Personal Blog of Joe Brewer

Archive for the ‘Design Science’ Category

Can Culture Really Be Studied Scientifically?

In Collaboration, Cultural Evolution, Design Science, Global Integration, Human Behavior, Social Change on October 23, 2013 at 9:09 am

It is worth pausing to reflect on the fact that cultural studies have historically been separated from science.  Yes, it makes sense to apply the tools of science to the movement of planets, properties of metals, and other physical things.  But isn’t culture different?  Isn’t it made of something other than physical stuff?  This is a question that philosophers have grappled with since before the foundations of modern science were set in stone.  And it has still not been fully resolved in the minds of quite a few contemporary thinkers.

As a quirk of the world we live in today, it just happens to be the case that the resolution to this age old debate is unfolding around us right now.  You may be surprised to learn that the philosophical divide between science and culture is breaking down because so many of us are buying smart phones and surfing the net.  Wondering what I’m talking about?  Jump to the next section. Continue reading “Can Culture Really Be Studied Scientifically?” »

Will the Surveillance Meme Keep Us From Global Democracy?

In Complex Systems, Cultural Evolution, Design Science, Human Behavior on July 9, 2013 at 10:18 am

Thanks to the ubiquity of mobile phones and digital infrastructure, it is now possible to achieve direct democracy at the global scale.  We are already seeing inklings of its emergence in the rise of Arab Spring, the Occupy Movement, and more recent activities in Egypt, Brazil, and Turkey.  Yet there is a cultural force at play that may keep us from breaking away from centralized political power — the surveillance meme and its capacity to evoke fear and paranoia about open data systems.

The rise of global democracy is at risk of being thwarted by a toxic meme! Continue reading “Will the Surveillance Meme Keep Us From Global Democracy?” »

Why All Technology Arises Through Cultural Evolution

In Complex Systems, Cultural Evolution, Design Science on March 25, 2013 at 4:13 pm

There sure seems to be a lot of confusion — even among technologists — about what technology actually is.  I recently had the experience of hearing an investor who funds clean tech startups say that he is “focusing on creating technology, not researching culture” as a way to dismiss the role that cultural evolution might play in getting ideas to market.  This was especially surprising considering that all technology arises from culture, each with its own unique history of blended concepts, domains of knowledge, standard practices, sociological models, mythic narratives, and demonstrated solutions.

Continue reading “Why All Technology Arises Through Cultural Evolution” »

Building Research Tools to Catalyze Global Social Movements

In Design Science, Global Integration, Social Change on March 13, 2013 at 9:56 am

Back in 2011, I pondered the question, “Will there be a convergence of the world’s social movements?” 

I was struck by the possibility that a deeper, paradigm-level transformation of civilization may be unfolding around us.  The open culture movement–with all of its social media and digital organizing tools–is spreading alongside other decentralization processes that can be seen in the rise of ecological thinking, compassionate approaches to economic development, a globalized cosmopolitan mindset of world citizenship, and the pervasiveness of systems thinking across all domains of knowledge. Continue reading “Building Research Tools to Catalyze Global Social Movements” »

Seeing the Complexity of Planetary Change

In Complex Systems, Design Science, Global Integration on February 13, 2013 at 3:00 pm

One of the great challenges looming over the climate debate is the sheer complexity of planetary change.  As our education systems continually fail to instill robust critical thinking skills in the populace — and a vast PR system confuses and obfuscates to stall significant action — we are left with a confused population of lost souls whose ideological filters do more to shape attitudes and beliefs than the basic observations about what is unfolding all around us. Continue reading “Seeing the Complexity of Planetary Change” »

Applying Complexity Science to Social Systems

In Complex Systems, Design Science, Human Behavior on February 5, 2013 at 2:47 pm

Many people reach out to me because they want to learn about the science of complexity.  They ask what it is, how it works, and — most importantly — how they can apply it to global challenges confronting humanity. In those conversations I share what I have learned as a complexity researcher who specializes in the evolution of human systems.  Realizing how useful this is for them, I thought I’d share some of it with all of you here. Continue reading “Applying Complexity Science to Social Systems” »

Launching the Climate Meme Project!

In Collaboration, Design Science, Human Behavior, Social Change on November 16, 2012 at 2:52 pm

This project is a joint effort of Cognitive Policy Works and DarwinSF.

The Climate Meme Project is a crowd funded, open collaboration initiative to reveal the meme landscape for climate action.

You can support it here.

By contributing to this project, you will help spread the ideas that can challenge climate denial and the dogmatic beliefs of skeptics who have stalled out a global response to the greatest environmental threat ever to confront humanity. We are experts in the dynamics of culture—specializing in the study of memes, political frames, social networks, and brand marketing—with a passion for applying our craft for the betterment of humanity.

So if you are frustrated by the lack of forward motion on global warming, concerned about the world your children will inherit, and ready to see us all reach a global tipping point in awareness and all the collective actions that follow, this project is for you! Continue reading “Launching the Climate Meme Project!” »

Evolution of Empathy and the Third Industrial Revolution

In Design Science, Economic Patterns, Global Integration, Social Change on August 29, 2012 at 7:49 am

Will human civilization make the transition to global sustainability?  Or are we doomed to collapse and possibly even extinction as a species?  I have grappled with this question for years as I journeyed through the intellectual landscapes of Earth System Science, cognitive science, and complex adaptive systems.  And now it is clear that I am not alone on this journey.

This video is a talk given by Jeremy Rifkin at the British Royal Society about what he calls the Empathic Civilization.  Note how he describes a fundamental shift in how we think about human nature — inspired by the revolution now unfolding in the cognitive sciences — while casting a story of cultural evolution through which new energy production regimes meld with new communication technologies to birth new stages of consciousness.

Powerful and enlightening!

An Integrated Approach to Global Change

In Complex Systems, Design Science, Global Integration, Human Behavior on June 10, 2012 at 11:35 am

Years ago, I took the road less traveled and set out to build an integrated approach to global change.  I realized early on that the only way to address global climate change was to focus jointly on the complexities of the human condition and the coupled dynamics of Earth Systems.  It was a telling observation that no academic institutions were equipped to support the broad transdisciplinary approach I sought to take, which is why I remain outside the university setting in pursuit of this goal to this day.

I am pleased to share that after 15 years of formal academic training and independent study, a clear set of guidelines has appeared that brings this ambitious goal within reach.  A rigorous design science for building the pathway to sustainability is now available for use. Continue reading “An Integrated Approach to Global Change” »

Design Better Systems by Questioning Your Theory of Change

In Complex Systems, Design Science, Human Behavior, Social Change on May 14, 2012 at 3:41 pm

A major consideration in the design of large-scale systems is that humans have to interact with them.  Want to create a massive transportation system for your city?  People need to take the bus or feel safe jumping on their bikes.  Seeking to build a regional food system?  Someone’s got to grow the food and deliver it.  Someone else has to pick it up and prepare it for dinner.  Every time a “grand vision” is put in play for changing the world, there is an implicit assumption that people will participate in the alteration or replacement of an existing system.

So how DO people interact with changing systems?  That’s a question that has frustrated many a system designer.  Engineers in the IT world know only too well how difficult it is to build software that people can use (or, just as important, that customers prefer over someone else’s software).  Transportation policy experts have been baffled by the ways people choose to get around despite the design choices that went into the blueprints for that rapid bus system or congestion traffic lane.  And political activists have been bewildered by the voting behaviors of so many otherwise intelligent people who behave so strangely when election season comes around. Continue reading “Design Better Systems by Questioning Your Theory of Change” »