Goldwin×Spiber
VISION QUEST
VISION QUEST
Goldwin×Spiber

The Paradox of Stories

We begin with a question: what can literature teach us about building a sustainable future?
Actually, let’s back up a bit. “Literature” is too loaded a word, too self-satisfied, too redolent of lavish campuses and exclusive lecterns. To use it is to implicitly place the referent on a pedestal, to assume that it is self-evidently valuable, worthwhile.
Literature, when stripped of the glitz and glamour of the publishing industry, the heartbreaks and petty feuds of awards and reviews, the arcana of theories of interpretation and the astrology of bestseller lists—in short, if we can peel away, at least for a moment, the layers of rituals invented to mediate the relentless but ultimately meaningless scrambling for prestige and attention and money—is nothing more than simple, old-fashioned storytelling.
But what do stories have to do with the Important Questions? Fantasizing about a better, kinder, more sustainable future will not magically make it come true. What good are stories when what we need are technologies, institutions, concrete plans for improving the lives of seven-and-a-half billion human beings struggling to survive in the shadow of apocalyptic threats: climate change, nuclear war, mass extinction, ethnic conflict, economic collapse, deadly plagues, and crises we’ve not even imagined?
Stories cannot yield new inventions, compel better governance, feed the hungry, or cure the sick. Stories are objectively insignificant when measured by proportion of GDP (even the entire movie industry, with global box office revenue of $42.5 billion in the record-setting year of 2019, is but a rounding error in the economy when one considers that a single bank, the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, earned $46.2 billion in profits in 2019). They are demonstrably powerless against real-life, immediate threats—and often counterproductive. Indeed, when one sees the global prevalence of conspiracy theories—which are, after all, just another form of storytelling—and the harm they’ve inflicted on all of us during the pandemic of 2020, one is tempted to follow Plato’s lead and demand the banishment of poets and storytellers from our ideal Republic altogether.
Yet, we would shudder at the thought of a world without fiction, without films, without bedtime stories or silly TikTok parodies, without procedurally generated platformers or 200-hour RPGs, without stand-up comics and Homeric epics, without Taketori Monogatari or Paradise Lost, without Jane Austen’s romances or Jin Yong’s wuxia tomes ... and we would, like those rebels in Fahrenheit 451, memorize novels and recite plays in secret, harbor fugitive poets and give succor to rogue VR programmers, smuggle books across borders and tunnel through digital walls—in a word, we would leap to the defense of stories. We would do so instinctively, unreservedly, with an ardor and devotion that cannot be justified by reason alone. This is no fantasy. Around the globe, millions, tens of millions of people perform such acts of courage every single day; we do not live in a world where everyone is free to tell the stories they wish to tell.
Such is the paradox of storytelling: when we seek to pin down its value, it becomes worthless; only in its absence do we cry out for it like an infant for milk. Stories are the means by which we pass on our dearest values.

The Value of Stories; Stories of Values

Data and logic are vital to an accurate understanding of the world, but they are not the most natural means for our species to possess or pass on knowledge, belief, faith. We understand the world through narratives that impose order on the essential randomness of the universe, and we derive meaning—in our relationships, in what we do, in what we build—through stories.
Close your eyes and take thirty seconds to concentrate on some virtue or value that is important to you, that you feel is core to your being: generosity, integrity, professionalism, patriotism, empathy, courage, freedom ... Go ahead, do it.
The word I was thinking of is “love.”
Another late evening. Nine-year-old me was working on my homework by the yellow light of the single incandescent lightbulb in the kitchen. It seemed that I had already been working on it for hours, but I still had so much left to do. I felt very, very tired and alone.
Grandmother came to check on me, stifling a yawn.
”I think I need an awl,” I said.
”What for?”
I told her that I was thinking of the old story about Su Qin, the great military strategist of the Warring States period. My book of “Ancient Tales for Children” said that he had been so diligent as a student in his youth that he would stab himself in the thigh with an awl in order to force himself to stay awake and study another chapter.
”Oh that’s ridiculous,” Grandmother said. “I’ll stay up with you as long as you need to.”
She grabbed a sweater that she was knitting and sat down next to me. I heard the needles’ soft, hesitant clicks. Her arthritis-gnarled fingers had to manipulate the needles with great effort.
Somehow, with her there, the task of finishing the homework didn’t feel as hopeless.
The click-clack of the needles slowed down, stopped.
I looked over. Her fingers were no longer moving; her head drooped.
”Nainai, you should go sleep.”
She startled awake. ”No. I’m not tired at all. Go on.”
I went on, my pencil scritch-scraching across the page in pursuit of elusive answers. I heard the needles slow down again. But I resisted the urge to look over. I wanted to let her sleep.
”I’m not tired at all.” The clicking of the needles started again.
Click-clack, click-clack, click … clack …
”I’m not tired.”
Click-clack, click … clack …
”Still not tired.”
Click-clack, click … clack …

