Dimensions of change 1

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.

Making a mappa mundi

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!

Knowledge, action and change

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 and 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.

Was it the moment while resting on a trip from Cambridge to London at Wadesmill in Hertfordshire, a few months after the publication of his essay, filled with anger at injustice and suffering, he promised to himself that he would dedicate his life to the abolition of the slave trade?

Was it the moment when the twelve men (including Clarkson) met in a London print shop in 1787 and formed the Society for Effecting the Abolition of the Slave Trade?

Or was it the passing of the Act?

Of course the outlawing of the trade by Britain was not an end to slavery nor to racism so the continuum of change didn’t stop there. This was only one of the first expressions of moral outrage against the human impact of imperialism.  

The first public collective expression of opposition to slavery by people in the ‘perpetrator’ societies was made by a group of Quakers in Germantown Pennsylvania in 1688, the very year that our own current regime, founded as it was on imperialism and constitutional ‘parliamentary’ monarchy, was established. The development of the legislative and constitutional processes and the articulations of opposition to slavery were a part of a continuum into which Clarkson’s urgency arrived and was continued by him and his co-campaigners.

Social change happens in long movements, like rivers whose different tributaries are at first almost invisible and subterranean.  It is very difficult to say at what decisive stage it has been accomplished.  The legislative moment is undoubtedly significant but this may be nothing more than a superficial sign.

Unlike rivers social change can go in contrary directions.  The underlying trajectory may be towards humanisation, liberation, consciousness, enhanced capability, enlightenment. Our changes, apart from temporary obstacles and reversals, may be towards our becoming more ourselves, realising ourselves and our potential.  Also, people wish a better life for their children.  An enormous sense of grief takes place amongst populations who do not feel they have the ability and conditions to create, at minimum, a generational continuity of conditions and circumstances.

This issue of the trajectory of humanity, the human project, is an existential question.  On any given day our sense of other human beings, and our assessment of what prospects there are for the human species, may be influenced by what happens in ordinary routine interactions, like at the bus stop.  It may be derived from our reflecting on ourselves and the distance between what we imagine we are going to do and what we actually manage to achieve or how we want to behave and how we really do respond to others.

There is an obvious difference between something that is written on the back of an envelope and something that is written ‘on the statute book’ of a given country’s legislative assembly.  Collective recognition and agreement does have material impacts.  Behaviour changes, attitudes shift, beliefs are abandoned or adopted, values are asserted and accepted or rejected and repulsed.  These movements are real events.

What is the relationship between the invention of a pedagogy (or a system of learning) and the construction of a school building?   The former needs some substantial space where it is put into practice and the latter, if it does not house an ongoing learning practice, is not what it purports to be.  From the point of view of efficiency and effectiveness the latter may seem, in principle, more attractive to those who want to put their resources into social 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?

Thomas Clarkson after his essay writing and after his personal avowal in Wadesmill set out to accumulate as much information as possible on the slave trade.  He gathered testimony from those who had direct experience of methods of entrapment, captivity and exchange and the conditions on the transports and shipping vehicles.  The process for him was to combine an enormous weight of information with an appeal to the sense of a justice based on an affinity with those enslaved (i.e. ‘they are human just like you, how would you like it?’).  The information was conveyed through documents, meetings of key players and public address.  Thomas Clarkson was on an almost continuous lecture tour from 1787 onwards.  People learnt, through attendance or contact with this process, about what was happening. The fact that there was a potential legislative process meant that people could feel they had both a responsibility and a power to effect change.

The kind of changes we are going through now are different.  National legislative assemblies do not have the same kind of power over commercial activity. The impacts of imperialism, or of the commercial-industrial production and exchange system that seems to have replaced it, are more complex.  The appeal to the human project effective in the affinity-plus-information-plus-legislative action array that characterised the abolitionist movement and that which which is effective within the conditions that characterise the current movement for social justice and environmental sustainability are different.  For example, in the latter ‘the appeal to the human project’ is made in circumstances where that project is faced with the prospect of extinction.

This prospect gives rise to all kinds of problems.  Not least is the mythic apocalyptic language that connects knowledge and action on change to ‘saving the world’.  Implicit in this is a more general current problem about information and knowledge.

In 1798, during the period when Clarkson and his colleagues continued their campaigning for Slave Trade Abolition, William Wordsworth was touring the Wye Valley in the West of England.  On July 13th of that year he wrote ‘Lines written a few miles above Tintern Abbey’ (the title shouldn’t be taken too literally!).  This was published later that year, along with other poems by him and Samuel Taylor Coleridge, in Lyrical Ballads.  Both these poets were supporters of the Abolitionist movement.  Coleridge was outspoken and published articles on the issue.  He was black.

A few days after Wordsworth wrote his poem the French Army led by Napoleon Bonaparte took Cairo.  The progress of the Abolitionist movement was protracted.  In 1833 the legislation abolishing the Slave Trade in territories ruled by the British Crown was passed by Parliament but even then it excepted the territories in possession of the East India Company and the islands of Ceylon (Sri Lanka) and St Helena.  These exception were only revoked in 1843.  Thomas Clarkson died in 1846.

“For I have learned

To look on nature, not as in the hour

Of thoughtless youth, but hearing oftentimes

The still, sad music of humanity,

Nor harsh nor grating, though of ample power

To chasten and subdue. And I have felt

A presence that disturbs me with the joy

Of elevated thoughts; a sense sublime

Of something far more deeply interfused,

Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns,

And the round ocean, and the living air,

And the blue sky, and in the mind of man,

A motion and a spirit, that impels

All thinking things, all objects of all thought,

And rolls through all things.”

Lines (89 to 103) written above Tintern Abbey by William Wordsworth

How do we know about climate change, atmospheric pollution, economic systemic, energy resource depletion?  We hear stories.  News of environmental change is accompanied by photography.  We are connected up through the media to both documentary record as well as scientific information.  The latter is conveyed to us in graphic images.  We see lines going up or down and/or correlating on charts.  We are given statistics.  At one point science had a relatively simple array of instruments: the telescope, the microscope, the thermometer, the barometer.  Now the results of complex interactions of systems of measurement give data that is then processed by computers to give data that is then readable in ‘infographics’ in a variety of illustrative sophistication.

A variety of buoys that measure sea surface temperatures have to have their reading related to satellite readings that correct for wind speeds, this is extrapolated in the  measurement of flows beneath the surface important for understanding transmissions of heat in the thermohaline circulatory systems that drive through the oceans of the earth connecting the Atlantic with the Pacific in a continuous movement of energy transmission, of heating and cooling, that takes place at different speeds at different depths so that some ‘belts’ transmitting water take hundreds of years to move from ocean to ocean.  The oceans are a complex system.  One of the critical impacts of the ice caps melting is the introduction into the oceans of large quantities of fresh water.  Fresh water conducts heat differently from salt water and there is a chance that this incursion could change the ways in which heat is transmitted by the thermohaline conveyor belts.

We are connected in our knowing to a massively complex array of instruments through which we learn what is happening to our earth.  Does this knowledge alone, derived from scientific measurement whose results anyway have to be interpreted before we interpret them, change us, change our view of ourselves, change our habits, our practices, our behaviour?  Presumably there has to be other co-ordinate experiential events.

I leave out of account here how we similarly receive information about our economic system, equally scientifically verifiable with graphs that snake along the walls of TV studios and plummet into some kind of abstract abyss or climb to a perilous peak.  We know about energy bills, food prices, pension schemes, unemployment, impoverishment and enrichment by means of more immediate apprehensions.

We are left hoping, when we have the time to pay attention, that those who know can communicate with those who can do something.  These are supposedly the scientists and the policy-makers.

