Tag Archives: civic intelligence

The Untamed Monad in the Happy World


extremely rare photo of Gershom Scholem & Henry Corbin loving time on Virginia Street, Lakewood, Ohio

But if the “root” and possibility of Declaration always goes back to the topology of Being itself, what fundamentally Declaration “sees” that authorizes its hazarding concrete steps toward the possibility field it originates and seeks to get underway, is in every case Being itself. The topological feature of Being that is relevant here, would be its propensity to take on appearances. …one can profess neither Thomism, Scotism, nor Augustinianism, and yet ‘valorize’ these theological universes positively, and, without taking up one’s abode in them, keep an abode for them in oneself…

The more perceptions and representations of the universe each monad integrates, the more it unfolds its own perfection and differs from every other. (Chuck Stein – Parimenides Project; Notes on some passages from Henry Corbin’s Avicenna and the Visionary Recital)

Sacrament of Heresy
The Sacrament of Heresy

The Village has set sail for the future, like all of unanchored America, set sail or set adrift, take your choice. A visit to the Village always provokes a crisis of nostalgia in those who have moved on but do not want the Village to move on. (Herbert Gold The Age of Happy Problems)

KW sends my way a deep feed. Miller hails from that great Wood shed of outsider genius. What Herbert Gold did for the outsider in the Wood with Birth of a Hero in 1951 Miller is doing now with Atrocity Parade. Michael A. Miller describes his work:

Atrocity Parade amplifies the sadistic trivia of day-to-day existence. It’s the hymnal and prayer book of society’s heretics. In its angst-riddled pages, post-goths, thrashing bohos, crumbly artqueens, liberal-arts grad students, and all other phyla of overly-ripe, choleric day-job hostages will find asylum.

Commentary. An iconoclastic notion of an active, and interactive urban anthropology could propose that the most determined modes of inquiry would both tease and dig out, first, the overt story, and, second, the covert story. Thirdly, in driving this inquiry beyond and beneath these promotional tales the goal, to borrow from Stein, would be to appear in the possibility field. So: the investigator arrives, body and soul, in the field where the possibilities, say–creative kinds, are unfolding in real time.

This is really to invoke anthropological inquiry as praxis, yet without carrying into the act of enjoining the field, any pretense of objectivity. Another way to put this is to suggest the observer is landed in the poetic Topos; is faced with the fleshy, pulsing, ‘outerward’ cast manifestation of the inner dealing. Asylum here is hideaway, shelter, and possesses both outer and inner wards.

To play with this forming projection would be to sit in a window seat, or on a public bench, or at the park’s picnic table, and intently watch the scurrying about of patients and personnel–as if sidewalk and street were hallway. Them you could ask, as Miller has done.

The, a, City’s deep creative life, in someway, always implicates a daring observer willing to participate. The Sacrament of Heresy seems to me to surface an inevitability, a necessary fluid–moist in the archetypal sense–turning of the conscious citizen.

hat tip to Ken Warren for the pointer to Herbert Gold. I sense with Gold a northcoast Lafcadio Hearn type.) I discovered, evidently, Gold is still alive and has turned or will turn eighty-seven this year. At the bottom of the brief Wikipedia article are links to recent writing on the web.

I love this:

“So I guess you haven’t read one of my actual texts.”

“Not personally. Like I explained, I’ve got a lot on my plate these days.”

That was okay with me; or at least okay enough while, like the gathering clouds of the thunderstorms of my Midwestern boyhood, rage accumulated in my vengeful heart—this is the typical inept poetic strophe of a confirmed author who doesn’t need precision anymore because he has already arrived in the marketplace. Bewitched, Bothered, Begoogled; November 2004; News From the Republic of Letters.

Gold is onto, here, one of the primary rationales for seeking stories in the hideaways.

The excerpt from Stein comes from an email Ken offered, January 5, 2006, about visionary knowledge platforms.


Filed under Cleveland, Kenneth Warren

Open eyes and own the civic space

Term it the Observer Paradigm.

It’s multiplying.

