Is Labor Day Meaningful?

Possibly the most curious notion is that we needed a “Labor Day”. Given the obvious necessity of laboring–the bottom of our pyramid–it speaks volumes to the modern world’s obsession with artifacts–works.

This isn’t to suggest we are all working. Far from it. Most of the industrialized world is focused on building capital using laborious activity. Labor moved from the fields to the factories, just as the machines moved from the factories to the fields.

The low cost of food and high value of finished industrialized products has led to considerable improvements in quality of life (over all). But we have been experientially divorced from the source of life.

Farmers sculpt with ancient forces

Before, the farmer arranged the earth and water to support the seeds he or she planted. The earth and the seeds did most of the work, relying on a geologic-scale hydrology, and a epoch-scale evolution of plant genome–carefully selected for high yields.

The factory laborer operates similar to the mitochondria in the wheat-plant. They do one task that contributes to the production of the end result. As distasteful as this comparison may be, it is apt. Capitalism is the new soil, international trade the new water. But the laborer is not shaping these forces. The market creates scarcity, and industrialists move laborers and capital into the same room and rely on trade to satisfy that scarcity.

Human Resources

And history is replete with the “Human Resources” approach to labor management. They are just as much a resource as steel, oil, or cotton. They are managed statistically, with reactants like “wages” & “benefits” applied like the farmer applies nitrates or carbon to the soil.

The farmer had to bring goods to market, with all that entailed. By and large, that market demand has been consistent since the agricultural revolution. People got to eat. There was a unending seasonal consistency to the farm. It never meant anything else: people got to eat.

Industrial works are fraught with meaning. They are, strictly speaking, unnecessary for the sustainment of life. So without meaning, no one would buy them. The industrial work product needs to be incorporated into a social paradigm for it to be assigned a value. Ultimately, the industrial work must be converted into food for the workers and the industrialists. So it must realize an agreed upon exchange value. The ultimate currency is neither dollars nor bit coins, but turnips and potatoes.

It is ironic that the modern labor has been consumed by the plant instead of growing the plant. The pain is that, where as the natural cycles of the weather enforced a certain degree of rest for the farm-hand, modern factories can churn day and night–grinding the shop-hand down to a nub. So long as demand is rampant, the industrialist wants to supply that demand to the point of market saturation. This is a recent problem, and it is structurally and biologically not compatible with humans who’ve evolved with the cycles of weather to create a natural time to rest.

It is frustrating that agriculture is not inherently meaningful. It is necessary, and a great many cultures have imbued meaning to the land, the crop, the rain, and so on. But at the end of the day, all that can be forgotten and the corn must still be sown. But in the industrialized plant, a lack of meaning to the end result is fatal. If the product does not attain meaning to other aspects of life, there is no demand, no market, no shop, and no labor.

Given our narcissistic tendency as thinking sentient beings, labors without meaning only remind us that things end, that we end. To seek some shred of immortality, we invest ourselves in family, in religion, or humanity and the human-built world. I know I’m guilty of the last–why else would I write all this?

At its core, labor is inherently meaningless. It is an endless cycle that promotes life. How that life manifests can lend meaning to labors, but it is not necessary. That is a cultural manifestation. Culture is ephemeral, hence all meanings are ephemeral.

We can then say that Labor Day is meaning full because we want to build the human world, build families, attend church. Our culture holds those meaningful, and without labors they cannot happen.



Barrell making is no longer meaningful.

Wagon wheel making is no longer meaningful.


This is one of the most fun things I’ve ever gotten to share because of its sheer potential for inspiring WONDER. How often do you get to tap into that sense of awe that is de réguler for a young child? This little documentary filled me with quite awe, then glee.

When we do a deep dive on why stories are so impactful, we bottom-out on the subject of language. This is because language is the most common counter-factual tool we use. Language is a analogous tool: a system of representing things that are not present or inherently invisible (like ideas or emotions), and explain a cause and effect relationship between nouns (the most fundamental components of a story). Natural languages are like time-capsules for cultures. The evolution of words is a story of that culture over very long time periods.

