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You are about to board a bus for a long night ride, when you notice the flickering streaks of light emanating from two wax candles, placed where the headlights of the bus are expected to be. Candles? As headlights?

Of course, the idea of candles as headlights is absurd. So why propose it?

Because on a much larger scale this absurdity has become reality.

The Modernity ideogram renders the essence of our contemporary situation by depicting our society as an accelerating bus without a steering wheel, and the way we look at the world, try to comprehend and handle it as guided by a pair of candle headlights.

Modernity.jpg Modernity ideogram

Our proposal

Its essence

The core of our proposal is to change the relationship we have with information.

What is our relationship with information presently like?

Here is how Neil Postman described it:

"The tie between information and action has been severed. Information is now a commodity that can be bought and sold, or used as a form of entertainment, or worn like a garment to enhance one's status. It comes indiscriminately, directed at no one in particular, disconnected from usefulness; we are glutted with information, drowning in information, have no control over it, don't know what to do with it."

Neil Postman

Its substance

What would our handling of information be like, if we treated it as we treat other human-made things—if we took advantage of our best knowledge and technology, and adapted it to the purposes that need to be served?

By what methods, what social processes, and by whom would information be created? What new information formats would emerge, and supplement or replace the traditional books and articles? How would information technology be adapted and applied? What would public informing be like? And academic communication, and education?

The substance of our proposal is a complete prototype of the handling of information we are proposing—by which initial answers to relevant questions are given, and in part implemented in practice.

We call the proposed approach to information knowledge federation when we want to point to the activity that distinguishes it from the common practices. We federate knowledge when we make what we "know" information-based; when we examine, select and combine all potentially relevant resources. When also the way in which we handle information is federated.

The purpose of knowledge federation is to restore agency to information, and power to knowledge.

Like architecture and design, knowledge federation is both an organized set of activities, and an academic field that develops them.

Our call to action is to institutionalize and develop knowledge federation as an academic field and real-life praxis (informed practice).

Its method

We refer to our proposal as holoscope when we want to emphasize the difference it can make.

The purpose of the holoscope is to help us see things whole.

Holoscope ideogram

We use the Holoscope ideogram to point to this purpose. The ideogram draws on the metaphor of inspecting a hand-held cup, in order to see whether it is broken or whole. We inspect a cup by choosing the way we look; and by looking at all sides.

While the characteristics of the holoscope—the design choices or design patterns, how they follow from published insights and why they are necessary for 'illuminating the way'—will become obvious in the course of this presentation, one of them must be made clear from the start.

In the holoscope, the legitimacy of multiple ways to look at a theme is axiomatic.

The ways of looking are called scopes. The scopes and the resulting views have similar role and meaning as projections do in technical drawing.

This modernization of our handling of information, distinguished by purposeful, free and informed choice or creation of the way we look at the world, has become necessary, suggests the Modernity ideogram. But it also presents a challenge to the reader—to bear in mind that the resulting views are not "reality pictures", contending for that status with one other and with the conventional ones.

To liberate our worldview from the inherited concepts and methods and allow for deliberate choice of scopes, we used the scientific method as venture point, and modified it by taking recourse to insights reached in 20th century science and philosophy.

Science gave us new ways to look at the world: The telescope and the microscope enabled us to see the things that are too distant or too small to be seen by the naked eye, and our vision expanded beyond bounds. But science had the tendency to keep us focused on things that were either too distant or too small to be relevant—compared to all those large things or issues nearby, which now demand our attention. The holoscope is conceived as a way to look at the world that helps us see any chosen thing or theme as a whole—from all sides; and in proportion.

A way of looking or scope—which reveals a structural problem, and helps us reach a correct assessment of an object of study or situation—is a new kind of result that is made possible by (the general-purpose science that is modeled by) the holoscope.

We will continue to use the conventional way of speaking and say that something is as stated, that X is Y—although it would be more accurate to say that X can or needs to be perceived (also) as Y. The views we offer are accompanied by an invitation to genuinely try to look at the theme at hand in a certain specific way (to use the offered scope); and to do that collectively and collaboratively, in a dialog.

A vision

A difference to be made

Suppose we used the holoscope as 'headlights'; what difference would that make?

The Club of Rome's assessment of the situation we are in provided us a benchmark challenge for putting our proposal to a test.

Four decades ago—based on a decade of this global think tank's research into the future prospects of mankind, in a book titled "One Hundred Pages for the Future"—Aurelio Peccei issued the following call to action:

"It is absolutely essential to find a way to change course."

Peccei also specified what needed to be done to "change course":

"The future will either be an inspired product of a great cultural revival, or there will be no future."

Aurelio Peccei

This conclusion, that we are in a state of crisis that has cultural roots and must be handled accordingly, Peccei shared with a number of twentieth century thinkers. Arne Næss, Norway's esteemed philosopher, reached it on different grounds, and called it "deep ecology".

In "Human Quality", Peccei explained his call to action:

"Let me recapitulate what seems to me the crucial question at this point of the human venture. Man has acquired such decisive power that his future depends essentially on how he will use it. However, the business of human life has become so complicated that he is culturally unprepared even to understand his new position clearly. As a consequence, his current predicament is not only worsening but, with the accelerated tempo of events, may become decidedly catastrophic in a not too distant future. The downward trend of human fortunes can be countered and reversed only by the advent of a new humanism essentially based on and aiming at man’s cultural development, that is, a substantial improvement in human quality throughout the world."

The Club of Rome insisted that lasting solutions would not be found by focusing on specific problems, but by transforming the condition from which they all stem, which they called "problematique".

A different way to see the future

Holotopia is a vision of a future that becomes accessible when proper 'light' has been 'turned on'.

Since Thomas More coined this term and described the first utopia, a number of visions of an ideal but non-existing social and cultural order of things have been proposed. In view of adverse and contrasting realities, the word "utopia" acquired the negative meaning of an unrealizable fancy.

As the optimism regarding our future waned, apocalyptic or "dystopian" visions became common. The "protopias" were offered as a compromise, where the focus is on smaller but practically realizable improvements.

The holotopia is different in spirit from them all. It is more attractive than the futures the utopias projected—whose authors either lacked the information to see what was possible, or lived in the times when the resources we have did not exist. And yet the holotopia is readily attainable—because we already have the information and other resources that are needed for its fulfillment.

