Conceptual Concepts 1: Proposals.


1. The Community of the Living and the Dead.

I propose replacing cemeteries with video rental locations in which the general public can check out the life-stories of the deceased on Blu-Ray or DVD. Instead of wedges of stone, with faded or forgotten names, cemeteries could reinforce the human continuum by letting the Dead tell their own stories and by letting the Living listen. At the very least, contemporary cemeteries might make room for video rentals somewhere on the grounds, with a both Classics section for historical personages and a New Arrivals section for the recently deceased.








2. The Rise of the Neo-Deme, the Band, the Pack: Against Lineage.

I propose that “Best Friendship” be acknowledged by ceremony and civic law, like marriage, with many of the same attendant legal rights: hospital visitations, inheritance, power of attorney, and so on. To balance out the value of “the bonds of alliance” with the “bonds of filiation” in the eyes of Law and Society. (Credits: conceptual concept inspired by Tyree Joyce)






3. Autogo

I propose a smart phone application, Autogo, for hitchhiking. Overcomes the distrust by means of information symmetry. Very simple and anonymous. As hikers climb aboard a vehicle, they punch in the license plates of the driver; the driver, if they’ve also downloaded the app, will then receive a prompt from Autogo to double-verify the passenger. As an additional and optional feature, Autogo can track the ride via GPS, and send updates to loved ones, or to Twitter.

Autogo effectively bypasses the need for intermediary ride-sharing centers (such as Mitfahrgelegenheit or covoiturage). See: Information Assymetry, Gresham’s Law, George Akerlof — “Bad coin drives good coin out.”


(Full version available for both iPhone and Android. Text-based versions also available for regular cellphones. Credits: conceptual concept co-developed with Sara Løve)



4. History as Two-Way Street

I propose classes, particularly in retirement communities, in which the Young teach their Elders about youth culture: music, art, fads, technics, and even the finer points of certain sensibilities. In return, Elders teach the young about fads and sensibilities of their younger, and perhaps wilder, days. Age groups are in ways distinct cultures, with the same tensions and misunderstandings that always arise interculturally. This encounter is to encourage intergenerational community, rather than an Oedipal conflict that clumps generations into isolation, mutual distrust, and language groups.




5. Uphone

I propose having all remaining payphones connect directly to therapists— “Uphones,” available 24-hours a day, with services ranging from the usual suicide hotline to general psychological services to advice on love, personal finances, and most everyday concerns. At the very least, uphones might symbolize that someone, somewhere, is there and willing to listen. Aside from the benefits of re-appropriating rather than dismantling a dying infrastructure, there are other, more affective reasons for the choice of payphones specifically. The payphone is stable, fixed — always in the same spot, no matter day or night. It services the stray lonely individual, even those without homes or phones of their own. The payphone is a landline. That is, it is connected. It is grounded. It harkens back to an earlier, perhaps safer period of life, in which phone conversations took place while curled in bed, with a weightier, sweatier, and now rather nostalgic telephone receiver. Lending that much more comfort to those who need it most.





6. Passportation

I would like to propose a future in which everyone must randomly switch nationalities every 10 years. A Rawlsian version of musical chairs administered by the United Nations. Citizens will spin a colored wheel every decade, with colors corresponding to various non-contiguous zones on the world map. If the hand of the wheel stops on black, they will be assigned to live in a “troubled nation” or war zone such as Somalia or North Korea. In the second round, national leaders will spin the wheel for the ownership of each of the zone’s natural resources.






7. Cathecting Labor, with Love and Letters

I propose that all durables— microwaves, furniture, Nissans— come with pre-perforated postage-paid cards with a “profile” of one of the workers in the plant or company. Consumers can put a face to the people making their products, follow them on Twitter, or even write them back with information about themselves.







8. Cosmogony of the Everyday

Cosmogonies and origin myths are not purely explanatory, in the scientific sense of cause and effect, but as much a way of returning the starkly non-human natural world back into the fold of human meaning and sociability. Just as the ancients told tales about the origins of rainbows, echoes, spiders, and hyacinths, I would like a similar compendium of metamorphoses for lending sense to the inert and seemingly originless things studding modern life— objects that seem to appear like rainbows or crop up suddenly like hyacinths, without explanation— fables and relatable forms of mythos to first be shared with children, then carried by everybody in the back of the mind, for the rest of their years.

The Fable of the Tattle Tale and his Just Desserts

Once upon a time there was a young boy who loved to spy and tattle on his friends, hoping for some reward. Whenever they did wrong, he would run to a teacher or parent or grown up, to tattle and gloat and exclaim “Oh, you will never believe what I just saw.” The teacher or parent or grown-up would usually thank the young Tattle Tale for letting them know, but they never once gave him the reward that he thought he so richly deserved: a coin or a toy or something sweet to eat. One fine day, the Tattle Tale saw two boys fighting behind the schoolyard and then upped to run and tattle. The boys however stopped him quick and pleaded “please, don’t tattle on us. If you do, we will never see the light of day again.” Thinking it over a minute, the Tattle Tale asked “why shouldn’t I tattle, then? What reason do I have??”

