Posts tagged crisis
The concept of liminality was first used to describe the structure of rituals like the one at the centre of The Encounter, but its application as a term for thinking about modern societies is connected to the study of theatre and performance. The anthropologist who made the connection, Victor Turner, distinguished the ‘liminal’ experiences of tribal cultures – in which ritual is a collective process for navigating moments of change – from the ‘liminoid’ experiences available in modern societies, which resemble the liminal, but are choices we opt into as individuals, like a night out at the theatre. This distinction comes with a suggestion that true liminality, the collective entry into the liminal, is not available within a complex industrial society. Now, perhaps this has been true – but here’s my next wild suggestion. The consequences of that very complex industrial society are now bringing us to a point where we get reacquainted with true liminality. To take seriously not just what Dark Mountain has been talking about, but what Monbiot and Harris are touching on, is to recognise that we now face a crisis which has no outside. The planetary scale of our predicament makes it as much a collective experience as anything faced by the tribal cultures studied by Turner and his colleagues. […] To navigate at these depths, you need a different kind of equipment. Facts alone don’t cut it down here.
Our foundation of Earth knowledge, largely derived from historically observed patterns, has been central to society’s progress. Early cultures kept track of nature’s ebb and flow, passing improved knowledge about hunting and agriculture to each new generation. Science has accelerated this learning process through advanced observation methods and pattern discovery techniques. These allow us to anticipate the future with a consistency unimaginable to our ancestors. But as Earth warms, our historical understanding will turn obsolete faster than we can replace it with new knowledge. Some patterns will change significantly; others will be largely unaffected, though it will be difficult to say what will change, by how much, and when.
Last year I spent a lot of time covering the Greek crisis for Newsnight. Much of what I learned then feels relevant to Brexit. So, here are a few of those lessons.
I’ve written and given a lot of talks on how building a sustainably prosperous global economy is an opportunity — a set of investments that will leave us better off, even while we avoid the worst of the planetary crisis we face. It’s only now becoming clear what the scale of that opportunity is. It is only now easy to see that a giant building boom is what successful climate action looks like. The Guardian reported last week on a new study saying that over the next 15 years, to meet our climate goals, we’ll need to shift $90 trillion worth of new infrastructure spending to low- or zero-carbon models
When we started to think of a possible topic for this year’s Information Design course at IUAV, Venice (after exploring the world’s technology and networks in two consecutive editions of an illustrated Atlas of the Contemporary) we realised that in trying to understand how — and if — this crisis would have unfolded, there was a great potential for design to help illuminate this conjuncture. Given the increasing importance of economical data and the financial landscape over our lives, the lab was then established as an ongoing, real-time workshop in data-visualisation, which would track and explain the crisis that the analysts predicted for 2016. Its purpose was to better understand the broader network of causes and implications which every financial turmoil exists within, providing context to economic reports, and looking at the socio-political framework of news stories. From a design perspective, the intention was to develop new ways for visualizing financial news, in order to move from the rather bi-dimensional and dispassionate language of bar and pie charts, into a richer territory made up of maps, cartograms, illustrations and diagrams.
In a society organized around the logic of capital, human activities tend to be directed toward the production of commodities. That is, capitalism can be understood in a broad sense as a system of generalized commodity production. The institutional arrangements result in particular social arrangements and generate distinct types of human social action. The commodity serves as a basic unit to understand the larger culture-nature relations and capitalism itself. It is a base element of capitalist market processes. […] This fundamental tension between the necessity of quantitative expansion to sustain the economic relations and the qualitatively unsustainable ecological consequences marks the defining characteristic of the modern ecological crisis and the tragedy of the commodity.
To paraphrase the Senegalese philosopher Souleymane Bachir Diagne: on a continent where attempts to improve humanity’s lot are in crisis, meaning comes from the future. A group of young African artists, black and white grandchildren of the independence generation, have started a cultural revolution by moving into science fiction, until recently the preserve of western imaginations. The “invisible men” of the 3D Fiction collective, linked online and through pan-African magazines, are exploring “the possibilities of shared writing on the future”, and say “the future described in a [sci-fi] story engenders a new present, which challenges our own”
Examples of catastrophic and systemic changes have been gathering in a variety of fields, typically in specialized contexts with little cross-connection. Only recently have we begun to look for generic patterns in the web of linked causes and effects that puts disparate events into a common framework—a framework that operates on a sufficiently high level to include geologic climate shifts, epileptic seizures, market and fishery crashes, and rapid shifts from healthy ecosystems to biological deserts. The main themes of this framework are twofold: First, they are all complex systems of interconnected and interdependent parts. Second, they are nonlinear, non-equilibrium systems that can undergo rapid and drastic state changes.