A certain number of questions have been asked as to whether Everything, Kansas
is a serious idea or not. Is it real, or just a parlor game
I don’t actually know the original root of the idea for Everything, Kansas. My impression is that it came out of a conversation between Igloowhite and Ouroboros (Probably over beer, at the January LA meet. Almost certainly over beer.) and started to grow from there. Since I see the bay area and west coast noder crowd with some frequency, it came up in various conversations, especially when visiting noders were in town.
But this is a topic and a set of possibilities that I have been interested in for a long time, and I know a number of other bay area noders and non-noders who also share the interests. Co-housing. Town planning. Ecological restoration. Sustainability and green design. Community development. (It helps to have gone to a large-ish architecture school, where people spend all too MUCH time talking about this sort of thing.)
After a certain number of conversations with various folks, I said, well as a town planner, hell yes, this is possible. Not only is it possible, but here’s how.
As an exercise in logistics and town planning, or call it economic revitalization, this a is fairly straightforward project. It's simple to develop a list of criteria for the type of town and place where this could happen. The midwest is losing its population so fast right now, there are areas that are now considered abandoned land which according to the census contains less than one person per square mile. The logistics of bringing a crowd of, say, 100 people to a town and providing for their needs for a specified or unspecified amount of time has lots of precedents. For example, one particular model is a fire camp, where a town of up to 3000 is created in about 48 hours. And it works, it’s a very efficient system. A little militaristic for a bunch of anarchist noders, but the model still applies. Need extra bandwidth? Probably solveable, although the technology is not my specialty. Entertainment? Easy. Food for a crowd? Again, I've done it, and a lot of it is a matter of decent planning, I'm sure cahla can attest to this after planning a weekend for 70+ wild noders.
With an existing town, presumably a lot of infrastructure is in place. The main challenge would be grabbing enough bandwidth to support the number of computers this crowd probably carries, and making sure we don't horrify to locals so much that they come after us with buckshot and hot tar.
But here’s a place to start.
1) Have E2 Community Development as part of meets. Where doesn't really matter, but there's a list already on the Everything, KS usergroup.
2) Think about the kind of place where a critical mass could stand to live. (Kansas is pretty bloody flat and dry, everyone. I’m jonesin’ for Oregon, Washington, Idaho or Montana, myself, but I could be convinced.) Urban areas have certain advantages - employment being just a MINOR consideration - and rural areas have a different set.
3) Consider shorter term experiments – there’s already existing "noder compounds"- is it working well? What works, what doesn't? What are the variations on the theme?
4) See if people are really interested enough to take risks, and if we’re all headed in the same direction. Is this really something that people would give up their day jobs for? Are there enough people interested in art/software/tech support/business development that we could all afford to eat? How do you get it started? How do you bring it about without putting too much pressure on the existing infrastructure, blockstackers, existing administration? (codicil, ANYONE available to help me with the grantwriting angle, you're hired.)
5) (From one of the E2KS conversations…)
“We’ve got to get some software out there. Plus we can run an artists colony - that will bring in some dough. But we need to get just a couple of boutique knowledge worker shops also. Something like a mini-oracle or the Rand Corporation, but small. It's all about having the cultural infrastructure in place (restaurants, schools, movie theater, coffee shop, green lifestyle). There is an "Alternative Rural Initiatives" center at the University of Nebraska that might be able to point us in the direction of some grant money.”
6) Is it seasonal, or year round? Do we really have all the skills we need (you city folk) or do we need to recruit certain things? Is this a yearly noder Oregon Country Fair or Burning Man, a town, a place within a number of cities, who knows?
What’s already happening:
Well, there seems to be three current happenings. Ongoing gathering (when and where); mapping possibilities for the much more outrageous idea, of something like the great plains (I think this is a long shot, but why not study it?) and our local discussions about other types of noder co-housing.
So. If you are interested, talk to me, or talk to Ouroboros, Igloowhite, Quizro, jethro bodine, ideath, Iconoplast, Roninspoon. Join the Everything, KS discussion group. Blab with one of us, and at some point I’m going to ask you what you would want to be doing. Are you an EMT? A programmer, a DBA? Would you rather be running a day care? Brewing beer? (You’ll have to duke it out with Ouro for position of town brewer, sorry.) Developing your own game? Being a cowboy for a while? Building fence, building houses, running a network, doing publicity, think about what kind of skills a pioneer town of 100 people needs to be complete. This is one of the really interesting aspects - node all the wierd skills we have onto a sub-database, search and see what's there.
As far as to social ramifications are concerned, that’s more complex. Do you REALLY what to live with 100 other noders 24 hours a day? There are many examples of planned communities, some have succeeded, some have not. Personally, Celebration, Florida, invented by Disney, sounds like my own customized vision of hell. Alpha Fram, in Oregon, on the other hand, is one of the oldest intentional communities on the west coast, and still going strong. They grow some great organic produce (among other things....). And there's the minor question of gender imbalance, but there's got to be a solution, too, altho admittedly they haven't figured it out in Alaska yet.
But finally - Why the hell not? Everything is a community, and it appears to me to be becoming more of a real community in some really interesting ways. Wouldn’t you like to be able to travel around the country, know you have “family” in most cities? E2 is close to being that, already. If I could live in a place where my daughter knew almost everyone, where I could work less, but work primarily on things that I’m truly interested in, and give up the commute, the expense, the bullshit of the nuclear family, the isolation and be truly IN this community, isn’t it at least worth a try?
Update, July 18, 2002
There is a usergroup and a discussion page for this topic, we are trying to organize ourselves so the discussion is trackable. If you want to join in the conversation, it's Everything,_KS, /msg me or Roninspoon. If you want to get e-mail, /msg Iconoplast, the keeper of the list. If you just want to chat, perhaps not get all the discussion, talk to one of us.
In the meantime, there's about a dozen ideas I'm interested in researching, but I don't have time for. If you'd be willing to do some research and create a node to inform this discussion, that would be hugely wonderful. Otherwise, see you in Columbus.
Update, October 18, 2002
There were a couple of ongoing discussions of E2KS at ideath's gathering, Columbus Day weekend. Enth is planning to have one in the REAL Kansas, in January (oh, my cold skivvies!!!!).
In the meantime, I've posted a description of the kind of thing I imagine, when I think about how to push this idea forward. Tell me a story about everything.
I also share many of the concerns that people have expressed. After Igloowhite, Ouroboros and I talked over the original manifesto, I also created a no koolaid for me, thanks nodeshell, tongue firmly in cheek. Planned communities cover the entire range from extrememly scary shit like Jim Jones or the Church Universal and Triumphant, to very successful communities that already have more than a century of success. Either way, it is a topic I'd love to see E2 explore further, since I see E2 evolving as a community in multiple ways. Talk to me, even if it's to tell me you think I'm nuts.