Fathership: Lakewood Observer Lakewood, Ohio
The Heights Observer Cleveland & University Heights, ohio
Parma Observer Parma, Ohio
Collinwood Observer Collinwood in Cleveland, Ohio
Euclid Observer Euclid, Ohio

soon (?)
University Circle Observer, University Circle in Cleveland, ohio

This new vision of time and space, which will be the theoretical
basis of future constructions, is still imprecise and will
remain so until experimentation with patterns of behavior has
taken place in cities specifically established for this purpose,
cities assembling–in addition to the facilities necessary for
basic comfort and security–buildings charged with evocative
power, symbolic edifices representing desires, forces and
events, past, present and to come. A rational extension of the
old religious systems, of old tales, and above all of
psychoanalysis, into architectural expression becomes more and
more urgent as all the reasons for becoming impassioned disappear.
Formulary for a New Urbanism (Formulary for a New Urbanism . Gilles Ivain
Internationale Situationniste/ #1 1953)

(Okay, maybe not so much the psychoanalytic part…)

Better: “Residency on the ley line allows for “the vertical circuit termed “intuition” to walk-in, drop-in to the epiphanic foot traffic, which pedals the metals of electric mojo circuits plugged into water mark.” (KW. March 2005)

urban poetics
Urban Poetics isn’t intended to be straightforward. It’s intended to be curved out of time. That there is a place right now for an imaginal apprehension of an urban lifeworld has to do with a practical exemplification of culmination. This reflects a concrete tale. The tale begins with a fifty and fifty-one; a meeting of 101 years. A meeting drums-in-hand around the fire dancer with the snake dancing underneath. There is in all of this the necessary memetic triangulation.

The thrust of the begun urban poetics is initiated in a dialogical dao. The glossary refines terms and new ways of transmitting spontaneous intuitions about living in the spiral domains of Lakewood and the cosmos. Seers and Sirians envelops longer effusians and miscellanies. Sound breeches wail collages of communal, civic, concrescent, oceanic audio.

Urban poetics is aimed to surprise and trigger evocative consternation. Here the eonic Lakewood teaching story is comprised and busted through the waves. ( from a draft of the never instituted Visionary Alignment Blog. circa 2006)

Situationist tribal poetics.

18: Ken explains it to Puck; kind of…

[Another party is in progress. It’s costume party. To the side of a stocked buffet, are a man dressed in a Bishop’s frock with cap, and a man in a brown rabbit suit, with the head held under his arm. The party is in full swing.]

Puck: I’m worried about him. The play seems headed to overload. We’ve instantiated a matrical lens;
stability-mastery; individuality-belonging being one such lens.

Ken: Let’s just say the he is on the throne. The Virgin Dirt Bag of Reason tries to dethrone him, each production time, no less, with skeptical probes into the city’s faith in the virtue of its underpart – the brand. The Virgin Dirt Bag of Reason persists in trying to subvert influence of Charis’s passion for the city into the critical circuit of Carthage.

Puck: Sure, I get it. It’s like Burroughs. You know the quote, “Animals talk. They don’t write. Now a wise old rat may know a lot about traps and poison but he cannot write a text book on DEATH TRAPS IN YOUR WAREHOUSE for the Reader’s Digest with tactics for ganging up on digs and ferrets and taking care of wise guys who stuff steel wool up our holes.”

Ken: Yes, consider this. Life conditions are, indeed, changing, here and elsewhere, some for better, others for worser. As life conditions change one meme cannot be co-opted by another’s message and playbook. Transcend and include is generally recommended. Easier said than done. To do so consciously and avoid blind spots is risky and near impossible.

Puck: He’s in a fix. The deep point of creative destruction and re-sanctification–besides realism cognizing the mysterium; being obedient–is, as you know, one can’t skip the steps the natural order and its aspirations.

Ken: Right-o! A dictator may be neither necessary nor necessarily deposed by the old hippie guard. But history is filled with cries of betrayal. That’s the reality of life on the planet of the apes. Every action is an OP from the horizon of psyche and politics which just doesn’t go away.

Puck: Basically…self-evident, right? But I wonder if Bear can take much more. He’s more than popular. Too popular. I’m…worried.

