Paramedia Ecology

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by Iona Miller, 10/2006

Paramedia” describes what happens when peers come together in networks of influence, using media innovation. In the era of USER AS CONTENT, self-organizing people with the status skillsets of traditional media and access to media publishing tools converge in mutually-reinforcing, democratic and purposeful new ways beyond journalism and the shameless self-promotion of "Web 2.0" and other non-compliant media and distribution channels. It is an extension of the zeitgeist of our times to connect directly with Source and Spirit. Now those on social networks inform one another directly.

Paramedia is arguably the single most important factor in current social evolution, light years beyond the offerings of dry pedagogy and endless Power Point presentations. It promotes both/and thinking and penetrates deeply into the gaps of conventional culture, rigidity and atrophy, bursting it apart at the seams, like overripe fruit.  We can put collective shifts into high gear - and have a great time doing it.

Born at the creative edge of culture, paramedia helps us create the means to unleash our full potential. The future is being unleashed by a new generation of collaborative artists and Internet tools, such as conscious social networking, paired with an integral approach to personal growth.  It is a chaotic creative factor mirroring the criticality of our times, and magnifying its influence through the butterfly effect of info-memes. It is a new way of getting our intellectual, emotional and expressive needs met through resilient communities.

Infowars: Taking its message directly to the people who either actively seek it or come upon it synchronistically, paramedia is a new way of teaching, learning and sharing that suits our busy lifestyles and our infolust for concise, up to the minute reportage, discussion, analysis and application.

Paramedia opens the door to direct modeling of behaviors as well as mentoring. But, let the reader be aware of its inherent challenge: separating the wheat from the chaff. Remember the consumer maxim, "Let the buyer beware." Let the reader be aware, since you may be dealing with OpEd news, mis- or disinformation, intentional or otherwise. As with all media, once you digest the content, you are invited to make up your own mind for yourself.

Paramedia Ecology describes the peer-to-peer world of subtle interactions of the sum of all such evolutionary media interactions, networks of influence, and peer relationships.  It includes social and political potential, agitprop, blogging, podcasting, videocasting, network nodes, tiny TV, You Tube and the next thing we haven't heard about yet but will soon all be doing.

• Paramedia is a form of media that applies the training that has been largely restricted to journalists, artists and storytellers by limited access to the tools and channels for making and distributing messages;
• Paramedia operate beside, between, above and below the traditional practitioners of media and the paramedia channels enjoy an increasingly similar access to audiences through distribution channels.
• Paramedia can be dysfunctional; the assumption by established media is that paramedia is essentially flawed by a lack of professionalism. Paramedia people, likewise, believe the conventional media they supersede is dysfunctional. (Ratcliffe).

"McLuhan believed that electronic environments were molding people on a scale that was greater than any artwork, and that, therefore, artists should embrace the technologies of the future," says Paramedia Ecologist, Bob Dobbs."By this, he meant that in mass media environments, people are molded not only by the content but by a sensory bias specific to the medium," says Dobbs. For digital media, he adopted a different adage, that the "user is the content."

McLuhan's "put on" is the mysterious process of continual mutual transformation,”resulting from a reciprocal dynamic whereby a reader's perceptions are altered by putting on a mask or poem, and a writer or maker puts on the reader, having to project his own image as the mask of the user or reader.”

McLuhan would later note that the "complexity of this process is such that even literary critics have despaired of ever unravelling it. Critics of the press, on the other hand, are accustomed to label the whole thing as degrading…" given that in the commercial sphere, the process can be referred to as "giving the public what it wants." He continues, "this process is at the very heart of any communication activity…It is certain to remain the central issue so long as readers are human and not merely robots."


Now, it's time for the TAKE OFF, as we all GET REAL, online or off, once again ~ what is called in media ecology, the ANTHROPOMORPHIC PHYSICAL (AP), the physical body - not just the chip-body.

The audience is US, the users, the DOWNLOADABLE HUMANS.

MYTH IS the pattern of information/culture/community/technology and words/archetype/story/passion. Previously myth was imposed, now it is evoked. Instead of ruling people by controlling their passions, we rule through their passions.

