Full Circle
Anika Schwarzlose

When standing in a circle, our gaze is directly turned towards each other and eye contact with every single member of a circle is possible at all times. The power of circles is to be unchallengeable. There are no corners, no angles to cling to. Just smooth curves. An infinite series of points, all at the same distance to a given fixed centre.

Online communication and connection may have assumed the structure of networks and databases, but the circle remains a fundamental element and symbol of human connection. It even seems to experience a revival. Companies (Amazon’s “Zappos” for example) are adopting circular management strategies instead of pyramid shaped hierarchies. Corporate campuses, such as Apple’s new campus, are built in the shape of rings – where each part can always see what every other part is doing. A self-surveillancing panopticon.

We blame filter bubbles for destroying democratic social structures: the computational decomposition of constructs into spheres. Round-table discussions and circular seating arrangements are shaping the culture of debate and decision making in our governmental forums. Waves of New-Age movements routinely organize their participants in circular rituals.

In a world of infinite complexity, we long for forms of order and simple perfection. Forms to contain our existential fears, to let us know our place, to let us know who we are and where we stand. Simple protective forms. Circular logic. Societies spiraling out of control. Safety in numbers.

With thanks to Peter Menninga and Brian McKenna.