Friday, August 27, 2010

Who I Am, and What I'm Doing

Time for the As I Remember It-ly Who I Am And What I Do:

I'm Wolven, also known as Damien, and I write, rant, Twitter, etc, about philosophy, religion, science, technology, magic, the future, books, comics, politics, movies, music, and whatever else crosses my mind. I do that in the following places:

LiveJournal (Most Often)



Facebook (bleh)


Here (but not really that often. Obviously.)


And that's who and where I am.

Who and where are you?

Monday, December 8, 2008

Raising the Level of Discourse (Revisited)

This is the piece I submitted to 3QD. This was originally posted as It has since been edited, reformatted, etc.

Raising the Level of Discourse
by Damien Williams

I’ve been thinking a lot, these past few years, about the positions in which we as human beings find ourselves. I think that humans have a tendency to seek the path of least resistance, like electricity, and to seek to fill a shape, like liquids or gasses, and the most visible evidence of this is in our societies. We have societies which, for the vast majority of situations, reinforce and reward not making things different. If we change anything, at all, we make things easier for everyone, and provide clearer instructions for doing exactly as much as it takes, to get through the day. When we find that there are a lot of us who aren’t doing as good as we could be, we lower the bar, and appeal to what has ever been known as the “lowest common denominator.” But for many of us, you see, the goal is not to find the lowest common denominator, and then appeal to it; and we think it ought not to be the goal for anyone. We generally feel that the goal ought to be to find the highest conglomerate bar, and seek to raise everyone to it.

As I discussed with some colleagues back in September of 2007—alternately defending and attacking, shielding and enfolding the arguments of two other people, because I rock, like that—if what a group has, as a society, is a Line of Best Fit model, with various social outliers and extremes—such as incest and cannibalism—then there will be a very few people for whom the line is perfect, and the rest of the populace will, in fact, make do. It seems that the change that comes to a model such as this will necessarily be a slow change, in that an individual ideal must have time to propagate, disperse into the societal ideal, bounce around, taking root in various places, and then bounce back. If we were able to watch the line, as this happened, we would see a representation of a lot of people slowly shuffling in a new direction in the changing of the line, but it would be as a result of everyone constantly looking around to make sure they aren't the new outliers. This means that when the line changes, at all, it's because everyone is reasonably sure that they're not going to be the "weird" one" or the "wrong" one or the one who looked at something verboten, on the internet at work.

It was also posited that the time a change in the line takes is a necessary function of the level of connectivity and the economic pressures that entails. Dennis LoRusso of Emory University notes that people have to work to juggle jobs, home, family, friends, etc, and that all of that uses up a certain amount of human processing power. If attention is a commodity, then there are only so many things that we can deem “important,” as individuals, and only so many things about which a society will collectively decide the same. And so I believe the solution to both of these very large concerns rests in one specific, unbearably slow shift in our societal line: Value sets. The things that we, as societies, believe are important must shift in subtle but crucial directions. In the United States of America, for instance, if we can change the value sets of people to focus less on monetary advancement and the "stuff" that they want, which they feel are registered signs of abstracts like "success," or "wealth," or "happiness," or "freedom," then we can focus on what those abstracts actually are and what they mean.

If we have a societal system where the advancement and success of an individual is based not simply on work-for-pay, but on truly doing what you love, what you can, not for survival, not for pay, but to contribute something to the growth of a society, then our model of economics would change, drastically. It would have to, because “Value” would have a whole new meaning. We would need to change our description of what people do and why they do it, because new variables of input would have become relevant. But, in order to do it, we must use the economic pressures, as they currently exist, and bring about a value change. Use the values to change the values. This is generally referred to as “Bootstrapping.”

The modes and methods of these changes, as well as certain other considerations that we will shortly visit, can be found in various iterations of popular culture. For example: People like "American Idol," for whatever reason? This is fine. Give them competition-based shows for things like Music Composition, classical piano, painting, poetry; anything other than pop music, being a fashion model, and choreographed dancing. Top Chef, while I don't watch it, is an example of this expanded discourse, to an extent. More clearly, “The Chef Jeff Project” displays competition-based “reality television” programming as a force for social change. We slowly move the line, so that we can achieve, eventually, the ability to take in new information, and adjust the line to the input on a faster scale. This change in input ratio will, itself, require the use of the very technology that keeps us connected to each other, in the first place—the technology that keeps us connected to our jobs so that the boss can say "I need you to work, this Saturday," or "Oh goodness, it's 4 am and the server hath exploded, could you please come in and fix it?" It will need this because it is that connectivity that allows our constant input.

