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Generating Value and Returns – Monetary, Cultural, and General – Through an Ecological Operating System

            Few would argue that investing in the future of the city is essential.  Why one might be compelled to make such an investment, how that investment is made, and the driving force behind a return on investment, however, are the subject of debate.  In what follows, I focus on how value is generated, the specific type of value that is generated, and why generating such value is compelling.  In doing so, I will move beyond the generic socially responsible reasons that one might hope to invest in the future.  I will look beyond the sources of a return on investment as outlined in Plan for the West Side of Chicago and Framework for Development.  In this sense, we should begin by acknowledging that investing large sums of money in real estate that is undervalued via a logic driven by beauty and energy efficiency tends to create value.  Further, we should understand that the benefits to particular stakeholders are largely derived from intensifying their existing work through focused collaboration, investment, and return. This can take place without insisting on a specific scale of the system.  At the same time, we should acknowledge that the housing typology represents a minimum level of deployment and that there really is no maximum beyond total deployment of the system across the surface of the earth.  In order to do so, we are actively engaged in creating an ecological operating system that can work in different locations through how it is scaled and by taking advantage of local assets in order to create a unique variation within a specific community.

            The ability for value to be generated and investment to be attracted in particular contexts through particular means that are located as different components of an EOS rests on an analysis of how value is generated at a more fundamental level.  In order to do so, I will explore how creating an EOS is derived from my understanding of the economic history of space and time as reflected in cities.  I will then explore how creating an EOS relates to the economic history of space and time as reflected in art and aesthetics.  In both cases, I will discuss how an EOS builds on past value generating traditions.  I will follow these sections by briefly exploring the relationship between economics – which I will characterize as describing quantitative monetary value – and art and aesthetics – which I will characterize as describing qualitative cultural value.  During this discussion, I will explore how a dynamic and pliable relationship between monetary and cultural value as supported and controlled by an EOS will support new general value in the future. 

            I will conclude by offering a few insights as to how one might invest in and see a return from this process.  These sections will help potential stakeholders understand underlying historical and theoretical trends and assumptions that will act as a guarantee in the context of a high-risk investment.  In general, successful use of this guarantee will rest on the extent to which an EOS can support the descent of distant capital that is alienated from individuals to a local situation to facilitate new ventures, local ownerships, community based control, and new degrees of energy efficiency.  At the same time, I will explore how existing stakeholders will still have routes by which they can continue to profit.  Following these considerations, I will conclude by discussing how investors – many of whom might not be accustomed to investing directly in the city – can integrate their current work with the operating system and how this integration might be immensely beneficial. 

II. EOS and the Economics of Space and Time in Cities

            Systems of space and time have been essential in generating value throughout the history of civilization.  Unlike the generation of value through extracting a mineral from the earth or modifying that mineral into a product and ultimately a commodity, an ecological operating system generates value by creating the capacity to undertake this extraction and modification to begin with.  In this sense, value is generated directly through the production of space as the social and architectural structure that contains and connects the sites of extraction and refinement.  Although the means and ends of this production have changed dramatically over the years, the nature of the value that results has remained consistent.  Throughout each iteration, this value creates the framework for organizing other productive activities, allows for sufficient distance to understand those activities, and ultimately defines how those activities are framed and represented. 

The evolution of how space is produced has generally occurred organically and closely in line with particular shifts in demand.  This organic evolution of demand and capacity to generate space has led to increasing distance between the location where demand is fulfilled and the sites of production.  The result is a need to spend a tremendous amount of energy in order to bridge this gap.  Ultimately, this situation places a great deal of power in the hands of those who supply this energy.  It occurs to the detriment of those who pay dearly for this energy and who come to sacrifice various upgrades in lifestyle or educational level for the energy to which they are addicted.  This organic evolution locates the source of the mineral wealth that supports an urban center at increasing distance from that center while concentrating power in those who finance the energy required for exploration, transportation, and refinement of these raw materials.