In Wordsworth’s poem he describes an experience of a landscape that is animated by his affection.  I think this is called a pathetic fallacy.  He is conscious of a kind of energetic power that flows through him and the landscape that makes him feel at one with it.  He talks about standing on this particular piece of earth as if he, the knower, is joined with it, the known.  You can read for yourself.  It is a description of a kind of transcendent experience where his love and feeling for his sister is interfused with his love for the earth.  He talks about the solace this heightened environmental consciousness gives him particularly in helping him deal with living in a city.

What is the relationship between a agronomist climate scientist at a university, international and local policy-makers and a peasant rice farmer in the Mekong delta? A really significant and (if this is the right word) influential bit of the earth’s structure is the Himalayan mountain range.  The immediate cause of this landscape feature is the collision between the Indian subcontinent and the Euro-asian landmass.  This was one of the last and most dramatic movements that took place during the period when the current terrestrial configuration took shape.  Our knowledge of this particular process was confirmed by the geological evidence derived from our discovery of tectonic plates.  The Indian subcontinent is one such!  Tectonic plates were detected, analysed and proven to exist only in the late 1960s at around the time the first photographs were taken of the earth from space.

The Himalayas are the highest mountains on earth and as a consequence are the most massive.  Their protrusion into the atmosphere leads to large precipitation.  The run off of water from the Himalayan are related to no less than eleven river deltas, of which the Ganges/Bramaputra, the Yangtze and the Mekong are the best known.  This means that these locations are sites of maximum interaction between fresh water and sea water.  The tidal and seasonal flows of these river deltas provide extremely fertile locations for rice agriculture.  The rising level of the ocean consequent on global warming is having impacts on them of decreased river discharge and saline intrusion.  This means that things are changing and rice crop yields are endangered.  Farmers in the region have traditionally managed the volatile interactions and have made assessments about rice seed types accordingly.  To change rice seed strain involves various complex consequential impacts and has economic consequences in terms of the number and timing of crops and the markets for the types of rice produced.  The farmer will be bringing together a knowledge of soil, tides, water salinity, types of rice, markets for crops.

The crop scientist will be able to create a computer model of crop behaviour and link this modelling with the information about possible sea level changes derived from regional extrapolations of climate change computer models and apply these to GIS modelling of the topography of the river delta to predict changing patterns of fresh/saline water mix.  They will be able to make recommendations to research biologists who are able to create strains of rice that respond well to certain levels of salinity.  They will be able to give advice to investment bodies who are looking at various forms of sluice-gates to control saline incursions or rice seed producers.

In between the scientists and the farmers may be representatives of the public authorities who have an oversight of the production location.  The Mekong delta is divided between China and Vietnam so there may be conflicting interests being played out between these political entities.

The crop scientist and other ‘climate change impact’ scientists may well be aware of the arguments about the conflict between local and scientific knowledge.  They may well be working with social scientists who are advising much closer collaboration.

Consequences of this complexity are numerous. One is a rethinking what scientific truth is. Some of these ideas are expressed as ideas about post-normal science and the co-production of knowledge in the work of Jerome Ravetz. Another impact is the growing tendency for scientists to work in interdisciplinary teams.  For example, ecological economics originated in ecologists and economists working together.

This raises the question of the impact of scientific knowledge in regions of the world where the impacts of climate change are not so immediate as the river deltas of Asia.  I am talking about the societies of the temperate West. Does this knowledge lead to change?  How are climate or environmental change transmitted and what are the impacts of this transmission?

Paul Samuelson is one of the most influential and best known economists of the 20th Century.  When challenged by physicists to name any law discovered by economists that was true and non-trivial, he proposed David Ricardo‘s Law of Comparative Advantage.  This law is an argument that a given economy (usually defined by national boundaries, that is, by monetary unity) will always have a comparative advantage in the production of a certain commodity that will make trade a benefit to it. (Apologies! There are better definitions around!) This is the argument used by economists to make economies concentrate on a particular sector or crop or commodity.  At one point Ruanda was persuaded by an IMF structural adjustment programme to concentrate on coffee with disastrous consequences.  Countries that are rich in natural resources are persuaded against economic diversification with the consequence that they become dependent on transnational corporations and their government are weakened by corruption.  China clearly has a comparative advantage in labour i.e. it is able to cheaply produce people.  The UK even more clearly has a comparative advantage in financial services and so should concentrate on this ‘industry’.  Apparently we are really good lending and borrowing money!

Just in case anybody should suppose that this ‘law’ is the discovery of an intrinsic and natural property in the material world and is an eternal verity of human organisation operating as a truth in all circumstances known to human beings like it may be said of tectonic plates, we know from Ricardo’s diaries that the work of analytical thinking  precedent to him coming up with this ‘law’ was seventeen months after the Battle of Waterloo was fought in June 1815.  This battle was the final act of a protracted history of conflict for the domination of global markets started in the late 17th century when, after the glorious revolution of 1688, William of Orange put together the Coalition Army of the Dutch and British to fight the French. It established British Imperialist hegemony for 100 years.  This was the battle that was said to have been ‘won on the playing fields of Eton’.

I am simply making the point that whether or not ‘comparative advantage’ is true depends on what point of view it is viewed from. I am emphasising its historical genesis and the social context in which it was thought up. It’s true if its useful and its more likely to be useful for developed countries in their relations with less developed ones.  Also even scientific laws are relative.  On the development of relativity and quantum physics there was a tendency to assert that these theories rendered Newton’s work invalid.  However Newton’s Laws of Motion are true for the behaviour of a certain level of matter.  The point is they are not universally true.  The idea of absolute truth in science had to be reframed with the development of ideas about probability and uncertainty.

Looking at Goethe’s scientific work, based on the perceptive capacity of the whole human being i.e. the concept that the human being is the ‘greatest and most exact scientific instrument that there is’, we can see intimations of forms of apprehension that bring the ‘knower’ and the ‘known’ into a more complex interaction than a strict division of subject and object will express. See Philosophy  This also reflects the perception that at a certain level of particle analysis the object of examination is produced by the instrument of examination. This is to do with the activity of knowing and is a problem associated with Werner Heisenberg‘s ‘Uncertainty Principle

This means that knowledge and action cannot be causally connected in a simple way.  There is no direct relationship, for example, between the strength of proof of anthropogenic global warming and the coherence of action to mitigate climate change through changes in policy and thus in production processes.  People are not going to change more radically as the evidence becomes less open to question and as uncertainty is dispelled.  People are not going to change the economic system simply because there are clear arguments undermining classical economics.

It is through struggle, communication and action (in which knowledge and information play a part) that people become activated and societies change. The only way that people can learn is by doing.

We live in a culture that systematically divides up our capacity to know the world and divorces analytical knowledge from creative knowledge.  This takes its most obvious form in the division of arts and sciences at school.  I think this division is a key element in the regime we have here in the UK.  It is installed in the institutions that were formed in the regime building process that occurred after the Restoration of the Monarchy in 1660.

What is the relationship between the ‘knowing’ expressed by Wordsworth as he communed with nature on July 13th 1798 on a hill top overlooking an abbey ruined during the state nationalisation of the monasteries in the early 1530s and the knowing of a Vietnamese rice farmer in the Mekong delta, and a crop-modelling climate scientist (Andy Challinor is a good example), and David Ricardo working out scientific arguments for so-called ‘Free trade’, and us watching polar bears struggling with smaller and smaller ice bergs sequenced with computerised modelling of arctic summer ice cover and statistics turned into graphics on excel to depict the same?

How are we on the earth?

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 to 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.

Mode(l)s of change

There are many different models of change.

Those who are concerned with human change at all its various levels – individual, biological, historical, political, economic, social – (all of which are, without doubt, interrelated in complex and intricate ways) must at some point wonder whether human beings haven’t always been pre-occupied by change.

