Nomads, Knowmads, Noumads

The idea for this post came up while reflecting on Wildcat’s latest posts on the Knowmad and from an excellent piece I came by lately in G. Deleuze’s book – Spinoza: Practical Philosophy. To be more precise, it was inspired by a character from a science fiction book I am reading called Galileo’s Dream. A decrepit time traveler marooned in Galileo’s time who goes by the name Cartophilus – the lover of maps, brought everything together.

Cartophilus never liked maps, but he is certainly the exception rather than the rule because we all love maps, to draw maps and to play with maps. Making maps is an essential aspect of how we extend into spaces. With maps we represent spaces, describe them, qualify them and create the infinite diversity of distances distinctions and differences. With maps we territorialize and confine spaces and assign to them meaning and values. While our bodies (which are in themselves spaces) extend into space, mapping is the actual complicating relation emerging between our consciousness and space. In ‘complicating’ I mean to expose or at least hint at the sense of infinite complexity arising from the meeting of two ultimate simplicities – space and consciousness.

Nomads have very special relations with space. They go from location to location but never make a location their own. Something is missing from their maps. We may call this missing element a concept of territory, or, a sense of belonging, or, constancy, stability, perhaps conformity? There is a profound difference in how nomads conceive of distances. This difference does not apply only to physical distances, because of the complicating relations between space and consciousness. Nomadism, therefore, is not merely a life style. It is rather a style of mapping, a singular system of complicating relations between space and consciousness that brings about the dynamic expression of one’s freedom. For freedom is the primary and only vocation of real nomads.

In this light, Wildcat’s knowmad is an experiment in mapping, groping for those complex yet embryonic relations between consciousness and information space that will eventually emerge as a dynamic expression of freedom. Information space is not merely a straight forward analogy derived from physical space. There are perhaps some simple similarities but as much as it might seem strange information space though thriving with information is largely unknown and unexplored. Information space is much less constrained than physical space. In information space there are no a priori metrics and no a priori dimensional configurations like the ones that characterize physical space. In some deep sense, information space is more primitive than physical space, more nuclear and therefore more difficult to map. For example: physical space contains only singular instances (no point in space is replaceable with any other point) while in information space every singular instance may have infinite number of copies: identical yet distinct versions (which already causes serious problems when we try to apply conventional mapping methods such as the concepts of original and copy to information space). The promise of the knowmad as a style of mapping that generates expressions of freedom in information space is therefore much more complex to actualize but also embodies a much greater potential of interest and creativity.

While thinking about how nomads and knowmads are related through their style of mapping, that is, their manifest special kind of meeting between space and consciousness, I came across the following paragraph in Deleze’s book:

“In short, if we are Spinozists we will not define a thing by its form, nor by its organs and its functions, nor as a substance or a subject. Borrowing terms from the Middle Ages, or from geography, we will define it by longitude and latitude. A body can be anything; it can be an animal, a body of sounds, a mind or an idea; it can be a linguistic corpus, a social body, a collectivity. We call longitude of a body the set of relations of speed and slowness, of motion and rest, between particles that compose it from this point of view, that is, between unformed elements. We call latitude the set of affects that occupy a body at each moment that is the intensive states of an anonymous force (force for existing, capacity for being affected). In this way we construct the map of a body. The longitudes and latitudes together constitute Nature, the plane of immanence or consistency, which is always variable and is constantly being altered, composed and recomposed, by individuals and collectivities.”

Delezue’s reading of Spinoza here renders a rather profound idea which is no other than devising an extremely abstract cartographic apparatus, a special method of mapping, and along with it, he brings forth a kind of space (plane) that goes far beyond both physical and information spaces: the space of Mind. In a post quite a while ago, I described mind as a relation generation system. According to this, a mind, any mind in any configuration at any instance and any mode of actuation beautifully assimilates (while being assimilated into) this cartographic apparatus which already hints at the self generative nature of the space mind is.

Mind space is a pure relation space. Mind space is a kind of space that emerges from the very activity of mapping or rather from its very intensification by consciousness. Or rather it is the other way around: it is consciousness that emerges from its very extension into space. Or, perhaps this is how the co-emergence of space and consciousness becomes the ultimate embodiment – an expression independent of specific content or modality yet pervading all contents and modalities – Nous (the Greek word for Mind).

Enters the noumad: the one who roams Nous – the space of Mind, being both the activity and the subject of that special style of mapping that brings forth an ever fresh expression of freedom in the meeting of mind with… itself; be it in gesture or sign, a body in touch with another, a word or an idea; be it in an emotion, sensation, a story, an image, a poetic metaphor; be it in an information stream, within a connected web, a mesh of semantic tokens , a program, an agent, a state machine, a sentience… (artificial of course)

As the nomad is evolving into the knowmad and as the knowmad will be evolving eventually into the noumad, we are witnessing the inevitable ephemeralization of spaces, of mappings and their corresponding expressions. In all spaces we are witnessing the eternal return of the nomad, of the knowmad of the noumad, a repetition of the singular element of freedom, a necessary sameness which is profoundly and positively different.


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Categories: Research, Theory


studying: architecture design


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5 Comments on “Nomads, Knowmads, Noumads”

  1. Spaceweaver
    February 18, 2012 at 6:34 am #

    This post is actually copied word by word from my blog in the space collective (see source link at the bottom) However it is not properly credited here. On the title it is written: ‘by jonbaily’.

    Actually I do not even mind, but a bit of netiquette is perhaps in place here? 🙂

  2. February 19, 2012 at 12:37 pm #

    Absolutely; I often re-post interesting articles I find online to my blog and citing them to their original sources. Unfortunately whenever I post on WordPress it says ‘post by jon bailey’ and i don’t believe there is any way of going around that. I will work to cite this source properly — thank you for the response and great article!


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