Networks, processes and platforms

At a time when organizations, groups and cultural institutions begin to rethink its modus operandi, the ways of understanding knowledge and the processes of creating it, how to share it and distribute it, there are too many dogmas, fundamentalism and mourning over what apparently is lost, and an uncritical advocacy on the emerging world. The new scenario unfolds on a number of uncertainties while offering at the same time some opportunities to fix certain maps, despite the volubility of the guidelines, the guardians of jargon and resistance to change that concerns us all.

Networks

The awareness that we live in a networked society, – and a networked world suggests, among other things, the need to know such a body of theory by placing emphasis on different projects [1]. We have to be aware that everything is composed of networks: networks of life and matter, neural networks, language networks, commercial networks, cultural networks, transportation networks, computer networks, social networks, etc. They all reveal a complex interdependence, confirm the sterility of reductionist views and submit the mind to unkown challenges. As the burden of irrationality of certain systems and ideologies – that they keep legitimasing as rational -makes it unsustainable to defend an erratic rationalism, one must also persist in seeking an integrated rationality that assumes the possibility to keep up thinking both globally and partially [2].

To think, to create and to act in a network substantially affects our way of being in the world. Networks are as old as religion, but available cognitive tools and new information technologies reveal a territory without definite maps. The singular obsession to map everything, to make visible all data and to increase the flows of information faces the increasingly subtle dilemmas of complex systemsComplexity is precisely what can not be thought separately: the fabric of life, the world and society we are creating. The evolution towards networks and becoming the Web, is a process of rapid change, of a nature that cannot be reduced to a dispute between technophiles and technophobes. We not only have hats of several colors [3], including the range of gray, we are also learning, or remembering that everybody knows something but nobody knows everything. And dilemmas posed by collective intelligence, are back although a part of what makes us human moves us and surprises us, perhaps derived from this notion.

Processes

Almost all the meanings of the term process according to field or discipline to which it is applied, refers to its etymological origin, to the action of going forward, the passage of time and all the phases of a natural phenomenon or an artificial operation. The cultural world has become the stage for the development of a series of processes of change on different conceptions of the legitimate struggle for innovation itself. The commitment to creative innovation enabling it to permeate to the social field, with its own notions of excellence  is confronted to mercantilist, productivist, reductionist and opportunistic views: we now know that creativity and innovation have become semantic fetishes that are useful to dinamise evolutionary changes, but also to create epidermal new operations. What kind of processes are needed to channel the flow of creativity and potential innovations of an increasingly active and participative citizenship? What processes should be favored in a world of contributors, prosumers and bricoleurs? Which are the unpostponable debates that require an  economy of contribution? What are the conceptual and legal changes required by the notion of intellectual property? What are the commons,  in the so-called knowledge and information society?

The new cultural practice suggests a process of transition, where nobody is exempt from reviewing their operational criteria: how ideas are created and projects conceived, the reality of work methods, production processes, styles of representation, the ability to be sustainable or not, the ways to communicate, to disseminate and share knowledge. To claim processes to deepen the democratization of culture, ie,  cultural access to information,  production equipment and reproduction, is becoming an inalienable right, the exercise of which can not be capitalized only for cultural industries. Creative cities are welcome, innovative culture, and even calls for radically new things but we cannot escape the dimensions of the current scenario, its complexity and the radical new paradigm implicit in all processes of social evolution.

Platforms

In order to create the conditions for the development of emerging innovation in a world of distributed networks and open processes requires the preservation, creation and consolidation of work platforms where to materialize common goals. A part of social reality which is included under the name of the third sector to differentiate it both from the statal level and private economy was created long ago, as a platform for change which privileges the democratic decision-making processes and which has a primary non profit purpose. You could say that the growing influence of the third sector in the field of culture is crucial to create a rich cultural ecosystem, one that is both plural and progressive, while, at the same time, not forgetting that the boundaries between sectors can also be diffuse.

What is the role of cultural institutions in this debate? What kind of cultural policies are needed in a horizon with quick and profound changes? It is necessary to redefine the notion of proximity? The questions keep accumulating. And there are answers for all tastes. However, it is essential that the porosity of the agents involved will get the basic cohesion for the challenges of the new scenario. The unconditional apology of new Information and Knowledge Technologies (ICT) can be as childish as the maximalist critics. Projects, programs, methodologies, genres and formats, the notion of intellectual property, the economics of culture, the future of classrooms, libraries, museums and archives. Everything seems to be affected by an extraordinary mutation whose nature we are beginning to discern. There are no definitive maps for these territories, and that does not mean that there are new maps. The kit of cognitive tools and technology continually expand. And in many cases, prescription or theory is always late, to the extent that we could speculate on the emergence of a new generation that interacts with the three mentioned sectors, both to reveal its contradictions and to create communicating vessels. It’s the world where digital natives are born and move.

The meaning

While the question of meaning continues to be inconvenient, it should still be asked: what for?

Networking: in order to connect to the projects, to continue realizing a world of distributed networks where each node can potentially communicate with all nodes, using (or not) the six degrees of separation. Awareness of a world network to support what we cannot think yet or what can only be thought by all of us together, but that banishes the univocal vision of what we define as “real” and makes the real-virtual duality an indissoluble unity of a “reality” that is always expanding.

Processes: to develop projects, programs, methods and techniques that connect better and reveal all existing connections, even the most unexpected, and the impossibility of closed works and societies. This does not mean denying syntax, its own languages, identities and internal consistency of the stories and the ways in which we build worlds, but installing an unchangeable ontological caution to reposition our place in the universe. And also in the small world we live in.

Platforms: to expand the awareness of a network society and the processes that feed it.To create transparency with the new horizontal “boards” that assume multidimensional challenges of an open, mixed and changing world. Platforms of work aimed at research, experimentation and permanent innovation. And from which all ideas can foster a new local and global culture. Platforms can be sustainable because the new dynamics of creation, production and post production. We need platforms to avoid criminalizing the young generations, for an expanded education inside and outside the classroom,in order to know what to do with the files, to achieve a deeper intergenerational dialogue, to combat the various breaches and to be consistent with creative thinking without forgetting one of the main pistons: critical thinking.

References

Proximitat, cultura y tercer sector a Barcelona. Xavier Fina y Joan Subirats (dirs.). Nicolás Barbieri, Adriana Partal and Eva Merino. Icaria, 2011.

Productos y procesos abiertos a la participación. Irene Lapuente. Co-creating cultures.

Innovación en cultura. Una aproximación crítica a la genealogía y los usos del concepto. YProductions. Traficantes de Sueños, 2009.

Ciudades Creativas. Volume 3. Economía creativa, desarrollo urbano y políticas públicas. Fundación Kreanta, 2011.

Where Good Ideas Come From. The Natural History of Innovation. Steven Johnson. Riverhead Books, 2010.


[1] See  the bibliography gathered in the I+C+i sessions since 2007 or  NOW project between 2006 and 2010.

[2] Some thinkers such as Edgar Morin, defend a rationality that allows for the  challenge of complexity: the presence of uncertainty, and random processes, within richly organized systems.

[3] A reference to Edward de Bono’s book Six Thinking Hats, renowned in the field of innovation managment, and one of many applications which could be seen in the last I+C+i session dedicated to Expanded Education.

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  • jordi güell | 20 May 2011

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Networks, processes and platforms