The holotopia vision is made concrete in terms of five insights.

Five Insights ideogram

The five insights resulted when we applied the holoscope to illuminate five pivotal themes; "pivotal" because they determine the "course":
  • Innovation—the way we use our growing ability to create, and induce change
  • Communication—the social process, enabled by technology, by which information is handled
  • Foundation—the fundamental assumptions based on which truth and meaning are socially constructed; which serve as foundation to the edifice of culture; which determine the relationship we have with information
  • Method—the way in which truth and meaning are constructed in everyday life; or the way we look at the world, try to comprehend and handle it
  • Values—the way we "pursue happiness"; or choose "course"

In each case, when we 'connected the dots' (combined the available insights to reach a general one), we were able to identify a large structural defect. We demonstrated practical ways, partly implemented as prototypes, in which those structural defects can be remedied. We showed that such structural interventions lead to benefits that are well beyond curing problems.

The five insights establish an analogy between the comprehensive change that was germinating in Galilei's time, and what is in store for us now.

Power structure insight (analogy with Industrial Revolution)

We looked at the systems in which we live and work as gigantic socio-technical 'mechanisms'—which determine how we live and work; and what the effects of our efforts will be.


When "free competition" or the market controls our growing capability to create and induce change, the systems in which we live and work evolve as power structures—and we lose the ability to steer a viable course. A dramatic improvement in efficiency and effectiveness of human work, and of the human condition at large, can result from systemic innovation, where we innovate by making things whole on the large scale, where socio-technical systems or institutions are made whole.

Collective mind insight (analogy with Gutenberg Revolution)

We looked at the social process by which information is handled.

Hear Neil Postman observe:

“We’ve entered an age of information glut. And this is something no culture has really faced before. The typical situation is information scarcity. (…) Lack of information can be very dangerous. (…) But at the same time too much information can be dangerous, because it can lead to a situation of meaninglessness, of people not having any basis for knowing what is relevant, what is irrelevant, what is useful, what is not useful, where they live in a culture that is simply committed, through all of its media, to generate tons of information every hour, without categorizing it in any way for you.”

We saw that the new media technology is still being used to make the social process that the printing press made possible (publishing or broadcasting) more efficient; which breeds glut! In spite of the fact that core elements of the new technology have been created to enable a different social process—whose results are function and meaning; where technology enables us to think and create together, as cells in a single mind do.

Socialized reality insight (analogy with Enlightenment)

We looked at the foundation on which truth and meaning are socially constructed, which we also call epistemology. It was the epistemology change—from the rigidly held Biblical worldview of Galilei's prosecutors—that made the Enlightenment possible; that triggered comprehensive change.

We saw that a similar fundamental change, with similar consequences, is now mandated on both fundamental and pragmatic grounds.

Narrow frame insight (analogy with Scientific Revolution)

We looked at the method by which truth and meaning are socially constructed.

Science eradicated prejudice and expanded our knowledge—where the methods and interests of its disciplines could be applied. We showed how to extend the scientific approach to knowledge, to questions we need to answer.

Convenience paradox insight (analogy with Renaissance)

We looked at the values that determine the way we "pursue happiness"; and our society's "course".

We showed that when proper 'light' illuminates the 'way'—our choices and pursuits will be entirely different.

Large change is easy

The "course" is a paradigm

The changes the five insights are pointing to are inextricably co-dependent.

We cannot, for instance, replace 'candles' with 'lightbulbs' (as the collective mind insight demands), unless systemic innovation (demanded by the power structure insight) is in place. And without having a general-purpose method for creating insights (which dissolves the narrow frame). We will remain unknowing victims of the convenience paradox, as long as we use 'candles' to illuminate the way.

We cannot make any of the required changes without making them all.

We may use Wiener's keyword "homeostasis" negatively—to point to the undesirable property of systems to maintain a course, even when the course is destructive. The system springs back, it nullifies attempted change.

It is because of this property of our global system that comprehensive change can be easy—even when smaller and obviously necessary changes may be impossible.

"A way to change course" is in academia's hands

Paradigm changes, however, have an inherent logic and way they need to proceed.

A "disease" is a living system's stable pathological condition. And we only call that a "remedy" which has the power to flip the system out of that condition. In systems terms, a remedy of that kind, a true remedy, is called "systemic leverage point". And when a social system is to be 'healed', then the most powerful "leverage point" is "the mindset or paradigm out of which the goals, rules, feedback structure arise"; and we must seek to restore "the power to transcend paradigms", as the Donella Meadows pointed out.

By changing the relationship we have with information, we restore to our society its power to transcend its present paradigm.

That simple change, the five insights showed, will trigger all other requisite changes follow. We abolish reification—of worldviews and institutions in general, and of journalism, science and other inherited ways of looking at the world in particular—and we instantly see the imperative of changing them by adapting them to the purposes that must be served.

Furthermore, as the socialized reality insight showed, this change is mandated on both fundamental and pragmatic grounds. It follows as a logical consequence of what we already "know".

This "way to change course" should be particularly easy because—being a fundamental change—it is entirely in control of publicly sponsored intellectuals, the academia.

We don't need to occupy Wall Street.

The university, not the Wall Street, controls the systemic leverage point par excellence.

And for us who are in academic positions already, who are called upon to make this timely change—there is nothing we need to occupy. What we must do to "change course" is demanded by our occupation already.

"Human quality" is the key

But what about culture? What about the "human quality", which, as we have seen, Aurelio Peccei considered to be the key to reversing our condition?

On the morning of March 14, 1984, the day he passed away, Peccei dictated to his secretary from a hospital bed (as part of "Agenda for the End of the Century"):

"Human development is the most important goal."

We can put this "humanistic" perspective on our map by looking at it in the "evolutionary" way, as Erich Jantsch suggested. Jantsch explained this way of looking through the metaphor of a boat (representing a system, which may be the natural world, or our civilization) on a river. The traditional science would position us above the boat, and have us look at it "objectively". The traditional systems science would position us on the boat, to seek ways to steer it effectively and safely. The "evolutionary" perspective invites us to see ourselves as—water. To acknowledge that we are the evolution!

