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© 20/11/09 Jon Hawkes <email> <web>
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This culture process is a whole lot of cons


When contemplating how one might contribute to constructing the most conducive conditions for vibrant cultural activity, it's worth meditating on the meaning of the prefix, 'con': with, together.

Given culture's usage as describing 'the social production of meaning' or 'making sense together', it's not surprising that 'con' words are useful markers. Here are four:


Conviviality: as an alternative to the punitive side of our social contract, collaborative creative activities can offer the enjoyable aspect of being and doing with others. It helps to be reminded of the pleasures of sociability and to have opportunities for regular engagement.

Confidence: humans make culture every day; we endlessly transform our experience into narrative. This is not (just) a specialist (pre)occupation. The activities of us all deserve and require respect and recognition. That way, our story-telling will flower.

Connection: making meaning involves joining the dots (philosophers call it framing chaos and we've been doing it since drawing lines between the stars). Sharing meaning makes us more than individuals, and we've been doing it since we relaxed around the fire after a hard day of hunting and gathering. Although our societies have changed since those prehistorical days, it's unlikely that humans have - perhaps singing and dancing around the campfire is not just a metaphor for the peak cultural experience - it may still be the foundation of social formation.

Conversation: at the heart of our society, our culture and our economy is exchange. And what we swap most is stories. Lessons, values and hopes are all embedded in our tales. In a vibrant culture, this is a two way street with all participants doing as much listening as telling.

Implicit in these 'cons' is an awareness of culture as process. As I said in The Fourth Pillar (p23):

Culture is not a pile of artefacts - it is us; the living, breathing sum of us.

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© 20/11/09 Jon Hawkes <email> <web>
From The Hawkes Library; affiliated with

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