The “Great Cosmic Mash-up” as an answer to postmodernist fragmentation

Michel Bauwens:
I discovered an interesting website yesterday, The Age of Embodiment, a forum for commentary on what Karl Shroeder, a science fiction author must praised by Cory Doctorow, but which I haven’t read yet, sees “as a massive cultural change that’s sweeping towards us: the end of the Modern/Postmodern age, and the beginning of a new era.”

It kept me awake and then had some kind of dream, and when I woke up, I suddenly was making connections between what is happening in technology, namely mash-ups, and what is happening to ourselves. My conclusion: mash-ups are really a constructive answer to the postmodernist issue of the fragmentation of our selves.

Please follow this reasoning for a moment:

Postmodernism was all about deconstructing oppressive mental structures that we inherited from modernity. Amongst other things the Cartesian subject/object split and the alienating effects of Kantian’s impossibility of knowing true reality; it was a necessary destructive passage, a cleaning out process, but it didn’t, as its names “post”- indicate, construct anything. So in my view, if modernity was about constructing the individual (along subject/object divisions), and postmodernity about deconstructing this, then this new era, which I’ld like to call the era of participation, is about constructing relationality or participation. We are not going back to the premodern wholistic era and feelings, but just as modernity was about rigorously individualising everything, eventually reaching the current dead-end of hyper-individualism, we are now just as rigorously ‘relationising’ everything. If in premodernity we thought, we are parts of a whole that is one and above us, and in modernity we thought we are separate and unified individuals, a world onto ourselves, and in postmodernity saw ourselves fragmenting, and pretty much lamented this, then this is the mash-up era. We now know that all this fragments can be reconstructed with the zillions of fragment of the others, into zillions of commonalities, into temporary wholes that are so many new creative projects, but all united in a ever-moving Commons that is open to all of us..
So the fragmentation of postmodernity is a given for us now, but we are no longer lamenting, we are discovering the technologies (infrastructural, collaborative-software-ish, political, but above all the mental and epistemological) that allow us to use this fragmentation to create the Great Cosmic Mash-Up. That is the historical task of the emerging Peer to Peer Era.

In my manuscript, I have a chapter where I’m trying to map out ‘the new articulation between the individual and the collective’, and the different historical and philosophical sources we could use for this, and I mention the contemporary re-appropriation of native American spirituality and other participatory metaphysics, the forgotten traditional of cosmobiological leftism (drawing to the hegelian-boehmian sources of the young Marx and a long line of Renaissance thinkers that were eclipsed by the Enlightenment, described by Loren Goldner), Goethean traditions of participatory knowing, monitored by Steve Talbott at the Nature Institute, Gebserian aperspectivism, and I’m pretty sure there are other strands we could use.

In the next few weeks, I’ll be mapping these new concepts in the P2P Encyclopedia

,but if you want to know more, there’s already lot of relevant concepts in the 300+ collection of P2P concepts.


4 Comments The “Great Cosmic Mash-up” as an answer to postmodernist fragmentation

  1. Avatarted lumley

    postmodernity did not ‘really’ fragment our world (it is itself a worldview; i.e. the way we look at ‘what is going on’ in the world) and so there is no need to ‘put the world back together again’ as in ‘the era of participation’.

    the world does not really ‘progress’ through different eras, these ‘eras’ exist only in our intellectualizing minds (one has to split space and time apart in order to get a temporal sequence of ‘eras’). in the jungles and the cultivated rice paddies, in the hills of chiapas and on the prairies where generations of ordinary people carry on in the struggle to survive, the distinctions of ‘pre-modern’, ‘modern’ and ‘post-modern’ mean little more than ‘language games’ invented by intellectuals for the amusement of intellectuals as they sit outside of, and visually observe a beyond-reality simulated kinematic ‘playback’ of the world dynamic (i.e. the world of our experience is a single dynamical spatial entirety, a hostspace that is metamorphosing IN THE CONTINUING PRESENT rather than a temporal sequence of worlds occurring one after the other at times t1, t2, t3, in mathematical PROGRESSion.).

    another way to say this is that the evolving world of the continuing present ‘is as it is’ (there is no temporal path to a participative world, participation is the path) and the particular ‘angle’ or ‘slant’ that particular groups of us choose to put on it are necessarily incomplete in the manner suggested by your gebserian aperspectivism entry. .

    that is, visual perception based on ‘what people do’, which underpins our ‘worldVIEW’, and which is the stuff our intellectual debates are made of, is woefully incomplete. our sensory experience informs us we are included in the world and that ‘the world’ is like a flow that evolves in the continuing present (the ‘Tao’). because we sense that we are caught up in the worldflow, we might call our experiencing of this our ‘worldSENSE’ to distinguish it from ‘worldVIEW’.

    when we stand on the hill and see the ferryboat coming in towards the dock, we sense more than a simple view of ‘what things do’. we sense that we can drive down the winding road that leads to the dock and be on the dock as the vessel arrives to greet and embrace a loved other we haven’t seen for years. in our worldSENSE, the present is continually being informed by the nonlocal remote past. our western worldVIEW is meanwhile based on ‘what things do’. as the video-camera of visual perception starts rolling as the ferry pulls in to the dock, it is giving us a visual record of ‘what things do’. for a scientist and for a judge, the events that transpire as the people disembark must be explained WITHIN THE VISUAL RECORD. we see the woman getting off the ferry and running to embrace her lover whom she hasn’t seen for years. we explain these VISUAL DYNAMICS by what is inside of her, as if her action pushes out from the center of herself driven by her ‘inner purpose’. if it is not her biochemical internals (adrenaline, hormones) that are responsible for her behaviour, it is her intellectual ‘memories’ that are informing her ‘inner purpose’. we will attribute her behaviour to whatever we need to, so long as the authorship of her behaviour remains fully sourced INSIDE OF HER, because the western scientific mindset insists on explaining everything in terms of ‘what things do’ in a local ‘thing-centered’ manner, and since people are seen as ‘independent things’, we must invent and provide the necessary internals to completely describe their behaviour as if pushing out from the center of themselves driven by their ‘inner purpose’.

