A “Collective” Obsessive — Part 2

Image for post
Image for post
Yes, this is the Tree of Souls from Avatar and I love it.

This is the second part of me confessing to being a collective obsessive. In the first post I reflected on why an emphasis on the “collective” is important and I sketched out what it might mean to design for the collective rather than the individual.

In this post I’m going to signal towards some of the areas I’m particularly interested in when it comes to the “collective” and it goes way beyond design and stories.

Back in 2012 myself and Point People Co-founder Ellie Ford, won the Evening Standard and Living Architecture’s “Ideas for London.” You can read our interview here — some of it makes me cringe, but there are still aspects of our idea, LondonScape, that I’d like to see exist today — maybe not as a totem pole though! Heh.*

“ Interconnectedness is at the heart of the project. The original concept was inspired by the Tree Of Souls from the film Avatar. Its roots connect all living beings, and the planet itself. The idea is to use digital technology, data science and creativity to show our shared humanity and the idea of a connected universe.” —

LondonScape blog.

The premise of LondonScape, detailed on our website, was about collective consciousness and making use of new technologies to sense, analyse and predict.

We wanted to experiment with using systems of data, generated by individuals around the city, to bring visibility and a collective awareness to London — something that showed what we had in common, and emphasised our interdependence. We believed that if we considered ourselves as deeply entangled in relationships with one another and the wider world, we might be more considered in how we consume, behave and relate.

It requires that we take responsibility for noticing how we affect other people, that we realise how our behaviours and choices impact others, even at a distance. Most cultures have words and concepts to describe it though in the Western world it’s become rather lost in our drive for individualism. In South Africa the word is ubuntu — a word too rich and complex to be translated in to English. Desmond Tutu describes it: “it means my humanity is caught up, is inextricably bound up, in yours. We belong in a bundle of life. We say a person is a person through other people.” —

LondonScape Website

Image for post
Image for post
Image for post
Image for post
Some of the designs for LondonScape thinking about types of data, points of collection and different data stories we could tell.
Image for post
Image for post
LondonScape was nearly prototyped with Westminster Council but they pulled out at the last minute after 18 months of discussions and design work etc. These were the layers of data we were going to prototype in the system of interactions we’d created. — data that link us without us being aware of it — wind, water, air — data sets that are created by the large systems running through and surround our cities.
— data that is informative, from council data to retail data and government data.
— this data reveals the human stories, the everyday, the mundane, the poetic.

The impetus for LondonScape back in 2012 was more about collective awareness and wondering if we could use data to weave together common narratives to build a sense of collective identity — that we are all a part of something together.

In 2014 I travelled to MIT to the Collective Intelligence conference and although I was disappointed that embodied intelligence was missing from the content, knew that this was an area I wanted to continue learning about. I followed Geoff Mulgan’s work (from as early as 2011), the teams at MIT (especially the work that has now been labelled “extended intelligence”),the Global Consciousness Project at Princeton and more recently the Leverhulme Centre for the Future of Intelligence (whom I’m looking forward to working with — more on this soon!)

So I’ve moved beyond the LondonScape days of thinking about how to create collective awareness — how we can feel together — to wondering how we can better think, know and be together. In other words — from collective awareness to collective consciousness and collective wisdom. A wisdom that we cannot access in our current individual modes of operation.

“Collective consciousness — a collective mind and collective sensation — is the key for balance and harmony with our increasingly interdependent human society, as well as with nature on all of its other levels.”

In his latest article Geoff talks about tapping in to a “bigger mind” and that we “could be on the cusp of a dramatic enhancement of our shared intelligence” — I really believe this, or it’s certainly one of the only ways I retain hope about a future for humanity. And so my next post will sketch out the kind of work I’m hoping to do in this area, which is about the relationship between the collective unconscious, how it becomes conscious, and where human intelligence, ecological intelligence, cosmic intelligence and machine intelligence merge.

Image for post
Image for post
Photo by Jeremy Thomas on Unsplash

*Some of the “data consciousness” ideas of DataStore feel timely for today!

Written by

Senior Head, UK Portfolio at The National Lottery Community Fund & Co-founder of the Point People. Previously Strategic Design Director at Doteveryone.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store