NM POD 36: HAPPY MEDIUM (KELLER EASTERLING)
Lil Internet: (00:00)
Welcome to the New Models Podcast. On this episode, part of the Shadowlands season of Stolbun Institute, we feel grateful to be joined by architect, writer, and motivational speaker Keller Easterling. Okay, motivational speaker is my own superlative and nobody in their right mind wants to be considered one, but the way Easterling perceives the world adeptly navigates its varying scales, finds value in both the fuzzy and the quantifiable, the chaotic and the precise, and then somehow distills this complex, super linguistic way of seeing into language. It's impossible to not feel motivated listening to her speak.
Lil Internet: (00:36)
From New Models' inception, sensitivity to scope, complexity and emergence has been central to our thinking. In her new book, Medium Design: Knowing How to Work on the World, Keller Easterling articulates a truly 21st century framework of engagement, for a time where every scale is visible, but the sheer complexity is immeasurable. Reminding us that deterministic solutions have always been an incomplete response to the problems of a messy indeterminate world full of interplay. I'm Lil Internet joined by my cohost, Carly Busta and Daniel Keller. Our guest today is Keller Easterling. This episode is brought to you by Stolbun Institute, which supports and coordinates contents across outlets in a time of increasing media atomization. So, check your temperament and let's get into it.
Lil Internet: (01:48)
Caroline Busta: (01:57)
We're very excited to be joined today by Keller Easterling. She is an architect, writer and a professor at the Yale School of Architecture where she leads the Master of Environmental Design program. She is also the author of several books, including to name just three, Organization Space: Landscapes, Highways, and Houses in America, Extrastatecraft: The Power of Infrastructure Space, and most recently, Medium Design: Knowing How to Work on the World, which was published by Verso earlier this year. Keller Easterling, we're so thrilled to have you on the New Models Podcast.
Keller Easterling: (02:31)
It's a pleasure. I've, I've been admiring your work.
Caroline Busta: (02:33)
Well, (laughs), you very much informed our own structure, so it feels like this strange devirtualization to be speaking to you in real time. Keller, as a way of beginning, could we ask you to reprise for our listeners some of the geospatial concepts that underpin your work? For instance, this idea of extrastatecraft and what you call spatial products and how these concepts give us an alternate map or framework for thinking about human defined territories beyond just what we see on Google Maps. And maybe in this, this disconnect between the commonly held maps of the world and the different kind of maps that you offer with these geospatial terms, there is a key to why things look so weird?
Keller Easterling: (03:14)
Uh, it's a wonderful question and a big one. I suppose in working in architecture, I've been trying to apply techniques and practices really from theater to architecture. So it is taking things from, um, kind of nominative register to an active register, looking not just at objects, but looking at the ways that they interact. So, that has really been all I've been doing with all these different subsets of evidence, but something like a spatial product is moving architecture away from, you know, the making of something with shapes and outlines to being able to see how to work on a repeatable formula as it is reproduced in space, um, commercially by the millions of acres all around the world, the things that are changing the crust of the earth, and trying to figure out how to work on them.
Keller Easterling: (04:17)
And (laughing) in terms of the kind of weirdening of the world, while all of those things are presented as if they were absolutely rational expressions with the bottom line in mind and, and so on and, you know, sensible business people are working on these things, it turns out that they are really fueled by some of the most irrational desires and puffy fictions.
Keller Easterling: (04:45)
So it is seemed to me, even as a professor, that it's my job to (laughs) present to my students a really irrational world, a world that through its love of solutions and quantifiable proofs and so on, ironically has sort of created a world filled with failures and, well, or clashes between those solutions that are easily manipulated by all sorts of forms of authoritarian power and psychotic leadership, but also our field by fiction and primitive crude urges (laughs) and to present a world that, now while we think it is information rich because of all of our digital apparatus and so on, is actually quite information poor, and again, primitive and crude quite frequently. So, all of that is trying to look again past the nominative to the dispositional, to the active, to the temperament and to try to work in that register as well.
Caroline Busta: (05:54)
One thing that's so great about your writing is your ability to give very material examples. I wonder if there's anything that comes to mind as exemplary of what you were just describing?
Keller Easterling: (06:06)
Well, some of the sorts of spatial products that I've been looking at range from everything from the agricultural field of repeatable suburban houses to the repeatable formulas for entire world cities that are the Atropos of global capital and the kind of engine room of labor abuse. And so making that really vivid has been part of what I've been trying to do to bring forward that evidence even to our theories about how we think about how to act on them.
Caroline Busta: (06:42)
You, uh, there is this sense that part of the weirdness comes from there being a mismatch with the 20th century framework and everything seems to be spilling over beyond it. In Medium Design, you asked readers to see through systems to the relations among the different things they claim to contain. I find this really helpful, as you're suggesting that we start from a place of spillover. So, using this model of relations between things, how would you say the real map has shifted over the past 30 some years?
Keller Easterling: (07:13)
Well, I've, was trying to say in this book that it seems that there are some very stubborn habits of mine, maybe they are what, what might think of as 20th century, but I think it, I was sort of saying the kind of, uh, you know, a modernist way of thinking a culture that prizes solutions and manifestos and quantifiable proofs and elementary particles and touring complete worlds, you know, and the math is so responsive and there's sci-fi music playing in the background-
Caroline Busta: (07:48)
Keller Easterling: (07:48)
... and culture wants to reward you for this, you know, and throughout your whole life and told you should have the right answer, that this is the thing that will provide confidence, that will galvanize politics. And I mean, the 20th century, it's true is just a comedy of the ways in which the quantifiable proof for the new emergent technology should replace the incumbent one and the statistics will cure traffic engineering. You know, and on and on and on. And so no, the world doesn't kind of stand by and wait for organizations to curdle and get lumpy and be impossible to parse. That's not the moment when you're rewarded. But this book, Medium Design, is trying to say, "Now, that's the moment of innovation." That moment when things get very lumpy is a moment that's more information rich.
Keller Easterling: (08:51)
The moments when things have been strained to be divisible by data, or to be only one species of information are the more information poor organizations, the more vulnerable, the more fryable organizations. And that organizations that have spatial and digital and heavy and ethnographic and epidemiological and all kinds of information that where, there's a, a protocol of interplay between those things, then you're starting to have sufficient information to work. And quite frequently, what you're working with are even the failures and castoffs of that habit of mind that wants to have, you know, the absolute answer.
Daniel Keller: (09:43)
I was... Yeah, I noted this one quote, I guess it was Latour that you were referencing talking about modernizing modernization. And I'm wondering, is that desirable? Is that generally what you're striving for with Medium Design? You used it in scare quotes, so I wasn't sure if you were questioning the whole possibility of it.
Keller Easterling: (10:03)
Yeah, I just didn't, I was using it because it just shows the persistence of that habit of mind, (laughs) you know? Uh, you know, why would he have to say... I mean, it's fine, but, uh, I mean, well, why would he have to say the modernization of modernization?