One of the earliest philosophers in the West (here, of course I am talking about those who managed to record their thoughts in writing), Heraclitus (he who pointed out that we never step into the same river twice) considered the essence of reality to be change.  He considered fire to be the fundamental element in the becoming and passing away of all things.  But in the aeons of human time before his lifetime (he lived 2500 years ago)  people may have always been aware of different kinds of time.

The advent of the awareness of death as an individual event, the movement that brought about our need to make a ceremony around death, the recognition of planetary time in the menstrual synchronicity that is a significant and unique fact of women’s biology (which some anthropologists e.g. Chris Knight claim to be the key factor in the origin of human culture), the recognition of the relationship of human lifetime to other periodicities, (such as vegetation growth) all may be capable of being historically instantiated from the paleo-ethno-graphic record.  These moments may mark developmental stages in the evolution of the species like the advent of agriculture or indeed that of industrialism.

Consciousness of change presents itself sometimes as a strange partial denial of death in the so-called ‘advanced’ industrial societies.  In our political discourse there is an obsessive presentation of the benefits and necessity of change. This seems to demonstrate a common knowledge that things cannot remain as they are yet it defends rigidities and the maintenance of the status quo. Almost by repeating this idea, and thus taking possession of it, the old order can use it like a mantric prophylactic against change. The same process applies to the idea of sustainability.

Though there is no objective way of verifying it, the perceived discontinuities in lifestyles and life conditions experienced from one generation to another in our world today is a massively significant factor in contemporary humanity’s story.  This is to some extent measurable through the amount of transport and travel taking place.  It is discernible in displacement and human migration.  Experiences of rapid enrichment and impoverishment and growing economic inequality are indirect indexes of the experience of change. Also material conditions, landscapes, built environment, resource availability are changing in ways that are directly related to productivity or the efficiency of human tools.

Paulo Freire bases his work on the observation that our contemporary world is characterised by relationships of oppression and domination.  It is for this reason that he ascertains that liberation is the emerging action.  This characterisation would mean that change is often imposed on people and that people are not in the majority of instances (this is impossible to verify) in control of change and are responding to it rather than initiating it.

So it seems that there may be considered to be two aspects of change.  One aspect is material change, an outer objective change, a change in circumstances or conditions; the other is the response to change and this, at first sight, seems to be an inner process, one of assessment and then adaptation and engagement.  It can be noted that the adaptation and engagement may well be action that, in turn, changes material circumstances.

Over the recent days while we have had the Olympics in our city we have been constantly told by the media that the winners of medals have been ‘making history’.  It has been an obsessive and almost desperate refrain.  Whatever one’s enthusiasm for the various sports might be, whatever level of admiration one has for the whole organisation of the spectacle, and of the achievements of the athletes, the personal commitment and the collective endeavour, this idea of history may stick in your throat.  The political strategy, satirised by Juvenal in his observation about governing by means of ‘bread and circuses’ (panem et circenses literally, ‘bread and games’), is similar to the division of the state apparatus in Louis Althusser’s work into the repressive and the ideological and the more colloquial twin strategy of the ‘carrot and the stick’, was played out during the London Olympics with full orchestration and repetitive thematics.  The reduction of history to the inscription of names on a kind of roll of honour is like history as a list of Kings and Queens.  It perfectly eclipses and obscures the process whereby people may change the social and political structures in which they live.  Like ‘change’ and ‘sustainability’ the repetition of ‘making history’ through sheer acts of verbal exhaustion comparable to a mantra, can numb sensibilities and actually obstruct the real process that is named.

Is it difficult to distinguish between the initiation of change and the response to change? Do the apprehensions, beliefs, values that we inherit form the material circumstance that we cannot change? When Marx formulated his idea that ‘men make their own history not in circumstances of their own choosing but in those handed down to them by the preceding generations’ can we  easily distinguish between that which we can determine and that which is determined for us?  Of course all the available wisdom tells us that this can not be resolved by theory or intellect but only in the course of action.

What is this action?  One substantial definition of it is given by Hannah Arendt in The Human Condition when she analyses human activity into three categories: work, labour and praxis and defines the last of these as being the ‘history-making’ action.  Another idea of what it might mean is suggested by Freire when he draws a distinction between a ‘banking’ idea of knowledge where facts are accumulated and an ‘active’ knowledge, acquired in the course of changing the world.  Something similar to this is implicit in Augusto Boal‘s definition of the ‘spectactor’ although in both these last two examples the idea of action is closely connected to the question of knowledge and meaning, but this makes more obvious something that Arendt is driving at in her definition of praxis, since for her praxis is action ‘in the public realm’, a space defined by its ‘publicness’.

This also brings the idea of ‘change’ close to that of ‘action’.  This is why we have presented mappa mundi as being in favour of activism.  In fact our ideas about change are defined by movement towards or away from activism.  The online interactive space that the project provides is comparable, from this point of view, with the ‘aesthetic space’ of theatre described by Augusto Boal (in his book The Rainbow of Desire) and the ‘public realm’ described by Arendt (in her book The Human Condition). For Freire this process is connected to that of ‘naming’. Bear in mind that his work derives from methods developed during work on literacy.

Marx‘s view of what composed the ‘circumstances’ which people do not choose but in which and, in a sense out of which, they make history was connected to what he described as the natural history of humanity, the relationships that human beings created in the course of transforming elements of the earth into things that they could use and/or consume.  It was the basic interaction of humanity’s production system with the material world that gave rise to social relations.  Read John Lanchester’s wonderful review of Marx’s work for the London Review of Books

There is no simple formula that can lead from an analysis of a given mode of production (even if one accepts that these can be analytically distinct!) to a given social structure. Marx’s view that this relationship was transmitted and worked out through class struggle is convincing if the definition of class can be refined by taking account of both a common relationship to the apparatus of production and the organisational capability of expressing a collective interest.  OCCUPY’s assertion that they are 99% versus 1% can be illuminated from this perspective.

Marx dedicated his main work Das Kapital to Charles Darwin yet there seems to be immediately noticeable differences in the models of change that are presented in their work.  In a simple reading of Darwin’s work, applying evolutionary concepts to human development there seems to be an obscurity around the role of consciousness and human design capability.  If evolutionary change is transgenerational and is determined by sexual selection of required adaptive characteristics to environmental exigences it is easy to reduce Darwin to a simple determinism.  You can see how Darwin’s work can give rise to science fiction (and operationally programmatic!) fantasies about super races.

Within the perspectives offered by psychoanalysis both Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung give different versions of change.  Implicit in Freud’s definition of neurosis and his theory of repression and sublimation, also in his later descriptions of civilisation in terms of Eros and Thanatos and in Jung’s development of the theory of the collective unconscious and how this was structured by archetypes, are implicit images of human change. Although these ideas have implications for social organisation the operational space of psychoanalysis is the intersubjectivity characteristic of the relationship between the analyst and the analysand.  It is the participation of the analysand in their own therapy that makes this process an ‘activisation’.  The relational structure of the  dialogue involved is comparable to Freire use of the dynamic interplay between the educator and the educated.

Though it is not always easy to see, in psychoanalytic practice, how this work of transformation at an individual level relates to collective and social change, it is interesting to notice, for example, in the work of the transition network how the movement of the individual involved in transition is likened to that of someone trying to rid themselves of an addiction (See Chapter 6 of The Transition Handbook by Rob Hopkins now republished as The Transition Companion) because dependency on an oil-driven economy is likened to other forms of habitual dependences.

Jung’s study of alchemy with its description of a conjoined inner and outer journey that takes the spiritual traveller through the darkness into the light echoes the sense of religious convertion typified by St Paul’s blindness and subsequent renewed sight.  Models of change are articulated through metaphor and imagery and it is not a co-incidence that a crucial stage in the fourfold movement of change described by Joanna Macy is from ‘Honouring the Pain’ into ‘Seeing with new eyes’.  The fullest and best written description of this process is in the book, Active Hope, that she wrote with Chris Johnstone, whose principal work as a psychotherapist is working with addiction.