This documentary on manufactured languages grants us a new way of thinking about how our frame of reference is a mental construct that has markedly rigid boundaries at the edges of our linguistic ability.

The Turks say someone who knows two languages is two people




Click any image for an example of the conlang

Conlanguists have given themselves permission to take this boundary as their work, their art, and mine into the subtext beneath language for meaning. They attempt to bring that novel experience to the surface by proposing wholly-new words and even relationships between words.

The result is a transportive experience that is not unlike traveling to a strange land where they speak another way, where they THINK differently. Diving in and learning to understand such constructions does not presume a common frame of reference. We are all so thoroughly chained by our language that a glimpse outside our bubble is a breath of fresh air you never knew you needed.

Weaving tales of meaning with lingual ancestry

Given how much of our brains are dedicated to sifting for meaning from culturally significant inputs, it is a clever storytelling method to include words that the audience likely has never heard before. If there is other context available that suggest at the meaning of an unknown word, it becomes an irresistible puzzle for the audience, it will focus their attention.

See the full documentary: Conlanging: The Art of Crafting Tongues


Image Credit:



Child mother baby standing in graveyard

But Why?

In too many respects, social media is a new and wild religion. There are taboos, yet there are alternate cults where taboos are allowed. Most importantly is the phenomenon of “people out in front” who are “influencers” just as much as a TV evangelist were these last 40 years.

Much of it seems ridiculous to many of us, but for some they are the high-priest. And the tithing bowl is brimming over. But why?

As of 2023 we are not yet seeing the revolution of storytelling to reassert agency between equals in public by building empathy. But we are seeing a “revival” of epic scale that is so varied that “Jedi” is an official religion in the United Kingdom. But why?

I posit that religiosity motivation is not in decline anywhere. Everyone still fears death and seeks refuge, but they have found a vast market full of new saviors they can sample in the most banal of moments (e.g. on the train, on the throne, or at family dinner at home), in private.

To many, these words are heretical for the reasons stated above. Thinking is dangerous, its protracted conclusion is we are doomed. Many of us have had the precocious 4 year old asking an endless string “but why?” to every answer we offer; and the unnerving chain leads to the final answer “because everybody dies”.

I offer no refuge, no solace, no balm: you are doomed. Your first breath erupted from your lips  screaming. As if every newborn instinctively knows “THIS WAS A TERRIBLE IDEA!”

Is there meaning that can be derived from common suffering? Maybe we can put aside our own dread—acknowledge that everyone is subject to this dread—and focus, just today, on not making more suffering. Listen to another’s story, as just being heard is to feel not-alone.


on CHORUS at


I am very excited to announce that Emily Craven, CEO at Story City, has partnered with me to propose to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. MIT’s SOLVE accelerators are not grants, but more akin to venture capitalists. As such, we’ve developed a monetization approach that allows locative oral histories to promote the locative fiction hosted by Story City.

Both Emily and I would like to hear from you via the comment section of our solution for MIT SOLVE, which will also help move our solution CHORUS up in the rankings with the organization. This is not a finished product, which is why we are asking you to help shave off the rough edges.


Nowhere Podcast on Narrative Infrastructure

Episode 14 with Jason Winn

How GIS changed

stories in cities

To the left is a link to my conversation with Jonathan Neufeld, CEO of Tecterra. TECTERRA is a non-profit focused on community-level initiatives which grow geospatial thinking, develop skills, and lead to the creation of innovative technology. Jonathan has used some wild methods to expand the role GIS plays in companies, even funding positions within other organizations to establish a symbiosis between Tecterra and the other firm (a “try before you buy” arrangement).

In this podcast, I run down the potentials for Narrative Infrastructure, as well as explore the potential threats to its establishment and maintenance.