The boys pleaded more and offered the Tattle Tale whatever he pleased: a coin or a toy or something sweet to eat. This pleased the Tattle Tale immensely and, from then on out, every time he caught someone doing wrong, he would hop and holler and threaten, then hold out his hands and wait for his rewards. However, one fine day, the boys were playing and fighting in a wood, when the Tattle Tale began to hop and holler and threaten to tattle. He hopped and hollered so loud that he woke up Bugs Bunny from his afternoon nap. Bugs jolted up, irate, and went to see what all the commotion was about. Just then, he heard the little Tattle Tale shouting his threats and holding out his hands for rewards, promising not to say one word to the grown-ups. This displeased Bugs immensely, and went to tell the Tattle Tale so. The little Tattle Tale, however, was unrepentant, and even threatened to tattle on Bugs to Santa Claus. Bugs was miffed but the Tattle Tale, unfazed, skipped away merrily with sweet rewards in hand.

Some days later, the Tattle Tale was hanging around on a street corner, outside of the general store. These days, the Tattle Tale was even tattling on grown-ups. He would wait outside the store, and whenever a grown-up left their car parked for too long, the Tattle Tale would start to hop and holler and only get quiet when the grown-up would give him a coin. He had amassed quite a fortune, this Tattle Tale. Just then, along came Bugs Bunny and saw the Tattle Tale up to his ways again. He reproached him once more, warning him of the evils of extortion, but the Tattle Tale only humphed and scoffed and said “well, there’s nothing you can do to stop me. I’m going to stand right here all day every day and earn my rewards!”

Is that so?,” said Bugs Bunny, irate. “Yes, that is so,” sneered the little Tattle Tale. With this, Bugs got very, very angry and thought “very well” and turned the little Tattle Tale into a Parking Meter. “There you go,” laughed Bugs, “now you can stand there all day long and wait for your rewards.”

And that is the story of where Parking Meters come from.


 The Tattle Tale, on the corner, waiting for his rewards

Fable to follow: “The Kindly Old Shopkeeper run out of business by Big Bad Box Store but then transformed by Santa Claus into a vending machine, that he might stay and vend his goods on location, come day or night.




9.  Better Together

I propose that basketball teams work together in scoring points. As role models for millions of Americans, it would set an excellent example by showing how many more points can be scored through cooperation rather than competition.






10. Fiat Voluptas Tua

I propose a fourth, oracular branch of the federal government. The Oracle, though merely an advisory position without real executive power, can nonetheless carry enough influence and makeweight as they divine through augury and hermeneutics the Will of the nation on exceedingly complex political and legal decisions. The seat of the Oracle will, with all deliberate speed, move into the currently neglected grounds of the Jefferson Memorial. Oracular wisdom will be transmitted by fax. This branch is also particularly good for citizens who’ve long wanted to enter public service, but whose drug records preclude involvement in any of the other three branches.






11. “In America, anyone can become president. That’s one of the risks you take.”

In lieu of the House of Representatives, I propose that a new legislative body should be established consisting of 1000 citizens selected by random lottery, to serve for a session or a period of 6 months. The Random House of Representatives. A Government by Lots. What after all are we to make of “representation” exactly? An expediency whenever and where direct democracy is not possible? A way of selecting and training those able in the ways of debate and statecraft? A measure against the “capriciousness” of the demos, of the crowds? A way of maintaining power within a closed circle of a groomed and cooperative few?
Citizens selected for duty will be in training for an entire year prior to actual service, all the while paid the same salaries as current Congresspeople.

A government by lots, as well, dispenses with the true need for the Party as the political subject, both in the electoral process as well as in political deliberation, shattering the entrenched strategy of party struggle for the pragmatics of proposals, problems, and issues — also freeing us from the notion that the immense complexity of political belief can be represented along a coordinate system, or that such a coordinate system is anything but an oversimplification and predetermination of belief based on codes of alliance. A government by lots, by dispensing with parties, and with elections, alsocollapses the whole need and architecture of “campaign finance,” and with all the political energy spent on party branding, moving us into ways of thinking beyond the party and toward a more earnest and prudent form of political deliberation… well, possibly.





12. Implementing Chillness.

It’s understandable that hardworkers should rise and occupy positions of power and decision in our society, as both a meritocratic reward for their initiative and labor, and in order that they may work hard for the greater good. However, a strange side effect is often overlooked: that because, on the whole, hardworkers work themselves into decision-making positions within the workplace, academy, and government (again, speaking broadly), the weightiest decisions of our society are being made with a bias toward the hardworking ethos. Though seemingly negligible, the bias only intensifies; with hardwork as the requisite for promotion, hardwork itself is then universally promoted above all other values, and tends toward hysterical dimensions. Consider the Japanese phenomenon of karoshi, or simply the ever-expanding workweek despite the exponential growth of productivity per hour. In the academy, how is hardwork inflecting knowledge-production, inflecting us epistemologically? Who will speak for the lazy, for the silly?

I propose implementing a program of “affirmative inaction” in the workplace and academy, by which we can be assured of a more balanced attitude toward hardwork and its place in the modern world.






13. A journal of poetry and art by police officers.




14. The New New Deal

I propose an initiative of absurd public works projects to get America back to work and back on track. Counting trees, solving jigsaw puzzles, or building large bridges that U-turn back onto the same shore. This is already partly in place with most public works projects anyways; this initiative only makes it more obvious— more fun maybe.















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2 Responses to Conceptual Concepts 1: Proposals.

  1. Nate said: Really impressed with the improvement of your photoshop skills!
  2. brandonjoyce said: Photoshop?