierarchies of gender, race, class, nation, a chance to find a radical cure for the radical evil of our social system.

Reading it, I was moved and grateful, as I have so often been in reading Murray Bookchin. He was a true son of the Enlightenment in his respect for clear thought and moral responsibility and in his honest, uncompromising search for a realistic hope."
ursulaleguin  democracy  murraybookchin  via:anne  climatechange  anarchism  optimism  capitalism  progress  economics  ecology  growth  directdemocracy  egalitarianism  morality  ethics  hope  left  socialism  communism  transcontextualism  transcontextualization 
june 2015 by robertogreco
Critical Design Critical Futures - Critical design and the critical social sciences: or why we need to engagem multiple, speculative critical design futures in a post-political and post-utopian era
"We, anxious citizens of the affluent global North have some rather conflicted attitudes to futuring. In the broad realm of culture, "futures" have never been more popular. In the realm of politics, it is widely believed that those who engage in utopian speculations, are "out to lunch or out to kill[1].""



"Thoughtful reflections on widening inequality, class struggle, climate crisis, human-animal-machine relations, trans-humanism, the future of sexuality, surveillance and militarism can all be found in all manner of places. Consider Ronald Moore's Battlestar Galactica, the sci-fi novels of Ursula LeGuin, the Mars trilogy of Kim Stanley Robinson, films such as District 9, Gattica, Elysium or Snowpiercer, the graphic novels of Alan Moore or Hayao Miyazaki's stunning retro-futurist animations. All these currents – and many others – have used futures as a narrative backdrop to open up debate about worlds we might wish to inhabit or avoid.

In the "real world" of contemporary politics, no such breadth of discussion can be tolerated.

"Futures" once played a very significant role in Western political discourse. Western political theory: from Plato onwards can reasonably be read as an argument about optimal forms of institutional configuring.

For much of the twentieth century, different capitalisms confronted different vision of communism, socialism, anarchism, feminism, black liberation, fascism. Rich discussions equally took place as to the possible merits of blended systems: from the mixed economy and the welfare state to "market socialism", mutualism to populism, associationalism to corporatism. Since the end of the Cold War, it would be hardly controversial to observe that the range of debate about political futures that can occur in liberal democracies has dramatically narrowed.

Of course, it would be quite wrong to believe that utopianism has gone away in the contemporary United States. Pax Americana, The Rapture, or a vision of the good life spent pursuing private utopias centered around the consumption-travel-hedonism nexus celebrated by "reality TV" is all alive and well."



"Design is important for thinking about futures simply because it is one of the few remaining spaces in the academy that is completely untroubled by its devotion to futures. Prototyping, prefiguring, speculative thinking, doing things differently, failing… and then starting all over again are all core component of design education. This is perhaps why Jan Michl observed that a kind of dream of functional perfectionism [4] has haunted all matter of design practice and design manifestos in the twentieth century."



""Utopian thought is the only way of speculating concretely about a projective connection between architecture and politics. To design utopias is to enter the laboratory of politics and space, to conduct experiments in their reciprocity. This laboratory – unlike the city itself – is a place in which variables can be selectively and freely controlled. At the point of application of the concrete, utopia ceases to exist". [8]

Moreover, if we think of the utopian imaginary as disposition, as opposed to the blueprint, we might well get a little further in our speculations. Sorkin makes a plausible case for the centrality of a utopian, ecological and political architecture of the future as a kind of materialized political ecology. His intervention can also remind us that hostility to design utopianism or any discussion of embarking on "big moves" in urban planning, public housing, alternative energy provision and the like, can itself function as a kind of "anti-politics". It can merely re-enforce the status quo, ensuring that nothing of substance is ever discussed in the political arena."



"Whilst Wright never actually uses the word design to describe what he is up to in his writings, his demand for concrete programmatic thinking resonates with John Dryzek's call for a critical political science concerned with producing and evaluating discursive institutional designs.

Further points of convergence between design and the critical social sciences open up when we recognize that design is not reducible to the activities of professional designers. As thinkers from Herbert Simon, to Colin Ward have argued, if we see design as a much more generalizable human capacity to act in the world, prefigure and then materialize, the reach and potential of future orientated forms of social design for material politics can be read in much more interesting and expansive ways.

The writings of Colin Ward and Delores Hayden can be fruitfully engaged with here for the manner in which both of these critical figures have drawn productive links between design histories of vernacular architectures and the social histories of self built housing, infrastructure and leisure facilities. Both demonstrate that there is nothing particularly new about the current interest in making, hacking or sharing. There are many "hidden histories" of working men and women embarking on forms of self-management, building co-operative enterprises and networks of mutual aid. In doing so they have turned themselves into designers of their own workplaces, communities and lives [12]. Such experiments in what we might call "worker centred design" continue to resonate. Attempts by trade unionists to define new modes of ownership with socially useful production (as represented by the Lucas plan), and the recent spate of factory takeovers in Argentina, all indicate that workers can be designers[13].

All manner of interesting potential convergences between critical design, futurism and social critique can additionally be found in the many experimental forms that contemporary urban-ecological activism has given rise to. Consider experiments in urban food growing, forms of tactical or pop-up urbanism, guerrilla gardening and open streets, attempts to experiment in solidarity economies, experiments with urban retrofitting or distributed energy systems or experiments with part finished public housing (that can be customized by their residents). All these currents have the potential to draw design activism and design-oriented social movements into direct engagement with critical theory, political economy and the critical social sciences."
damianwhite  2015  design  speculativedesign  speculativefiction  designfiction  futures  future  futurism  socialsciences  colinward  deloreshayden  herbertsimon  criticaldesign  designcriticism  kimstanleyrobinson  ursulaleguin  hayaomiyazaki  achigram  ronherron  utopia  utopianism  capitalism  communism  socialism  anarchism  feminism  sociology  politics  policy  maxweber  emiledurkheim  patrickgeddes  designfuturism  anthonydunne  fionaraby  dunne&raby  tonyfry  erikolinwright 
may 2015 by robertogreco
The Octavia Project | Indiegogo
[video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6gZnUlB0uz4 ]

"We use sci-fi to encourage Brooklyn girls to dream big and empower them to design their own futures.
“Hard times are coming when we will be wanting the voices of writers who can see alternatives to how we live now.” —Ursula K. Le Guin at the National Book Awards

Young people are already envisioning, writing, and creating alternative ways of living, but they need to be given the space, the encouragement, the platform, and the tools to make it happen. With your help, the Octavia Project will bring this opportunity to young women from Brooklyn's under-served neighborhoods. These girls have important, world-altering stories living inside them, but without the support and space to flesh them out, these narratives may languish away in the purgatory of good ideas.

We want to use girls’ passion in sci-fi, fantasy, and fan-fiction to teach them skills in science, technology, art, and writing, equipping them with skills to dream and build new futures for themselves and their communities. Our inspiration and namesake is Octavia E. Butler, who broke barriers in writing and science fiction to become an award-winning and internationally recognized author (Kindred, Lilith's Brood). We are inspired by her visions of possible futures and commitment to social justice.

Twelve girls, ages 13-18, will participate in this free summer program. In the first workshop a girl might develop her story set two thousand years in the future. In the next workshop, she works with a professional architect to engineer a physical model of her own imaginary future city. In another workshop, girls might learn to code a simple program that morphs their names into strange aliases that inspire fictional adventures. Or they’ll learn the basics of circuits and light up the pages of their work with LEDs. They might even use Twine, an interactive storytelling platform, to share their narratives with the world.

No matter the final curriculum, our girls will have access to women working in science and tech, internship and online publishing opportunities, and college-aged mentors.

