Collapse talks: a possible use for digital ethnography as a sensemaking tool

The German defense ministry has contingency plan for the collapse of Europe. And it leaked to the press. The Guardian has a foreboding op-ed about it. What’s so sobering is that it feels very right. China and Russia are on the move at the Union’s borders; and Europe’s backbone – “more globalism and more market” is what European electorates, especially their older and less educated edges – are rejecting.

The commentator’s interpretation is “a new great game has started, with Russia and China funding nationalist parties in the Union”. But that, so far, is exactly that: an interpretation. And it’s only one guy’s. It cannot be a basis for common action until it becomes shared.

And that’s where we come in. As a European citizen, I feel the need for a large-scale sensemaking exercise on the big picture, about yesterday.

What do you think? Can we raise the money and momentum to run it, and make it count?

I’m not sure I know what you mean by “it” in this context.

There is a lot of insight in that column. I do see Russia and China striving to destabilize western alliances. Speaking as an American, I don’t really get why Trump is so enamoured of Russia other than the fact that it was they who bailed out his bankrupt company. With China we are enablers because despite railing against global markets, we send most of our money to them by buying the stuff they make for our consumer-driven lifestyle.

It should be noted that most Americans do not want Trump and reject his message. But the system here (which on the national level is not at all a democracy despite our collective conceit) is such that the people who insist on this new form of isolationism maintain a kind of stranglehold on the national government. And of course it remains to be seen if anyone can make a convincing cad to reverse this momentum. Obama did. But who now?

I understand the economic reasons for the EU, and while I despair at seeing the retrenching of dangerous nationalist trends, I always thought one of the greatest and most inspiring aspects of it is how European countries,all of whom waged war with each other since the Roman Empire, chose to not just stop but to go so far as to share the same money. I regard this as one of the most forward thinking collective acts in all history. Maybe even the most of all.

But again, what is it you propose?

I propose to do “it”: a large-scale sensemaking exercise in which we run a “collapse of Europe” scenario.

This should bring out plenty of interesting things: info about how people perceive “Europe” and themselves in it; points of attrition between individual values, aspirations and lifestyles and possible outcomes (example: some EU nationals in the UK now find that their project of living there in peace with their British partners is being jeopardised); maybe “stories from the edge of the new Great Game”, from people that have personal experience of neighbourhood nationalists, supremacists and fascists suddenly getting bolder, and how they operate, and who they talk to, and where they get their money. And, of course, courses of action: what people are doing to cope. Are they moving abroad? Are they counter-radicalising? Are they retreating into their private sphere?

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Wow. What a pertinent leak and fascinating idea @alberto.

This could be really interesting and important, and indeed Edgeryders is well placed to steward such a project - collective intelligence, Europe, autonomous-establishment responses, diverse unified movements etc… On first thoughts I think it would need to be mobilized across the online platform, real life encounters that span various issues of tension and local sites, guided by high level strategic analysis leading to partnership and autonomous responses.

As its deeply complex, perhaps as a starting point we could gather relevant allies together to brainstorm a possible approach and resourcing? An interesting reference could be what some colleagues of mine are up to in Montreal with the Listening Platform - a commons based partnership led collective sensemaking of Montreal’s stories and activities around social change. I was involved in the initial consultations and could look back at some of their approaches to setting it up.

I can see two angles to this. One – already mentioned – is the Omidyar Network’s interest for countering fake news etc. @johncoate might know people that know what’s going on in there. The other is the Open Society Foundation, but we have no contact at all with them.

I can get an introduction to Neil Campbell, the Deputy Director at Open Society European Policy Institute. Think it worthwhile formulating a clear concept before doing so.

Let’s make one later in the week. Also relevant to my journey to Copenhagen next week.

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In the meantime, here is some snapshot documentation from the two sector/ community consultation sessions for the Listening Platform (en français - I’ll refresh myself with them prior to our formulating a concept).

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Meanwhile, in Brussels and DC…

The domain was registered by a consultant called Alice Stollmeyer.

Just came across this announcement on “Dahrendorf Forum awarded over 2 million euros to examine Europe’s changing political landscape” while preparing for Innocracy and the potential funding partners in the room.

Perhaps worthwhile making contact to see if our Collapse idea could feed in - what do you think @alberto? I could try and meet with the Hertie school while in Berlin.

A possibly suitable fund for us, in the context of this discussion but also our storytelling
Language selection | European Education and Culture Executive Agency (not opened yet for 2018, but I guess opening in January, added it to my calendar to check then)


Well done, thanks @natalia_skoczylas!