This adorable video takes a solid stab at the phenomenon of the human brain that allows us to frame the world and selectively ignore unimportant information.
In simplest terms, our brain spends an enormous amount of energy pre-selecting what to pay attention to given the torrent of sensory data flooding it every moment. For example, we don’t need conscious attention of our heart and lungs to stay alive. This scales up to social environments where we subconsciously filter whole peoples into background noise we can safely ignore.

This appears to be driven by attention: those we focus on are the objects of our limited attention span, and those we feel we can ignore get consigned to caricature, gross simplifications of personalities.

This is an example of the human brain using stories as an operational framework. The narrative is: “I am important, I want to accomplish X, Y, and Z. Person 2 is trying to stop me. Person 3 is trying to help me. Everyone else are background characters not relevant to my story.” The vast majority of these narratives revolve around our social lives.

When our narratives are in conflict with other (seemingly) unrelated narratives, it is our tendency to fit these others into our narrative and assign them a role. When in contention or competition, that role is typically the role of antagonist. Our brain is trying to keep our narrative coherent, as it is constantly trying to make the highly complex world a simpler place to navigate based on the goals on which our attention has focused.

The tragedy is that our brains default to drawing others into its own narrative, rather than listening to the other’s narrative. When take the effort to listen to another’s narrative, there is a high chance that we will use transposition to see ourselves as the hero character in their story. We will tend to see ourselves as them, trying to solve their story.
That is the simplest experience of empathy. It is the birth of comedy: subverting our tragic narrative with all its struggles of the single-pointed hero (ourselves), by adding another ally character–this person whose story shares common interests to our own narrative. They stop being background grave diggers and don’t necessarily turn into villains.

This is the joy of living in community, and it is accessible by listening to each other’s stories.


A brilliant satirical dark comedic take on this is the Bring Out Your Dead scene of Monty Python’s Holy Grail. Here the narrative is the old and infirm man is a burden on the son, who attempts to get the bureaucrat to take his still-living father.
The father is desperately affirming he is not ready for the grave:

FATHER: I’m not dead!
BUREAUCRAT: ‘Ere. He says he’s not dead!
SON: Yes, he is.
FATHER: I’m not!
SON: Well, he will be soon. He’s very ill.
FATHER: I’m getting better!
SON: No, you’re not. You’ll be stone dead in a moment.
BUREAUCRAT: Oh, I can’t take him like that. It’s against regulations.
FATHER: I don’t want to go on the cart!
SON: Oh, don’t be such a baby.
BUREAUCRAT: I can’t take him.
FATHER: I feel fine!
FATHER: I think I’ll go for a walk.
SON: You’re not fooling anyone, you know.
FATHER: [singing] I feel happy. I feel happy *WHACK!*

The dark overtones of elder abuse not withstanding, this scene depicts how two members of a community can share their stories, agree to ally with one another, and disenfranchise a third party who’s story they are ignoring or suppressing. The maligned party isn’t allowed to express their role as anything more than grave-fodder.
Hence, it is imperative you tell your own story!

Як залучити кожного українця до реконструкції та довгострокового планування

Відновлюючись після таких катастроф, як пожежі та війни, громади часто несуть на собі відбиток  якогось єдиного авторитету. Такі перепланування за своєю суттю є творіннями цього автора, отже авторитарними. Коли вони є одиничними та загальними у своєму наративі, вони є тотальними.

Створення децентралізованого архіву місцевих наративів, захищеного від маніпуляцій з боку специфічних  інтересів, які б обмежували множинність наративів, означає побудувати неприступну фортецю проти тоталітаризму. Якби українці побудували цю наративну інфраструктуру за допомогою ресурсів, до яких у них є доступ навіть зараз, навіть якщо вони відсутні у своїх рідних містах, вони могли б відновитися після повернення та розвиватися відповідно до власного відчуття місцевості.