The Octavia Project is the brainchild of a robotics teacher, Meghan McNamara, and a science fiction author, Chana Porter."
scifi  sciencefiction  octaviabutler  girls  stem  education  octaviaproject  dreaming  thinking  futurism  dreams  children  youth  brooklyn  nyc  lcproject  openstudioproject  learning  imagination  fantasy  fanfiction  maghanmcnamara  chanaporter  teaching  howwelearn  ursulaleguin 
may 2015 by robertogreco
Why does Hollywood like dystopian LAs and utopian SFs? - Boing Boing
"Jon sez, "When conjuring up the future, why do writers and filmmakers so often imagine Northern California as an edenic utopia, while Southern California gets turned into a dystopian hellscape? While Hollywood, counterculture, and Mike Davis have each helped to shape and propagate this idea, Kristin Miller traces its roots back to the 1949 George R. Stewart novel Earth Abides. Her essay follows the north/south divide in science fiction films and literature through the decades, and explores how it's continued to evolve. In the accompanying slideshow, Miller photographs stills from sci fi movies filmed in California, held up against their filming locations, from 1970's Forbin Project to 2011's Rise of the Planet of the Apes. It shows not just the geographic divide in SF, but also how our futures have evolved, and how movies have the ability to change how we see our surroundings in the present."
Northern California-as-utopia, on the other hand, is strongly linked to the countercultural movement of the sixties, with its guides for technologically advanced back-to-the-land living. One can read Ernest Callenbach’s influential novel Ecotopia (1975) as the possible future seeded by Whole Earth Catalog. Ecotopia is a fictional “field study” of a future Pacific Northwest society that has split from an apocalyptic United States and is governed according to ecological principles. While much technology has been abandoned, the Ecotopians have selectively retained public transit, electric cars, networked computers, and improved recycling (Callenbach was a longtime resident of Berkeley). Ecotopia‘s themes were later picked up and elaborated in the eco-feminist tales of Ursula K. Le Guin’s Always Coming Home (1985), a cultural anthropology of latter-day Napa Valley-ites who have returned to indigenous ways; Starhawk’s The Fifth Sacred Thing (1993) about a pagan, nonviolent San Francisco threatened by southern biological warfare; and Octavia Butler’s Parable books (1993, 1998) where refugees from the LA wasteland grow a new eco-religion, Earthseed, in the forests of Mendocino.
"

[See also: http://www.boomcalifornia.com/2014/02/postcards-from-the-future/ ]
hollywood  mikedavis  california  dystopia  utopia  sciencefiction  scifi  sanfrancisco  losangeles  2015  kristinmiller  ecotopia  ursulaleguin  cascasia  pacificnorthwest  wholeearthcatalog  counterculture  erneestcallenbach  starhawk  octaviabutler  earthseed  georgerstewart 
march 2015 by robertogreco
Ursula K. Le Guin on the Future of the Left | Motherboard
"When you’re given the opportunity to publish Ursula K. Le Guin, you leap at it—even if you’re ​ostensibly a fiction magazine and what lands on your desk is one of Le Guin’s political essays.

It’s all connected, anyways. The recent ​National Book Award-winner and science fiction icon has a long and storied interest in political thought; many of her earlier novels, such as The Dispossesed and The Word for the World is Forest, are effectively allegories about environmentalism, anarchism, and Taoism. At 86 years old, she’s still a radical thinker, and the essay below—an impassioned endorsement of the writer and political theorist Murray Bookchin, excerpted from the preface of ​a recent collection of his essays—is testament.

“The Left,” a meaningful term ever since the French Revolution, took on wider significance with the rise of socialism, anarchism, and communism. The Russian revolution installed a government entirely leftist in conception; leftist and rightist movements tore Spain apart; democratic parties in Europe and North America arrayed themselves between the two poles; liberal cartoonists portrayed the opposition as a fat plutocrat with a cigar, while reactionaries in the United States demonized “commie leftists” from the 1930s through the Cold War. The left/right opposition, though often an oversimplification, for two centuries was broadly useful as a description and a reminder of dynamic balance.

In the twenty-first century we go on using the terms, but what is left of the Left? The failure of state communism, the quiet entrenchment of a degree of socialism in democratic governments, and the relentless rightward movement of politics driven by corporate capitalism have made much progressive thinking seem antiquated, or redundant, or illusory. The Left is marginalized in its thought, fragmented in its goals, unconfident of its ability to unite. In America particularly, the drift to the right has been so strong that mere liberalism is now the terrorist bogey that anarchism or socialism used to be, and reactionaries are called “moderates.”

So, in a country that has all but shut its left eye and is trying to use only its right hand, where does an ambidextrous, binocular Old Rad like Murray Bookchin fit?

I think he’ll find his readers. A lot of people are seeking consistent, constructive thinking on which to base action—a frustrating search. Theoretical approaches that seem promising turn out, like the Libertarian Party, to be Ayn Rand in drag; immediate and effective solutions to a problem turn out, like the Occupy movement, to lack structure and stamina for the long run. Young people, people this society blatantly short-changes and betrays, are looking for intelligent, realistic, long-term thinking: not another ranting ideology, but a practical working hypothesis, a methodology of how to regain control of where we’re going. Achieving that control will require a revolution as powerful, as deeply affecting society as a whole, as the force it wants to harness.

Murray Bookchin was an expert in nonviolent revolution. He thought about radical social changes, planned and unplanned, and how best to prepare for them, all his life. A new collection of his essays, “The Next Revolution: Popular Assemblies and the Promise of Direct Democracy,” released last month by Verso Books, carries his thinking on past his own life into the threatening future we face.

Impatient, idealistic readers may find him uncomfortably tough-minded. He’s unwilling to leap over reality to dreams of happy endings, unsympathetic to mere transgression pretending to be political action: “A ‘politics’ of disorder or ‘creative chaos,’ or a naïve practice of ‘taking over the streets’ (usually little more than a street festival), regresses participants to the behavior of a juvenile herd.” That applies more to the Summer of Love, certainly, than to the Occupy movement, yet it is a permanently cogent warning.

But Bookchin is no grim puritan. I first read him as an anarchist, probably the most eloquent and thoughtful one of his generation, and in moving away from anarchism he hasn’t lost his sense of the joy of freedom. He doesn’t want to see that joy, that freedom, come crashing down, yet again, among the ruins of its own euphoric irresponsibility.

What all political and social thinking has finally been forced to face is, of course, the irreversible degradation of the environment by unrestrained industrial capitalism: the enormous fact of which science has been trying for fifty years to convince us, while technology provided us ever greater distractions from it. Every benefit industrialism and capitalism have brought us, every wonderful advance in knowledge and health and communication and comfort, casts the same fatal shadow. All we have, we have taken from the earth; and, taking with ever-increasing speed and greed, we now return little but what is sterile or poisoned.

Yet we can’t stop the process. A capitalist economy, by definition, lives by growth; as Bookchin observes: “For capitalism to desist from its mindless expansion would be for it to commit social suicide.” We have, essentially, chosen cancer as the model of our social system.

Capitalism’s grow-or-die imperative stands radically at odds with ecology’s imperative of interdependence and limit. The two imperatives can no longer coexist with each other; nor can any society founded on the myth that they can be reconciled hope to survive. Either we will establish an ecological society or society will go under for everyone, irrespective of his or her status.

Murray Bookchin spent a lifetime opposing the rapacious ethos of grow-or-die capitalism. The nine essays in "The Next Revolution” represent the culmination of that labor: the theoretical underpinning for an egalitarian and directly democratic ecological society, with a practical approach for how to build it. He critiques the failures of past movements for social change, resurrects the promise of direct democracy and, in the last essay in the book, sketches his hope of how we might turn the environmental crisis into a moment of true choice—a chance to transcend the paralyzing hierarchies of gender, race, class, nation, a chance to find a radical cure for the radical evil of our social system.