Caroline Busta: (10:16)
Keller Easterling: (10:17)
It's still, it's still that same idea that one must have successive rather than co-existent thinking. You know, that, that something else must take over the other thing or supersede the other thing. And-
Daniel Keller: (10:30)
But isn't that modernized modernization is accounting for all of those things, but maybe not abandoning all the, the lessons of modernism as well? And, and it sort of it seems to me almost like there's this straw man of this like, you know, big, dumb modernist that still exists where I think that maybe doesn't actually exist anymore. And I'm wondering, yeah, if there's somewhere in between.
Keller Easterling: (10:51)
Um, maybe, maybe right. I mean, I think what Latour really meant was just that he, he was wanting all of the technologies that had been part of... That he, that he wanted human and non-human things to be considered when addressing environment, that that would be, whatever, an emergent update of some sort. And that, you know, and that he wanted to consider all kinds of technologies in, uh, addressing climate change. But I still think its words are always catching ourselves up at those moments. You know, when, when your editor inserts the word radical into things.
Caroline Busta: (11:31)
Keller Easterling: (11:31)
When you're, you know, when you (laughs)-
Caroline Busta: (11:32)
Keller Easterling: (11:32)
... when, you know, when you're or somebody wants to say post something, you know, like it think it's just good to just stop for a minute and see if that's really what we're, if that's just something that's been hammered in as a habit, you know?
Caroline Busta: (11:46)
Why are we so tied to having these breaks? Why is there such an attraction to that? Just because it's exciting and dramatic, or is there something else there?
Keller Easterling: (11:57)
I don't know. I th- I th- I think it's a stubborn cultural habit and, and it's associated with a, a violent binary. This will kill that, kill the father. It's, i- it's, it's, uh, it's deeply ingrained obsolescence and replacement. Yeah. I mean, it's a deeply ingrained habit that eliminates information (laughs). Um, you know, it eliminates the technology in order to be smarter, it tries to eliminate information in order to be smarter, which doesn't make any sense.
Lil Internet: (12:35)
I mean, I always think of a lot of that kind of thinking, it's like war is the core analogy which always ends up being a good versus evil binary, a winner and loser dynamic. But you also mentioned this when you were writing about violence in Medium Design, but a more contemporary framework of understanding violence is actually violence being a contagion, especially within certain communities, uh, that there's clustering effects, that there's vectors of spreading violence. And I wonder if it's a question of applying the disease model as the core analogy of how we engage with problems rather than war (laughs) as always the core analogy of engaging with problems.
Lil Internet: (13:17)
And I mean, I think I, I heard you say on a, a conversation earlier this year that, uh, COVID was a close example to tackling a problem via medium design. And I wonder if you think the disease analogy replacing the war analogy might be a good step in that direction.
Keller Easterling: (13:34)
Right, yeah, because I think sort of in response to the previous question, you know, an additional answer might have been that, you know, many people think we've adopted all these modern ideologies to replace the certainty of a God or something. And so we set it up as the Manichean struggle between two things. And then that's also some kind of binary of war. And then everything that we do takes on that struggle for the one or the one and only and oscillating between that closed loop and a binary fight to reinforce the closed loop. But that is so different from everything about what we see (laughs). Our bodies, iterative trial and error processes, a big bag of water and-
Caroline Busta: (14:20)
Keller Easterling: (14:21)
... electrolytes, and so on, that's doing all these things has nothing to do with that kind of binary organization. All day long (laughs) we see it, we're looking at it. Atmospheric chemicals and biological agents do not work that way. Uh, this is not, the... All of the evidence, uh, before us, you know, would say that these are forms of entanglement and we don't even have a way to talk about this adventure. You know, I mean, you have to say war and then do a cross-through because we don't, we don't have the word of, for not war.
Caroline Busta: (15:02)
Keller Easterling: (15:02)
We don't, we don't, the, even if when you see like these organizations, I was trying to write about the way in which culture has always been very good at sending teenagers to war, but now teenagers want to have another sort of adventure about biological agents and disease and atmospheric chemicals. But what are the words that are used to organize them? The something core, the environmental core, the health brigade, the si- you can't even get away from this sort of militarization of grouping.
Daniel Keller: (15:36)
I really like your turn of phrase about lexical force fields, and I'm wondering if this is sort of what you're talking about here, resorting to certain types of vernacular that, you know, like war vernacular-
Lil Internet: (15:47)
And maybe give a quick definition of that too.
Caroline Busta: (15:50)
Daniel Keller: (15:50)
Yeah. Well a lexical force field. Yeah.
Keller Easterling: (15:51)
Well, I think what you're referring to is I was trying to describe those people who are, you know, sort of political superbugs who are really good at taking lexical expressions and making them dispositional. They really are much more about activity and interplay than the assigned meanings to the words, and they lie so often that they create a kind of force field where lexical expressions don't mean anything, or they're no a kind of magic way to take meaning and lies and make it active. Like the lie that Obama was born outside of the United States. That's a really good lie. Because it's really easy to disprove, so you get both the detractors and the defenders repeating it.
Keller Easterling: (16:47)
The superbug has that special intelligence. Like, what they're saying doesn't matter. They're able to know how what they're saying will do something. It's a really special skill. You know, like back to the biological agents, this is a little bit like what Trump was saying that he thought COVID-19 was a genius, like a word that he usually only-
Caroline Busta: (17:11)
Keller Easterling: (17:11)
... reserved for himself. But COVID-19 s- because it's constantly mutating, because it doesn't give you a solid one-to-one meaning, it, i- it's like, yeah, that's, you know, that's kinda like what I do. That's why, that's why I can shoot somebody in Times Square and it, it won't matter, it won't stick to me, uh.
Daniel Keller: (17:32)
It's more about a shiftiness, you mean, in a almost magical way of utilizing language to have a certain effect. Like, I mean, it actually reminds me of this, these TikTok teens that are using cheat codes for reality. They're just-
Lil Internet: (17:46)
Daniel Keller: (17:47)
... somehow numeric numbers that have the things.
Lil Internet: (17:49)
Daniel Keller: (17:49)
Yeah, so I do think that people-
Lil Internet: (17:51)
... some strange form of like TikTok divination where people, uh, somehow discover numerical codes that they imagine have some, it's like some form of, uh, [crosstalk 00:18:00]-
Daniel Keller: (17:59)
It's, it's nonsense. Right.
Lil Internet: (18:01)
... [crosstalk 00:18:01]. Yeah.
Caroline Busta: (18:03)
Just like 666, but instead it's like [crosstalk 00:18:04]-
Lil Internet: (18:03)
Y- yeah. [crosstalk 00:18:04]-
Daniel Keller: (18:03)
With longer codes.
Lil Internet: (18:05)
... more arbitrary, yeah.
Caroline Busta: (18:06)
Daniel Keller: (18:06)
More like, like IRL cheat codes is sort of I think the way that they think about it, like video game logic. I mean, I think that language very often works that way, especially when you're trying to activate certain algorithms to respond to that language, there's an actual effect to using certain language that certain people will pick up, certain bots will pick up, you know, et cetera. A hashtag, even, [crosstalk 00:18:27]-
Caroline Busta: (18:26)
Oh, it's so fascinating though. It doesn't even have a relationship that's immediately apparent to a human language. It's like translating the code, giving it some mimetic layer so that the algorithm picks it up. Am I right?
