Non-Linear Experiences

Chris Harris

Chris Harris / January 10, 2022

3 min read

Arriving by train you reach a remote area near the Polish boarder.

You miss the last bus connection into town.

Although it's only 7pm, it's a January evening in the Northern hemisphere — pitch-black.

The Google weather alert thankfully warned you the temperature would be 1℃ so you are wearing your thickest ski jacket, although the mist hanging in the air, half frozen in benign inversion, seem to trap in more hot than cold.

What 1 degree means to someone in an over insulated ski-jacket briskly skipping to shelter is so vastly different to 1 degree in another stationary moment.

What 7pm means to a long summer evening of July in Spain seems unrecognizable from a dark January night in Germany.

How much of our experience do we really share with digital calibrations of a standardized expansion of mercury? These linear measurements of daily metrics on our screens strike me more than ever as an incomplete reference of reality.

The externalization of temperature depends not only on whether it's breezy, still or misty, not just whether the land emits back the heat of the day, is washed over by a cold breeze from far away, or manifests in different localized temperatures across varying topography. The internalization of temperature depends not only on how much you are moving, the moisture and salinity of the air and the thickness and porosity of your clothes.

When you have only 7 kilometres to a sheltered cabin, a normally perfectly walkable distance, but it's down an inhospitable dark stretch of narrow country road in the seeming middle of night. Pacing down the road, notions of time, temperature and distance appear to dilate.

It's hard to mention these disembodied metrics without thinking of Donna Harroway's seminal critique of these 'God Trick' interfaces - As if we were looking at these numbers removed from the intuitive and perceptive relationality of experience.

So many of our digital representations of embodied phenomena can be distorted through either external or internal modulation.

Whether you have ever had a cold shower, practice Wim Hoff inspired ice-bathing, or have monk-like abilities of energetic temperature control, you've probably experienced the ability to adapt and calm into the cold around you.

Despite the variance of externally tolerable temperatures, the internal body temperature usually varies throughout the day by only 0.5 °C, and just 3°C separates you from a fever and hypothermia.

Expanding into the uncertainty of perceived experience are mental error bars on all digital digits of earthly ephemera.

And we haven't even begun to touch on time yet.

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