Ken: Why worry? The mandarin has no skin in the game of the chthonic conservative ta’wil that pushes back from the black hole of consciousness. All will be well. The worm turns…

Puck: Okay…alright, I get that…sure. I believe it is so, so I believe the fact of churn is the wolf in the bathroom. We might gently pull at the different threads but we would be re-raveling too: the indira web of the odyssey. For me it’s auspicious mutual collusion as you say joking the cosmic mean.

Ken: Yeah, the perception of negativity isn’t anything but a correct inference made from my push back. That it’s fleshed out incorrectly isn’t surprising. You avoid this so I’m interested –always– in your counsel, kimmosabe. After all, the second and third order strategic locus comes about when we animate.

from unpublished or produced screenplay, Tao Job.

Making a difference in the civic space using language is difficult. For one thing, in the experiential recipe is Shadow, and, in its transmutation to letter there is descriptive cloaking.

The standard notion of the way fantasy works within ideology is that of a fantasy-scenario which obfuscates the true horror of a situation: instead of a full rendering of the antagonisms which traverse our society, we indulge in the notion of society as an organic Whole, kept together by forces of solidarity and co-operation … Here also, however, it is much more productive to look for this notion of fantasy where one would not expect to find if in marginal and, again, apparently purely utilitarian situations. Let us simply recall the safety instructions prior to the takeoff of an aeroplane – are they not sustained by a phantasmic scenario of how a possible plane crash will look? After a gentle landing on water (miraculously, it is always supposed to happen on water!), each of the passengers puts on the life-jacket and, as on a beach toboggan, slides into the water and takes a swim, like a nice collective lagoon holiday experience under the guidance of an experienced swimming instructor. Is not this ‘gentrifying’ of a catastrophe (a nice soft landing, stewardesses in dance-like style graciously pointing towards the ‘Exit’ signs…) also ideology at its purest. (SLAVOJ ZIZEK, The Plague of Fantasies)

Walk into the fire? Follow the worry to its source?

Way back in 2005/06 I thought there could be a workaround. At the time, it seemed possible to send journalist researchers into the community and task them with the project of differentiating the tribal matrix, and its verticality (history) and householder horizons (survival strategies.) Then I tasked myself and then I fell off the stone!

It could of looked like this:

Now, so many years later, the impossible energies have been tamed and become procreative. Initial experiments in development,

have become templated and scaleable.

The action, for me, is on the civic forums attached to the civic journalism. This has been replicated at The Height Observer, but not at the other Observer sites. I don’t know why. In the exchange of experience and affect and non-anonymous poetics the civic heart plugs into its sanguine flow.

Still, as the experiment multiplies, and this somewhat well kept secret sustains its pulse, the prospect for bottom-up civic coherence matures.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Kenneth Warren

God Loves Gunn High School

Fred Phelps, the hateful and hate-mongering ‘pastor’ of infamousWestboro Baptist Church, Topeka, brought his tiny insane mob to a sidewalk across the street of Gunn High School, Palo Alto, California. Phelps is well beyond the pale, and, for example, has stated that military casualties in the current combat zones are the singular result of ‘his’ God’s hatred of America.

Gunn students and the community came up with an enlightened response.

Not In Our Town, working together for safe and inclusive communities, produced the video.

Perfect. Salon picked up the story.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Uncategorized


On December 16, The Uncertain Future of News, (WCPN Stream,) joined host Dan Malthrop with Lauren Rich Fine ContentNext, Kent State University and Ted Gup Case Western Reserve University to discuss the imploding old print newspaper media. The discussion was interesting but it didn’t really capture the confluence of trends, one of which is most germane: that people increasingly are reading less. This trend is a generational trend. This noted, if you’re interested in the business of news and newspapers’ role in providing information, it’s a worthwhile 45 minutes.

At about 11 minutes in Ms. Fine responds to the host’s mention of the example of local free newspapers The Lakewood Observer, (the ‘mothership,’) and The Heights Observer, (spawned by the mothership.) Both exemplify the mostly volunteer ethos of amateur community journalism. However, after praising their ability to “develop community consciousness” Professor Gup comments from the perspective of the old school professional model, that such community newspapers don’t have the resources to pursue “real” investigative journalism.

