Sunday, August 31, 2008

The Internet as Metaphor

The Internet is a powerful metaphor for heterarchical linking.

To understand the metaphor, it helps to understand the Internet.

There is no single Internet - it is a network of networks, with a series of voluntary specifications (called RFCs) of how the networks interconnect.

Email messages, World Wide Web pages, instant messages, everything sent over the Internet is digital in form and is reduced down to a packet - a group of characters or bits. Each packet has a payload - the contents, and headers, which include the From address and the To address.

There is no center of the Internet - and no central control system. Institutions and corporations each operate their own parts of the Internet. Special computer-operated interconnect switches called routers switch these packets across the Internet to get closer to their destination. In order for the routers to know the location of other addresses, routers exchange information with each other.

The topology of the Internet is a perfectly described by the term heterarchical. The relationships between the various institutional and corporate networks can be described as partnership.

The Internet fosters and encourages heterarchical linking and partnership thinking.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Surf Music

It is Saturday night, and I'm listening to Rockin' John's show I like it Like That on WORT. He's playing some surf guitar music. There are several layers of media at work here... Surf rock music, recorded, played on radio.

Surf music began in the 1960's, before the World Wide Web. In the 1990s, the Web was invented by Sir Tim Berners-Lee. The process of navigating the web came to be called surfing.

McLuhan used Edgar Allen Poe's A Descent into the Maelström to illustrate the swirling, whirlpool effects of the modern world of electronic communication - and this was almost 30 years before the emergence of the Internet.

McLuhan also described a cultural change fostered and encouraged by electronic communications: the change from information classification to pattern recognition - surfing.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Effects Media and Technology

One way to study the effects of media and technology is to imagine a time before the medium existed. Would people understand what the song/story/painting was about?

For example, songs, television programs, records, oil companies named after Route 66. The highway no longer exists. It was one of the first US highways. What would people think about the song before the highway was built in 1926?

Wilson Pickett's Mustang Sally (written and first recorded by Mack Rice) is a rich example: The Ford Mustang car gives Sally freedom. The car is named after the wild horse known as the mustang. Would the song make sense in the days of horses as transportation?

Monday, August 25, 2008

Smiles and Ecojoy

When we see someone smiling, our brain recognizes the smile, and we begin to feel comfortable, even happy.

When we know that Ecojoy is a viable, supportable philosophy, we can smile, and others, seeing us, feel happy too.

I just got back from the grocery store. At the store, I saw two sets of parents with children. I smiled at them, and waved at the kids. The parents smiled cautiously, and the kids smiled widely. It was late, they were tired, but a smile created a small bit of joy for them - and for me!

Heros, Villains and Quests

I just saw The Lord of the Rings on TNT (in my work I work with television). We have a lot of hero mythology - Star Wars, Star Trek, and so many others. In these myths, evil is focused in a single manifestation, and a hero slays the dragon, destroys the ring, or leads a defending army, vanquishing evil.

These myths create and perpetuate the fundamental good and evil dichotomy. As discussed earlier, good and evil is binary, black & white thinking, a kind of thinking fostered and encouraged by print media. Electronic media, and especially the Internet foster and encourage multiple ways of thinking, multiple solutions to problems.

Many of the challenges we currently face are the result of millions of us making suboptimal decisions, like driving individually-operated cars and trucks. Instead of a single hero, we need millions of them - we all need to be heros.

more War Words

Our culture is swimming in the words of war.

When people have a serious illness like cancer, they are said to be battling cancer. (When Danielle had breast cancer, she didn't feel comfortable with battling, so she imagined a bunch of little social workers escorting the misbehaving cancer cells out of her body.)

And we have so many more: the war on poverty, the war on drugs, the battle for equality, fight for rights, and so on.

Words are like tools. A quotation attributed to Abraham Maslow: "When the only tool you own is a hammer, every problem begins to resemble a nail".

This is an allegory for how media and technology offer us metaphors for thinking about the world, and thus limit or frame our way thinking. If we use the words of war, we frame the linking between ourselves and others in the hierarchical form, rather than the heterarchical form.

[music example Love is a Battlefield by Pat Benatar]

Sunday, August 24, 2008

It's NOT a Dog Eat Dog World

The dog eat dog phrase is a misinterpretation of Darwin's Theory of Evolution (see The Darwin Project, below).