By determining how we are as 'water', the "human quality" determines our evolutionary course.

The power structure insight showed that when we navigate the evolutionary stream by aiming to advance "our own" position—we unavoidably become part of the power structure; we create the systems that create problems.

To put our two pivotal themes together, notice that changing the relationship we have with information should be dramatically easier for us than it was in Galilei's time—when it meant risking one's life or worse. The academia, not the Inquisition, is in change. But here's the rub: By being in charge, the academia is also part of the power structure!

To see what this means practically and concretely, follow us through a thought experiment: Imagine that an academic administrator, let's call him Professor X, has just received a knowledge federation proposal. (We say "a" proposal, because proposals of this kind were advanced well before we were born.) What would be his reaction?

When we did this thought experiment, Professor X moved on to his next chore without ado.

We have an amusing collection of anecdotes to support that prognosis. And anyhow, why would Professor X invest time in comprehending a proposal of this kind, when he knows right away, when his body knows (see the socialized reality insight), that his colleagues won't like it. When there is obviously nothing to be gained from it.

At the university too we make decisions by "instrumental thinking"; by taking recourse to embodied knowledge of "what works".

We have seen (while developing the power structure insight) that this ethos breeds the power structure; that it binds us to power structure.

This ethos is blatantly un-academic.

If Galilei followed it, the Inquisition would still be in charge; if Socrates did that, there would be no academia.

The academic tradition was conceived as a radical alternative to this way of making choices—where we develop and use ideas as guiding light.

So was knowledge federation.

We coined several keywords to point to some of the ironic sides of academia's situation—as food for thought, and to set the stage for the academic dialog in front of the mirror.

From Newton we adapted the keyword giant, and use it for visionary thinkers whose ideas must be woven together to see the emerging paradigm (Newton reportedly "stood on the shoulders of giants" to "see further"). But as our anecdotes illustrate, the giants have in recent decades been routinely ignored. Is it because the academic 'turf' is minutely divided? Because a giant would take too much space?

From Johan Huizinga we adapted the keyword homo ludens, and use it to point out that (as we saw while discussing the socialized reality insight) we are biologically equipped for two kinds of knowing and evolving. The homo ludens in us does not seek guidance in the knowledge of ideas and principles; it suffices him to learn his social roles, as one would learn the rules of a game. The homo ludens does not need to to comprehend the world; it's the ontological security he finds comfort in.

We addressed our proposal to academia, which we defined as "institutionalized academic tradition". It goes without saying that the academic tradition's all-important role has been to keep us on the homo sapiens track. But as we have seen, the power structure ecology has the power to sidetrack institutional evolution toward the homo ludens devious course.

The question must be asked:

Does the academic institution's own ecology avoid this problem?

A strategy

We will not solve our problems

A role of the holotopia vision is to fulfill what Margaret Mead identified as "one necessary condition of successfully continuing our existence" (in "Continuities in Cultural Evolution", in 1964—four years before The Club of Rome was founded):

"(W)e are living in a period of extraordinary danger, as we are faced with the possibility that our whole species will be eliminated from the evolutionary scene. One necessary condition of successfully continuing our existence is the creation of an atmosphere of hope that the huge problems now confronting us can, in fact, be solved—and can be solved in time."

More concretely, we undertake to respond to this Mead's critical point:

"Although tremendous advances in the human sciences have been made in the last hundred years, almost no advance has been made in their use, especially in ways of creating reliable new forms in which cultural evolution can be directed to desired goals."

We, however, do not claim, or even assume, that "the huge problems now confronting us" can be solved".

Margaret Mead

Hear Dennis Meadows (who coordinated the team that produced The Club of Rome's seminal 1972 report "Limits to Growth") diagnose, recently, that our pursuit of "sustainability" falls short of avoiding the "predicament" that The Club of Rome was warning us about back then:

"Will the current ideas about "green industry", and "qualitative growth", avoid collapse? No possibility. Absolutely no possibility of that. (...) Globally, we are something like sixty or seventy percent above sustainable levels."

We wasted precious time pursuing a dream; hear Ronald Reagan set the tone for it, when he was "the leader of the free world".

A sense of sobering up, and of catharsis, needs to reach us from the depth of our problems.

Small things don't matter. Business as usual is a waste of time.

Our very "progress" must acquire a new—cultural—focus and direction. Hear Dennis Meadows say:

"Will it be possible, here in Germany, to continue this level of energy consumption, and this degree of material welfare? Absolutely not. Not in the United States, not in other countries either. Could you change your cultural and your social norms, in a way that gave attractive future? Yes, you could."

Ironically, our problems can only be solved when we no longer see them as problems—but as symptoms of much deeper cultural and structural defects.

The five insights show that the structural problems now confronting us can be solved.

The holotopia offers more than "an atmosphere of hope". It points to an attainable future that is strictly better than our present.

And it offers to change our condition now—by engaging us in an unprecedentedly large and magnificent creative adventure.

Peccei wrote in One Hundred Pages for the Future (the boldface emphasis is ours):

For some time now, the perception of (our responsibilities relative to "problematique") has motivated a number of organizations and small voluntary groups of concerned citizens which have mushroomed all over to respond to the demands of new situations or to change whatever is not going right in society. These groups are now legion. They arose sporadically on the most variend fronts and with different aims. They comprise peace movements, supporters of national liberation, and advocates of women's rights and population control; defenders of minorities, human rights and civil liberties; apostles of "technology with a human face" and the humanization of work; social workers and activists for social change; ecologists, friends of the Earth or of animals; defenders of consumer rights; non-violent protesters; conscientious objectors, and many others. These groups are usually small but, should the occasion arise, they can mobilize a host of men and women, young and old, inspired by a profound sense of te common good and by moral obligations which, in their eyes, are more important than all others.

They form a kind of popular army, actual or potential, with a function comparable to that of the antibodies generated to restore normal conditions in a biological organism that is diseased or attacked by pathogenic agents. The existence of so many spontaneous organizations and groups testifies to the vitality of our societies, even in the midst of the crisis they are undergoing. Means will have to be found one day to consolidate their scattered efforts in order to direct them towards strategic objectives.

Diversity is good and useful, especially in times of change. Systems scientists coined the keyword "requisite variety" to point out that a variety of possible responses make a system viable, or "sustainable".

