Category Archives for: Civics

In Search of a Past Time

23 May 2016

[self-note: this was published using markdown, and is a good for testing it. The original text is in a text file in Dropbox. Can either copy the HTML from the text file using an application (Writebox) or use the WordPress markdown plugin. It seems I may have been playing with the formatting of highlights and notes, using unordered lists (via markdown), which led to some cosmetic updates to the CSS. I don’t know how to write a non-html-list in markdown using “\n- text”. I really sure hope all this messing with digital bullshit will make expressing thoughts easier during more active times in life… This thought has been proceeded to My Workflow for Written Expression.]

[todo: this is a super drafty mess of wanderings exported straight from my phone. It shouldn’t have been published. I’m probably not going to touch this again though. But at least it was fun, and therefore maybe fun for others to wander along too. History is so, uh, unreal. Man, I’m done with history!]

Romantic Periods continued:
Let’s call them ideal [time] periods. Ideal being, an ideal in my mind at least.

Continuing the search for a certain period of time where people created the greatest ethical and political philosophies. A time where people focused on these things. A time where people cared for one another.


As societies urbanized, they needed to figure out as social/political solution, so it came out of necessity of the sudden growing dense areas. That’s the most common sense reason. For politics, and ethics?

Then, it seems, one ethical system bested the others, unifying the cities with benevolence and harmony, resulting in a “peaceful” (no war, but still highly unequal society) golden age, until it became an empire (the most unequal).

But this doesn’t say anything about what’s most important: capital and capitalism in the cities: the motivation of work. The slaves that powered the classical ages and empires.

He argues that credit systems originally developed as means of account long before the advent of coinage, which appeared around 600 BC. Credit can still be seen operating in non-monetary economies. Barter, on the other hand, seems primarily to have been used for limited exchanges between different societies that had infrequent contact and often were in a context of ritualized warfare.

Graeber suggests that economic life originally related to social currencies. These were closely related to routine non-market interactions within a community. This created an “everyday communism” based on mutual expectations and responsibilities among individuals. This type of economy is contrasted with exchange based on formal equality and reciprocity (but not necessarily leading to market relations) and hierarchy. The hierarchies in turn tended to institutionalize inequalities in customs and castes.

  • in line with first to second stage Marxist social development

…The great Axial Age civilizations (800–200 BC) began to use coins to quantify the economic values of portions of what Graeber calls “human economies”. Graeber says these civilizations held a radically different conception of debt and social relations. These were based on the radical incalculability of human life and the constant creation and recreation of social bonds through gifts, marriages, and general sociability. The author postulates the growth of a “military–coinage–slave complex” around this time. These were enforced by mercenary armies that looted cities and cut human beings from their social context to work as slaves in Greece, Rome, and elsewhere. The extreme violence of the period marked by the rise of great empires in China, India, and the Mediterranean was, in this way, connected with the advent of large-scale slavery and the use of coins to pay soldiers. This was combined with obligations to pay taxes in currency: The obligation to pay taxes with money required people to engage in monetary transactions, often with very disadvantageous terms of trade. This typically increased debt and slavery.
Wikipedia, Debt: The First 5000 Years

  • and so capitalism was introduced in the classical age, institutionalized, and at its apex during the empire age. Sounds like Dubai.

Surely after that one must desire some purer ethical treatises to get out of that extreme form of capitalism and violence.

Argh, even in 600BC, one can’t escape capitalism! I’ve spent so much time getting away from it, and even traveling through time, I must go back at least 2600 years. How can one ever escape capitalism? It’s spatially and temporally impossible!

So, anyway, it’s pretty difficult to tell how much capital affected people’s action as opposed to ethics of their philosophies. I’m guessing Confucius China was far less motivated by capital (“profit”) than the Europeans. Bhuddist India too. The influence of philosophies still show in both countries’ contemporary cultures. So, after all, it was the Europeans that were most ruthless, most extreme, the Roman Empire being the apex of ruthlessness, killing for coins, just to make a living.

Anyway, what was I looking for? A certain flourishing period of time? Im not sure. Maybe China’s Han Dynasty is best? They don’t seem to have had a caste system, and likely were more peaceful than Romans, and I read that they were prolific inventors.

Or was I looking for a prolific time where people thought about ways a society can live? I guess there aren’t any other times: around 600BC most of the civilizations created coins. Thus, one must look to other civilizations, precisely at the time when a society begins to urbanize, and better before the invention of coinage

Hmm, I wonder about the geographic view. If urbanization caused people to think of ways to socially organize, was coinage the real solution? (As opposed to ethical precepts.) Then, did other civilizations simply copy that idea (maybe for trade?)? Then, the newly founded social system, capitalism, caused some kind of psychological madness to the point of slave-driving an empire and conquering others (Hi America!)? Then, as a reaction to that madness, people reverted to a morally better religion/ethical precepts?

This shit is crazy. I’m done with history!

Actually, I think was just looking for a period of time where people thought about others, focused on politics and ethics as opposed to [instituinalized, capitalistic] work, not only in the sense of creatively thinking about ways a society can live and govern itself, rather, more simply, just more focused on each other, being aware of one another. [Perhaps I was seeking] The most socially aware period of time [in the development of a society]. An empire, by the definition, is a stage of society that is least socially aware. Perhaps it was indeed before coins were introduced, that people focused on other people, and not coins, or useless wage labour.

Well, I first began to read Meditations by Marcus Aurelius because I wanted to become less aware of social problems. I was hyper-aware, and it was damaging my life. By reading Stoic philosophy, I thought I could be less aware, and it worked a bit. It’s not too bad. What’s bad is knowing that a Roman Emporer did not care for social problems. He wasn’t just unaware, he was decidedly unaware. Like Epictetus, he didn’t let external things bother him, and suggests others shouldn’t. To use one’s mind, free will, to do what they want, but not to grind against society, instead, flow with it naturally. What makes it difficult to digest is that it’s the Roman Empire. He spent much time on the field, battling. Was war simply determinism, fate for him? Stoicism makes sense for the time, to be calm and not be afraid of dying, just as Zen Buddhism made sense, but in contemporary society, it’s a terrible set of ethics.

Then I thought the Second Sophistic was great. Sophists, the artist-educator-senator-public-orating-philosophers, were free, independent [of institutions], debating in the public, talking to Emporers without beauracracy, creating their own schools; a huge part of society. Yet, again, thinking of the history of the Roman Empire, it’s difficult to admire them too. Did they try to socially organize against problems? I guess I’ll know when I read some of Cicero’s speeches.


general time periods:
[Prehistory, ]Archaic periods (Bronze Age), Classical periods (Iron Age), Age of Empires (Iron Age)[, Middle Ages]

Archaic Greece, Classical Greece, Hellenistic Greece, Roman Empire, Holy Roman Empire
Seven Sages and Pre-Socratics, atheism/ethical treatises/complex epistemology, early Stoicism and Epicureanism, Stoicism wins, then Christianity wins

Vedic Period, Mahajanapadas, Maurya Empire
Brahmin sages, many religions?, [Indian] Buddhism/Jainism wins?

Zhou Dynasty, Warring States (end of Zhou), Imperial China (Qin, Han, etc. Dynasties?)
Mandate of Heaven?, every Chinese religion/philosophy, Confucius wins

Yayoi, {Kofun, Asuka (most societal changes), Nara}, Heian (golden age and empire)
Shinto {Shinto, Bhuddism introduced, both?}, all religions from China, a mix wins?

in general:
archaic, classical, empire
non-sense cosmology, creation of ethical treatises, choice of one ethical treatise (the most humane one, exception: Roman, until it becomes Holy Roman)

geographical (reality) progression:
feudalism/agriculture, urbanization (state/city governor/tyrant), empire (Emporer and their many generals/governors, building of huge trade routes)

highlights and notes from Wikipedia


Beginning in the 8th century BCE, the so-called “Axial Age” saw a set of transformative religious and philosophical ideas develop, mostly independently, in many different locations. During the 6th century BCE, Chinese Confucianism,[53][54] Indian Buddhism and Jainism, and Jewish Monotheism all developed. (Karl Jaspers’ Axial Age theory also includes Persian Zoroastrianism on this list, but other scholars dispute Jaspers’ timeline for Zoroastrianism.) In the 5th century BCE Socrates and Plato made significant advances in the development of Ancient Greek philosophy.

In the east, three schools of thought were to dominate Chinese thinking until the modern day. These were Taoism,[55] Legalism[56] and Confucianism.[57] The Confucian tradition, which would attain dominance, looked for political morality not to the force of law but to the power and example of tradition. Confucianism would later spread into the Korean peninsula and toward Japan.

From around 550 BCE, many independent kingdoms and republics known as the Mahajanapadas were established across the subcontinent.