Other similar phrases:

  • kill or be killed
  • only the strong survive
Those words establish hierarchical links, and perpetuate dominator thinking.

Those are not Darwin's ideas. And they don't describe the world around us.

Friday, August 22, 2008


from the TED web site:
TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design. It [is a conference that] started out (in 1984) as a conference bringing together people from those three worlds. Since then its scope has become ever broader.

The annual conference now brings together the world's most fascinating thinkers and doers, who are challenged to give the talk of their lives (in 18 minutes).

The conference and website has fascinating insights and presentations from a wide variety of thinkers.

When Gloria Steinem Came to Madison...

several years ago, one of the questions was asking if there was some way to unify the movements for feminism, racial equality, economic opportunity, social justice, the environment, animal rights, peace, and so on. Gloria said she didn't know, and urged us all to pick a movement, get involved and stay involved.

I wanted to say - but I wasn't ready yet - that ecojoy was such a way to unify those movements.

Now, with and this blog starting to come together, I can say that:

Ecojoy is a way to unify movements for feminism, racial equality, economic opportunity, social justice, the environment, animal rights, and peace!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Politically Correct

Politically correct means speech or behavior which is only correct for people who adhere to politics with which I disagree.

Holding Their Feet to the Fire

Holding their feet to the fire is a figure of speech invoking a metaphor for torture as a means to motivate using discomfort.

In this case, the medium of speech fosters and encourages dominator thinking and hierarchical linking.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Media Education Foundation

The Media Education Foundation studies the content of media and the ownership of media.

The Media Education Foundation produces and distributes documentary films and other educational resources to inspire critical reflection on the social, political and cultural impact of American mass media.

Media Ecology Association

Media Ecology studies the effects of media, not the content of the media.

What is Media Ecology? (Neil Postman)

Media ecology looks into the matter of how media of communication affect human perception, understanding, feeling, and value; and how our interaction with media facilitates or impedes our chances of survival.

The word ecology implies the study of environments: their structure, content, and impact on people.

An environment is, after all, a complex message system which imposes on human beings certain ways of thinking, feeling, and behaving.

  • It structures what we can see and say and, therefore, do.
  • It assigns roles to us and insists on our playing them.
  • It specifies what we are permitted to do and what we are not. Sometimes, as in the case of a courtroom, or classroom, or business office, the specifications are explicit and formal.

In the case of media environments (e.g., books, radio, film, television, etc.), the specifications are more often implicit and informal, half concealed by our assumption that what we are dealing with is not an environment but merely a machine.

Media ecology tries to make these specifications explicit.

It tries to find out what roles media force us to play, how media structure what we are seeing, why media make us feel and act as we do.

Media ecology is the study of media as environments.

—Neil Postman, “The Reformed English Curriculum.” in A.C. Eurich, ed., High School 1980: The Shape of the Future in American Secondary Education (1970).

Media Ecology Association

and they have an email discussion list:

Friday, August 15, 2008

Fostering and Encouraging Change

If you are an ecojoy proponent, how do you convince others to adopt the philosophy? Since ecojoy is heterarchical, it won't work to use fear or shame. Proving that someone's philosophy is wrong or suboptimal immediately moves the transaction into a hierarchical mode.

McLuhan mentioned many times that different media create different types of sensory balance, and frequently people will resort to violence to restore the balance to the previous comfort zone. But it doesn't have to happen that way.

I've found that it is important to give people "room" to change. That means that people need to consider the change over a period of time, and be able to analyze their philosophies in light of their own personal experiences. And they need to feel safe and secure during and after the consideration process.

Religion and Evolution

Religion and evolution are compatible: see Thank God for Evolution and The Great Story by Michael Dowd and Connie Barlow.

Homosexuality and Ecojoy

In dominator thinking, linking is hierarchical - I'm better than you, more powerful than you, richer, have a better religion, live in a better house, behave better, associate with better people. In a dominator environment, success depends on finding and exploiting differences. And sexual preference is certainly an area where there are differences. By pinning a label on a class of people, dominator thinkers can create a category to which they don't belong.

I am not speaking only of heterosexuals. We are all currently swimming in dominator-tainted waters, and it affects all of us, in some ways we don't yet comprehend. It is my hope that in the near partnership future, the need for sexual preference categorization will be relegated to history of sociology courses.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Alcohol and Ecojoy

I was thinking about a nice email I got from Margaret. Last week, I was telling her about my dad. He was many things, but one was he was an alcoholic.

