Subjective realities are on the ascendant. We are living through an era of unprecedented increase in our ability to craft our own realities through culture in powerful ways. It is now possible to create small-scale subcultures with the complexity and richness of large nation-states. With no more than simple text and meme-based messaging tools, we can create social spaces featuring symbols, grand narratives, and even private languages, at scales down to just dozens of humans. With the technologies now on the horizon -- VR, AR, and blockchain-based consensus economies -- any ordinary human with sufficient imagination will have the kind of cultural superpowers that was once limited to the high priests of Pharaohs.
The power to define "normal", once the preserve of large institutions, is being democratized. As a result, we are on the brink of a Cambrian explosion of consensus realities.
So far, we've largely been anxiously obsessing over the anomie and epistemic crises triggered by the collapse of shared, objective, consensus reality. Terms like post-normal and post-truth center the negative aspects of this megatrend, such as fake news, the rise of exploitative cults, the decline of empiricist traditions, and the erosion of trust in institutions.
At Refactor Camp 2019, we will attempt to center the positive and generative side of the Great Weirding, while keeping a sharp eye on the Dark Side. We hope to bring together a diverse audience of reality builders and explorers to map out the emerging multiverse of subjective realities, and reclaim the positive potentialities of the human capacity for imaginative escapism.
Session Proposals aligned with the theme are welcome. We particularly welcome interactive and performance-based sessions. Topics of interest include, but are not limited to:
Storytelling, memes, subcultures, cults
Game worlds, ritual, magical thinking, world-building
Conspiracy theories, propaganda, fake news, information warfare, brainwashing
The entertainment industry, PR and news (real and fake)
Filter bubbles, “reality distortion fields”, atemporality, psychology/sociology of escapism
Technological and biological basis of reality construction (VR, AR, gaming, movies)
Biology and neuroscience of belief formation and reality construction
Proposals are due by April 30, 2019, and the proposal form can be found here.
Refactor Camp is a small, informal event with a mix of short talks and impromptu barcamp style sessions, devoted to rethinking familiar themes from novel perspectives. It has been held annually since 2012. The theme for each year is different, and the unifying aspect is the goal of “refactoring” our understanding. The event is organized informally, on a non-profit basis.
Escaping Reality was a series of lightning talks, interactive sessions, keynotes, and performances.
How to See Voids
THE VENUE: PHILOSOPHIE
ABOUT THIS VENUE:
Philosophie is a digital innovation firm with offices in Los Angeles and New York City. We help large organizations validate and develop their promising ideas through agile design, rapid prototyping, and software craftsmanship. Whether it's to reduce costs, explore emerging markets, or improve the customer experience, we apply a startup mentality and toolset to deliver meaningful progress faster than you think is possible.
1615 16th Street
Santa Monica, CA
June 15, 2019
Breakfast, Registration, Opening Remarks
How to See Voids
Speaker: Sarah Perry
It is a shame that people and things take up so much attention. People and things are constantly before us, as if they, and nothing else, constituted the true reality. Because we are so focused on people and things, the voids - those entities that are neither people nor things, and that perhaps aren’t even proper entities - are free to scuttle about unobserved. But we should keep an eye on the voids, because the voids are the most active elements of reality. In order to develop an understanding of intentional behavior, from the rudest animal motions to space politics, one must carefully watch the voids, because every intentional motion requires a void, real or imagined. Learn to identify and observe voids, starting with a firm understanding of their life cycle and behavior, a taxonomy of their variation, and hints at their ultimate function in constructing the human reality of people and things.
Spatial Intelligence: Architecture as a Giant Computer
Speaker: Guvenc Ozel
How can an environment be intelligent? Through the proliferation of AI/machine learning, augmented reality, sensor systems and robotics, contemporary environments are progressively becoming more intelligent, responsive and dynamic. As a combination of physical and virtual interfaces, these new species of spaces can be envisioned and operated as cyberphysical systems, much like the fulfillment center or a factory floor. In this presentation, I will speculate on this new technological reality and its effects on contemporary architectural production where inanimate objects come to life through technology.
The Galactic Numerology Collision
Speaker: David Sneider
David created Galactic Tick Day, a holiday that highlights cosmic scale context by celebrating the journey of the solar system around the milky way. After getting some media traction, internet conspiracy descended upon the opportunity to claim that this holiday / art project was an example of science and spirituality being co-opted by the shadow forces that control everything.
This session is an A/V supported recounting of the multi year saga that began when David reached out to one of these conspiracy theorists via a comment on a youtube video and ends with threats of violence as well as musing on the wholesome aspects of conspiracy theory motivations.
Speaker: Matt Maier
Being Human Church's conceptual stack which derives infinite meaning from things each person can verify for themselves.
Lunch will be provided.
Value Investing in Cults and Religion
Workshop by Toby Shorin
Observability and Time: A Brief Exploration of the Foundational Selection Mechanics of Quantum Reality
Workshop by Lisa Neigut
Speaker: Chenoe Hart
The dimensions of both physical and virtual spaces may be perceptually compressed to fit within a simplified narrative of how we experience the process of traveling through them. Examples of distorted representations of space within the histories of film and game design will be compared with the scenographic affordances constructed to aid navigation through the disjointed scale of real-world suburban spaces, with potential implications for understanding the types of experiential transformations which might be produced by automated vehicles and virtual reality in the future. The disorienting existing spatial conditions established by twentieth-century patterns of urban development have already begun preparing us for our society's impending technological transition towards increasingly digital forms of navigating and perceiving space.
AI and Human Digitization: When Seeing is Not Believing?