And then the discussion turned back toward analysis of the faltering old print news. Listening to this segment, I chuckled to myself. What a missed opportunity! Then, as the discussion returns to what might be new models for news delivery, the panel never circles back to the vital local model of the Observer, which, in Lakewood’s case, has been thriving for three-and-a-half years.

In an organic discussion focused on the old media it is not surprising that an active new model gets short shrift. But, Mr. Gup’s acute point about community journalism, that it can develop community consciousness, could have been deployed to ask why the old media doesn’t do this, and why community journalism can do this. The criticism of community journalism from the perspective of old media can be inverted: what advantages The Lakewood Observer and disadvantages, for example, The Plain Dealer from the perspective of the model of the new volunteer, “post-professional,” community media?

Scrolling back to the genesis of The Lakewood Observer offers a crucial clue. I was there and nobody talked about emulating conventional newspapers. The Observer model was not born of thinking about news provision as much as it was born of thinking about community consciousness and its revitalization. My guess is that old newspapers don’t think about this at all.

Although Gup’s point about community newspapers not having resources to, as it were, drag resistant institutions into court, is true, he never discusses the type of investigation community journalists can unleash. From the perspective of the efficiency of resources, it’s obvious that the work product of free correspondents is much more efficient than the million dollar model of conventional newspapers.

But, there’s more.

Community newspapers can really raise a high velocity and high volume ruckus. The key point here is that–what I’ll term–the community consciousness model is itself the product of local journalists really having a stake in the community, of their direct engagement, and subjectivity rather than objectivity. This is contrasted with The Plain Dealer’s stake being quite different, more professional, more detached, and resulting in ‘just another story’ at a scale oriented toward a wide readership as opposed to a local, (or micro,) readership.

Gup mentioned, later, how local powers can gauge and probably ignore this ruckus. This caused me to say to myself that the professor needs to do his homework on this point, and do it in Lakewood. The community consciousness model doesn’t aspire to implement an ephemeral, objective, string of investigative stories. It’s model is much better disposed to sustain a point of inquiry and, sometimes, attack. In Lakewood, the paper instigates, and the community sustains, much of this unfolding in the continuing discussions on the paper’s online forum. By the way, the forum is itself an interpersonal form of community journalism. The forum focuses and sustains community concerns. The genius of the Observer’s model is that it’s aggregation has to do with aggregating consciousness.

Circling back, although Professor Gup’s later point about opinion being cheap to produce, facts expensive to produce, is true enough, at the beginning of the Lakewood Observer project, we discussed how a certain type of journalist, by virtue of their engagement, and intensity, and–indeed–subjectivity, would be in a good ‘affectual’ position to loosen facts from resistant institutions and personages. This personality factor elevates emotional commitment to a community to be a key component of tenacity. This recognizes that subjectivity, in a rich social psychological context, is pragmatic and very useful.

The Lakewood Observer, since its beginning, is in the position to always hash out, re-hash, reconfigure, its model and analyze anew the system it’s a part of. This nimbleness is also a crucial feature of its ability to shape-shift and redeploy volunteer journalists in real time. After all, the unpaid journalist many times will only pursue what interests them; another point of ‘affect’ and ‘energetics.’

My uninformed guess is that old model newspapers aren’t likely to engage their own human resources in ongoing meta-discussions and pragmatic discussions, both enabled to deeply reflect on their predicament. There’s too much money at stake and the stakes are driven too deeply. If this is true, it could be hard to have a deep dialogue about one’s model, especially one that can address the question of community consciousness, and its ‘raising’ in a profound and post-professional manner!

I’ll urge Professor Gup, if he hasn’t already, and Mr. Malthrop, to investigate the Observer model closely. The Observer may observe the same terrain as the big city newspaper, but it does it with different eyes and a bigger ‘unpaid’ consciousness.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Kenneth Warren


November 25th I sat at a table of participants I had just met, and then collaborated to create a vision for Cleveland’s sustainable future. In collaborating together and imagining together a middle ground where we fruitfully share our different interests, the group set about doing something I immensely enjoy. This is to then synthesize and express the collaborative product.

The piece of the vision I hoped others could relate to was the relationship between sustainability and human artistry and creativity. Well, my colleagues did relate to this. My own sense has been developing for forty-five years, ever since I conjured up in a boy’s daydream a picture of utopia, a idealized human universe in which everybody made art for everybody else.