Regional Empires (Age of Empires):
The millennium from 500 BCE to 500 CE saw a series of empires of unprecedented size develop. Well-trained professional armies, unifying ideologies, and advanced bureaucracies created the possibility for emperors to rule over large domains, whose populations could attain numbers upwards of tens of millions of subjects. The great empires depended on military annexation of territory and on the formation of defended settlements to become agricultural centres.[65] The relative peace that the empires brought encouraged international trade, most notably the massive trade routes in the Mediterranean, the maritime trade web in the Indian Ocean, and the Silk Road. In southern Europe, the Greeks (and later the Romans), in an era known as “Classical Antiquity,” established cultures whose practices, laws, and customs are considered the foundation of contemporary western civilization.

  • perhaps ones must look at these empires for some real philosophy (link to second sophists, real philosophy). In the axial age people scrambled and created social structures, such as ethical treatises, to maintain stability (or in the negative: hagemony). In the empires age, people maintained society by the forcing capitalism culture upon others. Hmmm.


Under Chandragupta and his successors, internal and external trade, agriculture and economic activities, all thrived and expanded across India thanks to the creation of a single and efficient system of finance, administration, and security.

  • empire-wide social systems!

After the Kalinga War, the Empire experienced nearly half a century of peace and security under Ashoka. Mauryan India also enjoyed an era of social harmony, religious transformation, and expansion of the sciences and of knowledge. Chandragupta Maurya’s embrace of Jainism increased social and religious renewal and reform across his society, while Ashoka’s embrace of Buddhism has been said to have been the foundation of the reign of social and political peace and non-violence across all of India. Ashoka sponsored the spreading of Buddhist ideals into Sri Lanka, Southeast Asia, West Asia[9] and Mediterranean Europe.[3]

  • Jainism is to India as Confucius is to China, a good ethical system promoting harmony


These inscriptions proclaim Ashoka’s adherence to the Buddhist philosophy which, as in Hinduism is called dharma, “Law”. The inscriptions show his efforts to develop the Buddhist dharma throughout his kingdom. Although Buddhism and the Gautama Buddha are mentioned, the edicts focus on social and moral precepts rather than specific religious practices or the philosophical dimension of Buddhism.

“Ten years (of reign) having been completed, King Piodasses (one of the titles of Ashoka: Piyadassi or Priyadarsi, “He who is the beloved of the Gods and who regards everyone amiably”) made known (the doctrine of)
Piety (Greek:εὐσέβεια, Eusebeia) to men; and from this moment he has made men more pious, and everything thrives throughout the whole world. And the king abstains from (killing) living beings, and other men and those who (are) huntsmen and fishermen of the king have desisted
from hunting. And if some (were) intemperate, they
have ceased from their intemperance as was in their power; and obedient to their father and mother and to the elders, in opposition to the past also in the future, by so acting on every occasion, they will live betterand more happily.” (Trans. by G. P. Carratelli[4])

  • animal ethics in 200b.c.

Ashoka showed great concern for fairness in the exercise of justice, caution and tolerance in the application of sentences, and regularly pardoned prisoners.

When Ashoka embraced Buddhism in the latter part of his reign, he brought about significant changes in his style of governance, which included providing protection to fauna, and even relinquished the royal hunt. He was perhaps the first ruler in history to advocate conservation measures for wildlife.

However, the edicts of Ashoka reflect more the desire of rulers than actual events; the mention of a 100 ‘panas’ (coins) fine for poaching deer in royal hunting preserves shows that rule-breakers did exist. The legal restrictions conflicted with the practices then freely exercised by the common people in hunting, felling, fishing and setting fires in forests.

  • yeah, but it’s the creation of culture that mattered, not the enforcement of law

Roadside facilities
Along roads I have had banyan trees planted so that they can give shade to animals and men, and I have had mango groves planted. At intervals of eight krosas, I have had wells dug, rest-houses built, and in various places, I have had watering-places made for the use of animals and men. But these are but minor achievements. Such things to make the people happy have been done by former kings. I have done these things for this purpose, that the people might practice the Dhamma. Pilar Edict Nb7 (S. Dhammika)}}

  • urban planning! Making life comfortable.

— (another sitting?)


Between the third century and the eighth century, Japan’s many kingdoms and tribes gradually came to be unified under a centralized government, nominally controlled by the Emperor. The imperial dynasty established at this time continues to reign over Japan to this day.

  • there’s the period, but holy shit, imperial up to this day!?

In 794, a new imperial capital was established at Heian-kyō (modern Kyoto), marking the beginning of the Heian period, which lasted until 1185. The Heian period is considered a golden age of classical Japanese culture. Japanese religious life from this time and onwards was a mix of Buddhism, and native religious practices known as Shinto.

  • and there’s the romantic period of urbanization, religion, ethics of normative society, ethics of recluses, etc.


The Heian period (平安時代 Heian jidai?) is the last division of classical Japanese history, running from 794 to 1185.[1] The period is named after the capital city of Heian-kyō, or modern Kyōto. It is the period in Japanese history when Buddhism, Taoism and other Chinese influences were at their height. The Heian period is also considered the peak of the Japanese imperial court and noted for its art, especially poetry and literature.


The origins of the literary style known as Recluse Literature has roots in the Taoist movement in China, said to date back to the 3rd or 4th century BCE. Like the recluses of Japan, Taoist philosophers such as Zhuangzi and Laozi advocated a casting off of the bonds of society and government, and instead living a life free of obligations and the pressures of urban life. The first Japanese recluse is considered to be Saigyō Hōshi, who worked as a guard to retired Emperor Toba until the age of 22, at which time for reasons unknown he took the vows of a monk and proceeded to live alone for long periods of time. Following the relocation of the capital from Heian (present day Kyoto) to Kamakura, located 50 km south-south-west of Tokyo, many court aristocrats, due mainly to the influence of Jōdo shū or Pure Land Buddhism, became disillusioned with the standards and practices of government and every day life, and instead chose to live on the outskirts of civilization in isolation. The practice of taking the tonsure (becoming a monk) after life in the Imperial court was not entirely new to Japan, but the concept of doing so and completely retreating from secular life into nature, as opposed to the many Buddhist monasteries around the capital, was considered a novel alternative to these newly disillusioned intellectuals. From this isolation, it was common practice for the recluse to focus his efforts on self-reflection, expressed through the arts such as poetry or the writing of zuihitsu-styled essays.

  • transcendentalism/Daoism in Japan


Zuihitsu (随筆?) is a genre of Japanese literature consisting of loosely connected personal essays and fragmented ideas that typically respond to the author’s surroundings.

  • personal essays of reality!

The genre next gained momentum as a respectable form of writing several centuries later in the Kamakura Period. With the depotentiation of the Heian Court and the relocation of the capital to Kamakura, near modern-day Tokyo, many intellectuals, amidst social chaos, grew disillusioned and chose to live in asceticism – a trend that also reflected the growing importance of Pure Land Buddhism. Writing from isolation, these authors reflected on the degeneracy of their contemporaries, whom they considered philistines, in comparison to themselves, as well as general consideration of the impermanence of the material world. Major works from this period include Kamo no Chōmei’s Hōjōki and Yoshida Kenkō’s Tsurezuregusa.

– warring, samurai, feudalism, middle ages, zen as reaction, kind of like roman times / stoicism?


The Edo period (江戸時代 Edo jidai?) or Tokugawa period (徳川時代 Tokugawa jidai?) is the period between 1603 and 1868 in the history of Japan, when Japanese society was under the rule of the Tokugawa shogunate and the country’s 300 regional daimyo. The period was characterized by economic growth, strict social order, isolationist foreign policies, a stable population, popular enjoyment of arts and culture, recycling of materials, and sustainable forest management. It was a sustainable and self-sufficient society which was based on the principles of complete utilization of finite resources.

  • holy moly, why wasn’t this in my travel guide


  • ah, I forget how great Wikipedia is
  • boom, 5th and 4th centuries BC, all of the religions
  • also lol at Aesop’s Fables beating most religions
  • also holy shit at the Classical Greeks writing things way beyond contemporary intelligence while the rest of the world was writing cosmological tales and ethics, except the Chinese, they kept it real, real boring


  • lolol, let’s not go that route!


  • this lady seems to be investigating the period capitalism rises in society for the West, in English farms, apparently, probably after simply noticing when several political theorists came about. There’s a section on precapitalist societies. Maybe should read Debt by Graeber first?

The problem is that all of the books go over how capitalism rises solely for the west. What about every other society? I want to see how capitalism rises in every society. Did it just come by imitation? Also, if coinage came in 600BC, how is that different from capitalism in 1700? To me capitalism is simply the use of currency, not the industrial revolution, or whenever a few control the mean of production.