Спогади перетворюють “простір” на “місцевість”

Наше відчуття розміщення через призму спогадів викликається візуальними посиланнями з нашого простору. Розвинуті міські простори – це відображення багатьох тисяч історій авторів/зацікавлених сторін протягом десятиліть і століть, які збережені у  ландшафті. Ця множинна колекція спогадів втілює ілюзорне відчуття місцевості.

Втрата візуальних ознак міського полотна, втрата відчуття місцевості — ось чому травма оновлення місцевості триває десятиліттями. Щоб пом’якшити цю травму, оновлення має бути плюралістичним зусиллям, що базується насамперед на місцевих історіях, а поточний розвиток має використовувати той самий процес, розвиваючи існуючі місцеві історії, а не нав’язуючи іноземні ідеї.

Порівняння перехресного та повздовжного планування.

Суттєвим обмеженням місцевого планування та міського впорядкування є перехресний процес: лише ті зацікавлені сторони, які мають обізнаність і мають час у своєму графіку, можуть бути задіяні у окремих проектах. Зацікавлені сторони, які виділяють свій час і енергію, обмежуються розглядом лише одного проекту, і цей вклад майже ніколи не використовуються повторно пізніше.

У наративній інфраструктурі зацікавлені сторони додають карту своїх особистих спогадів (малюнок 1, угорі),  відображаючи своє окреме відчуття місця в наративному просторовому архіві. Таким чином вони завжди вносять свою географічно релевантну історію замість того, щоб адаптувати відповідь під кожен новий проект. Наративна інфраструктура назавжди вбудовує значущість їхнього життєвого досвіду в саму землю. Кожен проект реконструкції чи розвитку може почати генерувати ідеї шляхом наративного розширення та створення спогадів місцевих зацікавлених сторін у просторовому архіві (мал. 1, нижче).

Якщо розробники не використовують місцеві наративи, опоненти можуть законно критикувати етику розробників за те, що вони не враховують відомого минулого конкретного місця. Зацікавлені сторони та критики можуть виправдано стверджувати, що пропозиція шкодить відчуттю місцевості (і вони зможуть довести це, використовуючи дані з просторового архіву).

Цей лонгітюдний і плюралістичний підхід не позбавляє планувальників, регуляторів і розробників залучення перехресних зацікавлених сторін. Деталі необхідно узгоджувати за допомогою спеціалістів. Але завдяки Наративній Інфраструктурі покращується локальна підтримка, оскільки концептуальні теми в основному є локальними, а охоплення може бути цілеспрямованим і ефективнішим.

Пункт 1. HI використовується у Фамагусті, Кіпр

Story arrow

Пункт 2 Потенційне використання картографічної усної історії в лонгітюдному підході.

Кожен хоче, щоб його життя суттєво впливало на його місцевість.. Якщо теми їхніх особистих історій втіляться в нових міських забудовах, які вони бачать, вони відчують, що прожили повне сенсу життя (кілька прикладів наведено на малюнку 2). Безперервність їхніх закладених спогадів збережеться, і вони, швидше за все, знову вноситимуть вклад у ці місця.

Збір історій може розпочатися цього тижня

Одно- або двогодинне інтерв’ю з усною історією є будівельними блоками Наративної Інфраструктури. Використовуючи готові функції Google Планета Земля, носій мови в будь-якій точці світу може записати голос зацікавленої сторони й одночасно нанести на карту її історію. Навіть перебуваючи поза межами свого місця проживання, зацікавлена ​​сторона може переглядати свої особисті фотографії та Google Street View, щоб відновити спогади.

Цей просторовий архів, розміщений на дзеркальних серверах непов’язаних університетів за допомогою відкритої загальнодоступної гросбух (або блокчейну), буде захищеним від підробки. Те, як історії накладаються одна на одну та інші просторові дані, можна порівняти графічно.

Наративна інфраструктура зараз існує навколо нас, нам просто потрібно нанести її на карту, щоб зробити її корисною.

