Dialogue 2

Some really great responses to the question, “What is this change in Repetition doing to us?” Several other great responses were highlighted on Art Pie, our media sponsor. Click here to see the full discussion and add your own views…


All that has been written here resonates with my experience. I moved to the UK about a year ago and have relied almost solely on the Internet and non-co-located experiences/communication for connection, work, everything. Until recently, I experienced isolation, vulnerability (to the point that I found it almost impossible to share any more on FB), a strange almost addiction (repetition) to checking FB (making sure I liked and got liked) enough. I found that relying on FB interactions fed into my need to control and by giving me predictable feedback, kept me coming back over and over again for validation and to ease my sense of loneliness but it also left me feeling creepy (sharing without social cues and meaningful interaction). However, this need to control (a response to the chaos of changing everything) has manifested in all sorts of repetitive behaviors (cleaning routines for example). So, I think it is a very human action/reaction to repeat behaviors that give us a sense of control. I think we start to repress (or stop the repetition) when they no longer give us what we want or when we see the meaninglessness in them or when we have weakened the meaning through repetition. This asks the questions does repetition destroy something that once had meaning? Does this always happen? (I don’t think so)? Can repetition create new meaning (I think so)?

As an aside…yesterday, I participated in a workshop where 5 people, including myself walked around Newcastle chatting, gathering GPS and sensory data, taking pictures and recording sounds. We had tea, told stories, found connections. We remarked later how nice it was to spend an entire afternoon with relative strangers in person, outside.



I don’t feel quite the same way. I think, this is because I have been involved with the ‘paradigm shift’ right from the start. I worked with people across multiple geographic locations as far back as the mid 1980s (using dial up directly connected computers to transfer data). Then in the mid ’90s I was already part of team using a WiKi type information base to manage complex software projects, where the development team and customers were spread across the UK. I was part of the team behind the design and build of the WiKi tool. So, working isolated from co-workers has been the norm for me for a long time. Despite all of that experience, I do find it all too easy to become absorbed in the virtual space while neglecting to balance this with real-world experiences and contacts. It is a balance that has to be attended to on a regular basis. The need to look after relationships is nothing new and the technology just gives us a more complex set to manage. Maybe this is exasperated by the misuse of familiar terms. ‘Friends’ is a much over used word. I challenge anyone to prove to me they have 1000+ real friends. If we begin to describe these new relationships in more appropriate terms, them maybe they will become easier to manage. Another thing we can do is manage the use of each available system. Clearly defined use and don’t use cases can help us make better connections. All of these tasks are repetitive and the outcomes suffer if the repetitions are broken for some reason.



Repetition is so absolutely pervasive to life itself it seems impossible to stand back and view it objectively or to distance ourselves from it in anything we do. Nature is riddled with repetitive patterns (great Fibonacci video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ahXIMUkSXX0) suggesting perhaps why we are drawn to the safety of repetition and yet this is constantly frustrated with the fact that the smallest of aspects must inevitably change if only the time involved itself. Repetition is incredibly important to lots of stages of life I have had experience of. Babies adore repetition, (I had one that insisted on throwing the spoon away after every single mouthful of a meal and watch me pick it up again, eventually I tied it to the high chair with string) but it is an essential part of development. Working with people with dementia or younger adults with significant learning disabilities and repetition was often essential to communication. In mental health wards repetition is often displayed especially in times of stress and anxiety. Can it simultaneously be both positive and negative?. I guess perhaps it depends on whether the repetition is an end in itself or a vehicle for change. We all know meditative repetative acts are often used to move towards a certain experience of enlightenment.

Some years ago my work was much more practically process based and involved a lot of repetitive making skills. A lot of the work involved wire and the repetitive techniques I had developed were constantly hoaned through the process until I was able to make increasingly complex structures. Looking back I feel this was counter-productive as the work lost the immediacy of earlier pieces. Like many artists I developed carpal tunnel syndrome. Operations on my wrists were unsuccessful and resulted in further damage to other parts of my hands. As a result I had to set aside many of the materials my practice rested on and explore new media. Whenever I do use repetitive processes now, they must be spread over significant amounts of time and carefully planned and interspersed with other activities. Initially I found the change incredibly hard and quite daunting. Ultimately though, it has been hugely positive and I’m glad in many ways that it was forced upon me. Repetition still permeates much of my work but in a less restrictive sense, conceptually more than practically.

Some of you will know that I’m a major user of social media so your question of a ‘changed’ relationship with repetition is interesting but I think our drive for repetition is so strong that patterns will emerge in everything we do and will inevitably be used both as an endpoint in themselves and as a springboard to new ground.


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