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Irina Nalis, psychologist, cyclist, reader and techno veteran, in an Elevate-Interview about the Festival theme Human Nature.

Irina Nalis joins Elevate on Thursday 5th of March and will host the introductory lecture on "Human Nature" as well as take part in the discussion panel "Quo Vadis Humanity?".

Free entry at the Festival location Forum Stadtpark! -> Full programme info.


Elevate's festival theme 2020 is "Human Nature". What's your second thought about it?

Why settle for less. You have to embrace big questions to enable big transformation…and this theme is definitely not a no-brainer. I like to take on this challenge.

And your first?

Call the psychologists. Too.    

Quo Vadis Humanity? In 2009 Elevate's main theme was the climate crisis. 10 years have passed. Whats your take on the next 10?

I think a lot about the future, because I intend to live there. And as thinking can only be one starting point, next to feeling, I want to contribute my share in cocreating this decade as one were we can overcome the climate crisis #systemchangenotclimatechange    

The relationship of humans and technology - more reasons to be pessimistic or optimistic? Can you name some?

For now: more reasons to be pessimistic – not because of technology per se but the corporations and mindsets behind the codes. This self-fulfilling prophecies about human nature that reduces us to click-bait for dark patterns of greed, convenience and ego. Covered by the shiny hook line of techno-solutionism where post-humanism is framed as an ultimate goal.
For next: my belief in the beauty of human potential lets me stay optimistic.    
I believe a strong bias toward humanism is needed. Humanism with its take on critical thinking, and the acknowledgement of our abilities, complexities, variances as individuals and families, friends, lovers, neighbours..people. We can shine (en)light(ment) into the black boxes that were designed to shape our behavior and crack the codes open. This is why I am an advocate for the Vienna Manifesto of Digital Humanism – were we ask to join forces from different academic disciplines. We can overcome this divide and conquer approach of predatory technologies.

And our relationship with nature? Of course we are "part of it", but....where are we going?

Ever since the festival theme popped up I am wondering whether I am #teamhuman © Douglas Rushkoff only (in some extreme cases, I would argue: yes) and if this excludes me from siding with nature (I am sure, he would argue no). I might not have reached a conclusion until the festival starts. But for the last years I dedicated quite some time to the idea of resonance by Hartmut Rosa. Resonance as a response and relation between human beings, plants, art.. everything that can and should be connected. Building on findings from eco-psychology research I will elaborate more on the potential of this connection. But for now I dare to give an overly simplistic picture: if only we as human beings would acknowledge our nature better we would already harm nature around us much less.

"Psycho-spiritual crisis", "a psychotic society",... How bad is the status quo of humanity?

This question is a great and sad one. We certainly need to recognize the mental state of emergency we are in. A mental health crisis that translates and back-fires in so many diseases and disasters from loneliness, to empathy deficits, climate anxiety to narco-epidemics. These symptoms are what the word means: signs! Stop signs! So I guess we should all start looking for root causes of what went wrong and where we want to go instead. Sometimes it is necessary to blame “the others” because our shame inducing culture (Brene Brown), left so many of us wondering, some scarred and most of us alienated from our feelings and the feelings of others. Let’s join forces – and crying is ok here.

A message to the Elevate Festival community? What can we do?

Find the others (again quoting Douglas Rushkoff and all activists everywhere ever), because as Margaret Mead observed: never doubt that a small group of dedicated people can change the world. In fact, it is the only thing that ever has.

Elevate features many amazing artists in the music & arts programme. Can we meet you on the Dancefloor too?

Hell yes! I just <3 how the festival allows dance and discourse. Plus: dance is the shortest way to trance – which is already good reason. But also because the dancefloor is a place where reason can hang loose. “Dance first, think later. That’s the natural order.” (Samuel Beckett)


Irina Nalis joins Elevate on Thursday 5th of March and will take part in the discussion panel "Quo Vadis Humanity?".

Free entry at the Festival location Forum Stadtpark! -> Full programme info.

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