Read ‘mappa mundi…so far‘ below first.
What follows consists of quotes from other blogs relating to mappa mundi. The original blog is given in italics at the end of the quotation.
In ‘Innovation, technology and change 1‘ I was considering whether mappa mundi was a technological innovation. I concluded that the innovation was in the way we were combining digital technology with creative processes. Maybe original combinations of already existing technologies are technological innovations. from Innovation, technology and change 2
The content of the ‘uploaded videos’ of which the interactive mappa mundi space will consist is ‘change’. Of course we find a resonance between these ‘micro’ story/images of change and the ‘macro’ changing map. We are creating a collective image of a changing world through collecting stories of human change. Through the systematic organisation of these story/images in the interactive online space we are engaging with an image of a complex system. However, what is this ‘change’ that we are asking people to express and engage with?
Not only is there a possibility that mappa mundi may constitute a technological advance and also engages with personal and social change, it may deliver social change. Or is it just an elaborate game carried out by people who are a part of an exclusive club of those ‘in the know’ for their own benefit and affirmation? from Innovation, technology and change 2
mappa mundi draws our attention to individual change, or change as its experienced by the individual because in the dramatic space that is animated by characters this is a crucial creative focus, a focus necessary for creativity. It does not make this focus obligatory. from Innovation, technology and change 2
The keynote for mappa mundi is that it is in the stories that people tell that the relation between these different impacts may be discerned. Also, the project doesn’t rigidly insist on people interpreting change from the point of view of the environment or the economy. Anyway, as was implied earlier, these changes happen through people and not apart from them. This means that they happen in the midst of other life changes; they echo, play against and are sometimes precipitated by these individual factors.
In order for a group to find a common story or image of change that they can all identify with or recognise they have first to look at their own individual story. This accumulation of many stories into one story is something that the methods of work that we will be encouraging through the mappa mundi toolkit is derived from Augusto Boal’s work on The Rainbow of Desire. from Innovation, technology and change 2
Az is looking for a ‘technology provider’ as a partner in the development of our mappa mundi project. We believe we can attract funding from organisations that promote innovation. The National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts are such an organisation and they have a Digital Research and Development for the Arts and Culture Fund that they are running in partnership with the Arts Council of England and the Arts and Humanities Research Council.
If our project is an innovation then, is it technologically innovatory? Furthermore, since the project is an investigation of change, it’s worth asking whether there are ways in which it delivers change. I am using the word ‘deliver’ deliberately because any individual and organisation that will support mappa mundi will have to be satisfied about delivery. What links technological change with social change and how does a project that is focused on ‘cultural action’ relate to these kinds of change? from Innovation, technology and change 1
One is concerned with the ‘reach’ or ‘depth’ of the audiences relationship to the experience of art. This is to do with interactivity and in their description they verge on the realisation that the audience may in some respects be the makers and that digital technology may have a specific impact on participation. This is highly relevant to mappa mundi and because these basic categories form the criteria for the judgement of applications to NESTA’s fund this is an important indication of the direction of the conversation we can have with NESTA.
The second is concerned with art form development, the third with how value creation is measured and the fourth with management and governance. All of these aspects of the impact of innovation on arts and cultural organisations are relevant to our project.
mappa mundi aims to bring together the vibrancy and creative fertility of the drama space, (the rehearsal room or studio ‘floor’, the performance or location space) with the quickness, interconnectivity, interactivity and inclusiveness of online space. The inspiration is social networking. We are interested in rephrasing the relationship between online space and live events. For mappa mundi live events are the meetings of participants making mappa mundi and also meetings of participants and audience viewing and experiencing the exhibition/performance stage. These spaces are as linked, for example, as the virtual space of social networking with the live space of Tahrir Square during the revolution in Egypt in 2011.
So the technological design is crucial. The site will not simply be a means of collection and distribution but a source of inspiration, always precipitating live events. This means that the sensitivity of the systems is crucially important.
Also, digital technology will enable innovation in the art form. The hybridity of the mappa mundi, (the videos that will be uploaded) could be rich; maybe soap opera, thriller, horror, documentary, flashmob, pop promo, dance video forms will intermingle and new idioms and forms of expression will be found by participants.
