Winter 2022 Here We Come!

Winter is now fast upon us and there is some palpable excitement for us here at The Fringeologist!

First of all, I’m thrilled to announce that our ski season is officially getting underway this weekend. This is a banner year indeed because I have officially completed my Outdoor Emergency Care (OEC) certification and have been welcomed aboard our local ski patrol!

Full confession – it was not an easy pass. I’m really throwing myself back into the world of riding pretty intensely these past five years. There were moments that I felt very overloaded by the scenarios–no matter how mock. I’ve got plenty still to learn and tie the knot on in terms of process. But I’ve got an incredibly supportive team and I’m genuinely looking forward to being a help to injured skiers and snowboarders this Winter on the hill. I’m also looking forward to being a part of a new cohort of trainers for this year’s incoming candidates.

Completing OEC also dove-tailed nicely with completion of my Wilderness First Responder (WFR) certification–which I undertook through NOLS in Estes Park, CO this past month (November). I tell people who express an interest in getting outdoor care education that there is no other organization that I can endorse as wholeheartedly as NOLS. I was blown away by the fidelity of the instructors to the curriculum, and the strength of that curriculum to cut through a lot of medical and technical information to just help equip students with solid skills that they can use in the backcountry. When you get through a NOLS course you feel like one of the elite and like you’ve been through something really special.

Here at The Fringeologist we are all about exposing the public and interested readers to the journey of one person (little old me) going out into the world and into the backcountry to get the skills they need to re-wild their direct experience. We’re trying to show anyone who might be interested that if you have the means, and more importantly you have the will-power, you can move yourself beyond a mundane life of staring at your device or your computer screen all day. There are great adventures to get up to in the wild environs of our backyards and beyond.

A lot of these backcountry trainings I’ve invested in with the resources that my tribal nation has made available to me are professional development opportunities that are geared towards the entrepreneurial project that is Fringe Digital. Fringe Digital has taken an innovative approach to its business development–namely harnessing touch-points in the online and digital space to circle audiences and partners back toward getting their hands dirty and feet wet in the real world. Fringe Digital takes as its long-term objective the challenging task of breaking unhealthy personal addictions to technology and institutional obsessions with technological solutionism. Whenever and wherever possible it aims to do this through immersive outdoor experiences, or at the very least, radical advocacy for in-person and analog alternatives.

This coming January (2022) will mark the one-year milestone of Fringe Digital operations. As the Founder and Chief Consultant I’ve learned so much in this first year of experimentation.

For example, I’ve realized that working with cultural and academic institutions on decolonizing content and methodologies in digital spaces can be very slow for progress. In one recent project that involved place-based storytelling through virtual app development, it became clear that expansive and fluid notions of sacred space, time, and territories for indigenous communities do not always play nicely with an insistence on a fixed set of data points–things like date, time, and geolocation for example. Forced migration patterns and seasonal hunting and gathering routes are resistant to simple search, retrieval, and one-time rendering. In yet another project geared towards standards development, it became clear that a very ambitious, virtuous, and global effort to indigenize data made itself heavily contingent upon settler-oriented outputs, infrastructures, and systems for consuming and processing that data despite the standards that were giving it a more indigenous definition.

Fringe Digital has been honored and privileged to participate and contribute to projects such as these–the first example being very local and the second example being very global. At the same time, they have helped our consulting business understand the limits of our impact and effectiveness.

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Starting in January, we’re going to make a very strategic shift in our business model and our focus on partners and audiences. In our last post, we pointed readers to the launch of Fringe Digital’s inaugural publication–[dys+-(u)topia]. We’re very excited about [dys+-(u)topia] as a creative and scholarly contribution to the decolonization movement, particularly where it intersects with digital content, spaces, and platforms. Beginning in January, Fringe Digital will be hunkering down to become a full-blown small-press/micro-press publisher and media development corp. Our Fringe Labs will be our main research, production and printing space. In our next issue of [dys+-(u)topia], we’ll unpack this change in more detail–so stay tuned!