The play between individual change and social change that is animated by a link between a particular production regime and its individual embodiment in characteristic personal behaviour is something that I explored in The Image of the Human.  In the context of the transition movement the ‘regime’ or system is characterised by the key energy source i.e. oil rather than, as in Marx’s work, by the mode of production but the issue of causal determination is similar.

In Joanna Macy’s work she uses the spiral as an image of change wherein movement brings people back to similar positions but at higher levels of development.  In Chris Knight’s work on the origins of culture mentioned earlier he concludes his key work, ‘Blood Relations: the origins of culture’, with an analysis of history that brings together the sense of cyclical movement at different levels of development with his observation of the potential return of women’s power after millennia of patriarchal dispossession.  He also likens this idea of change to that represented by a spiral.

The study of entropy first undertaken in the middle of the 19th Century by Rudolf Clausius and related to thermodynamics has helped earth scientists to understand the effects of the consumption of carbon in its main mineral forms (coal and oil).  The irreversibility of the use of energy has given a timeline to the production regime based on fossil fuel and scientists in interdisciplinary groups have been engaged in studies of how the move to a low carbon economy can be undertaken.  One such project, Transition Pathways to a Low Carbon Economy, envisages a model of change from one energy regime to another as being driven by three spaces in the social structure each with its own logic: one, the market; two, the state and three, civil society. It images the interaction of these three ‘spaces’ in a fourth space in the centre of the triangle composed of the other three which is described in their work as an ‘action’ space where complex combinations of activities from the three spaces take place.

In the work of the Berkana Institute change is figured as the relationship between two semi-circular loops.  One is the old regime that is in decline and the other, its inverse, is the new regime in development.  The graphic depiction of these loops show them disconnected and the work of the Berkana Institute is focused on the space in between. See the video on Berkana’s Theory of change

This imaging of change is accompanied by a new conception of human leadership that models itself on the ‘leader as host’ in contradistinction to the ‘leader as hero’.  This specification of personal qualities called forth by the current circumstances of regime change or, as it is expressed by Berkana, paradigm change (thus echoing the work of Thomas Kuhn in his exploration of the development of science) is also relevant to the earlier blog on The Image of the Human.

In Berkana’s work there is also a correlative shift in how knowledge happens.  This is to do with their conception of community and how they have learnt from evolutionary biologists’ observations of resilience in ecosystems.  Knowledge is created not through hierarchy but through network and this defines resilience as being brought to an entity by the multiplicity of connections of mutual interdependence.

Work on climate change has brought an analysis of what constitutes adaptive behaviour.  On the one hand there has been a strategy proposal that emphasises ‘behavioural change’ and this can be looked at in terms of social practices which are parcels of connected activities.  The analysis on which this work is based has been developed by UK sociologist Elizabeth Shove and is based on practice theory and the work of Theodore Schatzki.  Alongside this is work that emphasises the central importance of ‘bottom up’ strategies (which implicitly, of course, still accepts this vertical model) and of local as opposed to expert knowledge.  This latter work is associated with Jerome Ravetz and his work on post-normal science.

I mean only here to give a superficial list of different models of change and these are by no means the only ones.  There’s more to be said about the question of knowledge and its relationship to information and change.  I’ve called this blog modes or models of change and could equally have used the words ‘images’ or ‘paradigms’.  I have meant to be suggestive rather than definitive.  We think of change often in images and we can see that continuous change may not be perceived as change. We are aware of complex systems that are characterised by non-linear transformations but equally we know that a glass of water that gets colder and colder is undergoing change that we may only become aware of when we touch it but when, relatively quickly, it turns to ice we are aware of the quantitative cumulative change becoming a qualitative change.  How we perceive this change makes a difference to our assessment of what the change involves. Equally a caterpillar that develops into a chrysalis and then, once again, relatively quickly into a butterfly is undergoing a complex change that offers us another image that might shed light on our own transformations.

Innovation, technology and change 2

In ‘Innovation, technology and change 1‘ I was considering whether mappa mundi was a technological innovation.  I concluded that what might be innovatory about our project was the way we were combining digital technology with creative processes.  It may be true that original combinations of already existing technologies are in effect technological innovations.

All technological innovation is developmental and dependent on already existing levels of development. Stephenson’s Rocket would at first glance count as an innovation but if you look more closely you can reckon that the wheel, the rail track, the metallurgy, the mining technology, the steam engine, the control of fire and heat pre-existed it.  The key innovative component was the way in which the power produced by the steam engine was transferred to the wheels.  There may even have been precedent technology for this function.

Innovation relies on complex convergences of problem construction, available preceding technology and knowledge.  Human inventiveness and how knowledge and skills are retained, communicated and adapted are connected.  These processes are also connected to the dispersal of basic skills, literacy and numeracy.  The co-ordination of human activities is a key driver and and outcome of language development.  The communicative space of information technology facilitates the distribution of images of the human species as well as the convergence and standardisation of production.

The content of the ‘uploaded videos’ of which the interactive mappa mundi space will consist is ‘change’.  Of course there is 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 engage 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?

Human change, change to and through human beings, is continuous.  We are born, grow old and die.  We witness birth and death.  We accompany the human beings around us in the struggles that we undertake for meaning, identity, justice, security, wealth and pleasure (to cover just some of the general categories of aspiration).  The structures of our social groups change accordingly.  These larger more populous entities are structured by gangs, interest groups, elites, classes, national projects that hold conflicting aspirations and motivations.  People will observe that human beings never change, that their basic nature is fundamentally stable; they may associate this stability with a god or with our identity as an animal.  The natural history of humanity merges with the developmental evolution of the species and the perspectives gained in seeing this continuity can become vantage points to look at the human story in a closer time-frame and in this way particular and more recent features are seen more clearly.

Charles Darwin could only have made his ‘discoveries’ about the evolution of species at the time that he did. They were connected to circumstances when the British Imperialist project was at its height, affording a new global perspective derived from the cultural interactions that imperialism had brought about.  This reminds us that all views are relative and even views of history are historically relative.

We don’t experience changes in our own lives from the perspective of species history.  There is always a disconnection between how we experience personal change and how circumstances beyond our control change.  However this disconnection is a part of a process of consciousness and recognition and being conscious of it is a stage in our ‘processing’ of change, of how we accept it and struggle for or against it.

mappa mundi draws our attention to individual change, or change as its experienced by the individual because in the dramatic space, one that is animated by characters, this is a crucial creative focus, a focus necessary for creativity.  It does not make this focus obligatory.

As a consequence of industrial development – and of the agricultural development that preceded it (particularly through deforestation) – human beings have altered the amount of carbon in the atmosphere.  Due to its peculiar properties carbon reflects back heat at the infra-red wave-lengths that the Earth radiates heat it does not do so in the ultra violet spectrum that the sun radiates.  This means that the biosphere is retaining more of the sun’s heat and the earth’s average surface temperature is rising.

At various stages of industrial development people have been aware of pollution and how the air quality has been affected relatively near to plants engaged industrial production and latterly, with the discovery of acid rain, the relatively long distance impact.  It has only been in the last 40 years that measurement has been possible that makes it clear that the impact of carbon fossil fuel consumption has altered the atmosphere.  This change can be dated back to the beginning of the industrial period.

The key factors here are the invisibility of the carbon particle increase, the fact that it is dispersed throughout the whole atmosphere (not just local to the source) and the long duration of its residence in the atmosphere and therefore its cumulative impact.