The risk is, however, that the actions of "small voluntary groups of concerned citizens" may remain reactive.

From Murray Edelman we adapted the keyword symbolic action, to make that risk clear. We engage in symbolic action when we act within the limits of the socialized reality and the power structure—in ways that make us feel that we've done our duty. We join a demonstration; or an academic conference. But symbolic action can only have symbolic effects!

We have seen that comprehensive change must be our goal.

It is to that strategic goal that the holotopia vision is pointing.

By supplementing this larger strategy, we neither deny that the problems we are facing must be attended to, nor belittle the heroic efforts of our frontier colleagues who are working on their solution.

The Holotopia project complements the problem-based approaches—by adding what is systemically lacking to make solutions possible.

We will not change the world

Like Gaudi's Sagrada Familia, holotopia is a trans-generational construction project.

Our generation's job is to begin it.

Margaret Mead left us this encouragement:

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."

Mead explained what exactly distinguishes a small group of people that is capable of making a large difference:

"(W)e take the position that the unit of cultural evolution is neither the single gifted individual nor the society as a whole, but the small group of interacting individuals who, together with the most gifted among them, can take the next step; then we can set about the task of creating the conditions in which the appropriately gifted can actually make a contribution. That is, rather than isolating potential "leaders," we can purposefully produce the conditions we find in history, in which clusters are formed of a small number of extraordinary and ordinary men and women, so related to their period and to one another that they can consciously set about solving the problems they propose for themselves."

Sagrada Familia (for the moment we are borrowing this beautiful photo from the Web)

This capability—to self-organize and do something because it's right, because it has to be done—is where "human quality" is needed. That's what we've been lacking.

The five insights showed that again and again. Our stories were deliberately chosen to be a half-century old—and demonstrate that "the appropriately gifted" have offered us their gifts. But that "the conditions in which the appropriately gifted can actually make a contribution" have been absent.

It is not difficult to see that our culture's systemic ecology is to blame. As this excerpt from the animated film "The Incredibles" might illustrate, it gives us power only if we consent to make ourselves small, and be "well-lubricated cogs" in an institutional clockwork.

We must claim back our will to make a difference.

By writing the "Animal Farm" allegory, George Orwell pointed to a pattern that foiled humanity's attempts at change: By engaging in turf strife, revolutions tended to reproduce the conditions they aimed to change.

Holotopia institutes an ecology that is a radical alternative to turf strife.

While we'll use all creative means at our disposal to disclose turf behavior, we will self-organize to prevent ourselves from engaging in it.

The Holotopia project will not try to engineer its "success" by adapting to "the survival of fittest" ecology. On the contrary—we will engineer the change of that ecology, by accentuating our differences.

We know from chemistry that a crystal submerged in a solution of the same substance will make the substance crystallize according to its shape. Our strategy is to be that 'crystal'.

We build on the legacy of Gandhi's "satyagraha" (adherence to truth), and non-violently yet firmly uphold the truth that change is everyone's imperative. Our strategy is to empower everyone to make the change; and be the change.

Holotopia will not grow by "push", but by "pull".

We will not change the world.

You will.

A mission

Centuries ago a philosopher portrayed the human condition by telling a parable. He proposed to imagine us humans chained in a cave, able to look only at the wall of the cave where a projection of shadows is at play. He in this way portrayed what we dubbed socialized reality—that we live in a "reality" shaped by power play and calcified perception.

He pointed to development of ideas as the way to liberate ourselves.

The five insights showed that we are still in the 'cave'.
And how we can liberate ourselves once for all!

"A great cultural revival"—a change of evolutionary course that will lead to comprehensive improvement of our condition—is ready to begin as an academic revival; just as in Galilei's time.


When we say that the university needs to make structural changes within itself, and guide our society in a new phase of evolution, we are not saying anything new. We are echoing what others have said.

But the tie between information and action being severed—calls to action of this kind remained without effect.
Our mission is to change that.

We implement this mission in two steps.

Step 1: Enabling academic evolution

The first step is to institutionalize knowledge federation as an academic field. This step is made actionable by a complete prototype—which includes all that constitutes an academic field, from an epistemology to a community.

The purpose of knowledge federation is to enable systems to evolve knowledge-based.
Knowledge work systems to begin with.

By reconfiguring academic work on design epistemology as foundation, knowledge federation fosters an academic space where creativity can be applied and careers can be pursued by creating knowledge work. By changing our collective mind.

This step is a direct response to the calls to action by Doug Engelbart and Erich Jantsch.

Step 2: Enabling societal evolution

The second step is to further develop and implement the holotopia vision in real life.

By offering an attractive future vision, and a feedback structure around it to update it continuously; and by making tactical steps toward the realization of this vision—we restore to our society the faculty of vision; and the ability to "change course".

This step is a direct response to the calls to action by Margaret Mead and Aurelio Peccei.

The Holotopia project is conceived as a collaborative strategy game, where we make tactical moves toward the holotopia vision.

We make this 'game' smooth and awesome by supplementing a collection of tactical assets.


Holotopia is an art project.

Where "art" is a way of being, not a profession.


The transformative space created by our "Earth Sharing" pilot project, in Kunsthall 3.14 art gallery in Bergen, Norway.

The idea of "a great cultural revival" brings to mind the image of Michelangelo painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, and in the midst of an old order of things manifesting a new one. When Duchamp exhibited the urinal, he challenged the traditional limits of what art is and may be.

The deconstruction of the tradition has been completed, and it is time to create.

What memes need to be fostered, and disseminated?
In what ways will art be present on the creative frontier where the new "great cultural revivival" will enfold?

In "Production of Space" Henri Lefebvre offered an answer, which we'll summarize in holotopia's buddying vernacular.

The crux of our problem, Lefebvre observed, is that past activity (historical 'turf strifes' calcified as power structure) keeps us in check. "What is dead takes hold of what is alive". Lefebvre proposed to reverse that.

"But how could what is alive lay hold of what is dead? The answer is: through the production of space, whereby living labour can produce something that is no longer a thing, nor simply a set of tools, nor simply a commodity."
Holotopia project is a space and a production of spaces, where what is alive in us can overcome what makes us dead.

