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Transcript: Arlene Goldbard, author, The Culture of Possibility: Art, Artists & The Future

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storycon.org H1'ed 7/10/14
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And then it activates a lot of emotions,, it's full of yearning, that's the main sort of emotional coloration of that song. Is yearning and desire actually fulfilled somehow and it's full of ideas because the music of that period, that psychedelic music really made a lot of literary allusions and references to other realities, and when all those things are combined so that they're all activated, you're receiving on all channels at once, you could say you had what people might call a spiritual experience of really feeling connected. And that's what I mean by it.

R.K.: I'm very interested in connect and I think we're, part of the transition from a top down to a bottom up world but as the theme of my radio show is that we're going through a kind of connection revolution that we're getting connected in new and different ways and our connections are changing. Which includes disconnection. What are your thoughts about that, about connection and disconnection?

A.G.: You know, I am really an admirer of the Brazilian thinker and writer, Paulo Freire who is-

R.K.: I love Freire.

A.G.: Yeah, he is so amazing. And he talked about how every moment has it's thematic universe and the thematic universe is the themes, values, ideas, all in this dialectical interaction that is one, you know you push on one end and the other end emerges and vice versa. They keep push-pulling back and forth. Connection has got to be one of the emergent themes of our thematic universe right now because on the one hand, we're so connected, there's a sense in which we're never alone because of our technologies, rights?

We're always able to plug into a larger conversation and individual person, whatever. And there's another sense in which a lot of that form of connection is disembodied. It goes on when we're all alone in a space. And in a time. And so we have this ironic phenomenon of being very, very connected and feeling, often feeling more alone I think.

R.K.: Yes.

A.G.: Feeling like we're individual atoms. So a lot of what I'm talking about is the comment. Things that bring us out into direct contact with our fellow human beings. Ways that we can make things together, so that we're interacting on all levels simultaneously. Ways that we can be present to each others individual stories rather than a kind of mass manufactured story that emerges from the center of mass communications out to the margins.

R.K.: Now you, after you bring up Freire and his thematic universe concept in your book, you talk about Datastan and the Republic of Stories. What's that about?

A.G.: I was looking for ways to talk about a paradigm shift that would really be meaningful to people. You know the original idea of a paradigm shift was that it was applied to science and it was basically that when the old model of how the universe works can't hold the newly emerging information that science is discovering, eventually we have a paradigm shift, a new model comes into place of the old, and the classic example is like people who sailed ships in exploration in the thirteen, fourteen, fifteen centuries didn't fall of the edge of a flat planet and their paradigm had to shift to encompass the notion of a globe.

So they typically use the idea of a optical illusion to illustrate that. Because in an optical illusion the same information is present, you're seeing the same lines on the page but depending on your point of view, how you bring it in to focus you can see two different images, a duck and a bunny or two human profiles or a vase, these are two classics, so in my paradigm shift, the name for the duck and the bunny are Datastan and the Republic of Stories. Datastan is the old order, the paradigm that's crumbling now.

It's the one in which it was decided to make machines the model for human life, human endeavor, human interaction in which everything was attempted to be standardized and mechanized, in which jobs have been automated, in which people are treated as exemplars of a group. We don't have our individual stories, we have a set of categories that are supposed to describe us and tell people something about who we are.

In Datastan, only things that that can be weighed, counted, and measured are really given value and everything is ported on in that way. So we have the size of a fortune, the box office receipts, the score of the sports game, the level of the stock market, the number of casualties in a war and the implication is that's a quantification of absolutely everything is going to give us some deep scientific truth, but in fact it's a scientific error, because it attempts to apply ways of understanding and ways of interacting with the world that worked great for rocks and gasses to the human subject.

We've really been suffering quite a bit from this and there's almost no one who volunteers to live in Datastan, the people who have the fortune to buy their way out of it of course always do. So the contrasting realm, the new paradigm that's emerging, I'm calling the Republic of Stories because of the particularity of stories.

We understand that nuance, that specificity, the right to self-represent, that first person account of who you are and what you're doing here are richer and more revealing and necessary for us to take in to have a livable world. We're realizing that we've come to the end of the time when we can be treated like rigids in a factory or numbers in a count. That we have to slow down. In that pause, allow our stories to emerge and re-conceive our institutions and social relationships in such a way that there's time for you and me to be here, not just exemplars of a set of categories.

R.K.: You know, I have done a lot with story and I ran a conference on it for six years as I've mentioned to you before we started this interview and I have come to believe that stories were with us at the very beginning of the evolution of humanity and stories literally shape the way our brain function evolved. So I think that stories go way back, way back before civilization and so for you to characterize this as a new thing, that confuses me a little bit.

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