I suspect that when I asked you think about a value that mattered to you, you also recalled a story like that, a memory from your childhood, a tale from a tattered picture book you no longer own, a narrative heard or read or constructed that has become synonymous with that value, that inspires you, moves you, gives you strength in times of despair.
You may know the dictionary definitions for words that really matter, but the abstract definitions are not how you feel their meaning in your bones. Instead, values are encoded in our minds in the form of stories, prototypes that embody cherished values in heroes, whose actions we then seek to emulate. Some of these stories are personal, others collective (a few American examples: George Washington and the cherry tree for honesty; Nathan Hale and “I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country” for patriotism). But the principle is the same: stories are the vehicles through which we pass values onto the next generation, and they form the foundation of our sense of identity as individuals, families, professions, cities, states, nations.
Real life has no plot, no character arc, no theme. Think back to the way you met your spouse or your closest friend, the manner in which you ended up in your profession, the means by which you settled in the place you call home. So much of it was fortuitous, based on random occurrences that easily could have gone another way. But that is not the way we understand our own lives: we attribute causes to effects; we structure our memories into a character arc to make sense of our own choices; we tell ourselves a story about who we are and impose a plot over the dice rolls the universe.
But the power of stories isn’t limited only to the past. They’re also maps to the future.
We are the heroes of our own epic fantasies. But that grand epic is never finished until the moment we pass into the beyond, and we can always pen another chapter, introduce another twist, turn the page for another new act to surprise the reader and the would-be judge at the gate of the hereafter. In our youth we read the deeds of those who came before us and liberated our nations, fought against invaders, enlarged the protection of rights, circumscribed tyranny, and we learn to celebrate them as demigods of our cultural memory; we observe the acts of those who love us and encode them as illuminated chapters in the manuscript of our personal trek through thickets of doubt toward self-definition. And then, as we age, we take over the narration. Stories enable us to understand the journeys of others, to empathize with our shared humanity. We get to pick the heroes we wish to emulate, to enact the deeds that will make us the guides and demigods of others’ epic journeys, to compose life stories worthy of those who died for us, who stayed up late and worked multiple jobs for us, who believed in us, loved us, gave us our first stories so that we, in turn, could do the same for those who come after.
We are Homo narratus, the storytelling species.

Children’s Stories

Before we try to imagine the future, I want to examine the stories we tell our children. After all, since children represent our future, the stories we tell them must encode what we, as a species, have decided makes us most human.
As I perused the books my wife and I read to our children, I found stories about comfort, about security, about what it means to live a good life that sustains our bodies, our hearts, our souls.
In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.

— J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit (1937)

HALF-WAY between Pooh's house and Piglet's house was a Thoughtful Spot where they met sometimes when they had decided to go and see each other, and as it was warm and out of the wind they would sit down there for a little and wonder what they would do now that they had seen each other. One day when they had decided not to do anything, Pooh made up a verse about it, so that everybody should know what the place was for.
This warm and sunny Spot
Belongs to Pooh.
And here he wonders what
He's going to do.
Oh, bother, I forgot—
It's Piglet's too.

— A. A. Milne, The House at Pooh Corner (1928)

One morning Toad sat in bed
“I have many things to do,” he said.
“I will write them
all down on a list
so that I can remember them.”