Протягом 500 поколінь міське середовище розвивалося з того, що одна людина розповідала історію іншій. Закони походять із сумних історій; розвиток є результатом насичених історій. Українці знаходяться в унікальному становищі, щоб:


Розповісти їхні історії


Надати інформацію для спроб реконструювання


Вплинути на майбутній розвиток України


Заявити про незнищенність свого відчуття місцевості

Про автора

Автор Джейсон Вінн, AICP (АІСП) is an architect and urban planner with Alpha Terra Inc. (Texas). He is a recent senior lecturer of urban design at Eastern Mediterranean University, with a pedagogical focus on ethnographic and narratological approaches to stakeholder engagement in the design and planning process. He is the acting director of Narrative Infrastructure, an initiative to establish a community archive of mapped stories for policy, peace-building, and development.

This proposal was in response to the recent APA International Division’s Report on Ukraine’s Post War Reconstruction.

Особлива подяка Xenia Adjoubei 

Xenia made possible the Ukrainian translation of this article. Learn more about her upcoming classes supported by the Kharkiv School and Ro3kvit Coalition for the reconstruction of Ukraine for an exhibition and education programme involving and supporting Ukrainian refugees.  

She is the director at Adjoubei Scott Whitby studio urban design and creative consultancy.


How to Enable Every Ukrainian in Reconstruction and Long-Term Planning

ця стаття доступна українською мовою.

In recovering from disasters such as fires and war, communities often bare the stamp of some singular authority. Such redevelopments are inherently creatures of that author, hence author‑itarian. When singular and total in their narrative, they are total‑itarian.

Building a decentralized archive of local narratives, one immune from manipulation by special interests who would limit the plurality of narratives, is to build an unassailable fortress against totalitarianism. If Ukrainians would build this narrative infrastructure with resources they have access to even now, even if absent from their hometowns, they could rebuild upon return and develop in continuity with their own sense of place

Memories turn “space” into “place”

Our sense of emplacement, via our memories, is triggered by visual references from our space. Evolved urban spaces are reflective of many thousands of authors’/ stakeholders’ stories over decades and centuries held by the landscape. This plural collection of memories embodies the illusive sense of place.

The loss of visual cues from the urban fabric, a loss of the sense of the place, is why the trauma of urban renewal lasts for decades. To mitigate this trauma, renewal should be a pluralistic effort derived primarily from local stories, and ongoing development should leverage the same process by elaborating on existing local stories rather than imposing foreign ideas.

Cross-sectional verses Longitudinal Planning

A significant limitation of conventional planning and urban management practices is the cross-sectional process: only those stakeholders with awareness and time in their schedule have the potential to be involved in discreet projects. Stakeholders who do commit their time and energy are limited to the single project under consideration and those contributions are almost never reused later. 

In Narrative Infrastructure, the stakeholders contribute a map of their personal memories (figure 1, upper), discretely mapping their sense of place in a narrative spatial archive. In this manner they are always contributing their geographically relevant story rather than having to respond to each new project. Narrative Infrastructure forever embeds the meaningfulness of their life experiences in the land itself. Every reconstruction or development project can begin generating ideas by narratively extending and building upon the memories of local stakeholders in the spatial archive (figure 1, lower).

When developers fail to use local narratives, opponents can legitimately criticize developers’ ethics for failing to incorporate the known past of the specific location. Stakeholders and critics can make the justifiable claim that the proposal is harming the sense of place (and they will be able to prove this using data from the spatial archive).

This longitudinal and pluralistic approach does not obviate planners, regulators, and developers from doing cross-sectional stakeholder engagement. Details must be addressed with inputs from specialists. But with Narrative Infrastructure, local support is improved because the concept themes are foundationally local, while outreach can be targeted and more efficient.

NI Project examplefigure 1. NI in use at Famagusta, Cyprus 

How a mapped story impacts the community over time

Fig 2. Potential uses of a mapped oral history in longitudinal approach

Everyone wants to see their lives meaningfully influence their neighborhoods. If the themes of their personal stories are embodied in new urban developments they see, they will feel they have lived meaning-full lives (some examples are included in figure 2). The continuity of their emplaced memories will persist, and they will be more likely to reinvest themselves in those places.