This general understanding of how mineral wealth relates to the production of space allows us to suggest that the variable energy that goes into versus comes out of a particular tract of land – and how that energy exists in a global network – is the operational force driving the production of space.  The extent to which this operating system influences increasing amounts of spaces during the process of generating value – the logic of empire – determines the ultimate success of the system.  As less energy is available or as the cost of energy rises, the need to control this totality of space becomes more pressing.  In the current context, the means and capacity to extend this operating system are transformed by the explosion of data that quantifies our world along with our capacity to process it through huge leaps in computational power.  This new capacity makes it possible to open a space and time that has a finer grain than the space and time controlled by past operating systems.  The result is a new set of parameters defining new possibilities for production.  The value of a new operating systems tied to these digital technologies is derived from the persistence of energy systems that dominate our world – the sun, the wind, gas, etc… – and the possibility that these digital systems will allow us to use energy with greater efficiency.  Ultimately, it allows the EOS to intersect with general demand, reserves of wealth, and existing structures of political influence.

An understanding of how energy in general inflates new space should be followed by exploring the various forms that this energy can take.  Not only is such energy not homogenous, the types of energy that have been used throughout history to inflate new spaces cannot be used interchangeably across epochs.  The use of types of energy that were used to support past spatial structures have less effect in creating new spatial structures.  Attempting to do so will lead to a crisis of energy that is defined by a need to invest increasing amounts of energy with decreasing effectiveness.  In doing so, the use of energy that is attached to antiquated global structures supports constituencies attached to these energy systems who often are not the groups that new space is intended to serve.  As a result, we are unable to direct where space is made and who it might serve.  This is, in part, a result of former stakeholders who have no interest in and capacity to explore alternatives.

            This energy crisis and the resulting spatial crisis is the primary reason that we need to educate and recruit a new set of people to produce space via a new operating system that they invest in the design of.  In recruiting these companies and individuals, we need to seek those engaged in addressing a particular evolving consumer demand.  These people and companies are already investing in the energy that is required to make space.  The space they invest in, however, is different from the space of the city in which so much value was made.  They are investing elsewhere.  In this sense, we should begin planning an EOS by understanding how the field of production and consumption has shifted from the terrain of companies like Sears to the work of companies like Amazon.  This new and evolving terrain is the “ground” on which we will plan an EOS that will in turn generate a new city.  Rather than beginning with the physical earth, the material legacy, and various socio-political associations, we should begin with the flux out of which a new city will rise.  In doing so, we will incorporate “geography” as explored by theorists such as Saskia Sassen and David Harvey into the planning process from the beginning.  We will ask how does the intervention as an extension of the EOS become sited within this geography?  How is it integrated with the energy that inflates it?

In doing so, we should investigate the industries that make space on top of and within the city.  Such companies produce digital social networks, smart phone screens, advertisements, television networks, filmmakers, designers, and art.  Following a detailed investigation, we should ask how these products and services can come together in order to take greater control of the production of space by supporting increasing efficiency of energy consumption.  Ultimately, the value of this investigation rests on the global organic ecosystem through its demands, requirements for stability, and how we as a civilization find ourselves saddled with a system that is ill-equipped to meet those requirements.  Such an understanding places a burden on us to change and will define an emerging market for services that support this change.  It is ultimately an economy made up of extreme wealth and value spread over every inch of the earth – from the atmosphere to deep within the ocean.  It will support the creation of a comparatively small space as extension of the EOS that we have described in detail. 

Beyond the supportive relationship between the broad global economy of energy and capital and new space generated via a new EOS, the planning process that leads to this EOS requires investing in a system that can proliferate broadly and influence the global economy of energy and capital.  Each stakeholder who invests during this planning process increases the capacity to remake space.  They make it possible to bring more people on as users of the operating system through offering chances to interact with the new tools that the investment of the different stakeholders leads to and through how the system is tailored to a specific neighborhood in which it begins to grow.  In this sense, new neighborhoods and users within their specific context gradually assemble tools that make sense.  This process is driven by local demographics and the availability of investment capital.  Ultimately, investors and end-users alike will exhibit a preference for the locations where these tools are available.  As a result, they will bring capital earned elsewhere and contribute to inflating new space in the process.  In doing so, they will find new opportunities to invest in the system and ultimately bridge the gap between where it is produced and consumed.  They will reduce energy consumption in the process.

