Digital Pleistocene
Instructor: Sanford Kwinter

The contemporary "mediascape" has given such primacy of place to communication that it has transformed it into substance itself, the very material of which we, and our world, are made. Yet all biological substance is founded on signaling, from the first single-cell organisms nearly 3 billion years ago to the most sophisticated forms of human social life (MySpace?) today. There is no family of animal that is not defined by its capacities for signaling and no ecological niche that is not defined by the infrastructure that supports this signaling. When the human line broke off from its ape ancestors it was a result of a new capacity for communication (a new hand-eye-brain-mouth machine) and the rise of a new signaling niche in the environment to be filled (the long distance savannahs).

To understand the contemporary techno-socio-economic context (globalization, digitization, etc.) requires a broad understanding of the biological foundations of social life (even plants communicate richly). The emergence around us in the last decades of a new type of what Lewis Mumford called a "megamachine" is developed in relation to the original design of the human nervous system, evolved within a highly constrained predator-prey environment. This early environment is nothing if not a precursor to our contemporary cities.

How have these fundamental facts impacted the shape of our mediscape world? Is there a bio-politics of communication whose roots can be found in the paleolithic world? Were we wired 2 million years ago just to supply the wet wiring for a 21st century military-entertainment complex? How can we tap into our biology to find new uses for our endowments, new ecologies to experiment with, and new dreams to dream beyond those sanctioned by the present? As our cities and our architectures become increasingly animated, automated and interface-rich the need to forge entirely new models of human ecology is upon us.

This course will develop solid research foundations in pre-history and in emerging theories and models of neurological action in order to approach the contemporary 'media- savannah' with a host of new attitudes, activities, and suppositions.