Where in the artist as retort, new ways to feel, think and act are created.

Five insights

Holotopia's creative space is spanned by five insights.

The pentagram, which represents the five insights, lends itself to artistic interpretations.

Creation takes place in the context of the five insights. That makes holotopia's creative acts knowledge based.

Like five pillars, the five insights lifts up the Holotopia prototype as creative space, from what socialized reality might allow. We see "reality" differently in that space; we learn to perceive reification as a problem, which made us willing slaves to institutions. We no longer buy into the self-image and values that the power structure gave us.

Art meets science in that space; and curated knowledge in general. Not for a visit, but to live and work together. By sharing five insights, science tells art "Here is how far I've gotten; here is where you take over."

The five insights are a prototype—of a minimal collection of insight that can overturn the paradigm. With provision to evolve continuously—and reflect what we know collectively.

The five insights bring to the fore what is most transformative in our collective knowledge.

The mirror

The mirror is the entrance to holotopia.

Mirror prototypes in Vibeke Jensen's Berlin studio.

As these snapshots might illustrate, the mirror is an object that lends itself to endless artistic creations. And it is also an inexhaustible source of metaphors. One of them, or perhaps a common name for them, is self-reflection.

It is through genuine self-reflection and self-reflective dialog that holotopia can be reached.

We are contemplating to honor this fact by adopting holotopia hypothesis as keyword. Not because it is hypothetical (it is not!), but to encourage us all to have a certain attitude when entering holotopia. We are well aware that "the society" has problems. The key here is to see ourselves as products of that society. Let the mirror symbolize the self-reflection we willingly undergo, to become able to co-create a better society.

As always, we enter a new reality by looking at the world differently; this time it is by putting ourselves into the picture.

"Know thyself" has always been the battle cry of humanity's teachers. The mirror teaches us that our ideas, our emotional responses and our desires and preferences are not objectively given. That they take shape inside of us—as consequences of living in a culture.

The mirror is a symbol of cultural revival.

The convenience paradox insight showed that we can radically improve the way we feel; and the way we are. And that this can only be achieved through long-term cultivation.

The mirror is also a symbol of academic revival.

It invites the academia to revive its ethos through self-reflective dialog. To see itself in the world, and adapt to its role. And to then liberate the oppressed, which we all are, from reification and its consequences—by leading us through the mirror.

The dialog

The dialog is holotopia's signature approach to communication.

The philosopher who saw us as chained in a cave used the dialog as way to freedom. Since then this technique has been continuously evolving.

David Bohm gave this evolutionary stream a new direction, by turning the dialog into an antidote to 'turf strife'. Instead of wanting to impose our "reality" on others, Bohm insisted, we must use "proprioception" (mindfully watch ourselves) and inhibit such desires.

Isn't this what the mirror too demands?

A whole new stream of development was initiated by Kunst and Rittel, who proposed "issue-based information systems" in the 1960s, as a way to tackle the "wickedness" of complex contemporary issues. Jeff Conklin later showed how such tools can be used to transform collective communication into a collaborative dialog, through "dialog mapping". Baldwin and Price extended this approach online, and already transformed parts of our global mind through Debategraph.

The dialog changes the world by changing the way we communicate.

The theory and the ethos of dialog can furthermore be combined by situation design and artful camera work—to phase out turf behavior completely. This four-minute digest of the 2020 US first presidential debate will remind us that the dialog is not part of our political discourse. This subtler example shows the turf behavior that thwarted The Club of Rome's efforts: The homo ludens will say whatever might serve to win an argument; and with a confident smile! He knows that his "truth" suits the power structure—and therefore will prevail.

To point to the dialog's further tactical possibilities, we contemplate adapting "reality show" as keyword. When the dialog brings us together to daringly create, we see a new social reality emerge. When it doesn't, we witness the grip that socialized reality has on us.


Keywords enable us to speak and think in new ways.

A warning reaches us from sociology.


Beck explained:

"Max Weber's 'iron cage' – in which he thought humanity was condemned to live for the foreseeable future – is for me the prison of categories and basic assumptions of classical social, cultural and political sciences."

Imagine us in this "iron cage", compelled, like mythical King Oedipus, to draw closer to a tragic destiny as we do our best to avoid it—by the "categories and basic assumptions" that have been handed down to us.

We offered truth by convention and creation of keywords as a way out of "iron cage".

While we've been seeing examples all along, we here share three more—to illustrate the exodus.


In "Culture as Praxis", Zygmunt Bauman surveyed a large number of historical definitions of culture, and concluded that they are too diverse to be reconciled.

We do not know what "culture" means.

Not a good venture point for developing culture as praxis!

We defined culture as "cultivation of wholeness"; and cultivation by analogy with planting and watering a seed—in accord with the etymology of that word.

In that way we created a specific way of looking at culture—which reveals where 'the cup is broken'; and where enormous progress can be made. As no amount of dissecting and analyzing a seed will suggest that it should be planted and watered, so does the narrow frame obscure from us the benefits that the culture can provide. As the cultivation of land does, the cultivation of human wholeness too requires that subtle cultural practices be phenomenologically understood; and integrated in our culture.

Holotopia will distill the essences of human cultivation from the world traditions—and infuse them into a functional post-traditional culture.

Our definition of culture points to the analogy that Béla H. Bánáthy brought up in "Guided Evolution of Society"—between the Agricultural Revolution that took place about twelve thousand years ago, and the social and cultural revolution that is germinating in our time. In this former revolution, Bánáthy explained, our distant ancestors learned to consciously take care of their biophysical environment, by cultivating land. We will now learn to cultivate our social environment.

There is, however, a point where this analogy breaks down: While the cultivation of land yields results that everyone can see, the results of human cultivation are hidden within. They can only be seen by those who have already benefited from it.

The benefits of a functioning culture could be prodigious—without us seeing that.

This is why communication is so central to holotopia.

This is why we must step through the mirror to come in.


The traditions identified activities such as gambling, and things such as opiates as addictions. But selling addictions is a lucrative business. What will hinder businesses from using new technologies to create new addictions?

By defining addiction as a pattern, we made it possible to identify it as an aspect of otherwise useful activities and things.

To make ourselves and our culture whole, even subtle addiction must be taken care of.

