Allusion Ahoy!: The ship of the social imaginary, the sea of infinite potential, and the never ending journey of possibility.

A long time ago now I introduced the metaphor of the ship to quickly connect together some of the social, cultural, political and economic problems that we face today.

I’m going to expand on the metaphor of ‘the ship’ in this post to try to help bring a number of thoughts together into one place.

As you might has realised if you’ve read any of my other posts, although everything is connected it is difficult to see ‘how’ and I hope to draw some of those connections here.

At a minimum it should aid memory and navigation of the ideas and concepts.

We’ll also move ‘between ships’ if you will. From sail ship, to Buckminster Fuller’s Spaceship Earth (space ship), and eventually to the Tardis (time ship).

There is hopefully a really good joke here too if you appreciate the humour.

The Ship

Sail ships are remarkable in that they are a combination of entirely distinct and separate ideas and forces all brought together and interacting at the same time through a single object.

Socially Enterprising (the organisation, the platform and the strategy) does much the same and I shall try to provide some correspondence between the parts you’ll find on a traditional ship and Socially Enterprising so that we can build up an understanding of what it does and how it works.

The first such correspondence is that Socially Enterprising can be described as a vehicle and as a vessel.

Like most vehicles let’s start off by turning the key.

The Key

The key is a metaphorical key and it provides a key to understanding.

‘Socially Enterprising’ can mean many different things depending upon who is doing the thinking. It is highly variable depending upon context.

The two words brought together conjure up ideas that combine the natural social and relational qualities which belong to humanity and society and attach to these the potentialities of our often overlooked and underappreciated; creativity, ingenuity and resourcefulness.

It is possible to use the term to describe a wide range of actions and behaviours which have pro-social effect.

These actions and behaviours can be found anywhere within society, they are not restricted to a certain domain or sector for example ‘social enterprise’ or ‘third sector’.

This naming allows us to draw connections between all; individuals, communities, civil society, business and the state.

It is thus able to work across and connect all of society.

It can be otherwise difficult to create connections between these different pillars and the silos that exist within them. Defining a type of activity or behaviour which can occur within any of them is a way of doing this.

Let’s also not forget the final aspect of the unlocking which is the door.

The key in this aspect unlocks understanding ‘within us’ and allows us to imagine what possibilities exist on the other side of the doorway for; ourselves, our communities, our work, or for our organisations.

As we stand at the threshold between the past and the adjacent possible.

It is the act of turning the key (imagination/vision) and walking through (action/creation) which brings the future into being.

Our Flag

Think of us as an entirely new form of Non Governmental Organisation.

We are a citizen-led ‘learning and development’ organisation that places ‘creativity’, ‘participatory arts and culture’ and ‘social and environmental justice’ at the centre of our work.

We provide a platform that enables others to connect, collaborate, exchange resources and bring about new potentialities in the world.

So we are an NGO and we are also a platform/ecosystem.

Our dual role allows us to create new possibilities on top of the platforms activity and connectivity (structure) which otherwise would not be able to exist.

We fly a flag of ‘Humanity, Nature and Creativity’.

The Crew

This is anyone or any organisation which chooses to use the platform. At this point they enter the vehicle and can expect the highest level of support in their work, their welfare and their working relationships onboard.

There is no single way of using the platform.

There is no coercion or pressure but there is a code of conduct and there are ethical, moral and values-based concerns which the crew are expected to be mindful of when going about their business.

Your work is expected to be in alignment with that of your crewmates and the ships projected course.

The Sails

These represent the cumulative effect of mass social action.

Picture a sail for every project, action and organisation with every one of those connected to masts that group their concern and purpose.

These are networks of networks of social organisation and activity.

If the wind blows left. We move forward.

If the wind blows right. We move forward.

Whatever the conditions along our way.

Towards our destination we move as one.

The Keel

This keeps us upright and on track towards our destination.

It prevents us from drifting away from our core beliefs and purpose.

  • No Advertising on Our Boat
  • No Political Parties on Our Boat
  • No Hate on Our Boat
  • No Discrimination on Our Boat
  • No Bad Actors on Our Boat
  • No Militarism. No Gambling. No Policing.
  • No Surveillance or Security Forces.

