Eric Holthaus was once called ‘The Rebel Nerd of Meteorology’ by Rolling Stone magazine and is a journalist who writes about climate change. In 2013, sitting at an airport, he burst into tears having just read the latest IPCC report, and took to Twitter to share the impact, as a scientist studying climate change, that this knowledge was having on him emotionally.
When looking through research into imagination, memory and the brain, one name that keeps appearing is that of Dan Schacter. We recently interviewed Donna Rose Addis on this podcast, and she and Dan often collaborate on research. Dan has been a Professor of Psychology in the Psychology Department in Harvard University since 1991, focusing mainly on memory, and more recently on the relationship between memory and imagination, using techniques from cognitive psychology and neuroscience. We chatted via Skype and I started by asking him if he might firstly introduce us to the hippocampus. If he was introducing it to someone at a party, who knew nothing about it, where would he start?
How does our relationship with digital technologies alter our relationship with the future, with the present, and with our imaginations? It’s a question we’ve reflected on in various podcasts and interviews in this series. One of the books that most influenced me on this was Douglas Rushkoff’s ‘Present Shock’. Rushkoff is a writer, documentarian and lecturer, whose work focuses on human autonomy in a digital age.
When it comes to the perennial question of how best to engage communities in thinking about the past, the present and, most importantly, the future in playful and imaginative ways, there are few more skilled and brilliant people than Ruth Ben Tovim, Lucy Neal and Anne Marie Culhane, all artists in their own right, but also all members of Encounters. I have long admired their work and had the privilege to work with them on different things, but when the opportunity came up to train with them for a week, to really look beneath the bonnet of how they work, a course at Schumacher College called ‘The Art of Invitation’, I seized it with both hands.
If it is true that we are living through a time in which our collective imagination is increasingly devalued and undernourished, what might be the role of story in that, and how might story be part of the remedy? There are few better people to discuss this with than Sarah Woods. Sarah is a writer across all media and her work has been produced by many companies including the RSC, Hampstead and the BBC.
I don’t know about you, but most of my time at school did very little to foster my imagination. It tended to be viewed as though I had brought a naughty, troublesome friend to school with me, one not afraid to point out the absurdity of most of what we did, and of how we did it. In today’s education system, with its pressures from league tables, test results and uninspiring curricula, the imagination still struggles to be heard and valued. Fighting its corner, in Canada at least, is Gillian Judson.
As the research stage of the book I am writing on imagination starts to wraps up, it was a real treat recently to chat to Donna Rose Addis, a Professor in Cognitive Neuroscience at the University of Auckland. One of the areas I’ve been researching, as a complete novice to neuroscience, has been what happens in our brains when we imagine. I had read several papers she had written about the similarities between imagination and memory, our abilities to recall the past, and to imagine the future…
How do we make young people pay better attention, make wiser decisions, regulate their emotions more effectively, and feel empathy and deploy compassion? We need to get back to the basics. It’s not just passing on the climate change story; it’s actually having the machinery between our ears that could deal with such a complex issue.
One of the most fascinating craft breweries in the UK can be found nestled in a series of arches beneath a railway bridge in Bermondsey in London. For the last 9 years, The Kernel, under the guidance of its founder Evin O’Riordan, have pioneered not just amazing and distinctive beers, but also an approach rooted in connection to place, to a different way of doing business.
John McCarthy is a journalist, writer and broadcaster who works for the BBC and has written several books. He became a household name in the 1980s when, on his first foreign assignment in the Lebanon, he was kidnapped and held captive for just over 5 years. This was, as he puts it, “my curious claim […]
Manish Jain lives in Udaipur, Rajasthan, in North India. He works with a movement called Shikshantar, ‘The Peoples’ Institute for Rethinking Education and Development’. He has been working for the last 20 years, initiating many projects around unlearning, sustainable living, and Gift Culture. He is also co-founder of Swaraj University – India’s first university dedicated to localization. You can read more about his work here. He very kindly spent a fascinating hour chatting to me via Skype…