Eat Breakfast
Get Dressed
Go to Frog’s House
Take walk with Frog
Eat lunch
Take nap
Play games with Frog

— Arnold Lobel, Frog and Toad Together (1971)

Goodnight room
Goodnight moon
Goodnight cow jumping over the moon
Goodnight light
And the red balloon
Goodnight bears
Goodnight chairs
Goodnight kittens
And goodnight mittens

— Margaret Wise Brown, Goodnight Moon (1947)

When you’ve read enough of these stories, a coherent set of values begins to emerge:
We are creatures of society: Our friends are important to us, and it’s best if they’re reachable on foot. We like to be together, even if it’s just sitting side by side companionably. We like play: This covers not just games and stories, but all creative acts through which we experience growth. We yearn for rootedness: As biological beings, we cannot exist in isolation or apart from nature. Greenery makes us happy. To be joyful we require the private space for contemplation as well as the succor of community and connections. We want empowerment: We experience satisfaction from having influence and control over our houses and environment. We like to build/improve/design/name our spaces. We crave self-definition: Instead of sterile spaces infested with modernist “minimalism,” we prefer cozy—even cluttered—rooms filled with objects imbued with our memories and stories (oh, how I wish I still had that sweater that my grandmother knit for me!). We want to have tangible milestones of our journey to who we are. Above all, we want our institutions, social networks, and our play and work to be human-scaled, graspable, organic.
Do we live like that?
In reality, most of us—especially those of us with enough interest to read this—tend to reside in concrete jungles far from greenery and nature, work (even our “free time” is regimented and scheduled) in modern architecture lined in glass and steel over which we have almost no control. We live a garage-to-parking-lot existence in which we shuttle between home and work and temples of consumption in sealed automobiles, with many of our friends far away and rarely seen, our hometowns a distant memory, our sense of community more real on social media than in the strangers who live in their own modernist-minimalist isolation boxes around us. We are taught that work is and should be a chore, that play is frivolous, that our worth is measured by our contribution to GDP.
Why do we not live the way our stories for children claim is the ideal way to live?

The Paradox of Modernity 1 For research on happiness and urban design, see, generally:
Morel, J. C., et al. “Building houses with local materials: means to drastically reduce the environmental impact of construction.” Building and Environment 36.10 (2001): 1119-1126.
Covatta, Alice. “From infrastructure to playground: the playable soul of Copenhagen.”
Hermansen, Bianca, et al. “The Human Habitat: My, Our, and Everyone’s City.” Integrating Human Health into Urban and Transport Planning. Springer, Cham, 2019. 113-133.
Pfeiffer, Deirdre, and Scott Cloutier. “Planning for happy neighborhoods.” Journal of the American planning association 82.3 (2016): 267-279.
Seresinhe, Chanuki Illushka, et al. “Happiness is greater in more scenic locations.” Scientific reports 9.1 (2019): 1-11.

We cannot dismiss these stories by claiming that they represent mere nostalgia for a time and a place that never were. Research shows that human beings really do prefer to live the way characters in children’s stories conduct their lives. A walkable city or bikeable city, one in which a person does not need to drive and sit in traffic just to visit a friend or to get fresh produce, one in which the word “neighborhood” has real meaning and the individual is embedded in a physical community, fosters more happiness than a car-centric, lonely-in-a-crowd, pointillist modern metropolis dominated by parking lots. Big, modernist buildings of glass and steel and concrete, which require more energy to heat, cool, light, and circulate air through, are not as comfortable, environmentally friendly, structurally sound, or healthy as traditional architecture derived from renewable, local materials and fitted to the native climate. Practicing a craft that allows one to experience creativity, control over the environment, and growth in skill gives us satisfaction and hope.
But even without the research, in our hearts, we already know the truth. The stories really do encode values for a life that we cherish and know we deserve: social, rooted, playful, empowered, and defined by a story that makes sense.
We do not live such a life because, as powerful as these stories are, modernity offers another false story even more seductive: the Myth of Efficiency, which tells us that to be happier we must become more productive so that we could consume more which requires more productivity which enables more consumption ... Belief in this endless ouroboros fantasy ultimately leads to a society that prizes the Interchangeable Individual: isolated, rootless, work-obsessed, compliant, defined by nothing more than a collection of quantifiable traits that measure their contribution to the speed at which money flows through the system. Late capitalism requires that we abandon the stories that we loved as children and to submit to this alternate myth, one what corrupts our yearnings into their perverted counterparts.
With commoditized skills, dreams, desires, and even resentments—it’s no accident that social media platforms thrive on mass outrage and controversy—Interchangeable Individuals make ideal components capable of being scaled up into inhuman structures that are at once fragile, oppressive, and unsustainable: social networks that span the globe but offer only gamified clicks, conspiracy theories, and rage-inducing arguments instead of nourishing conversations; supply chains that cross continents and oceans but concentrate power and risk; A-to-Z retailers that eliminate all diversity in the race to the cheapest bottom rung; expensive, authorless spectacles that seek to displace stories of value with mirages conjured by special effects and mindless explosions.
Such is the paradox of modernity: even as those of us alive today seem to possess more opportunities and potential than humans at any time in history to become more connected, more creative, more knowledgeable, to build and root ourselves in communities of intention and choice rather than of accident and birth, to be better heroes in the stories we tell ourselves and our children, we’re also veering further away from those ideals.
We need an alternative to the Myth of Efficiency, a story that can allow us to reclaim the human-scaled and the sustainable from the inhuman and the inhumane.
What is this story like?

