Ontogeny recapitulates Phylogeny

The process of writing this text has been one of collaboration: in this sense, it hoped to reflect the concepts I have tried to address.

This collaboration came about quite naturally, as perhaps all infrastructures should: Gerrie van Noord and I are friends who have known each other for almost 15 years… and we talk. We share ideas like small gifts that we pass back-and-forth to each other, and each one removes or adds a new layer to that idea, like a mutant version of pass-the-parcel.

After the experience with the project (which I discuss in the rest of this blog) I had written a text, but I was stuck. My ideas and thoughts had been deposited ungainly, ugly and malformed. It was if it had been washed up from the dark ocean depths and left on the beach to die. I knew that it had a kernel of something within it – something that was important – but did not know how to carve around the dead bits to find that treasure. It sat on my desktop: an unformed, heavy and distracting thing. I had no idea what to do with it.

So I turned to Gerrie, and we begin a conversation. We passed the ideas of what it was, what it could be, how it might operate in the world. These back-and-forth dialogues (almost entirely over Skype) were the process through which we have whittled away at this text, and that took over a year. We pushed and pulled it, probing its edges, hammering at it with theory, and stabbing at it with scalpels, trying to ensure that its content, its shape and its form would ‘work’. Our digitally mediated dialogues have resulted in this digital blog: a published form that aims to use the tools available to mirror the topics discussed. As a result, the form has replicated the process.

Fundamentally – as within the body of the text – we were exploring ‘infrastructure’: what should or could the form and frame of the text be, and how would that change how you interact with it?

As I explain in the introduction, you can read the text as it exists now in a linear way, or you can follow certain tags and subjects to focus on specific ideas. As I wrote in a very early version of the text: ‘It’s like an underground rail network, with different trains, railway paths and interchange stations, but all part of the same system.’ In this sense there are three layers of examined ‘infrastructure’ – or train lines – that intersect: the first being in the text itself; the second in the dialogic way that Gerrie and I developed it; and lastly in the way that you access it as a reader.

The hope is that in this form you can have a dialogue with the text in such a way that you also have agency to explore; to dig around and (hopefully) find your own treasure.