the integratron: a rejuvenation machine

[I actually wrote this post for another blog, and they turned it down because it was too woo-woo, so I'm posting it here instead. even if it is woo-woo, just imagine the possibility that, electricity can be used to rejuvenate our cells - as if they were re-chargeable batteries. at the very least, it makes for some beautiful conceptual art.]

In the Mojave Desert in 1953, former aircraft mechanic and flight inspector George Van Tassel claimed to have been contacted telepathically and later visited by aliens from Venus, who taught him a technique for rejuvenating human cell tissues. (In other words, Venusians taught Van Tassel how to make cells travel backwards in time.) What resulted was the Integratron, a dome-shaped structure Van Tassel built out of plywood and fiberglass in Landers, California, which was intended to be a "rejuvenation machine." According to the Integratron's website, "during the 25-year period that Van Tassel developed the Integratron, (1954-1978), he called it "a time machine, a rejuvenation machine and an anti-gravity device." Today the Integratron stands mightily, a bright white dome in a dry desert landscape, its rejuvenating effects attracting visitors from scientists studying the electrostatic/electromagnetic design and spiritual groups practicing meditation and healing to corporate teams generating new ideas and authors looking to dissolve writer's block. (I'm actually sitting inside the Integratron as I write.)

According to Van Tassel, the Integratron's ability to rejuvenate cells is based on two principles. The first principle is a combination of the sacred geometry of domes and the fact that the structure is built above what is believed to be a natural "energy vortex," which enables the Integratron's dome shape to concentrate the energy of the vortex. The second principle, perhaps more relevant to Long Viewers, relates to Van Tassel’s studies of Antigravity, Human Cell Rejuvenation and Time Travel. It takes the notion that humans are electrical in nature, and theorizes the possibility of recharging human cells with a powerful negative ion field. In the words of Wikipedians, "it is believed that, though each individual has his unique personal 'wavelength,' the multiple wavelengths of energy put out by 'focusing and concentrating devices' such as the Integratron will find a 'resonance' with the individual's basic harmonic frequency and 're-charge' his cellular structure, as if he were a battery." I'm not aware of other developments in the use of electricity to rejuvenate human cells, but presumably the likes of Ray Kurzweil are aware of this possibility, if not actively advancing it.

If you visit the Integratron, you can take a guided tour, enjoy a Sound Bath (be "bathed" in sound produced by quartz crystal singing bowls), or even rent the place out for your own private purposes. There are also "special events," and it looks like there’s one coming up in June of 09 – send them an email to stay tuned. And of course, there's a Facebook group, fittingly called I went to the Integratron and good things happened.

PS. As you might have guessed, I'm not actually sitting inside the Integratron right now, but if you're ever interested making the trip, feel free to get in touch: misstephanie.gerson@gmail.com.


medium-function disaggregation

[apparently the only way to comment on Clay Shirky's blog is to backtrack. so here goes a comment on his post about Newspapers and Thinking the Unthinkable.]

"Society doesn't need newspapers. What we need is journalism."

So it goes with cars. (What we need isn't cars [*cough*, the auto industry], but transportation.) And with global government. (What we need isn't a global government, but global governance.)

For lack of a sexier term, I call this phenomenon medium-function disaggregation, and I consider it part of the ongoing trajectory that media and their functions go through. It's when a medium becomes less effective at satisfying the function it was originally intended for – in a relative sense (because more effective alternatives have emerged), and/or in an absolute one. The medium effectively goes through an identity crisis, as its raison d'etre is challenged, and the function becomes more liquid, able to inhabit other/new media. And our attention shifts to the meta-level, i.e. to a higher level of organization, from the level of the medium to the level of the function:

"When we shift our attention from 'save newspapers' to 'save society', the imperative changes from 'preserve the current institutions' to 'do whatever works.' And what works today isn't the same as what used to work."

Government, cars, and newspapers are undergoing a temporary disaggregation of medium and function. This is a season, i.e. the same seasons recur, albeit differently in different years. Medium-function disaggregation: 'tis the season for experimentation.


fair trade tele-coffee carrotmob

I wanna do a tele-coffee carrotmob around the world to demonstrate the demand for (and subsidize the supply of) Fair Trade coffee. This would be somewhat of a combination of my Valentine's Day experiment in social tele-intimacy, likemind, and carrotmob, and it would go down within the confines of an international coffeehouse chain with enough leverage to single-handedly increase the market share of Fair Trade. Considering that it's actively soliciting rescue plans and fancies itself as being socially responsible, this might be ideal for Starbucks. Essentially: on a given day, likeminds enjoy a cup of Fair Trade while videochatting from Starbucks to Starbucks around the world. We could even sing a song together and different peoples in different places could keep the song going all day long (sure it would drive the baristas nuts but it would make for a gorgeous screencast, thus gorgeous marketing collateral, and we're definitely overdue for another We-Are-The-World"/From-A-Distance inspirational song thingie). Anyways, seeing as Starbucks is heading into the territory of 'value meals,' it might even give participants a deal on their coffee + whatever else that day.