Capital has existed incipiently on a small scale for centuries,[35] in the form of merchant, renting and lending activities, and occasionally as small-scale industry with some wage labour. Simple commodity exchange, and consequently simple commodity production, which are the initial basis for the growth of capital from trade, have a very long history. The “capitalistic era” according to Karl Marx dates from 16th century merchants and small urban workshops.[36] Marx knew that wage labour existed on a modest scale for centuries before capitalist industry. Early Islam promulgated capitalist economic policies, which migrated to Europe through trade partners from cities such as Venice.[37] Capitalism in its modern form can be traced to the emergence of agrarian capitalism and mercantilism in the Renaissance.[38]

Thus for much of history, capital and commercial trade existed, but it did not lead to industrialisation or dominate the production process of society. That required a set of conditions, including specific technologies of mass production, the ability to independently and privately own and trade in means of production, a class of workers willing to sell their labour power for a living, a legal framework promoting commerce, a physical infrastructure allowing the circulation of goods on a large scale, and security for private accumulation. Many of these conditions do not currently exist in many Third World countries, although there is plenty of capital and labour. Thus, the obstacles for the development of capitalist markets are less technical and more social, cultural and political.

  • makes sense for why Asians can live off of a food stands / booths: the culture allows it — dense settlement and not much law/beauracracy makes it viable. Try setting one up in the suburbs only to lose to a fast food joint.

Capitalism is an economic system based on private ownership of the means of production and their operation for profit.[1][2][3] Characteristics central to capitalism include private property, capital accumulation, wage labor, voluntary exchange, a price system, and competitive markets.[4][5] In a capitalist market economy, decision-making and investment is determined by the owners of the factors of production in financial and capital markets, and prices and the distribution of goods are mainly determined by competition in the market.[6][7]

Economists, political economists, and historians have adopted different perspectives in their analyses of capitalism and have recognized various forms of it in practice. These include laissez-faire or free market capitalism, welfare capitalism, and state capitalism. Different forms of capitalism feature varying degrees of free markets, public ownership,[8] obstacles to free competition, and state-sanctioned social policies. The degree of competition in markets, the role of intervention and regulation, and the scope of state ownership vary across different models of capitalism;[9] the extent to which different markets are free, as well as the rules defining private property, are matters of politics and of policy. Most existing capitalist economies are mixed economies, which combine elements of free markets with state intervention, and in some cases, with economic planning.[10]

Capitalism has existed under many forms of government, in many different times, places, and cultures. Following the decline of mercantilism, mixed capitalist systems became dominant in the Western world and continue to spread.

“History of capitalism”

Capital has existed incipiently on a small scale for centuries,[35] in the form of merchant, renting and lending activities, and occasionally as small-scale industry with some wage labour. Simple commodity exchange, and consequently simple commodity production, which are the initial basis for the growth of capital from trade, have a very long history. The “capitalistic era” according to Karl Marx dates from 16th century merchants and small urban workshops.[36] Marx knew that wage labour existed on a modest scale for centuries before capitalist industry. Early Islam promulgated capitalist economic policies, which migrated to Europe through trade partners from cities such as Venice.[37] Capitalism in its modern form can be traced to the emergence of agrarian capitalism and mercantilism in the Renaissance.[38]

Thus for much of history, capital and commercial trade existed, but it did not lead to industrialisation or dominate the production process of society. That required a set of conditions, including specific technologies of mass production, the ability to independently and privately own and trade in means of production, a class of workers willing to sell their labour power for a living, a legal framework promoting commerce, a physical infrastructure allowing the circulation of goods on a large scale, and security for private accumulation. Many of these conditions do not currently exist in many Third World countries, although there is plenty of capital and labour. Thus, the obstacles for the development of capitalist markets are less technical and more social, cultural and political.

“Agrarian capitalism”

The economic foundations of the feudal agricultural system began to shift substantially in 16th-century England; the manorial system had broken down, and land began to become concentrated in the hands of fewer landlords with increasingly large estates. Instead of a serf-based system of labor, workers were increasingly employed as part of a broader and expanding money-based economy. The system put pressure on both landlords and tenants to increase the productivity of agriculture to make profit; the weakened coercive power of the aristocracy to extract peasant surpluses encouraged them to try better methods, and the tenants also had incentive to improve their methods, in order to flourish in an competitive labor market. Terms of rent for land were becoming subject to economic market forces rather than to the previous stagnant system of custom and feudal obligation.[39][40]

  • hmmm that’s one way a society can lead to capitalism. Ouch property rent already?

en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mahajanapada, “Vamsa/Vatsa”:

Kausambi was a very prosperous city where a large number of millionaire merchants resided. It was the most important entreport of goods and passengers from the north-west and south. Udayana was the ruler of Vatsa in the 6th century BCE, the time of Buddha. He was very powerful, warlike and fond of hunting. Initially king Udayana was opposed to Buddhism but later became a follower of Buddha and made Buddhism the state religion.

  • millionaire merchants? In assets in today’s standard? Surely they didn’t have caves of gold coins, did they? Who’s playing with Wikipedia? But doesn’t that count as capitalism, if they received the money by owning a bunch of slaves as their private means of production?

Leave a comment | Categories: Art, Civics, Critical Theory, Ethics, Experience, History, Humanities, Literature, Metaphysics, Personal, Philosophical Movements, Philosophy, Political Philosophy, Public Sphere, Social Philosophy, Travel, Urban Philosophy

The Public Sphere during the Second Sophistic

20 May 2016

[todo: Headers are mixed up. Complete todos / reorganize.]

Note: This post currently has a lot of thoughts digressing in many directions. My bad.

writing transcribed from a paper, then continued writing here:

Sophism, during/under Emperial [Imperial] Rome, does not seem bad. It focused on human affairs: everyday life, the management of it, during the largest expansion of the empire.

There was less theory, natural science. Sophists may have prioritized superficial rhetoric [style over content], but it also prioritized politics, economics, and social life — isn’t that what matters most?

sophist competition

What’s interesting [to me] is how sophists competed, individually. The educational institutions of Ancient Greece had already declined to their demise. Without institutions, sophists taught privately (in their own home, in their student’s home, or in another private place perhaps [reminds me of Taiwan]) and publicly (via lectures in public venues — bookshops, outside, temples, larger public venues [reminds me of New York]). It seems that sophists were basically artist-teachers, public-philosophers.

Unbound by institutions, they had to compete in the public of competitive cities, and to do so rhetoric (especially oration) skills were crucial. Spoken language was the medium of politics. Written, perhaps less so, except in the form of conversational letters or short treatises. It was a time of actuality, action; It opposed the sedentary writing of knowledge of the recent past (Classical Greek philosophy). What mattered most were contemporary events, not science, — How to maintain the empire.

real philosophy

It seems not much of the Second Sophists’ works have been read (not sure if lost or deemed unimportant; only one modern English translation of the primary source exists), but I imagine their writings are about action, process philosophy, being, Stoic ethics, whatever needed to get shit done. And because of this, I think this period of time is worth idealizing, looking into, of the intellectual life, everyday life, the mass and the mess of decisions and actions taken to handle the doubling of territory size, tripling the population, and all the cultural conflicts within.

This is real philosophy: The recording of communicative action. It opposes the categorizing, analytic kind synonymous to the Western canon, likely created by people under ideal societal conditions and/or in isolation, which in turn, was likely extended by engaging in dialectic with people in the past who wrote under similar conditions. The communicative actions, decided by the discourse between Emperors, orators (including sophists), and senators, decided the course, the political course, of the empire. “The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways. Sophers, however, changed it.”

[todo: compare this kind of narrow political communicative action philosophy to modern cumulative social philosophy which takes into consideration the cultural, economic, environmental spheres, in addition to the political.

Well, surely the Roman intellectuals tried to take as much into consideration, as much as they were aware of at the time, within the time constraint. Because they weren’t aware of too much socio-cultural problems, I mean they were killing “barbarians”, they simply continued taking action determined by political communication, which seemed to be to continue expanding the empire. That’s not good.

Anyway, I’m more interested in how the individual intellectuals near-directly influenced the politics of the empire, internationally and locally., not so much of the specific decisions they made; they were terrible.]

sophize, now!

So. How does one begin, uh, sophizing? Hold discussions in public venues for free. Topics can be chose by me, then later decided with whoever participates. The topics should be socio-political, and they should be related to the area the discussion takes place in. Duh. The dialectics should lead to action. If they do not, then I have failed sophizing.

[todo: how does this differ from normal community consensus decision-making?]

media vs oration, and toward the ideal stage in the normative development of societies

Forget artistic mediums of communication. Communicate [directly] to the public. This is a better method of beginning socio-political change. No institution is required. Neither is technology. Just simple language. The complexities of experience, epistemology, social philosophy (critical theory, cultural geography, environmental psychology, etc.), must be reduced to a simple communicable language.

[todo: But, the institutions are in power, nearly everywhere, in all forms: educational, research (science, technology), governmental, medical, urban, enforcement (police), punishment, etc. Can one simply ignore them?