Story collection can begin this week

One or two-hour oral history interviews are the building blocks of Narrative Infrastructure. Using out-of-the-box functionality of Google Earth, a native speaker anywhere in the world can record the voice of a stakeholder and simultaneously map their story. Even when not in their own neighborhood, a stakeholder can review their personal photos and Google Street View to cue their memories.

Deposited on mirrored servers of unrelated universities using an open public ledger (or blockchain), this spatial archive will be tamper-proof. How stories overlap with each other and other spatial data can then be compared graphically.

Narrative Infrastructure exists all around us now, we just need to map it to make it useful.

For 500 generations, urban environments have been developing from one person telling another person a story. Laws are derived from sad stories; development is the result of exuberant stories. Ukrainians are in a unique position to:


tell their stories


inform reconstruction efforts


influence future development of Ukraine


and declare their sense of place indestructible


About the author

Jason Murray Winn, AICP, is an architect and urban planner with Alpha Terra Inc. (Texas). He is a recent senior lecturer of urban design at Eastern Mediterranean University, with a pedagogical focus on ethnographic and narratological approaches to stakeholder engagement in the design and planning process. He is the acting director of Narrative Infrastructure, an initiative to establish a community archive of mapped stories for policy, peace-building, and development.

This proposal was in response to the recent APA International Division’s Report on Ukraine’s Post War Reconstruction.

Special thanks to Xenia Adjoubei 

Xenia made possible the Ukrainian translation of this article. Learn more about her upcoming classes supported by the Kharkiv School and Ro3kvit Coalition for the reconstruction of Ukraine for an exhibition and education programme involving and supporting Ukrainian refugees.  

She is the director at Adjoubei Scott Whitby studio urban design and creative consultancy.


Longitudinal Stakeholder Engagement with Oral Histories and GIS

Here is my full presentation to National Planning Conference with the American Planning Association!
This is a starter-guide to spatial narratology, and how to build narrative infrastructure. I cover:
1. Hannah Arendt’s Human Condition as urban planning codes.
2. How to transform tragic narratives into comedic narratives

Cross-sectional stakeholder engagement has a limited shelf-life, high cost, often comes after an urban change is pre-conceived. Longitudinal approaches allows urban change professionals to leverage ethnographic GIS methods to map sentiment for reuse, research, and stress-testing of future proposals. Cities are frame-stories, therefore planners are storytellers. Mapping narratives takes subjective data and objectively anchors it to places. Narrative maps enable planners, developers, representatives, and the public to know the stories on a street corner, to compare them to neighbouring stories, and tell new stories as subsequent chapters of those stories from the past. This couching of proposals in the context of the past engenders continuity in the perspective of the stakeholders: their stories extended into the future.

Viewers will be introduced to the methods of spatial narratology and a case-study conducted at the medieval walled city Famagusta, Cyprus.

How to make Spatial Narratology:

  1. Leverage ethnographic methods to build a robust narrative infrastructure
  2. Identify narrative coding schemes to foster creation of new narratives in continuity with old narratives
  3. Guide stakeholders new stories away from tragic and toward comedic narrative-arcs


The Arendt Codes

It was a thrill to present to the Arendtian community, given how ingrained auntie Hannah is in Narrative Infrastructure. I’ve been reading with the Hannah Arendt Center at Bard College since 2019, and it is a highlight of my week. Between Dr. Berkowitz, Tara, and the regular members, I have found a tribe.
In March of 2022 Tara invited me to present the principles of Narrative Infrastructure as they reflect Arendt’s discussion in The Human Condition.
This one text is my answer to “If stuck on a desert island and you could have one book, which would it be?” Dr. Berkowitz has led the research team through two complete readings of this text, and all those recordings are available on their YouTube site.

There are no dangerous thoughts, thinking is dangerous

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