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But suffice it to say, we’ll no longer be investing time, energy, and resources on advancing decolonization through direct consultation on projects with academic or cultural partners. Time and time again the end product and the ownership and maintenance of the product is never fully indigenized from our perspective. This has a lot to do with the very intractable settler colonial cultures of institutions and their tendency to conform to prevailing norms when it comes to the digital domain. Fringe Digital can have a lot more impact tearing down and transforming those norms from outside of these institutions and their embedded projects.

Moving Fringe Digital away from consulting and direct outreach/education to community and institutional partners means that all of the professional development we’ve been undertaking to facilitate immersive outdoor experiences with such groups can come into its own. In some ways this has been the catalyzing role of Fringe Digital all along, namely to enable my work to more fully make the leap from the virtual into the analog.

So, starting in January visitors to our top-level author site for Fringe Digital (mgschultz.com), will get the chance to learn a little bit more about me and how I can consult with them directly in a wellness and life-coach capacity. Whether you are interested in building a life plan for yourself to detox and decolonize your digital life, or you are just interested in taking your direct experience with nature and the outdoors to a new level, we’ve got the background, trainings, and certifications to work with you.

Exciting stuff! Keep following along here at The Fringeologist. We’ll post here again in January on the heels of our next big training–a 5-Day Winter Skills Immersion in the backwoods of Maine at the one and only Maine Primitive Skills School. See you then!

Summer 2021 Debrief

We are long overdue for an update here at The Fringeologist. It has been a busy Spring and Summer! There are no shortage of milestones and accomplishments to report-out on.

The first being that our first professional newsletter and digital magazine—[dys+-(u)topia]—has just hit the press and you can find that over at our Fringe Labs. It has been a labor of love in the intervening months since our previous post. I hope you’ll check out all of the articles, essays, interviews and art-pieces. We’ll have our second issue out later this year, so keep your eye out!

Wait hold up!…Fringe Labs?…what is that you say? 

Well, Fringe Labs is the newest extension of Fringe Digital. It is the headquarters for our media studio, our experimental sustainable design grounds, and soon-to-be embodied knowledge retreat space. Situated in beautiful Northern Michigan, this is where Fringe Digital will hold a variety of talks and workshops on risk management in the wild, primitive skills, traditional ecological knowledge, resiliency development, and contemplative study and practice.

Fringe Labs has demanded a fair bit of our attention this Summer. In addition to getting the home office set-up, we’ve been getting outfitted for solar generation, tending the grounds to facilitate our first harvests, and preparing our fire-keeping space for communal teaching and group work. It has kept us busy. 

But that’s enough about Fringe Labs…for now! We’ll have a lot more to share about that special place in our next issue of [dys+-(u)topia]

The Fringeologist is the place where we keep you posted on all of the professional development we have been up to here at Fringe Digital. As a unique digital consultancy, we’re actually training every day to become better analog human beings. We want to become equipped to help individuals, communities, businesses, and the general public become more in-tune with themselves, with the people around them, and with the natural world that sustains us. To that end we are constantly putting ourselves out there.

Here is brief rundown on the work we have been getting up to since last we posted!

In March, following on from our adventures in Maine and Colorado, we made our way out to Bend, Oregon to obtain our Wilderness First Aid Certification through NOLS.

Bend is an amazing little college town. Outside of a very brief stop in Portland, this was the most time I’ve spent in Oregon. I can’t say enough great things about the state, the town, or NOLS. It was well worth the trip. I left feeling equipped to do some rapid assessment, care, and extraction for the injured when it comes to recreating in groups in the wilderness.

Returning from Oregon, I was just in-time to put the finishing preparations on my training for the on-hill toboggan and skills test as a patrol candidate at our local ski resort back in Michigan.

