Reflections of a Web Summit Journey – Lisbon 2018

 

 

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” 

Rick Ridgeway from Patagonia recited these very words to a standing ovation at this year’s Web Summit in Lisbon. In the midst of the worlds leading businessmen and women all trying so very hard to hold back tears of pure emotion, I realized that I was living ‘my plan’. Even though my plan has come with a mountain of challenges, as most startups do, I was surprisingly doing what Rick urged everyone in the audience to do – in his heartfelt talk ‘We Need More Responsible Entrepreneurs’. Rick called on entrepreneurs across the world to focus solely on their environmental practices – because as was highlighted in another talk – we have 12 years to save the planet. 

This was my first year attending the Web Summit, entering with the title ‘Woman in Tech’. I have spent the past twelve months in a high intensity, university-led, incubation center for startups (Ignite UCC) – focusing on AnimaVenture.

AnimaVenture is a story game application that invites the reader to become a co-author through embarking on meditative, dreamtime journeys through natures many kingdoms and the cosmos. The story game comes with an educational solution teaching skills in creativity, innovation, and wellbeing – motivating young people to ‘imagine, create and collaborate’ on behalf of the environment, together.

Given the sheer size of the summit – it would be possible to have infinite experiences and therefore infinite opinions – however, as I followed my flow from talk to talk and day to day I was surprised and reassured by how similar the core message of the speakers were. 

Investing in sustainable companies arose time and time again with Andrew Beebe from obvious ventures declaring that “companies driven by purpose are what we predict will be around in 10 years time”. Pia Heidenmark Cook from IKEA shared how IKEA (annual turnover of 35billion) is one of the worlds largest private investors in renewable energy, understanding that consumers increasingly want to stand up for what they believe in and seek out brands that share their values. This echoed Rick Ridgeways talk when he said that it’s a whole lot harder to get into Patagonia than it is to get into Harvard – as employees are seeking companies that align with their core values and vision. Jager McConnell (Crunchbase) also spoke strongly to this stating that millennials want their work to have purpose and meaning as all research on happiness shows that if you are doing a good thing it makes you happy.

The reason why the tide is turning so powerfully towards sustainability and purpose-driven business was continuously highlighted with shocking statistics such as; 

  • Plastic is becoming embedded in our natural systems and mixing with our food. We are now consuming plastic on a daily basis, which is being proven to be directly linked to cancer, diabetes, and other major illnesses. 
  • The ocean provides 70% of our breathable oxygen – it is predicted that by 2050 there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish. 
  • The worldwide recycling rate is only 9% meaning the majority of our waste goes to landfill and sea.

However even in the midst of such shock and shame at how much we have destroyed our ‘one and precious planet’ I never once felt overwhelmed. Hearing the worlds business leaders commit to exponential change offered a much-needed ray of hope.  Christiana Figueres (the Paris Climate accord) encapsulated the mood perfectly when she stated – “we are creating a completely new world.. we are all witnessing the deepest transformation of society.. it is incredibly exciting.”

Innovations such as Tipa sustainable packaging which bio-degrades within six months and can be reintroduced to our system as organic waste added to this sense of security that a sustainable future is within reach. 

The movement toward meditation and wellbeing was another highlight of this years summit and like sustainability is an area of particular interest to me, as meditation forms the foundation of my dreamtime journeys through nature. During the AnimaVenture dreamtime journeys, users are guided into the depths of their imagination – with the mission of accessing ideas for planetary health and restoration. Listening to Alex Tew and Michael Acton the co-founders of Calm, at their talk ‘A Calm Mind is a Creative mind’ reminded me just how helpful AnimaVenture will be in teaching skills in creativity and innovation.

I also felt reasured that AnimaVenture can become a sustainable, even thriving business, with the abitlity to effect postive change in the long term when Alex spoke about how the health and wellness industry is booming over the past four years and is now a four trillion dollar industry. Calm are generating over 80 million dollars a year and Alex believes that this is just the beginning of the wave, that any company coming into this space now are entering at the perfect time. Most people now know that meditation greatly benefits your mental health and wellbeing, science has proven this – so there is no longer a need to educate. It was refreshing to hear how this is such an exciting space as “there is nothing more important than looking after your mental health”.

For my master’s thesis, I researched flow states as part of the underlying theory of AnimaVenture. Flow states were spoken to numerous times during the summit specifically on how meditation brings us into flow states, and when in flow states we find it easy to access our creativity. I was surprised by many of the facts that arose around creativity and sleep, that I hadn’t yet come across yet, given this is my area of interest. For example how Sergio Bin came up with the original idea for Google in a dream. How Monet would take naps to access his creativity and how Thomas Edison had a bed in his office so that he could take naps during the day. I realized that the most inspired minds in the world were accessing their ideas in a similar way to what AnimaVenture dreamtime journeys offer. 

