…………………………the research base of jon goodbun


This year on the seminar programme of the MA Environmental Architecture, we approached our usual study material in a more speculative mode, through a series of world-building and worlding fictions workshops. We imagined worlds more or less similar to our own (and researched our own planet’s biology, geology, meterology, cultures, environmental disputes, land forms, systems, etc as the basis for our fictions.) Although many of these worlds were superficially very different from our own, all inevitably resonated with it. Some worlds appeared to maintain relatively stable homeostatic ‘plateaux’. Others were undergoing systemic changes. One narrated the final months and weeks of an Earth, as it was slowly ejected from its orbit in the solar system.

We coined ‘Geopoiesis’ as a heuristic research concept, to map and discuss both our own work, and a wider field of related ‘world-building’ and ‘worlding’ practices. We conceived of ‘world-building’ in relation to collective political imaginaries, and ‘worlding’ in relation to the construction and performance of political subjectivities.

A quick survey of the geopoietic field might include, in no particular order: science fiction, fantasy and counter-factual fictions, IPCC reports, Green New Deal proposals, Gregory Bateson/Felix Guattari’s Three Ecologies, Benjamin Bratton/Strelka’s Terraforming programme, Arturo Escobar’s pluriversal politics, Humberto Maturana and Francisco Varela’s ‘bringing forth of worlds’, Donna Haraway’s multi-species worldings, and the Zapatista call, recently repeated by the Red Nation, for ‘a world in which many worlds fit’.

Some of our references are poetic and nebulous. Others synthesise the peer -reviewed work of innumerable contributors. For example, the future scenario planning and world-building models developed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), contain significant quantitative data analysis, combined with all kinds of qualitative evidence and interpretation, in for example both its SSPs: Shared Socio-Economic Pathways (which build a series of five scenarios based upon an increasingly diverse range of voices and disciplines), and also its RCPs: Representative Concentration Pathways (which describe four scenarios based on estimated increases in radiative forcing by the year 2100 (compared to pre-industrial levels) ranging from 2.6 to 8.5 W/sqm).

The IPCC world-building exercises are significant artefacts. Still problematic? Yes, of course, but nonetheless incredibly impressive pieces of trans- and multi-disciplinary thinking, managing with relative transparency and clarity a manifold of methodological, epistemological and practical difficulties of staggering complexity. Importantly, the work of the IPCC is increasingly resonant with the demands and framing of the Just Transition/Global Green New Deal movement. Indeed, this MA EA Geopoiesis project here springs out of our work on Green New Deal in recent years, which asked : What kinds of world-building imaginaries might we need to develop, if we are to grow a Global GND Dialogue that can mediate the future scenario models that we have from the IPCC, through the needs of situated social movements that are increasingly engaging in local environmental disputes that have systemic planetary implications, and are simultaneously imagining alternative socio-ecological futures around the planet? Moreover, how should we even think about the models of planetarity presented to us by NASA, the IPCC, Google Maps and so on, which themselves platform out of the networks of remote sensing satellites, laboratories, vast data sets navigated through machine learning and algorithmic analysis, and ultimately metabolised through the labour of innumerable workers, technicians, scientists and observers of all kinds around the planet? What other potential configurations are latent in the affordances of these stacks and platforms? We know that the contradictory world-building ideologies of neoliberalism– nationalism and globalisation – are in crisis, while the environmental emergency demands a new kind of multi-scalar, multi-perspectival and multi-species planning wisdom-within-ecological complexity. The Geopoiesis project is thus one of Re-Imagining the Project of Planning.

Filed under: ecology, Green New Deal, research, teaching, , , , , , , , , ,

ADS5 at RCA Show 2012 and ‘Between the A12 and River Lea’ exhibition.

It has been a great first year teaching MA/diploma studio at the Royal College of Art with Justin Lau and Kenny Kinugasa-Tsui. The (rather out of date) studio blog is at http://ads5.wordpress.com/

Particular congratulations to final year students Jack Wates, Joseph Deane (who will represent the RCA in the RIBA Silver medal awards) and Emma Emerson (who was awarded the NLA prize by Peter Murray).

The work is on show at the RCA Show 2012 until July 2nd, and at the exhibition ‘Between the A12 and River Lea‘ at Assemble’s studios, which is open until July 8th as a part of the London Festival of Architecture.

