Not a cyber Utopia

I was still thinking about Steve Lambert’s We are all going to die …


when I came across these mighty words today:

Bruce Sterling | SXSW Interactive 2016

despair is an act of intellectual arrogance. If you get really confused it can be very healthy because if you become despairing, you falsely imagine you have everything figured out. And in fact none of us do.

It’s an inspiring rant.

Quick thoughts:
Steve wants people to think about Utopia as a direction, a spectrum, not as a permanent destination, and Bruce wants us to rethink our fear of confusion. Both want us to admit that we don’t have the answers, but it’s not a reason to despair. Both see uncertainty as a compass for Eutopias (positiv Utopias).

Utopia as a direction is possible, if based on constant change.

Before I stumbled up on Bruce Sterling today, that was the thought I was trying to write a blog post about. I don’t think I will finish it today.

Since this blog is about sharing thoughts on Utopia, but also me, trying to understand what Utopia means for my life. I decided to start posting links as I encounter them, even if I am not ready to write about them yet. They are resources to come back to. Should be helpful to have them all in one space trying to explore how they might fit together.

Here are two more recommended readings, I came across today while thinking about Utopia:

This was the first time I read about the “Overton window” (Bruce mentions):

and this…just read it:

Lucy Sargisson – Utopianism in the twenty-first century

Screen Shot 2016-03-31 at 21.44.01

Watch a Professor of Utopian Studies define Utopia. This is a slow talk but enlightening.

Lucy Sargisson

The ARUS network brings together, from a variety of countries, scholars doing Utopian Studies.


Utopian Studies
Vol. 21 (2010) through current issue

“Utopian Studies is a peer-reviewed publication of the Society for Utopian Studies, publishing scholarly articles on a wide range of subjects related to utopias, utopianism, utopian literature, utopian theory, and intentional communities. Contributing authors come from a diverse range of fields, including American studies, architecture, the arts, classics, cultural studies, economics, engineering, environmental studies, gender studies, history, languages and literatures, philosophy, political science, psychology, sociology and urban planning. Each issue also includes dozens of reviews of recent books.”

Utopian dreams that became architectural nightmares

(Thomas) More intended his imaginary ethnography to critique the status quo by presenting a radical alternative. It was, in More’s words, “a fiction whereby the truth, as if smeared with honey, might a little more pleasantly slide into men’s minds”.

This is a quote from a great article I came by today on twitter. It’s about the dangers of looking at Utopia not as a direction (as Steve Lambert recommends in my last post) but as a final destination. I highly recommend reading it.

The article mentions Biosphere 2, which is just making a comeback into news headlines, because on May 19-21, 2016 ‘500 Young Leaders will Join Experts to Focus on Solving World’s Biggest Environmental Challenges‘ right there at that amazing place.
(Reminder to my future self: make a post about Terraforming )

So many events in honor the 500ths birthday of Thomas More’s Utopia! Here’s another one also mentioned in the article: The first London Design Biennale: The World re-imagines the World – Utopia by Design

By the way, best way to celebrate might be to read the actual book, you can do that here:
Open Utopia – This edition of Utopia is open: open to use, open to copying, open to modification.

Why Utopian Dreaming?

Every time I watch Steve Lambert’s talk on Utopia, it makes me feel happy and excited. Best post I could think of to start my new blog with.

 Steve Lambert on Utopia at Transmediale 10 from Steve Lambert on Vimeo.

It’s not easy to find people willing to discuss utopian ideas. My experience is that the reaction is often a sarcastic little giggle as if one had asked a rhetoric question to which the answer obviously is: no. Or sometimes I get a “are you serious” frown, followed by a warning: Utopia never led to anything good!

(A Utopian Reading of Pinker’s Better Angels Of Our Nature – is a good blog post on why that conclusion might not be so straight forward).

Not so often, I am lucky though and meet somebody, who hears Utopia and says: yes, let’s think about that! When it happens it’s always great fun. Go try dreaming yourself silly with someone. Crazy solutions for small problems are not hard to come up and have fun with. Try starting with small things that annoy you everyday. Like why can’t my cat make coffee, put it on a drinks trolley and roll it right next to my bed, wearing  a tiny nurse uniform? (My girlfriend came up with that one).
Expressing imagined solutions, especially if they are completely silly and ridiculous, just feels good and makes me laugh.

The first time, I saw somebody doing this seriously outside of kindergarten (a place I do remember fondly), was getting to know my friends Ursula Boeckler and Georg Graw, and watching them dream up  Mein Vorschlag: Friesenbad.

mein vorschlag: friesenbad (I suggest: Friesen pool) from friesen bad on Vimeo.

That was 15 years ago, and as they created Raum für Projektion those two let me become part of the fun. Werbung für Ideen (commercials for a concept) was the first cycle of projections and it featured me showing my drawings publicly, for the first time ever! Well, not really, the first time was a cd cover for J Neo Marvin, but this was different, because I was there, and experienced peoples reactions to it. Very exciting.
(to get a taste of how exciting that was for me, take a look at some pics from the finisage. That day also happened to be my 25th birthday, so no surprise that’s me on the floor.)

But the most fun was playing how to escalate ideas. Why not? And what if? Many projects followed, in some the two casted me as an actor in front of the camera, another thing I had never done before. We even dreamt up a story for a whole movie together, and in the process I ended up learning animation and making that movie. Later animation somehow became what I do for a living now. A life I would have never imagined before meeting them. They made me want to do things, that were so crazy, that somehow suddenly they seemed worth a try.

So when I saw Steve’s talk, I realized that the biggest gift my friends gave me, was not, as I thought before, that Ursula and Georg helped me fall love with learning. That they helped me find the confidence and courage to become, what the media now calls, a self directed learner. Someone, who not only dreams of doing something, but tries to achieve those dreams learning to use the resources one can find or make work somehow.

The biggest gift was learning that naive questions are indeed important questions.

I also realized how much I missed the feeling of freedom that lies in asking them, and that these questions are best, if one explores them together with others. I want to do those things again. Things about Utopia. But I am not exactly sure yet what and how. I hope that sharing my thoughts and links about it here, will help me figure that out.

Download Edward Bellamy’s Looking Backward, 2000 to 1887 for free.
More information about Steve  twitter / webpage.
The Center For Artistic Activism is a project Steve is working on with Stephen Duncombe (about whom I will make another blogpost soon). You can see the two talk about it here: