Alter-Eco: Alternate Economies & Ecologies

Alter-Eco: Alternate Economies & Ecologies

We examine the state of the art in contemporary finance and computational capitalism and consider alternative economies-ecologies.  We pursue an intense, multifaceted examination of contemporary developments in finance and economy realizing that to adequately think and prototype alternative economic structures demands thinking and prototyping also alternative ecologies.   Thinking ecologically necessarily leads us to non-anthropocentric design and cosmo-political inquiry.

This reflective project is intertwined with empirical, practical project on Prototyping Social Forms.

Research Projects

Thermal Economies, Garrett L. Johnson

Field-based Lightgames, Garrett L Johnson, Connor Rawls, Andrew Robinson, Sha Xin Wei

Global Connectivity Cafe: Shomit Barua, Lyu Yanjun, Sha Xin Wei, Augmenting social dining / refreshment:  variations and animation of furniture, cuisine, habits and etiquettes (interior design, industrial design, mechatronics, computational media systems, comparative anthropology, culinary arts, experimental performance, affect studies…)

Participatory Steering Complex Adaptive Systems: Brandon Mechtley, Ariane Middel, Sha Xin Wei, with CECAN.  Group articulation of understanding and intent, blending steerable simulations in realtime with whole-body interaction, dense media, poetic and live performative representations: e.g. steerable weather simulations (NCAR), heatscapes (Phoenix, Buffalo, LA), India, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Mexico, UK, Germany, Australia.



Prototyping Social Forms


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July – September 2020: Alter-Eco international summer seminar

Sha Xin Wei (Montreal), Muindi F Muindi (Seattle), Gabriele Carotti-Sha (San Francisco), Erik Bordeleau (Berlin), with Garrett Johnson (Chicago), Satinder Gill (Cambridge), Nadia Chaney (Montreal), Teoma Naccarato (Berlin), John MacCallum (Berlin), Damian Arteca (Montreal), Felix Rebolledo (Porto Alegre), Vangelis Lympouridis (Los Angeles)

10-12 October 2019: Alter-Eco: Alternate Economies-Ecologies Colloquium, Malta

Chris Fynsk, Sha Xin Wei, The European Graduate School, and Synthesis@ASU co-convened a public event at the Fort St. Elmo in Valletta with distinguished participants from around the world with significant expertise in the areas central to the topic: cryptocurrency, blockchain, and new technologies of finance and governance.   With Niklas Damiris, Gary Dirks, Erik Bordeleau, Ken Cuckier, Natalie Smolenski,  Alter-Eco Seminar students: Andrea Campaña, Marcela Contreras, Benjamin Craig, Patrick Gonzales, Lynora Lawless, Anna Marie Rockwell, Bittnarie Shin, Eric Subido, Anthony Tran, Beau-Caprice Vetch, Elise Zender.

14 February 2019: Synthesis & PHuN, ASU

Niklas Damiris

Insights from quantum physics and finance for alternate economies- ecologies

How can insights from quantum physics refresh our approach to our profoundly intertwined ecological / economic challenges?  I argue that the quantum appears weird only because we interpret it through entrenched cybernetic categories like ‘information’, ‘feedback’, ‘observation’, and ‘data-base’, which become problematic in a world characterized by indeterminacy, negative probabilities, non-locality and measurement effects.

Furthermore, this world is not confined to the small as is often claimed.


4 June 2018: Alter-economies | Alter-ecologies, Milieux Institute, Concordia University, Montreal

Convened by Sha Xin Wei (Synthesis ASU) and Erin Manning (Senselab Concordia), with Niklas Damiris, (Providence), Brian Massumi (Senselab; U de Montreal), David Morris (Philosophy, Concordia ), Garrett L. Johnson (Media Arts and Sciences PhD, AME; Synthesis, ASU).

Since 2008, Niklas Damiris’ decades-long work on alternative economies and radical construals of money has become urgently topical, especially in the shadow of the the gig economy coming home to roost in the Americas, and the showdown between Greece and European finance.  Damiris introduced all the core issues together that matter: monetary economy, leverage, derivatives, ecology, value, critique a la Marx of blockchain, and last but not least a quantum approach to finance.

Cryptocurrencies may be more symptom than solution, and in fact encode many pathological meta-physics as David Morris and Sha Xin Wei have pointed out, but they have foregrounded once arcane concerns.  Not coincidentally, TML’s and Senselab’s forays into forging alternative economies that could sustain experimental lives have also led to these concerns.   This workshop considered some of the heart of the technologies of lived abstractions (borrowing from Massumi and Manning), that could trellis (borrowing from Sha) alternative eco-ecologies (borrowing from Damiris).   As Deleuze and Guattari pointed out, the problem with some abstractions is not that they are abstract, but that they are not abstract enough.   Such may be in our case: carbon trading, intellectual property, deep neural networks, and blockchain.

Reference includes a New Inquiry interview with Manning and Massumi about the 3Ecologies Institute (, in particular Massumi’s “99 Theses: on the revaluation of value.”

20 November 2010 The Limits of Sustainability

Talk by Niklas Damiris, Concordia University, on Sustainability. Co-sponsored by Topological Media Lab, Design and Computation Arts Infusions Lecture Series, David O’Brien Centre for Sustainable Enterprise, Concordia University. This wide-ranging lecture outlines core issues that remain critical today. If you would like to hear more on all or any one of the issues it raises, please contact Dr. Niklas Damiris directly.


Related Projects

The Sphere  enabling agents in the performing art ecosystem – artists, cultural professionals, audience, cultural organisations as well as a wide range of sympathisers and other potential stakeholders, to participate directly in the shaping of new organizational, aesthetic and economic forms.