Weirding Diary: 3

This entry is part 3 of 11 in the series Weirding Diary

A sense of weirdness in the environment can be understood as unfactored reality. A blooming, buzzing confusion of sensory input that impinges on awareness without the mediating effects of conceptual thought. This is the same thing as the void, but we typically conceptualize the void as a featureless black hole. The reason is that our cognitive reaction to unfactored reality is to seal our minds off completely. Eyes wide shut. When the going gets weird, the mind shuts its eyes. If you keep your mind’s eyes open, translucent, legibilizing models descend to manage the cognitive response.  As the eyelids of the mind descend, some variety of magical thinking takes root. Normalcy is just the majority sect of magical thinking.

In my 2012 post, Welcome to the Future NauseousI defined the idea of a manufactured normalcy field (MNF). An MNF comprises both the models in your head, and elements in the built environment meant to encourage it to stabilize in your head. A stable MNF keeps the sense of weirdness at bay, and normal people functioning as adults. When the field destabilizes due to models crumbling in your head, reality acquires a surreal character. When it destabilizes due to the built environment crumbling, you have an anxiety response. When both crumble, you experience weirdness. In all three cases, functional behaviors required for survival get disrupted.

A filter bubble is a special case of a manufactured normalcy field comprising curated information flows. I dislike like the term because filtration is not the essence of what’s going on. The essence is the active construction of adaptive, magical-thinking, escaped realities. So I like my alternate term: reality escape pods. Normalcy is just the biggest such escape pod, illustrated by the track of the pink circle in the picture above.  The white ones are subcultures.

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About Venkatesh Rao

Venkat is the founder and editor-in-chief of ribbonfarm. Follow him on Twitter


  1. You can probably look at it in two ways, in one sense, voids, in the sense of sensory deprivation or the absence of certain patterns of interaction, lead to the internal generation of information, a void pushes the brain to fill it. You can see certain kinds of meditation as the intentional production of voids, so as to provoke the bubbling reactions of the perceptive/reality predicting system.

    In contrast to the creative suction of the void, perceptual bulk pressure causes the brain to harden, eyes glazing over when information flows become too intense, focusing and limiting the view to either nothing at all, relying on structured patterns of fuge or routine, or shifting sensation to certain kinds of sensory input that provide more stable flows of information, see various kinds of “centering” as taught examples of this automatic process, or the way many people in abstract jobs tend to run to clear their head, meditative, but in the opposite sense to an insight meditation, with repetitive simple progress pushing through informational noise, the unobstructed simplicity of the running path allowing the process to cycle endlessly.

    So in terms of perceptive reaction, interactive voids produce a pressure of sensation from the subject, and interactive pressure produces shielding filtering voids.