A Literacy of the Imagination

a deeper look at innovation through the lenses of media, technology, venture investment and hyperculture

A Literacy of the Imagination: What is it? Why is it? A Personal Backstory. #creativity

Some of you know that I've been working on my new book (same title as the headline: "A Literacy of the Imagination") between all the tech development and advisement that I do. I'd like to share with you the backstory, the abridged version, of what compelled me to forge ahead with this material in the first place.

You see, socialized interactions have changed my life, quite literally.

I'm not just talking about the communities of amazing minds with whom I've connected through the likes of Twitter, Facebook, G+ et al, I'm talking about the people and the relationships I've formed through knowledge sharing and development. People of all walks and vocations -- storytellers, futurists, artists, educators and financiers, who in their own ways, have come to terms with their roles in the world and the childlike ambitions they can no longer do without.

A Literacy of the Imagination: What is it? Why is it? A Personal Backstory. #creativity
Like many people I know, I came into the world with a number of interesting challenges. I was given the gift of being able to draw and paint (one form of creativity), and I was also given the gift of being able to compute, to connect dots, not so much through numbers, but through patterns and symbols (another form of creativity). My left and right brains were always at odds with one another. And while I was afforded the opportunity to learn at a high school that embraced unique talents — I was an "art major" and an "English major" as a sophomore and junior — the institutional and commercial world dealt people like me a much harsher hand.

Case in point: Academics. I always tested off the charts on certain diagnostic exams and critical thinking exercises (including Mensa) — I've always been what you might call a "long-form thinker." I didn't care for most multiple choice tests, or processes that were laborious and uninspired. I always felt that there was always more than one answer, and certainly more than one "best" answer. My fear and dislike for mathematics , for example, was borne out of conditioning; I was taught to approach numbers and computation with the same, consistent, banal thought process. As I approached high school graduation, I essentially had two choices: Go to art school on scholarship, or go to a really, really reputable university (like Stanford or an Ivy League) and get a degree in "something important".

I wanted neither. I ended up finishing college early, and I loved the experience, but like a lot of people, I still felt pretty unfulfilled and unclear about what I should be doing to harness my interests in the arts and culture.

When I entered the working world, my creativity was constantly stifled. I held very respectful corporate positions starting in my mid-twenties… And more or less grew to hate them all. People weren't really the problem — for the most part, I've met and worked with some salt-of-the-earth folk — it was just that I didn't believe in what we were doing. I didn't care about what "the system" wanted us to do. And I always wanted to do more, and do more than one thing.

At one point, I thought that making compromises for some unknown benefit was going to be my terminal existence – that these were the ways of the world, and that things wouldn't ever be any different.

And then came the Internet.

A funny thing happened when that came around: My imagination kicked in. All the things that I truly loved to do — write, draw, build, ideate, transact — came out in spades. I started to see the world differently. I started to connect with people who, like me, had a lot more to offer than a fancy title or a bucket of skills. I started to do things that I had dreamed about as a child and as a teen (like writing crazy algorithms, architecting software and making films). I built businesses. I experienced lots of failure. I enjoyed sporadic success. And it was well earned, because I realized that I could build a future based on some of my own terms, and more importantly, because I knew that I was capable of seeing it through.

Cut to the present moment, there's a thirst for discovery and intellectual curiosity that is undeniable. Yet, many of us over the years have been forced into isolation by surface environments that don't seem to care or want to nourish these quests for truth and meaning. That is, until each of us found ways to buttress this isolation and turn it into its own form of discovery.

In short, my true education, my literacy, has come through other people.

I've cobbled together a string of quotes from Einstein that I feel reflects this evolution so well:

 "... All dance to a mysterious tune, intoned in the distance by an invisible piper ... Who, however, see in the service to the community their highest life problem ... Of those who strive for truth, beauty, and justice have prevented me from feelings of isolation.”

These three elements — truth, beauty and justice — are the drivers for what I call a literacy of the imagination.

In the world we live in now, and the world of many possible, synergistic futures, there is no readily identifiable, common language for understanding the value of human expression and good intention… Not yet at least. But there will be very soon. And when there is, we will share experiences through operating systems of our own design, and those that are hyperpersonal, and at once, hyperrelational. Building technologies and approaches to these various forms of applied learning are at the heart of the work I do.

A Literacy of the Imagination: What is it? Why is it? A Personal Backstory. #creativity
They also endeavor to develop the literacy I speak of — one that is developed through collective means, by way of individual identity, and through the fortification of selfless expression for reciprocal gain. This means that we really can co-exist, and the systems we repair, recreate and co-create, can make us wealthy, in every sense of how human values emerge and align.

This means that we are entering a new period of enlightenment, in which our imaginations take us to places we never thought were possible. They form the new literacy. Perhaps a rediscovered literacy that harks back to the origins of our existence… Or one that predates it.

A literacy that may or may not involve technologies given a particular moment or situation. A literacy that might trascend media. Or business. It might change governance. It might do things that force us to be uncomfortable… More so than we might be right now.

What it does involve is meaning, and more specifically operable context, via the imagined self, imagined collectives and imagined futures. A cooperative of thought and action.

The human metastory.

I look forward to building that story with you. Out if it, we will build the cultures and businesses of the imagined future, tomorrow's world…

…Or, the Future Now.