This connectivity is already changing the face of various governments. President-elect Barack Obama has announced the establishment of five-day-long periods of open commenting on any non-emergency legislation, prior to his signing it into law. Whether his administration actually takes those comments into consideration remains to be seen, but it is, if nothing else, a step in the right direction.

There are problems. For one, we might well ask, “Won't this just be one big argument? Won’t we have so much argument and interaction, so quickly, that nothing will ever get done?” While it may be true that people have a tendency to argue, in such a way that it may continue to take forever to get anything done, debate and discernment are capabilities that we have now, and traits that we display, and will continue to have and display for as long as people have different ideas. So, hopefully, forever. Introducing the right concepts at the right times generally allows the majority of people to push past the petty differences, toward a better, greater whole. All I'm proposing is that we make that push happen faster, relative to the rest of our endeavours.

For another thing, many of you may be concerned about the meaning of privacy, in a situation like the above. When people are connected such that their new ideas are transmitted on a near instantaneous basis, won't there be a fundamental lack of individual privacy? Will it even be practical to expect that things not be known about us, in the arena of public knowledge? Well, while it may not be immediately seen that this would be a practical thing, simply having the option to withhold a certain amount and/or type of information would be a step toward accommodating those who may be uncertain about the levels of connectivity necessary to change our societal landscape. To that end, I would propose a set amount of things held as "private knowledge;" these things are yours, and can be shared with as many or as few people as you choose, and when a threshold limit is reached (say, you've told 15 or 20 people), your information is no longer private, anyway, so it is removed from the cache. New things get to go in.

This is obviously an imperfect solution. Shirow Masamune’s Ghost in the Shell universe provides a landscape for these types of concerns, and I would like to offer that it is a landscape we should explore if we decide to go further, in this direction. To those who would say that we would need to become “post privacy,” however, I would offer this question: Do you really want to know every thing about every one, all at once? Or would a gradual process of exchanges in trust and accessibility be preferable?

Thirdly, what about people who don't want to come in to the new system? Do we force them to participate? Is the negation of choice, in the interest of making all choice more free, a valid or acceptable move? If I were to reprogram your brain in only one respect, against your will, and that respect was to want to be a part of this system, would that make it okay to make you a part of the system? What about if it was your choice, all along, and I merely allowed you to see the benefits of it on a compressed timescale? These are things to think about, certainly, because many would say that it is never acceptable to remove the choice of the individual, no matter the greater good. On the other hand, most people have a pragmatic line where they will concede that it becomes necessary. Additionally, epistemic questions arise, regarding the foundation of our choices, and whether they are truly “ours.”

These are only three of the many questions that arise, but I think they are major ones. Their proper handling and consideration are vital to the continuance of our societies, in a technologically dependent age. Additionally, many of my references have come from Japanese comic books, American animation, and reality television programming, and this should be noted. In our attempt to find solutions to these problems and systems which may be useful in moving forward, certain aspects of oft-maligned popular culture may provide a rich and intellectually fertile field in which to test ideas of a philosophical and theoretical nature. As more and more materials of a serious nature are approached in popular culture, we will find more and more academics whose interests are addressed therein. And the door opens both ways, with famous academics and serious minds such as Stephen Hawking appearing in and giving weight to pop-culture media. We should not be afraid to appear “puerile” or “immature” through our investigation of these avenues, as any serious examination of the material will show that they are often the most mature. Not to mention, we should be willing to investigate any available schema which looks as thought it may allow us to beneficially change the structure of our societies.

Though we cannot account for any and all potential hindrances, we can make an attempt to plan for contingencies, and strive for a collective effort to make the world in which we live a better place. If we seek to raise the level of discourse—assuming not that every person who hears us is incapable of understanding us, but rather that they are possessed of the basic potential to integrate and apply new types and tokens of information—then we may finally come to see a shift in what is represented by “the majority.” People have a basic capacity for learning; it’s time we started treating them, as such.

©Damien Williams. All Rights Reserved.

Friday, July 25, 2008

A Use:

[Written April 18, 2008, 12.50pm: 'I am trying to promote and network the people whose work I respect and admire. That includes You.

