Scene from the Scroll of the Hungry Ghosts (Late-12th Century). Kyoto Museum.

Unskillful human nature can be like a hungry ghost, a being always looking to what is next or lamenting what was. A being not present enough to say, enough.

The hungry ghost is a metaphor in Buddhism often depicted as a gnarled sickly creature with a very thin throat and full belly. It’s a metaphor about when we foolishly attempt to satisfy our desires without realizing that it’s an endless task. How may illusions does it take to feel satisfied once and for all? Like any addict, the answer is at least: one more, that next great illusion.

In today’s context we must also think about our information diets, which Clay Johnson has written much about (check out his book.) Social media and other digital networks, as extensions of humanity’s social nature, amplifies almost all human trappings and inspirations. This media saturation was initially embraced like a new toy at your 5 year old birthday, and then discarded. Many of us now need to detox or drop out on sabbaticals or entirely, until… We often swing between these extremes. Neither offering much solace if the focus is on stuff, or lack of stuff.

Can we learn to say enough with this focus on our objects, goals, feelings, all the stuff? Can we make tech that helps tame human nature instead of playing to its base hungry ghost modes as if that is the only “real” nature we have?

The way around this to me is about shifting focus to our collective reality, to our inter-relationships with each other and our world. Let this happen in whatever way that feels right as long as it’s authentic, as long as you can really show up in the relationship. Not in your head. We are far too addicted to our self. To ideas. So much so that we can’t even see what is going on right in front of us. So many are feeling what you are feeling in any given moment, you are never alone. Let’s learn to feed on this sense of solidarity. Self-satisfactions, and self-lacerations, are like trolls. Don’t feed them.


30 days of blogging note: after my last post, written while sick, I finished my work in Moscow and traveled home to Brooklyn and promptly allowed myself to be fully sick. Personal resilience is an issue especially in socially engaged work. I’m actually working on app that touches on this. So I took the time to just be as I was, a healing and sleep needing person. I’ll now resume this challenge, with an added focus on personal resilience topics. You must work from where you are. Where else are you?

(Image: Scene from the Scroll of the Hungry Ghosts (Late-12th Century). Kyoto Museum.)

Moving from Transactional to Intentional Cultures

surveillance camera and U.S. flag pole

The Preface Story…

And The Post:

When teachers and students are seen as sellers and consumers that’s transactional culture.

When the people in local government and in a city are seen as service providers and consumers, that’s transactional culture.

In the U.S. since the Reaganite 1980s the U.S. became a largely transactional culture. Today the language of much innovation, design thinking, service design, etc. is still thoroughly colonized with this hyper-corporate transactional hollowed out reduction.

Intentional communities care about broader and deeper impacts in the way our short brilliant lives are lived. The Net and a desire to renew local and longer lasting values is allowing the deliberative space and speed to spread a renewal of more intentional community living. From the rise of Meetup groups and Twitter leading to the addition of the words meetup and tweetup to the Oxford English dictionary, to collectives united by all sorts of shared values, to hyper local community groups, and more… the pattern isn’t just about making, hacking, or meeting up… more deeply it’s about an explicit awareness of intention.

Any sort of viable future for everyone will not be centered on efficient transactional cultures, so if you start noticing this in your work and conversations speak up and turn to those you’re with and ask, how can we find and meet the deeper intentions people have about life today and in the future? How can we organize and work on *that*?

(Photo: Park surveillance camera, McGolrick park, Greenpoint, Brooklyn, NY, 2014)

My answer to How can New York City use technology to serve citizens?

    “Culture eats strategy for breakfast!” – Peter Drucker

    4 suggestions related to the cultural and human factors dimensions. Probably not where you want to start out, capacity building would be a better focus, but something to consider and plan for sooner than later.