Alcoholism was difficult for me to understand as a kid. And for adults to understand too. One way to understand is to listen to the song Cherry Red Wine from Luther Alison (go ahead, Google him...). Luther had sadness, anger - desperation in his voice "sittin' here wonderin' what I can do". I received a great chunk of understanding from the book Stiffed (subtitle The Betrayal of the American Man) by Susan Faludi. Faludi tells us that men are victims of patriarchy too. And when men are unable to live up to the patriarchal mythology, they sometimes turn to drugs, alcohol or abuse.

We all possess a Constant Craving (listen to k.d. lang sing it). The craving is for love, joy and attention. We are social creatures. We evolved that way because that adaptation was beneficial. But drugs and alcohol also bind to those joy receptors in our systems and trick us into thinking we were getting what we need (listen to Cocaine, by J.J. Cale or Eric Clapton). Drugs and alcohol weren't around when we evolved to be social, loving creatures, so we aren't equipped to deal with the threat.

So we have to deal with drugs and alcohol in our conscious brains. We need to show people about the ecology of joy, and teach them about the false joy of drugs and alcohol.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Evolution is not Intentional

I just picked up the book The Intention Experiment by Lynne McTaggart. Something in my subconscious was trying to get my attention about the word intention.

I just figured it out. One of the ways people talk about evolution is as if it were intentional. For example, fish evolved lungs so they could breathe air on land, or birds evolved wings so that they could fly.

But evolution is not intentional. The way we currently understand it, variation happens randomly, without intention. Then, natural selection sorts out the improvements from the maladaptive changes. Creatures born with particular variations which enhance their ability to survive do a better job of passing on genes with those variations to their offspring than other creatures without those variations .

Religion and Morality

People can have morality without following a particular religion.

Ecojoy and Religion

Ecojoy is a philosophy, not a religion. The ecojoy philosophy can be adopted by people whether they are religious or not.

Like cultures in general, religious cultures (churches) are affected by (heterarchical or hierarchical) link modeling in the media (for example, the Bible, Torah or Qur'an) which they use.


At first, the Ecology of Joy philosophy seems naive. A common reaction is one similar to the idea of non-violence - to tell yourself that you could accept it, but you would then be vulnerable to dominator thinking from others. This is a normal progression.

The term meme describes an idea as if it were an independent entity. If dominator thinking were considered a meme, this fear of vulnerability would be a way that the dominator meme protects and propagates itself. As long as ecojoy is considered while in a dominator frame of reference, ecojoy will be vulnerable.

That does not change the fact that joy is still a more effective motivation.

And resolving naïveté is the first challenge on the path to ecojoy.

Binary Thinking

Binary (base two) thinking is thinking in dichotomies like black and white or good and evil. (listen to Evil by Howlin' Wolf.) Binary thinking is a case where media influence ideas about interpersonal linking.

Before the written word, our primary means of communication was oral. Stories, poems and songs were passed around person-to-person. Heterarchical. And many different nuances and variations about things around them.

The written word was in black (ink) and white (paper). The printing press exacerbated the situation. Hierarchical, and still black and white. This favors dominator thinking. For example, because they are printed, all of the Bibles (of a particular edition) are identical - there are no variations, and interpretation is not necessary. The word is there, in black and white.

Radio and Television began the revolution, and the Internet and the World Wide Web are carrying it further. Information is in many forms, visual, aural and written.

Binary thinking is low bandwidth. As bandwidth increases, many voices can be heard and compared.

As communication bandwidth increases, thinking opens up to many options, partnership linking and maximizing joy.

Ecojoy and IT

Information Technology - including the Internet - is fostering and encouraging much change in the world. Over on I explain the connection. But most people who themselves work in IT don't realize that in addition to creating and maintaining payroll systems, networks and web sites, the technology they enable fosters and encourages the transition from hierarchical to heterarchical organization, and the transition from dominator to partnership thinking.

So organizations in general, but IT in particular would do well to think about the structure of their organization, the forms of communications, and the motivations for success.

Heirarchies of Actualization

In a quick hallway exchange, Janet commented on my hierarchy-heterarchy thoughts. Janet points out that hierarchies are useful when working on specific projects and tasks. That reminded me of a similar discussion I had with Riane Eisler. She told me about hierarchies of actualization, which addresses that exact situation - a hierarchy formed temporarily to accomplish a task, and then disolved.