Random note: I gave this idea to a place-based advertising company named Danoo during a job interview with them last year. They Loved it and then never returned my emails, phone calls, nothing. Beware-y of them.


dancing with what IS

In describing the emergence of geotility, Faris Yakov writes, "increasingly, when any spatially aware device is part of the flow, geotility is mandatory: making something useful for where you are right then...And yes it is scary. But as Kevin Kelly points out, the cost of personalisation is transparency." I agree. And transparency may also be the cost of collectivization. Geotility apps must know your whereabouts and preferences and who your friends are and what kinds of books you like and and and in order to give you valuable information. For example, your route to work could be 10 mins faster, or if you took a different route you'd bump into an old friend, or the bookstore on your way home is having an event that matches your Amazon profile. But geotility apps are gonna have to know our collective demographics and/or communicate with each other in order to provide us with collectively valuable information. I imagine traffic moving like a school of fish. I imagine that when people and places perpetually communicate, we'll increasingly be at the right place at the right time. I imagine an enhanced ability to collectively improvise. Which is kinda scary and technophilic but kinda magical and even primal. Like birds and bees and other sensorful beings, we’ll be that much more able (again) to dance with each other and our place. To dance with what IS. Same season, different year?


deep into the long tail

According to the Yucatec Maya, Gods made people out of corn. And as I learned while making tortillas in the Yucatan a few years ago, the Yucatecs know how to make lots of things out of corn too. Meanwhile, Iron Chef is all about getting versatile with one ingredient. If flying them into the studio is too costly, Iron Chef could subsidize the cost of videochatting/lifecasting/otherwise inexpensively hacking Yucatec chefs onto the show. And considering their textile design and weaving skills, the same could go for Project Runway. Seemingly unrealistic, but the point is: if these shows are digging deep into the long tail of chefs/designers/whatever, why not dig even deeper and support the littlest guys? At the least, get some free publicity for what's being micro-financed.


brand cliques

So I started noticing brand cliques a few years ago. You know, cliques of companies that cross-promote/subsidize/whatever their products/services. United Airlines gives you miles if you pay with Visa. Solar City gives you a better deal if you participate in Community Supported Agriculture. That kinda thing. As brands develop strategic relationships with each other (United with Visa) and competing brands develop functionally comparable relationships to each other (United with Visa, American with MasterCard), it becomes possible to envision ecosystems of products/services, replete with different forms of symbiosis – mutualism, parasitism, and commensalism. And it becomes possible to envision value-based ecosystems of products/services – for example, since I mentioned Solar City and CSAs, based on the value of environmental sustainability. In fact, this is especially relevant for sustainability, which requires the kind of systems change that would be enabled by ecosystems of sustainable products/services. So come on Solar City, CSAs, City CarShare, etcetera, etcetera: make friends.


the (refreshingly shifting) role of the smagency

[I'm actually referring to the (refreshingly shifting) role of the agency in providing social media services, but I just wanted to write the word "smagency." And I originally blogged the posted on Clear Night Sky, the blog of a smagency called Clear Ink.]

I don't usually post about other people's posts, but this was just too good to pass up. Especially because it directly implicates the work I was doing while at Clear Ink, an online marketing agency, in the fall of 08: developing its social media services. The post I'm talking about is From The Head of Zeus Jones (quite literally), and although it was written back in October, I (re?)discovered it today and attribute it with utmost blogworthiness. Indeed, it discusses the role of the marketing agency in providing social media services:

"If, as I believe, the adoption of social media by all companies is inevitable, what role does the communications agency fulfill?...Clients may not need help talking to their customers but that doesn’t mean they don’t need help. After the channels of communication are established and after the pleasantries have been exchanged, customers will want something to talk to companies about. The best things to talk about are things that the company is doing to make their products, services or experiences better. It seems to me that there’s still a lot of demand for help in improving our clients’ core services and making them more marketable. For applying marketing thinking to operations. Personally I find it’s actually far more rewarding to do this kind of work because you’re actually collaborating with your clients on things that are lasting and have unquestioned (rather than questionable) value within their organisations."

This last bit is why I added "refreshingly shifting" in the subject line - shifting from working with clients on things that have questionable value to things things that have lasting/unquestioned value and actually improve their core services (ooh! actual product development!) sounds, well, refreshing. But this means CI might have to change its approach to providing social media services; at least, as I articulated them. Helping companies implement a blog and produce content for it is part of the story, yes, but only in the beginning. Helping companies improve their products, so that they actually have something to blog about, will have to be part of the story too. If you're still intrigued, check the entire post.