It is our morals, ethics and our values.

The Figurehead

Forever on the horizon and always at our eyeline The Figurehead represents the principles which we project and foster in the world as we travel into the future.

  • Social and Environmental Justice
  • Community and Peace Building
  • No Poverty (in all its forms)
  • Culture for All
  • Education is Free

The Navigation

We navigate by the stars.

The Crew, The Sails, The Keel, and The Figurehead work in conjunction to move us towards our destination that lies forever beyond the horizon.

We do not intervene or direct how people or organisations should use the platform as long as it can be considered suitable to the platforms purpose.

But we do make decisions as to what projects and initiatives we highlight upon the platform (editorial/curation).

We gather intelligence to learn ‘what works’ and we provide this knowledge to everyone on board.

Through this we are able to help shape; the setting and tension of our sails, the behaviour and actions of our crew, the weight and depth of our keel, and the principles represented by our figurehead.

Our course is thus ‘shaped’ over time through intelligence and curation.

The Governance

This is a people’s ship. It is a democratic vessel.

Representation, say and strategy is apportioned fairly between; society, civil society, business and the state depending upon their role. It is by all working together as one that the greatest results can be achieved.

Citizen involvement should be required wherever possible and the final decisions should belong to the people.

For democracy to thrive and survive, education and development of the citizens must be a major concern.

The Engine Room

It is society working together that produces social change.

If the sails represent the cumulative effect of many then the Engine Room represents the place where we meet, roll up our sleeves and get on with it.

Every social project and every social action is able to change the social, cultural or environmental context at a local level for the better.

When combined these local effects become regional and then global effects.

When we work together we actualise our future.

We bring our shared future into being.

The Main Mast

This is a living tree which stretches vertically throughout the network.

It reaches high above to create a protective canopy and deep below to create the roots and connectivity.

Sheltered from the elements and able to exchange nutrients, resources and knowledge. Existing ideas and organisations can connect, adapt and thrive. New ideas and organisations can experiment and grow.

It’s presence allows a vibrant new ecosystem to begin to form; locally, regionally and nationally.

It is the start of a permaculture garden that has life in the network.

The Garden

Our interior is a network of networks, an ecosystem of ecosystems.

It is a system of relationships that can be intertwined for social effect.

Developmental and life giving.

As we give to it, so it gives back to us.

Our Culture

These are the behaviours and beliefs that we model and encourage.

We are open to all and we are inclusive of everyone.

We believe that there is a future where; freedom and happiness can be achieved by all, peace amongst nations can be found, and climate, nature and social disasters addressed and averted.

All these things are within our hands.

It is a culture of creativity, freedom and endless possibility.

Our Guiding Star

Our higher purpose — our telos — is a culture for all.

With the right democratic structures and intelligence in place the crew and ecosystem should be able to steer their own course without intervention.

Socially Enterprising is an Non Governmental Organisation which provides that platform for others to make use of in their work.

Our guiding star is our NGO role. This is where we dedicate our organisational mission and surplus.

We identify gaps, support possibilities and build capacity in open access cultural provision which fits with the ‘socially enterprising’ ethos.

This includes investment in forms of ‘cultural commons’ (institutions, organisations, venues, platforms, software, networks, events) that are; community-led, socially oriented, non-profit/asset-locked, and democratic.

Our long-term view being the realisation of a vibrant, independent, inter-connected, cooperative and collaborative culture and cultural commons which can emerge as a central and supporting pillar of a modern, confident, and empathetic civilisation.

The Joke

Ah, yes, the joke.

According to science there could be more than one single future, by that I mean there could be an infinite number of parallel futures or worlds that exist or co-exist.

It is also true to say that the decisions we make and the actions we take in this world also bring about the future and it is in this that different possibilities and futures are always available to us.

The future is always being co-created by all of us but as a general rule we only see change in our local context and as isolated actors our overall can effect appear small in comparison say to the actions of governments which are able to magnify through their scale and size…

In the alternative presents and possible futures presented to us through science fiction we very often see the idea of a time ship (the Tardis is one such example) and you obviously understand the concept of time travel.

