Why the Evolver Exchange?
This is to announce that next month we are launching a new Net-based marketplace, the Evolver Exchange.
It may seem strange that the team behind Reality Sandwich would build a platform for the buying and selling of goods and services. Considering that our magazine explores edge-culture topics ranging from gift economies to Tantric anarchy, synchromystics to Xenolinguistics, why would we possibly turn our attention to the mundane commercial realm? And how can we hope to convince anyone -- you or your grandma -- that buying stuff from us is the best idea ever?
First, a sardonic hipster response: If life is revolutionary performance art, it should be properly accessorized. After all, the Burning Man festival and movies like The Matrix and Road Warrior make clear that apocalypse comes with a style guide, a set of "do's and don'ts" for fitting in, even when the climate crashes or the oil runs out, or as we practice psychic kung fu against robot overlords. If the devil wears Prada while the Grim Reaper special-orders his wrap-around shmatas at Dolce&Gabbana, the neo-tribal underground deserves an outlet to refine its own signature style for the end-times, while stocking up on tools for brute survival and cultural reinvention.
Joking aside, we believe it is time for the counterculture to use some of the tools of the business culture to change the nature of the game. We do not see the Evolver Exchange as cynical surrender or escapist sell-out. Quite the opposite: We intend it to be a step toward realizing ideas and ideals that many of us have nurtured for a long time. We feel no shame or guilt about our retail aims, as long as the project supports our deeper mission.
Like Reality Sandwich and the Evolver social network we plan to launch later this summer, the Evolver Exchange is meant to help shift people's priorities and attitudes. The website will connect users with goods and services that have real value for them, expressing the skills and loving care of a larger community of craftspeople, artists, ecological designers, fashion mavens, technology maestros, and so on. As it develops, the Evolver Exchange will help us find what actually improves our lives, while avoiding stuff that gets dumped into landfill. It will build deeper relationships between artists and the communities who support them.
As with the magazine, we hope that you -- the community that cares about and supports this endeavor -- will boldly step forward and contribute your works and ideas to this site. We are currently looking for artisanal products ranging from fashion to nutrition, alternative energy to abstract art. Please send suggestions for the Exchange to us through the RS contact page, and choose "Evolver Exchange" from the category list.
Web projects are collaborative enterprises. Personally, I was inspired to assist in developing this project in order to fill a gap and satisfy an old desire. I have always been an idealist with an anti-consumerist ethos, and a terribly impatient shopper. Yet, like almost everyone I know, I still find myself buying things all the time. In unconscious lapses, I sometimes get caught in the clutches of the corporate octopus, spending money on goods I don't really want, then finding myself appalled when these products wear out or don't satisfy as I had hoped.
In my closet and cabinets, you can find about ten pairs of old sneakers and shoes and five laptops that I have kept out of bemused wonderment at such massive waste and inefficiency. Obviously, modern science could design a rubber sole that doesn't wear out in two months, or a laptop with modular and reusable components. When one examines an old boot, typewriter, or Singer sewing machine from the 1920s, beautifully designed and built to survive the test of time, it becomes obvious that "planned obsolescence" has reached a kind of fever pitch, a terminal stage of addiction. Over the last decades, faster, cheaper, and more out of control has been our collective mantra. Mismanagement of resources is now ushering in a world without glaciers, honeybees, or tropical forests. As energy becomes more expensive and precious, we can no longer afford a disposable culture.
For me personally, another motivation for creating this site was the memory of my father, Peter Pinchbeck, an abstract painter who worked for decades without a public audience for his work. Passed over by the hyper-ironic post-Pop art world, he never found a way to reach the community who might have supported his efforts and seen the beauty in them. The Internet potentially provides an amazing medium for matching visionaries with those who connect with their vision, eliminating the need for cultural brokers and critical authorities that get their power from deciding what is right for everyone. We hope the Evolver Exchange, as one example of what's possible, will support the democratizing of culture and the fine-tuning of individual preference.
A medium designed for people to connect with goods that have been made with intention, by people who care about what they are doing, could be an antidote to mindless consumerism, helping to reduce our ecological footprint and energy use, over time. In a sense, we might "reverse engineer" our culture to recover the artisan ethos that was lost way back when, with the Industrial Revolution. My circle of friends includes a large number of people who produce beautiful and brilliant expressions of art and craft, but lack a proper platform for reaching the public with their vision. Some of them make stuff for themselves and their friends, not even aware that they could find a larger market, and convert their passion into a livelihood.
The Evolver Exchange builds on the success of Reality Sandwich, which has exceeded our wildest expectations in the quality of contributions that arrive from around the world, and the enthusiasm of readers. At Reality Sandwich, the editors provide a filter that is lacking from most blog sites, keeping the discourse at a high level. Our discovery of this format -- between user-generated content and professional forum -- is reflected in the design of the Evolver Exchange, in which curators decide which products and services should be presented to the community. As with the magazine, users will be able to comment on the makers and their products.
Where Reality Sandwich provides a medium for ideas, Evolver Exchange is a platform for tangible objects and services that could be considered ideas expressed in usable forms. We hope that the Evolver Exchange will develop in a similar "open source" manner to the magazine. In other words, the growth of the project will require our community to tell us what it wants, and for people to step forward with their creations and inventions.
Almost anything that can be retailed can, conceivably, be put up on the site. In the future, we plan to introduce other mechanisms for trading value that can supplement or substitute for cash-based transactions. However, this requires a level of complexity that was not possible at this phase of our development.
We look forward to learning from you as we launch the Evolver Exchange. We are sure we will make mistakes in the early phases, as we set up our system and learn what works for us. We hope you will be forgiving, and supportive, as we enter into this next exciting phase of our development.