Dynamics are a map to the energy that constantly moves in the world. Energy that takes many shapes like attention, money, love, anger. Energy, in this sense, is the primary matter of the world. It is what drives us to action, what moves us into the future, what defines our activity and the trace we’ll get to leave on Earth as a species.
Human energy, social energy creates all things. Energy has its own unique way of behaving. Or rather, universal ways of behaving —just like laws of physics. The ways in which energy behaves on objects and physical matter must be the same ways energy behaves at a higher scale, when it has effects on society and culture.
This dynamics thing is really the metadata level of all things. Instead of categorizing things by their type like politics, technology, sociology, we can look at them in this insightful new way which reveals how interconnected they truly are.
This might help determine what is driving change, what is confirming existing knowledge. What is drawing stuff closer, what is pushing things apart. What seems to always repeat itself, and at what rhythm.
Like the City of God, the Digital City exists in no particular place and abides by its own rules of time. Digital communities emerge in shared time rather than in shared space; simultaneity is the coin of the realm. The Digital City orders the lives of its citizens in keeping with a perpetual present disassociated from both past and future, heightening a tendency already present in electronic mass media like television. Mass media audiences shared time, while smaller groups also shared spaces, gathering in front of the television, or by the radio, or in the theater. Mobile digital technology, however, has strained the link between presence and place, making it optional. We may now be in multiple places at once, here in my body, but there in speech or vision. The community to which I find myself most drawn may not exist in any one place, composed as it is of scattered kindred spirits brought together through digital technology. The triumph of shared time and the demise of shared place in the Digital City changes the experience of social belonging. While the modern state is not going anywhere anytime soon, the relationship of citizens to the nation is evolving. Loyalty to the community that is the nation state, already detached to some degree from local communities, yields to the shifting loyalties of digital attachments.
Let us play, then, with the idea of a Digital City and an Analog City, and consider how the tension between the two shapes our moment. Our political culture has been hitherto formed predominantly by the Analog City, which reflected to varying degrees both the inheritance of print culture and the conditions created by electronic media. What we are now witnessing is the ascendancy of the Digital City, which is characterized primarily by the advent of ubiquitous Internet connectivity, no longer just at home or work but also on mobile technology. Of course, the analogy to Augustine’s two cities breaks down at a point — the Digital City is in most respects unlike the City of God, nor are we considering eternal destinies. The key parallel is that our participation in the public sphere is shaped largely by our loyalties to one or the other city and that we are witnessing the emerging dominance of one of them. Some of us have inhabited both the Analog City and the Digital City, while an increasing number of us have known only the Digital City.
It is useful to remember where exactly we are in the history of the Digital City. The Internet has been around for a half century, but the World Wide Web — the part of the Internet we access through web browsers — is about thirty years old. The transition to what was dubbed Web 2.0, which made participation more widely accessible, and connected what we then quaintly thought of as our “in real life” identity more closely to our online presence, began just over fifteen years ago. The transition to smartphones and tablets, which made digital media a constant presence in our lives and our default media environment, has occurred only over the last decade. In other words, only recently has the Digital City begun to manifest itself in the public spaces that have been hitherto ordered by the priorities and sensibilities of the Analog City. Before then, the consequences of digital media, although much discussed, remained superficial, which allowed us to believe that the future would be business as usual, only faster and better and more inclusive.
loose analogy might give us a better sense of our situation, or at least supply a useful bit of shorthand. We might say that our public sphere is now inhabited by the citizens of two “cities,” the Digital City and the Analog City. Much of the stress under which our body politic now labors, much of the strangeness of our moment, much of our apparent inability to move productively forward as a society, may be attributed in part to the emergence of the Digital City and its dramatic growth over the past two decades. To understand the political meaning of digital media, then, we should seek to understand the nature of the Digital City and how it is ordering the affections of its citizens and transforming public life.
We are caught between two ages, as it were, and we are experiencing all of the attendant confusion, frustration, and exhaustion that such a liminal state involves. To borrow a line from the Marxist thinker Antonio Gramsci, “The crisis consists precisely in the fact that the old is dying and the new cannot be born; in this interregnum a great variety of morbid symptoms appear.”
The opposite of the specialist is not the generalist, but the Liminist. Where the generalist picks the low hanging fruit of knowledge, the Liminist operates in the liminal interzones between them.
In a world of disconnected silos stretching vertically into the sky, the Liminist stretches horizontally across them. They function as guides, navigating people across these intersecting planes to comprehend the work and ideas of their unrelated peers.
It is very much its own specialization, but where all other domains specialize in Form, the Liminist specializes in Non-Form. The evidence of their work exists at the intersections between objects.
These intersections have their own space, presence, and tangibility. They are just as “original” and “unique” as the objects that the intersection weaves together.
A talented Liminist must be a master translator, able to communicate and comprehend across domains. They must be a master weaver, able to take individual strands across many domains and pattern them together. A master diplomat that can manage the egos of others. They must be comfortable operating in ambiguity, which is their playground.
h/t to Carsten & Georgia for the conversation that gave rise to this concept
I sat back and stared out the window, down at Sandansk, then to where the voidskipper had been. There was no trace of it now. One could scour the whole universe and find nothing, not until it popped back out into regular space. Where had it gone? Into everwhen. Into that place between places. Up to a boundary and beyond it.
(The Fifth Science)