Reading it, I was moved and grateful, as I have so often been in reading Murray Bookchin. He was a true son of the Enlightenment in his respect for clear thought and moral responsibility and in his honest, uncompromising search for a realistic hope."
ursulaleguin  via:audreywatters  2015  murraybookchin  capitalism  environment  climatechange  growth  anarchy  anarchism  change  society  realism  inequality  hierarchy  horizontality  socialchange  revolution  directdemocracy  popularassemblies  canon  labor  work  egalitarianism  left  liberalism  socialism 
february 2015 by robertogreco
Ursula K. Le Guin, Keynote 5/8/14 on Vimeo
[Starting at 7:00]

“My little talk is called “Deep in Admiration.” This conference is going to be thinking about how to think outside the mindset that sees the techno fix as the answer to all problems. Just this week, I heard a poet say that the essence of modern high technology is to consider the world as disposable: use it and throw it away. Well, we know that we don't need more infantile new technologies that demand throwing away all the old ones every Tuesday. We need adult rational technologies, old and new: pottery making, bricklaying, sewing, carpentry, solar power, sustainable farming. But after our long orgy of being lords of creation and texting as we drive, it's hard to stop looking for the next technofix. We have got to change our minds. To use the world well, we need to relearn our being in it, renew our awareness of belonging to the world. How do we go about it? That awareness seems always to have involved knowing our kinship as animals with animals. Darwin gave that knowledge a scientific basis and now both poets and scientists are extending our awareness of our relationship to creatures without nervous systems and to non-living beings, our fellowship as things with other things. Relationship among all things seems to be complex and reciprocal. It's always at least two way, back-and-forth. It seems as if nothing is single in this universe and nothing goes one way. In this view, humans appear as particularly lively, intense, aware nodes of relation in an infinite network of connections, simple or complicated, direct or hidden, strong or delicate, temporary or very long lasting, a web of connections infinite, but locally fragile, with and among everything, all beings, including what we generally class as things, objects.

Decartes and the behaviorists willfully saw dogs as machines without feeling. Is seeing plants without feeling a similar arrogance? We don't know. But one way to stop seeing trees or rivers or hills only as natural resources is to class them as fellow beings, kinfolk. I guess what I'm trying to do is subjectify the universe because look where objectifying it has got us. To subjectify is not to co-opt and colonize and exploit. Rather, if it's done honestly, it involves a great reach outward of the mind and the imagination. What tools do we have to help us make such a reach? Mary Jacobus, in a book called Romantic Things, wrote, “The regulated speech of poetry may be as close as we can get to such things, to the stilled voice of the inanimate object or the insentient standing of trees.” Poetry is the human language that can try to say what a tree or a rock or a river is, that is to speak humanly for it in both senses of the word for. A poem can do so by relating the quality of an individual relationship to a thing, a rock, a river, a tree, the relationship to or simply by describing the thing as truthfully as possible. Science describes accurately from outside and poetry describes accurately from inside, you could say. Science explicates, poetry implicates. Both celebrate what they describe. We need the language of both science and poetry to save us from ignorant irresponsibility.”

[via: https://twitter.com/steelemaley/status/560283083430445057
"“To use the world well we need to relearn our being in it” -Le Guin http://vimeo.com/97364872 "]

[See also: “ARTS OF LIVING ON A DAMAGED PLANET”
http://anthropocene.au.dk/arts-of-living-on-a-damaged-planet/
https://vimeo.com/artsofliving

“Ursula K. Le Guin: Panel Discussion with Donna Haraway and James Clifford, 5/8/14”
https://vimeo.com/98270808

“Donna Haraway, "Anthropocene, Capitalocene, Chthulucene: Staying with the Trouble", 5/9/14”
https://vimeo.com/97663518

“Inhabiting Multispecies Bodies: Panel Discussion with Donna Haraway, Margaret McFall-Ngai, and Jenny Reardon, 5/9/14”
https://vimeo.com/97663316

“On Damaged Landscapes: Panel Discussion with Kate Brown, Deborah Bird Rose, Eric Porter and William Cronon, 5/9/14”
https://vimeo.com/97852132

“Jens-Christian Svenning, "Future Megafaunas: A Historical Perspective on the Scope for a Wilder Anthropocene," 5/9/14”
https://vimeo.com/98751434 ]
ursulaleguin  plants  animals  art  2014  technosolutionism  via:steelemaley  things  objects  interconnectedness  interdependence  networks  systemsthinking  technology  jens-christiansvenning  donnaharaway  anthropocene  margaretmcfall-ngai  jennyreardon  katebrown  deborabirdrose  ericporter  williamcronon  jamesclifford  multispecies  objectification  subjectification  fellowahip  kinship  poetry  science  religion  morality  compassion  henryvaughn  maryjacobus  nature  humans  humanism  responsibility  environment  universe  interconnected  interconnectivity 
january 2015 by robertogreco
Interview: Sofia Samatar « Post45
"SS: The relationship between fantasy fiction, and the whole African literature thing... So, I get questions a lot, where people ask me why I write this, and I try to answer them as best I can.

Is that an antagonistic question? As in, "why do you write fantasy rather when you should be writing real literature?"

I think it's a little bit antagonistic, but I also think it's genuine. I don't think people are asking it to be confrontational. They honestly want to know. But genre fiction—you know, science fiction, fantasy, Western, romance—all of them are set apart from literary fiction, in the way that our literature is divided. And since literary fiction is generally felt to be realist—which is totally not the case, but it is what people think—the question becomes, well, here is this dominant literature, here is The Novel, we have this idea of the novel as a realist form... That's where the question "why" comes from, the idea that writing fantasy is not a normal thing to do.

One way I address this is to turn things around, and look at how much older fantasy is than realism, how much more widespread in the world. How deeply a part of oral tradition fantasy is—and say, you know, explain to me, "Why write realist fiction?" Because fantasy is not the fringe, really, if you take narrative as a whole. It is the center.

So, there's that answer. But that doesn't work, right? Because we are still looking at things the way they are now, the way literature is divided. So then I go to my other answers. One of them is that I don't know. I wrote my PhD dissertation on the Sudanese writer Tayeb Salih: I wrote it on the uses of the fantastic and the uncanny in his work, plus a comparative piece where I was looking at Ibrahim al-Koni of Libya, Ben Okri of Nigeria, and Bessie Head from South Africa/Botswana. I was looking at how all of these writers are using the fantastic and the uncanny in their work. I did this, in part, to try to figure out why I am drawn to this literature. And I failed! I failed, Aaron. I still don't have a satisfactory answer for my attraction to this kind of literature."

[Compare to https://pinboard.in/u:robertogreco/b:0a82a9f1b371 which references Stephen King saying something similar (https://web.archive.org/web/20151003010112/https://ayjay.tumblr.com/post/101627096303/michiko-kakutani-who-writes-reviews-for-the-new )
and Ursuala Le Guin doing the same (http://www.rc.umd.edu/sites/default/files/imported/reference/wcircle/leguin.pdf [.pdf] via http://designculturelab.org/2014/10/23/three-uncertain-thoughts-or-everything-i-know-i-learned-from-ursula-le-guin/ )

Update (4 March 2015): here's another Ursula Le Guin to add to the mix, this one referring to some Kazuo Ishiguro in the NYTimes:
95. “Are they going to say this is fantasy?”
http://www.ursulakleguin.com/Blog2015.html#New and http://bookviewcafe.com/blog/2015/03/02/are-they-going-to-say-this-is-fantasy/

Update (10 July 2017): a thread: https://twitter.com/zunguzungu/status/884431966900113408

"What would you say if I told you that there was a thing called Science Fiction that exists [screenshots]

It's unfair to Ghosh--he's a better reader than the "why no climate fiction?" hottakes citing him--but it's become an annoying cliche.