Ok, it's a terrible name but an awesome idea: karaoke for Shabbat songs, with that little ball bouncing over which words to sing and real bar/bat-mitzvah videos (maybe your own!) as the background. Which would make learning Shabbat songs oh-so fun for kids and adults. I want.


your search did not match any documents

Famous types spend lots of money fashioning their online presence and controlling the rank of organic search results for their names. But I think the converse could make for a pretty fabulous publicity stunt: temporarily abolishing their names from the interwebs altogether. Take Rudolf Steiner, the late Austrian philosopher and founder of Biodynamic Agriculture, among many many other things. Knowing he was nearing the end of his life, he started giving up to four lectures a day on his teachings. Also knowing he was nearing the end of his life, people listened and documented them. But it was after the end of his life, so these stories tend to go, that sales of his work surged. Now take Ken Wilber, the American philosopher and founder of the Integral Institute, among many many other things. Imagine if Wilber hinted he was departing from this world, spoke/wrote furiously for a stint, and then vanished from the web. Not a trace of him to be found by a Google spider.* Granted this would take some seriously expensive hackery. But it might inspire a premature surge in sales of his work, if not attract publicity. This is semi-similar to how Tupac was thought to have imitated Machiavelli in faking his own death, and would return in time, but in the digital universe. And why it's more interesting to me than simply faking one’s death, I'm not sure. I think I like the idea of digital disappearance; of anti-publicity as publicity.

*Update: I just learned from a developer friend that this is kinda impossible because of internet archives, i.e. only recent traces would disappear but anything older would hang out in [relative] perpetuity. Shucks. But I still like the idea, so please just consider it conceptual art.


feel the mouseclick

New media artists these days are too obsessed with interactivity. Lemme rephrase more academically: in Gartner's hype cycle, I'd say interactivity is hanging out at the peak of inflated expectations. But don't you guys get it? Unless you're in a sensory deprivation chamber, everything is interactive. I know I'm brattily spouting at an unidentified crowd of self-proclaimed interactive artists, but I nevertheless predict a backlash against/spoofing of interactivity ('feel the mouse under your fingers, listen to that click-click of the keyboard...'). And I nevertheless encourage interactivity to move along the trajectory of things, from being a binary (yes/no) or spectral (more/less) concept to a typological one. If everything is interactive, what type of interactive is it? Is the interaction meaningful, desirable, fascinating, new? Otherwise I'm just not very impressed if your art, per Wikipedians, "involves the spectator in some [ambiguous] way."


pole dancing to the people

One of the many fantastic things about pole dancing is that there are poles all over the city. I wanna get my pole dancing ladies to dress monochromatically (white? red?), each take a pole on a major city street (Market in SF?), and have us filmed from a low-flying helicopter while dancing. Public performance art therapy at its sexiest.


jewish wedding gifts restaurant yum come eat

Even the advent of wedding registries cannot curb the gifting of unattractive Judaica and tableware with names of brides and grooms curvily engraved. And it all ends up tucked away in hard-to-reach cabinets, basements, attics, or – oy gevalt! – shelves of the local Goodwill. The solution: Jewish diners. They could even be chain, wholly dedicated to giving bad Jewish wedding presents a venue in which to happily come out of the closet. Eat blintzes and kugel on a silver platter engraved with "Shira and Daniel Weissman," drink manishevitz from their fourth (and therefore donated) set of Kiddush cups, and do so by the candlelight of their similarly engraved candelabra. Sure it would be upsetting to find yourself eating off of a gift you gave, and awkward to be eating with its recipient when it happened, but by that point, having your gift accepted by the Jewish Wedding Gifts Restaurant Yum Come Eat (name suggestions most welcome) would be a source of pride.


fun with videochat

Throughout my adventures in tele-intimacy, which include so close yet so far away and this might be a Love story, I've thought of much fun to be had with videochat. And in the spirit of using my blog as a personal learning journal since nobody reads it (except you! hi.), I might as well make a list:

1) Make a film that's actually a screencast of two people videochatting back-to-back. The two people rotate in a circle and periodically move closer/farther away from each other, perhaps while singing a beautiful song (kinda like this but more beautiful), perhaps while in a beautiful place (outside?), perhaps as a music/dance video. Make audio and visual reverb. Make it stunning.

2) Stick someone in a videochat mushpot. Place him/her alone in a room, surrounded by videochatting laptops. This could be someone who is lonely, far away, in jail, in an assisted living facility, or a performance artist.

3) Let two laptops share a romantic moment together. Stick them alone in a room while videochatting with different people, enabling those people to kinda videochat (though this is really for the laptops). Spy on the laptops and take pictures like the one below.

4) Videochat with an avatar, as described here.

5) Semi-videochat with a political candidate, as described here.