Yeah, and that’s what’s appealing about the [period of] time: it’s simple, straightforward, non-beauratic. “Atticus, at one point in time, received up to three letters a day from Emperor Marcus Aurelius. (Wikipedia).” That’s an ideal to strive for: the frankness and transparency of the Romans. And that can only happen in a society with Stoic-like ethics (todo: link to Stoicism in Taiwan).

In the social structure contemporary society, to change any institution, either the institution internally decides to change, or the public sphere pressures it to change (assuming the public sphere has a voice and power). That change is far too slow, even if seemingly progressive. All contemporary institutions would collapse if it experienced a single year that Emperial Rome did.

In contrast, the minimal social structure of Emperial Rome was dynamic, flexible; its intitutions could handle huge changes. There were no educational institutions to collapse, just a bunch sophists (individuals and groups); and the political institution, probably just a bunch of sophists posing as senators, whom also dealt with outsider sophists. Because there weren’t many institutions, people had to make decisions for themselves, take their own directions.

This seems like an ideal point in the normative development of societies. Any more order, and the institutions will become too fragile. Any less order, and ? [todo; not sure: the society collapses?].

side notes

In contrast, Plutarch was more of a hermit, not competitive, at least not by the end of his life, where he only orated to close friends and family in his small hometown, and spent most time writing.

thoughts on the introduction chapter of Eshleman’s book:

There’s so much appeal in the Second Sophistic to me: it reminds me of my experience in New York; Most intellectuals were not part of an institution, because there there weren’t many; Therefore, there were no professional qualifications to control expertise (qualifications didn’t matter much). The intellectuals had to maintain their rhetoric abilities in order to prove they were currently legit (no guaranteed professor or government positions). To be recognized as legit, skilled peers must judge their skills positively: “game recognize game”. Likewise, ability to judge was a required skill, as it determined recognized skill levels. (Eshleman, introduction)

Eshleman tells of how reputation depends on [1] skill, [2] reputation of peers, [3] academic record, [todo: finish thought]

They simply gathered in public places to discuss. [todo: finish thought]

Does this not sound like any other competitive structure? Freestyle (rapping), fighting video games, breakdancing: a healthy competition amongst artists in the city.

Romantic Periods

Hmmm, you know, I think I have a kind of romantic view of these kinds of periods elsewhere: the Warring States period of China, the Edo period of Japan (maybe? It seems factions warred until they united somehow), Archaic Ancient Greece [todo: find modern social history books focused on these time periods]. These are periods where there were no institutions, no [social] structure, and people panicked and scrambled around a huge amount of territory, eventually thinking of the most original ways society could live: they created philosophical treatises — ethical treatises: writings to calm the mind during the wars (Zen Buddhism, Spartan ethics (?), Stoic philosophy), writings to allow society to try to live a good life (Confucianism, Virtue ethics [too early?]), the most original epistomology (Pre-Socratic Philosophy, Daoism). There was a ton of energy during these times, and it was the wise individuals’ (philosopher, [Japanese] monk (?), [second] sophist) views that was of importance; and the rulers needed and turned to those individuals for answers. [It was] Only after they created more structural things to control society, like legal doctrines (Chinese Legalists, Athenien Democracy) or social structures (Spartan Constitution), and then institutionalizing them, did people stop thinking so deeply. The [political and later, educational] institutions lulled the minds to a peaceful rest, narrowing all future thought (ideologies of institutions), of politics and of ethics.

In short, when societies develop a social structure and institutionalize them, thought is narrowed by the structure, including thoughts about how one lives.

[todo: possible quote: “Like a good many other Greek philosophers he took a prominent part in the affairs of his native state, and was appointed to draw up a code of laws for it. It is perhaps worth remarking that the professional and professorial philosopher, detached from the normal life of the state and society and entirely absorbed in the work of teaching or research within his philosophical college or community, does not appear in Greece before Alexander the Great…” — A. H. Armstrong, An Introduction To Ancient Philosophy, Pre-Socratics chapter (I think)

another possible quote: “The sedentary life–as I have said once before–is the real sin against the holy spirit” – Nietzsche, Ecce Homo]

Inclusion/Exclusion and the Transition from Oral to Written

“…the need to demarcate the boundaries of a group in which membership was highly desirable (at least in some quarters), but poorly defined and institutionally fluid. (Eshleman, introduction)” The need to demarcate [group boundaries] is a problem of the human need to organize, in this case, socially organize. Having no boundary is an ideal of social organization: all participation should be open to the public and voluntary.

“…the other end, Christopher Jones has shown that a decisive shift in taste was underway already when Philostratus wrote, away from the improvised declamations that he cherished as the hallmark of the Second Sophistic, and toward the more literary style exemplified by Aelius Aristides (Eshleman, introduction).” Perhaps that shift is most apparent between Cicero and Seneca. Cicero were very oral, known for his speeches, letters, dialogues, and short treatises, written by his shorthand-innovating stenographer Tiro. Seneca more literary, with long letters, essays, and dialogues. After societies develop their primary institutions, perhaps the primary medium [of communication] shifts from oral to written, from an active, often nomadic, way of communicating to a sedentary one. With less action (war) or more sedentarism, time becomes of less importance, and so communicative action in the form of oration decreases, as does the amount of decisions and actions taken, perhaps because the medium of writing is less persuasive than oration (todo: link to media and action).

Eshleman’s Thesis and My Conclusion

“For Christianity, meanwhile, this period was an age of ferment and experiment, in which the core institutions of later Christianity took shape, at least in rough outline. By the middle of the third century an extensive machinery of “orthodoxy” was being forged: a powerful clerical hierarchy, largely fixed scriptural canon, credal norms of interpretation, and increasingly well-theorized mechanisms of certification, for both lay believers and clergy (Eshleman, introduction).” In parallel, the thesis of Eshleman’s book now, the formation of the Christian identity and institutions went through a process strikingly comparable to the formation of the sophist identity and institutions: experiment, compete, define, structure, authorize, institutionalize. Social organization, whether philosopher, sophist, or Christian, all go through the same social processes.

[todo: But, must it? Must societies organize into a single culture and then institutionalize it? Economically, perhaps, to survive together. But culturally, no: culture is a separate sphere. And that’s the point: having multiple cultures, diversity in cultures, diverse individuals, and nurturing them results in more explorative energy. This is common sense in a small scale, like a progressive school, an art organization, but not-so-common sense on a large scale. That is, how does one stop the social process or societal development before self-definition; or, how does one reform to go back to that thriving experimental, competing stage of society?

This experimental stage [of society] seems to usually occur in the history of civilizations during much civil dispute (competition, which in ancient times often meant war) until one culture (including philosophy) wins and unifies the societies. [todo: incomplete thought]

Does society even want that? Harking Kahneman’s answer of robust vs anti-fragile: no. Society wants to be secure.

Then, within a culture, or better, a multi-cultural place, there is only one choice: to individually, or with group of people, compete, experiment, define, structure, live life, but never authorize or institutionalize it upon others. [todo: kind of repeated, what’s different? First is general, next is contemporary?]

Thus, for those of us that do live in an institutionalized culture (everyone), all we can do is create our own little spaces of our own cultures, then experiment, compete (not war), define, structure, and rinse and repeat. Live a different way. You have the will. Try a different set of ethics. Try it even for just an hour, or a day. Try to live like an ancient Roman “with a tent and sword.” Create a new sets of ethics, and live by them. Be a saint. Be an asshole. Ignore the environment. Will your life.

A Few Lessons in Research of a Past Time


– tells of sophists as showsman, professional public debaters, even on funny topics such as “In Praise of Baldness”

1. Eshleman, Kendra – The Social World of Intellectuals in the Roman Empire_ Sophists, Philosophers, and Christians (Cambridge, Greek Culture in the Roman World, 2012)
– this book was the cause of this thought. It’s an amazing topic.

possible future sources:


3. Philostratus, The Lives of the Sophists. Trans. Wright, W.C. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1961.
– main extant source. Perhaps the only source! If that’s the case, scrap the secondary sources.