As a general rule these all operate on a very basic principle.

You set the year and/or the place and off you go.

But this is obviously utter rubbish. It doesn’t take into account all of the branching timelines or the possibilities of multiple parallel worlds.

You’re just going to end up somewhere random.

This might be good for an adventure like Bill and Ted, but if you’re attempting anything serious, well it’s just amateur.

If you want to go to a particular place and time then you need a far better way of specifying the destination.

Where it is cannot be a place because there is infinite place.

When it is cannot be a time because there is infinite time.

Instead the future to which you want to travel can only be defined as a set of conditions.

If you look above this is what; the sails, the keel, the figurehead, the navigation and everything else.

This is what it is all doing.

You set the social, environmental, and cultural conditions that you want to become realised in the future you want to arrive in.

Then you get in the ship, start putting the work in, and you travel towards the future you have agreed upon.

How else do you think time travel could ever hope to work?

If you want a certain future to come into being then you have to imagine it ‘and’ materialise it for yourselves.

Hopefully you appreciate the humour.

It’s a lot more practical and common sense than our political systems.

Set your destination and then in honour of Captain Pickard — “Make it so!”.

End Notes

There are quite a few bits which don’t really fit neatly above but maybe down here below decks will be a good place for them.

Architectural Forms & New Knowledge

It is my belief that society wide networks (societal networks is a term used elsewhere) represent a entirely new architectural form.

They exist simultaneously as multiple types of network and infrastructure; digital, physical, social and conceptual.

As spaces which connect people across time and space they can be architected as such to suit the purposes which they serve.

These spaces extend beyond simply connecting people and organisations.

They also connect the larger spheres; social, cultural, political, economic and environmental .

In this they might be better understood as civilizational level hyper-architecture or hyper-artefact.

It is important to consider that without building higher level understanding, what we might architect and create in this network space actually becomes a danger as there is much that will be overlooked or omitted from view when we mistake them for a simple form.

I feel this is what we are seeing with Facebook, Twitter and many other social networks. They don’t understand themselves in this higher context and complexity.

Neither do our politicians or our laws and legislation.

McLuhan’s second useful metaphor is the “rearview-mirror” syndrome. He contends that most of us are incapable of understanding the impact of new media because we are like drivers whose gaze is fixed not on where we are going but on where we came from. Is is not even a matter of seeing through the windshield but darkly. We are seeing clearly enough, but we are looking at the rearview-mirror. Thus, the locomotive was first perceived as an “iron horse”, the electric light as a powerful candle, and the radio as a thundering megaphone. A mistake, says McLuhan. These media were totally new experiences and did to us totally new things. — Teaching as a Subversive Activity (1969)

Importantly, these architectural forms are also media.

They are not static objects, they are relational in their working and effect.

McLuhan proposed that media themselves, not the content they carry, should be the focus of study — popularly quoted as “the medium is the message.” McLuhan’s insight was that a medium affects the society in which it plays a role not by the content delivered over the medium, but by the characteristics of the medium itself. McLuhan pointed to the light bulb as a clear demonstration of this concept. A light bulb does not have content in the way that a newspaper has articles or a television has programs, yet it is a medium that has a social effect; that is, a light bulb enables people to create spaces during nighttime that would otherwise be enveloped by darkness. He describes the light bulb as a medium without any content. McLuhan states that “a light bulb creates an environment by its mere presence.” — Marshall McLuhan, Wikipedia Entry

Finally, they are also learning environments which through our engagement with them teach us how the world operates and how to behave in it.

Is it any surprise we find ourselves in trouble!

We need new understanding before we end up plagued with more of these things negatively influencing and impacting every aspect of our lives and futures.

Some kind of open institute (networks, platforms, transdisiplinarity, ecosystems) for what is currently a massive blind spot but could turn out to be a hugely advantageous field of knowledge for humankind.

My votes for Bulby McBulb Face.

Founder of Socially Enterprising / Commoner / Mostly Unemployed.