So things are changing.  Uncertainty surrounds the nature of these changes and their impact over time.  It is through computer modelling that the data from the measurements of sea level rise, of oceanic warming, of changes in oceanic circulatory systems, of cryospheric depletion, of weather system heat transmission are collated and put into formulaic relationship. The computers used are the largest available. The research is restricted and structured by the number of times highly complex scenarios can be run through the assemblies of computers. They are the perceptual instruments of projection and forecasting. Likewise the potential social and economic consequences of these biospheric changes are subject to investigation by the construction of scenarios that use broad categories of potential change: economic convergence or divergence, technological development and population growth.  These factors in turn influence projections about atmospheric pollution and average temperature increases, because , of course, these three key factors impact on continuing carbon emissions.

The largest collections of scientists from a widest variety of disciplines ever assembled are those gathered in the study of climate change by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. They of course have to investigate impacts and adaptations.  The adaptations that people make to protect themselves from the impact of change, from decisions about coastal erosion to the introduction of saline-resistant rice crops, are stories of human change.  Eventually these adaptations are decided upon by human beings in the midst of complex social pressures.

The use by the IPCC of the word ‘adaptation’ and the distinction drawn with ‘impacts’ is strategically important.  An impact must be perceptible.  It must be capable of being experienced.  It may provoke adaptive strategies.  You can’t help being reminded of Darwin’s use of the word adaptation.  This concept was used by Darwin in relationship to environmental interaction and selection of characteristics determining species survival.

Development of computer modelling has enabled us to look at the relationship between economic growth and the consumption of natural resources.  One of the first uses of modelling to project global development was in the Limits to Growth project in 1972.  The use of ‘feedback loops’ in the simulation of natural and economic processes was decisive. The General Circulation Model used then is also the basis for those used in Climate Change work.

Looking at material flows and inter-sectoral interactions (e.g. between population, housebuilding and brick making) and building complex simulations of economies have also been constructed through input-output models.  This work is based on matrix mathematics and was first developed by Wassily Leontief.  It is this modelling that is being used by the Stockholm Environmental Institute at the University of York in its Resource and Energy Analysis Programme.  It is this modelling that is capable of simulating specific sectoral interactions (e.g. between shipping and detergent consumption) and relates consumption trends to production and environmental impacts.  It can simulate the amount of carbon embedded in products and so can give an estimate of ‘western’ consumption impact on ‘developing world’ (e.g. Chinese) production.  The focus on consumption-based analysis of carbon emission has blown the cover off the pretence that the West’s carbon emissions are in relative decline because carbon-emitting production has been exported. This modelling is also the source for information on carbon and/or ecological foot-printing. It thus relates individual consumption choices to global consequences. This brings us back to considering the relationship between individual change and social change.

People have been changing their lifestyle, their personal habits, their behaviour, their social life, their political views, their image of themselves, their image of humanity in response to environmental change.  Recognition of the dysfunctionality of the economic system and the crisis of growth is a complementary and related driver of these changes.  Not all are towards activism or even towards environmental sustainability. Some people will have taken defensive, protective, private actions.  It goes without saying that people living at a distance from the regions of the world that are being immediately affected by environmental change (by sea level rise or the increased likelihood of extreme weather events, droughts or intense precipitation) will be responding differently.

The knowledge that these new environmental conditions may have been caused by industrial development connects sometimes, in people from the old industrial areas of the world, with a feeling of a loss of the land, or of a pre-existing more organic connection to the earth, or with a regret at the loss of bio-diversity. Even if people believe that the environmental changes are not attributable to anthropogenic factors or that the accuracy of the measurement of increases in average surface temperature are uncertain, they cannot deny the actual changes experienced by people living in tropical Africa, Andean South America or the great Asian river deltas.

What might be manifested as a sense of responsibility in the industrialised part of the world is related to the evidence that, although China may currently have the fastest growing Carbon emissions, it is the developed world that is overwhelmingly responsible for the amount of Carbon particles in the atmosphere (this is to do with the residence time for atmospheric carbon dioxoide particles mentioned earlier). Furthermore it is still demand in the West based on borrowed funds that is the main driver for Chinese industrial output.

So responsive change here in the West could be said to be driven by a mixture of information and intuition.  Whether it is the impact of economic dysfunction, or perception of inequality, or actual impacts of environmental change that are the main ingredient of change depends on individuals and their social interactions.  How far people in the parts of the UK that have been affected recently by flash flooding have been becoming more aware of global climate change or have simply been concerned with flood protection and insurance is difficult to assess. There is no set recipe for the cocktail mix of change.

How much these changes relate to evolutionary species adaptation is entirely subject to speculation and imagination. If the human species is undergoing an evolutionary adaptation is it possible that this would be seen within a generation?  A major part of Darwin’s research was carried out on pidgeons because of the rapidity of their breeding cycles.

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 participating in the mappa mundi project to find a common story or image of change with which they can all identify or that they recognise they must first of all come to terms with their own individual story.  Our mappa mundi toolkit will elaborate ways many stories can be accumulated into one story.  In this we will be using ideas derived from Augusto Boal’s work in The Rainbow of Desire.

People make choices, however circumscribed the choices appear to be. They don’t choose the choices they make but those choices, irreversible and characteristic, based on retreat, defence, fear, resistance, activism, solidarity, are the lineaments of human freedom.  It is when people begin to take possession of their own history, when they begin to tell their own stories and recognise that they are at the centre of their own lives that they move the human story forward.

Innovation, technology and change 1

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.

Could our mappa mundi project be technologically innovatory?  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?

Just as social change is intensified by the current recessionary economic crisis so also is the pressure on technological innovation.  In orthodox economic terms the crisis is like a vicious circle where a failure of stability causes a failure of confidence.  In this situation investment slows down and the prospect of increases in productivity (not just the amount of goods produced but the relative amount of labour that it takes to produce each amount of goods) decline.  Profit, the source of investment, must be directly related to unit costs and demand.  If costs can be reduced through technological innovation then investment, all things being equal, will flow towards that enterprise.  Of course technological innovation can be more easily and commonly seen to be related to the development of a new product rather than the improved efficiency of the production of an already existing one.  However all products are related as commodities to the satisfaction of human need (illusory or real!) and they are linked in terms of the disposable income of buyers by relations of substitution (buying A instead of B) or complementarity (Buying A because you are buying or already own B).

In a period of recession people will look more intensively for innovation in order to create competitive products and enterprises.  However, of course, investment in innovation after the Research and Development stage (characteristically and generally financed through the state) may be slow to arrive.  Mariana Mazzucato makes a brilliant and acerbic attack on the private sector ideology of the current government in The Entrepreneurial State.  She points out that almost all the major technological innovations have happened through state finance and development, a prime example is the internet.  She also explodes the illusion that, for example, the health care programme in the US does not depend on state funding.  She points out that every single major pharmaceutical development has been state financed.

Nesta’s main work on innovation and the arts is ‘The Culture of Innovation: an economic analysis of innovation in arts and cultural organisations’ by Hasan Bakhshi and David Throsby, a research report for NESTA.  They struggle to find a basis on which to talk about how innovation can impact on the arts.  They restrict themselves to institutions (their report is based on the Tate and the National Theatre) and therefore cannot really interrogate how innovation may arise from the arts practice itself.  They leave in tact a model of the relationship between artists, funders and the audience that makes it difficult to see how innovation may be able to break down those elementary categories.  For example, in participatory arts the audience/artist relationship is reconstructed. Augusto Boal expresses this dynamic relationship in the context of theatre by the neologism, ‘spectactors’. However the use of an institutional model is understandable given that innovation has to be defined more widely than that which is directly attributable to technology.  In this Bakhshi and Thorsby follow Miles and Green’s 2008 report for NESTA on the creative industries in specifying that innovation can take place at the level of the governance and managerial structures of the firm, in the production or preproduction stages (how research and development is organised in relation to and within production), in the actual product, in the user experience and in communication (with suppliers, for example, or users).  This enables them to use a broad definition of innovation and gives them a basis for looking at four categories of innovatory impact.