I’m proud and thrilled to say that I passed, and am now well underway with my Outdoor Emergency Care (OEC) training. I will put the wraps on OEC in late-October/early-November just in time to head to Estes Park, Colorado to complete my Wilderness First Responder (WFR) certification through the Mountain Rescue Institute.

My partner and I (and our four-legged) are really looking forward to this trip. We’ll be boondocking it for most of the trip in our new Subaru Outback Wilderness. We’ve got our car-camping fairly dialed-in, with a few great trips throughout Northern Michigan this Summer. We just completed one such trip out to Beaver Island, where we enjoyed some dispersed camping overlooking Lake Michigan and some of the sister islands (Garden, High).

In a about a week we’ll be heading to the Porcupine Mountains and the shores of Lake Superior to dial things in a bit further. 

But I’m getting a little bit ahead of myself. And before I get too long-winded, I’ll mention our final bit of professional development—a capstone for the Summer. Our team headed back out East to the Maine Primitive Skills School in July to attend a week-long training in Summer Foraging, primarily geared towards harvesting plants for medicinal purposes. What an incredible week!

We picked up so much useful information for identifying both beneficial and harmful species of plants common to the Northeast and the Midwest and learned how to tincture them and prepare them for use in later seasons. My partner took to the course like a fish in water, and I discovered a new language and literacy with plants that will serve some of my contemplative practice and outreach that I hope to do with individuals and groups. I wrote a little bit about that inspiration and dialogue in this piece from the inaugural issue of [dys+-(u)topia].

This course, in particular, inspired our team to get busy and prepare our first training and outreach to the public this Fall. In mid-October we’ll be inviting campers and the public in Northern Michigan to join us on the trails in Wilderness State Park. We’ll be leading folks through some tips for safely and accurately identifying plants, providing them with best practices for building successful and enjoyable hiking trips, and even providing some local history and culture. You can read about what we have in store for folks at the Events portal for Fringe Digital—see here.

So, as you can see, no shortage of study and training going on in the background throughout an otherwise seemingly quiet Spring/Summer. Much of our energy is now shifting into writing for the next issue of [dys+-(u)topia], preparation for our Fall event, and wrapping up certifications for our wilderness medical training. 

Lessons-Learned for Direct Experience in Disconnected Situations

I am launching Fringe Digital as a consultancy and an advocacy venture because I believe that our precarious future on this planet is going to require us to shift the balance of the use of technology in our lives. We are going to have to start learning how, at the right times, to put down our devices, step away from our computers, and understand how to manage our risk and exposure more effectively in a volatile real world.

The winter disaster (Storm Uri) that struck Texas and the South this month (February 2021) has laid bare the vulnerability and unpreparedness of yet another wide swath of our population and national landscape. Our state and national infrastructures are a far cry from being stable and reliable. When energy grids go down suddenly and in a sustained fashion; when essential services like running water come to a freezing halt; when environmental conditions swing suddenly towards the life-threatening–those of us who are able-bodied and capable should be ready to “brick the digital” and leap into action. Not just to protect ourselves in practical ways, but to be a help and resource to our neighbors and our community.

Image Credit: Matt Schultz

Here at The Fringeologist I talk from time to time about the outdoor trainings that I undertake to break my own habits of over-reliance upon high-technology and the digital to arrive at a more comfortable station in those disconnected situations where I’m faced with direct experiences. We’re reaching the tail-end of a very unique Winter season, both for my local region and for North America more broadly. My partner and I have been traversing the country to put ourselves out there. This season I’ve focused on a few high-level objectives that have some lower-level skills and decision-making lessons to impart. As with any and all adventures that I embark upon, the goal is not instant mastery but incremental step-changes toward a longer-term goal of understanding, growth, development, and transformation.

Everything kicked off this Winter with the culmination of a years-long set of trainings under the AIARE Framework for risk management and decision-making in avalanche terrain. I take these courses every year to not only be smarter, safer, and more confident in my back country snowboarding, but also to be a lifeline for others I am riding with or whom I encounter on the slopes. All of my courses have been taken in and around the Rocky Mountain National Park operating out of Estes Park, CO through the Colorado Mountain School. This year’s AIARE Pro 2 course was heavily focused on reading forecasts, observing and documenting terrain and conditions, and analyzing and understanding the snowpack.

