Culture, Oppression, Capabilities and other definitions

Antonio Moya
Jul 3, 2019 · 3 min read

My master’s thesis, The Sparking Cycle, is built on several concepts that can adopt different meanings depending on the context where they are used. All the concepts exposed are defined in the text according to existing literature and adjusted to the conceptual framework of my thesis. To ground the conversation around the topics discussed, I wanted to first share the definition of the most relevant concepts, in alphabetical order. Feedback is welcome!

  1. Art refers to all kinds of human creations (individual and collective ones), devised to convey ideas in ways that go beyond — but without renouncing — verbal, cognitive, and intellectual communication.
  2. Capabilities are sets of skills that individuals and communities need to pursue the lives they have reason to value based on their awareness of their surrounding realities.
  3. A challenge is a stimulating task or problem that cannot be resolved with the existing means and whose resolution is meaningful for an individual and the community where she belongs.
  4. Conscientização is the individual or collective act of looking critically at the world in order to name our surrounding reality and deal with it consciously.
  5. Contemplation is both a mindset that allows us to appreciate what lies underneath the obvious and an attitude towards a set of systemic challenges. Contemplation is necessary to perceive the inherent complexity of our societies and envision meaningful actions for social change.
  6. Culture (I) is the collective way of living of an oppressed community that both represents a form of resistance against mainstream, oppressing social systems, and functions as an infrastructure that can enable meaningful change within the social logics of the community.
  7. Culture (II) is the framework within which system change can arise, and public art is a language that can enable it.
  8. An infrastructure of change is a set of projects, processes, and ideas, that, enhanced through a network of change, can meaningfully advance wellbeing in an oppressed community according to its local culture. An infrastructure of change allows the community and its individuals to pursue the future they deserve and desire.
  9. A network of change is a consolidated group of diverse stakeholders — community members, public and private organizations, and external facilitators — committed to overcoming structures of oppression in a particular context. The leadership of such network of change corresponds mainly to young community leaders.
  10. Oppression is an individual or collective sense of being weighed down in body or mind caused by an excessive source of pressure that current social systems exert on certain communities. Oppression makes it extremely challenging for these communities to overcome the realities they do not like.
  11. Public art are individual or collective creations that occur in the public realm, are accessible for the majority of the community, and induce contemplation and action around questions of local culture and identity.
  12. A spark is an initial set of actions designed to bring community members and other interested stakeholders together to work towards a shared outcome that generates realistic expectations of deeper social transformations and paves the ground for a longer quest for system change.
  13. A sparking project is a set of interrelated challenges that can be gradually tackled to expand the community’s sense of awareness and capabilities around issues they have reason to value. Once realized, the sparking project can become a significant tipping point in the cultural transformation of the community.
  14. System change is the transformation process undertaken by a community, from being a system of vulnerabilities to becoming a system of capabilities.
  15. A system of capabilities is a social system whose individuals enjoy wellbeing. A system of capabilities consists of five basic sets of capabilities — social connectedness, stability, safety, mastery, and meaningful access to relevant resources — which are interconnected and reinforce each other. Communities can be described as systems of capabilities when their members can advance wellbeing in each of these five dimensions according to their own cultural logics.
  16. A system of vulnerabilities is a social system whose individuals cannot enjoy nor advance wellbeing. A system of vulnerabilities consists of sets of unstructured and interrelated vulnerabilities that prevent communities from leveraging existing capabilities to pursue the lives they have reason to value.
  17. An urban trauma is a shocking event or cumulative experience that negatively affects the routines of a community, and it is also the emotional state generated by such event or experience. An urban trauma obscures some aspects of the community’s daily lives, and it also reveals many of its unnamed vulnerabilities.
  18. Vulnerability is a high exposure to damage of individuals and communities who have been already hurt by existing social systems. Vulnerabilities prevent individuals and communities from advancing wellbeing.

Ciudad Poliédrica

Miradas sobre la ciudad contemporánea desde el urbanismo y el arte

Antonio Moya

Written by

Architect & Musicien working for social urban innovation

Ciudad Poliédrica

Miradas sobre la ciudad contemporánea desde el urbanismo y el arte

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