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.

The image of the human

In order to explain why it was that my beliefs and values were so far from the popular consensus when the Thatcher government was elected in 1979 I started writing a kind of self analytical journal. See Starting Points. This was an attempt, as I put it then, to ‘historicise my feelings’, in other words, to work out why I felt the way I did about the world in relation to the historical circumstances I was born into.  This led me to formulate an idea about the character-type that I thought was prevalent or typical of British society at that point in history.  I called this type the ‘imperialist personality’.  Since then, still deeply intrigued by historical circumstances in relation to personal and social change and vice versa, I have developed other ideas such as ‘the image of the human’ and the ‘inner icon’. These are connected to ideas about cultural change and cultural action.

The idea of character is very attractive to anyone working in drama.  In one respect character refers to an integral individual human being.  Character, in one sense, suggests uniqueness.  On the other hand character is partial.  It is an assembly of characteristics.  In this sense it is a part of a whole in the way that a letter of the alphabet is semiologically dependent on the whole set of letters.  The character is the vibrant centre of the actor’s work because, on the one hand, they must develop in their work a specificity or an individuality and, on the other, they must make their creation a part of the whole play or drama.

How far the character of a human being is determined by unconscious drives that derive from the evolution of the species or by the specific immediate political regime or social structure is an interesting question if it doesn’t have to be answered categorically.  Carl Gustav Jung  believed that conscious history was illusory and that  the unconscious or archetypal history was true history (see the essays on Jung and History in Part 1 of Sexual Revolution: Psychoanalysis, History and the Father edited by Gottfried Heuer).  Another early member of the psychoanalytic movement, Wilhelm Reich, understood character as being the embodiment of the socially specific resistances to sexual drives and gratification.  He analysed the psychology of fascism in these terms.  This latter thinker was very influential on me and I felt that his work explained how it was that the National Socialist regime managed to produce and cultivate the sadistic personalities needed to carry out its policies.  I looked with a similar optic at the kind of characters that were advanced by the Thatcher regime and this deepened my sense of an imperialist personality structured by myths of power that were created and internalised through mimetic processes. I won’t here go into what these mimetic processes might be but I would invite the interested reader to look at the work of Rene Girard.  I also realised that Reich was not alone in his attempt to understand the reaction presented by the rise of fascism.  The work of the Frankfurt School: Adorno, Marcuse, Benjamin, Habermas, Sohn-Rethel, Horkheimer, Fromm were also impelled by the advent of reaction, the growth of fascism, into thinking more profoundly about social processes.  My view is that the legacy of these thinkers is decisive in understanding our current situation.

The embodiment of spiritual and psychic experience and the unlocking of sources of creative energy that can carry an actor towards the expression of archetypal forms is significant in the work of Jerzy Grotowski.  Theatre has the capacity through physical expression and work on character to link conscious history with unconscious history.

The question of how a political regime or social structure reproduces itself and of how values and beliefs are internalised by individuals is connected to how forms of resistance are incorporated and accommodated by adaptations and reforms that the regime may make.  These movements of appeal and response, of demand and negotiation are the workings of cultural change.  When a political regime is no longer perceived to be in accord with a commonly held ‘image of the human’ it will fall.

My experience in Cairo in April 2011 directly relates to this idea.  The key stories that I was told by participants in the revolutionary movement were of the ‘inhumanity’ of the regime both from the point of view of the violence it had perpetrated as well as the poverty it had institutionalised.  These stories about the regime were articulated alongside expressions of personal transformation and exhilarating liberation.  I am not  commenting here on the outcome, effectiveness or longevity of this social movement. I am describing a process in which people expressed a powerful movement of humanisation that was connected to the downfall or overthrow of inhumanity.

In our lives we more or less identify ourselves with the social group from which we have our origin.  In an international arena we are aware of different versions of humanity, variations on the human story.  In so far as the society with which we identify embodies values and consists of processes that are consonant with our sense of our humanity, we adhere to the given order or regime.  Millions of people in the UK dissociated themselves from the Blair government’s invasion of Iraq (though that action was spun in terms of humanitarianism) and the popular slogan for this dissent was: ‘Not in my name’. This action was not in itself enough to destroy the popular consent to the establishment or ruling elite’s regime in the UK.  Other aspects of the regime remained sufficiently credible and acceptable.

Is it true that social movements are really negotiated through images of the human that we have internalised?

In order to live as human beings we have to be able to recognise other human beings.  We are interdependent as creatures and this faculty of recognising other members of our species is vital.  Of course this identification may be restricted by nationality, ethnicity or by gender and there are many instances of societies that have set definitions of humanity which exclude another human group or groups.  The agony of the development of the human species as it has become aware, through processes of imperialism and globalisation, of itself as a total planetary entity is punctuated by these traumas of exclusion.

In order for us to recognise other human beings we must have an available image of what this humanness consists.  This must also be based on our experience of being ourselves.  There has recently been work in evolutionary biology that relates to this question of kin selection.  See the work of E. O. Wilson. Our sense of ourselves as a developing person, undertaking a life journey that reflects on the phylogenetic evolutionary development of the species, is a collective social process.  We make each other. This reflexivity could be said to be a quality that is especially exercised in theatre work with the actor’s seeking out of similitudes and dissimilitudes in their work on character.  I have written about these processes at more length for readers interested in following this line of observation.

No political regime can sustain itself through coercion alone, especially over relatively long periods of time. I think of the process of consent as being like the generation of an inner icon, an internal object that holds the individual in place and in basic obedience.  I believe that at moments of social change and revolution this ‘inner icon’ breaks as the individual withdraws belief and consent from the ruling order.

I have to work through images and I am aware of how idiosyncratic and insubstantial these formulations are.  In speaking about these processes of identification in a world situation that he considers to be characterised by domination, Freire talks in The Pedagogy of the Oppressed about the tendency for the oppressed to identify themselves with the oppressor.  In other words, when asked who they feel they are like the oppressed will see themselves as being like the oppressor.  They can not imagine being like themselves!

It is through the generation of iconic figures, objects of admiration and to some extent of envy, that the system ‘naturally’ gains its adherents.  The regime has to constantly construct images of the human which are simultaneously installed and lived out by the individuals within its rule.  This is by no means a simple process and these images are often connected dynamically to survival and enrichment and also to ideas about the autonomy of the individual.  It is this proposition of independence that structures ideas of freedom and renders individuals dependent.  These processes remind me of Marcuse’s formulation of ‘repressive desublimation’ and brings me back in this short tour around ideas about ‘the image of the human’ to the key work of the Frankfurt School.

NEXT: Innovation, Technology and Change




Philosophy while working on mappa mundi

Having a philosophy means having an idea of what is and an idea of how we know.  Both these ideas may be articulated in words or not.  People have a philosophy without philosophising.  This means they act from principles that they have arrived at in the course of their lives but don’t enunciate what these principles might be.

A development of these ideas can be phrased in adjoined questions such as: What is real? and What is true? All the time in thinking about our purpose and in trying to work out how to live our lives we are accompanied or interrupted by these kinds of questions.  When we meet circumstances in which we find it difficult to recognise ourselves either because the world around us (society and other people) is not in accord with our expectations or ideals or we face situations where we cannot get what we want we either hit out physically or we give ourselves over to thought.

