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Adventure Capital and the Anarchive

Adventure Capital and the Anarchive
Working Paper
January 2017
Preliminaries

This is an attempt to begin imagining concretely how the Adventure Capital platform might work as an economic system in a way that is in keeping with the SenseLab’s approach to creative process and emergent collectivity. The guiding principles, following from previous discussions, are as follows:

• The Adventure Capital platform should be designed in such a way that the economy is one with the creative process, like two sides of the same coin. There should not be an economic structure that is separable from the creative process, embodying different principles from it.
• The creative dynamic is conceived in terms of continuities of process in emergent co-composition with cuts of form-taking. Any economic architecture assuming a transaction model (which is centers on punctual acts of exchange between two individuals) will produce the separation mentioned above, and should not be designed into the platform. Any economic logic predicated on already individualized, pre-unitized shares is also excluded, since it would go against the transindividual tenor of the creative dynamic.
• The economic system is to be energized by appetite, attractors, affective pull, collectively expressing. It should not rely on the motivation of individual gain. Individual gain should be produced, but as a byproduct of the collective process, not as its motivating factor.
• Internal to Adventure Capital, the economy should rest on a directly qualitative basis, revolving around the production of “surplus-values of life” (qualities of collectively produced experience that are lived for their own sake as having value in themselves).
• This inverts the usual relationship between value and surplus-value. Here, surplus-value comes first, and quantifiable value second, as a spin-off of it.
• In keeping with the fundamentally qualitative nature of the economy envisioned, the quantification of value should remain peripheral. It should take place at the interface between the Adventure Capital economic space and other economic spaces, both within ECSA and outside it (Bitcoin, national currencies).
• The decisionmaking process should also be integral to the creative process, and operate on the same appetite/attractor basis. There should be no separate governing structure underlying the interactions on the platform. Decisionmaking should be emergent, following a model of open-ended self-organization rather than regulatory framing.

Basic System Concept

The idea is to make both the economic system and the creative process revolve around an anarchive in the way in which the SenseLab has developed the concept and practice over the last two years, culminating in the December 2016 event, Distributing the Insensible.

As understood by the SenseLab, the anarchival process revolves around the production of collective events, and the harvesting of traces of those events that can be reactivated to serve as seeds energizing and informing subsequent events. The anarchive is part of a life cycle. Online and offline creative collaboration work (and the synergy between them) produces collectively arrived-at propositions, techniques, and platforms for relation. These are used to seed embodied activities and events involving conceptual, movement-based, and materials-based group explorations. Words, images, and concepts are harvested from the events, and returned to the online environment in various forms. These constitute an archive that can be dipped into to to energize and inform a next event. This is done in a way that activates the “anarchic share” (Whitehead), extracting anarchival forces of formation from the archive. The anarchive consists of active event potentials. The archive is the still (but reactivatable) reservoir through which the potentials cycle: a stockpile of potential. The most localized expression of the anarchive, sitting atop the archive, is the process seed bank: a collection of propositions, techniques, and platforms for relation distilled into “recipes” for the eventful taking-form of process. These are offered as gifts of process to SenseLab members or to anyone else who may wish to follow them up and improvise on them.

The Adventure Capital platform generates value as event-potential moves through this life cycle. Value is generated when the creative process crosses the inflection points, or significant thresholds, of the cycle:
• when anarchival traces are embodied, through the collective creative process, in the production of an event
• when new traces from the produced event are returned to the archive
• when the resulting gains in process knowledge and technique are formalized as process seeds added to the bank.
A crossing of one of the thresholds is the Adventure Capital equivalent of minting or mining.

System Components

The Adventure Capital platform will comprise a numer of online subsystems that need to be seamlessly integrated in order to ensure the flow of the cycle across thresholds. Since the crucial threshold is where the cycle overflows the online system into live, embodied activities and events, what occurs offline has to be considered as a working part of the digital platform. In other words, the design of the digital platform has to integrally include in itself its relation to its outside, and this relation has to be formative. From the perspective of the online system, the offline world is one of its generative subsystems, operating in an associated milieu that extends beyond the reach of its code. This opening out has to be complemented on the outside procedurally: through evolving practices, guided by a collective ethos, of folding the process back online, to be couched in code, ready for another cycle.