Lil Internet: (18:39)
Tr- t- trying-
Caroline Busta: (18:40)
Am I understanding this correctly or?
Lil Internet: (18:40)
... trying to divine the black box of life, man.
Daniel Keller: (18:43)
Caroline Busta: (18:43)
(Laughs). yeah. It's ha-, I mean, right. Like-
Lil Internet: (18:45)
Caroline Busta: (18:46)
... that's so crazy.
Keller Easterling: (18:47)
It reminds me also of like what James C. Scott and others have talked about where that rumor is a, a form of witchcraft because it didn't start anywhere, it didn't... It just has a way of being spread, uh-
Daniel Keller: (18:58)
Keller Easterling: (18:58)
Caroline Busta: (19:00)
Yeah. There's always something in a rumor that does resonate. There's a fear or an anxiety or a desire, or there's something that's beyond the thing that's quantifiable.
Keller Easterling: (19:09)
It's the stickiness of a rumor, its spreadability may or may not have anything to do with its closeness or its distance from the truth. It's a little bug, it's a little germ that can act in a lot of different ways. Yeah.
Daniel Keller: (19:24)
And it can mutate. And it, I think it draws strength from kind of random mutations where it-
Keller Easterling: (19:28)
Daniel Keller: (19:28)
... can become much stronger than the original intention accidentally, um.
Keller Easterling: (19:32)
Keller Easterling: (19:33)
Lil Internet: (19:34)
I mean, uh, I think, you know, too, we see, wait, there's this problem with flexible language and lies and, uh, and then there's also of course the problem with the puritanical yes/no relationship with God. I remember reading something about the Puritans had this very personal linguistic binary relationship with God while Catholicism had all of these images and iconography and therefore like Catholic missionaries, Catholicism could really integrate and make these new sort of syncretic religions with whatever was practiced with the indigenous people because there was space for that with the images-
Caroline Busta: (20:12)
Lil Internet: (20:12)
... representing more than just the language. Whereas the Puritans in this really language-based religious practice didn't have any room for analogous relationships being made from the images. And so it seems like language can have a problem being too loose or too defined. And I wonder like, what is the best use of language in medium thinking or talking about medium design?
Caroline Busta: (20:35)
Like where does it fit in?
Lil Internet: (20:36)
What does the language sound like? How does one speak in that context?
Keller Easterling: (20:40)
Hmm. Um, I think I've always just been doing something so incredibly simple that comes from the thing I wr- I thought was a worthwhile training that I ever got. And there was a training in theater where you're constantly aware that you are saying words, and there's a lexical meaning there, but you're constantly aware that most of the information is going to be carried through some action or intention that you're playing out. Not the way you're moving, but your intention to reject, to grovel, to wha- whatever it is you're doing, that's the carrier of information. And it may be very different from what you're saying. In fact, it quite frequently is the very opposite of what you're saying.
Keller Easterling: (21:26)
And I guess I think we get through our day in that same way too, that there's all the things we're saying, and then there's all the ways in which we are, you know, managing potentials in unexpressed ways. Um, I wanted to bring those two things together into focus because the lexical always is so dominant. Uh, so I was trying to kinda turn the sound down on that a little bit to be able to see more of the way we manage potentials in unexpressed ways.
Caroline Busta: (22:01)
What then happens when we're forced to communicate with each other on these platforms? What happens then to that conversation when there's only text? What's possible in that space?
Keller Easterling: (22:14)
You all would know this better-
Lil Internet: (22:16)
Keller Easterling: (22:17)
... than I do. Uh, but I'm very fearful of just the textual worlds, which is a strange thing to say for somebody who's relying on the written word. But I am, uh, fearful also on behalf of my students in a world where their relationships with the people that they love and their family and their friends are commodified on these... Uh, it's terrifying to me. I can see ways in which these platforms can be used in alternative ways, but the dominant ways in which they're used present some real obstacles (laughs). Uh, what am I doing trying to suggest again, mixtures of information? That one would never rely just on a lexical expression, but that it's a kind of coordination between many things and many different kinds of knowledge and encounter. But the lure of just a lexical expression that moves fast and multiplies, and it's warm and humming in warm-
Caroline Busta: (23:25)
Keller Easterling: (23:25)
... humming machines is, uh, I don't know, uh-
Daniel Keller: (23:31)
I'm, I'm wondering like in what way is a protocol of interplay or this messiness, how is that different from an algorithm? Because it seems to me that that defines a relationship between things that are moving. So, is medium design really algorithmic design? Is there a difference there?
Keller Easterling: (23:49)
Yeah. I was wanting to ask you guys what you thought about my stammering over the last question, but maybe this is a way to do that (laughs). Um, and the algorithm, in my way in my thinking is something that is still divisible with an elementary particle data or something like that. And it has often been used incorrectly as, as if it was related to finding the solution to something.
Keller Easterling: (24:17)
I mean, maybe there's a way of saying that some of what I'm talking about is analogous to all the interplay between many different kinds of algorithms that that word is used loosely. Um, I mean a lot, some of the formation of thinking like this comes from network thinking, obviously. But for me, and you'll, you'll roar with laughter at whatever is formative here for me. But for me, I'm still thinking back to the less conservative, less predictable ideas about kind of late '20s, some '80s thinking about network, eb- eb- Marvin Minsky, Danny Hillis moment, you know, where the kind of redundancy and messiness of networks and the mixing of different sources for information was something that was kind of paradigm.
Keller Easterling: (25:15)
So that mixed with the heavy world, that mixed with bodies, suddenly there were bodies in between a circuit and something else. There was heavy stuff in between the place where the information would go. So for me, it was a mixing of heavy and digital. And some of what I'm talking about is almost just third degree parallelism (laughs), you know, of where anything constitutes information. I mean, that, that's why I'm saying that it had less to do with predictability and more to do with convulsive moments, and seeing as Bateson would say, you know, information in a tree, a man and an ax, you know, like that kind of thinking.
Lil Internet: (25:58)
I mean, I could also imagine that an algorithm and the way we think of them today, I mean, we're talking about also solving really human behavior-based big complex problems that you couldn't define accurately in an algorithm, right?
Caroline Busta: (26:12)
Well, right. That's like [crosstalk 00:26:12]-
Lil Internet: (26:12)
'Cause you're playing with pieces that are a bit stochastic or chaotic and you couldn't define it clearly enough to put it into a defined algorithm that would have a deterministic outcome.
Caroline Busta: (26:22)
Lil Internet: (26:22)
And I think maybe that's a difference.
Daniel Keller: (26:23)
I was wondering if we could shift gears a little bit more towards the land use experimentation. I don't know, or do you wanna keep us along the line we were going, Carly?
Caroline Busta: (26:32)
Dan is our hardcore determinist, um, in the pod.
Daniel Keller: (26:35)
Caroline Busta: (26:35)
And, uh, I am also-
Daniel Keller: (26:36)
Hey. Hey [crosstalk 00:26:37]-
Caroline Busta: (26:36)
... I am also curious how this framework, like what productive friction that causes. Because Dan, he's very, uh, hopeful about different kinds of accelerationist frameworks and sees value and interest and is excited about them. And there, uh, is a lot to be excited about. But yeah, I almost wonder, Dan, if there was anything that did come up in this framework of algorithms that you wanted to push on.