Why it is that people differ in their basic predisposition and come up with different ideas at these crucial times is not easy to explain.  At a very early stage in our lives we are driven by a sense of what is just and fair.  This may instantiate itself in simple situations of distribution within basic human groups.  It really isn’t uncommon to hear a child plead for justice: ‘That’s not fair’.  This may be driven by a basic appetite or alternately an already developed sense of honour.  As we grow up and look at the world around us, we notice injustice and make assessments about how possible it might be to redress it.  Everybody comes into some kind of characteristic interaction with these observations.  The interaction may a kind of settlement or a constant disturbance.

By the age of 19 I had decided that the world (society) was extremely unjust.  What I meant by this was that so many people’s lives were constrained in ways that made it unlikely that they would achieve their potential, that they would be able to do what they could do, what they were capable of doing.  I went further and saw that because of systematic exploitation people were effectively robbed of their lives and made to work for other people’s advantage.  I considered this to be inherent in the capitalist system.  It worked by the extraction of profit that became the private property of the owners.  The political structures simply enforced these property relations though they appeared to be based on equality.  It seemed to me so blazingly obvious that the many were exploited by the few and that people’s lives and development were being held back by a system that enforced inequality and that it would only be a matter of a few years before everybody had similar recognitions and the system and our society would change.  I thought that humanity would free itself from the capitalist system.

I recognised that vested interests existed and by the time I was 22 because of events I had witnessed in Northern Ireland I realised that the people for whom these vested interests operated would fight physically to preserve the system that benefited them. This was the reason why after having found deep confirmation of my observations in the work of Karl Marx and his ‘descendants’ for some years I joined the Communist Party  because I thought that ideas needed an accompanying organisational form.

In the years that followed – the 1970s – it seemed as if I was able to successfully carry out in my work in theatre expressing the values that I believed in.  I was able to live in an illusion that, although it all might be taking a little longer than I thought, the revolution was just around the corner.  I didn’t realise that the victory over the Heath government in 1974, the miners strikes of ’72 and ’74, the success of the struggle against the Industrial Relations Act were all contrary to the general way the world was going.

When Margaret Thatcher came to power in 1979 I suffered a deep shock that sent me into a profound questioning of what I thought was real and what I thought was true.  I had to rethink. On what basis did I feel affirmed by Marx’s ideas. It all seemed so logical.  Materialism, developing forces of production, developing relations of production, exploitation, class struggle, contradiction, revolution, theory becoming a material force…. I had to become philosophical!

In the first instance – maybe because I come from a military family – I was focused on how ideas of politics and social change are figured in armed confrontation.  It struck me that Marx and Lenin’s ideas (not that they were exactly the same!) were articulated through images of conflict that were specific to a war like the First World War where there was a front-line and the magnitude of the force exerted would decide the outcome of conflict.  Of course all kinds of considerations of will and cohesion and knowledge of terrain were important but it seemed as if conflict was somehow resolved by putting ones shoulder to the wheel and the bigger the shoulder the better!

I could see that this was a masculinist and mechanical vision of change.  I had also read and thought through the work of Antonio Gramsci and looked carefully at the metaphors he used about different levels of social fortification or structure and diverse military processes.

I could not help being impressed by the fact that Marx and his descendants seemed to be using models and structuring visions of the world that didn’t take account, for example, of relativity and quantum physics.

I was also very strongly impressed during the course of my recent adventure into the world of Earth Sciences (see Starting Points) by the implicit philosophy of social change that permeated the work:  that ‘scientists’ discover the truth and they then make clear and convincing arguments to ‘policy-makers’ who then, because they are rational and logical (or are supposed to be), act accordingly.  The ‘speaking truth to power’ idea is so similar to the idea of theory becoming a material force that it hardly needs underlining.  Different theories of action and reaction work for different levels of matter but this mechanical, binary ‘logical’ view has always seemed deeply suspicious to me.

Of course Thatcher’s election was a shock but it was also a release.  I have been liberated into confusion!  Nothing has seemed simple for over thirty years!

The events in 1979 made me undertake a ‘philosophical and sentimental quest’ and I mention this in Starting Points.  If I could see the injustice of the world so clearly how could it be that others wouldn’t.  How could it be that the world could remain in the control of the same ruling elites?  I wasn’t just confused, I was also naive!

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 a profound lesson when one of his literacy students announces during the course of a discussion: “Now I see that without man there is no world”.  When Freire investigates this by pointing out that there might be 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!!”

At the moment when Heisenberg and Bohr came to the conclusion that the irreducible form of matter was both a particle and a wave, they described the formation of matter as being determined by probability.  This conception spirals back to the first work we know of on this question. This was carried out by the pre-socratic philosophers at the birth of modern Western culture in their formulation of atomic theory. At more or less the same time as Heisenberg and Bohr were inventing the basis for quantum mechanics, Rutherford managed to split the atom.  Though I do not have the technical knowledge to be able to explain the importance of the recent ‘discovery’ of the Higgs-Boson ‘element’ I can see that it stands in a line of development from what happened 100 years ago.

This brings me round to the question of philosophy with which I began this blog.  My formulation was to do with the fact that philosophy is concerned with two things: ‘what is’ and ‘how we know’ and already we can see that these two branches of philosophy (ontology and epistemology) could be considered to be one.  It might have to be a continuation of this blog in which I explain (if I can!) why this philosophy seems so important to me.

mappa mundi…so far

Where have we got with the mappa mundi project?

We have started to build a partnership, to create a network of friends and supporters and are in contact with some of the people who will be part of the creative team.  We’ve also got some ideas about ways of raising funds. We are planning to have the first ‘live event’ of partners, participants and friends in late October and have dates for the first creative sessions at the beginning of November.

In this next immediate period we need to produce a better and clearer description of the project.  We also need a carefully considered, phased development plan and each phase needs to be budgeted.  At the same time our potential partnerships need to be extended and our network of friends and supporters needs to be made more communicative.

We are planning to make a bid for NESTA’s Digital Research and Development Fund for Arts and Culture. For this we need to have confirmed a technology partner.  We need a definite agreement with an organisation capable of carrying out at least the initial development phases of the online space design.

So who has been involved in our work?

I have been working with Research Assistant, Valentina Zagaria, and we have had valuable input from Naomi Hatfield Allen who worked with India Unheard.  This is one of the many projects with which mappa mundi has similarities.  Tom Clark has been giving us guidance and support and it was he who first put us in touch with the New  Economics Foundation whose The Great Transition has been a significant starting point for us.  Az Theatre Associate, Jonathan Meth, has contributed his unique inspirational thinking.

We have, through Tom, also had conversations with people involved in the Network for Social Change.  This may be another source of support.  Tom was inspired by Caryl Churchill’s play Seven Jewish Children and the performances he had seen in his locality where local groups had performed the play to raise consciousness and funds for Medical Aid for Palestinians.  This play has been performed in hundreds of locations throughout the world and it was thought that if all these performances had been video’d and collected together online it would create a kind of large-scale collective work that would both illustrate and encourage activism.  I have had a good conversation with Caryl and she is thinking about contributing a text that could be a part of the downloadable toolkit that is such a vital element of mappa mundi.

Other inspirational arts projects that we have been in contact with are Theatre Uncut and also the Community Arts International project that Alan Lyddiard initiated.  Our conversation with Alan was a major affirming movement forward for the project.  He is definitely a friend of mappa mundi.

At the beating heart of the creative process of devising the sessions that will be a part of the downloadable toolkit is the work that I have been doing with Debbie Warrener.  She is a practitioner who espouses the work of Joanna Macy and ‘the work that reconnects’.  We are planning to bring together a group of participants to try out our ideas and  in collaboration with practitioners from Insightshare in early November see if we can produce a mappa mundi drama video.

None of the partnerships have been formally agreed but one with Insightshare would form a key component in our work.

I have had a significant conversation with Claire Warwick, the Director of the Centre for Digital Humanities and there is a definite possibility that this unit that is a part of University College London’s Department of Information Studies and that has played a part in a project in NESTA’s first test phase of its Digital Research and Development Fund will be a partner in mappa mundi.

