Sentient is the project of Lila Moore and Owen Fender. We are the co-recipients of the Alef Trust CCP grant (Conscious Community Project Grant) .
Written by Lila Moore and Owen Fender
We intend to create Sentient: a nurturing, creative, shared environment where participants can connect with each other on a deeper level than permitted on existing social media. Going beyond status updates, photos and memes, users will be empowered to respond to collective experiences with feelings, sensations, intuitions, and perceptions, which will have an immediate impact on the nature of the experience, enabling a transformation of consciousness. By using abstract, poetic and archetypal forms of expression such as colour, sound, text, image, and movement, users will be free to connect with each other holistically from the core of their being to create something new. They will have an authentic voice that will be heard in an honest environment, free from advertising and manipulative practices, that becomes more than the sum of its parts, and takes on the form of a living, growing, sentient organism.
Sentient is for students and learners who wish to take part in an exciting experiment in the creation of a deeper, more holistic social media, where less attention is paid to surface appearances, and more to what lies underneath. Students and young people in general, who have never known a world without the internet, are particularly susceptible to the manipulative, behaviour-modifying algorithms that existing social media platforms use as the basis for their business model. These companies exploit a vulnerability in human psychology by stimulating a low-level threat response in users, and trapping them in a social-validation feedback loop that administers a small dopamine hit every time something they shared is liked or commented upon. This is a vicious circle, which becomes more vicious once a bad actor realizes they can get far more attention from negative behaviour than from positive. Other users, who are well-meaning, experience a zombie-like effect, where they are frightened to be themselves in the artificial space, and so conform to what they believe is normal. Hence, avatars which can be utilised for self-knowledge and explorations and elaborations on identity are reduced to merely surface appearances.
Sentient would ‘hack’ this vicious circle, and transform it into a virtuous circle – a positive feedback loop – by providing users with a nurturing, safe, and most importantly, non-manipulative alternative, where people would be free to express themselves without fear of negative repercussions (troll behaviour). They will have a voice which will be heard, and a safe space to explore the Self and positive transformation, in a transpersonal framework whereby each participant is an integral part of the whole environment. As users grow, Sentient will grow; they are one and the same, yet more than the sum of their parts.
By taking back their power, participants will be able to interact with each other on their own terms, and together will be able to invent a new pattern of civilization, a process termed in networked media theory as “world-building,” free from manipulative practices serving opaque, shadowy purposes. So-called ‘network effects’, which at the lowest level, cause irritability and paranoia (the diffuse forms of fight or flight), can at the highest level radicalize people, turning them towards extremism. People will be empowered to shape the environment they want, on equal terms in an honest authentic space. They will be inspired to forge new paths, and serve as the inspiration to others.
Recent global events have shown that people, especially young people, care a lot about issues relating to identity, democracy, ecology and the environment, gender issues, and much more. They naturally live in social media environments. Their computers have become their scientific labs, temples and sacred places, sports and dance studios, personal diaries, as well as artists’ studios, as evidenced, for example, in New Art Fest 2020. Young people live in a global media village and are more receptive to ideas that are both local and global, physical and virtual. They care about social media because they care about their virtual homes and wish to constantly improve their online and offline experiences. Young people are very curious about their media environments, and constantly seek to advance them. Sentient will present an opportunity to share and discover the profoundly personal and spiritual dimensions of life, forming an unbounded space where potential and vision are encouraged to grow in a kinder, more empathic way.
Originally published in The Field on August 28, 2029