Daniel Keller: (26:57)
Oh, well, I mean, I mean, I guess people are very good optimizing and gaming whatever incentive structures are given to them. So I think it comes down to a question of like engineering incentives that are not gamable, and that requires a black boxed algorithm that people aren't aware of. And I'm really wondering, how do you do that? I mean, for instance, uh, you talk about social capital credits that can't be monetized. I find that very hard to believe that they can't be monetized. Like someone will figure out how they can be monetized. So then the issue is that money itself is too dumb because it's a zero or a one, and a more multidimensional money that took into account externalities and social cost and all of these things, that would be, well, much more desirable. And to me, that kind of sounds like, well, that's a smart contract, programmable money that can include all of these other factors.
Daniel Keller: (27:53)
So yeah, (laughs), that's long-winded. When I read that, that's sort of what I was imagining, is how do you design those things counting for this Cobra Effect of having these perverse incentives where people end up farming cobras when you're trying to ask for cobra heads. So then I was wondering like maybe those systems, th- they're defined by their perverse incentives, not by the incentives that are designed for, and how can you design a system... How can you design the right perverse incentives? Like I know that's paradoxical, but I wonder, is there a way, yeah, I don't know. This is all convoluted, but those are the thoughts that I'm thinking about. I don't know if you have something to say to that.
Lil Internet: (28:27)
Also generally, medium design, yeah, there's always that selfish desire.
Daniel Keller: (28:31)
Caroline Busta: (28:31)
And also something one of our community members, Brian Wolf, eh, said, do you ever worry about the danger of these spaces? I mean, I guess I'm extrapolating a bit from what Dan's saying. Dan's like, "You can game these systems. Is there a way to like premeditate that and optimize for the human brainstem that's going to game them?" And then I guess like another dimension to that question is also like, how do we make sure that we create areas that won't just immediately be... That we can defend these areas can be overtaken, either by someone gaming the system or someone who is making a power grab?
Keller Easterling: (29:02)
Well, there's a lot there. I, um, there's a lot about, um, you know, smart contracts and other things that, that you're referring to, um, that for me are still at a level of abstraction that can cause automatic harm. I mean, you've no doubt read that I had some sport with talking about some of these things. Um, even though thinking about them organizationally does model some interesting things, it's, they, for me, they still remains, even though they might talk about decentralizing, still remain within the set of platforms that is easily centralized because there's an elementary particle. And so some of what I am trying to talk about is not systemic. I- it is organizations with multiple variables rather than an elementary particle, because that seems to me to do less automatic harm. And because authoritarian power loves singular solutions and elementary particles. Yeah, um-
Daniel Keller: (30:08)
What is the elementary particle that i- um, in the sense that you're talking about? Currency or data or what exactly?
Keller Easterling: (30:16)
Uh, yeah, that it's all digital. Um, I mean, again, I worry of, uh, trying your patience, but there are so many other forms of value that one can mix with these things that escape those abstractions. Um, and so the organizations to me that seem most enriching are doing that. So for instance, you know, take, uh, just, uh, I mean we could scale this up, but a street (laughs), you know, a, a neighborhood. Um, there are ways to look at that as a ledger of abstracted properties that have financial value, but there are a million other things, proximities, what I can see from one place versus another place, relationships, patterns of passage, all of that. I mean, this is kind of like urbanism 101, you know?
Keller Easterling: (31:13)
But those things create values, other sorts of heavy values, and they might be mixed with financial values, but they can exist outside of them as well. And those heavy things can be pooled and rearranged and used to create other kinds of value. Um, so they might have heavy environmental values, they might have values related to health and a million other things. So it's that mixture that seems to provide a more resilient or a more robust sort of platform from which to work.
Keller Easterling: (31:52)
So, yeah, there might be smart contracts as part of that, but I don't know if you've read this book by Adam Greenfield that, well, you know there's one point where he's describing the way in which a group of people had created some kind of blockchain for raking leaves.
Caroline Busta: (32:06)
Keller Easterling: (32:06)
And, you know, they'd managed to get themselves into a complete knot when it was just raking leaves, you know? And you can see them.
Caroline Busta: (32:14)
Keller Easterling: (32:15)
I mean, you see what I'm saying, right? I mean, and from-
Daniel Keller: (32:17)
Keller Easterling: (32:18)
Daniel Keller: (32:18)
Well, I mean, I think if anyone's offering a panacea, you should be skeptical because those don't exist. But I mean, I think when I talk about blockchain as part of the solution, it's specifically because I believe that you can... it's more possible to include these nonfinancial values into this elementary particle than it would be just with normal capital as it exist now. Uh, there's a potential there I see it having to be less dumb. But, you know, that's yet to be seen. I definitely do not think it's a universal solution for problems, but-
Keller Easterling: (32:49)
I have listened with... As I've told you when we started this conversation, I have listened with raft attention to your various broadcasts because I'm also looking for someone like you who would speak about it intelligently in a way that it can be used, that it, 'cause there are so many ways in which a blockchain tool could be used really fruitfully, um.
Daniel Keller: (33:13)
Most of the time they won't be. I think that's safe to say, but yeah, I don't think it means that we should dismiss the entire possibility.
Lil Internet: (33:20)
I w- I would say maybe relatedly though, Kim Stanley Robinson's Ministry of the Future, and there in that book there's an idea of a carbon credit blockchain currency being developed. And, uh, I wonder if you have read it and if you have any ideas about the solutions or type of thinking that book presents.
Keller Easterling: (33:37)
Right, yeah. You're not the first person who's brought up Kim Stanley Robinson in relation to this book, Medium Design, too. Um, I suppose there's something shared there in looking everywhere, looking at any possibility, looking at (laughs) well, the sort of yes and continual not dismissing anyone possibility at a moment that's as dire as this one. You know, in some of the protocols that are described in Medium Design, people tell me are really hard to understand. Um, but they would very fruitfully use another way of accounting for values.
Keller Easterling: (34:18)
Some of them are looking at ways in which, you know, one would take things that have always been financialized, mortgages and things like that, and attaching them to other heavy values that have to do with environment and risk, but changing the terms of that, so, risk becomes an asset that you can trade and that grouping of risk that has to do again with heavy values, like how close you are to the water, how close you are to, uh, having soggy ground, how, you know, all these things that we can now index, being able to combine a number of indices and wants to rate a mortgage, not according to racialize capital as it was done in the 20th century, but according to all of these other heavy things.
Keller Easterling: (35:05)
So, the heavy things would, in some ways be the most important thing. So, things that are most consequential in a way, but ledgers that might be able to take account of that complexity, move them quickly, deal with their groupings primarily because, you know, in the 20th century, we grouped mortgages according to the convenience of developers who wanted to have, um, FHA approval 17,000 times, that dumb. These would much more complex groupings, a much more complicated game of unwinding that sprawl by being able to group risk in different ways. Uh, it's a little bit like a new, uh, ways that people pool, um, kidney donors or something like that. So there would be a moment where it wouldn't be that the automatic harm of any kind of abstraction, financial, digital would not be the thing that's moving it. The thing that moving it would be the heavy values, ideally, with a sort of secondary ledger that helps to manage it.