If what you mean by "contemporary fiction" doesn't include Speculative Fiction, then contemporary fiction will not speculate about futures.

You could go a step farther: the "contemporary" in that sense of contemporary fiction is composed by literally removing the speculative.

The link to that "On the Media" episode on fiction and climate change, btw: https://www.wnyc.org/story/on-the-media-2017-07-07/

This is well put. If contemporary fiction doesn't address it, it's a structural erasure of writers that do, not a lack of them. [screenshot of https://twitter.com/nathangoldman/status/884420124752719872
trope of asking "why aren't writers writing about X?" is weird imo. seems meant as way of asking why don't people care about X...

..by asking why don't writers care. but almost always some writers do care and are writing about it. more interesting question is...

...what forces make that writing invisible and what that might have to do with what broader cultures care about.
]

Related: a short thread I wrote on Kanishk Tharoor's collection as Fiction in the Age of Climate Apocalypse: https://twitter.com/zunguzungu/status/841638743123550208

The first paragraph of that Ghosh essay
https://www.theguardian.com/books/2016/oct/28/amitav-ghosh-where-is-the-fiction-about-climate-change-

"the irony of the “realist” novel: the very gestures with which it conjures up reality are actually a concealment of the real.""]
sofiasamatar  2014  interviews  aaronbady  fantasy  sciencefiction  genrefiction  literature  fiction  writing  africa  ursulaleguin  kazuoishiguro 
december 2014 by robertogreco
The Oyster Review: Ursula K. Le Guin: Everything you ever needed to know about the work of Ursula K. Le Guin and where to start.
"Ursula K. Le Guin is a very famous writer, and she's old enough now that she's entering into legendary. That's the fun part of aging. But she isn't really treated like those famous writers like, say, Philip Roth or Jonathan Franzen. That's in part because she only lived on the East Coast of the United States for a little while—while she was very young and going to college at Radcliffe and then at Columbia. But after that she went to France, where she met her husband, and they came back, and hopped around a bit. But fifty-some years ago, they settled in Oregon and never left. She also considers herself, a lot of the time, a poet, actually. If you get intrigued about her, she has a very fun occasional blog, and she writes about her cats quite a bit. And politics. And ideas. And being a writer.

She also doesn't get treated like many of the fancy writers because she's written a diverse body of work for different kinds of readers. You literally would never know what she was going to publish next, which is pretty cool, when you think about how predictable some writers can be. Also, she wrote a number of books for young adults. Now that's all the rage, and these days it's often difficult to tell what books are for young people and what books are for the rest of us. But things were different in The Olden Times and people were much stuffier.

So where should you start? Let us move from near to far, from comfortable to alien and strange."



"The Dispossessed is a much-loved book, for good reason, but it has a very sneaky trick, one that is hard on minds like mine, which is that two stories run simultaneously, divided into alternating chapters, and they are not happening at the same time. It's a beautiful effect actually but it requires some care in the reading.

The other big truly famous book is The Left Hand of Darkness, which is basically the book that they should give all 16-year-olds when they give out driver's licenses. It's a book that blew the whole world's mind. Usually when people say "Where do I start?" everyone says start here. There are very few better books in the whole world."
2014  ursulaleguin  choiresicha  sciencefiction  srg 
november 2014 by robertogreco
Ursula K Le Guin's speech at National Book Awards: 'Books aren't just commodities' | Books | The Guardian
[video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Et9Nf-rsALk ]

"To the givers of this beautiful reward, my thanks, from the heart. My family, my agents, my editors, know that my being here is their doing as well as my own, and that the beautiful reward is theirs as much as mine. And I rejoice in accepting it for, and sharing it with, all the writers who’ve been excluded from literature for so long – my fellow authors of fantasy and science fiction, writers of the imagination, who for 50 years have watched the beautiful rewards go to the so-called realists.

Hard times are coming, when we’ll be wanting the voices of writers who can see alternatives to how we live now, can see through our fear-stricken society and its obsessive technologies to other ways of being, and even imagine real grounds for hope. We’ll need writers who can remember freedom – poets, visionaries – realists of a larger reality.

Right now, we need writers who know the difference between production of a market commodity and the practice of an art. Developing written material to suit sales strategies in order to maximise corporate profit and advertising revenue is not the same thing as responsible book publishing or authorship.

Yet I see sales departments given control over editorial. I see my own publishers, in a silly panic of ignorance and greed, charging public libraries for an e-book six or seven times more than they charge customers. We just saw a profiteer try to punish a publisher for disobedience, and writers threatened by corporate fatwa. And I see a lot of us, the producers, who write the books and make the books, accepting this – letting commodity profiteers sell us like deodorant, and tell us what to publish, what to write.

Books aren’t just commodities; the profit motive is often in conflict with the aims of art. We live in capitalism, its power seems inescapable – but then, so did the divine right of kings. Any human power can be resisted and changed by human beings. Resistance and change often begin in art. Very often in our art, the art of words.

I’ve had a long career as a writer, and a good one, in good company. Here at the end of it, I don’t want to watch American literature get sold down the river. We who live by writing and publishing want and should demand our fair share of the proceeds; but the name of our beautiful reward isn’t profit. Its name is freedom."
ursulaleguin  2014  invention  sciencefiction  fiction  speculativefiction  future  creativity  whywewrite  writing  imagination  capitalism  economics  publishing  genre  visionaries  freedom  alternatives  books  fear  diversity  hope  optimism  paradigmshifts  transcontextextualism 
november 2014 by robertogreco
more than 95 theses - Michiko Kakutani, who writes reviews for The New...
""Michiko Kakutani, who writes reviews for The New York Times, is the same way. She’ll review a book like David Mitchell’s The Bone Clocks, which is one of the best novels of the year. It’s as good as Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch, has the same kind of deep literary resonance. But because it has elements of fantasy and science fiction, Kakutani doesn’t want to understand it. In that sense, Bloom and Kakutani and a number of gray eminences in literary criticism are like children who say, ‘I can’t possibly eat this meal because the different kinds of food are touching on the plate!’"

— Stephen King: The Rolling Stone Interview [http://www.rollingstone.com/culture/features/stephen-king-the-rolling-stone-interview-20141031?page=6 ]. Exactly. Exactly."

[Compare to Ursula Leguin on “The Critics, the Monsters, and the Fantasists” [.pdf]: http://www.rc.umd.edu/sites/default/files/imported/reference/wcircle/leguin.pdf

"The modernists are largely to blame. Edmund Wilson and his generation left a tradition of criticism that is, in its way, quite a little monster. In this school for anti-wizards, no fiction is to be taken seriously except various forms of realism, which are labeled “serious.” The rest of narrative fiction is labeled “genre” and is dismissed unread.

Following this rule, the universities have taught generations of students to shun all “genres,” including fantasy (unless it was written before 1900, wasn’t written in English, and/ or can be labeled magical realism). Students of literature are also taught to flee most children’s books, or books that appeal to both children and adults, as if they were ripe buboes. Academic professionalism is at stake — possibly tenure. To touch genre is to be defiled. Reviewers in the popular journals, most of whom come out of the universities, obey the rule. If the reality of what people read forces a periodical to review mysteries or science fiction, they do it in separate columns, coyly titled, at the back of the journal — in purdah.

