Wednesday, November 27, 2002

Querencia and Amnesty

A recent post by Adam caught my attention:

"Querencia is a place where one feels secure, 'a place from which one's strength of character is drawn.' In Spain, it is the place in the ring where the wounded bull goes to renew his strength and center himself, ready for a fresh charge. What a beautiful concept: A place in which we know exactly who we are. The place from which we speak our deepest beliefs... But thus my take that we need digital querencias as well - safe harbors of slow time, where ideas can be nurtured to fruition, evaluated with respect to the fullest of their resonances. This would be a parallel to the rush of aggregated feeds: switching metaphors, a slower-moving branch, not a tributary, of that mighty river. The digital querencia has a lot of resonance with the 'moments of amnesty' from ubiquitous computation I was talking about..."

I love this idea of "safe harbors of slow time" - which reminds me of concepts we worked with in archaeological interpretation. In The Structures of Everyday Life, Fernand Braudel advocates a model of history involving change at the level of structure (longue durée), at the level of conjuncture, and at the level of event (événement). Of interest here is the longue durée - literally, the "long time" - but equally able to conjure "slow time" in comparison to the more short-term and immediate changes of conjuncture and event.

I often find online explorations of ideas to move too quickly. I don't mind the fragmentation of ideas, but I do get concerned that digital memes never hang around long enough to engage us in more than fleeting ways. Moments of "slow time" are crucial to human experience and understanding. They also afford us the opportunity to be and to dwell - in the way that phenomenologists describe. And I like that.

But back to querencia - which I take to describe a place of being - and the importance of "amnesty" (from the Greek amnesia). Being and dwelling are always already connected to memory - to familiarity and even to provenance. But querencia also refers to "a place in which we know exactly who we are" and thus conjures nostalgia, of dwelling through memory. And that is also a bit of a dangerous place where we can forget things that shouldn't be forgotten...

So - Adam's suggestion is a lovely compromise: "a parallel to the rush of aggregated feeds". I imagine the Temporary Autonomous Zone alongside the Temporary Occupied Zone. Places where we can be cared for and find safety - and places of risk and uncertainty. But I'll have to think some more on this one ;)

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