It seems most of these are already referenced by Eshleman. There’s probably not much point in probing these texts, except Whitmarsh’s or Bowersock’s short books or Anderson’s lengthier book.
2. Whitmarsh, Timothy – The Second Sophistic (Oxford, 2005)
– intro
?. Whitmarsh, Timothy – Beyond the Second Sophistic: Adventures in Greek Postclassicism (University of California)
4. Anderson, Graham – The Second Sophistic_ A Cultural Phenomenon in the Roman Empire (1993)
2. Bowersock, G. W. – Greek Sophists in the Roman Empire (Oxford, 1969)
5. Gleasonm, Maud W. – Making Men_ Sophists and Self-Presentation in Ancient Rome (Princeton, 1995)
5. Simon Swain – Hellenism and Empire. Language, Classicism and Power in the Greek World, AD 50-250 (1996 Oxford)
6. Goldhill, Simon – Being Greek under Rome_ Cultural Identity, the Second Sophistic and the Development of Empire (Cambridge, 2001)
6. Borg, Barbara E. – Paideia_ The World Of The Second Sophistic (Millennium Studies, 2004)

further reading:

– just stumbled upon this. It seems Jaspers beat me to it. But it also seems he tries to set a specific time period, whereas I’m just interested in the period of time societies shift from competing schools of thought, or even competing societies, to an institution.
– not to be confused with a bunch of other seemingly similar terms in the English language

Leave a comment | Categories: Action, Civics, Communication, Determinism and Free Will, Ethics, History, History of Philosophy, Humanities, Personal, Philosophical Movements, Philosophy, Philosophy of History, Political Philosophy, Public Sphere, Social Anarchism, Social Change, Social Philosophy, Thoughts

Notes on Crowdsourcing Civil Action

14 May 2016

From a somewhat old (1-6 months) paper:

urban planning problem -> [Chris Marker-like] video -> use Facebook comments to talk about it (Facebook comments as forums) -> leads to something?

problems in reality [can be social?] -> media -> create and publish project on a crowdsourcing platform (i.e. Kickstarter) -> implement

people don’t have or wear motorcycle helmets -> Humans of Taiwan photo -> crowdsource petition (to influence companies, law organisations, etc.) -> keep updated
broken traffic light -> photo -> find correct organization to inform -> create application to automate process (i.e. FixMyStreet)

Leave a comment | Categories: Art, Civics, Design, Humanities, New Media, Personal, Philosophy, Political Philosophy, Thoughts

The Ideal Work

20 April 2016

[todo: search thoughts for exact thought.

Also can look at my previous history of how this is my categorical imperative, especially dependent on place: I move to a place and try to do good within the society. For example, I may stumble upon a city and try to improve the urban planning, or homeless people, or I may stumble upon a bunch of Burmese refugees and join a nearby social organization to try to improve the situation. But also how joining these organizations (especially anything large) are never satisfying because one must spend much time communicating, as opposed to doing, which leads (and isolates) me to take on more direct actions: personal art, media, urban and social interventions

This, with Capitalistic Behavior may become one of my largest posts, because it should contain my personal history (including experience), the ideal, the practical, and more.]

When I stumble upon a human settlement, I should have the ability to see problems or spaces for improvement and then implement the solution, which, especially of it involves society, may require others through social organizing, and through communication come to a consensus to take the necessary actions. That is the ideal work.

Politics [political philosophy] is the study of ideal social organization.
Will Durant, The Story of Philosophy

Politics then should be the practice of actualizing the ideal social organization. And I don’t mean a revolution. “Don’t get any big ideas“. Every tiny step counts.

It is during this kind of work, this state of mind, ideas, practical and theoretical, to improve society will form in the mind. This process is social progress.

As long as I begin the ideal work as an individual, I am not afflicted by the cultures (capitalism, social customs, the economic status of the others, the knowledge of the others). The danger begins once I interact with another to engage in political actions. I have to continually argue until the actions passes through.

group decision-making vs not (via capitalism):

Without capitalism, this would be far more smoother. With it, then I must either invest in myself, have other invest in the consensual action (a group of individuals pay), throw it on a crowd-sourcing platform (the public pays), ask government for a grant (public sector pays), or ask a capitalist for funding (private sector, venture capitalist pays).

When considering the time it takes to argue, to rationalize actions, make group decisions, nothing would ever get done, just science and government get nothing done; It is a bureaucratic dystopia. Artists and people who get shit done simply do not have the time to argue in this old-fashioned way. Instead, it’s done in lightning speed in the city, through the multiple methods of communication now available.

Hence, capitalism here, allows people to take actions without verification. In doing so, it creates a wildly uneven world. But as a person who wants to get shit done, because it must, then individually accumulating capital and then using it to fund my unverified actions appears to be the better path, because it is time-efficient.

Arguing against institutions is a waste of time. The amount of cultural problems within them, and the time to educate them on their problems are infinite. One [a single individual] cannot argue against every institution. Instead one must leave it to media which highlights their problems, or some other method of educating them At least, that’s the nice way.

How would people behave without capitalism? Would it be benevolent? Would that require some education in ethics? Without capital, then everyone must constantly make group decisions, or, it could turn into anarchy. Then, a common ethical foundation, which is then reproduced through culture, would be the only thing that keeps the society together.

Doot doot doot, this had digressed quite a bit.

Leave a comment | Categories: Applied Philosophy, Civics, Humanities, Personal, Philosophy, Political Philosophy, Social Change, Social Philosophy, Thoughts

Rick Roderick’s lecture on Habermas

08 December 2015

[todo: just posting the full notes, asterisks are worth thinking about

Habermas – The Fragile Dignity of Humanity
defends rationality at a time where humans did and thought of irrational things
instrumental, productive, labor, monological vs communication, dialogic
science, technology vs humanities, ethics
form ourselves in both dimensions, but cannot be subjective selves without communication
– this idea rejects empiricism such as Hume and Skinner
– correlates with Mead
– to Roderick this is obvious, and comments that “you’d be surprised that it isn’t obvious in philosophy”.
– [this I agree with, and why much of philosophy is indeed useless]
third interest – critical interest, human emancipation, human liberation from unnecessary constraints from freedom and full development
– free ourselves from productive and communicative reason [?]
the way philosophers in the humanities is free themselves is through hermeneutics — the interpretation of text, or simply, read books
systematically distorted communication [a term within lifeworld concept] or in Marxism, ideology [more specifically, cultural hegemony] — in every age the ruling ideas are of the ruling classes, and furthermore, spread by controlling the means of communication [manufacturing consent]
should always suspect beliefs because of cultural hegemony
interpretation for Habermas is not practical, it’s interpretive*
Habermas feels we have an interest in removing the distortions in communication***
in the negation: what would undistorted communication look like? Roderick answers with what I thought when asked the question: things other than just labor, but race, sex, class, colonialism, and so on*
communicative rationality
wants to disentangle enlightened action and barbaric actions including capitalism*
– he mentions of a thought of a previous class, where the enlightenment thinking of science did not lead to enlightened actions, it lead to fascism. He says Adorno said that there’s no history where slavery lead to freedom, but there is history where the slingshot lead to the megaton bomb.
– The sentences we utter, even at an early age, have in them the desire for consensus, mutual understanding**
– it has already has an critical impulse in it, the desire to have undistorted clear communication
quality provision**
undistorted communication would have a symmetry condition like this: everyone would have an equal opportunity to talk and listen*
– it has a political part to it: everyone has an equal right to command or obey, answer or question. It’s egalitarian; or, it’s distorted by the distribution of unequal power. He mentions teacher-student, parent-children, male-female
– based on the Socrates ideal, interlocuting, and which is why Socrates is charming — he has no power
– Habermas says the only force is only that everyone recognizes, which is a peculiar, strange, unforced force***
– Habermas believes that much in rationality. That we can change our minds if we hear a better argument. And a free person can do that without feeling ashamed. So, at the end of the argument one could change their beliefs, not through distortion, but that strange force when one person becomes convinced.
– conditions: try to be truthful, try to be relevant, try to be sincere, try to advance the cause of right — a moral condition, try to communicate ideally thought knowing it is impossible
– for Habermas, these represent different practical areas, spheres — science, morality, art, religion. In different spheres, each condition will have more importance. In science, truth. In morality, rightness and good behavior. In art, sincerity? Rick isn’t sure about the art part. Rick says reminds us that this is a German theory and everything needs to fit.
So by removing Marx, we remove economy. Which is difficult to tell coal miners in Virginia. Removing it kind of removes ourselves.*** And traded class struggle for Frued’s talking cure. Rick refutes this because worker’s bosses are different from analysts, they’re likely to use distorted communication. Even psychoanalysts may say, “if you don’t get paid, you won’t get better”.
The problems with Habermas’s theory, which critics mention, is that it is elitist. That it replaces the factory with the seminar. All of the conditions in which undistorted communication takes place is in a seminar, a university, which is where Habermas spent his entire life.****
– Habermas responds movingly, because communicative rationality applies to everyone, including workers, so the critics missed it’s universality. He says that in a process of enlightenment, there can only be participants. No analyst-patient model. It’s participatory.*** In this way, Rick comments happily, that it now looks like a linguistic theory of anarchism, and he likes it.**
– Hermeneutic people also critiqued Habermas because it limits it to a single interest [didn’t quite understand]; They argue anything can be interpreted, including science.
Interpretation is perhaps the way to achieve selfhood. Everyone is an interpreter. For example a red stop sign. Red is communist for Rick, but also stop. It goes on all around us all of the time, in all conversations and in our experience with the world.*** Especially in human relations. It just shows the ubiquity of interpretation in human life. We’re interpretive beings. It’s a part of being a self [the title of the lecture series]. And now, in the late 20th century, we are now in a situation where interpretation has never been more difficult,**** he references his Human Values lecture.