Chicago Made, The Spatial Economy, Rebel Cities, and The Enigma of Capital describe how a process of using a new operating system to support efficiency that attracts new and unexpected users occurs.  The result of this link between foreign investment and local deployment is a new capacity and new communities that might fuel a set of new industries tied to the specific investors in this variation of the EOS.  In many ways, it is an extension of the creativity that is necessary to plan an operating system to begin with via the collaboration that occurs between the different stakeholders.  Whereas manufacturing drove past consolidations of investment that led to the production of new space, the current situation is defined by how culture and its capacity to support an interesting and stimulating life drives this consolidation and production.  The Creative Industries and The Economics of Cultural Policy both illustrate how culture has come to play a driving force in the production of space and the health of the economy more broadly.  Art, design, food, stories, architecture, performance, education, research, and archiving can be marketed to areas where those capacities are missing.  In many cases, these areas will be new neighborhoods that might begin to subscribe to particular aspects of the ecological operating system.

            A capacity to do so, ultimately rests on our right to the city as a basic human right to own where we live, to be beholden to no one, and to control our own fate.  As Don Mitchell explores in The Right to the City, this right is not strictly guaranteed through some eternal system, but is one that is constructed within the context of a particular variation of a EOS.  It evolves through struggle against those who control the EOS.  In order for this right to evolve rapidly, it is beneficial to integrate rather than antagonize the existing stakeholders.  Through a careful examination of how property holdings, manufacturing capacities, food production capacities, shipping channels, distribution channels, and energy systems can be tailored to a new EOS, it will be possible to extend their capital to a new iteration that will allow the new space that is generated as well as the corporate space that lingers to thrive.  The result will be a mature economy of creativity as a set of mutually enforcing goods and services that strive to make more products locally.  This space will be largely comprised of small groups of freelancers who produce a space that is not merely inherited – such as occurred with repurposed loft warehouses – but formed and controlled by the specific community that undertakes a local variation of the EOS.  This space will ultimately sustain the broader ecological operating system.

III. EOS and Art and Aesthetics in Cities

            In this section, I will explore how new spaces of creativity might be built by extending tactics that have generated value through images.  Such tactics have been codified in traditions of religion and art.  We will look at particular examples where such creativity has had the capacity to generate and inflate a broader system of space as described in the previous section.  In doing so, we will look at the spatial conditions that are necessary for generating a particular culture or culture in general.  Moreover, we will explore how value is generated through the production of culture.  In order to do so, however, it is important to understand the specific variable that produces culture and how this variable relates to the production of space.

If variable energy inflated space – a distributed force originating at multiple points and persons globally – a specific focused energy inflates culture.  In many cases, this energy is that of the genius.  It extends from the aura of what they make and who they are.  It is the spark that convinces people to linger.  The nature of this genius has changed dramatically from a point when it was related to a shocking capacity to directly reflect the world through technique and mastery of the quality of language.  It once led to a collection of homes whose walls reflected the natural world through style and ornament.  It invested these Roman homes with wonder and value.  They spread across Europe over a thousand year period before the pictures that decorated these walls finally faded.  The walls were left white, devoid of ornamentation and ready to take an image from a projector or a rotating painting produced by the latest avant-garde artist.  The same category and capacity of genius that began this process ultimately inaugurated this voiding and animation of the wall.  This process runs parallel to the effort to invest walls with wealth and traces an inherent uncertainty of investing so much value in what will become a ruin.  In this sense, the capacity of the genius to be recognized as such is in large part driven by their capacity to realize that animation invites the void and to negotiate this absence with the desire to leave a trace for posterity.

The result is the emergence of art from the wall and into the world.  This process begins with reliquaries and extends through the work of artists such as Caravaggio who produced coveted paintings that often traveled between locations and to wunderkammern and the inauguration of the plein air artists who launched a critique of the studio practice.  It ultimately leads to the work of Duchamp, Beuys, and Naumann – among others – who sought the total critique of art as a critique of the substrate that supports it.  In many ways, this can be seen as a critique of real estate through highlighting the capacity of art to transcend a specific location that will ultimately loose value over time, through a capacity to be relatable to different cultures in different spaces, and through the capacity to take control of space without having to invest considerable capital.  The fact that this critique occurs via the hand and mind of the artists is striking.  It rests on their capacity to see through the opacity of the situation and reflect an underlying reality that improves our ability to dwell.  This capacity anchors the value of this critique of real estate.  Moreover, it formalizes the role that art might play in how a city is planned.

