Some of the best writing on “sensemaking” online comes via Jordan Greenhall, who runs an assortment of blogs at Medium. Greenhall’s “Situational Assessment” posts are a must-read for anyone attempting to understand the information chaos of our day-to-day lives.
The gist of Greenhall’s position seems to be that World War III has been underway for some time already, and within this war there is an existential battle — a war of its own, essentially — occurring between the “Blue Church” and the “Red Religion.”
“Legacy” systems of information exchange (e.g. “asymmetric” modes like TV where a small handful of channels dictate the news to millions) and centralized forms of government, i.e. fixtures of the Blue Church, are in an existential panic (and possible psychotic break) because they don’t understand how to engage in this non-linear battle (yet).
The Red Religion — on the other hand — is nimble, decentralized, adaptable, speedy and swarm-like, making it a constant threat to the massive and slow-moving Church. In recent years, the two have hit head-on in a violent collision course, and future systems of communication and governance will likely arise from the current scrum.
Below are some excerpts from Greenhall’s latest installment of the Situational Assessment posts, which expounds on these concepts.
ECOLOGICAL MEDIA NICHES
…media infrastructures can be compared to ecological niches. There are, by example, media “jungles” and there are media “deserts” and different forms of sensemaking and coordination are adapted to these very different environments.
My observation was and continues to be that the primary battle being fought in the media theater is not at the level of narrative, but at the level of underlying niche. The Red Insurgency is optimized for desert and its primary strategy is to actively convert jungle into desert. By so doing, it is dismantling the underlying media infrastructure upon which the Blue Church is dependent and for which the Church is optimized.
THE DULL BLADE OF THE BLUE CHURCH
…the articles of the Blue Faith showed in 2017 how dull their blade has become. Late in the year, I identified the rising star of Dr. Jordan Peterson as a sort of exemplar of the dynamic. Conveniently, Dr. Peterson recently participated in a televised interview that provides an almost flawless demonstration.
In this exchange, the interviewer played the combined Blue Church and Blue Faith hand in textbook fashion. One might imagine how effective this approach would have been even a short decade ago, when the necessity of being part of the Blue Church’s “good opinion” was firmly established. But the world has changed.
On the one hand, Peterson failed to respond to the increasingly transparent performative content of the interview. He didn’t play along with the Blue Church script and, therefore, showed that the apparent “good opinion” of the Blue Faith was nearly absent of content.
On the other hand, and this is I think where we really get clarity on the new state of affairs, the Blue Church tried and failed to control the frame after the interview. Try as they might, the combined forces of television and print media failed to form “common knowledge” and “good opinion” around what the interview really meant. Why? Because the meaning of the event is no longer decided by “Broadcast consciousness.” In the 21st Century, meaning is decided on and by the kind of intelligence that is forming around the interactive Digital media. Broadcast consciousness is beginning to decohere and, for now at least, only Red has begun the hard work of adapting a mode of collective intelligence that is coherent around Digital.
In this context, it isn’t surprising that what we are witnessing from Blue is for the most part a mix of performative “virtue signaling” and self-destructive critique; combined with a building agitation and anomie. The tides have changed and the once dominant modes of Blue are now very much a fish out of water.
Where does Blue go from here?
My sense continues to be that the right model is “catastrophe theory.”
So — what is one to do? Oddly, the right approach is actually rather simple and I believe my recommendations from last year continue to be completely applicable both to the local political situation in the United States and the West as well as to the bigger picture
1. The Blue Faith, the Deep State, the old media and all the other aspects of the the Blue Church are holding you back. Free your mind. This is going to be much harder than it sounds. For most people, your entire development has taken place within the context of the Blue Church and under the articles of the Blue Faith. Many of your deepest assumptions of how to think and know are going to have to be revised. And many of your deepest values are going to have to be examined with brutal honesty and courage.
2. Al Collective Intelligence is gated by Sensemaking. Right now, our collective sensemaking systems are in complete disarray. We don’t know who or what to trust. We barely even know how. Find ways to improve your individual sensemaker and collaborate on collective sensemaking systems. Re-learn how to perceive reality. This should get easier as the fantasyland of old media and the Blue Church collapse.
3. All of our old ways of collaborating with other people are either suspect or obsolete. You are going to have to (re)learn how to build real, faithful relationships. Get much better at making friends. I don’t mean casual acquaintances. And I definitely don’t mean social network contacts. I mean the kinds of people who ready willing and able to actually care for you — even at risk to themselves. Not because of shared ideology or even shared mission, but because of the deep stuff of human commitment. There is something new to be discovered here. Some renewal of the most ancient aspects of being human together combined with a new approach “from the future” as it were that enables us to combine meaningful relationship with effective collaboration on a global scale.