A purpose for the next 5 years of my life

A purpose for the next 5 years of my life

A purpose for the next 5 years of my life 150 150 markeloptah
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a. Initial framing

1. A situation of emergenc(e)(y). 

Keywords: Liminal situation. A time between worlds. Metamodernity. Anthropocene. Capitalocene. Social movements theory. Transition management.

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The multilevel and multifaceted crisis we are experiencing (ecological, social, moral, imaginative…) demands a fast and deep response. There’s a profound consensus, both at the scientific and civil sphere, about that need even though global action is still lagging behind. Social commentators are still engaging in a conversation around the efficacy of actions framing the challenge under the individual agency vs. structural change lens.  

The great transition needed in order to fight back our extinction reclaims us to be able overcome some of the dichotomous thinking that lead us here in the first time. This kind of  reductive thinking coming from the failed modernist mindset unables us to build new frames to comprehend and engage in the world. We need new practices and worldviews that recognise variability, dynamic equilibrium and continuity over traditional Individualism/collectivism, Liberal/Conservative… dichotomies. Part of this effort will require:

  • a recognition of complexity and and an active search of the folds of reality
  • a deliberate movement towards orbitation and swinging between static positions
  • a development in both our personal and collective abilities to engage in deep listening and authentic conversations
  • a recognition and acknowledging of our agency as citizens in general and designers in particular that makes us and our posture as designers accountable of the worlds we enact and disclose.

    And what’s most relevant:

    New practices, structures, tools and imaginaries that help us self-organise meaningfully and impactfully. 

Climate emergency and the unprecedented speed of change needed to face it forces us to enable new ways of political participation up to the expectations of our great challenges. In so do it we need to actualise our understanding and broaden the practices of social movements. A transitional view that holds a multilevel perspective of the social transformations that are to be developed is crucial in order to navigate and make sense of the process. 

Accessing the realm of holistic social change will require a redirection of our efforts not only to the transformation of the individuals but also to the convention of a social field mature and rich enough to support them.      

2. The realm of the social: cybernetics, collective learning, social psychology and development

Keywords: Developmental psychology. Social learning. Cultural intelligence. Post-dualism. Phenomenology of change. Social presencing. Cybernetics.

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One of the recurring lenses throughout we have been looking at our research in the previous months is that of complexity and systems theory. Being already familiarised to that approach in the assessment and intervention into socio-technical systems we very curious to deepen more into the socio-cultural dimensions of these systems. Much of the effort has been put into crossing knowledge domains between complexity theory, social and critical theory, transition management, social movements… 

One of the elements that took our curiosity from the beginning was to understand “systemically” how social change unfolds. I got a glimpse into diverse change theories from modernity (ex. marxism, liberal project of progress…) all along to the post-postmodern times we are living in. Meanwhile we struggled emotionally with the apparent dichotomy that many of the critical assessments of reality were based on that seemed to be limiting the research. After some thought experiments hybridating transition management and social movements theory (which later found out it’s already something)and being immersed into the work of Guattari and Deleuze we started to think of social movements and change as “machines driving other machines, machines being driven by other machines, with all the necessary couplings and connections”. 

Historically a lot of work has been done in trying to develop an understanding of the Social phenomena as a complex organism (ex. Luhmann). Much of it tinted by a fancy positivism and covered naturalism. At the moment we are still wondering how useful those historical approaches to understanding social phenomena could be for me.  All that research helped me leap to a integrative and developmental perspective of socio-cultural change. Although I still hold some cautious teleological suspicion, this was one of the breakthroughs of the research phase.

Following a developmental view of cultural intelligence we can hypothesize that society is prepared to respond to the conditions of their realities depending on the cognitive structures and agency mechanisms socially available at that time. In order to be able to presence what’s the calling (what’s dying and what’s waiting to be born), to recognise the need for action and then to build the prefigurative paths to transformation us, both as individuals and collectives, need:

  • A fine tuned empathy and compassion being-in-the-world
  • A socio-cultural “code” that enables us to see beyond what is towards what could be or ought to be and help us overcome some of the inherent dichotomies we ebedd.
  • The social technologies and skills to self-organise organically and effectively dealing with the inherent complexity and emergence of long term system-level change.

Understanding the attainment of these requirements through a developmental lens enables us to see the challenge we are facing not only as a personal level awakening, which has been the focus of traditional awareness campaigns and social movements, but as a collective effort of social level learning process.      

3. Digital society and platforms

Keywords: Technopolitics. Participation. Consent. Deliberative processes. Transmedia participation. 

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This endeavour holds many socio-technical differentiators from other whole system transformations that have already taken place in the world. The omnipresent availability of digital technology offers new possibilities of remote, low friction, asynchronous interaction and participation. Early 2000’s social movements such as 15M, Occupy, Arab Spring… and later movements such as Extinction Rebellion or Chilean dignity protests have made clear that internet has become a central tool to the diffusion, organization and setting of social transformation. After few years of experiences there’s already enough criticism to be able to iterate what and how we understand participation in a networked society.

Among others here are some of the hypothetical pitfalls of current digital governance:

  • lacking warmth both of information and of bodily interaction
  • asynchronicity can broaden participation at the price of losing quality
  • current practices perform well for polling but, do they work for consent?
  • they do not work in complex situations requiring collaborative stretching
  • lacking qualities favoring intuition and a wider perception of consent

One of the wills of this project will be to understand how different rhythms, platforms, technologies, codes… could be redesigned and enacted in order to support the collective learning-in-action process.     

4. Overcoming logocentrism and enabling alternative ways of knowing, deliberating and communicating

Keywords: Bodily ways of knowing. Somatics. Dance. Post-logocentrism. Orality. Intuition. Aesthetic experience. Catharsis. 

