Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Gideon Kossoff on Transition Design

Gideon Kossoff gave a thoughtful talk on Transition Design last night at UWS. I wish I was going to the Shorelines Conference today but have other commitments. Hopefully it is a start towards local activity linked to Transition Scotland.

Gideon had a nice diagram of needs and satisfiers; some similarities with David Squire's diagram (.pdf) for seafarers. There was no discussion of spirituality. It seems to me very unclear that we can make the transition we need to in a secular society. Whether it be a Moon Goddess or a Sun God, history seems to say we need one (even if they don't need us). His domains of everyday life is a useful educational and analytical framework for 'what has been hollowed out'. Less of a guide to action, though.

The main weakness was his fondness for a rural idyll as a model. The case of Ladakh is a good example of why these are exactly the wrong model. Although lovely to look at from a distance, it was completely vulnerable to the forces that Transition Towns are claiming to counter. Perhaps the Transition Town movement needs the Smart Cities hackers almost as much as the techies need a social framework. Wherever we are headed, it is not "back" to anywhere.

He raised the question of how we would define and assess sustainability. A very good question indeed. Every system requires a viewpoint, and the viewpoint for local transitions is still to be formed.

Thankfully, the topic of power came up in the discussion. As a newcomer to Transition Towns, my impression is that they need some harder edge thinking about what to do and where they are headed. Rob Paterson is advocating food as a systempunkt, John Robb is mobilising Resilient Communities with miiu, links to all sorts of open source resources, and serious discussions of currency. Umair Haque is trying to paint the big picture for us. The P2P Foundation is developing a great set of resources. Cognitive Edge  is providing great tools to make sense of a complex world. Perhaps some safe-fail experiments with the Cynefin framework is a next step? Perhaps the very real problems of the Bellisle estate are as good a place to start as any, as a way of starting to build some Transition Designers locally.

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