The operational vehicle by which the cultural economy is sparked lies in the ability of an artist to secure a studio and establish a practice that goes beyond their own person in order to captivate a large number of people who want to collaborate in producing a new work that goes beyond past manifestations of this process.  It rests in the ability to establish a successful art firm that can influence how we live in the city through style, locations at which gatherings occur, and even where it might be desirable for non-artists to live.  This success often rests on the artist’s own charisma.  In some cases, it rests on their ideology.  In many ways, it is an inverse of the variable that creates space in general.  It creates a means of propelling broader interest in a space that otherwise might have little or no story.  It is a means of getting people to stick around.  This occur in part by illustrating a utopian lifestyle that extends from an ability to make wealth directly through one’s own hands and with minimal need for broader capital infrastructure.  It is a spectacle of pure expenditure. 

When this capacity is understood as extending from the collection of all the artists who are engaged in such a demonstration, it represents an unprecedentedly large number and overall value as real monetary wealth.  A considerable amount of this wealth rests on the legacy values that are assigned to surfaces of art history that gradually made their way from the walls of the palazzo.  These surfaces can be made to go to work in supporting the creation of what comes next.  In this sense, the accumulation of surplus capital in the art market could be used to reinvest in the construction of surfaces in a particular neighborhood.  Artists could lead this drive.  Those who participate in the process would be given unprecedented access to an avant-garde art practice which, at the same time, is connected to a global network of wealth that has yet to realize – or at least consciously control – how investments in the aesthetic economy can translate into transformation of real space.

A similar condition occurred with the fashion and night life industry in Manhattan (see High Price for an elaboration), the gallery district in Chelsea, SoHo, and the Village (see Alternative Spaces for an elaboration), the walls of corporate office buildings (see Privatising Culture for an elaboration), the auction markets (see Talking Prices for an elaboration), and art fairs (see The Experience Economy, Curating Culture, Thinking Contemporary Curating, and szeemann: with by through because towards despite for an elaboration).  In each case, an investment occurred that led to a set of images, objects, ideas, and people who came together to extend their work beyond a single image in order to create an economy and ecology.  They created a system of value with a broader guarantee.  This guarantee ultimately rests on the ability to engage questions of who we are and where we come from.  Moreover, it rests on an ability to translate these complex issues into a language that can be understood by a general art viewing public.  In particular, it rests on the ability to negotiate the relationship between different perspectives on who we are, where we are going, and how it will end.  In this sense, it is a value system that rests on the merits and necessity of translating between different images within an economy (see Museum Without Walls for an elaboration).

This system of value and space is propelled by a fundamental negotiation between teleology and ontology.  This negotiation mirrors one that occurs between these terms in the context of the monetary quantitative economy.  In that context, it is between the rate of exhaustion of resources and the identification with a particular origin and style of being that justifies the rate and manner of this exhaustion.  Although this negotiation occurs in such a quantitative context, it is not represented or controlled in that context, but the aesthetic qualitative context where passion is felt and stories are believed.  At the same time, it is propelled by a negotiation between the language and style that is used in order to make the conceptual negotiation visible – ultimately as a function of the genius that propelled interest in the artist to begin with.  It ultimately leaves a series of traces – marks and objects – that register this space in relation to the rest of the geography.  They become elements off of which the cultural space that grows from a more industrial and domestic space can hang and evolve.  They are registers for the projections of this continued negotiation.  In this sense, the value of art rests on a much broader demand and desire to understand our world.  Moreover, their value rests on the increasing absence of spaces in which a real negotiation of this understanding can occur.  

