[NetBehaviour] Transcultural Data Pact LAARRP the Movie!

Max Herman maxnmherman at hotmail.com
Sun Oct 25 15:12:30 CET 2020

Hi Ruth,

I think you are totally right about the body work and role of the body, which even over videocall in pandemic, once removed spatially, is "there" in a present moment.  Then the unique kind of learning and seeing that happens in concert in that present has a completely unique actual occurrence or ground.

In any case I think it is a marvelous project and genre so to speak, a play within a play, a game within a game, fun, strange, and joyful too!  It strikes a chord with the eerie, absurd, tragic, yet perhaps possibly hopeful year 2020.

All best wishes and regards,


From: Ruth Catlow <ruthcatlow at gmail.com>
Sent: Sunday, October 25, 2020 7:39 AM
To: Max Herman <maxnmherman at hotmail.com>; Alan Sondheim <sondheim at gmail.com>
Cc: NetBehaviour for networked distributed creativity <netbehaviour at lists.netbehaviour.org>
Subject: Re: [NetBehaviour] Transcultural Data Pact LAARRP the Movie!

Thanks Alan and Max for your generous and encouraging attention on this piece.

To my shame I didn't know Ann Halprins work. I couldn't immediately see the connection but there is something very powerful to learn here about collective improvisation in response to simple instructions. It also raised the question of body work and the agency of bodies in co-operative artforms (Cassie Thornton's Hologram has also been teaching me about this).  It gave me a lot to think about.

What you said makes a lot of sense to me Max and the ideas you weave together around predictive regulation are especially generative. Thanks so much for all the brilliant references!

What I find especially exciting about the larp form is that insights are gained together by, between and for people, in the moment.


On Fri, 23 Oct 2020, 17:02 Max Herman, <maxnmherman at hotmail.com<mailto:maxnmherman at hotmail.com>> wrote:

Hi Ruth,

This is a very fun and interesting video!  It makes me really want to see the land/ocean debate go to the next level, or as they used to say "through to fruition."  Kudos on imagining a scintillating play-form!

A few strands I've been interested in lately seem to flow around the idea of "predictive regulation."  It was phrased as "allostasis" by Peter Sterling in 1988 (I think) as a kind of time-contextualization of the biological health paradigm of homeostasis.  The idea is not of "ever-returning to center," but "imagining future states and choosing among a repertoire of behaviors as most suitable through change."  Since we are always moving moment-to-moment, with new conditions always appearing out of the void as it were, improv is fundamental.


The current issue of Foreign Affairs (catchy title) is also about predictive regulation, in particular regarding risk and policy: such as climate change, east/west tension, and cybersecurity.  (I would personally elaborate a wider risk landscape to include things like ethnonationalist violence, inequality, collapse of human communication, erosion of art, and many more, but all settings make their selections consistent with place -- "sistere" is the Latin for "to place or stand.")

The issue of the magazine seems to hinge on the fragility of a blox paradigm -- efficiency, precision, and statistical control (if I may make such a judgment).  You can do statistics, but predictions based on the past are lacking.  Their failures, particularly of omission, in the recent past and present are epic.  So the article says "add interactive imagination."  But then they say, "imagination can be very illogical," and discuss how to make it more logical.

However, illogic is actually key to the utility of imagination.  You suspend the reign of consequence.  You have to!  Emotion and fancy are not hardly weaknesses, but are the very life of predictive regulation, that is, of life.  If our brains could not "switch off" the calculator we would never, ever be able to react with nuance or in time i.e. "fast enough."  We would have perished eons ago.  For some, reading Shelley's "Defence of Poetry" during youth education captures some sense of this, in the to poiein and to logizein:

"The one is the το ποιειν, or the principle of synthesis, and has for its objects those forms which are common to universal nature and existence itself; the other is the το λογιςειν, or principle of analysis, and its action regards the relations of things simply as relations; considering thoughts, not in their integral unity, but as the algebraical representations which conduct to certain general results."


Therefore in this light I would urge the representatives of Oceana to see the foundational, nay surpassing efficiency of imagination, which can only work by its necessary organic ways.  Do you dissect a turtle to see its beauty?  Of course you don't.  Don't kill the goose that lays the golden eggs, indeed the only eggs.

To Ourland, I would ask what I can do to help expand the awareness of Oceana people, but in some ways this can only be known by results -- trial and error by creative art and science.  In this spirit, Oceanics' mania for harvest and silo can actually be an inroad.  The primitive (yes atavistic) nature of their thought makes them actually rather teachable, if by a somewhat odd and numeric language.  Maybe they can only imagine in reverse?  Often it seems they cannot imagine at all, but this should not dissuade us from teaching them.