In 2005, working with the Visionary Alignment team in Lakewood, I unleashed my conception of the CIMPLE Lit-Up Center. This concept integrates an egalitarian performance space, after school and continuing arts education, and, civic inquiry in the form of a dedicated folk anthropology.

Here’s the floor plan. Download the position paper. [pdf 13mb] It’s beyond open source. click pic to enlarge I’ll comment further soon.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Cleveland, Kenneth Warren


Sat down with collaborative learning specialist George Por, and a group from E4S, over delicious Thai food, on Thursday. It was a great session, yet suprisingly it became oriented around my experiential tool, Playing the Opposites, rather than George’s groundbreaking work in intelligent human networks and collabortive learning. This was a bit of a missed opportunity, because George travelled to Cleveland from Belgium, had a packed agenda, and this was our only encounter.

Still, the group rolled with the compelling and thoughtful flow, so we commenced an individual and collective reflection on a question, “What hints might we learn about advancing sustainability?” and used the card deck of opposites to inspire our conversation. As it turned out the experiential play teased out lots of insights. In the nosy, tiny and busy restaurant we could not afford ourselves a chance to document the proceeding. Nor could we take the process into a second 90 minutes, yet, in such a group of smart people, our moment was a fully engaged one.

By the time I parted with the group and George, George and me had decided our concerns and approaches were in so much affinity with one another that we were sort of like brothers!

George’s own work is all about actualizing the humane whole from human parts, using the power of relationship and the vehicle implicit in any and all kinds of networks to further the cause of collaborative work and collective enlightenment. Just a simple search on google showcases how many networks George is energizing.

It would be interesting to ‘square’ his and my ‘differentials,’ because its where we don’t overlap so much that possibly fruitful differences could be leveraged. George, during this session, was open to my emphasis on the (so-called) lower. Or, on what in other contexts is termed shadow, or the inferior, tacit, hidden, etc.. This comes out of the model for the Play of Opposites, and it reinforces learning from not only what is attractive but from what seems strange or repulsive.

One of the graces of having so much mindheart power around the table, was how far our interplay danced. It was cool and an honor to have such a moment with friends, and a long lost brother!

George PorGeorge Por:

Interview | CommunityIntelligence home | blog

Leave a Comment

Filed under sociology


The Heights Observer, like the Lakewood paper, is written by citizens, who use AGS’s web-based program to upload stories and photographs onto a server. Volunteer editors read the content, post stories to the paper’s web site and design newspaper pages, all via the Internet.

The volunteers and low overhead will allow the Heights Observer to keep costs low, said Deanna Bremer Fisher, executive director of FutureHeights, a nonprofit dedicated to improving life in Cleveland Heights. (May 5th, Crain’s Cleveland Business, Citizen-produced Observer catching on With three new editions on tap, company’s publisher envisions an edition “in every town’ Chuck Soder)

The Lakewood Observer is vigorously seeding its model. Leveraging creative and executive intelligence along with Lakewood’s innovative publishing software, other communities are taking up the task of building civic chops* via the model of volunteer journalism and voluntary engagement.

  • civic chops::creative, cognitive, artistic, emotional, disciplinary, abilities and capacities–focused upon the development of community self-knowledge, self-awareness, and knowledge creation.

I rode with the Lakewood Visionary Alignment for its, as I see it, second chapter. From my anthropological-adult learning perspective the interesting aspect I’ll continue to track is how–overall– journalistic reports will tend to either accentuate or mitigate knowledge creation, and, how does reportage deeply ramify civic engagement.

All sorts of challenges crop up on the path toward realizing civic self-knowledge. The central cross purpose comes up in the flux between the wish to elevate the positive “brand,” and the more veracious wish to uncover whatever knowledge might find its way into the, so-called, Civic Open Source.

  • Civic Brand::attractive community identity; in terms we developed, thus the brand is the civic persona presented as the face of the civic imago–the imago then is the source of manifest collective identity and identity in-potentia.
  • Civic Open Source is a coinage::knowledge is radically democratized, made accessible, is shared, and is freely subject to re-configuration and re-use.