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In the same way that the Internet allowed for a broader scale, reach and aesthetic of social movements we sense there’s a need for alternative soft technologies allowing for a different texture at the micro-experiential level of political change.

There’s some recognizable general characteristics of socio-political change processes such as its logocentric nature, the weight of orality, the existence of subtle and less recognizable power structures, their experiential and aesthetic setting… that this project aspires to put into crisis with a propositive intention.

Paradoxically, the main energy for starting this research project could be understood as a bodily perceived “structure of feeling” that’s calling us to act. If we wish to foster the great transition we need to attune our perceptual capacities for listening, negotiating consent and collectively transforming reality. A starting hypothesis of this project is that these processes would very much benefit from a more complete tool set regarding: bodily ways of sensing, movement, intuition, touch… 

One of the wills of this project it to be able to intervene at a granular level to introduce new paradigms, aesthetic values, practices and tools to improve the overall experience of this transformative social process. 

An ongoing list of old and current aesthetic values and abstractions in political participation and self-organization:

  • Weight and momentum 
  • Slowness
  • The circle
  • Invisible power
  • Value in consistency and static positions

A draft list of intended new values:  

  • A phenomenological perspective of change
  • Acknowledging bodily ways of understanding and the power of rituals and multisensorial/spiritual/bonding situations

5. Transition management, social practices and social movements theory. A theoretical framework.

Keywords: Transition management. Social movement theory. Experience design. Social practice theory. Friction.

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This ambitious project that will be developed during the next years of my life is thought to combine different scales and perspectives.

Macro level – overview and stewardship //

One of our starting hypothesis is that of the importance of a bird’s eye-view for a collective stewardship of this evolutionary process. The theoretical framework of transition management can give some clues in that endeavour. Up to these moment I have detected two main opportunities in fostering that transition:

  1. facilitating the proliferation and maturation of autonomous free spaces as niche social innovations prototyping alternatives
  2. facilitating the swarming, amplifying and escalating of those spaces to become the new normals in mainstream culture

Meso level – situatedness //

The project aspires to be situated and engage in our local reality. Throughout this time a set of impact areas and/or change processes will be tackled and hosted as a medium for action research.

  • COOP housing / assisting Adrià in his PhD
  • Micro-solidarity weaving and crews

Micro level- intervention level //

As designers we feel comfortable in the domain of everyday life. We help mediate the material experiences of people. This culture and skillset has been traditionally put at the service of commercial work. At this moment of the project we are wondering how design can help improve the individual “politicization” process of people through an experiential and phenomenological point of view. 

Ongoing list of impact areas:

  • Making the process of self-organizing accessible to a majority.
  • Reducing the frictions that prevent people from engaging in medium-long term processes.
  • Re-designing tools, processes and patterns in order to overcome some of the actual pitfalls of these processes. 
  • Facilitating the dissemination of meta-learnings that contribute to a common resource.
  • Sharing and celebrating the contributions and impacts of those processes for increasing the social optimism buffer.

6. A methodological approach: speculation as prefiguration, prefiguration as world-building

Keywords: Speculative design. Rituals. Transformative experiences. Anarchism. Prefiguration. Imagination stretching. Meaningful experiences. Intimacy. 

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Methodologically speaking as well as looking for concrete interventions in the realm of today we would like to approach it from an speculative lens. Much of the work to be done would increase its impact if shared paradigms, worldviews and imaginaries could be destabilized. Speculative research might help mainstream alternative imaginaries around the everydayness of a politicized self and by so doing transforming ourselves. One of the elements that inspires much of the research being done up to date is the prefigurative and direct action qualities of anarchism. We believe speculation might be a way for prefiguring an extended imaginary landscape that gives space for collective change.

By this moment it might already be clear but we think is important that the goal of this research project its not (only) the generation of knowledge or the contribution to the extension of theoretical work. This is a political project willing to have an impact in real life although using research as catalizer. We believe speculation is prefiguration and prefiguration is a world-building endeavour.   

b. Agents involved

[Ongoing Kumu agent map]

    People already engaged in this we-space from different dimensions:

  • (Traditional) Social movements and cooperatives
  • Unions
  • NGOs
  • Developmental work
  • Integralists
  • Kaos Pilots & co
  • Metamodernists
  • Decentralized organizations movement. Enspiral, Loomio, Percolab…
  • Anarchist movements. Emotional Anarchists.
  • Researchers and practitioners in technopolitics. Decidim. Marco Deseriis (Scalable Democracy). 
  • Cultural agents

c. What is already being done? What’s their value? How can we, and design, contribute to that?

  1. Micro-utopies

Exemplary value. 

// Ex: La Borda. Enspiral.

  1. Day to day transformation and conflict resolution

Extend the limits of what’s possible. Frame extension.

// Ex: PAH. Sindicat de Manters.  

  1. Code developing

Developing discourse, theoretical foundations and synthesizing pattern language.

// Ex: Richard D. Bartlett. Co-intelligence institute. Emotional anarchism. Emergence Podcast. Extinction Rebellion’s New Democracy. Peter Koenig. Conversation modalities. Liberating structures. 

  1. Converging and weaving

Sewing social fabric. Personal awakening. Trainings. Spiritual growing. Retreats

// Ex: Art of Hosting. Convergence.  

  1. Developing infrastructures, tools and technologies

// Ex: Decidim. Loomio. Democracia por Sorteo. The Circle Way.  

  1. Initial questions
  2. Intended impact: a futurization
  3. Research in action/transformation plan
  4. Calendar
  5. Solution space