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Rabbit Holes 🕳 #14
From rewilding your attention to community prosumption, the adaptability quotient and the disappearing art of maintentance
Just got back from a bit of time off in the mountains. We’ll go back to the usual cadence again, one post in your inbox, every Wednesday! 👻 Here we go:
Rabbit Holes 🕳
🔧 The Disappearing Art of Maintenance
Maintenance is about caring, about building more intimate, meaningful relationships with the stuff around us. What if we shifted more of the work now focused on producing new stuff to maintaining old stuff?
“Perhaps maintenance, rather than sustainability, is the more useful framework for a green transition, because it can account for how human infrastructure is now deeply entangled with the environment in the age of the Anthropocene.”
“Sustainability is a state; maintenance is a process. It requires work, and work of a certain type. Whatever its ultimate goal — safety, material efficiency, reducing carbon emissions — practical know-how and repetitive labor come first. This kind of pragmatism is sorely needed in the climate debate, which is so often preoccupied with end-states that it has no earthly or humanly way of achieving.”
“The personal dimension of maintenance and repair — how it’s also a form of knowledge that can give you power over the objects in your life — is not often emphasized by progressive environmentalists. That language is left to DIY Youtubers and entrepreneurs […], not to mention the farmers and fishermen and musicians and truckers and others whose livelihoods depend on certain machines operating at a certain level.“
🌳 Rewilding Your Attention
A super interesting metaphor: Algorithmic recommendations are a form of monocropping that’s intellectual and cultural, we don’t only need our landscapes and cities to rewild, we also need to rewild our minds.
“This idea of “rewilding” is even bigger than cities and landscapes, though.”
“When you look at the world through this lens, you see that monocropping has created weak, fragile systems in many realms. Nature first; cities, also. But last fall I also blogged about the idea of “rewilding your attention”. That’s a brilliant coinage of Tom Critchlow’s, which I applied to the problem of paying too much attention to social-media recommendation algorithms. Because those algorithms are all designed to improve '“engagement” — i.e. zoned-out nonstop clicking — they tend to promote a laser-thin range of “content”. It’s nearly always stuff chosen because it provokes hot emotionality: Material that makes you laugh wildly, or that makes you super enraged.”
“Algorithmic recommendations are, in other words, a form of monocropping that’s intellectual and cultural.”
“If you want to have wilder, curiouser thoughts, you have to avoid the industrial monocropping of big-tech feeds. You want an intellectual forest, overgrown with mushrooms and towering weeds and a massive dead log where a family of raccoons has taken up residence.”
“And so the solution, I argued, is to rewild the garden of culture from which you pluck: Spend less time staring at the samey-samey algorithmic feeds, and more time rummaging/scavenging in the jumbled, serendipitous underbrush of media, both online and off.”
👽 The Adaptability Quotient
This skillset is basically at the core of this newsletter: fresh eyes, open hearts and an open will is what we need to embrace perspective shifts and new ideas.
“Sometimes it feels like you’re always in training. You’ve just mastered one skill when a new theory hits your workplace. Rapid technological change means workers must keep learning, to the point where an ability to adapt – your adaptability quotient (AQ) – is becoming the X-factor for career success.”
“The good news is that scientists agree AQ is not fixed – it can be developed. Theory U by Otto Scharmer of MIT suggests three elements can help provide a framework:
keeping an open mind, so you see the world with fresh eyes and remain open to possibilities;
keeping an open heart, so you can try to see any situation through another person’s eyes;
and keeping an open will, letting go of identity and ego to sit with the discomfort of the unknown.”
A brilliant stunt that went viral by the director of Don’t Look Up. When a reporter reached out to him and hisked him where the idea for this video came from, he said:
“The idea for making this video joking about how Chevron, along with all the other oil companies, are murdering us every day, came from the fact that Chevron and all the other oil companies are murdering us every day.” 🤡
🧑🤝🧑 Community Prosumption
This idea checks a few boxes that I think are becoming increasingly interesting: localization, collaboration, community-ownership, as well as sufficiency and resilience.
“[…] A concrete and new pattern we propose is ‘community prosumption.’”
“In research on degrowth, Bloemmen et al. (2015), for instance, present a corresponding case of community-supported agriculture. The pattern takes place in a socio-economic context in which citizens are considered as mere consumers of what companies produce, while intermediaries, such as supermarket chains, are positioned in between these two parties. The problem is that this form of economic relation and practice does not convey non-material and non-monetary forms of value creation. It disconnects consumers from the conditions of production. Furthermore, it puts producers in fierce competition with each other and, hence, makes the individual vulnerable to poor local conditions (e.g., a dry season).”
“A solution then is to share the risk with local citizens who pay a fixed yearly amount, regardless of how successful the production is. Moreover, local citizens engage in local manufacturing or harvesting, build social connections, experience mutual learning processes, and spend leisure time, for instance, in a green environment. Hence, economic relationships are diversified, monetary exchanges are, to a certain degree, deprioritized, and consumers eventually turn into ‘community prosumers.’ This reduces producers’ workload and frees up time to invest in the quality of organisational processes.”
That’s it for this week!