The visibility of product and how an uploaded video will impact on the total design of the interactive space will depend on technological ingenuity. The ways in which participants and potential participants can respond/assess/comment on mappa mundi will have to connect fluently with other evaluative processes. The co-curation and moderation systems will be based on ‘radical trust’ and this will be a keynote for the management and governance style and procedures of the project.
The capability for the online space to be both a collection and delivery point and a source of inspiration is specifically to do with the dynamic interactivity between the functional design of the space and the ‘toolkit’ or ‘toolbox’ that people will download as a guide to the making and uploading process. These elements have to be able to sing to each other. The technology and design have to be as close as dancing partners.
I don’t think mappa mundi will be creating technological innovation. For example we have to ensure that the site and its full functionality is accessible from moderately advanced computers. We have looked at ‘second life’ technology but will not be using programmes requiring a high throughput or digital broadband consumption. The innovation in our project will be to do with the creative use of digital technology and using already existing technology and combining it with offline activities in imaginative ways. from Innovation, technology and change 1
During this recent period when I have been once again preoccupied by change through work on The Deal and on mappa mundi I have continually returned to the insights given by Paulo Freire about the nature of change. At one point he describes learning something profound from one of his literacy students, when he announces: “Now I see that without man there is no world”. When the educator extrapolates and gives an image of a world without human beings, the man (who Freire has already pointed out is ignorant from the point of view of a ‘banking’ idea of knowledge) responds: ‘Oh no! There would be no-one to say: This is the world”. Freire then goes on to quote Sartre: “La conscience et le monde sont donnes d’un meme coup” (“Consciousness and the world happen at the same time”) and Husserl in a quotation too long to give here but that can be found on page 63 of the Penguin edition of The Pedagogy of the Oppressed or page 82 of this pdf.
This moment of insight has always appeared to me to be profoundly important without me really knowing why. During the work on planning our sessions for mappa mundi, Debbie Warrener and I came towards a similar understanding of something fundamental in Joanna Macy‘s placing as the philosophical grounding of her work the Buddhist idea of ‘dependent co-arising‘. At a certain point, Debbie exclaimed, after struggling with an idea of our human relationship to the environment, “We are it!!” from Philosophy
It was in this journal that, in an attempt to ‘historicise’ my feelings, I concluded that the situation of the society that I had grown up in was specifically and deeply marked by its imperialist past. I started to understand that living in the wake of this colossal movement certain kinds of human sensibilities were developed and certain character traits would become dominant. I started articulating an idea about the ‘imperialist personality’ as a personal embodiment of a regime. See The Image of the Human
In this respect the mappa mundi project links back to this thinking. I proposed to myself in the journal that I was embarking on a ‘philosophical and sentimental quest’. This was a quest to find a way of situating my experience and my story in the wider picture of world history. from Starting Points
Does mappa mundi deliver social change? If you had a certain amount of resources (like energy, time, money) and you wanted social change, would it be efficient and effective to put it into this project? Is social change measurable? Take Clarkson for example.
I mean, of course, Thomas Clarkson. At what point along the trajectory between him writing about slavery for an essay competition when he was a student at Cambridge in 1785, that includes the introduction by Wilberforce of the slave trade abolition bill to Parliament in 1891, the passing of the Slavery Abolition Act in 1833 and its amendment in 1843, can be said to be the most significant moment of social change. from Knowledge, action and change
mappa mundi provides a space for collective expression. This space is made up of two spaces: the online interactive ‘map’ and the creative space of enacting or dramatising stories. It is the way these two kinds of spaces are linked up that gives to both their vitality and meaning. This linking is also the way in which mappa mundi (the whole work) takes its place in the public realm. In other words, its significance, the reason people will take notice of it, is to do with the way it links different participants’ creativity in a collective work.
Does this provision of space deliver change?
from Knowledge, action and change
If there was a proportional formula that captured a kind of recipe for social change would mappa mundi be an ingredient? Is making drama video portraying stories of change actually a part of social change itself?