The system as an ecosystemic whole is the Three Ecologies. The digitial platform may come to lie at the core of the Three Ecologies, and may even become its machinic engine, but the Three Ecologies is in no way limited to it. The platform is not a self-sufficient online micro-society, as many DAOs are conceived to be. The Three Ecologies creatively overflows the digital by design. The ecosystemic components, then, include:

• Ongoing activities and events of the sort that the SenseLab has always practiced: reading groups, movement explorations, materials-based explorations, workshops of experimental format such as the Knots of Thought and Movements of Thought, small and large-scale research-creation events, pop-up propositions of all kinds, invited talks and seminars, and instructional courses in certain skills or practices for which there is an appetite (to take recent examples, cyanotype, bookmaking, relational movement, capoiera, etc.).

• Online collaboration tools and techniques. Presently, these include Basecamp, Slack, Skype conference calling, and Google docs. These tools may be replaced as the ecosystem evolves its own functions that can substitute for them, but in the early stages at least, it will have to interconnect with them, digtally and/or procedurally.

• The digital archive (see below).

• The anarchive (see below).

• Procedures and techniques for culling and organizing event-traces, and entering them into the archive, to be available for anarchival reactivation (see “Choke Point” below).

• The Process Seed Bank.

The ecosystem has to be conceived as indefinitely extendable. As the platform and the 3E develop, new subsystems that we cannot currently foresee may be added.

The Archive

In its simplest and most inert form, the archive will fulfill functions not entirely unlike traditional art documentation: a collecting place for photos, videos, sounds, and words produced in events that can be flexibly accessed as part of a relational database using metadata tags. A standardized system of tags would probably be advisable, including such variables as event or activity name, activity type, date, location, and perhaps things like participants. In addition, a field for tagging the concepts that were explored in the event would add another level of flexibility.

In this conventional form, the archive would be used to locate material for use on the website, for self-presentation purposes for example in grant applications and progress reports, as a history of the SenseLab and 3E, and as a resource for non-SenseLab people wishing to familiarize themselve with that history. The archive would include traces of finished products (such as the anarchiving books produced at Distributing the Insensible), but also all the raw trace material generated (all of the photos, sound recordings, etc. that did not end up in a particular product).

It would also provide part of the stockpile that would be mined by anarchiving techniques of a more creative and emergent nature.

The archive would be accessible to the public for viewing, but not for adding material. I may be wrong, but think that in order to make the system an economic system, it is necessary that what registers as activity for the purposes of value-generation be restricted to people who are part of the project, otherwise it would be impossible to quantify the value generated, at the point where is designed to occur, and to manage its convertibility with other currencies. The possible exception is that the public might be invited to register their appetite/attraction using some kind of substitute tool for the “like” button (see “Registering Appetite, Tracking Adventure”). This kind of public input could even be a key aspect of the economy, because the whole premise is that 3E will be increasing the world’s quotient of processual “adventure,” and that this is what it is ultimate contribution will be to the world at large. The main conduit for this will the offline activities of 3E and their spin-offs. But since the value will be minted across thresholds in and to the digital, it could be of interest to include ways of capturing public appetite online.

The Anarchiving

The anarchiving of the archive consists in all activities, algorithmic or human-operated, which contribute to reactivating event-traces for potentiating further events. Anarchiving, then, consists in a certain treatment of the stockpiled potential in the archive. But it is not restricted to the archive. The traces in the archive are reactivated in relation to the live collaborative work occurring throughout the platform – as the recent discussions on the Slack Practice channel have been foregrounding.

Specifically with respect to the archive, anarchiving treats the archive as a magma. In other words, the anarchiving treatment of the archive prehends the archive not as a collection of separate digital objects to be combined and recombined, but as an undifferentiated mass of abstract flow: a matter of potential (or what Deleuze and Guattari would call a “phylum”). This is essential to the economic aspect, for reasons explained later (see “Quantification Threshold”)