Myth is passion and under the electric myth all passions are retrieved and recycled simultaneously as software "form" (to live in on a long-term basis) and as hardware "content" (short-term and temporary lifespan). In terms of communication, which is what a medium is - it's shared information, it's community - shared communities and archetypes are talking and talking back, living out loud.

Paramedia ecologist, Bob Dobbs suggests, "We are polluting Art as fast as we are tidying up Nature. The people of the Earth are encouraged to engage in an experiment of utmost urgency. We must turn off the electric environment for a period of one week to perform a cleansing of mass-man's mind, body and spirit. We must get back to our bodies, lest we forget they are still there! Imagine the freedom to be experienced as the top-down cultural control of civilization is eradicated for even the briefest period! If everyone did participate in the media Fast, how would we know it happened? Stay tuned..."

Who Are We?

What we need is a new existential paradigm, a design pattern for putting knowledge into action. Doctors tell us we don't know the simplest things like how to eat or sleep properly. Psychologists tell us we don't know how to behave and politics shows us we don't know how to get along. Pundits and talking heads tell us we don't know how to think critically. We don't know what to believe, and fall victim to mind control, the spiritual supermarket, memes, agitprop and propaganda, and our own outworn childhood scripts.  

We need a new Participatory Wisdom for how to be and how to get along in our rapidly changing world. We need to change the architecture of our participation with self, others and world for a richer user experience, an attitude not a technology. Science isn't the panacea. Soon it will make us Borg, transhumans with bioelectronic supplementation. Science still doesn't know what energy, matter, electricity, life, or the cosmos is, but the secret of the Universe is that IT's ALIVE! And so are we.

Calm Passion

That very nonmechanical liveliness, the joi de vivre of passion, best communicates our holistic Presence to others, to the world. In ancient times, wisdom was thought of as the type of knowledge needed to discern the good and live the good life. It was one of the four virtues, including justice, moderation, and courage, which comes from the heart as the root couer, shows. The pursuit of wisdom comes from a willingness to expose the pretenses of wisdom wherever we find them, even in ourselves. It gives us the infallible judgment to discern what is worthy of pursuit.

The "courage to be" -- what we potentially are, our mission and raison d'etre -- is essentially an ethical act of affirming our identity despite any shortcomings or the possibility of dreadful outcomes. It is embodied in two basic life strategies, which can be summed up as, "Say it then play it" or "Play it and then say it."

In the former we declare our intent. We begin with an inspiration, fantasy or desire, name it then go about the process of making it so.  In the later, we place ourselves in the matrix of spontaneous events and find ourselves living larger than life, and then maximize that fortune to parlay it into further opportunities for fantastic experiences. Wisdom is developed through experience, insight and reflection -- the common sense of foresight, or "connecting the dots."

Philosophy as the love of wisdom is a metaphysical pursuit, which opens the depth dimension. Sure, each of us can be wise in our craft, but that is merely a steppingstone to the greater accomplishment of a well-lived life, optimizing our talents and opportunities for expression. Knowledge is the basis for making good choices. Without the right information, we are stuck in the "garbage in/garbage out" modality.

Participatory Wisdom

Practical wisdom, then, means the disposition and skill to use knowledge in the right ways -- fully actualized power. Skepticism toward rigid dogmas and even our own beliefs helps us stay quietly open to the opportunities, which might otherwise be lost. In this mode, faith comes from a solid connection with the nurturing Ground of our Being, the inherent power of self-affirmation, despite the threat of nonbeing.

Faith in oneself pragmatically confronts and transcends both theism and mysticism with a skeptical eye toward their limiting content. In this regard, it affirms radical freedom. This is a freedom to simply be what we are, more fully, without cultural or "imported" conditioning.

Insecurities remain, but are no longer paralyzing. When the inner aim is true, we cannot help but be drawn forward toward our own Truth. Aligning ourselves with others who appreciate the fundamental interconnectedness of life helps us thrive. It opens the door to both learning and mentoring others.

Courage in the face of the unknown is a gift of our Spirit. This strength of mind and heart is our Essence, our essential nature, which can neither be taught nor learned, but is a grace. It means power over oneself to muster and self-regulate inspiration, mood and creativity.