My argument is relatively simple. Unless people can re-imagine their lives there can be no change towards humanisation. It may not be a sufficient condition for social change but it is a necessary one. There is nothing that will force people re-imagine. Thankfully imagination is only accessible to limited forms of coercion. Whether mappa mundi can provide an inspirational space is open to question. It is certainly possible. It stands a chance because there is no reason to suppose that change cannot be perceived by the people undergoing it and there is no reason to believe that they are not the best people to tell others about it. It is probable that when they do so they will tell it not as a scientific theory but as a story, the recounting of an experience of events. It is possible that those same people will have the skill to enact the story and put it into moving video images. Hopefully they will be inspired to do so by the knowledge that others are doing similar work and that it can be collected together in an online space and then shown at exhibition events. from Knowledge, action and change
I am just working on the invitation for participants to join Debbie Warrener and I on the workshop sessions at which we will test out our scheme of exercises and tasks that will guide a group towards ‘making a mappa mundi‘.
At the moment I am calling the whole project mappa mundi, the online interactive space that will inspire and collect crowd-sourced drama videos about change, as well as the 3 minute drama videos that will form the larger work. So all the participants are making the mappa mundi and each participant group (or individual!) is ‘making a mappa mundi’ or ‘doing a mappa mundi’. I hope this works i.e. it isn’t too confusing.
The reason I like this is because each drama video is like the map of the world made by that particular group. The space of drama is like a world. This is a metaphor that Shakespeare uses at significant points in his plays sometimes subtly with a glancing word or phrase and sometimes more explicitly. The most famous example, is Jacques speech in As You Like It that begins: ‘All the world’s a stage and all the men and women merely players’ (Act 2 scene 7). He uses it again in King Lear when he refers to our birth and how ‘we cry when we are come to this great stage of fools'(Act 4 Scene 6). A similar trope or turn of thought is used by Prospero in The Tempest as he dismisses the masque that he has conjured up to entertain Miranda and Ferdinand and explains that like the disappearance of the masque with all its scenery, ‘the great globe itself, Yea all that it inherit, shall dissolve, And like this insubstantial pageant faded, Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff as dreams Are made on; and our little life Is rounded with a sleep.’ (Act 4 Scene 1).
It is a commonplace with those who spend their lives or part of their lives making theatre that making a performance is like making a world. When Shakespeare’s company moved their theatre to the south bank of the Thames from Shoreditch, having called it there simply The Theatre, they then renamed it The Globe!
So making a map of a changing world can happen in the mappa mundi project both locally and centrally. Also by equating the microcosm and the macrocosm the sense that the local is central can be made real.
We are also planning, by the way, to ensure that the online interactive space will be co-produced and co-curated by participants. Undoubtedly we will return to this organisational issue that we have associated with the employment of ‘radical trust’
These initial workshop session will take place in London over a weekend in early November. The participants will be volunteers. We will be joined by people who worked for Insightshare, the innovative participatory video company based in Oxford. We will all work together to create a 3 minute drama video. We will learn from this work how we can best put together the TOOLKIT that will guide participants.
I don’t think we will be able to create a three minute drama video in a weekend but who knows!!! Obviously we won’t be able to edit it.
That isn’t the only unknown. Will we be able to describe a series of creative sessions that will end up with a group of participants being able to produce a 3 minute video?
These sessions will have to address how to make a creative working group, how to explore stories of change, how to focus on specific stories, how to combine these stories (maybe this can be done by creating a dramatic central image that takes from all the individual stories), how to elaborate the work in dramatic scenes (maybe this can be done by making a story board), how to rehearse, how to organise the participants into a cast (that does the acting) and a crew (that does the filming), how to choose locations, how to film the scenes, how to edit the material and how to upload it onto the online interactive space.
Should this TOOLKIT consist of words only or should it have video instructions or animated instructions? How can we bring this process alive for downloaders of the TOOLKIT?
Also, do participants have to do it as we describe it? Can they follow their own path? Will there be space for flash mob type depictions of change?
We are considering having different ‘pathways’. So the TOOLKIT itself is like a kind of garden. Maybe everybody comes in the entrance gate (inspired!) and goes out of the exit gate (with a 3 minute video!!). However there are a number different ways through.
In our original thinking we thought of three different types of mappa mundi. One, was like a flash mob, a performance in a public. Two, was a very short text by a dramatist that would be open to interpretation and could be performed anywhere in any style (we were inspired by Caryl Churchill’s SEVEN JEWISH CHILDREN). Three was a group devised and produced original drama story (this is what our workshop sessions in November will be focused on).
