On Friday, I talked briefly about a really neat project by a friend of ours here at MwBC, Here is History. Joel’s introduction to the project is well thought out, a pragmatic implication of curiosity at its finest. What really grabbed me about the project, though, is the emphasis on place and levels of analysis. Here is History satisfies localized curiosities, but what about bigger events? What about events that ripple throughout the planet? The events that cause history move through corridors to other parts of the planet, causing tiny little changes or catastrophic repercussions.
Corridors exist and get overlooked all the time, their importance marginalized by the tired fatalistic cliche of doors opening and closing, almost mystically. As ecologist T.F.H. Allen writes in Hierarchy Theory, “Corridors are connectors and boundaries. They allow interaction of the parts of large-scale communities or ecosystems.” Or they allow interfacing between different levels of analysis, ecological or otherwise. A good ecological example of this are rivers and streams. Steve Zissou’s boat, the Belafonte, provides a wonderfully human example (rather joyfully explored in Brian’s Hoptellectual last week).
But perhaps the most incredible example of corridors, interfaces and environment can be found in the design of the space suit. Spacesuits, just like rivers and streams, allow movements between systems existing at different levels of analysis. In this case, we’re talking about space and the human body—a form that couldn’t survive mere seconds in pure space. In order for man to walk on the moon, we first had to build a suit that allowed him to carry the Earth to the moon with him.
So it really isn’t surprising that through the corridor of rocket propulsion, we gained a newfound perspective of our planet Earth. In the BLDGBLOG interview I linked to above, Nicholas de Monchaux brings up two words: complexity and emergence. Emergent structures are the things we can only predict to a point, much like waves or Avey Tare’s emergent melody in the song “Street Flash.” Complexity gives rise to emergence because complexity implies organization (complication is completely different, and should never been confused with complexification).
Unfortunately, the corridor to space is shrinking. While it was open, a new sense of place emerged for the entire human race to behold, our own pale blue dot. I’ve been thinking about place and perspective a lot because of my own recent move. Over the course of five years, I learned about Wisconsin. I never really got to see it from above, from an uninterrupted vantage point, but I still traversed the necessary corridors to normalize the experience.
Again, I find myself in need of a corridor. I need a way to see things in terms of complexity and emergence, natural structures that follow a pattern to a point, but still exert certain individuality. If only there was a point that could unite all of the places I’ve lived? So I can look down and see all of them lined up, an autobiographical corridor meant for the emergent complexification of the self.
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