This is not as abstract a concept as it seems. It can be easily visualized using a volcanic metaphor. Think of all of the material culled from events that goes into the archive as already-formed rocks and minerals that are subducted: that fold in from the surface of the earth over the eons and are returned to the bowels of the earth, where they melt together to form magma – the matter of the past. Then think of the mining of the live collaborative work occurring throughout the platform as the capture of incipient forms (like crystal seeds) of what could become new rocks and minerals – seeds of the future; matter of futurity. These join the magma as from below (i.e., rising up as from the immanence of the process, rather than descending from the surface of its past processings). The two magmatic flows, from the past and of the future, meet, mix, and react upon each other, producing heat and pressure. When the mix is sufficiently energized, an eruption occurs: into an offline event or activity. The event-eruption scatters and channels the released magma. When the magma cools, new rocks and minerals are formed that create new features altering the landscape (growing the past). These subduct into the archive, and the cycle rebegins. But there also underground poolings and channelings of magma that don’t make it to the top, even though they contributed to producing the heat and pressure that fed the eruption. This is the potential that was in some felt and had a formative role, but did not actualize (what was “negatively prehended” in Whitehead’s terms). This is also a part of the anarchive – in fact it is anarchiving’s inclusion of this unactualized potential that makes it an anarchive (and not just a glorified archive).

The recombinatory approach of garden-variety relational databases cannot address this magmatic complexity of potential, because it understands its material in terms of discrete units for sorting and grouping, based on the handles of their tags. It prehends its material as already formed and categorized. This means that it can only treat the past, and project it forward into a future whose own form is already foreseeable (pre-cast by the parameters of the operation). It can only prehend possibility, not potential. Anarchiving, by contrast, is fusional and fissional, not recombinatory. It approaches already-formed forms not as units but as a plastic mass: from the angle of their ability to mutually deform and inflect each other, under pressure from the the future, in all its unprojectability, toward new and emergent takings-form (while leaving an excess remainder of potential to in-form subsequent taking-forms –a surplus of potential). In short, it approaches its material from the angle of what it could be, not only what is has already been.

The SenseLab’s techniques for “care for the event” are magmatic in this sense: collectively prehending (and remaindering) of potential. The question is to what extent these techniques can be digitally assisted: to what extent magma can be co-produced through algorithmic means.

One of the biggest challenges facing Adventure Capital is creating very specific, designable tools that operate magmatically. The discussion on the Slack Practice channel about “underbots,” pinging, giphys, etc., has been working in this direction, recognizing that randomization is not sufficient. Randomness lacks future-pressure: what comes is a matter of indifference to it. In SenseLab, the future is never neutral. It is never pre-cast, but neither is it totally open. The process of taking-form is always oriented. It concerns tendencies: relational movements upon which the future exerts as formative an influence as the past, without predetermining what eventuates. Tendencies carry a charge of indeterminacy, alloyed with concern, that is not equatable with the aleatory.

What kinds of tools could help mine magmatic potential? The discussion on Slack have suggested creative strategies for capturing the momentum of online movements and folding them back in on themselves at strategic points, as they happen, in ways that inflect what comes. Are there also off-the-shelf tools – trend aggregators, mood analyzers, object recognition for photos (and videos?), even facial recognition – that could be adapted and put to creative use for anarchiving, extending the anarchival usefulness of the archive way beyond its explicit tagging system, and crossing the archive with live online movements ? Could some anarchival tools operate algorithmically on their own, and others be human-activated, to create a voluntary-involuntary rhythm or mix?

The Extended Archive

The anarchival tools could extend beyond the digital archive proper, to include in their sweep the SenseLab website (or its 3E successor), Inflexions, the Immediations book series, Process Seed Bank, etc. They might also generate new interfaces added to the mix, for the 3E participant and perhaps for the public.

Process Seed Bank

The process seed bank is perhaps the most concrete way in which the platform itself can offer value to the extra-3E world. If it is carefully curated and tended, it can disseminate formative process beyond the boundaries of our own network. It stands as an embodiment of the anarchive. Having the Process Seed Bank open to deposits from the public might be another way of registering that this offer has value.
Registering Appetite, Making Adventure Felt

How are are appetite and adventure registered? This is one of the other huge challenges. If Adventure Capital claims to be producing adventures of ideas embodied in emergent collectivity, is there a way that this can be made palpable?