It has taken a while since coming back from the web summit to integrate all that I learned, experienced and observed, inspirational advice from Sean Rad the founder of Tinder on how mistakes are exciting and obstacles are opportunities for growth to remembering that Christian Kroll from Ecosia has planted a tree for me – adding to his already 40 million trees. 

But what has really stuck with me goes back to the words of Rick Ridgeway from Patagonia “It’s not about the summit, it’s about the footsteps and the way you get there … your business needs to have a purpose .. a purpose bigger than yourself!”

I’ll finish in the same fashion as the circular economy and in the same grace as Rick Ridgeway and ask – 

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

Thanks for reading.

  • www.animaventure.net
  • info@ciarajosephine.com
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Humans Being Data

 

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Image source: https://www.dreamstime.com/free-photos

Sometimes I like to muse on Digital Humanities as the marriage of the mind and heart. ‘Digital’ representing the logical, binary, data orientated mind and ‘humanities’ representing the living, non-tangible essence of the heart.

In this passion fueled article I felt the burning invitation of Miriam Posner to all digital humanists to shift into exploring the living, non-tangible space, calling on our ingenuity to re-imagine data, possibly, in my own interpretation, – as ‘living’ data.

I say ‘our’ as I too am a digital humanist, a digital humanist who shares Posners drive towards foundational change. “It would require dismantling and rebuilding much of the organizing logic, like the data models or databases, that underlies most our work.” For me, Posner’s fiery words bring Einstein’s logic to mind.

“We can not solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them”

What Posner is calling for in my opinion is a radical shift in how we view data. The writing displayed on the image of ‘The Knotted line’, which looks deeply at the structures of injustice and inequality in the United States, sums it up beautifully.

“When has a decision been made about your life without your input or voice?”

“When have you made a decision about another person’s life without their input?”

This, in my opinion is happening consistently everyday as each individual in society morphs into some form of metadata. Another statistic, another piece of information, data, that can be used to analyze, study, inform this, that or the other.

What I feel is missing in the current interpretation of data is ‘the living essence’ of this data, the beauty, the mystery, the soul. I feel Posner holds a key to the answer she is questioning in her article when she writes about the Aboriginal Australian map.

This map immediately transports us from the flattened world of data structures into a three dimensional network of organized, meaningful information. As is shared in Posners article, this knowledge network is living in essence, holding the wisdom of and connection with the ancestors in dreamtime. A connection that must be actively maintained through activity, singing, dancing and painting.

Unlike the current maps us westerners are accustomed to, these dhulaŋ (maps) – seem to be not just maps of the landscapes, but also maps of how to live in harmony with nature, maintaining the beauty passed down by the ancestors. They teach of morals and values such as respect and hidden meaning of transcendental worlds.

“Children can learn to have respect for the wäŋa in this way and the wäyin (game animals) that live there, and learn to mind it properly. If they don’t do that it will take its revenge. Gulumbu Yunupiŋu, 1987”

These indigenous maps move us from disconnected data towards a living presence that calls for beauty, admiration, respect and awe. We deeply engage with the information as we connect with it on many levels, not just something to be analyzed by the mind – but something to be felt and engaged with by the heart – a compass, a map for living and engaging with this world. “Thus the landscape, knowledge, story, song, graphic representation and social relations all mutually interact, forming one cohesive knowledge network.”

I believe for us digital humanists to begin changing how we view, represent, shape, interact and recreate data we need to engage with it on a fundamentally different level. We need to invite the living presence of the data to inform us. We may look towards living system theorists for inspiration, chaos and complexity perhaps. Or towards ancient wisdom holders such as the aboriginal community mentioned in Posners article. Or we could come even closer to home and explore the living intelligence of our own heart – the space that many of the indigenous wisdom elders believe connects us all. I do not have the answers but I feel these ‘spaces’ may offer some insight into how we may re-imagine and re-create the categories and data that structure and represent people’s lives.

“So maybe this is the thrill we can work toward — the thrill in capturing people’s lived experience in radical ways, ways that are productive and generative and probably angry, too.”

Yes, angry, because anger is capturing the living emotion. Lets make data angry, lets make it joyful, ecstatic, lets as digital humanists aspire towards representing the true nature of data – LIFE!

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Nature vs Technology … What is “the middle way?”..

This is my current research interest for the MA, but I feel this may change, a bit, or perhaps a lot.. let’s see…

 

design-genius

“Technology has always been inspired by nature” Janine Benyus

Wisdom Hive (the community held eco-enterprise that I am currently developing) changes the education paradigm, harnessing the power of the current digital age to generate global cross-cultural dialogue in a way that mimics nature’s design. As such, Wisdom Hive is a self-generating, self-organising organism that works for the benefit of all parts, sharing resources freely, creatively and intelligently for the evolution of the global social and ecological community.