WORT and Ecojoy

I came to Madison in 1972 because I thought this is where the revolution was going to start. I was one of many who started WORT (you can listen now, over the 'net). All of the on-air announcers and engineers at WORT are volunteers. One of the challenges of WORT is the issue of management. How do you motivate volunteers who don't get paid? Not just volunteers, but independent-minded volunteers. Many years ago WORT had a negative experience with a station manager with experience in public radio, but not with an all-volunteer staff. When the manager tried to implement improvements in the delivery of FCC-required station identification announcements, many volunteers left the station. The WORT Board and community rallied, and changed the station from a hierarchically-managed station to a staff collective. The most effective way to motivate independent-minded volunteers is the joy of doing radio, of sharing their passion, whether it is a musical genre, news or commentary.

Joy as a most effective motivator translates perfectly into paid work situations. People who feel joy in their work are more productive, more effective, more creative, have fewer sick days. Joyful workplaces experience lower turnover and lower instances of theft and vandalism.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Darwin Project

Misinterpretation of Darwin's theory is frequently used to support dominator thinking. David Loye has invested much time and effort to correct this misinterpretation. The Darwin Project is one of his projects to remedy this situation. Here is another example of his work on Darwin's Theory.
"In the Descent of Man Charles Darwin wrote only twice of "survival of the fittest" — but 95 times about love!"
Loye is the husband and partner of Riane Eisler, author of The Chalice and the Blade.

This deeply connects Darwin's Theory of Evolution to the Ecology of Joy.

(I remember a time before I know of David's work when I had called on the telephone to talk to Riane and David answered the phone. We chatted for a few minutes, and I shared my frustration with misinterpretation of the theory of evolution being used to support dominator thinking. I thought it would be an offhand comment, but David and I had a wonderful conversation about his work.)

Link - The Complete Work of Charles Darwin Online

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Partnership Resources

I have some partnership resources on my web page. Those entries pre-date my work on Ecojoy.

Language is a Medium

Like newspapers, radio, television and the Internet, language is a medium, and words can be a metaphor for heterarchical or heterarchical linking.

For example, the words of war and violence include kill (a comedian succeeding with a routine is said to be killing 'em, a bomb is a type of football pass))

There are several authors I have met at WisCon, the feminist science fiction conference held each year in Madison, including
who write about peaceful and violent language.

There are many more - please let me know who I missed.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Emotion - Happiness

Dr. Richard J. Davidson of the University of Wisconsin - Madison has done significant research into emotions and emotional health.

Brain and Emotions Research

more Brain and Emotions Research


Dr. Robert D. Enright of the University of Wisconsin - Madison has done a lot of research about the benefits of forgiveness. Forgiveness fits into the Ecology of Joy by showing the benefits of creating and maintaining heterarchical linking with others, and for creating environments where joy can emerge.

Up at Bjorklunden

I'm up at Bjorklunden on vacation. After hearing that I was writing about the Ecology of Joy, Kim, one of the staff gave me the following:

"It's a choice you can make - to have joy, to find joy and to spread joy."

Thanks, Kim!

Monday, August 04, 2008

Rejection massively reduces IQ

Rejection Massively reduces IQ

From New Scientist Magazine 15-March-2002

"Rejection can dramatically reduce a person's IQ and their ability to reason analytically, while increasing their aggression, according to new research.

"It's been known for a long time that rejected kids tend to be more violent and aggressive," says Roy Baumeister of the Case Western Reserve University in Ohio, who led the work. "But we've found that randomly assigning students to rejection experiences can lower their IQ scores and make them aggressive."

Baumeister's team used two separate procedures to investigate the effects of rejection. In the first, a group of strangers met, got to know each other, and then separated. Each individual was asked to list which two other people they would like to work with on a task. They were then told they had been chosen by none or all of the others." (more at New Scientist)

Dr. Baumeister's large body of work supports connections between positive self esteem and abilities. That is, we do better when we feel better, or we are more successful when we feel joy.

Back To It

I'm on vacation, and I will be pushing the Ecojoy stone up the hill a little way. My friend Janet says I need to explain why Ecojoy is needed. So that is the first chunk I will be working on.