Ultimately, such a space is one of revelation.  Because of the value of revelation, it is essential to guarantee the quality of this space.  It should be open to various disciplines and not be easily co-opted by the energetic forces that produce space in general.  The quality of this space is ultimately measured through the discourse of aesthetics as the study of how things are judged to be good.  In relying on aesthetics, it is essential to explore manners by which this discourse intersects with a political discourse and the common good more generally.  This will occur virtually through the creation of the broader spatio-temporal operating system that holds the various components together in a strategic relationship.  At the same time, it will occur physically through socially engaged art practices and how these practices and their affects stand in relationship to a global image of art, space, and social justice. 

While economics might be understood as the study of how the general system of value is propelled and hangs together, aesthetics might be understood as the study of how the sphere that the general system of value inflates appears in a certain way and is judged to be either positive or negative based on a particular sphere of influence.  I would argue that the image – not strictly visual – of the world falls exactly between these two spheres and is subject to an entirely different value system that is neither economic nor aesthetic.  In this sense, it is a study of the world image that results from the production of space.  At the same time, it is the study of the art objects that integrate or stand out from and protest this image.  Such entities, I would argue, are ultimately what come to allow it to evolve through a process of dis-enclosure (see Damos, Nancy, Stiegler, Badiou, Bourdiou for an elaboration) that drives the long-term purpose and guarantee of this value system.  In doing so, it is an arena that houses means of creating an aesthetic argument for how space might be controlled that too often masks economic concerns.  Ultimately, we should strive to restore a balance between economic and aesthetic production of space while increasing understanding and transparency of their relationship.  This will improve efficiency and increase general value.

IV. The Relationship Between Economics and Aesthetics: Quantitative and Qualitative Value

The relationship between economic and aesthetic value systems drives the formation of an ecological operating system that is grasped as an image that stands in for and controls all the various sub-systems people, spaces, and components that comprise it.  In this sense, the EOS and its image as interface controls the real material world.  Accumulated monetary or quantitative wealth requires those in control of this wealth to justify or qualify why they are authorized to do so.  Moreover, they must convince those who surround them of their qualifications to do so in the future under the changing conditions provoked by this new wealth.  This is done through creating a logic of numbers as well as a logic of qualities.  This economic and aesthetic logic comes together as a representation or image that exists as the summation of a variety of media – sight, sound, sensation, performance, etc…  This image grows to become a “world image” that represents various installations in the world that support various capacities to live, create communities, and make history.  This image is controlled by a specific group who manipulate the installation and how it is represented.  In this sense, it is an interface.  The speed with which it is manipulated and the extent to which it provokes change and allegiance has increased over the course of history to the point where rendering and reality are close to converging.  The ecological operating that we are proposing seeks to enhance this potential convergence while questioning how the image that represents it is formed, what “style” is takes, and who is in control of it.

The interaction between economics and aesthetics to form a world image has historically supported groups with new wealth (e.g. group portraiture during The Dutch Golden Age), an image of a new mythology following a revolution (e.g. David, Goya, and Wagner), the possibility of a continuous revolution in art and the world (e.g. The Soviet Experiment, Malevich, El Lezitzky, Picasso, Weimar, and Le Corbusier among others), the International School of Art, Architecture, and Entertainment), and the Revolution of ’68 (e.g. Godard, Dylan, Dead, Stones, etc…) among others.  In each case, a particular style of the world is created and comes to permeate how the halls of power look, the style of clothing that is worn, and the style of artworks that are chosen.  This style is solidified from various un-attached images and ideas.  Each has a status with regard to the monetary economy and the aesthetic economy.  Each has purchase as an ability to attract interest.  This ability comes at a price that is derived from the cost of severing it from how it was once used.  It comes to include the cost of integrating it into the new image of the world that mediates between the two economies as the cost of creating an EOS.  It balances the equation as a membrane translating and allowing orientation to points of corresponding attachment on either side.  In many ways, it is the ecological operating system that generates and is this world image.  The study of this image and ultimately how it is sustained and mended in cases where it is threatened by either money or aesthetics falls to the discipline of philosophy.

In this sense, it is the task of philosophy to set the terms that translate between an underlying material reality and our representation of it as well as between this representation and the qualitative and quantitative systems that it gives rise to in order to make sense of the relationship between nature and its representation. It is tasked with sustaining this process so that the image can evolve with a changing nature and our intellectual capacity to understand it.  At the same time, it falls to philosophy to consider the extent to which this correspondence between representation and underlying natural reality is productive, true, and supportive of general value or merely a fantasy that leads to decadence, false belief, and decay.

