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Recovering backpacker, Cornwallite at heart, political enthusiast, catalyst, writer, husband, father, community volunteer, unabashedly proud Canadian. Every hyperlink connects to something related directly or thematically to that which is highlighted.

Monday 3 March 2014

Visualizing the Future

Loren Munk, Investigating the Myth of the Avant-Gardeā€¦, 2013, oil on linen.

What does art history have to do with innovation?  There's a pretty easy link there - art is innovative, disruptive, thoughtful.  Or it can be.

But what does art have to do with governance, or civic engagement, or predicting future trend lines?
We're seeing a lot more visualizaitons like this emerge in classrooms, government websites and through civic engagement movements.  It fits nicely with the whole Open Government movement.

Why?  Because it's clear to the people informing and making policy decisions that the world is too complex for them to think they can develop all the answers on their own.

Trend mapping.

It's great to do statistical charts and the like, but people don't think in bullet points - we think dynamically.
It's something story tellers have known since the dawn of time; it's why, ultimately, anyone who aspires to lead (as in, guide people forward) ends up being a story-teller by default.

People don't get the sausage-making process.  It's complex, involves a lot of moving parts and is damned hard to keep straight in your head.  If we don't know how the process works, though, how effectively can we be involved in it?  We can't.  And when people aren't involved in the process of, say, how laws or made or government operates, all they can do is react to what they don't like, after the fact.

It's inefficient.  Open Government allows for participation, engagement, conversation and ultimately, more sustainable decision-making.  Measure twice, cut once.

I love this one.  I'd add another section to it:

- the stereotypical political far right (conservative) tends to be about conserving traditions or at extremes, scrolling back to some mythical past where the world was a garden of Eden.  They think the Armageddon lies in the future and are therefore really aren't interested in going there.  They're about control and believe nature and competitors can be bent to man's will.  These are Empire builders, resource extractors and dictators.

- the stereotypical political left (progressive) tends to be about embracing diversity and its possibilities.  Consciously or not, these folk are about adaptability - ensuring the greatest scope of genes, ideas and collaborators are in the mix.  Progressives tend to believe the Undiscovered Country of a better world lies before us, in the future, rather than behind us, in the past.  They take risks, empower others and thrive in the realm of the possible.  These are explorers, pioneers, leaders.


Which is where art comes in.  Art is about expression; it can be about emotions, ideas, even trend lines.
And that's all the future is - the next step in existing trend lines.  If you can map out where we are, if you can visualize how we go there, you can better predict what comes next and adapt yourself proactively to be prepared.

Or, you can poo-poo art as a frill and insist that all that matters is numbers.  Cut the frill, narrow your focus and go for the win, like in a race.

But running isn't about reaching a destination - it's about staying ahead.  If you don't know where you're running to - how will you know when you get there?

You won't.  Not own  your ownsome, through your own individual lens.  You need to put a couple of lenses together to see what lies ahead.

Which is why the truths of art and mapping are becoming so critically important to government and planning; you need multiple points of view to gain perspective.  

Without perspective, you're running blind, no matter how powerful you think you are.

And in the big picture, it doesn't matter how we feel about the future - it's already written.  It won't be the strongest and most functionally fixed that move forward.  Survival of the fittest has never been about strength - it's always been about adaptation.  

So let them frame it as a left-right thing in static competition.  If you look at the map and follow the trend lines, you'll see that's not the case.  

It's not a matter of a progressive left waging war against a conservative right.  It's about adapting to the demands of the future vs getting left behind.

Who could have seen that coming?

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