The convenience paradox insight showed that convenience is a general addiction; and the root of innumerable specific ones.

We defined pseudoconsciousness as "addiction to information". To be conscious of one's situation is, of course, a genuine need and part of our wholeness. But consciousness can be drowned in images, facts and data. We can have the sensation of knowing, without knowing what we really need to know.


In "Physics and Philosophy" Werner Heisenberg described some of the consequences of the narrow frame:

It was especially difficult to find in this framework room for those parts of reality tht had been the object of the traditional religion and seemed now more or less only imaginary. Therefore, in those European countries in which one was wont to follow the ideas up to their extreme consequences, and open hostility of science toward religion developed (...). Confidence in the scientific method and in rational thinking replaced all other safeguards of the human mind.

If you too were influenced by the narrow frame, consider our way of defining concepts as 'recycling'—as a way to give old words new meanings; as thereby restoring them to the function they need to have "in the post-traditional cosmopolitan world".

A role of religion in world traditions has been to connect an individual to an ethical ideal, and individuals together in a community. This role is pointed to by the etymological meaning of this concept, which is "re-connection".

What serves this role in modern culture?

We adapted the definition that Martin Lings contributed, and defined religion as "reconnection with the archetype". We further adapted Carl Jung's keyword, and defined archetype as whatever in our psychological makeup may compel us to transcend the narrow limits of self-interest; to overcome convenience. "Heroism", "justice", "motherhood", "freedom", "beauty", "truth" and "love" are examples.

Imagine a world where truth, love, beauty, justice... bind us to our purpose; and to each other!

But isn't religion a belief system? And an institution?

"The Agony and the Ecstasy" is Irving Stone's biographical novel and a film, where the agony and the ecstasy are what accompanied Michelangelo's creative process while painting the Sistine Chapel ceiling. And of course what accompanies a deep creative process of any kind. Pope Julius II appears in the story as he was—as "Warrior Pope". He, however, did exercise piety—by enabling Michelangelo to complete his work. Pope Julius created a space where the artist could deliver his gifts. Julius knew, and so did Michelangelo, that it is the artist that God speaks through.

The ten themes offer relevant and engaging things to talk about.

At the same time they illustrate how different our conversations will be, when 'the light' has been turned on.

We selected ten themes to prime and energize the dialogs. They correspond to the ten lines that join the five insights pairwise in a pentagram. Here are some highlights.

How to put an end to war?

What would it take to really put an end to war?

In the context of power structure and socialized reality, this conversation about the age-old theme is bound to be completely different from the ones we've had before.

The socialized reality insight allows us to recognize the war as an extreme case of the general dynamic it describes—where one person's ambition to expand "his" 'symbolic turf' is paid for with hacked human bodies, destroyed homes, and unthinkable suffering. This conversation may then focus on the various instruments of socialization (through which our duty, love, heroism, honor,... are appropriated), which have always been core elements of "culture". The socialized reality insight may then help us understand—and also deconstruct—the mechanism that makes the unlikely bargain of war possible.

The power structure insight illuminates the same scene from a different angle—where we see that the war's insane logic does make sense; that the war does make the power structure (kings and their armies; or the government contractors and the money landers) more powerful.

A look at a science fiction movie may show the limits of our imagination—which allow only the technology to advance. And keep culture and values on the "dark side"—although we've already past well beyond what such one-sided evolution can sustain.

The history too will need to be rewritten—and instead of talking about the kings and their "victories", tell us about sick ambition and suffering; and about the failed attempts to transform humanity's evolution.

Zero to one

This conversation is about education.

It is through the medium of education that a culture reproduces itself and evolves. Education is a systemic leverage point that holotopia must not overlook.

By placing it in the context of narrow frame and convenience paradox, we look at education from this specific angle:

Is education socializing us into an obsolete worldview?
What would education be like if it had human development as goal?

By giving it this title, "zero to one", we want to ask the question that Sir Ken Robison posed at TED:

Do schools kill creativity?

The title we borrowed from Peter Thiel, to look at this question from an angle that the holotopians are most interested in: We've been prodigiously creative in taking things 'from one to many' (improving things that already exist, and replicating them in large numbers); ye we are notoriously incapable of conceiving things that do not exist. But isn't that what changing a paradigm is about?

Is education making us unable to change course?

The most interesting question, in holotopia context, is about education's principle of operation. The Tesla and the Nature of Creativity prototype showed that creative imagination (the ability to constructs complex things that don't exist) seems to depend on a gradual, annealing-like process. What if the ability to comprehend complex things too demands that we let the mind construct?

Of course"pushing" information on students (instead of letting them acquire it through "pull") was the only way possible when information was scarce, and people had to come to a university to access it. But that is no longer the case! Hear Michael Wesch, and then join us in co-creating an answer to this pivotal question:

Is our education's very principle of operation obsolete?


This theme offers a way to reconcile Karl Marx with "the 1%", and the radical left with Christianity.

By having the convenience paradox and the power structure insights as context, this theme allows us to understand that power play distanced all of us from wholeness.

Holotopia wins without fighting—by co-opting the powerful.

Enlightenment 2.0

By placing the conversation about the impending Enlightenment-like change in the context of the convenience paradox insight and the collective mind insight, two opportunities for transdisciplinary cross-fertilization are opened up.

One of them takes advantage of the media technology—to create media material that helps us "change course", by making the convenience paradox transparent.

The other one applies the insights about wholeness—to develop media use that supports wholeness.

Academia quo vadis?

This title is reserved for the academic self-reflective dialog in front of the mirror.

By placing that conversation between the socialized reality and the narrow frame, the imperative of academic transformation (that "the university should make structural changes within itself toward a new purpose of enhancing society's capability for continuous self-renewal", as Erich Jantsch pointed out) is made transparent.

Is transdisciplinarity the university institution's future?

This conversation should not avoid to look at the humanistic side of its theme.

The homo ludens academicus is a subspecies whose existence is predicted by the theory advanced with the socialized reality insight, which contradicts the conventional wisdom. Its discovery—for which a genuine self-reflective dialog in front of the mirror could be a suitable experiment—would confirm the principle that the evolution of human systems must not be abandoned to "the survival of fittest". Then the university could create "a way to change course"—by making "structural changes with itself".

