This course is a story about culture(s) in motion. It blends education and entertainment into a new type of educational experience. It is designed to evolve our skills across design, collaboration, management and, of course, cultural intelligence.
We will illustrate abstract terms - like complexity, systems, experiences, styles and connection - with practical examples. It is a story that, in the words of Marvin Gaye, attempts to think through 'what’s going on'.
It has been incubating in organisations, universities and global scenes for five years. It is directed by Olive: an educator, ethnographer and designer with a background in literary theory and cultural strategy.
What is cultural intelligence?
Over this course, we shall be creating our own understanding of what cultural intelligence is. But we can start with the following three senses of the term:
- The ability to work effectively with people with other cultural identities
- The ability to use the tools and concepts of cultural studies and related disciplines
- The ability to map and navigate cultural landscapes and histories
Why was this experience created?
Cultural intelligence is a way to improve our ability to sense-make, navigate and way-find through this unique moment. More practically, this program is designed to create civic, cultural and ethical tools that support knowledge production, community building and types of interaction.
Who are InsightOS?
This course is run by the InsightOS collective - a collective of thinkers and doers that resist the patriarchal, extractivist, imperialist, euro-centric, neoliberal, capitalist trajectories of cognitive capitalism. This means all forms of 'x'-washing: such as wellness-washing, ethics-washing, and purpose-washing. We are directed towards systemic change through collective intelligence, social imaginaries, creative criticism, and conceptual freedom.
What mindset do I need for this course?
We invite you to co-create this program's imaginative world and help develop a collective body of work. You might bring the projects you are already engaged with, or share ideas that have been swirling around in your head, or come with a clean slate and an open mind. We will expand, connect and enact change together.
A central part of this mindset is what we call a a 'poetics of collaboration', words like: compounding, fusing, balancing, uniting, combining, amalgamating, cooperating, reciprocating, melding, synthesising.
We shall represent diverse mindsets: an assemble of activist, artist, commercial, academic, media and engaged citizens with a shared interest in ethical action.
This is not a polished program. It is a fuzzy set of ideas and trajectories. A skeletal framework. And it needs you to bring it to life.
What shall we do during this course?
There will be a regular weekly newsletter that acts as the central hub, sign up here.
This newsletter will do the following: share core cultural concepts in a concise way; link to cultural content such as poems, theorists, artists, videos and other types; provide invitations to online/offline events from the 'cultural calendar'; provide provocations and questions for discussion in our 'Insight Salons'.
Ultimately, this newsletter will provide the guiding narrative throughout the course. It will be shaped by feedback from course participants. As we progress, guests and friends from the InsightOS collective will share their insight via interviews and discussions.
This course is designed to fit around you. So we shall have extensive reading lists for those that wish to get deeply involved, and more casual content for those who wish to lurk on the periphery.
What type of content are we working with?
This course aims to be format-agnostic. We encourage collaborators to have an openness to a variety of cultural forms - ranging from new music genres, documentaries, contemporary poetry and novels, art exhibitions, critical theory and popular culture.
Many of these fields have specialist vocabularies. To make this program inclusive, we encourage the use of plain and simple communication. Where technical terminology is deployed, we urge people to ask for definitions and for glossaries to be created.
The Course Framework
This course is structured around ten parts, exploring ten cultural dimensions. These will change and develop as the course progresses.
One: Culture and Power
We open the course by attempting to detangle the messy relationship between power and culture. We tune in to their different rhythms, examine some major models, decode different forms of 'soft' power, and think through the core tension between competitive and cooperative mindsets.
- Learning outcome: An ability to describe systems of cultural logic
- Resource: The InsightOS ‘Four Forces’ model
- Theorist: Stuart Hall
- Filmmaker: Adam Curtis
Two: Branding Activism
In this section we ask: what does it mean to think about progressive movements, such as Pride, XR, BLM and Occupy, as a 'brand'? How might this trajectory help us think through brand elements such as style, purpose, and media strategy? We also ask: what are the dangers of this approach? And how might we decode 'monsters' and 'mutants' to protect us from the 'shadow' of branding?
