Saturday, December 29, 2012

Community Creationism - or "Can I be a knight of Mars? With... you guys? Maybe get me one of them... bats?"

I'm going to coin a term here and I have no idea how accurate it will be. Community creationism. After being exposed to lots of different types of media and communities in the last few years, I have discovered what I think may be a human trait. It goes something like this:

As you are exposed more regularly to a media form, situation, thought process, community or other concept involving social interaction, no matter your initial thoughts on the concept, you will form an affinity for it. This affinity grows into a desire to contribute, and thus you become a community creationist. I'll explain with examples from my own life.

I fucking hate country music

The first time I noticed this was with country music. Goddamn I hate country music. But a few years ago me and two of my mates went on a massive road trip from Darwin to Uluru and back, stopping for a beer at every pub on the way. This was about four days solid driving, bundled together in a packed-up 4WD. Prior to this trip we spent a lot of time over each others houses getting generally pissed to the four winds and "preparing" for the trip. These mates were both heavily into country music, and subsequently it was played round the clock. To my surprise, by the time we got in the car to head off on our trip, country music no longer filled my throat with bile, my chest with burning rage and my brain with thoughts of genocide. I could actually hear the good in it. On the third night of the desert bender, I even had a go at a country riff on the communal guitar. What had I become?

This prolonged exposure to a genre of music that usually ends with a blood soaked rage had actually numbed my hatred and turned it into a desire to contribute. I think a major factor in this conversion was the heavily social setting in which I was exposed to the music, but more on that in a bit. Thankfully I got back to my house and regained my uncontrollable disgust and hatred of country music or this could be a very different blog.

More examples - is it just me?

When I was in high school I hung out with the musical group. We used to listen to acoustic and rock and generally just adore the music. Then my brother picked up a guitar. Of course this prompted me to do the same and after a while I was playing guitar and drums in the same vein as the music I listened to.

More recently I have started listening to electro, drum & bass and dubstep, and now I find myself on short musical jaunts with fruity loops and Audacity, making simple tunes and generally trying to contribute to the electro musical database.

But of course it extends beyond music. Before I started this blog I had been reading a lot of blogs, so naturally I started this blog. I have some friends who have recently got back from travelling and while I already have a serious travel bug issue (more on this later), hearing their stories has me on the very verge of quitting my well paying job and throwing my life in the bin. I used to read lots of fantasy books and I have a few messy manuscripts from that stage in my life. If I spend too much time on funny picture sites I find myself creating funny pictures to submit to them. I started doing parkour because I spent three weeks straight playing Mirrors Edge and Assassins Creed. The list goes on.

What is the extent of this madness?

But I wonder just how far it goes. If I spent a lot of time among car fanatics would I buy an expensive old car to fix up? If I exclusively hung around gay dudes would I become an eager receiver of the D? If I mixed with lawyers and stockbrokers would I wear suits? If you took a country boy out of the country and put him in a social group that loved trance, would he start to enjoy trance and trade his slide guitar for a mac?

And I wonder why this exists? Why can't I hang out with people I get along with but retain my unique opinions and interests? Why am I so heavily influenced by the interests of those around me? I'm going to take a wild stab in the unforgiving dark here and say it's a result of social conditioning. Here comes Stormy the evolutionary psychologist - helmets on everybody.

Stormy's theory of the year

In the blossoming homo-erectus community that relied on social acceptance to avoid ostracization and ensure survival, common interests would have been a form of currency. Ugg the caveman might have had no interest in training dogs to hunt, but the rest of his tribe liked the benefits it gave. If Ugg the caveman couldn't train dogs with the rest of his tribe he was of less use to them and was likely to get less brontosaurus meat for dinner. If Chantelle the cavewoman didn't like to pick berries, but the rest of the cavewomen did, then Chantelle the cavewoman would be less likely to be able to socialise and would be a less useful member of the group.

Evolutionarily, this recurring behaviour would have ingrained itself in our brains - in such systems as our reward pathways and dopamine release habits.

Fast forward a few thousand years and we can safely remove the social requirement for survival, but our little caveman brains can't drop a vice so readily. Now, if we head into a social arena with no common interest with the rest of the 'tribe', we unconsciously assimilate ourselves and defend against rejection by creating that interest unknowingly.

I'd like to reiterate here that I have no fucking idea what I am talking about. All the same, I am confident that this thing exists.

Using this to our advantage

So how can we make the most of this knowledge? Well I already have. I have been dilligently working away at a program that I am hoping to finish soon and release to prospective clients, and have had to shut down all other avenues of creation. My three avid readers may have noticed (and no doubt were violently appalled by) my total lack of blog activity. So I decided to do a blog post. But what could I write about? I opened notepad and nothing came. I had no desire to create a blog post, although I had logically decided that it was what I should do. So, having the above theory slewing around in my head for the past month or so, I decided to read some blogs and get that desire back. And holy McShit burger did it work. After about a day and a half of browsing some old and new blogs, I have written this gargantuan post, and have a few imminent posts looming.

Also, on the above note of my soul-destroying travel bug, I have used "community creationism" to suppress the aforementioned bug. I have plans to travel. They involve saving up for a very definite amount of time, acheiving a very well defined set of goals and then, on an already decided date, getting the fuck out of Australia. This travel bug (also an imminent post, no doubt) is currently threatening to destroy my well laid plans, and so I see a very real requirement to suppress it until it comes time to unleash it in full splendour. So I have gone back to Interlopers, which has re-ignited my game creation passion. I have started spending more time on fitness forums and that has made me want to focus on getting fit. I have tried to politely shun discussion about travel, and I have avoided the days long youtube sessions I used to subject myslef to about all the awesome places I am going to visit. Initially this took a lot of effort on my part, but as I removed myself from those communities, the desire to be a part of them faded. And the desire to contribute to these new (or at least repeat) communities is over-shadowing it.

So what are you struggling with? If you want to model more, look at more models. If you want to program more, look at other peoples programming efforts. If you want to make a webcomic, go have a look at some webcomics. I think that whatever your block it can likely be defeated, or at least dealt a blow, by involving yourself in a social community centered around that subject. Similarly, whatever your hangups, they can be suppressed (but not really dealt with) by removing yourself from that community and engorging yourself on another.

Fuck I want to travel right fucking now fuck.

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