Two millennia ago, when the foundations of the Roman Empire were shaking, the Christian Church stepped into the role of an ethical guiding light.

Can the university enable our next ethical transformation—by liberating us from an antiquated way of comprehending the world?


The stories are a way to make insights accessible and clear.

These stories are vignettes. This in principle journalistic technique helps us render academic and other insights in a way that makes them palatable to public, and usable to artists and journalists. Being a meme, a vignette can do more than convey ideas.

We illustrate this technique by a single example, The Incredible History of Doug Engelbart.

The Incredible History of Doug Engelbart is a modern version of 'Galilei in house arrest'.

It shows who, or what, holds 'Galilei in house arrest' today.

As summarized in the article, Engelbart's contributions to the emerging paradigm were crucial. Erich Jantsch wrote:

"The task is nothing less than to build a new society and new institutions for it. With technology having become the most powerful change agent in our society, decisive battles will be won or lost by the measure of how seriously we take the challenge of restructuring the “joint systems” of society and technology."
Engelbart contributed means to secure decisive victories in those "decisive battles".

Even more relevant and interesting is, however, what this story tells about ourselves.

As part of the mirror, The Incredible History of Doug Engelbart reflects what we must see and change about ourselves to be able to "change course".

The setting was like of an experiment: The Silicon Valley's giant in residence, already recognized and celebrated as that, offered the most innovative among us the ideas that would change the world.

We couldn't even hear him.

This 'experiment' showed how incredibly idea-blind we've become.

The elephant

The elephant points to a quantum leap in relevance and interest—when academic and other insights are presented in the context of "a great cultural revival".

Elephant ideogram

There is an "elephant in the room", waiting to be discovered.

The frontier thinkers have been touching him, and describing him excitedly in the jargon of their discipline. We heard them talk about "the fan", "the water hose" and "the tree trunk". But they didn't make sense and we ignored them.

This thoroughly changes when we realize that they described 'the ear', 'the trunk' and 'the leg' of an 'exotic animal'—which nobody has as yet seen!

We make it possible to 'connect the dots' and see the elephant.

By combining the elephant with design epistemology we offer a new notion of rigor to the study of cultural artifacts.

The structuralists attempted that in a different way. The post-structuralists "deconstructed" their efforts by successfully arguing that cultural artifacts have no "real meaning"; and making meanings open to interpretation.

We propose to consider cultural artifacts as 'dots' to be connected.

We don't, for instance, approach Bourdieu's theory by fitting it into a "reality picture". We adapt it as a piece in a completely new 'puzzle'.

Books and publishing

Book launches punctuate the laminar flow of events, draw attention to a theme and begin a dialog.

Does the book still have a future?

In "Amuzing Ourselves to Death", Neil Postman (who founded "media ecology") left us a convincing argument why the book is here to stay. His point was that the book creates a different "ecology of the mind" (to borrow Gregory Bateson's similarly potent idea) than the audio-visual media do: It gives us a chance to reflect.

We, however, embed the book in an 'ecosystem' of media. By publishing a book we 'break ice' and place a theme—which may or may not be one of our ten themes—into the focus of the public eye. We then let our collective mind digest and further develop the proposed ideas; and by doing that—develop itself!

In this way, a loop is closed through which an author's insights are improved by collective creativity and knowledge—leading, ultimately, to a new and better edition of the book.


The book titled "Liberation", with subtitle "Religion beyond Belief", is scheduled to be completed during the first half of 2021, and serve as the first in the series.

A metaphor may help us see why this particular theme and book are especially well suited as a tactical asset, for breaking ice and launching the holotopia dialogs. The recipe for a successful animated feature film is to make it for two audiences: the kids and the grownups. As the excerpt from The Incredibles we shared above might illustrate, the kids get the action; the grownups get the metaphors and the dialogs.

So it is with this book. To the media it offers material that rubs so hard against people's passions and beliefs that it can hardly be ignored. And to more mature audiences—it offers the holotopia meme.

The age-old conflict between science and religion is resolved by evolving both science and religion.


Prototypes federate insights by weaving them into the fabric of reality.


  • restore the connection between information and action, by creating a feedback loop through which information can impact systems
  • restore systemic wholeness, by sowing design patterns together

By rendering results of creative work as challenge—resolution pairs, design patterns make them adaptable to new applications. Each design pattern constitutes a discovery—of a specific way in which a system, and world at large, can be made more whole.

What difference would be made, if the principle "make things whole" guided innovation?

We point to an answer by these examples.


The Collaborology 2016 educational prototype, to whose subject and purpose we pointed by this course flyer, exhibited solutions to a number of challenges that were repeatedly voiced by education innovators. In addition, its design patterns showed how education can be adapted to holotopia's purpose.

Most of Collaborology's design patterns were developed and tested within its precursor, University of Oslo Information Design course.

Education is flexible. In a fast-changing world, education cannot be a once-in-a-lifetime affair. And in a world that has to change, it cannot teach only traditional professions. In Collaborology, the students learn an emerging profession.

Learning is by "pull", by 'connecting the dots'.

The students learn what they need, when they need it.

Education is active. The course is conceived as a design project, where the students and the instructors co-create learning resources. Collaboration toward systemic wholeness is not only taught, but also practiced. Instead of only receiving knowledge, students become a component in a knowledge-work ecosystem —where they serve as 'bacteria', recycling 'nutrients' from academic 'deposits'.

Education is internationally federated. Collaborology is created and taught by an international network of instructors and designers, and offered to learners worldwide. An instructor creates a lecture, not a course.

Economies of scale result, which drastically reduce workload.

It becomes cost-effective to power learning by new technologies—why should only the game manufacturers use them?

Collaborology provides a sustainable business model for creating and disseminating transdisciplinary knowledge of any theme.