But these types are not totally distinct. For example the flash mob has to be devised. The original drama story could use a very short play text. Any of them may be performed in public!! Maybe this mix is exciting because it means that people will come up with original cocktails. Or maybe its confusing and we will have to simplify! from Making a mappa mundi
We are starting to look in more detail at how the mappa mundi TOOLKIT will suggest people work to produce their own drama from their own stories of change. This immediately brings up the question of the relationship between individual change and collective or social change.
Is the division between these kinds of change real? The optic that dramatic art offers is that we do not develop in isolation. We are a part of each other. We make each other. So it may be more truthful to say that change is experienced in different ways, sometimes individually, sometimes collectively.
The reason why this is such an interesting question is that in attempting to construct stories in a group process it is first necessary to explore the lived experience of the different members of the group individually. This is the only way to get at the truth of people’s perception of change. This means that people need to reflect on their lives. And they do this together in a group. In so doing they get a view of their lives as a story.
They are being asked, in our creative sessions where we are planning to formulate the guidance for mappa mundi participants, to consider what have been the moments of change in their life. As these moments of change are considered they are being asked to choose a particular moment. This distillation is a part of the making process.
In order for the story to be capable of being expressed in the ‘aesthetic space’ of the drama, in other words, for it to become capable of being shared, it has to be capable of being performed. So for the individual participating in the drama work the defining process, the distillation process and the embodying process happen synchronously. This process accomplishes itself with all the participants putting their story in front of the rest of the group.
Change is continuous and multifaceted. It becomes manifest though time and space. For example, in Taoism this all-embracing movement is called ‘The Way’. In one of the key books of taoism, the I Ching: the book of changes, this is expressed as a constant interaction of two energetic components, the yin and the yang. One facet of the yin is the yielding or receptive and this corresponds to the facet of the yang that is assertive or determining. Each of these components has different interconnected modalities.
So if change is continuous how can we find a story that can express it? We are in the midst of change and sometimes this can be expressed in biological, sometimes in psychological, sometimes in sociological, sometimes in ecological, sometimes in economic, sometimes in historical terms. For it to be expressed in dramatic terms it has to be actable.
What makes an action (or process or series of events) actable is that it can be embodied in the perceptual space of theatre. This means that it can be communicated in the ‘here and now’ space in which actors and spectators are brought together. We associate drama with moments where the rate of change increases or where a number of different facets of change come together. Of course there are dramas in which very little happens and there seems to be no change and events seems to be circular, like Becket’s Waiting for Godot but this example only shows that the expectations that are brought to a theatre event are a part of that event.
If drama is concerned with an increase in the rate of change in life processes then this is often expressed by the irreversibility of the events or perhaps by quantitative processes yielding qualitative transformations. These moments, of which stories consist, are like turning points, decisive or defining moments. In order to tell people what has happened to us we often have to find these instances.
So in the work of devising a drama video the first part of the work aims at putting on the specific stories of change from each member of the group. What form this ‘putting on’ takes is important. It has to be a distilled moment from each story.
The next part of the making process has to generalise these specific pieces. These specific stories need to be made into one story. The participants have to find a way of putting all the stories together in one story of change that captures the crucial movements in all the stories. It is this respect that Augusto Boal‘s work in The Rainbow of Desire (Routledge London 1995) is helpful. He describes, in a different context, how a group can be actively and collectively involved in this process.
I am not here going to describe what I understand these techniques or procedures to be. There are many suggestive ways of looking at this process. For example, if each individual story had a key image, as if there was a photograph of the key event or scene in the story, and you could superimpose all these images from the individual stories onto one another, an image that expressed what was common to them all could emerge. The common feature of change derived from all the stories could emerge.
This would then be the starting point for the next part of the making process. So it is that something collective is made from individual elements. This reflects the dynamic of the mappa mundi process. A changing image of a changing world is made up of stories of change from different participant groups. from Dimensions of change 1
On Monday (10th September) I have the opportunity of attending a discussion about how an economic model may be developed to express (I am having to choose words carefully) The Great Transition. This project is central to the work of the New Economics Foundation, who are hosting the discussion, and is an inspiration and starting point for mappa mundi.