Filed under: ecology, research, teaching, , , , , ,

Landscapes and Critical Agency Symposium

I am giving a paper at the Landscapes and Critical Agency Symposium at UCL on 17th February 2012


See landscapeandagency.wordpress.com/

My paper is: Landscapes, Complexity and re-imagining the Project of Planning

In this paper I will argue that the proto-ecological thinking that can be found in the work of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, when reconsidered in the light of more recent theorisations of systemic complexity, demands a critical and political re-imagining of the very possibility of the project of planning cities, landscapes and economies today.
A number of contemporary theorists – including David Harvey, Neil Smith, John Bellamy Foster and Erik Swyngedouw – have turned to consider the conceptions of ‘nature’ in the texts of Marx and Engels, with regard to pressing questions concerning our environments. Typically, their work elaborates upon the dialectical conception of metabolism that was developed by Marx out of the work of the agricultural chemist Justus von Liebig. For Marx, as for these more contemporary re-readings of his work, metabolism becomes a critical term for understanding the interaction of human and non-human labours and processes in ‘the production of nature’. Indeed it provides the basis for comprehending as a specific historical form of ‘metabolic rift,’ the ecological crisis that capitalism has instantiated.
In this paper I will develop further these insights through a reading of a fascinating passage from Engels, in which we find a rather sophisticated account of the effects of human activity upon the development of landscapes. Drawing upon a range of historical geographies from around the planet, Engels describes the necessarily unpredictable nature of complex landscapes, noting for example that:
‘The people who, in Mesopotamia, Greece, Asia Minor, and elsewhere, destroyed the forests to obtain cultivable land, never dreamed that by removing along with the forests the collecting centres and reservoirs of moisture they were laying the basis for the present forlorn state of those countries. When the Italians of the Alps used up the pine forests on the southern slopes, so carefully cherished on the northern slopes, they had no inkling that by doing so they were cutting at the roots of the dairy industry in their region; they had still less inkling that they were thereby depriving their mountain springs of water for the greater part of the year, and making it possible for them to pour still more furious torrents on the plains during the rainy seasons … ‘
For Engels the implications were clear, and using terms that anticipated the cybernetic language of systemic feedback that would be developed a century later, he suggested that we should not ‘flatter ourselves overmuch on account of our human victories over nature … Each victory, it is true, in the first place brings about the results we expected, but in the second and third places it has quite different, unforeseen effects which only too often cancel out the first.’
What are we to make of this problematisation of human intentionality by Engels? Socialist thinking has so often argued that rational planning is both a possible and necessary response to the ‘irrational’ forces of both markets and untamed environments. Equally of course, technocratic tendencies within capitalism have made similar presumptions. But we know today, whether considering our own ecological and economic plight, or indeed the insights of recent systems theories, that Engels was basically right.
Landscapes are examples of what neocybernetician Stafford Beer described as ‘exceedingly complex systems,’ and as Engels observed, understanding and managing such systems can present problems for more conventional conceptions of planning. However, I argue that this very complexity of landscapes, and the multi-scalar agencies that they contain, also means that they provide an important new model for re-imagining the project of planning in general. This involves accepting the impossibility of old conceptions of mastery and control, and instead asks how we might democratise and mediate a new and open relation to the future, valuing the work of both humans and the many other agents with whom we labour. Ultimately any such critical-complex conception of agency and planning can only be a practiced as a new political landscape.


Filed under: Uncategorized, , , , , , , , ,


rheomode is the research base of Dr Jon Goodbun

I have a background in architectural theory, design research and practice, which over the last two decades has focused ever more on environmental and ecological research and practice, and what this means for how we think about space. or spacetime, as a semiotic mediating field of material, biological and mental worlds. This has led me to work with ideas and thinkers who present challenges to some of the very premises of modern science, and the divisions between both the natural, social and political sciences, and between the sciences and humanities… divisions which are the legacy of western enlightenment thinking. I have pursued this work both in mainstream academic institutions such as the RCA, but also non-orthodox institutions such as Schumacher College, the Pari Institute and Burning Man, as well as in activist political arenas, and a series of independent educational and research initiatives.



You can reach me:
jcgoodbun (a) mac.com

Twitter Feed @jongoodbun

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