Re-design of education is technology enabled. The enabling technology is called the domain map object. It offers solutions to a number of challenges that designers of flexible education have to face:

  • structure the curriculum and organize the learning resources—in a manner that is not a linear sequence of lectures or book chapters
  • help the students orient themselves and create a personal learning plan—before they have taken the course
  • customize the exam—by displaying the student's learning trajectory

Educational model too is internationally federated. We developed close ties with Global Education Futures Initiative—"an international collaborative platform that brings together shapers and sherpas of global education to discuss and implement the necessary transformations of educational ecosystems for thrivable futures". Following their first international co-creative event in Palo Alto (where international reformers and theorists of education gathered to map the directions and challenges), we shared a one-day workshop in Mei Lin Fung's house, to coordinate our collaboration. In 2017, the Collaborology model was presented and discussed at the World Academy of Art and Science conference Future Education 2 in Rome. The Information Design course model, and the corresponding domain map (which was then called "polyscopic topic map") technology were presented and discussed at the 2005 Topic Maps Research and Applications conference in Linz; and at the Computer Support for Collaborative Learning conference in Taipei, where they were invited for journal publication.

Scientific communication 1

Tesla and the Nature of Creativity (TNC 2015) is a prototype showing how a researcher's insight can be federated to benefit the public.

We described it in blog posts, A Collective Mind – Part One and Tesla and the Nature of Creativity, and here only highlight two of its design patterns.

Unraveling the narrow frame. Heisenberg, as we have seen, pointed out that the narrow frame (the "narrow and rigid" way of looking at the world that our ancestors adopted from 19th century science) made us misapprehend core elements of culture. In the federated article, Dejan Raković explained how creativity too has been mishandled—specifically the kind of creativity on which our ability to "create a better world" and shift the paradigm depends. This prototype showed how the narrow frame can be broadened, academic creativity can be raised, and collective creativity can be fostered—by combining the fundamental and technical interventions proposed in five insights.

Federating an author's idea. An article written in an academic vernacular, of quantum physics, was transformed into a multimedia object—where its core idea was communicated by intuitive diagrams, and explained in recorded interviews with the author. A high-profile event was then organized to make the idea public, and discuss it in a dialog of experts. The idea was then embedded in a technology-enabled collective mind, implemented on Debategraph, where collective 'connecting the dots' continued.

This prototype models a new "social life of information"—alternative to peer reviews.

Scientific communication 2

Lightnouse 2016 prototype shows how an academic community can federate an insight. We offered it as a resolution to Wiener's paradox.

Federating an academic community's core insight. An academic community might produce "tons of information every hour"—while the public ignores even its most basic achievements. The federation here is in three phases. In the first, the community distills and substantiates an insight. In the second, state of the art communication design is applied, to make the insight accessible. In the third, the insight is strategically made impactful. In the actual prototype, the first phase was performed by the International Society for the Systems Sciences, the second by Knowledge Federation's communication design team, and the third by the Green Party of Norway.

Unraveling the Wiener's paradox. The specific question, which was posed for academic federation, was whether our society can rely on "free competition" or "survival of the fittest" in setting directions. Or whether information and systemic understanding must be used, as Norbert Wiener claimed—and the Modernity ideogram echoed.

Isn't this the very first question our society's 'headlights' must illuminate?

Public informing

Barcelona Innovation System for Good Journalism, BIGJ 2011, is a prototype of federated journalism. Journalism, or public informing, is of course directly in the role of 'headlights'.

Federated journalism. A journalist working alone has no recourse but to look for sensations. In BIGJ 2011 the journalist works within a 'collective mind', in which readers, experts and communication designers too have active roles—see this description.

Designed journalism. What would public informing be like, if it were not reified as "what the journalists are doing", but designed to suit its all-important social role? We asked "What do the people really need to know—so that the society may function, and the democracy may be real?" And we drafted a public informing that applies the time-honored approach of science to society's problems—see this explanation.


A culture is of course not only, and not even primarily explicit information. We sought ways in which essential memes ('cultural genes') can be saved from oblivion, and supported and strengthened through cross-fertilization (see this article).

We illustrate this part of knowledge federation by three prototypes in travel or tourism. Historically, travel was the medium for meme exchange. But the insuperable forces of economy changed that—and now travel is iconized by the couple on an exotic beach. The local culture figures in it as souvenir sellers and hotel personnel.

Dagali 2006 prototype showed that successful high-budget tourism can be created anywhere—by bringing travelers in direct contact with the locals. By allowing them to experience what the real life in a country is like—see this description.

UTEA 2003 is a re-creation of the conventional corporate model in tourism industry to support authentic travel and meme exchange. We benefited from a venture cup to secure help from an academic adviser and a McKinsey adviser in creating the business plan. The information technology's enabling role was explained in the appendix.

Authentic Herzegovina 2014 showed how to revitalize and support a culture that was destroyed by war—see this description.


As journalism, art too can be transformed. And it may need to be transformed, if it should take its place on the creative frontier; fulfill its role in the collective mind. We highlight two design patterns.

Art as space. The artist no longer only creates, but creates a space where the public can create.

Art and science. The artist no longer works in isolation, but in a space illuminated by information—where memes that are most vital come to the fore, to be given a voice.

Our Earth Sharing pilot event, which we offer as illustration, took place in June of 2018, in Kunsthall 3,14 of Bergen. Vibeke Jensen, the artist who led us, avoids interpreting her creations. They are to be used as prompts, to allow meaning to emerge. The interpretation we share here is a possible one.


The physical space where the event took place symbolized holotopia's purpose: This building used to be a bank, and later became an art gallery. It remained to turn the gallery into a space for social transformation.


The gallery was upstairs—and Vibeke turned the stairs into a metaphor. Going up, the inscription read "bottom up"; going down, it read "top down". From the outset, the visitors were sensitized to those two ways to connect ideas.


The BottomUp - TopDown intervention tool then suggested to transcend fixed ways of looking, and combine worldviews and perspectives.


A one-way mirror served as entrance to the deepest transformative space, which used to be a vault. The treasury could only be reached by stepping through the mirror. The 'treasure' in it were ideas, and a "safe space" to reflect. The inside of the vault was only dimly lit, by the light that penetrated from outside. A pair of speakers emitted edited fragments of past dialogs—offered for contemplation, and re-creation.


Think of the objects that populated the installation as 'furniture': When we enter a conventional room, its furniture tells us how the room is to be used, and draws us into a stereotype. This 'furniture' was unlike anything we've seen! It invited us to invent the way we use the space; to co-create the way we are together.

The creation that took place in this space was the Holotopia project's inception.