This was the idea behind the attract-o-meter, or the lure-o-meter. There was alot of concern about the lure-o-meter as a tool nudging the collective toward the cut of decision. But perhaps there are other, less totalizing, uses for it, or something that operates along similar principles. One of the principles was to avoid the binary up/down of a vote or of the like button (for example by using a sliding scale). Another was to register the intensity of appetite/attraction in a way that displays qualitatively (a shift in pattern, color, sound, etc.) rather than quantitatively (how many votes or likes). The third was to transindividualize the display (the individual rating would immediately disappear, giving way to a display of the aggregate appetites, so the individual would see their expression of attraction as a inflection of a collective tending). Lastly, the emphasis would not just be on a final tally, but on the journey (it would be possible to scroll through the history of the changes, watching the qualities of attraction move along the sliding scale across time; perhaps it could be possible to de-aggregate, and focus in on minor movements).

Could something like this be embedded in the archive (and elsewhere?) in the form of mini-attract-o-meters, in place of like buttons or emoticons? Is there a place for something occupying the space that in traditional platforms is occupied by rating tools, but operating differently? Could those tools be used not as ends in themselves, but as one more material for the anarchival grist? Could they themselves be aggregated in some way? Be used for extracting tendencies?

Quantification Threshold

This is what this whole discussion was trying to add back into the discussion: how, if we operate according to a purely qualitative economy internally to Adventure Capital, do we make our production of value convertible into spendable currency? How do we quantify our production of the process of surplus-value of life? In a word, how do we monetize the process?

Wild hypothesis: we treat the magma of potential as having the dual aspect of a monetary mass. It lives as flows of anarchival potential, but then it can be flipped over to be seen as a monetary mass. This occurs only at the threshold leading out of our economic space to other economic spaces. At this juncture, the Adventure Capital space is surrounded by a membrane. It is an active membrane that strains the monetory mass into units. Its job is to unitize Occurrency, so that it can be converted into other cryptocurrencies or national currencies, as part of a specifically monetary ecosystem. Inside our economic space, Occurency is the flipside of processual magma, considered as a monetary mass. From the outside, it appears as coin.

This would require the “minting” of Occurrency as the process crosses the threshold mentioned above –the magmatic flows — to be assessed in some way that prepares it for quantification. The monetary mass of Occurency would have to fluctuate, with the ups and downs and curves and swerves of the collective process of culling traces and reactivating toward takings-form. This could not just be a measure of the quantity of activity on the platform. That would completely miss the excess of potentials produced – the minor movements and negatively prehended potential that is so crucial to the adventure of Adventure Capital. The assessment would have to be proto-quantitative: lending itself to measure, but retaining a qualitative element. One way of thinking about this is to think of the assessment as a measure of the intensity of the collective activity. Intensity in itself isn’t divisible into units (as Deleuze says, it changes in nature as it divides). It is massive: it pulsates as a whole, like a pain or the afterglow of a pleasure. Perhaps, internal to the platform, the monetary mass of Occurrency could be proto-measured as a larger or smaller pulsation (rather than as an aggregate of units).Then when we need to pass it through the membrane in order to give ourselves spendable currency, a substraction is made from monetary mass: the pulsation is downsized, to an extent proportional to the coinage created. The reduction would be only from an outside perspective: internally, everything would remain qualitatively the same. This would allow us to live in two economies at once: we would collaborate and create in excess/abundance economy, revolving around the perpetual magmatic production of surplus-vaue of life, at the same time as we could transform that surplus-value into denominated value that can be spent in the scarcity economy of traditional economic space (buying us food, airfares, etc. that helps sustain the internal economy). We could live in strategic duplicity, one foot in creative appetite and the plasticity of potential, one foot in the “hard reality” of the market economy.

How, algorithmically, could this assessment be made? The anarchival tools discussed above could be key here: perhaps, to the extent that they succeeded in capturing the movements of appetite and the future-oriented indeterminacies of the form-takings, they could be factored into the assessment of intensity.

Choke Point

The biggest problem in all of this is very mundane: it all hinges on traces being fed into the archive on a continual basis, systematically tagged, and on the anarchival tools being continually improved and improvised upon. With Distributing the Insensible, the constraint of having to produce event-traces culled from the takings-form that occurred, then format them and present them on the website, became an enabling constraint that was actually a major contributor to the intensity of the event. Can something like this be made a regular feature of all of our activities? Or would it end up being a burden? Would it end up creating a kind of class system, with a subsection of dedicated trace-capturers doing the bulk of the hard work in the anarchival mines? How could the archiving and anarchiving be made accessible to the greatest number, including non-artists and non-coders?