The evolutionary "edge,” the new self-organizing order always emerges from chaos.  Courage gives us the will to surpass ourselves, and joy in doing so. Without courage, we can’t tolerate failure or success. With it, we can face the prospect of setbacks, guilt, condemnation and even death, for our lives are not empty nor meaningless...but a grand work of art, an artfully lived life with the acceptance that what IS-IS.

Thus, seeking and promoting wisdom means the capacity to realize what is of value in life for oneself and others, including knowledge and technological know-how, but much else besides that is the domain of aesthetics - Art with Heart.  There is an art to creating environments, new worlds of perception.


"Association with pupils keeps one's work youthful. Critiquing others keeps one's point of view clear." (William Merritt Chase, 1849-1916)

MENTORING is the art of giving and receiving wisdom; guiding, nurturing and enabling others to realize and develop their full potential with respect for their own journey. It celebrates an extension of self-cultivation with kindred spirits in soulful relationships.

Mentoring is a means of expressing and receiving feedback from many points of view (POV). It is a mode of knowing and learning with.  We find our identities in “mirroring”, empathy, mind-sharing and the struggle with different points of view.

Mentoring is individualized and tailored. Instructables means sharing what you make and how others can make it: step-by-step collaboration and nouveau niche opportunities - status skills. Once you find your niche, phreak it!

Now, consumers and "trysumers" can acquire as many skills as they want, but equally important is showing-off what you've learned and created. Don’t forget: without ‘the others’ seeing, tasting, hearing or smelling your skills, without the inevitable story-telling, there is no status coming your way!

The anti-trend to status skills is LACK OF TIME, balancing skill time and consumption time. Where on earth will consumers find the time to actively acquire these new skills? Infolust drives status skill-building and trend immersion.

The intergenerational "group leader" is a very busy and observant character, anticipating and even creating trends. While alternately bombarding the viewers and leaving them in pregnant silence, her approach is nevertheless anticipatory and dependent on the will of individuals within the group. This goes a long way toward avoiding the toxicity of recipes, the flapdoodle of stating the obvious.

The mentor must be able to think on her feet, with fluid concepts and creative analogies, and thus make it a learning experience for herself as well. Her job is to inspire, encourage and validate, to give authoritative crits, tips, demos, as well as input from Leonardo, Andy, Vincent, Georgia and others. It's good to instill and cultivate a feeling of the historic brotherhood and sisterhood. Newbies benefit when they keep their pride and lose their inhibitions.

Teaching can stealthily eviscerate your own need for art-making.  Of course, there are those who find teaching a stimulus. Because many of us have a hard-wired need to share--and teaching is an obvious vehicle--we need to find ways of satisfying this need. Teaching art and hypermedia is not like teaching accounting. In the first place, individuals in an art community are likely to have vastly different expectations, potentials, aesthetics, icon repertoires, and prior experiences.

Because everybody is on a different page, you need to adjust your methodology. A feeling of "We're all friends here" must be established. In a game-like environment and an urgent atmosphere, all the participants start by going to work on current projects at their own level of proficiency. When the mentor feels that some direction can be reasonably offered, she engages on a one-to-one basis.

Students, collaborators and colleagues may gather or disperse. On occasion the mentor may pontificate for the whole group. She may quickly demonstrate her own or another's work for whoever may be interested. Examples of work, good and bad, finished or not, are held up for quick discussion. There's an ongoing interactive crit, a celebration of individuality within the joy of the group.

Attentional Processes: Beyond the Consumer Dream

Attention shuttling is self-soothing - a positive coping mechanism of resilient individuals, shifting attentional focus between the cognitive and emotional regulatory process. It is more akin to multitasking than the pathology of ADHD. It allows us to correct imbalances in our immediate environment by finding wider frames of reference that meet our needs better. It stimulates inner dialogue that often can’t be reduced to a single viewpoint from different perspectives.

Based on his work in creativity and with gifted children, John Curtis Gowan developed a model of development, which bootstrapped off Piaget and Erikson, but included adult development beyond the ordinary or "normal" adult successes of career and family building, extending into the emergence and stabilization of extraordinary development and mystical states of consciousness.