To declare one genre, realism, to be above genre, and all the rest of fiction not literature because it isn’t realism, is rather as if judges at the State Fair should give blue ribbons only to pigs, declaring horses, cattle, and poultry not animals because they’re not pigs. Foolishness breeds ignorance, and ignorance loves to be told it doesn’t have to learn something. But nobody can rightly judge a novel without some knowledge of the standards, expectations, devices, tropes, and his- tory of its genre (or genres, for increasingly they mix and interbreed). The knowledge and craft a writer brings to writing fantasy, the expectations and skills a reader brings to reading it, differ significantly from those they bring to realis- tic fiction. Or to science fiction, or the thriller, or the mys- tery, or the western, or the romance, or the picture book, or the chapter-book for kids, or the novel for young adults.

There are of course broad standards of competence in narrative; it would be interesting to identify those that span all genres, to help us see what it is that Jane Austen and Patrick O’Brian have in common (arguably a great deal). But distinction is essential to criticism, and the critic should know when a standard is inappropriate to a genre.

It might be an entertaining and mind-broadening exercise in fiction courses to make students discover inappropriateness by practicing it. For example: judge The Lord of the Rings as if it were a late-20th century realistic novel. (Deficient in self-evident relevance, in sexual and erotic components, in individual psychological complexity, in explicit social references. Exercise too easy, has been done a thou- sand times.) Judge Moby Dick as science fiction. (Strong on technological information and on motivation, and when the story moves, it moves; but crippled by the author’s foot-drag- ging and endless self-indulgence in pompous abstractions, fancy language, and rant.) Judge Pride and Prejudice as a Western. (A pretty poor show all round. The women talk. Darcy is a good man and could be a first-rate rancher, even if he does use those fool little pancake saddles, but with a first name like Fitzwilliam, he’ll never make it in Wyoming.)

And to reverse the whole misbegotten procedure: judged by the standards of fantasy, modernist realist fiction, with its narrow focus on daily details of contemporary human affairs, is suffocating and unimaginative, almost unavoidably trivial, and ominously anthropocentric.

The mandarins of modernism, and some of the pundits of postmodernism, were shocked to be told that a fantasy trilogy by a professor of philology is the best-loved English novel of the twentieth century. People are supposed to love realism, not fantasy. But why should they? Until the eighteenth century in Europe, imaginative fiction was fiction. Realism in fiction is a recent literary invention, not much older than the steam engine and probably related to it. Whence the improbable claim that it is the only form of fiction deserving the name of “literature”?

The particular way distinctions are made between factual and fictional narrative is also quite recent, and though useful, inevitably unreliable. As soon as you tell a story, it turns into fiction (or, as Borges put it, all narrative is fiction). It appears that in trying to resist this ineluctable process, or deny it, we of the Scientific West have come to place inordinate value on fiction that pretends to be, or looks awfully like, fact. But in doing so, we’ve forgotten how to read the fiction that fully exploits fictionality.

I’m not saying people don’t read fantasy; a whole lot of us people do; but scholars and critics for the most part don’t read it and don’t know how to read it. I feel shame for them. Sometimes I feel rage. I want to say to the literature teacher who remains willfully, even boastfully ignorant of a major ele- ment of contemporary fiction: “you are incompetent to teach or judge your subject. Readers and students who do know the field, meanwhile, have every right to challenge your igno- rant prejudice. — Rise, undergraduates of the English Departments! You have nothing to lose but your grade on the midterm!”

And to the reviewers, I want to say, “O critic, if you should come upon a fantasy, and it should awaken an atrophied sense of wonder in you, calling with siren voice to your dear little Inner Child, and you should desire to praise its incomparable originality, it would be well to have read in the literature of fantasy, so that you can make some compari- sons, and bring some critical intelligence to bear. Otherwise you’re going to look like a Patent Office employee rushing out into the streets of Washington crying, ‘A discovery, amazing, unheard of! A miraculous invention, which is a circular disc, pierced with an axle, upon which vehicles may roll with incredible ease across the earth!’”"

via: http://designculturelab.org/2014/10/23/three-uncertain-thoughts-or-everything-i-know-i-learned-from-ursula-le-guin/ ]

[Also compare to Sofia Samatar:
http://post45.research.yale.edu/2014/12/interview-sofia-samatar/

"SS: The relationship between fantasy fiction, and the whole African literature thing... So, I get questions a lot, where people ask me why I write this, and I try to answer them as best I can.

Is that an antagonistic question? As in, "why do you write fantasy rather when you should be writing real literature?"

I think it's a little bit antagonistic, but I also think it's genuine. I don't think people are asking it to be confrontational. They honestly want to know. But genre fiction—you know, science fiction, fantasy, Western, romance—all of them are set apart from literary fiction, in the way that our literature is divided. And since literary fiction is generally felt to be realist—which is totally not the case, but it is what people think—the question becomes, well, here is this dominant literature, here is The Novel, we have this idea of the novel as a realist form... That's where the question "why" comes from, the idea that writing fantasy is not a normal thing to do.

One way I address this is to turn things around, and look at how much older fantasy is than realism, how much more widespread in the world. How deeply a part of oral tradition fantasy is—and say, you know, explain to me, "Why write realist fiction?" Because fantasy is not the fringe, really, if you take narrative as a whole. It is the center.

So, there's that answer. But that doesn't work, right? Because we are still looking at things the way they are now, the way literature is divided. So then I go to my other answers. One of them is that I don't know. I wrote my PhD dissertation on the Sudanese writer Tayeb Salih: I wrote it on the uses of the fantastic and the uncanny in his work, plus a comparative piece where I was looking at Ibrahim al-Koni of Libya, Ben Okri of Nigeria, and Bessie Head from South Africa/Botswana. I was looking at how all of these writers are using the fantastic and the uncanny in their work. I did this, in part, to try to figure out why I am drawn to this literature. And I failed! I failed, Aaron. I still don't have a satisfactory answer for my attraction to this kind of literature."
genre  criticism  literature  fantasy  sciencefiction  2014  stephenking  michikokakutani  nytimes  genres  ursulaleguin  narrative  modernism  magicrealism  edmundwilson  postmodernism  realism  sofiasamatar 
november 2014 by robertogreco
Three Uncertain Thoughts, Or, Everything I Know I Learned from Ursula Le Guin | Design Culture Lab
"One.

In her 1969 novel The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula K Le Guin writes, “The unknown, [...] the unforetold, the unproven, that is what life is based on. Ignorance is the ground of thought. Unproof is the ground of action . . . [T]he only thing that makes life possible is permanent, intolerable uncertainty; not knowing what comes next.”

If the only certainty is death, then to deny uncertainty is to deny life.

My work (creative? social science?) is vital not in the sense of being necessary or essential, but energetic, lively, uncertain. In a short 2006 piece in Theory, Culture & Society, Scott Lash argues that the classical concept of vitalism has re-emerged in the face of global complexity and uncertainty, manifesting itself in cultural theory that acknowledges that “the notion of life has always favoured an idea of becoming over one of being, of movement over stasis, of action over structure, of flow and flux.”

In my research I take seriously the idea that what I am seeing, doing and making is emergent; I cannot know how — when, where, for whom or why — it will all end. I can only live with, and through, it. This means I do not want to convince others that I am right. (Have you ever noticed that Le Guin’s stories unfailingly explore ethics and morality without dealing in absolutes?)

I only — as if this were a small thing! — invite you to accompany me for a while, and see what we can become together. This is just — as if this too were a small thing! — one way of knowing the world.

Two.