I noted in 2005 that well intentioned civic-promotion (in Lakewood,) would surely clash with the inspirational desire to achieve civic self-knowledge and community awareness. This follows simply from recognition of those aspects of civic life that form the undercurrent of the civic shadow; manifested as the Other, constituting alterity at the scale of community.

The point of inspiration was predicated on unleashing community researchers into both the lit up and darkened corners of the community, and then allowing any findings to stream through the uncensored process. Much of this thrust followed from having a core group turned on by the idea of a city coming to know its self better than any other. And, I knew going into it, that cross purposed desires would be compelled to negotiate and self-organize accomodation along the way.

How it sorts itself out has everything to do with the implicit group relations that contextualize the psychological negotiation of points of emphasis. In this sense, the community newspaper is, every time its published, the fruit of such negotiation. This is a fascinating underlay because in this group arise learning processes. At the end of the day to sustain civic chops is to nurture capacity in the context of the group and via the group’s various and variable intentions, desires, and labors of love. Praxis.

Along with this comes the prospect of securing better civic engagement and cohesion by virtue of, in effect, self-selected journalists and researchers, working, acting ‘on the city.’ Given my prejudices, this could effect re-personalization; a term of Paolo Freire having to do with a socially unified critique of the givenness of the social environment causing transformations of awareness stood against de-personalization. With respective to this, collective action is aimed to liberate, and so the negotiation between boosting of and boasting about the given, and, critically conscious confrontation with the received functions and facilities of the extant given communitas deeply explicate the variance in hope and hazard between sustenance of this given, and, disruptive transformative learning.

Continue reading

Leave a Comment

Filed under adult learning


City Poem

community poetry

Having intended to get a clear shot unencumbered by glare or rain, I still missed out clearly capturing this sign in the window of the library annex in Cleveland Heights.

Could a community be an art form?

I believe it it could be. Even better, with the deployment of intention, chops, communal creativity and spontaneous poetics fused to curiosity and critical consciousness, and vitalized by intrepid community ‘street researchers,’ a city could begin the adventure of knowing itself anew.

Lo and behold: the example of Lakewood, Ohio presents itself three years down this path. There the Visionary Alignment informs the Lakewood Observer project. I’ve written here on occasion about this; see the topic entries for civic intelligence.

Lo and behold redux, in the land of my family, Cleveland Heights, from which I bounce and bounce back, the observer aesthetic has been planted. How interesting, “how worth observing” says the transformative anthropologist to himself.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Kenneth Warren


Another great thread unfolds on the Observation Deck:The First Mayoral Debate of the Lakewood Observer. (As always, the Lakewood Observer project in Lakewood, Ohio, is one of the truly innovative experiments in civic engagement, intelligence and journalism going on in the US today.)

Although it is obvious the US has become debate-crazy, as if debates between candidates are our era’s hula hoop, the effort to vet candidates is a worthy one.

The debate about the prospective mayoral debates in Lakewood provides a fascinating view of citizens discussing meta-structural and structural aspects of the format. Check it out.

How do you get a politician to answer challenging questions? I think I could do a better job than Tim Russert or Wolf Blitzer and sundry other excrable interviewers, but then I also understand I wouldn’t have a job after my first interview. Local civic forums are more congenial to intense inquiries. Candidates should be subjected to such inquiries!

When I was reflecting upon the discussion in Lakewood, I thought of an exercise applicable to any local debate.

Devise five questions for each candidate. These questions are qualified to be the most important and challenging questions you can come up with.

In turn, each question is concerned with:

1. A question about the candidate’s track record and prior performance.

2. A question about the single most crucial challenge facing the community, from the perspective of the questioner.

3. A concrete question about some unwanted trend likely to effect the community’s future apsirations

4. A focused question about what the candidate feels he or she doesn’t know enough about and how they would address this deficit.

5. A question about what specific ideas the candidate has for increasing and amplifying civic engagement, especially how these initiatives could be funded from tax monies.