One artifact that is completely closed to interpretation is television [one-way communication]. Rick says Orwell’s 1984 is optimist, which is an image of a boot on a human face. It’s optimist because he assumes there will be resistance and humans faces, both of which may turn out to be false.

The tribute Rick wanted to pay to Habermas, and what interested him, was to try to defend reason, against cynical reason. It says to us, we can have reason, enlightenment, learn to say what is true. Although in his early work he doesn’t mention that this is endangered[,being wholly optimistic], he does mention it in his later work. In Theory of Communicative Reason, he comes back to defend it, adding more problems to it. Habermas addresses problems, some of what Rick mentioned already, but Habermas, in typical German fashion, waits to write a 4000 page book, lolol. In Rick’s book he does it in 31 pages. Habermas realizes that money and power as abstract systems distorts communication, and everyday talk. And those systems have to be harmonized to be within a system in which it will really be possible to speak to one another face-to-face. And hating to be quasi-theological: perhaps if we can do that, then we wouldn’t see through a glass darkly, and maybe have a way to find our way out of this dilemma, of the terrible entwinement of enlightenment and barbarism. Habermas is one voice that tells us that such a possibility exists, and for that Rick feels he deserves a lot of credit. That’s Habermas in a nutshell.

Leave a comment | Categories: Civics, Communication, Critical Theory, Humanities, Media, Philosophy, Political Philosophy, Rationality, Social Philosophy

Talking to Myself to Create a Statement Objective

14 November 2015

talking to myself
to create a
statement objective

talking to myself:

To make MIT’s environment more playful, encouraging interaction to all departments. To move MIT’s physical entity to the city?

Well, that’s probably what will go through my mind once I’m there.

But for now, let’s try to figure out some objectives here.

Wait, let me peer into a past application for a moment…

Hmm, looks like public and games. I’m guessing I was at a downtime then, in my parent’s bedroom in India, and wrote it, thinking fondly of my more game and new media oriented New York former self, and thinking less about the world around me at the time. Perhaps, wanting to escape to my childhood, playful, with less focus on society, and its infinite responsibilities.

But now my objectives are less game-oriented. Though using sensors and materials for design is still awesome, but civics seems to be where it’s at. It’s about developing communities. Public spaces, public policies, shifting people to make better decisions, sharing, walking, experiencing people and nature, creating a livable environment for all. Creating a better city. And I thought I could facilitate that by designing things for the city, to encourage interaction to further develop communities, to make better decisions, to make a positive impact.

Another objective, created during my downtime in isolation, as opposed to the uptime I’m engaged in a social networks of a city, I also felt tools for knowledge and organization could be useful. But in this case, I was influenced by the need of money, hoping to get an iOS gig to pay off debt quickly, and not hate myself while doing it. Most of these ideas should be left to people in San Francisco trying to create morally good tools under the influence of high land value rent slavery. How the fuck can people mold silicon atoms to transfer information, but not think about why they pay so much to be in the place they are? Hmmm…back to this… Though the tools for knowledge are useful in self-education, it’s the tools for organization of peoples that’s more needed.

Yes. Urban Planning at the Media Lab. Paradoxical? Media doesn’t affect people as real experiences do. One doesn’t understand another’s life by experiencing the media of another. One understands only by being in their position, at that space and time, which is, impossible.

…Sidetrained. List three faculty / research groups.
Two I know from past Google’ing:
1. Civic Media (current interest)
– maybe the dude who’s making Action Path
2. Responsive Environments (was divided from Tangible Objects?, a past interest)
– maybe the dude who made ma-key ma-key [now under Lifelong Kindergaten]

[These three go together. 1 for civics, 2 for applying tech to civics in the physical environment.

Maybe 3 should be living mobile for a continuation of being civic while being outside]

For the third, I have to look at the list. I probably shouldn’t look as it may distract me from what I want. But eh, I couldn’t resist… It seems there’s a huge overlap between my current interest of community-building / town planning (the term urban development sounds city-exclusive): Changing Places, Civic Media, and Social Computing. There’s also a lot of overlap for my interest in games and new media: Tangible Objects, Playful Systems, and Lifelong Kindergarten (stemming from games for education). [In fact, the entire department could be graphed with many past thoughts and ideas.]

3. have to look at the list… Hrmm..
– Changing Places, and its projects fails to recognize that people will create places to work for themselves. For myself, I enjoy working outside. That already defeats many of it’s projects. It also seems to fail take into consideration people of low income, the advent of public wifi (hopefully Boston has? lol.), and just generally the bare minimum a human needs to live and work. It shouldn’t be about creating places. It’s about modifying what exists to make it livable. A portable enclosed space, air conditioner, and battery seems enough. Then it becomes a social issue, of how the space affects the people nearby.
– Human Dynamics. Though I’m interested in mapping cities, I’m not so interested I seem to have an instinctual dislike of gathering human data and using it. I prefer the complexity of infinite data coming and and going out. Perhaps this data could be used to design better cities, but that that takes the fun out of organizing the mess. Again, this seems to be too cold, like economics.
– …!

Ah! That reminds me. I have a personal statement on my website! Perfect. Well, there’s no groups for empowerment (rescuing people from slavery — whichever slavery that may be), and the experience of being in such an environment will make it difficult for me to think about these issues, but I would have to think of my past, my past experiences, and constantly watch video of the rest of the world, then create designs on what I feel would work in any place in the world.

My first objective mentions creativity from materials (material science?). This I agree. It’s the basis of new media, the fun of my past time in New York with interactive art and all. But most importantly, it’s about having the knowledge of existing materials, and then letting the mind create forms out of that, to affect people, socially, interactively. The problem with most of the groups is that it is all data driven. Not physical. Where’s the fun in that? Therefore, one of the material-heavy research groups is necessary, just for the sake of having materials in working memory, and hopefully come in use in creative times. And in this case, it seems Responsive environments is similar to Parson’s Design and Technology, in that it uses sensors and public space. That’s perfect, because I don’t have the knowledge for Tangible Objects. But shouldn’t I try?

My second objective is community development, city development, and, in the context of Taiwan, national development. Which is Civic Media.

Hmmm…sidetraining to more groups:
Macro Connections – mentions a previous thought: all products should have a face. Which is absolutely important in decision-making in a globalized industrial age. Especially in wasteful post-modern societies. I am spoiled with Taiwan’s resourcefulness. Nothing goes to waste here, well, nothing materially, of human effort, a lot. Though the statement, transforming data into knowledge is great, the projects seem very data-driven.

…More wandering about their projects… It seems maybe one project from each group is of interest. Such as Spotz from Living Mobile or You are Here! from Social Computing. I guess I shouldn’t look at the projects, and stick to their group’s statement. And for that, Scalable Cooperation seems nice, though, I’m not interested in Kickstarter and the like. Rather, just Action Path. But that’s a part of Civic Media.

Playable Systems is something done on the side for fun. So is Design Fiction. Both seem to fall under art, not research. Save that for free time.

Which leaves two, maybe, I’ve got quite lost in all this junk: Living Mobile and Lifelong Kindergarten. Living mobile for my nomadic life and of course to educate people while they work (or vice versa, or simultaneously), and, Lifelong Kindergarten.

Hmmm yeah, forget it all and stick to my statement.


Re-read these thoughts and put them inside [square brackets].

ideal objectives:
I want to continue living in Taiwan, manage a public space in a city, collaborate with organizations here, be a part of my neighborhood, city, and country; I want to be a part of the civic decisions that goes on it, make it better by giving people methods to make civic decisions and methods to take action beyond the recent social media leveraged protests, organize reality to help decision-making; help communities maintain themselves by being aware of local problems, encourage people to socialize and collaborate with neighbors, encourage sharing; further autonomy with self-service housing, workspaces, and work; etc. all those ideals.

development of tools as the method toward ideal objectives:
To complete these objectives: there should be tools to help organize people physically and stay up to date with those people digitally, to allow people make civic decisions and take action, to allow people to educate themselves under the circumstances of the current lifestyle,tools to teach community leaders how to organize, to enable community leaders to organize urban data, to match the right solver to the problem; There should be a better designed city to calm people from moving and find people nearby to work with. Simple ideas should exist to facilitate sharing. There should be tools to have local discussion, to corrode corruption; Thanks to Taiwan’s solidarity, the autonomy of the country can be furthered with successful examples of the uses of spaces — housing, education, work, play, and mixes; etc. all those ideal, tools.

a note:
I am mostly thinking of Taiwan here because I cannot think of the scale of America — in size, development, and wealth. I am ignoring these things in the hope that tools will increase self-learning within self-interest, and when within a community, of the interest of others, as it worked for me.

two paths:
Continue living and working toward these ideals in Taiwan, starting with a space, as I normally do, but with the guidance of MIT Media Lab. This is less directional, but is constantly executed in reality and more pragmatic (bottom-up, agile, etc.).

