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…
“In 1890, Clément Ader was fascinated by bats. He wanted to fly like them. He brought gigantic bats with 1 meter long wings from India and studied their morphology by letting them fly in his private garden in a way to create a flying machine that would look like them. At the end, the product looked like a huge, pink, completely non-proportioned, made of fabric machine. People surrounding him were constantly making fun of him and this non-sense project while he kept believing in it. His first try out happened in the Gretz-Armainvilliers’s castle’s garden, where this construction flew for 50 meters but only with a height of 20 centimeters above the ground. This attempt was like an imaginary fantasy, it was absurd, it was nothing. It was the start of aviation”.
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 […]
I can’t even imagine being bored. Or if I’m caught out by accident, waiting in a long line at the airport, it’s a bit different. I’m just not happy with the idea of maybe missing the flight, and I have something to do, but otherwise, I’m totally happy to be there. I say, “Why should I be bored?” There’s nothing to be bored, so I just do some mental practice, recite some prayers, or whatever. I wish there would be enough time to be bored! My ideal situation is 24 hours boredom all year round. Sitting on the balcony of my hermitage, watching the Himalaya, if you call that boredom, that’s fine enough with me.