Sustaining an evolving relationship between and generation of economic (monetary quantity), aesthetic (artistic quality), and philosophic (general) value drives the purpose of making an investment in a new EOS and its image.  We must bring together this image from the various programs, stakeholders, stories, and products that are crucial to a specific deployment of an EOS.  To do so involves bringing the elements together as a heavily annotated list, index, or catalog.  Each annotation extends to and supports an aspect of a sub-system of the broader operating system.  It sorts through and gives hierarchy to the various types of value that result in order to orient the investor in order to see where they stand as part of an evolving world image.  As part of a new image, they will understand how they can participate in forming the image and translating between the realms that grow on either side. 

The underlying purpose of this investment relies on a broader desire to marvel at continuity and the wonder that results when a new way of seeing arrives.  At the same time, it relies on the capacity of politicians to lead an alternative, businesses to make a long term investment, and artists to create an entertaining scenario.  In attempting this transformation, looking to the realm of international mediated space where the current world image forms is helpful.  Through further study and investment, the EOS will help to create ways that the formation of the world image can occur locally rather than at a great distance.  This will mark the third descent of alienated capital to a local situation in order to facilitate new ownership and growth.

V. Investing in the World Image Through an EOS

            The primary vehicles for investing in the world image are designs, renderings, and businesses that are part of a planning process that is described in Planning an Ecological Operating System vs. Planning a City.  This process leads to an operating system that has an increasing degree of resolution that supports an extension into the realms of economic, aesthetic, and general value.  This extension supports the inflation of these spheres.  In embarking on this process, we must rely on the capacity to render one fragment of the EOS for a particular investor whose current business intersects with the future as a generative force of the STOS.  This will make it possible for investment to occur in different levels and spheres that might include 1) the leader – an artist (investment via artworks, galleries, training programs, philanthropic organizations) or a visionary civic individual (investment via their connections and knowledge, the city, Naught’s support that gives them a platform and ultimately pays them as a board member); 2) the firm (investment via venture capital and private foundations to fuel expansion and to support a revolutionary mission as well as investment via the work that we do for other levels and spheres and the general value of the firm as implementation takes place); 3) the target demographic (investment via philanthropies and civic services whose mission it is to serve these groups as well as via business that are interested in continuing or expanding to serve these groups); 4) the physical –  space, art, products, interfaces, food, experiences, etc… (investment via real estate developers, venture capital, galleries, private individuals and philanthropic investors, the city, TIF funding, low income tax credits, large corporations who want to create new production centers, religious organizations with a stake in the community, current businesses that want to expand); 5) the record (investment via media companies, artists, and galleries); 6) the future occupant (investment via marketing, incentive programs such as tax subsidies or credit for using sustainable technology as well as via dividends they receive from the system); 7) the codification as a system and 8) the new market that aries (investment via future occupants, venture capital, technology companies, the city, state, and nation); 9) and the long term lingering interest (investment via banks, media companies, very large real estate companies, federal incentives, and financing programs). These final modes of investment would be used to make large-scale long-term investment in infrastructure that a traditional master plan might call for and that would be appropriate only after the local economy has been re-started and fortified via investment at other levels and that leads to the growth of the EOS.

Ultimately, each point shows an investor how they can be a part of the system and how their investment can evolve over time in order to allow them to invest in another level of the system that might lead to an additional capacity to profit.  The result will be a sustained economy.  It is balanced on both sides of image as a monetary and aesthetic economy.  It is also balance between a spatial generative sphere and a temporal narrative sphere that supports capacity through skills.  In order for this to be possible, it is important to develop metrics that extend from the dominant manner of doing business and developing space to the more novel manner that we are proposing through a EOS.  This task involves seeing the world in a new light.  We must invest in sectors of the economy that are thriving, but that have yet to find sufficient influence in the urban planning process and in how we conceptualize the problem to begin with.  The first step is to continue to shift from investment in land, things, commodities, prefabricated spaces, plans, and generally rigid structure to investing in art, agriculture, building systems, technology, people, capacity building organizations, and entertainment.