    1. “How to engage with City Staff” tech training
      Info for *both* tech-innovator citizens and city staff on how to work together on Open Gov tech projects. — Speaking from my experience with city staff on http://fixcity.org I found that the biggest bottleneck to civic innovation is informing & training of civil staff about OpenGov concepts. OpenGov needs to become part of the civil employee culture. This is a new interdependent virtuous cycle type of relationship between citizens & city staff that many excellent city staff veterans are not used to. Behind great tech are great ways of working with people to do it.
    2. Add qualified social/anthro ethnographic tech researchers to city staff.
      Since many civic tech projects are social tools about social life in this city huge quality improvements could be made with wise understanding of Urban dwellers & tech. Who to hire? Start with Keith N. Hampton at U Penn. See his research on “The Social Life of Wireless Urban Spaces” and PEW reports. The city’s investment in research entrepreneurs often can’t afford, for social human understanding technologists are often not aware of would be a great service. These researchers could also provide the best approach for success measurement. Keith’s site. http://www.mysocialnetwork.net/ I can also recommend others.
    3. Weave in human-centered Placemaking approaches and assessments for projects related to actual places in NYC. What is Placemaking? http://www.pps.org/placemaking/a…
    4. Work with Meetup.com to learn best strategies to encourage bringing people together face to face in the places they care about. This must be key. As Douglas Rushkoff simply put it, digital media have an inherent bias towards dislocation– using dislocation technology for local connection has a built-in trap. The solution? Use it to get people to meet together.

    How can New York City use technology to serve citizens?

    Follow… Me – Nationalism Diminishes In The Global Human Net

    Bandera americana, pin para solapa, photo by Daquella manera
    Photo by Daquella manera

    Tim O’Reilly said the following about Obama’s use of social media in a recent Q&A on one of IBM’s business marketing sites.

    “Clearly there are some new channels for outreach and new channels for listening to what people are telling you. Barack Obama built a really effective platform with mybarackobama.com—and it is really important to understand that it was a social media platform. If you went there you could set up your own blog, you could set up your own events, you could run a fund-raiser, so it was really a platform for organizing. In some ways you would have to say that mybarackobama.com was the most successful start-up of the last couple of years. After all, they raised $100 million dollars and then used it to take over the world’s largest company.”

    Putting aside O’Reilly’s corporatist metaphors for another time, from what little I know Obama ran a “50 state” campaign, in pursuit of taking the national office. He and Axelrod used a social platform to run a state-based strategy, with a national effect as a result.  What else do we mean when we say that “all politics are local”?

    I keep observing how we’re increasingly living in a more tribal environment, or in socio-political terms a more republic/state/city/group-centered game, rather than the federalist/nationalist game.  Maybe the republic of farmers that Thomas Jefferson envisioned have not turned out to plant seeds so much as grow code, media, music, global networks that are actually small networks (regional or niche subject based) of interested people…. growing consciousness.

    I don’t have research citations to satisfy the quantitative appetite, just a gut feeling from the sieve-like life I eek out. This gut feeling though seems non-trivial.  In my own trans-cultured experience (family histories with so much restless seeming immigration & colonialism, mixing, new world, old world, indigenous) and in academic media work I’ve been reading, what I keep hearing/feeling is that nations are really artificial, concepts, more than deep social human realities.  This matters a lot, we need to build social media environments that resonate with the reality of human experience, not ones based on artificial/ideal/false notions that came from the past if we are to make the epic changes needed now in the face of global environmental challenges of extreme proportion.

    “Of the many unforeseen consequences of typography, the emergence of nationalism is, perhaps, the most familiar” - Marshall McLuhan
    “Of the many unforeseen consequences of typography, the emergence of nationalism is, perhaps, the most familiar”  –Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man

    Mass use of movable type helped homogenize culture. (Marshall McLuhan and others have talked at length about this.) Distribution of cheaply reproduced printed texts was instrumental in making a preferred language dialect and accent normative and other dialects or accents “lesser”, etc. Easy enough to do when people were ruled by texts and submitted themselves to texts via unquestioning belief, and looking at history this happened all too quickly– only 16 human generations since Gutenberg… and we each directly know 2 to 3 prior generations.

    Today, now that we’re clearly moving away from print-centered environments, and into multimedia centered modes (with massive generational tripping along the way; just look at the publishing industry), we’re arriving again at more oral centered environments (as Lance Strate mentioned recently), we’re more tribal… clear shiboleths abound in our network-converged global culture, and are continually created as people evolve them to maintain each tribe.  McLuhan’s conservative side in part feared the tribe I think, but today we see that we’re waking up to a new paradigm based on observing our social selves, together, in ways that only the social web makes visible, reintroducing us to our selves. Following flags seem less important than following friends. Yet big questions remain. How do we make the big changes needed to mend the gap between the reality of our crumbling health & environment and the unsustainable & depletist nationalist dreams we’ve been stuck in for far too long? How can we re-connect?