In a 2014 interview for Smithsonian Magazine, Le Guin explains that the future is where “anything at all can be said to happen without fear of contradiction from a native. [It] is a safe, sterile laboratory for trying out ideas in, a means of thinking about reality, a method.”

My work makes things, and explicitly makes things up, in some near or far future. I practice different worlds.

Fictions and futures give me (you? us?) space to move, and be moved. This is the space of utopia, but not an idealist utopia set against a pessimist dystopia. Fictions and futures are literally no-places: real but not actual, and always vital. I feel as though I thrive in these spaces, both grounded and reaching toward the sky, open to the elements, potential.

But here’s something I’ve learned: I can’t make up anything and expect it to work. The stories need to resonate. And that means they need to be internally coherent and consistent, plausible. So I locate others and myself empirically, ethnographically. I look to the hopes and promises that bind us together, to the threats that rip us apart, and I look to the expectations that constrain and orient us along particular, but not certain, paths.

And then I imagine it (me, you, us) otherwise.

Three.

In her 2007 essay “The Critics, the Monsters, and the Fantasists,” Le Guin clarifies “although the green country of fantasy seems to be entirely the invention of human imaginations, it verges on and partakes of actual realms in which humanity is not lord and master, is not central, is not even important.”

My imagination has sought out this vital, “green country of fantasy” by focussing on possible futures for multispecies, more-than-human, agents. But I’ve yet to be successful in my quest to avoid anthropocentrism. (My dragons remain stubbornly human!)

Still: I follow Donna Haraway’s argument, in 2007’s When Species Meet, that “animals enrich our ignorance.” When I look at people and technology and design and everyday life with — and through — animals I am never more uncertain about what they all mean. To take animals (and other nonhumans) seriously forces me to let go of many preconceptions, even when I fail to imagine a plausible alternative.

But perhaps that uncertainty is only appropriate, too."
annegalloway  2014  ursulaleguin  unknown  uncertainty  unproven  certainty  death  life  scottlash  vitalism  complexity  culture  theory  morality  ethics  absolutism  knowing  unknowing  future  futures  fiction  worldbuilding  process  method  making  speculativefiction  designfiction  ethnography  imagination  utopia  dystopia  potential  fantasy  invention  design  anthropocentrism  multispecies  donnaharaway  ignorance  technology  preconceptions  posthumanism 
october 2014 by robertogreco
Girl Bilbo and updating classic books – Michelle Nijhuis – Aeon
"most six years ago, when I became a parent, one of my very few certainties was that I would read to my daughter. I had been an only child, and now I was raising one. I wanted my daughter to learn, as I had, that stories were sources of adventure, inspiration and constant, loyal companionship.

So I read to my daughter the way I had been read to, eclectically but faithfully. As she got older, we talked about the exploits of Frog and Toad, and Junie B Jones, and the Pevensies almost as often as we talked about her friends from school. As soon as she could write the letters of her name, she got her own library card and started to add her selections to the pile. And last year, when we started to read J R R Tolkien’s novel The Hobbit (1937) together, she listened patiently to the first two chapters. Then she told me, matter-of-factly, that Bilbo Baggins was a girl.

Well, I said. That would be nice. But Bilbo is definitely a boy.

No, she said. Bilbo is a girl.

I hesitated. I wanted to share the story I knew, and I had always known Bilbo as a boy. But it seemed that my daughter knew otherwise. I soon agreed to swap ‘she’ with ‘he’ and ‘her’ with ‘his’, and my daughter and I met Girl Bilbo – who turned out to be a delightful heroine. She was humble and resourceful and witty and brave. She was no tacked-on Strong Female Character with little to do, but a true heroine with her very own quest and skills. For my daughter, Girl Bilbo was thrilling. For me, she was damn refreshing.

When I wrote about this experiment in literary gender-swapping for the Last Word On Nothing website last year, the public response to Girl Bilbo was startling. My daughter had ‘brought the internet’s Tolkien fanboys to their Mithril-padded knees’, in the words of one commenter. Girl Bilbo and her implications, I knew through comments and emails, were discussed at length in science-fiction circles, parenting groups, Head Start classes, and among Swedish devotees of role-playing games.

While many of these readers were enthusiastic about my daughter’s idea, a sizable minority thought I was indulging heresy. Leave the classics alone, they said. If you want stories with more female characters, some suggested, write them yourself. But my daughter didn't create Girl Bilbo, and neither did I. She has deep roots, and she isn't going away anytime soon.

I remember the moment I learned that books were imperfect. I was a teenager – 14 or 15, maybe – and I was in my school library, searching for books for a research paper. My English teacher appeared at my elbow with a hardcover in hand. ‘It’s not a very good book,’ he said, pushing it toward me, ‘but it’ll have some useful information.’

I stared at him. A book could be... something other than good? I’d been transported by books since childhood, and it had never occurred to me that they could have flaws. I knew I liked some stories more than others, but that was just personal taste. I had only a vague idea of how books were written and published, and I assumed that whoever or whatever oversaw that process was as wise as Gandalf. The words that lay between the covers of books were, as far as I was concerned, perfect.

Decades later, I’m still full of respect for the hard work that goes into writing any kind of book, fiction or non-fiction. As a writer myself, I recognise the importance of books as neat, marketable packages by which writers can learn a living.

I also know that books are fallible. I know the publishing industry is made up of people who love good books yet profit from bad ones. And, like most writers, I know that even the best books – the books that stay with us for a lifetime, the books that are read and re-read by people of different ages and different generations – are not sovereign objects, no matter how hefty their covers. ‘All novels are sequels; influence is bliss,’ wrote Michael Chabon in his essay collection Maps and Legends (2008). Every writer, no matter how fresh his or her vision, draws inspiration and ideas from the work of those who came before.

Likewise, every story – fiction or non-fiction – leaves room for the next writer, the next era, the next leap of imagination or understanding. ‘When we tell a story, we exercise control, but in such a way to leave a gap, an opening,’ wrote the English novelist Jeanette Winterson in her memoir Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? (2011). ‘It is a version, but never the final one. And perhaps we hope that the silences will be heard by someone else, and the story can continue, can be retold.’"



"For me, the most fascinating part of literary genderswapping is its illumination of my own assumptions. Not long ago, my daughter and I read an Ursula K Le Guin novel with a young male hero. When we switched the pronouns, I found myself pleasantly but repeatedly surprised by our heroine’s independence. She journeyed alone, building her own boats, casting her own spells, and passing tests of strength and wits as she confronted dragons and shadows.

Of course she can do that, I thought. Of course she should be able to. But I was raised on Boy Bilbo, and on a million other stories where boys – usually white, usually English-speaking, usually straight – assume the lead. If I wrote a girl-centric adventure story for my daughter, I might reflexively throw in a male companion, or put our heroine on an easier path. By switching pronouns, though, my daughter and I met a heroine who pushed the boundaries of both our imaginations and took us on a truly unexpected journey."
childhood  culture  gender  2014  michellenijhuis  literature  fiction  nonfiction  thehobbit  bilbobaggins  perspective  jrrtolkein  writing  reading  howweread  identity  ursulaleguin 
july 2014 by robertogreco
Donna Haraway, "Anthropocene, Capitalocene, Chthulucene: Staying with the Trouble", 5/9/14 on Vimeo
[transcript: http://opentranscripts.org/transcript/anthropocene-capitalocene-chthulucene/ ]

