I had occasion to contribute some thoughts to the Observation Deck of the Lakewood (Ohio) Observer, a all-volunteer, community newspaper. I was briefly and memorably involved in early efforts to develop civic intelligence there. Lakewood remains one of those special urban places. Snug againt Cleveland proper and Lake Erie, Lakewood is still the most densely populated city between New York and Chicago, even as its population has dropped significantly over forty years.

This comment doesn’t require its context because it drifts away from the original context. Still, for the first time I offer here a sketch of one of my core conceptions, Transformative Anthropology.

We did an experiment in the summer of 2005 where folk anthropologists were briefly trained to go out into the community and listen to Lakewood’s human lifestream.

Three functional phases were implemented:

(1) Inclusive — to take the lifestream as it naturally arose from sidewalk, venue, backyard, back door, etc. The ordinate for this was not to pick and choose; thus it was to include, be inclusive, take it in as it presented itself.

(2) Receptive — to be open and present to this lifestream, so as to navigate the human universe attentively, and to defer filtering and interpretation.

(3) Culmination — (or integration) To substantiate the moment of interaction as a deep play of consciousness upon consciousness.

(These three phases constitute the somewhat oxymoronic, novel, open source, Transformative Anthropology.)

The frame of reference for this was/is: the community coming to know itself. The bar was raised very high too. This was visualized at the time as the city come to know itself better than any other.

Only in retrospect, after having harshly deactivated myself, do I step back and–yet–continue to recognize how audacious this founding, rapturous conceit is. The LO carries this effort forward. It remains out of the ordinary for any community to deploy its intelligence for the sake of really knowing itself.

(It is perhaps more cogent to substitute consciousness for intelligence so as to not get carried off into the fascinating byways of social cognition and the complex problem of varieties of intelligence.)

Ken Warren named the bundle of capabilities, ‘chops.’ So, yes, the thrust toward integration of knowledge is concerned with developing community chops. Lakewood remains far ahead of other communities in daring to know itself and develop capability on the ground.

This said, the challenge in general terms is many fold. I’ll pick out two. First, is development of chops that allow otherwise distinct tribes to truly know one another. Second, is development of sturdy chops for the sake of knowing things one wouldn’t naturally wish to know.

These two challenges are joined when it is recognized that inclusive knowledge is comprehensive; it will penetrate the ‘shadow,’ and, out of this, abiding integration will tend to reveal unintended consequences.

Those consequences are fundamental vis a vis community individuation.

Crucially, as I view this process of consciousness and knowledge creation in the context of community, it may allow for healing fragmentation, and integrating the often torrid fault lines between tribes. One thing I became very aware of and impressed by is that Lakewood is in fact diverse and richly multiple. This diversity is unknown outside Lakewood, and, it constitutes a singular bias–at times–in Lakewood.

Anyway…to go about this… For example, this ‘chop building’ can be concerned with the older knowing the younger, the richer knowing the poorer, the narrow knowing the wide, the literate knowing the post-literate. . .on and on.

If I were to suggest a fourth, transcendent (as-it-were,) phase it would be: Unity; unity in the light of knowing multiplicity; assimilating the lifestream, literally, for “all it’s worth.” You’d have to tell me where this is at today, but I hypothesized at the time that such an ongoing effort would, over time, transform the vibe of the community.

This all (in all,) is, profoundly, an amateur effort. Jim plunked on the table right from the beginning the voluntary feature that captures this completely.

This is why, for me, it is notable that this unfolds outside the sphere of ‘professional social science,’ where questions about kinds of intelligence often obscure the quest for greater consciousness. And, this extends to the wide variety of consultative tools and instruments which are sometimes ‘bargained for’ even though it is readily apparent the outside dimer (eg. consultant,) hasn’t bothered to get to know the community that their ‘services’ are being employed to aid.

But once you raise the bar in the community the bar is likewise raised and it makes demands on all such ‘outside’ efforts.


(note — Nevertheless, in a technical sense, intelligence can be typified as being multiple and differentially functional. Over the last thirty years, this has led to all sorts of means for figuring out what the different factors are which are ‘in play,’ during, for example, problem formulation and solving, comprehension, representation, etc. See: Wisdom, Intelligence, and Creativity Synthesized by Robert J. Sternberg for a summary circa 2003.

In terms of social cognition, and to provide a gloss, people experience, see, interpret, know their own mind and other minds in gloriously different ways! There is no normative, authoritative, thus singular and optimal, mind with which one knows.

So, even if, for example, concerns about the health of Lakewood, express commonsense, conventional, familiar and intelligent perspectives about the present and future community, the focused effort to simply know, right from the git-go of the LO, has been post-conventional, extraordinary, and, enlightening.

Actually, I laugh, because it’s all about that light streaming esoteric eye, right? I don’t know if Lakewood knows itself better than any other community, but, two years on, it seems possible only Lakewood–in the whole world–is making this kind of concentrated effort.

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