The Agora of the Senses

Arts of Existence

How am I to live in this world? How do I learn to live my life? Imagine that in order to answer questions like these you went to a new type of art school or conservatory of arts: a conservatory of arts of existence, a community of practice where arts of existence are cultivated and exchanged. Sensagora is a vision of how such conservatory of arts of existence may be and how it may harness theĀ  collaborative powers enabled by the Internet.

There are two ways to learn more about Sensagora. One is to get a taste of what it is like by visiting this journey prototype. This may be the most direct way of getting a sense of what it is. Another way to know more about the project is to keep reading about its conception and its intended information architecture.

 

A complementary world

I am Eduardo Neve and I’ve constantly struggled to really know how to live in this world. This has taken me to a quest of many years of seeking wisdom and learning how to live a life, this life that I live. The result of this quest has been the creation of a mental patterning, a kind of imaginary world or memory palace patterned in such a way that once I enter, everything that happens in there is conducive to becoming at least a little bit wiser: I feel that after spending some time in there I am better positioned to live in the “real” world.

This imaginary world, however, is not isolated from the actual world of everyday life. It overlaps, a bit like augmented reality, and the elements that populate this imaginary world are sourced from the actual experience of the world. It is like a meditative state that enhances the presence of the world instead of taking one’s mind away from it.

I have been looking for something like this for most of my life and I am very excited to have finally found a working prototype that condenses all the work and exploration I’ve done.

Now, I want to share this with others. I want to share it with you, so that you may build upon it and customize it in ways that are relevant to you. And I want us to be able to collaborate in this process.

 

Collaborative Wisdom

In my journey, I’ve seen that wisdom is something very personal – nobody can become wiser for me, and what works for others won’t always work for me in the same way. But at the same time, wisdom is inherently collaborative: without learning from others what they have figured out before me, my chances of becoming wiser would be severely diminished. The most important life lessons I’ve learned have come from interacting with other beings.

With the Internet’s growth the potential for transmitting valuable insights has increased exponentially. There is a lot of potential wisdom condensed in the narratives that circulate this expanding network of networks. However, it is increasingly easy to get lost in the overflow of information. Relevance has not increased at the same rate as information, and there are not enough Internet architectures that can structure and channel valuable insights in the most relevant ways.

The good news is that the Internet also allows us to innovate, opening the possibility of a kind of ‘Wisdom Matchmaking’. However, unlike other things that can simply be exchanged in a simple transaction, and could thus be easily algorithmically channeled, the exchange of wisdom requires something more experiential and collaborative.

I envision an Internet-enabled platform focused on the collaborative cultivation of wisdom. If Wikipedia is a platform that enables collaborative knowledge, this platform would enable collaborative wisdom, and it would entail many differences in its design so that experience, and not only information, could really be acquired.

 

Agora of the Senses

Since I was a child I dreamt of some interactive place, where what was exchanged was not information, but different types of ‘wonders’ – that is, truly awe-inspiring intensities. This hope gradually evolved into envisioning a place for assembling, combining and exchanging aesthetic experiences.

As I started focusing more on wisdom, I envisioned the potential of drawing from the arts in order to cultivate wisdom, and I became fascinated by Michel Foucault’s notion of working on the self as a work of art.

I started to find in the model of a Conservatory of Arts the potential for patterning or structuring a platform for the collaborative cultivation of wisdom. Sensagora is the result of this exploration, merging a new model for a Conservatory of Arts, and the principles of platform design for collaborative wisdom.

If you’re interested in a more detailed discussion of these ideas you may read more about Sensagora’s conceptual sources.

 

Information Architecture

The design philosophy of this system is that we may all interact and collaborate without renouncing to our individual styles of thinking, feeling, doing, and learning.

This is difficult to actually achieve in an information system, but I think it can be done following two principles: granular modularity and complementing information architectures with ‘wisdom architectures’.

Granular Modularity

Although there is always something perennial about wisdom, a filament that persists in the river of change, there is also something updatable about wisdom, a constant actualization in light of new perspectives and experiences. When wisdom is cultivated collaboratively, the scope for its actualization increases, and any information architecture intended to support this process would benefit from a design that allows for the constant diversification of its entities.

In other words, information architectures for collaborative wisdom must be designed for combination, designed for remixing. And as it is the case in hardware and software design, the more granular modules are, the more combinations can be achieved, and the more customizable the system becomes.

Granular modularity is about working with modules – basic building blocks that can be assembled and rearranged. It also entails the ability to break down those modules into smaller and smaller entities, as it is required. In database design this would imply allowing for the indefinite creation of parent and child relationships to an entity, along with an indefinite creation of one-to-many, many-to-one and one-to-one relationships. For wisdom, I have found a lot of potential in the concept of ‘repertoires’ as remixable units of granular modularity.

A wisdom repertoire can derive from another, be combined with another, and be diversified into new wisdom repertoires. The system allows tracing the various genealogies, and alerts the user of relevant matches based on the input and recommendations of other users.

At the base of the information architecture is a relational database designed with granular modularity in mind, where repertoires of arts of existence are indexed, at the most basic level, in flat typologies. On top of that, users can define a variety of hierarchical and non-hierachical relations between the entities. Finally, on top of that, users can have customizable modules that match their unique situations and learning styles, without affecting the underlying interoperability of the database.

In this way, the order of things, the style of structuration of this collaborative world, is constantly open to redefinition by its users while still sustaining the basis for complementarity and collaboration.

Wisdom Architectures

There are things that current computers and information systems are just too limited for achieving, such as the generative powers of imagination and creativity. Rich sensory video game design is very resource intensive both in its production and enjoyment. Designing and hosting as many world variations as the number users of the platform would be beyond impractical.

The visual design of the platform would be just minimal enough to allow the much richer creations our imagination is capable of, offloading everything database systems are less efficient at handling, and leaving only what’s essential for database indexing to the information system at the base. Media formats can be used for inspiration but they would be hosted in other more relevant platforms. Even conversations between users would not be handled locally by the platform, but would take place in relevant existing forums and online communities linked from the platform.

The idea is thus to combine what information systems do best with what our minds can excel at – complementing information architectures with wisdom architectures, allowing for the cultivation of attention techniques.

 

What’s next?

I’m aware of the complexity of this vision, and the variety of critical blind spots this may entail. But I think there is a very viable path of scalability, in particular if we follow the design principle of complementing information architectures with wisdom architectures.

I’m calling for a first group of explorers that may want to embark on a first series of experiments to identify possible execution routes. I’m currently trying things out in Kumu.io. I’m really interested in hearing from programmers with experience in database design, and from designers interested in collaborative platforms.

I find a lot of potential in the collaborations that may be had between people coming from backgrounds in arts/humanities and people coming from backgrounds in maths/engineering. I’m aware of the very interesting developments in the rationality community that are simultaneous to very interesting developments in the humanities. It would be fantastic if this project could be nourished from inputs from both sides.

More generally, despite the technical nature of this early stage, I envision Sensagora to be very, very accessible. Anyone interested in the adventure of learning to live will be welcome to this project.

If you like this project, please contact me at eduardo@sensagora.org – I would really appreciate it!