Keller Easterling: (36:15)
Um, but to your question before, which I didn't answer, was, yes, all of this can go terribly wrong. It will go terribly wrong. There's no question that any of this is, will not work. Uh, there is nothing that will work. There's only, uh, tending to these things to try to reduce their automatic harm.
Caroline Busta: (36:38)
Is there anything we can do about it in a material practical sense?
Keller Easterling: (36:42)
Well, you know, I mean the subtitle of this book, "Knowing How to Work on the World" sounds like somebody who thinks they know how to work on the world, and that's not what it means at all. I regret the subtitle, actually, because it's really referring to this phrase "knowing how," as opposed to knowing that. Knowing that is knowing the answer, knowing how is maybe knowing something about what to do next, like a pool player who doesn't have an answer to playing pool. You can't know that about playing pool like you can't know that about being funny. You can only respond to the next thing in a branching set of reactions.
Keller Easterling: (37:18)
So, there has to be kind of a comfort level in knowing that you might only know how, but not that. You know, that you might only know something about what to do next, you might only have a hunch. But so that's what this book is in a way trying to rehearse, is a way to see those potentials and see them in space. I would think that I should know a lot about many different technologies, that I should know about economy, that I should know about medicine and epidemiology. But I think there's something underrehearsed in culture about simply knowing things about spatial practices-
Caroline Busta: (38:00)
Keller Easterling: (38:00)
... heavy spatial practices, potentials in arrangement. And being able to see whether one arrangement or another has the potential to reduce violence or, um, reduce carbon emissions, or reduce vehicle miles traveled, or increase enfranchisement, or reduce the possibilities of murderous policing. Or there are spatial practices that can address all of those things, and I think culture's underrehearsed in them. So, among all the other things that we have intelligence about, I'm really just trying to add that to the mix. Again, emphasizing, mix. (Laughs), um, yeah.
Caroline Busta: (38:43)
(Laughs). Yeah. How to cook versus knowing a recipe, knowing the general principles, as opposed to just the itemized directions.
Keller Easterling: (38:52)
Lil Internet: (38:52)
When you had mentioned yes and, I then thought about Truth in Comedy-
Keller Easterling: (38:57)
Lil Internet: (38:57)
... which is the improv manual, and maybe [crosstalk 00:39:00]-
Caroline Busta: (39:00)
Oh, it's true. It's very-
Lil Internet: (39:02)
Caroline Busta: (39:02)
It is actually... That's actually true. This whole book is a kind of like-
Lil Internet: (39:05)
Caroline Busta: (39:05)
... medium designing relations, but in order to-
Lil Internet: (39:07)
It's all about interplay-
Caroline Busta: (39:08)
Lil Internet: (39:08)
Caroline Busta: (39:08)
That's true, yeah.
Lil Internet: (39:08)
... and messiness and not a concrete prescription of how-
Caroline Busta: (39:13)
Lil Internet: (39:13)
... to do something.
Caroline Busta: (39:15)
Finding [crosstalk 00:39:15]-
Daniel Keller: (39:15)
So, yeah, taking the lessons of improv into architecture-
Lil Internet: (39:16)
Daniel Keller: (39:17)
... as opposed to theater. I think (laughing) sketch comedy theater.
Caroline Busta: (39:20)
[crosstalk 00:39:20]. I mean, that is, right? That is-
Lil Internet: (39:21)
Yeah. Brought me back to that-
Caroline Busta: (39:23)
Lil Internet: (39:23)
... that book. But, uh, I was also, uh, wanted to mention in terms of you talking about space and how they can, uh, mitigate problems or violence. Um, I was reading something recently, which is a study on violence in the black community in the United States, like lateral violence, but between members of the community. And it was mentioned that like a lack of, the lack of privacy and not digital privacy, which seems to be the only kind people really talk about (laughs). The lack of like actual physical privacy, like the lack of having your own room actually was a catalyst for the desire to have a sense of ownership over a piece of the common shared space, i.e. gangs and territory and neighborhoods and owning a corner for whatever, uh, commercial activity you do on it.
Lil Internet: (40:13)
And so, uh, the idea essentially is that, you know, if public housing or housing in lower income areas, if there was more space, if young men had their own room, had a sense of ownership and privacy over a space, it would help mitigate some of the violence that happens in those communities. And I mean, is this a correct example of medium design? But also, I wanted to ask what an organization that focuses on like architectural or medium design solutions to human behavioral problems, like, what would those organizations look like? Or what do they look like if one already exists and it's in a form perhaps I'm not recognizing?
Keller Easterling: (40:53)
Uh, yes, it exists everywhere all around us. I mean, one, I gave one example in the book that maybe concentrates some of these factors you're talking about. It was, um, Avondale housing. It was a housing, you know, what, what some people would have called projects. And it happened to be a place where had been, measured as one of the highest rates of infant mortality. But in this Avondale housing complex, it was the rewiring of those problems that actually started to generate some relief. It was the linking of young mothers with a sort health champion, another woman in the same complex that would help them to be healthier and raise children and have a mentor.
Keller Easterling: (41:43)
So, m- for me, it was a good example of that it's not, it's not eliminating problems that you want to do. It's trying to desegregate them, integrate those problems, find ways of rewiring the potentials of those problems, wherever they are. And that is something, you know, that spatial proximities can do. You know, it's in the kind of community land trusts and so on that, that I was talking about in the book. You know, either they are a separate ledger of properties that the community land trust owns, and in that case, they basically have a kind of financial value, and they also have a community value. But if those things are actually cross-referenced spatially, they start to have much more compounding value are, and are recognized by using compounding that I'm using a word that's sometimes used-
Caroline Busta: (42:37)
Keller Easterling: (42:37)
... in finance. But the expectations that we have about something compounding in finance, that's very familiar. But it strikes me as odd that we have no sense of what those compounding values are in that space as it's playing out in time. Uh, but to, we have a much more acute sense of how that works is part of what, uh, I'm trying to talk about. And it has everything to do with what you're saying, is an actual room, is what you can see. It's whether the choir goes to visit the old person's asisted living place. You know, like whether you pass by that place. Or what do you see when you're going home as a teenager? You know, it's a lot of those things.
Keller Easterling: (43:21)
I mean, that, those are some heavy values. Go to a planetary scale instead of a neighborhood scale. Has things to do with the way certain species coordinate. Who wants it wet? Who wants it dry? Who w- w- how does the atmosphere... It's that intercoordination to do with all kinds of variables that Anna Singh talks about or others, um.
Caroline Busta: (43:42)
I mean, you know, one can go up to the planetary, but one can also go into the digital here. And now that there are the tools for people to design their own communities within certain parameters, these same questions are coming into play. I mean, it's not a physical room, but I would argue that there is a simulation of that. And there're some really interesting people like Jan Berger who's working in Minecraft, creating spa- digital spaces, and, you know, different digital spaces have different affordances and limitations as well. And-
Lil Internet: (44:09)
There's different emergent effects even [crosstalk 00:44:12]-
Caroline Busta: (44:11)
Lil Internet: (44:12)
... redesigning digital spaces.
