Doug Schuler

Public Sphere Project, Evergreen State College, Seattle, WA

Topic: Reinventing Social Thought and Action with Civic Intelligence

It may not be premature to characterize the 21st century as the age of somnambulism. This may be the era when the problems that humankind has been creating for itself over the centuries completely overwhelm its material and intellectual resources. Addressing the problems that humankind acknowledges but is largely ignoring will require civic intelligence on a massive scale. Civic intelligence is what makes society “smart”; it’s a form of distributed and principled innovation directed towards shared goals. It is my contention that the silos of human activities, strict knowledge segmentation, the artificial distinction between thought and action, the reliance on “side-effects” that are presumed to be beneficial, and citizen and institutional inertia must all change significantly in order to address new 21st century realities. To help make those changes I’m proposing the concept of “civic intelligence” as a candidate for a central paradigm. And I’m inviting people and communities at large to help determine the usefulness of that paradigm in terms of research and action.

Civic intelligence is intended as a generative or animating orientation; an exploration of the possible that can help motivate and integrate the work of the academy, civil society, the state, and other social institutions. Civic intelligence” has the potential to inform disparate areas including social science, policy-making, civic engagement and activism, social critique, business, and, even, survival and the “good life.” During my presentation I will discuss the motivation for the development of the concept, evidence for its existence, preliminary models, some of my current work (including the participatory Liberating Voices pattern language project), and suggested future research and action directions.