All models are also images.
I am also in the middle of thinking about the creative sessions we will run to devise our TOOLKIT so I am thinking about images and stories of change. Thinking about a number of things at the same time gives rise to confusion and whereas I don’t want to cause confusion it is not entirely unwelcome. After all total clarity is ineffable, unspeakable, a glacial OM, not very communicative. So what follows is a bit of a ramble.
The Great Transition is a policy document that describes the policies that can take us from the current regime, based on growth and measured by finance, to an environmentally sustainable and equitable regime. The title is an allusion to Karl Polanyi‘s master work The Great Transformation. His work is significant because he brought anthropology towards economics and vice versa. This was critical. It meant that economic relations were conceived of as being embedded in social relations and not abstracted from them. The most telling critique of classical economics (of which neo-liberalism is a renovation) comes from an anthropological perspective. This is what makes David Graeber‘s work (see Debt, The First 5000 Years) so relevant for our mappa mundi project.
Using an input-output model of economic activity means you can trace material flows through an economy in a way that shows the interconnection between different sectors of production. Using a matrix mathematical format that interrelates quantities in a complex way you can see that change in one sector will have a consequential change in a sequence of other sector. One sector’s output is another sector’s input. Increasing the number of houses built will increase the amount of cement produced. Because cement production emits carbon you can read how this increase in housebuilding increases carbon outputs. Also new domestic appliances may be related to new house building therefore more steel is required, also there may be consequences for the water infrastructure. Simple and not very good examples but the point is that instead of modelling the economy as a circular movement between households and firms with government as a kind of all-pervading ghost, input-output modelling gives a granular picture of the economy as a complex network of interrelated activities. Working with this modelling is like being able to pull a thread in a complex woven fabric and seeing the multiple consequences.
The problem with circular models, no matter how many feedback loops are introduced they create the illusion of ‘closedness’. Although, of course, natural resources can be included, it is more difficult to gauge the consequences of pollution or other unforeseen consequences. Input-output modelling depends of course, as does every modelling exercise, on high quality data. However, this ‘input/output’ image (all models are images) of economic activity as being the transformation of the material world both through input (natural resources) and through output (waste or unforeseen consequences) is more in accord with the vision of ecological economics where the economy is studied not as a separate closed circular system but as an open system dependent on, and a part of, the larger Earth system.
Input-output modelling yields results that have given rise to understanding how changes in demand for specific goods have multiple consequences. The specific good whose demand fluctuates is like a single thread in a complexly woven fabric. The way that input-output modelling can quantify the carbon emission consequences of the production/consumption of a given product is that it can trace the complex material flows that have gone into its production. This is tremendously interesting because the view of human activity is akin to the anthropological.
If you took an artefact from a preceding civilisation and looked at it as a way of discovering the production processes and socio-economic life from which it is derived you would be looking with careful scrutiny at a remnant of a fabric from which the story of the whole fabric could be told. The object is evidence. The object is saturated with the social conjuncture from which it comes. Say, it was a pot. The clay would have been dug from a particular river bed with a particular tool that was made by a particular craftsperson using metals from a particular mine the equipment for which came from a particular region and so on. You might be able to see that certain enamels used in the glazing would have to have been imported into the region where the pot was found. The wood used on the wheel was different from the wood used in the oven etc. The object is a complex coagulation of materials and production processes.
In a developed economy that has complex trading relationships and production processes, the objects that are a part of our lives are extremely complex combinations. They get to us through labyrinthine supply chains, production processes and transport routes. Different components are shipped around the world and assembled in distant places, packaged in another place, and so on. All those production processes could be said to be embedded in the product. Like a microcosmic sign of a highly complex system of production, we carry around aluminium mined in Africa with rare earth mined in China with rubber from Malaysia etc. Input-output modelling enables economists to identify the carbon emissions component embedded in goods due, for example, to their production in China. By the way this raises issues about where the responsibility lies for those carbon emissions.
One of the strategies for climate change mitigation is behaviour change. Behaviour change could change consumption patterns away from products that have large carbon emissions consequences. It is easy to see that the modelling we have been talking about is capable of measuring the impact of these changes. However this is a minimisation of the implications for social knowledge that these techniques hold for us.