    all of this IS INTELLECTUAL CONTRIVANCE to stay within the constrained realm of a ‘worldVIEW’, a visual perception based understanding given in terms of explicit actions wherein the future is constructed from the immediate past, a view that does not address ‘feelings’ (sensory experiencing of inclusion in the worldflow) other than in a local self-centric biophysical/biochemical context. such a ‘worldVIEW’ occludes access to our natural, fuller and richer ‘worldSENSE’, an understanding based on our felt experiencing of inclusion within a continuing spatial-relational worldflow wherein the present is continually informed by nonlocal influences from the remote past.

    the view of society as undergoing the temporal-sequential passage of eras (pre-modernity to post-modernity to participation) is an objectific(a)tion wherein we project what is going on inside of us onto our ‘world out there’ view. if, on the other hand, we take the world to be ‘one spatial-relational-dynamical thing’ (‘the Tao’) that evolves in the continuing present (as in relativity), then ‘the passage of time’ does not come into it, and we can understand the same phenomena in terms of a self-ordained ‘shrinking’ of our sentient experience based worldSENSE down to a reductive worldVIEW that is based solely on visual perception. and, in the current era (the only ‘era’ that we actually experience and live in, albeit a continuously transforming era) we are experiencing the beginnings of a transformative restoration of worldSENSE (e.g. see the entry for february 24, 2006 at )

  2. Pingback: P2P Foundation » Blog Archive » Alan Kazlev responds to the great Cosmic Mash-Up

  3. AvatarMichel

    Alan Kazlev, responds to our earlier entry, The Great Cosmic Mash-Up :

    I feel that you are still to reliant on the Wilberian error of a simple linear sequence of premodernity-modernity-postmodernity. Premodernity was not a monolithic mythical-metaphysical belief system; it’s just a label some academics give to everything before the 17th century west or whatever. And postmodernity is a word that has many definitions (see the wikipedia entry on this). Although Postmodernity as a branch of philosophy (and i suppose of gender and social issues etc as well) seems to be Wilber’s hobby horse, hence he wrote a whole book – Boomeritis – dedicated to demolishing it! But outside academia, who gives a flying fig? This why people who live cloistered lives cannot get a good picture of what is happening in the global zeitgiest.

    As i see it, what is happening in the world today is that on the one hand there is an emphasis on superficiality, youth culture (the MTV generation) hedonism and consumerism etc, along with a return to traditional/conservative values (Feminism no longer appeals to young women), and also – perhaps as a reaction against a sense of insecurity) – the rise of neoconservativism in the west. Neoconservatism is also tied in with religious fundamentalism (all these things go together). And the current meme of a “clash of civilizationsâ€? (west vs islamic world) is actually a misconception; it is actually extremism/conservatism verses progressives in both the west and the moslem world (in this context, Wilber and Beck’s take on spiral dynamics seems to contain insights of value).

    So we are living in a superficial, fearful society in which – at least in both America and here in Australia (where conservative political parties and agendas have likewise been very successful; maybe this will change in the future…) in the West, religion and traditional values are becoming increasingly prominent. The same is also happening in the Islamic World in the Middle East and 3rd World but much more so, with Islamic extremism (which oppresses progressive moslems – see the excellent Ray Harris essay on the Integral World website) and attacks on the west (as a result of clumsy neocon policies against them) fueling paranoia and xenophobia in the west Jung said somewhere that the division in the human psyche resulted in the Cold War as an external manifestation of that. In years past I used to wonder what would happen after the Soviet Block fell, if man’s psyche is still divided. Well, here’s the answer. It’s world affairs, but its synchronicity too.

    I’ve rambled on a bit here, and drifted from the topic at hand, but my essential point is that talk of postmodernity and so on is pretty irrelevant, because this particular movement in philosophy, literature and art is not one of the driving forces in the world today.

    So what we have the divided psyche (shadow and ego) and (once again!) a divided world Add to all this the information age (which has also made possible the P2P revolution; indeed given human informational interconnectivity, P2P is inevitable!), more on which in a moment, and the increasing environmental breakdown – with growth of environmental awareness, but probably still much too slow – and you have the state of the world today.

    This brings us back to your vision of the present and future as the postmodern fragments coming together to create “the cosmic mash-up�, the P2P society

    While agreeing with you re the growing power and empowerment of P2P, and that this is a very good thing, I actually see the result a bit differently. I see it not as a big mish-mash (not sure if this is what you really mean), but as a very real emergence of a further level of organisation or complexity – rather like the “global brainâ€? idea (i haven’t yet read Peter Russell’s book , but i have the impression this is what he is saying), the noosphere so to speak. This new level of organisation is emerging solely as a result of the information age. Or rather, that is able to be made much more possible through the information revolution. It is a whole new layer of evolution; like the transition from unicelluar to multicelluar organism, or from solitary bands of hominids to settled agricultural communities and then civilization. P2P provides the creativity that will make this emergence, or “singularityâ€?, possible, it constitutes the building blocks or basic units of it.

    Of course, we don’t see the whole – or we don’t see it very well – because we are still at the level of the individual “unitsâ€?. Note that i am talking about the loss of individuality; this is why metaphors like multicellular organisms, global brains etc are misleading. As we know, P2P provides greater individuality and creativity, not less.

  4. Pingback: a thousand tomorrows » Blog Archive » interview: Michel Bauwens - a p2p future

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