An Introduction to the Cosmopolis 2045 Project

We wanted to share with the NCDD community an exciting project being led by the CMM Institute for Personal and Social Evolution — one of our Co-Sponsors for this October’s 2012 National Conference on Dialogue & Deliberation (“NCDD Seattle“).

The Cosmopolis 2045 Project is a multi-year website project envisioned by the CMM Institute for Personal and Social Evolution and supported in part by grants from the CMM Institute, the Waterhouse Family Institute for the Study of Communication and Society at Villanova University, and Syracuse University’s College of Visual and Performing Arts. We continue to seek other partners to support the project through grants or other in-kind contributions. The goal is to create and maintain a virtual depiction of a social community set in the future (circa 2045) in which residents and leaders of the community adopt a communication-centric view of how their own and other social worlds function.

Inspired by the perspective and practical tools associated with the theory known as the Coordinated Management of Meaning (or CMM), the Cosmopolis community will illustrate how everyday communication some 30 years in the future is managed, given the technological and educational/social advances that we might reasonably expect will emerge. The project will assume that the citizens of this future will have to deal with social and moral issues just as serious, if not more serious, than those we face today, but will have evolved a social ethic of interdependence and a highly sophisticated understanding of communication that engenders a more mindful approach to patterns of interaction which remain largely invisible or insoluble to us today.

This understanding, projected as second nature to a critical mass of citizens of Cosmopolis, and familiar to many others, will be the result of a multi-decade educational campaign and many successful dialogic interventions that reached fruition by the fourth decade of the 21st century.

We envision that the first iteration of Cosmopolis 2045 will be a website, with later iterations taking the form of a video game, an online community (e.g., a sub-community within Second Life), or some other yet to be identified forms. In this initial form, the website will consist of a visual map of a typical town or small city that has been designed to mirror a set of assumptions about communication, including how the physical design of community spaces provides opportunity for citizens to interact in a myriad of formal and informal ways, how its educational institutions prepare citizens for life-long learning and enactment of communication practices that foster democracy-in-action, relational competence, and a host of other interdependent skill sets necessary for effective functioning in the local and global 21st century.

Upon first entering the site, visitors will be engaged in an orienting experience that might take the form of a visitor’s center with a time tunnel exhibit, walking the visitor from the present decade through a series of plausible events that shaped the evolution of society over the years leading up to 2045. This historical time line will identify a number of “bifurcation points” or significant moments in the future when particular collective choices led this society on its given path to the future. Visitors may be able to explore briefly how society might have evolved a radically different future had other choices been made.

This project is being developed with an “intentional bias,” in that the particular path to the future depicted in Cosmopolis will lead to a highly desirable but plausible future state, driven by attention to communication-related issues. This is intentional in the sense that those of us who began this project believe strongly that the process of communication and the choices we make collectively within everyday episodes of communication are powerful, but often unacknowledged social forces that shape the social worlds we inhabit.

We believe that social worlds are “made” in and through communication, and that if we don’t particularly like the patterns of interaction that dominate our social worlds, we have the capacity to change those patterns and “make better social worlds” if we are willing to put in the collective effort and hard work required. The results in the form of more effective relationships and social institutions, greater collective wisdom, more respect for one another, and an enlarged capacity to manage real political, environmental, and other seemingly unresolvable problems make such effort immanently worthwhile.

Once visitors have been oriented and begin to explore the community of Cosmopolis, each site on the visual map of Cosmopolis will depict various slices of life and interaction among community members, along with explanations of how interactions are managed more or less effectively (perhaps through comparisons with how similar interactions are managed in our own time). These depictions of communication may be a combination of video clips, animated sequences, or narrated stories, along with interactive exercises that will engage the visitor in unfinished scenarios and provide CMM tools to help the visitor envision how the interaction can be completed in an effective manner.

Many of the sites will represent opportunities to link the study and practice of communication with other disciplines of study and practice. For instance, a “newsroom” might depict how the practice of journalism has evolved over the intervening 30+ years, and how citizens use technology as well as CMM strategies to engage in political dialogue, moving beyond the extremism and diatribe that characterizes political communication today. Or an “art studio” might show artists at work, infusing their work with the sensibilities that are emergent in this particular time and place. Educational opportunities abound and may be integrated everywhere within the community, such that citizens are always drawing upon a variety of learning tools available to them in a myriad of technological forms, each one appropriate to the current episode of interaction being enacted. And so on.

Thus the Cosmopolis community will itself be a community under construction in an open-ended, interdependent process that will rely a great deal on working with “partners” to develop many of the sub-sites within the community. We hope to attract partners from a range of industries, practices, and academic disciplines, including architects, city planners, sewage engineers, bankers, energy providers, economists, artists, design firms, politicians, technology experts, futurists, social workers, law enforcement, and many other drivers of community life.

At the moment, nearly a dozen groups are at work developing individual sites, and we are in conversation with other potential partners. Currently under development are sites for the welcome center, city government, police force, a residential home, a Pavilion for Sustainable Peace, a center for mindfulness, and a business school. In addition, other groups are working on community design issues, architectural and fashion designs, and other graphic design features for the website.

For more information about the Cosmopolis 2045 Project, or to explore ways you can partner with us, please contact Arthur Jensen at [email protected].

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