Claire also recommended that we contact the Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis for a pathway to a ‘technology partner’.  The approach has been made and we are waiting to hear.  This is the most crucial element in our search.  The synergy has got to be right.  We have talked to Paul Harter at Creative Code who is a technical architect and programmer.  Our fingers are crossed, eyes open and ears close to the ground!

We have made approaches and had informal meetings with Body>data>space.  They are an interdisciplinary design collective and they work with telepresence, connectivity and physical/virtual blended space.  Their participation in the project would be vital for the curatorial aspects of mappa mundi and with the creation of an exhibition of work at a crucial culminating stage in the project.  Summer has forestalled our attempts!

The deep conversations that I have had with Clare Cooper and Shelagh Wright from Mission Models Money have created a relationship to their prescient networking organisation.  This is a very exciting connection with thinkers and doers who are really thinking through questions of transition and resilience in arts organisations.  I have become a peer member of their re.volution network and mappa mundi will be one of the seed projects in their re.think project.  I really want our association with this remarkable organisation to help us manage and structure our project through the collective brain-picking that good networking involves.

I am thinking of Clare and Shelagh as being friends of mappa mundi.  Likewise Peter Birch who is doing a Ph.D. in Organisational Psychology with special reference to conflict resolution and who worked on a creative project with Debbie Warrener, Edges of the Wild.  The conversation with Peter was seminal. Also, Nigel Pamment, the former Head of Drama at a South East London Comprehensive who has so generously given his advice about how drama sessions can be communicated to workshop leaders.

Talking about the work with Molly Flatt is a bit like leaving the best and the deepest till last.  Molly is a writer and works as a word of mouth evangelist with 1000heads. I met her when we worked together on The Inner Space. Building online communities is felicitous for her and her take on mappa mundi has launched the concept into a new strategic and communicative level.  This is due to Molly’s deep creativity, insight and knowledge.

Bringing to a close this little updating account I just want you to know that all these people I have talked about are the focus of my gratitude.  The adventure has been made by these exciting people.  But I haven’t mentioned them all and neither could I because I have engaged in myriad conversations about the project.  Dan Vokins and Tim Jenkins at the New Economics Foundation have been full of insight and imagination.  Perry Walker from the same outfit didn’t get it but the conversation with him was truly stimulating.  Also Derek Paget illuminated not just some of mappa mundi’s blurred edges but also the exigences of the funding environment and put me in touch with another inspirational project, C&T who work with internet and digital technology on drama projects with young people and adults here and in Africa.  Connectivity (‘Only connect!’) is what mappa mundi is all about. It’s just great to be in touch with this wealth of creativity.

Starting Points blogging about mappa mundi and change

The starting point for this blog is the recognition of a need to open up the development of mappa mundi. Find out more about mappa mundi. This project has very deep roots.  Ideas relating to it were planted a long time ago.  There are a number of starting points.

The idea of using an online space as a collection point for crowd-sourced dramatised and videoed stories of change and of this space being like a geographical and spiritual map occurred to me after I was invited to meet Stewart Wallis, Director of the New Economics Foundation in December 2011.  The context of our conversation was the growing importance of The Great Transition in NEF’s work.  I was thinking about human change and how it happened, how people undergo it and how they can express their stories about it.  Lots of other ideas were coming into play.

I wondered how people could enhance their sense of living in a complex system, how individual change related to collective change, how change contested images of the human, how truths about lived experience seemed to vary from scientific truths, how there was a confusion about the perception of policy makers and a kind of wall between those who thought they had power and those that knew they didn’t.

I had realised when I was working on my dissertation for the Masters of Science in Ecological Economics at the School of Earth and Environment at the University of Leeds in the summer of 2011 that human change related to environmental and/or economic systemic change happened amidst all the other personal, physical, emotional and social changes that people lived through.

Various strong movements of ideas had occurred in the course of my studies.  I had returned with passion to the work of Paulo Freire and had looked with new eyes at the transformative practices that he developed in his work on literacy programmes in Chile and Brazil.  His ideas about active knowledge made me also look again at the work of his ‘offspring’, Augusto Boal.  This path took me back towards theatre work. mappa mundi represents a convergence of what I had picked up from studying ecology and economics and my 40 years as a theatre practitioner.

So the next starting point to explain is that which took me towards studying Ecological Economics.  In 2008 I decided to move forward a project that had been on my mind for a decade, an investigation of the relationship between theatre and economic thinking.  We held a meeting of theatre makers and economists in December 2008 that focused around the impact of the ‘Big Crunch’.  Towards the end of the meeting Paul Ekins, eminent environmental economist, said almost casually and quite plaintively that in his work he was presented every day with convincing evidence that in all probability the earth would be uninhabitable by human beings in 150 years time.  This, in the context of a conversation about economic systemic crisis, suddenly shocked me.  I knew it as a kind of commonplace fact that I had heard repeated by members of the scientific community but it immediately connected with an image of my personal lifetime.  I suddenly remembered that, just a few weeks previous to this, I had seen my brother’s little grand-daughter embrace my mother and I thought how extraordinary it was that if that little girl grew up to be as old as my mother and if she embraced her great-grand daughter that there was a possibility she would be embracing someone that would be alive in 150 years.  I think there is nothing so rare about these kinds of moments.  Suddenly personal time and historical or biological time come together!

It was this moment that made me feel I must find out more about the relationship between human and natural systems.  It was Paul Ekins who directed me towards Ecological Economics and suggested that I do an A level in Mathematics in preparation.  After the A level, I did a couple of modules with the Open University and then went on to Leeds for the Masters.

I had invented The Deal because I wanted to work on what appeared to me to be the most significant movement that I had experienced in my lifetime.  This consisted in the virtually complete domination of all social and political institutions and processes by the values and beliefs associated with classical economics.  This wholesale permeation of social and cultural life that had destroyed all but the faintest idea about justice from the political agenda seemed to me to have its origins in the early-to-mid 1970s.

In fact while working for Foco Novo in 1977 on the second of the plays that John Hoyland and I wrote and produced for the company I remember being in a National Union of Mineworkers office at Manvers Main pit in Yorkshire when a man came into the room and announced that he had just had a conversation in the pit baths that led him to believe that the spirit had gone out of the movement for socialism and that the Conservatives would get back in at the next election and there would be a period dominated by reaction.  I didn’t believe him at the time but the memory of that prediction still sends shivers down my spine.

Within two years Thatcher’s government had been elected and the movement that should have been obvious from the impact of events like the 1973 coup in Chile against the government of Salvador Allende started to come to dominate the world.

This is the epic story of my time, the arrival and dissemination of an ideology that was a radicalised consumerised version of market capitalism later dubbed neoliberalism.

In 1979 I was working as an Director at the Theatre Royal Stratford East.  The election was a fundamental shock for me.  It threw everything into question, especially my admiration of and absorption by the work of Marx and his ‘descendants’.  Another deep experience was a production of Brecht’s The Caucasian Chalk Circle that I directed there.  It felt as if Brecht was articulating a radical critique of economism in the amazing dialogue between the Grusha and the Azdak stories (played in my production by Deborah Findlay and Tom Wilkinson).  Everything was called into question by this work and the journal that I had started some years earlier suddenly took on a key role in my attempt to think through what was happening to me and my world.

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 imperialist 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 or character-type that was characteristic or typical of this imperialist regime. See The Image of the Human

In this respect the mappa mundi project links back to this thinking.  At that time I proposed to myself that, in the journal, 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.

This blog is a continuation of this quest.  It is for this reason that it will not only register what is happening in Az’s work but will reach back into the past using it like a kind of rear view mirror, one that might help us to really understand where we are going.