Speaker: Hao Li
The age of immersive technologies has created a growing need for processing detailed visual representations of ourselves as virtual and augmented reality is growing into the next generation platform for online communication. A natural simulation of our presence in such virtual world is unthinkable without a photorealistic 3D digitization of ourselves. In visual effects and gaming, compelling CG characters can already be produced using state-of-the-art 3D capture technologies combined with the latest real-time rendering engines. However, the creation of high-quality digital assets are still bounded by expensive and time-consuming production pipelines, and creating photorealistic results still requires authoring tasks that can only be achieved by skilled digital artists. We propose a deep learning approach to this high-dimensional reconstruction and rendering problem by introducing new convolutional neural networks and architectures, that can process 3D data, and synthesize images from 3D input with intuitive user controls. I will showcase our latest research in photorealistic 3D face digitization, expression generation, as well as hair modeling and rendering. This presentation will open up the question in whether a deep learning-based synthesis approach could potentially displace conventional graphics rendering pipelines, as well as promote awareness of modern technology’s capability to manipulate videos, at a time in which social media is susceptible to the spread of doctored videos and fake news.
The City as Weakly-Escaped Reality (Revisiting the Holey Plane)
Speaker: Drew Austin
Meatspace has always been the supposed stronghold of inescapable consensus reality, in the Philip K. Dick sense ("that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away”). That quality of the physical world has probably always been exaggerated, but my talk will argue that cities, as they’ve evolved, have increasingly functioned as meatspace-based escaped realities. I’ll discuss how Los Angeles in particular has served as a cultural laboratory for the urban escaped reality as we know it today, and how these changes have in many ways paralleled (or even anticipated) more obvious escaped realities like the internet and other virtual environments.
Today, cities everywhere are escaped realities, even (and especially) when they pretend not to be. Albert Pope argues that the "the single overriding ambition of urbanism today is to enhance and refine our ability to simulate the world.” A century ago, industrial technology and the automobile forced us to crash out of an earlier escaped reality—what we now understand as the dense, walkable “traditional” city—and modernism soon presented us with a more weakly-held escaped reality to retreat back into. It didn’t take us long to crash out of modernism too, however; by the time that happened, we had better technology to escape with, from cinema to television to the internet. Physically and culturally, Los Angeles was perfectly positioned as a testing ground for those new modes of exodus.
My talk will take a tour of LA’s specific contributions to the contemporary version of urban escaped reality: Hollywood, the freeway system, the Bonaventure Hotel (which Frederic Jameson used to illustrate postmodernism), Disneyland, noir, cyberpunk, Scientology, Frank Gehry, the aerospace industry, Elon Musk, and others. These examples will revolve around a couple of main themes: First, the prevalence of closed-off enclaves and bubbles stitched together by infrastructure as opposed to the open, continuous grid that implied a legible shared reality; and second, the increasing separation of surface image from underlying form (the bifurcation of physical "front-end” and “back-end"). Meatspace is increasingly content for the internet, and both of these dynamics made that possible.
The talk will conclude with this question: If the urbanism I just described is yet another escaped reality, like modernism was, how might we crash out of it, and would we even want to?
June 16, 2019
From Pseudoevents to Pseudorealities
Speaker: Renee DiResta
This talk will look at the intersecting forces that led to, and continue to enable, fractured realities. It’s focused on the dark side, specifically the power to put someone else into the reality you’ve designed for them.
Introducing Xenoreaction: The Physics of Schism and Unschism
Workshop by Anders J. Aamodt & Moritz Bierling
Participants are invited to bring a computer to install the AO during the workshop, allowing you to play the Game with us.
Xenogaming Industries is pleased Refactor Camp has chosen to take inspiration for this year’s theme, “ESCAPING REALITY”, from our presentation on ‘xenogaming’ last year (“ESCAPE FROM CAPITALISM!: The LARP/ARG”, slide 7). As the darling of last year’s presentation, Xenogaming Industries is taking this opportunity to launch a “stealth keynote attack” upon the event, unleashing entirely new products that may threaten the nature of future Refactor Camps.
At this year’s event, we will present a solution to this problematique:
When does a community schism, and is it possible for schismed communities to re-merge?
As “the” blockchain begins to experience competition from multi- and post-blockchain technologies for marketshare, those committed to forever revalidating a consensus reality find themselves increasingly pressured to accommodate segmented perspectives that introduce modular subjectivities and contingent modalities of value into the Game.
The regime of xenogaming, presented at last year’s Refactor Camp, is an integrative framework of post-economic productive activity which weds pervasive gamification and immersive lifestyle RPG storytelling with efficacious social impact in “the real world”. This year, Xenogaming Industries will disclose critical information about an emerging new insurrectionary trend in the Corridor: xenoreaction. Xenoreaction, the result of meme-splicing the most corrosive and ferocious strains of ultra-far-left and ultra-far-right “activism”, presents a coherent methodology for systematically welding movements together in supreme acts of preemptive counterviolence.
In this workshop, we propose a grand unified theory of intra-community schism, and elucidate the relationship between individual and group trauma-load. Understanding how small acts of cowardice build into vicious wars to offload emotional labor informs a predictive cybernetic theory of conflict escalation. The cryptodynamics of unschism may reveal new maths that allow consensus ledgers to nullify and forget (or depotentiate) the painful past while remaining immutable.
Using the AO (Autonomous Organization), a working open-source platform for community spaces, we will demonstrate a trading card game that already implements fair accounting of distributed social burden (or suffering/grievances). Through sharded reality-issuance and maypoles of reality-forking and -reconciliation, participants in the AO unweave and reweave the social fabric, clearing the accumulated backlog of required grievance transactions in a frenzy of abundance-paritization.
In our grand finale, we shall slice the Refactor Camp community in two, and attempt to necro-graft select traits from another community into our attentive audience—live!