Leonardo said "two weaknesses make a strength," and that the weakness of one half of the earth leans against the weakness of the other half to allow the planet to hold its spherical form.  As if knowing their own deficiency on an implicit level, Oceana cleaves to symbolic touchstones as, in a way, placeholders, and places a number on them (call this number "arbitrarily high").  These knots or variables are necessary for their system's self-rationalization, crude as it is, not to lose all hope.  So these knots or nodes, "nodo" in Italian from the Latin nodus, out of the PIE "to tie, bind," are fascinatingly sometimes inroads already made -- built in, as it were, by brave and fortunate Ourlanders of the past.

We may call these "fulcra."  They can only be used improvisationally, evanescent as if by the playing of musical strings in fugue, but they do alter the warp and woof of the blox system.  This can help Ourland to tap the power of our Orphic and pre-Orphic heritage, the deep heritage even beyond humanity's own origin which dwarfs the pinprick of understanding in blox.  We can give blox, as it were, bites bigger than it can chew.  This teaching of its own illogic is not the same as a conscience in the blox, but it may have to do for now.  It is a path, and one of whose eventual regality we need not despair.

Leonardo had a symbol of his own learning place or space, his academia: it is a circular knot, in the British Museum, with the hexagrammic aca-de-mia-leo-nar-di and "vici" at the center.  "Vici" means "won" in Latin, and is a pun on "vinci" which means "win" in Italian and "worsted yarn" in Latin.


Although not everything in cognitive life can be "proven" in the crudest sense, being in motion and context, this image can provide a lesson in conquest (over risks) by indirection which is potentially useful against the blox in the interest of a sustainable, peaceful, or even complementary coexistence.  To an extent, this victory requires a "light touch," even of the lightness with which the Mona Lisa, another planetary fulcrum, points to the datum techne crossings of her sleeve.  The blox system has never tied these attributes to these fulcra so they are, potentially, modes or paths for it to learn.  Or maybe at least conundra to slow it down!  I would be lying if I said they were absolutes like the blox itself which is actually just a kind of void or cipher.

Some bloxists also just will never, ever be able to listen or hear, much less see or imagine, which is OK, but should be considered in the interests of time which is of course of the essence.

Well done and all best regards,


From: NetBehaviour <netbehaviour-bounces at lists.netbehaviour.org<mailto:netbehaviour-bounces at lists.netbehaviour.org>> on behalf of Ruth Catlow via NetBehaviour <netbehaviour at lists.netbehaviour.org<mailto:netbehaviour at lists.netbehaviour.org>>
Sent: Friday, October 23, 2020 5:31 AM
To: NetBehaviour for networked distributed creativity <netbehaviour at lists.netbehaviour.org<mailto:netbehaviour at lists.netbehaviour.org>>
Cc: Ruth Catlow <ruthcatlow at gmail.com<mailto:ruthcatlow at gmail.com>>
Subject: [NetBehaviour] Transcultural Data Pact LAARRP the Movie!

Hello NBers

I hope you and yours are all safe and well.

Two months have passed since we played the Transcultural Data Pact LARP online.  I've posted a little information about it below. A number of list members participated and gave inspiring performances which frankly, blew our minds and made me realise what potential this format holds for critical play, learning and creating new worlds together. This feels particularly valuable right now.

I'm happy to share with you a parafictional video about the pact, by Pete Gomes<https://vimeo.com/470585528>. We had an embarrassment of riches to work with in the edit and found it agonising to have to leave so much out.

Annie asked me in an email about what exactly this is - art or what?!
I'm currently calling it Live Art Action Research Role Play = LAARRP!
It sits across all kinds of things.

Would love your thoughts


Transcultural Data Pact is a game of serious make-believe, in which role-play is used to explore how personal and collective data practices and devices might shape the attitudes and fortunes of a society. In this scenario, an historic trade negotiation is underway between two nations with shared ancestry and clashing beliefs.

Transcultural Data Pact was created as part of Qualified Selves, a research project funded by UKRI/EPSRC between the Universities of Edinburgh and Lancaster. Exploring how individuals make sense of personal data management.

It was created by Ruth Catlow, DECAL at Furtherfield in collaboration with Kate Genevieve, chroma.space<http://chroma.space>, Prof. Chris Speed, Dr Kruakae Pothong, Billy Dixon and Dr Evan Morgan from the School of Informatics, University of Edinburgh.

Film by Pete Gomes. Music by Matt Catlow.

Co-founder & Artistic director of Furtherfield & DECAL Decentralised Arts Lab
+44 (0) 77370 02879

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Furtherfield disrupts and democratises art and technology through exhibitions, labs & debate, for deep exploration, open tools & free thinking.

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