Caroline Busta: (44:13)
I mean, Discord allows quite a good deal of customization within their template. And it's amazing by having, you know, 30 rooms or two rooms, how different the community is. Um, if you place those rooms they're listed, if you play certain rooms higher or lower, if you have to scroll through certain rooms to get to other rooms, would that means. And so I think that there is an analogy that can be made to the kinds of digital architectures that are starting to emerge after... 'Cause, you know, in Instagram, you're always subject to this like kind of autocratic tyrant who's suddenly making all your information visible, or connecting you to dead friends, or doing something that feels like such a violation, and you have no control over it.
Caroline Busta: (44:53)
But now i- that we're getting into these Web 2.5 and Web 3 or whatever, not to make a successive break, but just to say something that's beyond Web 2 Facebook. Um, w- we are able to see how slight changes. "Oh, I can opt to make my name anonymous. I can opt to change my name many times." These little things are creating really different kinds of communities. And there are sometimes very small parameters that can make a huge difference at scale. So I think what you're saying is so important. I hope everyone listening really takes note of that as they think about the digital spaces that they're building, because, yes, small changes to spatial relationships, whether that's in digital space or in our lived space can have huge implications over time and at scale.
Lil Internet: (45:35)
Conway's Game of Life.
Keller Easterling: (45:37)
And to, and to what is available to you in space. If, if in a digital world I might feel more comfortable being another sex or being another gender or trying out another role, but then can move between. It's so crucial as a tool for how one can act in other spaces and other environments.
Caroline Busta: (45:58)
Absolutely. And I think there is so much potential in these digital spaces that allow you the ability to change your identity, change the way you are, who you are in these spaces. And I think a lot of... I mean, I'm speculating, a lot of the paranoia around language and about identity was a product of a symptom of these incredibly restrictive Web 2 spaces that need you declare that you're this gender, need you declare that you're this age, that you're-
Lil Internet: (46:24)
Facebook real name policy.
Caroline Busta: (46:25)
Yeah. Facebook real name policy, this mapping of a real person. We talk about this often on the pod, that I think that like that was a... talk about hidden violences, it was a kind of violence. Let's say that you're like non-binary gender, saying that you must declare yourself as whatever your license is, uh, that is a kind of limitation which is going to cause, just like the young men that don't have a room of their own, then li- get into territorial disputes in the space around their home. I think that same effect is what we see spilling, exploding out of Twitter and being devitrualized in acts of savcastic violence.
Caroline Busta: (46:58)
And so I do think there is potential, you know, maybe, Dan, it is through some kinds of blockchain arrangements, and maybe it's also just in being able to design your own space in what this era that's emerging of digital space might afford us. Sorry, Dan. I know you also were gonna say something (laughs).
Daniel Keller: (47:14)
Well, I mean, I just wanted to talk about real space, but I think it's a fine pivot to go from talking about designing virtual spaces. I was interested, you were talking about land readjustment and community land trust. So first I was just wondering if you could define what land readjustment, what it is and how it works.
Keller Easterling: (47:28)
Well, this is the next area of research that I'm working on now, is looking more deeply at these alternative organs for holding land that ease us out of ideas of property and cadastral mark that have been so violent, and that as we've said before, uh, have, you know, cost so much automatic harm. So, there's a whole lot of these different organs. And what would be wonderful is if they could become more popular tools. Um, you know, there are things like limited dividend corporations. Uh, there are things like community land trusts or agrarian trusts or land readjustment, or actually not land readjustment, but cooperative forms of land readjustment that, I mean, we can take them each in turn, but one thing they share is not necessarily allowing a private ownership of the crust of the earth. So, the land is in most of those cases through different means held more collectively. And the stuff on top of it, um, house, arrangement between house and park, walking distance between house, park, and work, all those things that derive from the arrangement of things on top, those can be rented or sold.
Keller Easterling: (48:58)
And I mean, in each case, depending on what scale you're talking about, there's all kinds of different things that happen. Um, but for instance, in the community land trust, the community has a ground lease on the crust of the earth, and you sell the house, you sell at a lower cost. So, that means that the community is not gonna be bought out and gentrified and dispossessed. So that means that I could live in my auntie's house or my grandmother's house. And that has values that are pretty hard to express. Um, pretty hard to financialize. Uh, it means that there's a kinda cohesion between what people can see also. So that's the community land trust. Uh, I don't know, I don't know whether you wanna go... There's be too, many-
Daniel Keller: (49:46)
Keller Easterling: (49:46)
... different, but, uh-
Daniel Keller: (49:48)
I was also, 'cause you mentioned, I think it's, it was it Duflo and Banerjee? I don't know if I'm pronouncing that correctly, but, um, talking about doing these randomized trials. It struck me as... Well, it reminded me of a special economic zone. And I'm wondering how is it different from a special economic zone, what you're calling for, other than a special economic zone with policies that you favor, um, as opposed to ones that are destructive and to labor and environmental law, et cetera?
Keller Easterling: (50:12)
Um, well I'd say pretty different. A special economic zone is something that's pretty much a template for unbridled capital accumulation. It is about eliminating all obstacles to profit. It is, you know, typically an island of corporate externalizing. It is eliminating taxes, it is eliminating a collective bargaining. It eliminates unions, typically band. It deregulates labor and environmental laws, global compacts. I mean, and each one is different. Each one can have a raft of different exemptions. So this is very different. This is changing the terms of how a number of existing components in a city will... I mean, in some ways it's almost a light change. It's a significant change, but, you know, there still are banking products there, there still are houses. There probably still is somebody who's going to sell that house, but the ability of capital to accumulate and dispossess has been knocked down. I would say it's pretty different from a special economic zone.
Daniel Keller: (51:20)
I mean, it's diametrically opposed in a way, but it still is about creating state of exception. And I mean, I think also, specifically this idea of randomized trials, how can you actually have really randomized trials when there's real people involved ethically? How random can they be? You know, how does that actually look in practice?
Keller Easterling: (51:38)
I completely agree with you. Uh, I mean, the work that Banerjee and Duflo does is to me a completely separate conversation from the land trusts and other things that we were just talking about. That it's totally different.
Daniel Keller: (51:50)
Keller Easterling: (51:51)
Um, and I agree with you completely, because they are trying to use a form that was used in drug testing to test economic ideas about how to reduce poverty, and, you know, have been highly praised for this. But it is very problematic, in my view, because on my, on the one hand, to your question, how do you have a randomized trial? You, it's not really... And they even say in other books, this is based on a hunch (laughs) in some ways, you know, We're, we're working with what we think might, uh, you know, yes, maybe if we, we provide a bag of lentils, uh, when you go to get your, your immunization, that will be incentive enough for the parent to get the children immuni- immunized. And we know that immunization will reduce poverty and increase chances for children to live.
