Coordinated Universal Time

As I type, episode one of Coordinated Universal Time is merrily propagating its little way through the RSS mycelium of the internet. We uploaded it to Anchor.fm this a couple days ago.

On April 3rd, I shared an idea in the Locutory:

UTC Origin

Four days later we had a 10 minute demo completed. There were only three segments. @argotechnica, @notinferno, and I each read some words into our field recorders. A fresh dub-techno track that @MatthewTheStoat and I worked on the previous day became the intro background music. I mixed it in under an hour.

Dropbox. We sent the demo to our trusted friends and confidants. Responses in the positive. Curiosity. Encouragement.

What they heck? Did we have a live one?

Mindflare

Mindflare, noun: that phenomenon of uncontrollable thought whirlwind. Spiraling microbursts of nervous system impulses, churning geodesic synapse fractal, unbounded creation. The only way out is through your medium.

We had more ideas than we knew what to do with. Clearly, we hit some collective, untapped, mineral-rich vein of creativity.

Some of our name concepts: Hidden Cities, Hauntology Podcast, Hauntologists Working Group, Haunted Dispatches from the Vaporwave Mall, Lunar Punk Something, Living Numbers, Asterism, Commoner Earth. Naming things is hard, but we had fun with it.

Some format ideas:

  1. Intro bump
  2. Deadpan intro by T⁂ with theme, thought, or topic of the episode
  3. “Initiate level” reading: easily accessible, relatable, etc.
  4. wYrD ZoNe 1
  5. “Acolyte” or “ascended” reading of classical / canonical / established / authoritative / published text
  6. wYrD ZoNe 2
  7. Meaty core. either recorded convening conversation or interview
  8. wYrD ZoNe 3
  9. Optional dj mix fun zone
  10. “Mantis Prayer” of the day
  11. Optional deadpan closing by T⁂
  12. Bibliography “text-to-speech” summary / credits / sources / citations
  13. Outro bump

Core principals:

  • Audio quality is non-negotiable. Lo-fi stuff is, of course, fine, desirable, etc., but if && when we do interviews it will be professional and pleasant to listen to. We do not release sloppy work.
  • Mystery && Wonder
  • Creative Commons
  • Crypto?
  • Charities
  • Discord
  • Website
  • Mystery && Wonder
  • Twitter
  • Open source the repo (for the website, not this one, commoner-earth)
  • Soundcloud?
  • iTunes?
  • etc?
  • YouTube versions? Yes. Video cap walking through Dubai… No further explanation. Just a video of the midwestern sky for the whole thing. Danger with video is it becomes a bottleneck for production/release…
  • Related need an avant-garde social media…
  • Structure that promotes novelty
  • Mystery && Wonder
  • “Précis”

More mindflares:

I used to think there was an answer to it all. All the reading, all the links, all the late nights diving Wikipedia. I thought it was all leading to a terminus, an end point, a single epiphany. I realized no such point exists. And I realize that is also exactly what this podcast is.

More notes:

  • At the Conscious Company Leaders Forum in California. Wanted to try to disconnect but the ideas keep coming. I’ve plowed these fields long enough to know it as a gift. I took a hike through the redwood forest and recorded some segments.
  • Feedback from everyone continues to be positive. Adam was inspired and recorded hauntologies.aif and wants to be a regular contributor.
  • We’re here to see things as they are and then organize how they ought to be.
  • Name idea: Internet Drift
  • “Hey drifters”
  • ID / id / Id
  • Forecasted Hauntologies from the Vaporwave Mall
  • Field notes books with the logo printed on it as a gift to patrons?
  • On air: “So what would be fun to do together? A book club? A writing prompt? A field recording assignment? Let us know.”

It should be noted that before we started on UTC, we had setup a GitHub repository and Discord server to work on some type of project together, but we weren’t sure what. So all of our thoughts and ideas were well captured and documented with version control.

One morning, I found myself at the Pacific Ocean before sunrise. Instead of enjoying the waves and strange, early morning humans that inhabit such shores I recorded a reading of Neuromancer and:

I’m thinking the pod structure ought to be as high level as possible. Basically: intro w/ patreon, announcements, etc., middle, and outro with credits.