- Learning outcome: An ability to map, analysis, and decode the ‘zeitgeist’
- Resource: The InsightOS: ‘Cultural Canvas’
- Theorists: Luc Boltanski and Eve Chiapello
- Writer: Tom McCarthy
Three: Thinking Poetically
We are all becoming system thinkers. With this mindset, we can imagine poetry as a storehouse of cognitive frames and keywords that are inextricably linked to cultural and spiritual life. In this section we ask: how might we use poetry as an interactive and imaginative tool that helps us hear the ‘voice’ of deep history?
- Learning Outcome: The growth of a ‘poetic thinking’ mindset
- Resource: The InsightOS 'Salon Resources'
- Theorist: Don Paterson
- Poets: Jay Bernard and Jorie Graham
Four: (dis)Connecting Identity
The great reset is here, and we are invited to rethink our cyborg relationship with technology. We introduce the tool of phenomenology, and ask: how might it help us understand how technology shapes our emotional infrastructure? This builds on the four-year ‘(dis)Connected Lives’ collaboration between InsightOS and the London College of Communication.
- Learning Outcome: Develop principles for ethical digital design
- Resource: The InsightOS '(dis)Connected Lives' archive
- Theorist: Byung-Chul Han
- Platform: Rhizome Digital Art
Five: Designing Collectives
Collective action is based on the art of collaboration. A true collaboration amongst equals can fuel movements, generate insight, build networks and provoke change. We ask, what happens when we combine social psychology with collectivist motivations?
- Learning Outcome: Understanding how to design a sense of collectivism
- Resource: The InsightOS ‘Collective Design’ playbook
- Theorist: Audre Lorde
- Writer: Svetlana Alexievich
Six: Transformative Experiences
From discordant and noisy, to harmonious and minimal - this section explores various experiential spectrums such as: immersive, atmospheric, participatory, tactile and multisensory. We ask, what are the states-of-mind created by non-ordinary experiences?
- Learning Outcome: An understanding of the rudiments of experience design
- Resource: The InsightOS ‘Dimensions of Experience’ canvas
- Theorist: Julian Henriques
- Musician/Poet: The Bug and Roger Robinson
Seven: Queering Money
The relationship between gender and money runs deep; and the patriarchy remains firmly in charge. In this section we highlight the widespread support of the Pride movement by financial institutions and we ask: how might queerness be articulated as a critical tool that can reweave the fabric of finance?
- Learning Outcome: An ability to deploy methods of queer critique
- Resource: The InsightOS 'Refashioning Finance' report
- Theorist: Sarah Ahmed
- Artist: Ru Paul
Eight: World Building
Video games, mythology, digital media, the metaverse, science-fiction, fantasy… all expand our consciousness into new zones and dimensions. In this section we ask: how might tools such as genre theory, game design and curation empower the next generation of world builders?
- Learning outcome: An ability to create dynamic, inclusive and imaginative spaces for ideation
- Resources: The InsightOS 'Principles of Game Design'
- Theorist: Johan Huizinga
- Platform: NTS
Nine: Apocalyptic Raving
Prepare for the party at the end of the world! We think through the role of hedonism; the social function of the carnivalesque; and the spread of festivalization. We ask: what might rave culture teach us about living in a world in flux?
- Learning outcome: An ability to articulate the dystopian sensibility
- Resource: The InsightOS 'Glossary of Social Forms'
- Theorist: Mark Fisher
- Artist: Joni Belaruski
Ten: New Tourism
As we move into the next stage of global culture, we ask: how might we redirect the nomadic tourist to help make the world a better place? In this conclusion, we rethink the archetype of the flaneur, sharpen our ethnographic tools, and coordinate ourselves via the next-gen of collectively ran platforms.
- Learning outcome: An understanding of ethnographic research methods
- Resource: The InsightOS 'Glossary of Creative Insight Methods'
- Theorist: Walter Benjamin
- Artist: Pope L