Image Credit: Matt Schultz

Colorado and the Rockies are having one of their more dangerous avalanche seasons on record due to the prevailing seasonal weather conditions. Even in more predictable years, Colorado is vulnerable to one of the usual suspects in many avalanche incidents–the persistent slab. A strong layer of snow over weaker lower layers that can be easily triggered by either natural conditions or human activity. This season was off the charts when it came to the ubiquity and prevalence of persistent slabs. Finding safe zones to tour through and to ride was challenging. My takeaways from the training this year were:

1) the importance of monitoring conditions and risk-assessment;

2) balancing individual skill with group dynamics; and

3) trusting the framework and the heuristic process.

Without going down too many rabbit-holes, I’ll paraphrase a summary to say that after this last set of AIARE training I feel much-better equipped to routinely observe, evaluate, predict and problem-solve in a disconnected situation and to navigate my internal signals in an unpredictable human and environmental direct experience. These are transferable skills for a range of scenarios.

Image Credit: Matt Schultz

My partner and I leapt straight from avalanche training to an ice climbing excursion. The high-level objective here was to get some more exposure to climbing in bigger terrain. All of our previous experience had been on beginner falls at Pictured Rocks in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. We had a great couple of days of targeted skills improvement with our guide. In terms of lower-level lessons and transferable skills, I have to say that I acquired:

1) a newfound appreciation for the power of consistent technique and follow-through;

2) trusting the tools to do their work; and

3) clear communication and signaling.

Each of these lessons can mean the difference between over-exerting yourself unnecessarily and experiencing new heights safely. We learned new stance, new swings, and new gear management and safety.

Last but not nearly least, we have just returned from Augusta, Maine where we spent an entire weekend with the Maine Primitive Skills School. This was the first, in what will be a series, of immersive courses that I’ll be reporting out on over the next few years. Billed as a Winter Skills Weekend, we spent a Saturday and Sunday learning how to build primitive earth shelters, conduct tracking, practice foraging, and carry-out fire-starting in wet, snowy conditions. As I stated it at the outset of the course, my longer-term objective for acquiring these teachings is to enable and support basic survival when outdoor and back country travel confront you with uncertainty. This will be an ongoing journey of traditional knowledge recovery. From this specific weekend, I learned the imperatives of:

1) good time and energy management;

2) following the stages of critical preparation; and

3) maintaining a stable central encampment and home base where resources can be pooled and replenished.

From Maine we ventured back to our home base on the shores of Lake Michigan, staying just South enough on our journey to avoid the Northeastern trajectory of the massive Storm Uri that crippled Texas. The entire drive home, all we could talk about were the many lessons to be applied from all that we had learned this Winter. As we transition into Spring, Fringe Digital has some more great professional development adventures lined up and we can’t wait to issue our field reports. Keep up and stay tuned!

Fringe Digital: Unpacking Our Model, Framework, and Six Core Competencies

Later this year (2021), my consulting operation (Fringe Digital) will be delivering awareness-raising and educational trainings to individuals and communities on how to begin implementing better personal/corporate controls over data privacy and how to get involved with movements to decolonize and regain sovereignty over data and the digital in our daily lives.

The idea is to impart some basic good practices, orient people to the larger efforts underway to advance personal digital rights, and get them connected in with groups and movements who are pushing for new protective politics and policies at national, state, and local levels. We aim to help people tease apart the differences between technology sovereignty and data sovereignty, and how to practically engage these concepts appropriately between tribal nations and non-indigenous citizens and communities.

Whether you are just a concerned individual who wants to get better at avoiding being tracked by nefarious online advertisements; someone recognizing for the first time that you might be prone to social media or internet addiction; a citizen concerned about illegal surveillance practices or cyber intrusions; or even a tribal community seeking to understand how to better protect your relatives and lands from unethical research and exploitation–we’ll make good connection points for these and many other constituencies.