Later that day, we had the breakthrough for the name:

UTC Name

The acronym is beautiful. It represents a compromise between different groups of people to sacrifice their individual preferences in service to a greater standardized signifier:

The official abbreviation for Coordinated Universal Time is UTC. This abbreviation arose from a desire by the International Telecommunication Union and the International Astronomical Union to use the same abbreviation in all languages. English speakers originally proposed CUT (for “coordinated universal time”), while French speakers proposed TUC (for “temps universel coordonné”). The compromise that emerged was UTC, which conforms to the pattern for the abbreviations of the variants of Universal Time (UT0, UT1, UT2, UT1R, etc.).

Via: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coordinated_Universal_Time#Etymology

There are a million more tiny stories like this. Each equally profound. Each equally banal. Infinitely interesting and unmistakably forgettable.

Accelerate

We designed and coded a website.

UTC Website

@MatthewTheStoat finished the logo.

UTC Logo

We made some lockups:

UTC Lockups

We interviewed some people.

We recorded some fields. And we fielded some recordings.

I wrote A Shard of the Origin Story and recorded it down by the Fox River.

All the while a constant drip of collective text and ideas bubbling in the Discord channels.

All the while, I navigated one of the most emotionally turbulent times of my life. Therapists, doctors, worries, anxieties. Somehow all unrelated to UTC but also impossibly intertwined.

We launched a Nextcloud server.

We documented some architecture:

UTC Architecture

We wrote more original music.

We read more books.

We talked about how media and podcasts and society and capitalism and socialism and eco-futurism and hauntology.

We wrote an SEO optimized description:

Coordinated Universal Time is a sonic collage of foxfire-side readings, thinking machines, disembodied conversations, music we found in this world or made in another. Deep time reverberations and field recordings from the front lines of a future held in common. An aural zine hand-pasted and neural-networked by solar golems from the 23rd century, still quickening in the coals of the present: a podcast for now.

All the while negotiating words, smithing sentences, distributing cognition. There were/are no egos here. Or perhaps, they are very tiny and very well behaved. We collectively saw something collectively and went for it.

We made three (3) prototype versions of episode one.

@neural_shroud and @xenogothic entered the fold.

We made four (4) “release candidates” of episode one.

We shared these with increasingly discerning circles of ears and minds. The feedback, ever-arcing up and to the right. There were some bumps (@utcpodcast was claimed, coodrinateduniversaltime.com sells sex toys, etc.) but no soul crushing nights of despair that I’m use to being a part of the creative process. There were video calls and Signal messages. SMS’s and emails. A few tormented decisions about content and authorship. Copyrights. Distribution. LUFS. Optimal “commute time” lengths for a podcast. A highly unexpected opinionated conversation around calling “Siri” by name.

We re-designed the website.

UTC Website

We strove for consensus. That gets you the best results, but it is also the most work. I think we did a damn good job.

None of us live within 400 miles of each other, you know. At this point we were spread across 4 timezones. Progress seemed to be happening at all hours of the day.

We dreamed about it.

We made it.

Then we released it.

Seven short weeks was all it took. It was possible. You can do it, too.

A Podcast for Now

I like this story. It is the story of communal labor and ideals. The story of a bunch of people coming together with a mutually compatible vision and creating something awesome. Maybe learning a thing or two about themselves, each other, and the world along the way.We made it for us. We made it for you. But I don’t care if no one listens.

I hold UTC lightly. It is not mine. It is ours. UTC brings me joy. And part of that joy is the labor, the pain, the agony of micro-deicisions around adding .1 dB to voice or subtracting .05 dB from music. That is the work. So are the conversations about it all. So are the blog posts like these and those yet unwritten.

Coordinated Universal Time is not an endpoint or the apotheosis of my practice. But it sure is the most fun I’ve had making stuff in a really long time.

I won’t get too much into the meaning of vision of UTC here, because in many ways that is not my story to tell. It is all of ours to discover.

Sediment of Attachment

Sediment of Attachment Illustration

I drew this picture yesterday. It is how I experience entities. People, places, food, music, a hangnail, a hole in a sock. I start at the top, on the surface, and the go deeper. I think layers 1 (Ignorance) and 5 (Integration) are the sweet spots.

  1. Ignorance: I am blissfully unaware of the entity.

  2. Suspicion: I suspect an entity might exist. Maybe I saw everyone in the office eating strawberries at their desk, so I hypothesize a communal bowl of strawberries is in the kitchen.