If it is impossible to attend MIT Media Lab remotely, then, because of the physical restriction, my objectives will be far more tool development oriented, more exclusive, and far more influenced by the people, work, and materials in the space. This is further from reality, and I will have to simulate my past social construction of the world to think about what tools would be needed.

For community-based civics, the first path is better. For exposure to materials, ideas, and people, the second.

I’m going to assume only the second path is possible due to policy limits of the institution and simulate a civic-oriented public space to think of a few projects:

1. I want to create a tool to allow people (likely advanced urban peoples) to be able to create geopoints of interests to begin a forum for discussion, replacing the neighborhood town hall meeting with constant discussion (note: it would be up to the privileged smartphone-carrying generation to then communicate with non-tech people). A Civic Media project, Action Path, seemed close on paper, but far in presentation.

1. Further tools to enable people to take civil actions where it is beyond their own control. Enable people to be able to directly give real and current information to the right organization i.e. sending a picture. Facilitate the process of grant writing. Micro-grant writing and giving? How do civic-oriented people make money?

2. Use simple ideas, sensors, and simple DIY objects in the city to enhance community life, further civic decision-making, and incite action. How does the physical and digital match? DIY polling machines? How can I hire someone near me for a task, gig, or job? How can someone leave a task in a physical space (Taiwan loves physical signs, and I do too)? Spread the idea of sharing material within a community (starts with signs), and create tools for it.
*. How to enable people to transform local areas into an Exploratorium filled with current knowledge, yet avoid over-development or tourism.

2. Give community leaders tools to create maps from data, scrape data, and create data, though, it’s possible that the existing tools are enough.

3. Be in conversation with the crowdsourcing people. The digital distribution of wealth is not in my domain until it affects a physical location, to which there should be consent of the local people. Besides, it generally needs more checks.

*. Improve my current self-education toolset of mobile applications. This includes reading, writing, watching, sources, curriculums, social, and experience. Think about the fastest ways to record an idea digitally and convey it. Think about how curriculums can be individually created and crowdsourced, using real local examples and digital media organized by those autodidacts. Gather the learned information [with consent] such as highlights and notes of an eBook, and video clips and its annotations, for future educational use.

development of tools as the method toward objectives:
The tools are simple. Mobile and web applications. Maybe it gets a little fancy with sensors in public places, or games. Perhaps it’s the execution and spreading of ideas that is more important.

priority problem of tools development:
Being outside of the city and inside a lab, I believe it’s quite difficult determine which tool is needed more, and which needs more development. When does a physical sign, a bulletin board, a mother sitting on a porch suffice, and when does it not? The priorities depend on the individual or organization. The norms of how people interact change by society and area.

more public space experience as a bonus objective:
During my life I’ve been lucky to stumble upon great people and great groups of people in certain spaces: a public room of my college, a progressive K-12 school in Zhongli (Taiwan), an NGO in Thailand, a cafe / performance venue in Kuala Lumpur, an outdoor restaurant in Nepal, a co-working civic space in Taizhong (Taiwan), Taipei Fablab, and countless hostels (or other shared living situations).

Though they are all great, in my mind, Babycastles is the epitome of a public space. It has the civic values, diversity, technical knowledge, and energy.

MIT Media seems to be the only academic department I know that comes close to my ideals and my directions (at this moment).

I’m sure MIT Media Lab is similar to all those spaces I love: consensus decision-making, messy physical space, messy digital notes, impromptu city meetups, calls, messages, pictures, poor food decisions, and the sort. But I’m also sure there’s lot to learn in doing it under an academic umbrella, with the rigor of the best.

the takeaway / reverse brain drain:
When the program is complete, I hope to muster all of my experience toward creating spaces around Taiwan, and perhaps later, less developed countries nearby, to help people help themselves.


a comparison of my direction (statement and method) and MIT Media Lab’s direction:
My history is filled with games, media (mostly film) studies, living in cities, traveling and volunteering. In order, it was technology, media,

Over my life, it seems my ideas align with MIT Media Labs, so much so that a map could be created.

my ideal space and MIT Media Lab’s space:

These ideals seemingly fall under a categorial imperative, and to my surprise, from my experience, people in less developed societies (or ethnic enclaves of American cities) also act upon it, and I find solace within them.

I believe the organization (including public spaces) must be in the city because it is impossible to understand the complexity of a city.

I prefer to complete these objectives by wandering the masses of stimuli of the city, ‘thinking fast’ in the space and time where they are needed, creating with the efficacy of a politically influenced artist, with much awareness of the people’s minds, without decor, without human language.

Therefore, physically attending MIT Media Lab is paradoxical, but the execution of ideals are limited by time and the knowledge of people around me, and I again run into the familiar feeling of seeking like-minded people to be productive.

If I were paid to live and do these things here, I would. I will apply to Taiwan’s schools but I believe for the same reasons Parson’s (The New School) design and technology (D&T) program didn’t work for me, neither will Taiwan’s schools: their classes with real organizations encourage top-down data-driven models, their D&T student body lacked diversity in income, and their space has less tools than their fine arts department, which was exclusive. I often cannot handle such difference in values.

Though their government is very lenient, lawless, and giving, I still have to work with language barrier, self-finance (English tutor or whatever else capitalism values here), and a somewhat traditional government.

I believe it’s possible to educate within public spaces, guide people toward my interests, which are likely in the people’s interest. I found the hard way, that keeping such a space or community alive is more than a full-time job, but worth pursuing.



As much as I want accomplish all those objectives, even after lengths of time of doing others kinds of work and travel, I seem to fall into a habitual trap of doing something from my past self, organizing things on a computer.

It’s wrong. I should be in Nepal searching villages who haven’t received aid, and help organize the examination and earthquake-proofing of housing, or something else direly needed local to my current position.

I want to keep my body in the developing world for everyday experiences to affect me, and to maintain a nearly-purely functional (according to my social reality at that time) lifestyle because this is an audience my mind can make sense of (in my mind).



[todo: read it all!]
civic.mit.edu/blog/erhardt/notes-on-monitory-democracy-and-a-networked-civil-society (todo: read it)


dusp.mit.edu/behavior-and-policies-2014 *****

statement objective:
“Statement Objective” for MIT Media Lab:
First, the questions, then some chit-chat.

The Questions:
Why you wish to attend graduate school:
To experience a great space (MIT Media Lab) again and apply it’s successful methods, ethics, and rigour to the ones I desire to create in Taiwan, and wherever else I may be. It’s also nice to experience all of the directions The Lab is going, so that when I am wondering about creatively and philosophically, within a social space or alone, I have some anchored directions to compare my own with.

What you would like to study:
[EDIT: My first research field interest, Civic Media group, has been removed, and many of the other group’s statements and projects have been moved around, altered, and or updated. Although unfortunate, I don’t think my statement requires much alteration. The groups that I have selected are the means to civil and social ends, of which pervade several groups within the lab.]

My most desired direction of work overlaps well with the Civic Media group’s statement: “…Transforming civic knowledge into civic action…” and “…experimenting with a variety of new civic media techniques, from technologies for protests and civil disobedience…”. I would like to re-experience current massively available technology (sensors, micro-controllers, etc.) and spend time playing with materials to have these things in working memory so that I (1) think of designs for civic tools. Ideally (more under Chit-Chat later) I prefer to consistently execute and innovate on direct social and urban interventions [/techniques?] to try to budge human behavior — in small steps toward collectively agreeable things like public safety, health, and sanitation — with a minimum amount of wealth. While experimenting, I would likely want to study anything related to that. The goal is to aid or enable people to make better decisions and actions and conversely to disorganize people from their habituated cultured actions to create more diverse social experiences, with the end being to improve society (non-material, culture) and urban (material),

I think as a kind of nomadic autodidact, creating (2) tools to facilitate self-education whilst physically moving will always naturally come to mind, and as a kind of people organizer so too will (3) tools to facilitate social organizing. These interests are auxiliary to the more civic-action-oriented interests, but it sure would be nice to have these groups around to interact with.

I think simply due to a long past of playing and even making games, I think as a counter my seriousness, (4) it would be nice to incept, design, and implement playful ideas again, even just for the sake of being actively making.

What you would precisely like study (optional reading, in case the above was too general):
The project that comes closest to my interests are the ideas (from the research paper) behind Action Path, not the actual product (from the powerpoint presentation), which seems to be far different. Here’s how I imagined it in an email to the creator of it: “I would love to subscribe to any changes in my neighborhood by the government, old-wealthy gangsters (Taiwan’s old private sector), and new-wealth gentrifiers. If the information is not transparent (very likely for all of Taiwan), then people (likely advanced urban peoples) should be able to create geopoints of interests to begin a forum for discussion (and then the new tech generation will hold a physical meeting for the old people).” Or perhaps there should be a small voting device that can be physically placed at locations, for the old generation and keeping votes within proximity.