Keller Easterling: (52:44)
But they're just trying that, and there's several dangers there. First of all, you could incentivize anything. And so every time you, you, do you have to do a randomized trial for every single thing? And one of the things that I'm saying in the book is, maybe it's not the quantifiable proof, but just idea of interplay itself, you know, (laughs) is pretty simple, right? You know, it's just the idea that you said, "Oh, maybe there's some connection between how long the nurse has to stay, the walking distance between the nurse and your village. If we put the nurse here, and yes, we provide a little incentive. We've just put a few things together, we will increase the potentials for children to get immunized."
Keller Easterling: (53:27)
And we don't really have to have a randomized control trial about this. It's really just the idea of interplay itself, uh, or coordination on the planetary scale, or any of the things that we've been talking about.
Caroline Busta: (53:41)
Like a how versus a that. In this case, it's really, all you need is a how, and if it doesn't work you'll know quite quickly and try the next as opposed [crosstalk 00:53:49]-
Keller Easterling: (53:49)
And, and try the next. Yeah.
Caroline Busta: (53:50)
Lil Internet: (53:51)
I remember there was a quote from your book somewhere that was, "People in power are too smart to be right." And I've been thinking a lot just in general about, uh, pride was considered the deadliest sin in several major religions. And, uh, I wondered if, you know, all the religious emphasis on hubris, which seems utterly quaint today where not only power practices it, but anyone with Instagram does as well. But maybe that very ancient religious attention on pride and hubris relates to a similar problem you're having into.
Lil Internet: (54:27)
And, uh, when it comes to something very, uh, like macro design, I mean, oftentimes the people who had that sense of scale were kings and rulers. I mean, how do you play at God's scales without hubris or being corrupted by it? And then, does religion have a role in any of this too? Religious thinking?
Keller Easterling: (54:46)
Well, I mean, I suppose some of this work is trying to find a way to have some scalable effects without working at God's scale. So, it's not-
Caroline Busta: (54:56)
Keller Easterling: (54:56)
... it's not saying, you know, that we'll just put artificial intelligence in charge of, or something like that, impl- it's not the kind of, it's always going away from the one or the one and only, or the one and only thing. Um, I mean the "too smart to be right," I guess, is meaning that to work with an organ or a protocol of interplay, as we were saying before, is to work with something that you know is not going to work. And so trying to find a solution is kind of dumb, weak position. And that also sometimes, kind of righteous position can only mean that you're gonna be constantly disappointed. You-
Caroline Busta: (55:40)
Keller Easterling: (55:40)
... created your own tragic end game constantly. I mean, it's also, I mean, that little phrase "too smart to be right," it's also referring to kind of piracy.
Caroline Busta: (55:52)
Keller Easterling: (55:52)
Like a way of trying to find more intelligence in complication and a long temporal dimension that you don't know what the end of it is. You know, it's also maybe having to do with not being so much of a believer, uh, the person with the singular position and the proselytizing this position. I guess I'm just temperamentally not so well suited to that. And it can feel too s- I guess that sounds a little bit sneaky too, or sly to say "too smart to be right." But so, it probably is.
Caroline Busta: (56:27)
I love that.
Lil Internet: (56:28)
And I also really like, uh, think it was temperament that you kind of drew a new political compass of both disposition and temperament and your ideological values. But I, I think that's a really nice metric to include because regardless of left or right, there are people whose disposition is more violent or less-
Caroline Busta: (56:48)
Lil Internet: (56:48)
... and that should be accounted for.
Caroline Busta: (56:50)
And I also like how, again, I'm just thinking of these digital worlds, but when you watch your community grow from 50 to a 100 to 500 to a 1000, the character is constantly changing and that machine is constantly breaking, and you're never gonna have a solution to the perfect community structure. There's always gonna be somebody who's underserved and somebody who's overserved, and you're constantly just changing these parameters. And if you were to say, "Finally, we have the perfect community," it would actually be a great tragedy because you'd have to build a big wall, and then you'd have to just say that nobody else can come in and nobody else can leave and you must follow these rules.
Caroline Busta: (57:25)
And so just that I think the permission to say that it's always going to be breaking down, that it's going to break, that's gonna happen, make peace with that. It's kind of like a death acceptance practice, but like, just as a way of going through life, which also lets you be a little bit less fearful. You're not constantly experiencing a future loss. You're integrating that sense of loss into every decision. "I'm gonna lose something in doing this. Something's gonna be lost. I'm giving up something. But that's fine. That's just part of this process." You know, instead of losing it all, instead of the entire structure absolutely falling apart and having to start from the ground up. Well, I don't know if I fed that back the right way, but in my mind that's a very liberating framework.
Keller Easterling: (58:05)
Yeah. I mean, that little bit more about this kind of what you've just been saying, um, I mean this too smart to be right, and sort of idea about ideology, I mean, I, I'm coming from the left, but I'm trying to strengthen the left because power runs rings around singular solutions and singular enemies. And so in addition to opposing capital, you know, when you want to oppose capital, and fascism, and racism, and coloniality, and sectarian violence, and all of the things that our political superbugs have managed to pass off to non-human agents as well. So it is for me about multiplying different economies-
Caroline Busta: (58:54)
Keller Easterling: (58:55)
... so that one is not dominant. Um-
Caroline Busta: (58:58)
Keller Easterling: (58:58)
... and not so much about replacing one perfect one with another perfect one. That itself comes with, again, a sense of how power can run rings around us, can run rings around activist positions, or especially singular righteous positions.
Caroline Busta: (59:18)
So, the solution is adding chaos. Uh, when something's becoming monolithic, add chaos to actually strengthen the, I don't know, the initial spirit of it.
Keller Easterling: (59:26)
So the "too smart to be right" is also "keep them guessing."
Caroline Busta: (59:30)
Lil Internet: (59:30)
Yeah. Um, I wonder if there's just something practical, but, uh, are there any political movements or activities say on the left that you think are really effective or the way to do it from your (laughing) your perspective or reflecting medium thinking?
Keller Easterling: (59:43)
So much. Uh, so much and especially, I mean, especially now, there's so much. I mean it's a particular time in the United States where there's like a window of opportunity, straight ahead grassroots activism (laughs) enfranchisement, the kinds of organizing around Green New Deal. I mean, all of it is, I admire and join ranks with; Black Lives Matter, another brilliant elegant, uh, of generations of brilliant elegant forms of activism that is having a space to breathe. You know, uh, so, I mean, it's thrilling. At the same time, you know, one's aware of the real divisions, but Trump is still out there, and that there are, you know, back to this too smart to be right, that there may be forms of hustling that are necessary to trick some of that power out of its binary opposition, out of its hate.
Keller Easterling: (01:00:46)
I mean, there's some forms of activism which will almost always be oppositional. We will riot, you know, we will sabotage if necessary. I mean, if it takes a threat to capital, that kind of threat, then that's what it takes. Uh, but there may also be, in addition, only in addition to that, sometimes people think I mean one or the other. I don't. I mean, in addition to some of those things which are central to activism and always have been, maybe there are some other forms of hustling and lying-
Caroline Busta: (01:01:22)
Keller Easterling: (01:01:22)
... and creating other weird forms of Teflon activism that's in some dispositional register the book tries to look at some of those moments that we could add to the activist repertoire. Again, not replaced, but add to the activist repertoire. Some of the same things that superbugs do to get power, you know, two can play at that game.