The Technology of Storytelling; Technology as Storytelling

To find out more about that story, we must take an apparent detour into technology.
Technology is often thought of in dystopian terms, as if all progress contributes to the growth of tyranny. Indeed, have I not been railing against modernity, often viewed as synonymous with technological culture? But there is another way to view technology: the means and methods of storytelling.
One of the earliest and most transformative technologies in human history is the invention of writing. Encoding sound in grapheme, making memory visible and tangible—it marked a fundamental revolution in our narrative existence. It was so revolutionary that Plato railed against it, warning that writing would alter how we think and seek the truth, that it would tempt us away from real knowledge with mere appearance. It would make us dependent on technology, subject us to the tyranny of the dead word instead of soaring on living breath, make us less human.
2 For more on these differences, see Ong, Walter J. Orality and literacy. Routledge, 2013. Writing did fundamentally alter the human experience, in ways that even Plato had underestimated. Scholars have shown that societies with grapholects—trans-dialectical languages standardized around writing—think and deploy language in ways distinct from oral societies. We construct sentences differently, debate differently, reason differently, tell stories differently.
However, writing did not make us less human. By persisting memory from generation to generation in a more reliable manner than orality, it enabled us to transcend the immediate moment in favor of the long now, to draw upon the wisdom of our ancestors, to be inspired by stories of the past and to re-imagine them for the future. Thanks to writing, to this day we can feel the anguish of Priam as he pleads for the body of Hector. Thanks to writing, even now we can experience Qu Yuan’s gratitude and pride as he recounts the loving words of his sister, the only person who understood and accepted his ideals. Without writing, we wouldn’t have Tolstoy’s War and Peace, the poetry of e. e. cummings, the calligraphy of Wang Xizhi, the artifact titled Tree of Codes by Jonathan Safran Foer (literally cut from Street of Crocodiles by Bruno Schultz, translated by Celina Wieniewska). Writing vastly multiplied the scope of possible stories and realized more of the potential of Homo narratus. It made us more human—or, if you insist on Plato’s conception of tying being human with speech, with orality, then writing allowed our first steps into the province of the post-human.
Technological advances have changed the way stories are told, expanding the methods through which we understand the past, navigate the present, and imagine the future. Technology creates new media, alters patterns of consumption, extends reach—invents new languages for storytelling. For example, generations of directors, cinematographers, and audiences had to work together to develop a whole new language of film (montages, reaction shots, filters and lenses), enabling stories liberated from the patterns of the stage and uniquely suited to a new medium that slices up time at will. Writers’ rooms, an innovation of the age of episodic TV, created a new form of group-based, visual storytelling with multiyear story arcs and seasons-long payoffs that require audiences to rely on fan wikis and binge watching to make sense of them. Today, MMORPGs, LARPs, virtual reality, augmented reality, and other new storytelling media drawing on artificial intelligence and mass connectivity are transforming the way we tell stories and therefore make sense of reality in ways that we have yet to fully comprehend.
Moreover, the very practice of technology itself is also a form of storytelling. Technologists combine materials (the vocabulary) and methods (the grammar) to solve novel problems. Their solutions then become idioms that are, in turn, assembled and reconfigured in ever-more complex and innovative ways to address new problems. As technology amplifies the human potential to do both good and evil and becomes an increasingly important factor in the trajectory of our lives, it has attracted an ever-increasing proportion of the minds and hearts of our best and brightest. The Myth of Silicon Valley is that a single person can change the world with a soldering iron and some software code, conjuring out of nothing trillion-dollar behemoth companies more awe-inducing than any prior human institution. Technology has become our age’s Great American Novel, our opera and symphony, our grand epic poetry.
But what are the stories we’re telling in technology and with technology?