Gowan described the entire spectrum of available states in his classic Trance, Art, & Creativity (1975), with its different modalities of spiritual and aesthetic expression.  He devised a test for Self-Actualization, called the Northridge Developmental Scale.

Gowan outlines a developmental theory whereby we may tap our latent creative potential and self-actualization, organically growing toward the psychedelic or soul-revealing and illuminative states. He describes these states most fully in Development of the Psychedelic Individual (1974) and in Operations of Increasing Order.  His use of the term 'psychedelic' does not connote drug use; quite the contrary he is strongly opposed to the developmental forcing and disintegration drug-use brings.

He describes how dyplasias between cognitive and affective growth can bleed off developmental energies, resulting in dysphoria and displacements, leaving us feeling unintegrated, blocked or stuck.  He carries developmental theory past the concept of a strong coping ego.  Fearing the loss-of-control by our egos, we may be reluctant to enter the soul-revealing stage of psychedelia and remain content to re-experience successes at our familiar or comfortable level of experience--usually expressed by the metaphor of "the American Dream,"--a cultural myth.

Gowan considers plateauing out before these upper stages to be akin to lack of sexual maturation in an adolescent.  Clearly, resilience is the ability to continually redefine oneself and experience are fundamental to this life-long process of connecting with Source and Spirit. One of these means is finding more resilient ways of processing information through emotional and spiritual intelligence.

Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence is demonstrated by the individual who is able to interrupt the emotional feedback loop as needed in order to allow the brain's logical functions to assess the situation.  The techniques by which this is adaptively and intelligently accomplished are what psychology calls "positive coping mechanisms."  Maladaptive coping mechanisms include those which succeed in circumventing emotional over-reactions at a cost of psychophysiological health to the individual, (Goleman, 1995).

Goleman's expanded model of intelligence thus presents a compelling argument that it is actually intelligent emotions rather than intelligence alone which forms the core of human coping skills and thus makes it a "master aptitude," (Goleman, p. 80).


We can fulfill the developmental process and develop our emotional intelligence to help us become more resilient.  This facilitates information-shuttling between left and right hemispheres which intuitively facilitates the intelligent sequencing of information so that we more resiliently make use of our human emotions.  From this enhanced state, intuitive information-sequencing facilitates evolution of resilient personality traits and adaptive coping styles.  We become increasingly conscious of our own ability to effect positive outcomes within our worlds.

We can mirror the optimistic positive attitudes and aptitudes of our mentors.  The process of co-consciousness or mindsharing involves a shared reality in which the integrity of the mentor stabilizes the journeyer even though they may be moving through the fear and pain in a highly emotional state.  The empathic sensing, "mind reading," and compassionate reassurance of the mentor sustains the dynamic momentum of the process as it moves spontaneously toward natural healing.

Mindsharing comes down to us from the ancient shamanic tradition of spiritual healing..  "A shaman is someone whose specialty is induction of a well state, someone who may help either through research or treatment to induce a state in someone else's brain that will produce health," according to psychiatrist Arnold Mandell.  "But the brain is an open, instrinsically unstable system, and if its higher level order is perturbed enough, it gets more and more turbulent.  It fractures, then organizes into a new regime.

By directing our attention both inwardly and outwardly, we connect with the eternal source of wisdom and our intuition comes to the fore.  An inherent part of the process of changing from the inside out is that as the deepest self transforms, downline faculties such as beliefs, thoughts, feelings, and behavior, as well as psychosomatic condition, automatically change as well.  Thus, resilience can be seen as the ability to dynamically change at the most fundamental level toward a more adaptive way of being in the world.

Individuals can develop a sense of wholeness on all three levels of their identity:  1). the egoic, which requires a more adaptively cohesive sense of self identity with and yet separate from the world;  2). the existential, which while encompassing the egoic state, also requires a more coherent sense of one's individuated state within the human conditions; and 3). the transpersonal, which requires that one transcend the egoic, existential identities and enter into a heightened awareness of essential unity with all human beings, living things, and perhaps the cosmos.