Caroline Busta: (01:01:44)
Lil Internet: (01:01:44)
Reading your book, there was something that was brought back to a more adolescent time in my life being really into chaos, magic and Hakim Bey and Robert Anton Wilson and the like acid drenched 20th century, uh, bad boy philosophy libertines.
Caroline Busta: (01:02:00)
Lil Internet: (01:02:00)
Uh, but if I'm understanding your, you know, critique about deterministic modes of thinking, if I'm understanding it correctly, people should be more comfortable in a state of indeterminacy and not having closure. And I wonder what writers you would suggest people explore to become more comfortable to occupy that zone, uh, aside from 20th century acid drenched libertine philosophers.
Caroline Busta: (01:02:25)
Keller Easterling: (01:02:25)
I also am a, a Hakim Bey fan and, um-
Lil Internet: (01:02:30)
(Laughs). we all secretly are.
Caroline Busta: (01:02:32)
Keller Easterling: (01:02:33)
Yeah. I mean, the, I, you know, a student of various forms of piracy, um, that, uh, world of a sort of... No, but it's a good question. Um, in relation to these discussions of economy, to someone like Mariame Kaba to J.K. Gibson-Graham and Ruth Wilson Gilmore are just some of those that, that lead a way to discourses about anti-capitalism, abolitionism, feminism, social reproduction, mutualism, kinship, and care and so on, that leads to many of those things, uh, it's a swelling bibliography, medium design is joining that ongoing conversation. I think it really deepens that discussion about not just financial economies, but as J.K. Gibson-Graham says, community economies.
Caroline Busta: (01:03:22)
Yeah. To not just think of financial economies, but to look at all these different economies that are overlapping that make an ecology.
Keller Easterling: (01:03:30)
You know, I'll, I'll also say that some of that bibliography is also leading away to planetary scale issues and thinking about intermediate organs between the kinds of scale we've mostly talked about today and issues to do with planetary governance and so on.
Caroline Busta: (01:03:48)
I also wonder if we can ask you if there's anything that your free-reading.
Keller Easterling: (01:03:53)
Caroline Busta: (01:03:53)
Like, what's on your nightstand?
Keller Easterling: (01:03:55)
What am I reading? I don't even know. I honestly don't have a nightstand, so, um, I'm reading so many... T- I, I don't know. Maybe I don't have a good answer to this. I did think there were things about the sort of relay of some polymathic thinkers that are in the medium design books that are similar to people I'm often drawn to to read. Um, but they're fiction writers and non-fiction writers together
Caroline Busta: (01:04:21)
Yeah. I mean, one thing I really appreciate so much about your work is that you do ask us to constantly think on different scales, from the personal to the global. Um, and there's some way that your, uh, your book does make it seem possible. It never feels like it's just this feudal fight of an individual trying to recycle their soda bottle. And what good is that gonna do? It does feel like there's a, there's a different kind of vision, which is, I don't know, it somehow seems penetrable.
Keller Easterling: (01:04:49)
Well, I, I hope that there's some of the multipliers that are in these large global organizations that because they exist can be the accelerant of their own reverse engineering. Um, and that might be some way of pointing to another planetary scale of endeavor.
Caroline Busta: (01:05:10)
Yeah, absolutely. Well, Medium Design, it's out now from Verso Press. Keller, thank you so much for your generosity of thinking and your time today.
Keller Easterling: (01:05:21)
My pleasure. Um, I, I'm always listening to you all, so it's a pleasure to, to be able to talk to you [crosstalk 01:05:28].
Daniel Keller: (01:05:27)
That's very nice to hear. Yeah.
Caroline Busta: (01:05:31)
(Laughs). All right. Um-
Lil Internet: (01:05:31)
Dan has breadths of an unanswered question-
Caroline Busta: (01:05:33)
Oh, yeah. You wanted to ask something?
Lil Internet: (01:05:35)
Daniel Keller: (01:05:35)
No, I just thought it'd be funny as a bit to continually interrupt this podcasts and ask you questions about having the name Keller, but I didn't do it.
Caroline Busta: (01:05:42)
Daniel Keller: (01:05:43)
Maybe ne- maybe next time.
Caroline Busta: (01:05:44)
Daniel Keller: (01:05:44)
(Laughs). anyway, yeah, it's a-
Caroline Busta: (01:05:44)
Keller Easterling: (01:05:48)
It i- i- it is a, it is a last name on, uh, one side of my family. Yeah.
Daniel Keller: (01:05:52)
Oh, I see. Oh, there we go.
Caroline Busta: (01:05:54)
And I was reading about the word Easterling, and I didn't know that the Easterling was actually this first currency of the Hunza who were-
Keller Easterling: (01:06:01)
Caroline Busta: (01:06:01)
... trading with-
Daniel Keller: (01:06:02)
Caroline Busta: (01:06:02)
... the tribes of Northern Germany. And that's where we get the pound sterling. But Easterling was this initial currency.
Keller Easterling: (01:06:08)
Yes. Yes. You're the only other person-
Caroline Busta: (01:06:12)
It's so fitting, (laughs).
Keller Easterling: (01:06:13)
You're the only other person I've ever met who, who knows this. The, yeah, the British the, in London, they would refer to them as the Easterlings from, you know, from the east-
Caroline Busta: (01:06:19)
Keller Easterling: (01:06:20)
... but they had this really, really nice alloy of silver that they, they liked.
Caroline Busta: (01:06:25)
And, and the Hunza were very special because very few could make this connection between the European of the 12th, 13th century, that's right? And the still pagans of that then east on the other side of the Elba [crosstalk 01:06:39]-
Keller Easterling: (01:06:38)
Yeah, (laughs). Regional free trade crooks and traders and, yeah.
Daniel Keller: (01:06:42)
Caroline Busta: (01:06:42)
(Laughing) exactly. OG pirate. All right, well, um-
Daniel Keller: (01:06:50)
Great conversation. I really enjoyed it [crosstalk 01:06:50]-
Caroline Busta: (01:06:50)
Thank you again, Keller.
Keller Easterling: (01:06:50)
Thank you so much.
Lil Internet: (01:06:51)
Have a great weekend.
Keller Easterling: (01:06:51)
Same to you.
Caroline Busta: (01:06:51)
Yeah, have a great weekend.
Keller Easterling: (01:06:54)
Caroline Busta: (01:06:54)
Lil Internet: (01:06:56)
An extra large thank you to Keller Easterling for joining us to speak about her new book Medium Design, as well as to the Stolbun Institute for supporting this recording. Keller Easterling's Medium Design: Knowing How to Work on the World is available now from Verso Books. You can find updates and all of Easterling's work on her website, kellereasterling.com. To see more projects made possible by Stolbun Institute, as well as the rest of the Shadowlands Season, visit stolbun.institute. New Models is community supported. To access all of our content and join our thriving discord, visit patreon.com/newmodels. Our main node for projects and aggregation is newmodels.io. One last reminder, to check your temperament. Thank you for listening and see you next episode.
**Please note this transcript was created in Rev and we are continually improving accuracy