Just as objects (products, commodities) are microcosmic signs of social and economic spaces so too do the smallest social groups of a society contain the whole composition of the larger social space of which they are a part. This also goes for small, even intimate events, within a whole social structure.
I want to make it clear that when I say ‘structure’ here I mean ‘combination of processes’. If you can talk about the structure of an ocean wave then you can talk about a social structure. A social structure is in motion. Analysis can demand that we stop the motion in order to view its operation. This may be a necessary illusion. When movements are almost imperceptible it seems easier to use structure as a perceptual metaphor. For example, the structure of a mountain may be easier to encompass in thought than that of a wave but who would deny that mountains are in motion?
All of this leads us to a clearer understanding of the relationship between change at an individual level and change at a social level, but how? This help us understand how the individual specific stories that are brought out in the creative sessions are related to a more general story that can be used as the basis for a collectively produced mappa mundi – a three minute drama video, but how?
In Augusto Boal’s The rainbow of Desire he writes (at the beginning of the first section entitled The Three Hypotheses of ‘the cop in the head’):
“The smallest cells of social organisation (the couple, the family, the neighbourhood, the school, the office, the factory, etc.) and equally the smallest incidents of our social life (an accident at the corner of the street, the checking of identity papers in the metro, a visit to the doctor, etc) contain all the moral and political values of society, all its structures of domination and power, all its mechanisms of oppression.
The great general themes are inscibed in the small personal themes and incidents. When we talk about a strictly individual case, we are also talking about the generality of similar cases and we are talking about the society in which this particular case can occur.”
I am deeply grateful to Augusto Boal for this insight. It arises directly from the use of theatre as an optic, an instrument with which to view human life, a gnoseological tool.
An economic model is also a gnoseological tool (a tool that gives rise to knowledge, that produces learning). Theatre is a way of modelling the world.
Seeing the world in terms of domination and power arises from the kind of exchanges that theatre can present. This ‘structuring’ of the world is what Boal takes from his great progenitor, Paulo Freire (though, of course, Freire was not a theatre practitioner but a teacher of literacy). For mappa mundi I am emphasising the transformational character of this view. Change in our world is towards greater oppression or towards liberation. This can be transposed into other ideas about change being towards or away from sustainability or towards or away from activism. Particularly the latter because, for both Boal and Freire, the structure of domination are those that are internalised by the oppressed and in this process they are rendered passive.
Social structures are not held together only from the outside but also (and perhaps mainly) from the inside. So change if we are talking about regime change will happen from the inside as well as from outside. Maybe this talk of inside/outside is not completely useful. It relates to the relationship between the individual and the collective, the cell and the organism, the microcosm and the macrocosm.
For this reason it has always intrigued me why economics, despite its august and insistent claims to the scientific objectivity of a natural science, is split as a discipline between microeconomics and macroeconomics and why it is that these two parts of the discipline don’t really fit together.
In the first economics lesson I attended I remember the teacher told us that there were certain principles on which economics was based. One principle was that economics was a study of the allocation of scarce resources. The second principle was that demand was infinite. I immediately put my foot in it by blurting out that this was completely absurd. One of these principles relates to macroeconomics and the other relates to microeconomics. When you put them together they fall apart.
Alchemy is considered to be magical rather than scientific thinking. Most of OIsaac Newton‘s work was in this discipline. Carl Gustav Jung devoted a considerable amount of his time to its study. It is from alchemy that the expressions, microcosmic and macrocosmic, come. In the art/science of alchemy the correspondence between these components is expressed by the famous aphorism: ‘As above, so below’. Also it is in this discipline that the synchronous, magical correspondence between what is called the ‘outer work’ and the ‘inner work’ is articulated. It is in Alchemy that this convergence of processes where darkness and light and the transformation of base metal into gold stand in a metaphorical relationship to ignorance and knowledge.
What are the similarities in the modelling work that is going on in alchemy and in economics? What kind of knowledge is produced? For whom?