Promise Tracker’s idea to “hold elected leaders accountable for political promises” is pretty good under a working representative democracy, but I feel the project’s actions are too lenient to make any meaningful political change. Promise Tracker’s method of gathering real data, tracking the status, and attracting attention, however, is a good one, and could be applied to any civic problem and institution. A kind of more abstract FixMyStreet, and better suited tool than creating a Facebook group. It would be more interesting as a simple tool for smaller self-governing communities, or neighborhoods, where it feels less like blaming a representative and more of a cooperative initiative with neighbors.

Perhaps my urge for more direct changes is from my experience in Taiwan, where law enforcement ideology is opposite of US: there is none. This allows people to take a lot more civil actions without worrying so much about laws and policies. Of course, this requires quite a good education and culture, but I also feel it creates a far more ideal social framework to design for.

A class from MIT Urban Planning department titled behavior and policies (dusp.mit.edu/behavior-and-policies-2014), though heavily referencing pop science books, is perhaps to the closest to my ideal direction of negating bad behavior. Though note, that class is limited to policy-making as its means of influencing, and transportation as its sole focus. I’m not interested in policy-making, I’m interesting in culture-making.

Though a part of my statement is to adopt better behaviors, especially the case in urban areas, the counterpart is to create tools to enhance simple communal life. Politically reworded: to reduce the adverse behavioral affects of capitalism and to increase the social organization of anarchic communal spaces.

Instead of what I want to study, it may help to list projects that I don’t care much about: projects that display crowd-sourced data-driven data, aggregate and order media, attempt to gather even more data from humans, projects that deals private housing, and projects that solely use data as the basis for its [instrumental] rationality. This is simply because I’m always skeptical about data and it’s oft pairing of top-down methodologies, especially of how urban material affects human minds and lives.

Despite my desire for reasonable behavior, I am a romantic and hope that everyone can walk and talk across the cities and countries they live in as opposed to gazing at data — People don’t change their behavior because data tells them, it’s because they’ve had certain life experiences, and then they become agents with the possibility to alter the culture people live in.

Any research experience:
Research requires too much time, so I’ve tend to skip to theory or practice and learn the hard way. This is a pretty consistent fault of my personality — think McCandless from Into the Wild —, and hence my interest in quicker solutions such as direct interventions and Banksy style art; I normally do not think systematically and I am not interested in writing about sociology into scientific journals; This may be another reason to attend a research graduate school: to experience research, especially at the top research institute. Though, I think I will always be skeptical.

Describe one or more accomplishments you are particularly proud of that suggest that you will succeed in your chosen area of research:
I’m particularly fond of my time in New York with the local game and new media scene which resulted in participating in game jams (includes Doodle Tangle prototype), making two games: Pinkies Up and Crystal Brawl, and spending time at Babycastles, an amazing public volunteer-based organization with what now seems incredible values and dreams, and set the bar for what a social organization can be and do.

The hope here is that my design and tech past will converge with my more civil-oriented motivations.

About the Quirkiness of my Application:
Though my application is playfully written, I confirm it is as accurate within the limits of the application form. Of Letters of Recommendation: I won’t ask friends for letters until I enter society and begin talking again so that one has the most recent references, but if needed, I can provide previous letters of recommendation written last year for The New School / Parson’s / Design and Technology program, which are written from my game friends in New York. Of Subjects Taken: I don’t remember much of college work and therefore did not list it. Much of my education during college came from films via the advent of Netflix. Of Financial Support: I currently have no money and how much I will have will depend on the future. It’s all true, though seemingly a joke.

Chit-Chat (extra reading):
What I Want and Why I Applied:
What I really desire is continue living in Taiwan, create a social organization here, not too far from what I feel MIT Center for Civic Media does, with less emphasis on the development of complex tools, and more on practice — using tools to create urban maps, using Action Path to geolocate discussions, using Promise Tracker to keep government in check, follow and use Taiwan’s kickstarter for civic projects, etc. — and for general community hall things for continuous local experience.

The Paradox (written during a more intense time):
I believe the organization (including public spaces) must be in the city because it is impossible to understand the complexity of a city outside of it.

I prefer to complete these objectives by wandering the masses of stimuli of the city, ‘thinking fast’ in the space and time where they are needed, creating with the efficacy of a politically influenced artist, with much awareness of the people’s minds, without decor, without human language.

Therefore, physically attending MIT Media Lab is paradoxical [because it is not in Taipei, and is private], yet the execution of ideals are limited by time and the knowledge of people around me, and I again run into the familiar feeling of seeking like-minded people to be productive.

Now and Next:
I took a break from Taipei and lodged myself in a nearby small town, to which I thought and wrote a lot, beginning with this application meandering to grants applications in which my statement sounds like the creation of a kind of ‘MIT social and urban innovation lab’ and back to this.

I’ve come to the conclusion that granting organizations, or anyone really, won’t fund wild individuals, so I’m just going to have to continue going around Taiwan on a scooter, hopping about social organizations, probably ending back in Taipei Fablab, which is where I will probably begin to organize again because that’s the most open organization I’ve run into here, and would help with obtaining grants.

I’ll also be applying to National Taiwan University’s urban planning program (Taiwan doesn’t have anything like the Media Lab) and scholarships for it, as a strategy to stick myself in Taipei, get funding, and gather local and national organization knowledge, at the cost of time.

Beyond Taiwan:
Though Taiwan is my ideal first area for creating such public spaces for these directions, it is not the limit. I’ve lived somewhat nomadically since college graduation and I try to make a positive social impact wherever I am. The hope is that after MIT I will be more efficient at creating impacts in the right directions in any human settlement.

My Online Portfolio:

Leave a comment | Categories: Civics, Conversation, Critical Theory, Organization, Personal, Philosophy, Self-assessment, Urban Philosophy

Decision-making, Civics, and Technology

24 December 2014

“Its every judgement and every decision are the root cause of society’s various calamities.” – Ai Wei Wei

From an article about Action Path, a tool from MIT Media Lab’s Civic Media:

Taking people out of their routine spaces, and in some cases forcing them to work synchronously, represents a high barrier to entry for many would-be active citizens.

to see how cities actually work through experience, to go out and see what makes a neighborhood thrive, or to see what makes a neighborhood struggle,


Good communities such as post-modern cities and traditional small towns have a pretty good balance of physical and digital data; They are in tune with the world, their neighborhoods, and their neighbors.

It would be nice to have crucial civic data to fit the physical, especially for the sake of encouraging civic engagement, specifically, urban planning. If a person’s building is going to be demolished, it should be known. People physically see several things during their everyday commutes. They care for it. They should have access to the civic data that goes to it. And it shouldn’t be hidden in community meetings or the digital world.

Even if a pizza shop is shutting down, the pizza shop owner might say to his fine customers, “we’re shutting down because the rent was raised again”! Most people won’t respond to that with action. Instead, that would shrug and say, “that’s life, good luck”. Similarly, the pizza owner probably wouldn’t have a petition for keeping his business up. The people are the agency here. It’s up to people to know that rent has gone up for the entire block at an absurd price because a big business is planning to build a headquarters nearby.

Thus far developed societies poor efforts at a creating a more interactive life have only lead to giving people mobile phones. So, it seems, for now, that an application is all we can do to give that kind of data to the people during their everyday walks.

Is that enough? Will people download an application and look at it?

Physical interaction is always more powerful than digital. Having a physical sign will lead to more action than a digital one. Only those who have time to research deeply to make a decision will resort technology for data. Otherwise, for those short decisions, a more casual talk is better.

Perhaps there just needs to be physical signs everywhere about everything going on in dense places. If a building is going to be demolished, sold, built, there should be a sign that says so, far ahead of the date. That should be the law. If it is the law, then when something abrupt happens, citizens will be able to argue that there was no such sign.

That reminds me of finding apartments in Taiwan. Though there’s a ton of websites, just finding a neighborhood one likes, then looking out for a particular red sign that says for rent, a physical bulletin board, and talking to local people turned out to be a quite effective compared to using apartment websites, especially if one cares more about the location than the amenities. Also, it’s just more physical, and therefore more fun, at the cost of efficiency.

The sign could have a website on it to a digital place. Physical things should lead to digital things, rarely ever the other way around.

At least for now, we can start with that mobile application for the sake of easily geolocating places. Until Google Glass is as prevalent as mobile phones, I’m unsure of what can be done.

Design Ideas:
There should be a kind of portable electronic ballet for public civic decisions. A fingerprint, a few buttons, and maybe a camera. Place it at any location, and enable the people to vote for decisions on anything.

Leave a comment | Categories: Civics, Urban Philosophy