  3. Awareness: I have indeed discovered a bowl of strawberries in the kitchen.

  4. Familiarity: There are a lot of strawberries here. The bowl is made of metal. These look GMO but that does not bother me I think if we ever want to live in outer space, then everything will need to be GMO some day.

    Most sediments of attachment stop here. There isn’t much else that can be done. In order to continue this example, let us pretend the bowl of strawberries returns again and again on every Monday.

  5. Integration: I no longer eat breakfast at home on Monday’s. I know there will be strawberries waiting for me at the office and that is more than enough to keep me going until lunch. I am thankful for these strawberries. They have become a staple in the rhythm of life.

    Okay, we’re going to get weird now.

  6. Intimacy: There are about 50 strawberries, plus or minus 7 each week. I know this because I count them every week and update my mental model. These are probably sourced from California, but I’m not sure why I think of that.

    These next 4 could probably be merged or reduced or re-organized. There aren’t many entities in life that I experience this way. Maybe there should be an “addiction” layer?

  7. Obsession: I think about strawberries all day. Not just any strawberries, but the Monday Office Strawberries. I dream about them. Between ever activity and thought I find myself disassociating and returning to memories and anticipations of them.

  8. Compulsion: I cannot control myself. I get up from my desk every 4 minutes and get another strawberry. They comfort me.

    And now we’re going to get really, really weird.

  9. Neurosis: I think the Monday Office Strawberries have some cosmic significance. Maybe they are heralds of the anthropocene? A mark or symbol of my favored position within some organization? I will photograph them and make sure I have records. Are these 3D printed?

  10. Hypnosis: I come to and am staring into the bowl of strawberries. How long have I been here?

  11. Madness: I am stealing strawberries from the bowl, smuggling them out of the office, and installing them on shelves in my home. I have labels of each date they were liberated. Some are very old and very small and very black.

  12. Fractal: This layer exists only because I suspect (see layer 2) there is something beyond madness, though I’m not sure what that might be.

The deeper I go, the more attached I become. I’ve found that I need to be careful with what I get into for this reason. I don’t play many games, for example, because I have a tendency to sink to the Obsession layer. The only escape is then to complete the game.

Descent and Ascent

This “descent into attachment” is always an additive process. I am learning, consuming, or collecting. In Buddhism, attachment is associated with suffering. The more things you take ownership of, be they thoughts or physical possessions, the more opportunities for pain, loss, and suffering you create for yourself.

The “ascent to non-attachment” is always a subtractive processes. Besides are forgetting and brain diseases or damage, the only path to liberation is conscious decoupling. Separating yourself (your ego, your body, your mind) from the thing in a meaningful and conscious way. The Marie Kondo Method and 12 Step Program are a great examples of this. Meditation helps, too.

The Sweet Spots

I think Ignorance and Integration are the sweet spots for me. Ignorance is interesting because when we’re born, you are ignorant of everything. It is the natural state of the human mind. Once I’m Suspicious of something, I tend to seek confirmation so I can put my mind to rest. But once Aware, since I’m a curious person, I tend to seek Familiarity because I want to understand. So if I ever tip beyond Ignorance, I’m pretty much destined for Integration!

To me, Integration is about learning just enough to assimilate the entity into your mental model of reality, put to use any utility you can, and then move on. Some examples of entities I’ve integrated:

  • The US income tax system.
  • The Metra train schedule.
  • Linux servers.
  • My local grocery store.

The Lower Layers

I think a lot of products and services today are designed to penetrate to the deepest layers as fast as possible. Television is especially good at fracking the sediments. I think about friends I’ve heard say things like, “I watched the first episode and I was obsessed.” So many fandoms and subcultures are constructed around the endless cycle of obsession and compulsion. Apps and websites are designed to keep you locked in these loops.

If layers 6, 7, and 8 are borderline unhealthy, layers 9 through 12 definitely fall into the mental illness category. I haven’t spent very much time here, but I know I don’t like it and never want to return.

Utility

How is this model useful? Besides protecting myself from myself (like with games), it helps me build empathy towards others. I can think about where others might be on the layers of sediment when interacting with them. We all have such different experiences and perspectives. If you assume everyone is at whatever level you’re on, you are going to have a lot of really awkward and asymmetrical interactions.

Always be humble. Always be non-attached. Integrate the things that are useful. Choose your intimacies judiciously. Beware the bats.