Is Augusto Boal’s insight that in ‘the smallest incident of our social life’ is inscribed the structures of domination and power of the society in which the incident takes place? What is this inscription? We are reminded of a conundrum that we often face as people who want to understand social change: the individual won’t change until the regime changes (outer macrocosmic), the regime won’t change until the individual changes (inner, microcosmic)! The regime must be inside the individual. This is what Augusto Boal calls ‘the cop in the head’. I have blogged before about the conceit of policy-makers to which this conundrum relates.
The inscription of the general relationships of domination, oppression and power into the smaller ‘cell’ unit, can be read (becomes legible) when a smaller (‘cell unit’) incident is re-presented in the theatre space. The enactment requires that the event, as it is re-presented, is transformed into what is actable. This entails various forms of compression (of space and time), distillations, omissions, (even distortions!). This is the imaginative, or image-making, process. A part of this process is a discovery of the general in the particular. It is what Boal refers to as an outcome of ‘pluralisation’.
He talks about this process being effected through articulating a number of possible perceptual relationships to the enactment (the putting of the image of the story into the ‘here and now’ of the theatre space). He enumerates three of these possible relationships: identification, recognition and resonance. In so far as a story or image of a story can be perceived as such – in other words so long as it is not perceived as nonsense and can’t be ‘read’ at all – it may be grasped by the spectating participants in these three ways. Anybody who wishes to take this further can read what Boal has to say about this (The Rainbow of Desire p. 68, Routledge London 1995). By activating a variety of responses to these image/stories – in the case of mappa mundi they would be stories of change – it is possible to construct one image/story which will be composed of the underlying general story of change. It would not be quite true to say that this would be the typical story or the summary. By creating what Boal calls ‘the image of the images’ a process would occur whereby what is general in the stories is drawn to the foreground.
This brings us closer to understanding this crucial movement in the process we are envisaging in the creative sessions we are planning. These sessions will give us a way of testing out what guidance can be given in the mappa mundi TOOLKIT to groups who want to make a devised drama video about change.
What this means is that the individual stories will be seen in the light of the bigger picture. Throughout the mappa mundi work this relationship between the part (micro) and the whole (macro) is enacted and activated. By putting a video up on the mappa mundi interactive online space, and thus changing it, participants will be setting their story in the framework of a larger story.
I have drawn a very fanciful parallel between the modelling of economic activity by input -output models and the kind of imagining that can happen in a theatre. I should be careful to point out that this is a theatre of a particular sort, the sort envisaged in Boal’s work and also in Brecht‘s work – particularly in the The Messingkauf Dialogues (Methuen London 1965) where he explores the uses to which theatre may be put and comes up with a neologism, ‘theäter’ comparable to Boal’s ‘spectactor’. I am going to push this parallel a little further.
A theatre like the one described by Aristotle in his Poetics has a particular image of the human as its basis. The hero is a victim of fate. I make no apology for this gross simplification. In classical economics the individual is subject to infinite demand. In this model the preference of the individual must always be for more of everything. After all if he or she doesn’t want it they can always give it away. This a definition of rationality. In classical economics the human is a victim of demand.
According to Augusto Boal in his theatre the participants are ‘spectactors’. The interaction of production and consumption is recognised. The image of the human is active, determined yet determining. The image (or model!) of the human implicit in ecological economics is both an ‘inputter’ and an ‘outputter’. The economy is conceived as an earth system. It is itself an environmental factor. The environment is not a condition of it, as in classical economics. from Dimensions of change 2
mappa mundi is offering theatre as equipment for imagining. Since imagination and re-imagining oneself is a part of realising change we are encouraging the use of mappa mundi as a way of enacting stories of change as well as a way of activating change. These two processes may be interconnected. Sharing our stories of change, conceiving of ourselves as changing and in the process of change and actually changing may be almost the same thing.
This is the reason why we are working with the ideas of Joanna Macy and Augusto Boal in our creative sessions. Also with the transformative work of participatory video as it is practiced by Insightshare but at the moment I know less about this.
Joanna Macy’s has worked out a theoretical framework for personal and social change and has articulated this in a practical workshop format. mappa mundi is a pluralistic project and is not based on any single method of work or body of philosophy. Also it is not pretending to ‘reinvent the wheel’. Our work is co-dependent on other people’s work.
We are envisaging four stages in our creative sessions work. We are modelling and structuring this work through the four basic movements outlined in ‘the work that reconnects’. We have recognised that mappa mundi is a ‘making’ process and this distinguishes it from Macy’s work.