3 For more on this view of technology-as-language, see Arthur, W. Brian. The nature of technology: What it is and how it evolves. Simon and Schuster, 2009. Winston Churchill said, in reference to the rectangular, conflict-promoting shape of the Commons Chamber that served as a visual metaphor for the two-party system of British parliamentary democracy: “we shape our buildings and afterwards our buildings shape us.”
The medium shapes the stories we tell and the futures we can imagine. Here in late 2020, the dominant mass story of our age of isolated, rootless, work-obsessed, disempowered, story-hungry Interchangeable Individuals is perhaps the conspiracy theory known as QAnon. But the rise of this act of collective-delusion (one hesitates to even call it collective storytelling) is intimately tied to the story of the underlying technology. Once we decided to fund our social media platforms through advertising, it made sense to make user engagement the primary metric around which to optimize, which further incentivized the development of trolling techniques and conspiracy-oriented communities to tell stories devoid of the truth, which made businesses and political movements pandering to such communities viable, which made more money flow into advertising ...
4 Burrington, Ingrid. "How railroad history shaped internet history." The Atlantic (2015).
https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2015/11/how-railroad-history-shaped-internet-history/417414/

5 Watts, Jonathan. "Concrete: the most destructive material on earth." The Guardian 25 (2019).
https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2019/feb/25/concrete-the-most-destructive-material-on-earth
In retrospect, we declare the path we took as inevitable, as though the evolution of technology were the story of Oedipus Rex. But every step of that route involved conscious decisions, choices by governments, companies, individual technologists and users.
In the same way that we do not accept that the authors of our own epic fantasies can be anyone else but ourselves, why should we accept that the storytelling technology and the story told by technology is foreordained, inevitable? Modernity does not have to be toxic; technology does not have to realize the monstrous Myth of Efficiency. We get to choose our heroes and guides and to live the stories we wish to live.
A note of hope: The same broad set of technologies that enabled QAnon also, in a different configuration, gave wings to Black Lives Matter, a decentralized, leaderless, self-sustaining movement for justice. These two diametrically opposed acts of revolutionary collective storytelling have reconstructed our world. How do we foster a new story—a story of technology as well as told with technology—that will lead to a sustainable future for all is the defining question of our age.