"Anthropocene, Capitalocene, Chthulucene: Staying with the Trouble

Sympoiesis, not autopoiesis, threads the string figure game played by Terran critters. Always many-stranded, SF is spun from science fact, speculative fabulation, science fiction, and, in French, soin de ficelles (care of/for the threads). The sciences of the mid-20th-century “new evolutionary synthesis” shaped approaches to human-induced mass extinctions and reworldings later named the Anthropocene. Rooted in units and relations, especially competitive relations, these sciences have a hard time with three key biological domains: embryology and development, symbiosis and collaborative entanglements, and the vast worlds of microbes. Approaches tuned to “multi-species becoming with” better sustain us in staying with the trouble on Terra. An emerging “new new synthesis” in trans-disciplinary biologies and arts proposes string figures tying together human and nonhuman ecologies, evolution, development, history, technology, and more. Corals, microbes, robotic and fleshly geese, artists, and scientists are the dramatis personae in this talk’s SF game."
donnaharaway  2014  anthropocene  capitalocene  chthulucene  lichen  ursulaleguin  sciencefiction  multispecies  symbiosis  life  biology  collaboration  reworlding  speculativefiction  soindeficelles  sympoiesis  autopoiesis  synthesus  transdisciplinary  art  arts  glvo  ecologies  ecology  evolution  development  history  technology  humans  coral  corals  microbes  robots  animals  scottgilbert 
july 2014 by robertogreco
The True Literature of California is Science Fiction
[Also posted here: http://www.boomcalifornia.com/2014/01/kim-stanley-robinson/ ]

"Kim Stanley Robinson is the author of many works of science fiction, including The Three Californias, a trilogy of novels about southern California; the Mars Trilogy; 2312, a novel about climate change; and his most recent novel, Shaman.

Robinson is one of California's best-known and well-loved, living science fiction writers. A prolific writer, author of two trilogies and several other novels, he is one of the few science fiction novelists who still dares envision utopia—not the static and socially constrained utopias of Thomas More or Edward Bellamy, but dynamic, complex, multicultural societies that always have to struggle for and reflect on their own futures.

Robinson earned a Ph.D. from UC San Diego, where he worked with the legendary postmodern literary scholar Fredric Jameson and wrote his dissertation on science fiction writer Philip K. Dick. He cares deeply about California and is actively involved with the Sierra Nevada Research Institute at UC Merced and the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination at UC San Diego.

Robinson is also a generous conversationalist. When not holed up at home in Davis, California, working on his next book, he can often be found out in the world these days talking about climate change and political change, and thinking out loud with scientists, activists, writers, and readers about the future.

We spent a leisurely afternoon conversing with him at his garden writing table in Davis. This interview was originally published on Boom: A Journal of California and was conducted by Boom's editors."



"So, Pacific Edge was my attempt, a first attempt, and I think it's still a nice vision of what Southern California could be. That coastal plain is so nice. From Santa Barbara to San Diego is the most gorgeous Mediterranean environment. And we've completely screwed it. To me now, it's kind of a nightmare. When I go down there it creeps me out. I hope to spend more of my life in San Diego, which is one of my favorite places. But I'll probably stick to west of the coast highway and stay on the beach as much as I can. I'll deal, but we can do so much better."



"Do you love where you were when you were growing up? Well, yes—especially if you had good parents, a happy childhood, a beach. But I've found you can actually outlive nostalgia itself. I didn't know you could do that, but I have."



"I like thinking California is one place. It's big. It's various. It's an entire country. It's an entire planet."



"California is a terraformed space."



"California could maybe handle sea level rise better than a lot of other places. Its coastline is not a drowned coastline like the East Coast, so although the Delta would be in big trouble, most of the California coastline is steep enough to take a lot of the projected sea level rise—although the beaches will be in trouble. Right here we're about fifty feet above sea level. So the maximum sea level rise projected for the next couple centuries would remain a ways over there to the south."



"I've run into young environmental philosophers who say, "Be realistic, Stan. We're headed for a five-degree rise in temperature; we have to adapt." But this I think is a pseudo-realism. Think about mass extinction: how do you adapt to that? It would drive us down; we might not go extinct too, but we would suffer so badly. No. We need mitigation. We need to fight the political fight. We need a carbon tax; we need everything except giving up. To say we've lost the battle already is just another science fiction story. It's saying that we will lose. But beyond 2013, nothing has happened yet. Path dependency is not the same as inevitability.

People are way too chicken when faced with the supposed massive entrenchment of capitalism. It's just a system of laws, and we change laws all the time."



"My story here is that from the very start science and capitalism were very tightly bound together, like conjoined twins, but were not at all the same, and indeed were even opposed systems of thinking and organization. They were born around the same time, yes; but if you regard them as identical, you're making a very bad mistake. Capitalism's effect on humanity is not at all what science's effect is on humanity. If you say science is nothing but instrumentality and capitalism's technical wing, then you're saying we're doomed. Those are the two most powerful social forces on the planet, and now it's come to a situation of science versus capitalism. It's a titanic battle. One is positive and the other negative.

We need to do everything we can to create democratic, environmental, utopian science, because meanwhile there is this economic power structure that benefits the few, not very different from feudalism, while wrecking the biosphere. This is just a folk tale, of course, like a play with sock puppets, like Punch and Judy. But I think it describes the situation fairly well."



"I think we're a working utopian project in progress, between the landscape and the fact that California has an international culture, with all our many languages. It's got the UC system and the Cal State system, the whole master plan, all the colleges together, and Silicon Valley, and Hollywood. It's some kind of miraculous conjunction. But conjunctions don't last for long. And history may pass us by eventually, but for now it's a miraculous conjunction of all of these forces.

So I love California. Often when I go abroad and I'm asked where I'm from, I say California rather than America. California is an integral space that I admire. And we're doing amazing things politically. I like the way the state is trending more left than the rest of America. And San Francisco is the great city of the world. I love San Francisco. I think of myself as living in its provinces—and provincials, of course, are often the ones who are proudest of the capital. And many of my San Francisco friends exhibit a civic pride that is intense, and I think justified.

So there's something going on here in California. I do think it's somewhat accidental; so to an extent, it's pride in an accident, or maybe you could say in a collective, in our particular history. So there's no one thing or one person or group that can say, ah, we did it! It just kind of happened to us, in that several generations kept bashing away, and here we are. But when you have that feeling and it goes on, and continues to win elections and create environmental regulations, the clean air, the clean water, saving the Sierra, saving the coast: it's all kind of beautiful. Maybe the state itself is doing it. Maybe this landscape itself is doing it."
kimstanleyrobinson  california  sandiego  scifi  sciencefiction  2014  interviews  literature  landscape  raybradbury  robertheinlein  ursulaleguin  philipkdick  frankherbert  jackvance  poulanderson  robinsonjeffers  ecotopia  ernestcallenbach  history  climatechange  capitalism  environment  globalwarming  politics  change  nostalgia  johnmuir  law  legal  policy  santabarbara  orangecounty  sanfrancisco  utopia  diversity  jonchristensen  jangoggans  ursulakheise 
january 2014 by robertogreco
Towards Fantastic Ethnography and Speculative Design | Ethnography Matters
"So how do I teach ethnography to design students? First, I tell them that if they’ve ever wondered why people do things, or how things got to be the way they are, then they’re already part ethnographer. I say that my job is to help them get better at asking and answering social and cultural questions, because understanding and building entire worlds is a huge challenge that no single discipline can accomplish on its own. And I tell them that I believe the best designers are those who understand that what they’re doing is cultural innovation, which requires them to move beyond both personal impression and expression, as well as any self-righteous desire to ‘fix’ the world. My approach to design ethnography binds us to others, and I place a lot of emphasis on the need to develop a social ethics, rather than relying solely on personal interests and beliefs.

