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Designing Conceptual Schema and Career Planning the Psycho-geographical Slime-Mould Way.

Posted by Regrette Etcetera on February 9, 2010

06 January 2010 by Regrette Etcetera

In a Californian laboratory, a group of Fauxists are encouraging a rapidly expanding amoeba-like blob to consume San Francisco! Thankfully, this isn’t the stuff of horror movies or a tacky terrorist plot, as the blob in question is a “slime mould” just around 20cm wide, and “The Bay Area” is represented by a series of oat flakes dotted about a large plastic dish. These Fauxist functionaries and their slimy partners have simultaneously revolutionized upwardly mobile career planning and discovered a valuable new tool in syncretic literature and politics.

What is their slimy comrade’s fee? A hearty meal. Is this a corrupt politician at work? No, it’s Physarum polycephalum, a yellow slime mould normally found growing in piles of rotten leaves and theses.

This amoeba-like creature forages for food by sending out branches (plasmodia) from a central location. Even though it forms vast, sprawling networks, it still remains as a single cell. It’s incredibly dynamic. Its various veins change thickness and shape, new ones form while old ones vanish, and the entire network can crawl a few centimetres every hour. For a ‘mindless organism’, the slime mould’s skill at creating efficient networks is extraordinary. It can find the most effective way of linking together scattered sources of food, and it can even find the shortest path through a maze.

Californian Fauxists Andrea Danger and Lex Jung, specialists in non-conventional computing and historical re-enactments at the Treat View Institute, wondered if biology could provide an alternative to conceptual mapping, databasing and conventional career planning methods- a traditionally stagnant field, currently dominated by advisors variously characterized as ‘torpid’ and ‘conservative’ by the Fauxists.

To find out, they created templates of the 6 most typical corporate career charts (CCCs), using a sheet of translucent purple agar on which they marked out the nine most desirable positions, according to a lengthy public survey by the Institute,with oat flakes. The CCC agar sheets were then marked with a randomized selection of aestheto-political memes and collaged map elements taken from the most popular searches on Google Maps. Then, in the place of ‘Intern/Applicant /Syncretist-Authorial’, the pair introduced a colony of P. polycephalum, which feeds by spawning colourful tendrils to reach nutrients, and recorded the colony’s feeding activity (see picture).

Most of the resulting “maps” mimicked the real (read: received) strategic networks, but some offered surprising new ‘routes’ and associative strategies. For instance, the Monsanto board between Manchester and Glasgow passes along the Feminist essentialist subtend, but the slime mould preferred to travel east to Newcastle and then posit a ironic liberal humanist view on Ethnography, then turn north for the final run to the Glasgow Supreme Court men’s toilets.

“This shows how a single-celled creature without any nervous system – and thus intelligence in the classical sense – can provide an efficient solution to a mid-life crisis career problem, and the most complicated of postmodernist deconstructions” says Danger.

Image: Mapping functions of P. polycephalum, as ‘grown’  without ‘terrain’ . Sample-extrapolation onto Tokyo transport network.

They now plan to add terrain to the agar, and eventually to move into ‘mindless multicellular organisms’ such as Lesser Fauxists to see if it affects the outcome.

The finished paper will be published as a future contribution to News From the Fauxist International. Stay tuned.

Image: Mapping functions of P. polycephalum, as ‘grown’  without ‘terrain’ . Sample-extrapolation onto Tokyo transport network.


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