Photo credit: Matt Schultz

What sets our trainings apart from all others is our organic, holistic, situational, and place-based model that Fringe Digital centralizes for all of its outreach and advocacy. We aim to bring people back to square one. We want to bring the problem of our out-of-control and out-of-balance digital lives back to the individual, to the organization, to the community. The road to better technology and data sovereignty begins with us, in our homes, in our backyards, in our businesses, in our elected government offices.

More than anything, we believe that the road to better technology and data sovereignty means putting our devices down and getting out from behind our computers. At Fringe Digital we believe that our personal health, the health of our social relationships, and our engagement with the living, natural world are all suffering from the outsized role we allow for digital technologies and technological solutionism. To course correct our digital lives we make every effort to embed our trainings in a framework that promotes group-dynamics, experiential-learning, and outdoor immersion.

Photo credit: Matt Schultz

As Fringe Digital’s Founder and Principal Consultant, there are six core attributes that have helped me regain some balance and control over technology and data sovereignty in my digital life. Fringe Digital positions these six core attributes as goals, objectives, and competencies for measuring the success and impact of all of our outreach, training, and services to our audience and clients.

Decolonization: This means actively deconstructing and untangling our relationship to settler politics, technology, and society and indigenizing our lifeways;

Entrepreneurship: This means leveraging our sovereign resources to innovate, grow, and invest wealth in sustainable and responsible ways for the impact and improvement of future generations;

Exploration: This means pursuing a passionate engagement with our changing natural world and modeling a healthier relationship to the earth and its indigenous communities;

Activism: This means fighting for a future of freedom from political and corporate influence and control over our daily lives, our self-determination and our destinies;

Curation: This means exercising agency and ownership over our creativity and our content. Through story-making and storytelling we can breathe personal life into words, images, sound, and motion; and

Contemplation: This means deeply and actively considering the natural and built world around us and cultivating consciousness, connection, and compassion for and with all living things.

At Fringe Digital we believe in active learning and lifelong development. In the next few posts I’ll be providing some updates on our skills development program. 2021 is going to be an exciting year. We’re just returning from Colorado for some avalanche risk management and ice climbing safety, and are now about to embark to New England to take advantage of the fresh snowfall to engage some Winter skills. This Spring will see us in the Northwest for some wilderness medical training.

You will be able to keep up with all of our adventures right here at The Fringeologist. Thanks for dropping by!

Welcome to The Fringeologist

Welcome to The Fringeologist, the personal journal and travel log of Matt Schultz, Founder of Fringe Digital.

Here at The Fringeologist you will get a glimpse into the expeditions and trainings that deepen Fringe Digital‘s unique digital consultancy to individuals, organizations, and communities. Fringe Digital seeks to decolonize, declutter, and detoxify data and the digital in our daily lives. To do that we push the boundaries at the outermost interface between the virtual and the analog in our human experience. We deliver tailored and targeted immersive trainings to inspire and motivate everyday people to incorporate practical new strategies to reclaim a more balanced relationship with technology, the environment, and our communities. We also work on place-based levels to empower organizations and communities to reclaim ownership and control over their data.

Starting in January 2021, we will begin posting dispatches from the field. We’ll take you inside the trainings and research that undergird the immersive and interactive outreach and education curricula that Fringe Digital offers to individuals, organizations, and communities who seek to build up protective practices for managing their growing addictions to digital devices and social media, and to safeguard their personal digital assets and identities from an expanding array of virtual threats.

Fringe Digital wants to become a part of reshaping our faster future by empowering and equipping you to tap into and appreciate your own human hi-tech–your own innate intuitions and capacities for connecting with yourself, with others, and with the world around you. You can drop-in here for glimpses into how we make it all work, and join us as we travel around the country and the world to keep evolving our models and methods.