'You are to get me links and descriptions of your current work, and the kind of work for which you're looking.

'You are to take the links and descriptions that you have for the people whose works you respect and admire, your friends and heroes, and you are to post them.

'That's the Deal, remember?

'Because You're Awesome.']

Kirsten Brown: The artwork of Kirsten Brown. Art for sale and art on commission. Dealing in the fantastical, the occult, horrific, technological, and generally amazing. Check her out, buy some art, commission her. She has Shirts, Prints, and an Art Blog.

Nina Bargiel: Nina Bargiel, of The Slack Daily and The Post-Apocalyptic Work-Out, writer of hilarious televisions, and other types of things. Generally talented, humourous, gifted screen-writer. Hire her. [05.05.08: Now also the Nerdy Miss Manners, over at AntiSocial Networking. Brilliant.]
[07.23.08: New weekly Video Chat, along with Will Betheboy "BeTheMarriage LIVE! (On Ice)". Check it Out.]

Jason Wade: Currently doing work in short films and experimental Micro-films. Low-budget, high-quality work, well-written, well-acted, well-shot. Directing, editing, and casting, superb. Watch their work, there, or on the You-Tubs and the FlickR.

Dan Schaffer: Artist and Author Dan Schaffer is working on a number of projects, at the moment, all of which yoou will find to be disturbing, intriguing, amazing, hilarious, and thought-provoking. At present, however, the third collection of his seminal work DogWitch comes out in June, and can be reached/pre-ordered through the second Schaff-related link, above. The book is entitled "Mood Swings," and it's aptly-named, let me tell you. Pick it and the rest of the series up from Amazon, or order through his site, above. [07.04.08: Dan is also scripting the forthcoming Doghouse due to be released from Sony, next year. Keep an eye out.]

Grinding: Grinding is Grinding. Tracking the emergence of the future, or, as I like to say it, the realisation of the futurity of the present. The fact of current ability and activity towards making and mapping the course of future events, and making sure we're prepared for what we're likely to encounter, there. At least, that's how I see it.

Zachary Anderson: Develops and sells card-based role playing games which are really pretty fun. You should buy them, and play them with your friends. Presently, most well-known for Mad Scientist University, but is in the process of making more. Can probably consult on card game-related projects, for a nominal fee.

Thomas Bryan Smith: Photography, art, online database management. Useful to me in many ways, personally, as a source of information and resources.

R.M. Rhodes: Champion of Remix Culture, sex-positive, sex-progressive author, currently and proudly producing his own pornographic comix. Known for his distinctive purple suit and his ability to find amusing and interesting tidbits of information, he cuts a space in your mind which ensures you'll remember him, no matter what you think of him.

Jamie McKelvie: Artist and co-creator of the critically acclaimed Phonogram and creator, artist, and author of Suburban Glamour. Many new and interesting things, from him, including an upcoming X-Men project, the TPB collection of SG, and others. Take a look.

Jerem Morrow: Creating comics and new art, with the help of his Specialized Ninja Army (zombie monkeys, doncha know). Definitely an interesting party to know.

Jennie Breeden: Creator of the Hilarious "Devil's Panties" which is, in fact not Satanic Porn, Jennie Breeden's is a tale of someone reaching for and meeting their own personal standards for success. You can order the individual issues of her physical comics, here, as well as finding the order numbers to get them in at your local comic shop. Which I highly suggest you do. My favourite former comic-store employee and webcomic creator, and probably the only one whom I know, personally.

Kevin Schmidt: Neo-Shamanic executive transvestite. Currently writing for the aforementioned, as well as working on his own novel. He also has the distinction of doing "occult fact-checking and consulting for speculative fiction authors as a sideline -- most recently: Marie Brennan's Midnight Never Come." A job which-- if I may engage in some truth-based hyperbole, while quoting Meatwad, for a moment-- I would kill someone, in front of their own mother, to obtain.

Ben Templesmith: Co-creator of 30 Days of Night and Fell, and creator of the amazingly mindbending Wormwood: Gentleman Corpse (watch the video on that site. It's tops. Music by Stever). Several hats, several plates spinning, or chainsaws in the air, if you prefer a more potentially deadly metaphor.

Ego Likeness: Steven Archer and Donna Lynch. They are amazingly nice people, and their work, both musical and artistic speaks for itself, in a deep, bloody, swampy, industrial growl. [06.02.08:21.45: See also Steven's 365 Days Of Blasphemous Horrors, over at Weird Tales; a new Lovecraftian Horror, every day. Mentioned every where on the Blogocube, these past few days, if you missed it.]