A note about question 5: when I vote in off-national cycle elections in my eastern Cleveland suburb, I fall into the group numbering 15-25% of the electorate that bothers to vote. I have never heard a single councilperson or mayor or elected suburban official decry this ridiculous level of engagement. Ha! I know darn well this level of engagement suits the purposes of the local political elites and, in effect, this normal state of affairs expresses a mild anti-democratic tendency matched with an ‘investment deficit;’ a deficit likely partly explainable in terms of behavioral economics. In other words, many citizens don’t perceive that it is worth it to invest their time for the sake of voting.

So, as a radical ‘democratarian,’ I propose a concerted effort be made by citizens to begin to reconfigure this common behavioral feature. The top down instigation puts pressure on politicians and the bottom up instigation puts pressure on the disengaged.

Of course the normal stream of political discourse showcases mountains of spin and idealistic cliche while it vaunts a posture of action, (“I’m a doer!”) over deep thinking. This is, by virtue of my personal social-psychological preoccupations, always question begging about the actual cognitive dispositions of both politicians and citizens. For me, the drill-down should poke at the substance of cognitive capability and reveal whether or not a person can reason intelligently about what they want to do, what they know, and about what they don’t know. Not surprisingly, the singular abject feature of political discourse is that people peddle the idea that they are all-knowing, have an answer for every challenge, and, at the same time, the underlying structure of their viewpoints are not anybody’s business!

Pointed questions, posed to politicians, can yield evidence about whether the politician is ready to endorse an upwelling of civic intelligence. And, at the level of the citizen, the endorsement of civic intelligence is no less daring and no less capable of upsetting the apple cart of dessicated democracy.

Leave a Comment

Filed under social psychology, organizational development


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.

Continue reading

Leave a Comment

Filed under Kenneth Warren


The Lakewood Public Library has returned to the top ranking (pdf) of American libraries in its class. And, it scored #2 among all libraries in Hennen’s American Public Library Ratings for 2006.

It is my favorite library.

I like what the publisher of The Lakewood Observer wrote on the LO forum after hearing the news.

What has become more amazing to me is how each member of your staff also that his rare ability to reach out, make contact and touch people lives. Kids, adults, teens, young, old, rich poor, you and your staff have created one of the finest public institutions, I have ever witnessed.

When I first met you I loved your talk about how a library must be the home of public knowledge. That it is your mission to not just answer questions with answers you like, but to give them background on all sides so that they can make the decision that is best for them. Again, your staff does this nearly as well as you do.

There’s a lot I could say about the feel of this library, but I will echo Jim’s highlighting the human touch in the staff/patron interface. There’s no library like it.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Uncategorized


Today. 4pm. The Lakewood Public Library Future Tools Series

…presenting a galvanizing vision for the pursuit of transformative knowledge via the exploration of everyday urban life. Then, during the main course of the program, participants will offer their own ideas about how this knowledge could be sought, created, captured, and documented. The evenin’s program is capped off by Stephen’s comments and discussion on the process of learning and knowledge creation already initiated by the program, and, ends with his framing of the possibility about the city that came to know itself better than any other.

What would happen if residents of a small inner ring suburban took it upon themselves to collaborate together to set a WORLD RECORD for coming to know the city they live in?

1. What’s the current world record?
2. What bundle of knowledge so gained breaks this record?
3. How would the residents go about this?
4. What would if be like to actually try to do this?
5. Are there any underlying reasons besides doing this for its own sake that might vitalize and amplify this audacious attempt at civic knowledge creation?

announcement@ Listening to the City

The programs are free For more information 216.932.7566 216.226.8275

Lakewood Public Library
15425 Detroit Avenue
Lakewood, Ohio 44107

Leave a Comment

Filed under Kenneth Warren, Libraries & Librarianship


Congressperson Sherrod Brown’s GrowOhio.org featuresThinker of the Week: Jim O’Bryan and Ken Warren, the dynamic duo spearheading The Lakewood Observer. Great article with good pictures that do both the project and these two fine guys justice.

This is a “post-professional newspaper driven by the passion and intelligence of residents,” [Warren] says. “If a person is passionate about [a subject] and has a depth of knowledge,” it will produce a better article and a more interesting read.

This also is producing a very distinctive and unique community newspaper that is either completely unique or is among the very few ‘smart-mob’ intelligent publications on earth!

Leave a Comment

Filed under Kenneth Warren