I’m in a high speed train from Paris to Barcelona: I’ve got 6 hours to digest one city before meeting the next one.
As the countryside slips past me at 300 kph, I have a desire to review a few moments from the past few days. I need to slow them right down so I can actually notice what they look like.
I’m going to examine three moments from the OuiShare Festival that drew a global community together for a few days in Paris:
- Dissolving polarity with imagination
- Ezio Manzini on the Social Impact of the Sharing Economy
- Making Sense of the Emerging Economy with Yochai Benkler
These stories will be about 20% reporting and 80% interpretation. I know I have a tendency to mix up the subjective and objective, so I apologise for that in advance. This is me thinking out loud. All the good ideas are someone else’s. Mistakes are my own.
Read on for Part 1…
Dissolving polarity with imagination
The festival opened with a short theatrical sketch.
Two characters are on stage in the Cabaret Sauvage: one is the naive utopian convinced that somehow technology will resolve all our social and economic inequities overnight. The other is the overconfident cynic who has read enough history to know that in the end, disruption always favours the powerful.
What grabbed me about this setup was that the two characters on stage reflected the two loudest voices in my head throughout the conference. The tension of idealism vs. pragmatism can sometimes feel like a depressing battle, a relentless pursuit of compromise. When my imagination is engaged though, the tension is transformed into something generative.
I’m reminded of a beautiful conversation I had recently with Viv Maidaborn about polarities.
Together we constructed a picture of the two ends of a polarity being the two ends of a guitar string. Tension is required before you can sound a note. It takes a kind of magic to play with polarities in a creative way. You need to use your i-mage-ination. I’ve seen Viv do this with playful mastery: responding to someone’s proposal with, “yes, wonderful, and… what about the exact opposite of that?”
At its worst, that technique is the dreaded ‘devil’s advocate’, the unwelcome jerk who is dead set on interrupting every harmonious conversation. But at its best, the polarity-flip can double the size of the playground, creating more room for more ideas and more voices without losing coherence.
So the message of the sketch was right on, but it was the medium that resonated so strongly for me. Theatre is an immersive invitation to suspend disbelief. With my imagination engaged I can glimpse that the other side is not necessarily the opposite.
On to part 2: Ezio Manzini on the Social Impact of the Sharing Economy