 

Through undertaking a Masters in Digital Humanities I wish to:

  1. Explore the indigenous wisdoms and wisdom traditions of the world to inquire if these can offer support for our current ‘evolutionary transition’ into a digitally connected world.
  2. Inquire more deeply into what it means to be ‘a digitally connected world’ through exploring ‘digital ecology’ questioning: “is the Internet a reflection of nature’s evolution that makes tangible our total interconnectedness and interdependence as a species
  3. What are the cultural, ethical and political implications of subscribing to this theory?

It is a believed amongst the indigenous tribes globally that humanity is currently going through an evolutionary passage. Nature has been evolving through evolutionary transitions successfully for 13.8billion years. (Campbell, Earth Talk) The wisdom for transitioning through each passage whilst maintaining our cultural identity and biodiversity is innate in nature and has been passed down by the indigenous tribes through ceremony, sacred ritual, art, music, dance, prayer and story – drawing on the stories of our cosmologies as support for navigating our evolutionary transitions.

The transformative key for Thomas was story, namely, a narrative telling of our origins and our purpose.. Narrated in ritual settings.. these traditional stories provide meaning and direction for people in everyday life” (thomasberry.org)

The essence of contemporary society’s evolutionary transition into a technology-rich, digitally-literate world is that humanity is becoming increasingly disconnected from the natural world and the ancient wisdoms. We are rapidly evolving into a machine like, digitally-connected society.

Two paths seem to be emerging, essentially: nature vs technology, human vs machine. I wish to explore this phenomena of the 21st century society – questioning what is the middle path? (The third way, bringing balance to polarities, Jung. The path of wisdom, of enlightenment, Buddhism) The place where nature and technology join in harmony.

Through exploring the wisdom of the indigenous tribes globally I wish to draw on the wisdom of the elders, the nature-based, ancient indigenous wisdoms and ask; How can we as a society (utilize the 13.8billion years of our planet’s evolutionary wisdom) to support ourselves through our collective evolutionary transition into a digital, globally-connected, culturally-diverse world?

“The phenomenon of not understanding our evolutionary process is a new thing…. the ancestors held this in their cosmologies and ways of living” Colin Campbell

Using digital artifacts I will capture through stories the cosmologies of indigenous tribes as well as capturing a real sense of their cultural wisdom through digitally recording their rituals, music, art, dance, prayer and ceremonies – that which has held the essence and wisdom of their culture alive through the generations.

“In this time of transition we are going through the traditional elders of southern Africa say if we incorporate in our relationship with the world of nature, those five rituals, those five practices, (dance, song, prayer, sacred ritual and story) we will find the dream of where we are going both as an individual and a collective, we will find what this passage we are going through is really about and we will survive it.. we will survive it at a completely different level, we will become something greater and the world will be the greater for it.”

Colin Campbell

 As well as seeking guidance on how we as a society can support ourselves through this evolutionary process I wish to explore the ancient teachings of our planetary interconnectedness and interdependence, teachings that have been held alive by indigenous wisdom elders, passed down through generations. Drawing on philosophical and holistic scientific theories such as digital ecology, living systems, entanglement, the collective unconscious and morphic field resonance. I will explore whether these ancient teachings of a non-local, non-temporal, web-like set of connections is now being made visible through the digital age, specifically through the technology of ‘the internet’.

 

I query is the internet an ecological evolution which, through technological genius, facilitates the meeting of all human minds, making visible our invisible connection with everyone? From this I propose that we might start to regard the internet as a 21st century digital manifestation of the collective unconscious, the universal mind.

 

To give rich body to this inquiry I will carry out an exploration into Rupert Sheldrake’s morphic field resonance. Sheldrake postulates the existence of ‘collective memory inheritance’ between past and future members of species which implies the existence of a ‘collective unconscious’ in which every member of our global species is embedded – invisibly interconnected and interdependent with one other.

I will conclude the development of my theory with a critical exploration of the political and ethical implications inherent in relating to the internet as a technological manifestation of planetary interconnectedness: How might subscribing to the theory that the internet reflects a shared ‘mind’ space transform our social behaviour in the future? What are the new ethics and politics that might emerge as we become aware of our interconnectedness and interdependence, made tangible through the living invisible world that the internet now explicitly connects us with, in today’s digital society?

Evoking a new political philosophy relevant for the digital age, I wish to explore Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s suggestions for ‘a social contract’ within the context of an emerging digital world. This could offer some inspiring and pragmatic luminosity on what it means to organize a network of minds ethically, morally and with a collective conduct that respects all.

Could this awareness reshape cultural rules around our shared space thus catalysing profound social and politics changes, in particular demanding us to consider what it means to be human in the digital age? Similar to the ‘no pollution’ policy that we find in most ‘developed’ society’s – might (or even ‘should’?) it become mandatory for a no pollution policy in our shared ‘mind’ space – could filtering systems and digital boundaries become much more regulated and implemented on the internet. Might the strict networking policies enforced in countries such as China become more plausible to the free Western thinker?

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CiaraJosephine.com by Ciara Josephine is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at www.ciarajosephine.com .

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