The Shape of a New Story

What is the shape of this new story? It is still too unformed, too emergent, for any individual to claim to have a good sense of it. But there are hints that can be glimpsed through the fog of the yet-to-be.
The new story of technology must emphasize hearing from the unheard, the peripheral (to the West), the historically marginalized. The historical path taken by the “developed world” is haunted by the ghosts of the repugnant legacy of colonialism and enslavement (but one example: North American fiber optic cables literally followed the telegraph cables which followed the railroad rights-of-way which followed the routes of the conquest and dispossession of the indigenous peoples). So, as we seek a new story, we must look toward the Global South and disadvantaged parts of the developed world for breakthrough models of sustainable development and novel approaches to unleashing human potential. Western models should not be prized or privileged.
Instead of the push toward the universal and the uniform, which emphasizes scale in the service of the Myth of Efficiency, this new story would emphasize the local and the unique, prizing meaning and humanity. Why should architects in all the cities around the globe, regardless of climate or terrain or susceptibility to natural disasters or availability of local resources, build with glass, steel, asphalt, and concrete? This obsession with global modernism leads to buildings that are wasteful, ugly, and destructive to local traditions and the environment (the production of concrete is one of the most polluting activities in the world). It is simply unsustainable and immoral. Future spaces in which we live and work and play must draw material and inspiration from local wisdom, traditional experience, and models in nature: sustainable, renewable, beautiful, and humane.
Instead of the relentless pursuit of the global movement of goods and people as an absolute good in itself, this new story should promote the liberation and exchange of minds and knowledge and services and experiences—independent of physicality. No matter how much someone recycles or drives electric cars or otherwise participates in the green movement, the moment that person decides to take a transoceanic flight, all the accrued benefits of their efforts at conservation are undone. The pathology of modern travel is exemplified in the “flights to nowhere” that serve no purpose other than to satisfy a manufactured craving for the experience of sitting inside a cruising plane, a luxury obtained at enormous cost to the planet and future generations, no better than decorative objects made of ivory or rhinoceros horn. But 5G and similar wireless communication technologies offer the potential to connect people and enable practices such as teletourism and telepresence without the need to build destructive infrastructure such as roads, airports, resorts, and the like. Imagine trips to the Galapagos or the Great Barrier Reef taken via teletourism: they would no longer be environmentally destructive jaunts available only to a privileged few, but democratized experiences that immerse us in nature without harming it. Widespread connectivity may also bridge the digital divide and foster new models of development and entrepreneurship, leading to revitalized new stories of microgrowth around the globe instead of a monomyth of empty scale.
Instead of the unceasing drive toward ever-grander scales of organization in everything from trade to governments to cities to social media platforms, a drive that promotes the imperialistic and totalitarian tendencies of privileged elites, this new story should bolster organic, self-governing, human-scaled communities that offer choice, security, diversity, and rootedness. The pandemic has already proven that centralized office spaces are not nearly as necessary as we once believed, and the future of work may well consists of distributed, ad-hoc, project-based teams connected by data. We should dare to imagine that the supposedly irreversible trend toward cancerous megacities and out-of-control urban sprawl isn’t inevitable either. The leaderless, self-organizing movements for social justice (exemplified, again, by Black Lives Matter) in recent times point to potential alternatives to traditional political parties and other organizational technologies as ways for individuals to throw off the shackles of commodified, systemic oppression in exchange for new lives as self-determined agents of collective action.
Desires can be shaped, preferences channeled, alternatives envisioned. Can we resist the pressure of the Myth of Efficiency and glamorize the quotidian and the local and the embedded and the human-scaled as much as late capitalism glamorizes ostentatious consumption and unsustainable development? Instead of aspiring to physically flying around the world and acting as exploitative tourist, can we make staying home and discovering the voices of the ignored, the peripheral, the silenced an ideal to strive for instead? Can we empower and elevate engaged collective storytelling for justice and empathy—the basic lifeblood of democratic politics—to be the grand epic tale of our time, instead fostering paranoid fantasies yearning for authoritarian demagogues who will magically solve our problems by crushing our dehumanized enemies? The truth, as we’ve always known in our hearts, is that there are no enemies. We must sustain one another, all of us; there is no one else.
6 See Mzezewa, Tariro, “The Flight Goes Nowhere. And It’s Sold Out.” The New York Times, September 19, 2020. Available at https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/19/travel/airlines-pandemic-flights-to-nowhere.html In the beginning of every future is a story. A more social, rooted, playful, empowered, and meaningful grand narrative of techno-social change must be built from countless smaller, personal stories. As collective, technological storytellers, we not only shape our own life stories, we also narrate the world into being. Become the story you yearn to tell and infuse your deeds with the love that you received and strive to pass on.

1 For research on happiness and urban design, see, generally:
Morel, J. C., et al. “Building houses with local materials: means to drastically reduce the environmental impact of construction.” Building and Environment 36.10 (2001): 1119-1126.
Covatta, Alice. “From infrastructure to playground: the playable soul of Copenhagen.”
Hermansen, Bianca, et al. “The Human Habitat: My, Our, and Everyone’s City.” Integrating Human Health into Urban and Transport Planning. Springer, Cham, 2019. 113-133.
Pfeiffer, Deirdre, and Scott Cloutier. “Planning for happy neighborhoods.” Journal of the American planning association 82.3 (2016): 267-279.
Seresinhe, Chanuki Illushka, et al. “Happiness is greater in more scenic locations.” Scientific reports 9.1 (2019): 1-11.
2 For more on these differences, see Ong, Walter J. Orality and literacy. Routledge, 2013. 3 For more on this view of technology-as-language, see Arthur, W. Brian. The nature of technology: What it is and how it evolves. Simon and Schuster, 2009. 4 Burrington, Ingrid. "How railroad history shaped internet history." The Atlantic (2015).
https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2015/11/how-railroad-history-shaped-internet-history/417414/
5 Watts, Jonathan. "Concrete: the most destructive material on earth." The Guardian 25 (2019).
https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2019/feb/25/concrete-the-most-destructive-material-on-earth
6 See Mzezewa, Tariro, “The Flight Goes Nowhere. And It’s Sold Out.” The New York Times, September 19, 2020. Available at https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/19/travel/airlines-pandemic-flights-to-nowhere.html
Photography by Lisa Tang Liu
Ken Liu

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