World Futures Conference as Catastrophic Question
TRANSCEND MEMBERS, 8 Jul 2013
From Performance to Morphogenesis and Transformation
How to engage with the conference of an organization held in the same academic facility as on the occasion of its foundation 50 years previously — in this case that of the World Futures Studies Federation in Bucharest (2013)? The question has a particular poignancy for a writer involved in the processes of its original creation — meeting the remaining handful of those from that time.
As another from that era remarked to the conference, many of the themes raised echoed strangely those of that time — especially given the manner of their articulation in the same auditorium.
The challenge of engagement can be associated more generally with the slow evolution of conference organization over that period. Especially in an academic setting, the traditional focus is given to keynote speakers, panels, questions and answers, specialized sessions, and the like. Papers may, or may not, be made available. Communication is constrained by visibility of projections, and the usual constraints on speaking and question time — and their abuse. Appropriate consideration is required for the eminent. There is a comfort in the sense of timeless continuity — irrespective of crises to come — an implicit assumption that that has been the nature of conferences over millennia, and will so be into the distant future.
There is a sameness because the mode of organization, and the behaviour cultivated, have changed little over that period — despite remarkable transformations of information technology. Seemingly communication technology is used primarily to support the modality of times past rather than enabling new forms of communication and interaction — and the emergence of new and more integrative insight. But what would these look like, if they were to be enabled? How might they be recognized — by whom — and would they be fruitfully appreciated? What do people variously expect from engaging in a conference about transformation for the future in troubled times?
It was with such “meta-questions” that the writer endeavoured to engage in the Bucharest event — without seeking any formal role, and without any predefined objective. As a personal quest, in addition to honouring the past and its heroes, what might be the “meta-learning” to be gleaned from such an event in the present — and how best to interact fruitfully with others?
The style of this speculative conference exploration follows from earlier variants in relation to other events: A Congress that Dared the Unthinkable: report on the First New Age Congress (Florence, 1978); Transdisciplinarity through Structured Dialogue: beyond sterile dualities in meetings to the challenge of participant impotence (Lisbon, 1994); Gardening Sustainable Psycommunities: recognizing the psycho-social integrities of the future (Findhorn, 1995); Enacting Transformative Integral Thinking through Playful Elegance: a Symposium at the End of the Universe? (Luxemburg, 2010).
This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 8 Jul 2013.
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