Over the years I’ve observed that design students often have much better observation and documentation skills than sociology and anthropology students do, but they appear to struggle greatly with how to interpret the information and represent this knowledge to other people. On the other hand, anthropology and sociology students often have superior analytical skills but are terribly limited in their desire or ability to communicate in anything other than the written word—even when their topic is visual or material culture. Consequently, I’ve come to think that ethnography makes design better as much as design makes ethnography better, and in that sense I believe we can serve each other equally.

Design ethnography, in the context of our classroom, is about trying to understand how people use words, images and objects to build worlds—and creating new combinations of words, images and objects that help us, and others, understand these worlds in different ways. All of our projects involve empirical fieldwork and analysis, along with the production of creative works that critically engage the subject of fieldwork. Because so many students attempt to do the creative work first, and use their ethnographic work to justify their ‘solution’ to a perceived (but rarely demonstrated!) ‘problem,’ I tend to be a bit more dogmatic about doing the ethnographic work first than I would otherwise advocate. The important thing I’ve learned, though, is that the best work always treats design and ethnography as complementary activities that are done in an iterative fashion that actually makes them difficult to separate in the end.

In teaching design courses, particular ethnographic methods became unappealing to me. Take auto-ethnography, for example: at its best the students continued to privilege their own thoughts and experiences; at worst it became a self-serving exercise in psychoanalysis or confession. And although performance ethnography can be interesting, I lack the expertise to assess it and worried that the students would again turn design into a form of privileged self-expression that could be difficult for others to understand. I needed something more accessible, that could more effectively trouble the opposition between subjective experience and objective fact—and I found it in fiction, which I think is rather beautifully both and neither."



"I think that the research environment for exploring these ideas has been crucial to their development. For the past few years, I’ve been working on a project that re-imagines NZ merino sheep in the (imagined) context of an Internet of Things. Note that I’ve not been tasked with designing possible software applications, but rather to imagine how different technologies could shift relations between livestock production and animal-product consumption. For this research I’ve combined traditional ethnographic methods of participant observation and qualitative interviews, with speculative design practices including fictional object and image-making—and I’ve given them both ‘life’ through creative writing. We’re about to launch these design scenarios, and will spend the next six months following up with more participant observation, interviews and online surveys to see how different audiences interact—or do not interact—with them.

For me, creating ethnographic fiction and speculative design has most often been a matter of material choice: both literally and figuratively. When the research subject matter is wool and meat-producing livestock, it was easy to start by imagining weird and wonderful things made of wool and meat! All the contexts for these fictional things (a government ministry and public programme, a host of consumer products and services) are plausible because they’ve been based on ethnographic research of people’s actual interests and concerns—but none of them are possible or even particularly realistic. To be honest, I really felt I was on the right track when I started talking about getting inspiration from contemporary urban fantasy novels—especially favourites by Ilona Andrews and Patricia Briggs—and both my design and ethnography colleagues just laughed. (It was like Joanna Russ had never written How To Suppress Women’s Writing!) But the important bit is that I came to understand that although fantastic ethnography and speculative design don’t have to derive their plausibility from realism or rationality, they should move people—because the space of the fantastic and the speculative is, after all, affective space, or the space of potential."

[Related (lined within): http://www.hastac.org/blogs/cathy-davidson/2011/08/28/why-you-need-read-designing-culture-anne-balsamo
and http://www.designculturelab.org/2012/08/17/on-fantasys-green-country-and-the-place-of-the-nonhuman/ ]
annegalloway  2013  ethnography  designethnography  fiction  designfiction  writing  speculativedesign  design  ursulaleguin  margaretatwood  interdisciplinary  multidisciplinary  ilonaandrews  patriciabriggs  plausibility  rationality  realism  research  speculativefiction  worldbuilding  imagery  words  images  objects  fieldwork  noticing  observation  listening  wondering  ethics  documentation  interpretation  autoethnography 
september 2013 by robertogreco
Slide 1 of 50 (Sci-fi I like, Fictional Futures, Goldsmiths)
"This presentation isn’t about telling. Just read and look at the pictures, and maybe new ideas will come. That’s all it’s about."

"Climb up on the Moon? Of course we did."
http://interconnected.org/notes/2006/02/scifi/?p=8

"You point towards the galactic centre for two centuries then away for another two."
http://interconnected.org/notes/2006/02/scifi/?p=9

"Years are pretty arbitrary, and long periods to count. I can’t really conceive of them. But these stars come along every few months, which is a more human scale."
http://interconnected.org/notes/2006/02/scifi/?p=11

"To get to your house, you had to climb up on top of the city, walk along until you got to your chimney and climb down."
http://interconnected.org/notes/2006/02/scifi/?p=34

“When I hit the drum like this
I think the sound
was there from the beginning,
and everything has gone to make that sound,
and after it
everything is different.”
http://interconnected.org/notes/2006/02/scifi/?p=39
perception  scale  humanscale  moon  years  time  streets  turkey  cities  Çatalhöyük  ronherron  archigram  italocalvino  schul  schulzeandwebb  berg  berglondon  ursulaleguin  fictionalfutures  mattwebb  sciencefiction  fiction  culture  literature  science  technology  future  design  scifi 
december 2012 by robertogreco
Venture Ethnography 1: a bi(bli)ography « Justin Pickard
"Project Cascadia is the test-case for a cluster of ideas I’ve been playing with for the best part of five years. A chance to break out my signature obsessions …

Hauntings, world expos, gonzo journalism, science fiction, systems, geopolitics, utopianism, virtuality, globalisation, the sublime, resilience, collapsonomics, aesthetics, architecture, environmentalism, infrastructure, design, futures studies, sovereignty, atemporality, risk, the nation-state, the uncanny, Americana, technoscience, cyberpunk, multispecies ethnography, fiction, capitalism, the human senses, counterfactual history, media and cyborgs (and media cyborgs)

… and nail them to the mast of a weird and interstitial sort of boat; a soupy, hybrid writing practice that would combine the best of ethnography, journalism and science fiction.

In lieu of a biography, then, I’m offering a bibliography. Five years of my brain, in books, articles, essays, and blog posts…"
urbanism  jgballard  richardbarbrook  marcaugé  warrenellis  jenniferegan  bradleygarrett  donnaharaway  naomiklein  brunolatour  ursulaleguin  ianmacdonald  suketumehta  chinamieville  jimrossignol  michaeltaussig  huntersthompson  adamgreenfield  brucesterling  thomaspynchon  bldgblog  geoffmanaugh  cityofsound  danhill  davidgraeber  matthewgandy  williamgibson  corydoctorow  douglascoupland  michaelchabon  jamaiscascio  laurenbeukes  journalism  mediacyborgs  cyborgs  geopolitics  aesthetics  utopianism  risk  atemporality  sovereignty  sciencefiction  cyberpunk  technoscience  ethnography  capitalism  globalization  collapsonomics  resilience  writing  projectcascadia  bibliographies  2011  justinpickard  bibliography 
november 2012 by robertogreco
PULPHOPE: LONDON
"Also England is a good country for introverts; they have a place in society for the introvert, which the United States does not. In fact there is a place in London for everything"
ursulaleguin  london  introverts  england  society  travel 
august 2007 by robertogreco
The Author of the Acacia Seeds, Ursula K. Le Guin
"And Other Extracts from the Journal of the Association of Therolinguistics"
fiction  language  writing  scifi  philosophy  postmodernism  books  ursulaleguin  sciencefiction  mattwebb  2007 
march 2007 by robertogreco
New Statesman - Imaginary friends
"Tales of talking animals and fantastical adventure aren't just for children, argues Ursula Le Guin - we can and should return to them throughout our lives"
books  children  fiction  history  literature  writing  reading  ursulaleguin  fantasy  scifi  media  realism 
december 2006 by robertogreco

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