CaitlĂ­n R. Kiernan: Writer of the Fortean-fantastical, the phantasmagoric, the science-based fictional, and, yes, even the horrific and terrifying. Also a little of the deliciously filthy. An author who has truly integrated her influences and made them her own, done new things with them that could not really have been done, unless she did them. See also: Murder of Angels, Tales of Pain and Wonder, and Daughter of Hounds.

Reanna Remick: Maker of shirts, crafts, and cosplay. Damn fine sewing-type person, and pretty good personal organiser. Widgett, promotional genius and advertising madman. Does professionally the kind of thing I want to do. Work with him. He'll get you paid.

David S. Foley: A composer of great talent, and a fairly wide repertoir. Worth paying money for all manner of musical needs. If he would e-mail me a description of his skills and strengths, I could do this a lot more readily. *Ahem*

Dave Sim: I agree with some of his views, and disagree with others, but that's not what this is about. His new work, Judenhass, is vastly important and needs to be read by a great many people.

Sam Means: Otherwise known as C.H. Dalton, his homour has made you laugh for years, you just haven't realised it. Check out his A Practical Guide to Racism, and learn how to more properly engage in racialist studies, in the future.

Daniel Weidenfeld: Producer and contributing writer at Super Deluxe. Watach any video he's had a hand in. Brilliant.

Nick Weidenfeld: Executive Producer and Program Development Manager for Adult Swim, he probably doesn't need me to pimp him here, but I want people to know the work he does, so they can go out and say thanks to him, for it. Or whatever.

Mr Friskett's Improvisational Comedic Performance Group: A group of people who you want to watch perform comedy. Witty, intelligent, insane, hilarious. Consisting of many very funny people, including a few friends of this entity. Watch there, for upcoming shows.

Ren Bail: Writer, finishing and working on many pieces. For your reading enjoyment: 'Zombies in the Spring' and 'Night City'.

James B. Willard: Otherwise known as musician Brokenkites, maker and purveyor of fine musics. Ambient industrial, soundscapes like wind-swept ghost cities, briefly inhabited by dust and trash devils swirled into individuals and scene friezes. List to it. He's also one of the most fun and consistent waiters at R Thomas, in Atlanta.

Steve Oppelt - Prolific tattoo artist of an amazing amount of talent, in a relatively short period of time. Can always use mor clients, of course.

Leslie Carda - "does alterations mostly these days from a business she runs out of her home, but she also can offer services ranging from pattern design for clothing manufacturing, to creation of custom made outfits. you can reach her by her cell phone [Number Available Upon Request]. additionally she is a talented potter and artist, and teaches the occasional class at You Gotta Have Art."

Julie Carda - 'is a struggling fantasy author, her most recent book is Portal To Love and you can read it for free on her website.'

Scott DeathBoy: Maker of fine Industrial Musicks, to be listened to at 4 am, while drunk and philosophical about the world, and your place in it. Or when you really want to punch some idiot in the face.

Jeremy Robert Johnson: In addition to sharing the last two of his names with one of the best blues musicians of all time, the man writes some of the most disturbing, squickifying horror you will ever read. So you should read it.

Annie Bosworth Foley: Is in Santa Cruz, working on a production of 'All's Well That Ends Well'. If you're in the Santa Cruz area, you should check it out.

Jeana: A Belly Dancer with the Different Drummers Belly Dancing Troupe, in the Indiana and Illinois area. Information on performances and hiring to be found at the link, above.

Elliott Belser's visual novel, Transformation Sequence. Very interesting-sounding piece.

J.R. Blackwell and Jared Axelrod: 365 Tomorrows. If you don't know of it, already, now you do, and should certainly be paying attention to it.

Rob Hodgson: Working on the 'Dexter' Game, for the iPhone. See Here, As Well. The better they do, the more likely they are to get a cross-platform release.

Jeanelle Eros: 'Part time custom jewelry maker. Jeanelle Eros (nee' Jeanelle Carda) loves to do custom work but also has a shop up on etsy: . . hey, if you see an idea you like, but the color is way wrong, talk to me and i can custom make you anything you want. Or if you have an idea for something, i could make that too.'

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Not here.

I'm not here. That would be redundant.