The process described in the last blog of what Boal calls ‘pluralisation’ in other words finding the general story from an array of individual stories is similar for our purposes to the shift between the second (called ‘honouring the pain’) and third (called ‘seeing with new eyes’) basic movements of Joanna Macy’s ‘work that reconnects’.
Is there really a correspondence between these two moments in these different processes? Why do we want to overlay or interconnect these two methodologies?
Macy’s work is aimed at an activation of change. The connection between personal change and social change is at the centre of it and permeates it (runs through it like a river). The image she uses is that of a spiral. The whole four movements of her workshop form are figured as a spiral but also the spiral is a fractal form that inhabits each cell of the work. It is a movement that is developing but also returns, a combination of a line and a circle. So in each of the movements all four movements are present but at different stages of development.
Boal’s work is aimed at liberation from oppression. The key movement in his work is the transposition of experiences into the ‘theatre space’. Then the original experience and the embodied (or enacted) image of it are held in dynamic tension (he calls this holding both the image of reality and the reality of the image) , separated so the image can be reconstructed, connected so the results of the work on the image can be reintroduced into reality (he calls this ‘theatre as a rehearsal for life’).
I really don’t want to flatten both these processes so they appear the same. What I want to do is bring Macy’s imagination of change towards Boal’s imagination of liberation from oppression. What these two moments (movement from ‘honouring the pain’ to ‘seeing with new eyes’ for Macy and the ‘pluralisation’ process that involves confirming the ‘reality of the image’ for Boal) appear to me to share in common is what I would describe as ‘seeing the self in the other’.
I can imagine that this could be obscure and difficult to come to terms with if you don’t have a basic knowledge of these two practitioners!!
So our creative sessions will have four movements. There will be three layers. There will be the ‘Macy’ layer, the ‘Boal’ layer and the ‘participatory video’ layer!
The first movement will have as its keynotes: gratitude and presence. This is a focusing on the ‘here and now’ so it is a preparation of the ‘aesthetic space’. It is a physical warm up and focuses on breathing. It is aimed at building trust in the group and giving the space for play. The recognition of what we have to be grateful for is central to this process. Also there will be an exploration of the three basic stories that can be used to describe our current circumstances.
The second movement focuses on the development of individual stories. The underlying movement is looking at the obstacles to change, encountering grief and honouring pain. Seeing the individual’s pain in the light of the pain of the world. This will be a process of exploring stories, teasing and combing out the separate strands. It will look at isolation, aloneness. The direction of the work will be inward and reflective and then at the end of the movement there will be the activity of embodying the story/images (the separate strands), of showing them in the ‘aesthetic space’. making the invisible visible. The assembly that this movement ends with is the basis for the group to move onto seeing the general in the particular, seeing the self in the other and thus moving towards the next movement.
(Bear in mind that this is not a mechanical but a creative process so it is possible that things can go backwards as well as forwards.)
This third movement is characterised by ‘seeing with new eyes’ and is to do with the group extracting the way they want to tell their story of change from the stories they have witnessed. We are imagining that the part played by participatory video in the process will be developing. Here the group is creating an ‘image of the images’, ‘pluralising’, continuing the work of seeing the self in the story of the other through acting out the story and working to break down this key image into a series of images. This could be like ‘story-boarding’. This is the movement where ‘making’ is more dominant.
The fourth movement is that of performing and videoing the drama story. This continues all the main thematics that have been set in train by the work. Each movement may involve going back to the beginning, to basic group trust and breathing together but now it is in the context of creating a picture to make a part of the bigger picture. Joanna Macy calls this last movement: Going Forth. The filming includes the editing and uploading of the video.
This is a very rough outline of the creative process for our sessions. We believe that this process will be transformative. It will also involve conflict and struggle and fun and pain and joy. from Dimensions of Change 3
In the movement for economic literacy the pedagogy of the oppressed and the strategies of cultural action for freedom (Freire’s work, by the way, is unafraid to define itself as Utopian) that I have talked about elsewhere in this blog and which is at the heart of the work on mappa mundi may be something that should be considered more deeply by the New Economics Foundation. from The Great transition and modelling